Guide: Surfers In The UK

Surfing is well recognised as a lifestyle, not just a hobby or a sport. This is largely because of the conditions required for surfing which means that in order to enjoy the waves, you have to be ready whenever they are, or even chase them around the world, as so many of us do. Surfing also creates a community for you to enjoy, make friends and share these experiences with. In fact, there are a suspected 500,000 surfers in the UK. Our guide is going to look at where the majority of surfers live in the UK and the kit, they spend their money on. We hope to help you bridge the gap in your kit bag, and also help you make investments in pieces that are worthwhile and going to see you through several seasons and look at why surfers spend on certain parts of their kit.

Where Do Surfers In The UK Live?

Polls and surveys taken of a focus group to establish the geographical spread of surfers in the UK. This table demonstrates the counties or regions in the UK where surfing is most popular or most common. Of course, for most, it can be assumed that surfing is popular because of regular access to good waves, meaning surfers can keep up a regular hobby.

Unsurprisingly Cornwall is where the most surfers come from in the UK, making up almost a fifth of the entire demographic and totalling an incredible 87,453 people. Interestingly, this is actually an impressive percentage of the people that reside in Cornwall, an expected 16% of the county’s population are surfers.

The interesting things from this data is perhaps how many of Surfers in the UK there are in locations such as Wales, making up a total of 12.92% of the UK surfing population. This adds up to 64,594 surfers living in Wales. As the wind direction is predominantly westerly in the UK, Surfers in Wales could have regular access to impressive and gnarly conditions, which could suggest that surfers living in these regions are perhaps more experienced with more extreme weather conditions.

Another thing that the demographics reveal is just how many surfers there are living in the coldest areas in the UK, including the north coast and the Scottish islands. As the waters in these areas can sometimes only warm to 13 degrees, we could assume that these guys are spending on thicker and warmer wetsuits, which is why this data is so interesting and useful for you, depending on where you live.

Perhaps you are looking to move around the UK but can’t bear to give up the support and fun of a surfing community or are just looking at whether your kit bag will need some new additions. This data gives you a good insight as to where you can move to find fellow wave hunters and we’re going to look at what kit they value now.

How Do Surfers Spend Their Money?

The same study carried out by SAS.org was used to ask UK surfers how much they spend on their kit, including surfboards annually, the data was broken down into regions to establish patterns and what gear is more popular, or more frequently used, in certain areas. As an overall view, surfers in the UK spend £495.21 on surfboards, wetsuits, boarding accessories and clothing. Reports highlight that this is a much lower annual spend than those who play golf, (£755 per year) and scuba diving that costs around £1000 per year!

Surfers in North Devon, South Coast (Bournemouth, East & West Wittering, Folkstone and Isle Of Wight), East Devon, North Wales, Northern Ireland and Land Locked regions estimate that they only buy wetsuits every four years. This is extremely interesting information. It is logical to assume that those who live in Land Locked regions might not get as much use out of their wetsuits, as it might be more of a time-consuming commitment to make it to the beach to enjoy the waves. As a result, the wetsuit might not suffer from as much wear and tear, this is also supported by the average spend per wetsuit which is the lowest amongst all the regions (£172.54), indicating they are not willing to make the investment to quality gear as it does not get as much use. However, regions such as Bournemouth and areas along the South Coast were previously recorded as dense with surfers in the UK and do have good or closer access to the water, but they do not replace their wetsuits frequently.

The areas that report they replace their wetsuit every year have a correlation with the coldest areas in the UK, such as the Inner Hebrides, Orkney islands and the North coast. This is also where surfers are reported to spend the most on their wetsuits, with the highest cost being £338.00 per wetsuit (in the Orkney islands). We can assume this is because surfers in these climes need the thickest possible wetsuits if they want to surf through the different seasons. In fact, due to the temperatures of the water, it would be recommended that they surf in winter wetsuits all year round. This would also suggest that Surfers in this region who embark on trips or go on surf holidays (as we can assume they do from their average fuel spend) would also require thinner, summer suits or shorties, as well as their winter gear, doubling up on their spend. This is also the region with the highest spend on surfboards, at an average spend of £540.00. The area that spends the least on surfboards is actually the North Coast, perhaps suggesting that weather and temperature could have little bearing on surfboard spend.

Are Brits Fair Weather Surfers?

The Inner Hebrides also reportedly spend the most on their surf accessories, presumably to help keep them warm in all weathers and to ensure they have the appropriate equipment for all areas. The spend for areas like Cornwall and Devon where the weather is much more temperate is quite consistent. This could suggest that, despite their impressive population, people in these areas only buy equipment for certain types of weather. Alternatively, the spend could be explained as a result of the popularity and how commonplace surfing is, which would suggest surfers know what they are buying as a result of education and general know-how. This would ensure they are buying and investing in the pieces they need, rather than buying unnecessarily or wetsuits that aren’t suitable for the area they are in.  

Cornwall surfers contribute the most to the economic strength of the industry, simply because of their numbers in comparison to other populations of Surfers in the UK. However, they are not the area that spends the most, totally only £524.04 per annum, which could also suggest Cornish surfers prefer the warmer weather, and thus only require thinner and less expensive gear.

Interestingly, those in North Devon, spend even less. Piques in spending can be found in areas such as Cardiff, totalling £995.35 per year and North Wales at £919.05. Cornwall Live newspaper described the surf industry as “high end, high return, high tech”. This alone could explain where surfer’s annual spend is going, as the advent of new, smart materials that are used for thicker winter wetsuits or tech to record and enjoy your trips are all incorporated into this cost.

Unsurprisingly, the months with the highest spends on surfboards, wetsuits and other gear run from July through to September, which are the months when the waters are warmest in the UK, and thus gear is probably getting the most use. This does also suggest that British surfers favour the warmer weather, yet the report does conclude “Surfers continue to use the water 12 months of the year their use of beaches extends beyond the summer peak day time to mornings and evenings.”

For more information or advice on the type of wetsuit you should buy for your area, you can follow our wetsuit thickness guide. For more information, get in touch with the experts here at Wetsuit Centre.