Surfing is an adventurous water sport of riding a wave with or without a board. From the very first moment you experience squeezing into a wetsuit, carrying your board down to the edge of the water, and getting in the waves; you’re hooked. It gives you a buzz, regardless of your ability.
Word of caution, surfing is highly addictive!
But, is this really for anyone, especially, a typical city/working professional with limited or no experience?
Yeah absolutely. Anybody can learn to surf, and everybody should try it. As long as you know how to swim and you’re happy getting confident in water first.
For beginners, even the smallest wave can seem like a monster, but one you don’t want to get away from. When you realise how powerful the ocean is it’s really exciting because you feel like you’re in a completely different world. For a lot of people, surfing isn’t considered a sport, it is more of a meditation in a way, and it is easy to see why, when you live in the city, all that open space can become addictive. All your stress and work worries get washed away with the white water.
Why is surfing in the UK worth trying and not outside the UK?
The UK is actually really good for surfing because there of the many places to surf like Cornwall, Devon, South Wales, Borders in Scotland and Bournemouth to name a few. More importantly, you can easily drive or catch a train or flight from London to get where you need to go and be back for Monday morning work.
Fistral Beach in Newquay is always popular, because of the surf culture and the nightlife, and beginners are so well catered to. Assuming that you don’t have your own kit, or you don’t want to travel there and back with it, there are plenty of options for hire in different locations.
And do I need to learn the basics, prepare or buy any equipment in advance of the activity?
The only prerequisite to surfing is being a good swimmer.
Even being knee deep in the water is a risk, especially if a strong wave whips you off your feet. You need to be OK with having your head under water a lot, and being in the water for a long time.
In terms of equipment, if you’re living in the city, I wouldn’t recommend buying a board at first, although it makes a great wall feature. It is much easier to hire one down there (our guides even provide the board for free). If you do buy one though, an independent surf shop will know exactly what you need to get but do your research first, as generally, beginners will want to stick to a bigger board. Don’t make the mistake I did of buying a short board that looks cooler, because you won’t be able to use it.
You might want to get your own wetsuit and boots though, and we especially recommend buying boots as there are weever fish in Cornwall that can sting feet (I learnt the hard way) and getting to some of the beaches is a stony walk on bare feet. You also can’t underestimate sun protection in the water, you can get burnt so easily, even in the UK. I personally love the bright green SPF50 green sunblock from Block Shop.
When buying surf kit, Surfdome (above), Wiggle and Amazon have tons of options to choose from. Wetsuits are meant to fit in a specific way though so if you can go to a surf shop and get advice from the staff that is the best option.
How many days do I allocate to get the best experience out from this activity?
Wherever you are visiting specifically to surf, a weekend is a perfect amount of time to get your first taste of surfing because you can get to most surfing locations within a reasonable amount of time.
You can get to Newquay on a plane from London in little over an hour, that’s quicker than getting across London on the Tube in rush hour!
If you want a more intensive course, 5 days to a week is the best option. Mostly though, a weekend is a good amount of time to get some decent surfing sessions in.
How does the activity work? Who provides the training?
If you aren’t taking part in lessons, you simply hire the items and you get in the sea and enjoy yourself. You will likely get into the wetsuit at the beach, before then going over all the safety aspects and starting your lesson. What you may not realise is that some of the lessons will be on the beach rather than in the sea.
This is where the qualified instructor (or one of our guides) will teach you how to lie, move and stand up on your board. When in the sea, the instructor will be there with the group the entire time, offering feedback, instruction and encouragement.
It always helps to interact with others who have done this activity or are thinking of it, just like me. Any suggestions?
It does help, and it makes it more fun!
- Magic Seaweed is probably the main site people go to to check surf reports for any surfing area, and to chat on the forum.
- The Surfing Waves forum is another great place to chat surf with like-minded people. A lot of the surfing scene is very friendly and casual so don’t be afraid to chat to other surfers at the beach, or to the staff in the surfing shops as they will 9 times out of 10 be happy to chat about surfing with you.
Since this is a getaway from the city experience, accommodation is quite important. Where do people stay?
There are some really nice hostels in all key surf areas in the UK, and they cater really well to surfers and can usually help with hire or surf lessons as well. If you’re opting for a complete surf package, travel and accommodation are often included and the guides will ensure you’re staying at a place that is close to the sports area and has everything else the area has to offer.
St Breca, Newquay
We provide suggestions on the best accommodation (based on our experience) as part of our activity offering. Of course there are always tons of unique options on Airbnb like tree houses, hobbit houses, chalets, lodges and converted churches so you can adjust your trip to match your taste.
So based on your experience, when is the best time (or season) to go for this activity.
Provide the differences in seasons and the upsides/downsides of going at peak/off-season times for this activity. Reflect upon how this affects the cost as well. The best time to go surfing in the UK if you are not restricted to school holidays, is in Autumn after the kids have gone back to school as the weather is still warm, the tourist season is over, the beaches are much quieter, but the lifeguards are still operating so it is still as safe as it can be.
Visiting in Summer is the most expensive choice when going to any popular beach spot, and it is also the time of year when you will experience the most people on the beaches and in the sea. If you are a very competent swimmer and feel confident enough to swim in waters that aren’t watched by lifeguards, then winter is still just as glorious for surfing, plus you get the beaches almost to yourself and the prices are much, much lower for just about everything. Surf hire is a little trickier though, so you may need to have your own kit to surf during this time.
The best case scenario for safety is always surfing on a lifeguarded beach, and you can find a complete list of when different beaches are lifeguarded in the UK on the RNLI website.
When should I start preparing for this activity and can I make a weekend trip out of it to come back in time for work?
There are some very, very quick routes to surfing hotspots if you want to be in the water within hours of finishing work on a Friday. For example; a plane ride from London to Newquay takes just over an hour, probably quicker than your commute home on The Tube in rush hour.
You can even get to Pease Bay in Scotland within 3 hours if you include a flight to Edinburgh from London.
Most other surfing locations can be driven to but it is usually quicker to catch public transport with the following estimated times from London.
So no matter where you want to go and lose yourself in the best swells the UK has to offer, you’re able to get there by Friday evening, with a beer in your hand and the sea air in your lungs, ready for the epic surfing experience you have ahead of you that weekend.