The Complete Guide to UK Surfing
If you’re hoping to chase the waves in the UK, there are one or two essentials you may need, starting with a suitable wetsuit which you can purchase here, at Wetsuit Centre!
Our ultimate guide to UK surfing advises on everything you need for UK surfing. We also share the best surf spots throughout the UK, country by country. In each section, you can find the best conditions and top locations according to your ability.
- Are Brits Fair Weather Surfers?
- Surf Equipment for UK Surfing
- Where Do Surfers in the UK Live?
- Northern Ireland
- How Do Surfers Spend Their Money?
Are Brits Fair Weather Surfers?
Much to our disappointment, the UK isn’t the warmest place to surf! However, it doesn’t mean surfing when the sun is shining is the only option! With many wetsuit thicknesses available, you can surf all year round, even in colder areas and seasons.
We have created this guide to bridge the gap in your kit bag and help you make worthwhile investments in essential surf kit!
Below, we offer a quick overview of recommended wetsuit thicknesses and water temperatures, for your reference:
Surf Equipment for UK Surfing
With so much variation in both surf and water temperatures on the UK coast, which wetsuit you need will vary between individuals and may also depend on your personal cold threshold.
For example, for some surfers in the South-West, a 4:3 suit with a thermal rash vest in the winter can be sufficient enough, although this isn’t recommended!
However, as a general guide, we advise the below:
A mid-season wetsuit is perfect for the autumn as this is when the water temperature is at its warmest. A 4:3 suit tends to be the favoured ‘all-round’ wetsuit, asyou can wear it for most of the year.
Depending on the weather, a mid-season suit can be worn from around April to November, which is great if you can only afford one suit or don’t plan on surfing in the depths of winter.
There is a vast range of 4:3 wetsuits to try. If you are looking for a performance suit where flexibility is its focus, the O’Neill Hyper Freak is an excellent choice if you have a bit more cash to spend as the suit's mobility is incredible.
C-Skins wetsuits are perfect if you are on a bit more of a budget, as they provide all the essentials in a warm and durable suit. The O’Neill Epic is also a great 4:3 wetsuit at a fairly affordable price.
As the season develops into early November, some people like to take the chill of their feet and wear a pair of boots. O’Neill Epic 5mm boots are the go-to design for those who aren’t searching for anything advanced in their boots but want to ensure optimum warmth.
If you are surfing further north, you may want a thicker suit, as the water tends to be colder as you travel closer to Scotland.
As the season develops into winter, a 5mm wetsuit is an essential part of a surfer’s wardrobe. Boots, gloves and a hood are also necessary to keep you feeling toasty as the winds become stronger.
The coldest part of surfing in the winter can be the journey to and from the sea, so make sure you are adequately warm!
XCEL are a brand dedicated to making high-performance wetsuits for the cold. The XCEL Drylock or XCEL Comp are sure to keep you feeling toasty with their specially-engineered thermal lining, Black Celliant. For a more in-depth overview, take a look at our blog below!
A thermal rash vest is also a great additional base layer under your suit if you really feel the cold. XCEL has created a hooded thermal rash vest lined with their famous Black Celliant to ensure maximum warmth!
Scotland and Northern England
With colder waters in areas of Scotland only warming to 13°C, a thick suit should be top of your equipment list!
At the height of winter (usually mid-November through to February), a 6mm suit is expected, as temperatures can reduce to just 6°C. You will also need boots, gloves and a hood to keep you feeling sufficiently warm.
XCEL also provide thicker suits in a 6mm thickness, such as the women’s Infinite X2, complete with hood. A fantastic 6mm suit for men is available in the Mystic Volt, which is also finished with a hood. The Fox Fleece lining ensures that any heat is retained, meaning you can stay in the water for longer.
In the autumn months, some surfers prefer to wear a 4:3. However, if you’re not used to these conditions, you may be after something thicker, more like a 5:4!
The air temperature in spring begins to rise, but the water is very cold still. Don’t be surprised if you still want to hang onto your boots in this season! You may want to swap your thicker winter suit for a 4:3 at this time but will most likely need boots, gloves and a hood still.
Summer brings relief to all the neoprene! You can finally say goodbye to all the wetsuit accessories, wear a 4:3 suit, and eventually a 3:2 summer thickness! When the sun is shining, some like to wear a shorty wetsuit!
Rip Curl wetsuits are a great brand that covers all thicknesses. The Dawn Patrol series offers a range of wetsuits for all seasons, including a super stylish 3:2 thickness. More advanced than the standard flat lock seams, the taped seams mean you can enjoy your summer surfs from dawn to dusk!
If you’re especially brave, boardies and bikinis will do for some. However, the UK isn’t acclaimed for having bath-like water temperatures, so you might not stay in very long without a wetsuit, even in the summer!
Where Do Surfers in the UK Live?
We all want to know where the best surf spots are! We explore each of the UK’s countries and share the best time to surf and the most suitable spots for those at a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level.
Scotland is inundated with dramatic coastlines and some glorious surf spots that are sure to blow you away.
Being so northerly, it is also one of the coldest places to surf too!
Best Time to Surf
Overall, autumn and early winter tend to deliver the best surf conditions.
With calmer weather compared to winter and bigger swell than in summer, autumn provides the most consistent surf.
Also, from September to November, the water temperature tends to increase, making the experience a little more enjoyable for some.
Recommended Surf Spots
There are many stunning surf spots throughout Scotland. We take a look at a handful below:
Beginner - Belhaven Bay
A vast sandy beach free from rocks, Belhaven Bay is one of the most pleasant spots to surf if you’re not experienced in the water.
Situated close to Dunbar, the waters tend to be fairly shallow, making many new surfers feel at ease as they learn. There are also surf schools in the area where you can book lessons to help you!
Intermediate – Pease Bay
On a good day, Pease Bay provides beautiful lines of fun surf for people of all abilities to get stuck in and enjoy!
The beach break is a fantastic playground for those at beginner and intermediate level. There is also a reef break which attracts more advanced surfers.
Advanced - Thurso
Some of the most favoured places to surf in Scotland can be found at its northerly tip off the mainland, including the world-class surf location, Thurso. Here, consistency and wave quality are at their peak, attracting surfers ready to brave the cold.
Regarded as one of the best surf spots on the continent, Thurso is a powerful right-hand reef break. It works best on a north-west swell. Make sure you are up to date on your surf etiquette for this one, as you need to know how to line up correctly not to upset the locals.
Waves can come in at anything from 2ft to 15ft, so you need to be experienced and capable to surf here!
There are many highly-recognised surf spots throughout England. From the tip of Cornwall to the north of the country, surf locations line the coast for all levels of surfers.
Best Time to Surf
Stretching 556 miles in length, the surf in England can vary along its coast and differ according to conditions.
Similar to Scotland, in general, the best season to surf tends to be the autumn. However, the surf is certainly not restricted to this and can be found throughout the seasons, depending on conditions.
Winter surf generally creates punchier swell that excites experienced surfers who want bigger and better waves.
Spring also provides heavier waves which hold a better shape when winds are calmer.
As tourists flock to England’s seaside hotspots in the school holidays, the summer usually offers more mellow surf conditions ideal for beginners.
Recommended Surf Spots
With so many places to surf, we summarise our top spots across the country, according to ability.
- Scarborough, South Bay, North Yorkshire - More sheltered than other beaches in the area and slower breaking waves, it’s great for less experienced surfers.
- Whitby, North Yorkshire – appeals to those who want to enjoy small waves.
- Saunton Sands, Devon – Renowned for being mellow, it is great for newbies. However, also appeal to more advanced levels and longboarders.
- Widemouth Bay, Cornwall - A welcoming beach which appeals to beginners.
- Bournemouth Pier, Dorset – Great for those just starting out.
- Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear – Home to many surf schools and competitions, it appeals to all experience levels.
- Sandsend, North Yorkshire – A big beach break with room for everyone that tends to provide slightly smaller waves than what first meets the eye.
- Scarborough, North Bay, North Yorkshire - Regarded as one of the most reliable spots in the north, it offers something for everyone.
- Woolacombe, Devon – A three-mile stretch of golden sand, this spot is perfect for all levels of surfing and can vary dramatically in different conditions.
- Putsborough, Devon – Next door to Woolacombe and often the go-to when shelter is needed. However, it can get pretty big in the right conditions.
- Polzeath, Cornwall – This point break is both consistent and gentle.
- Fistral, Cornwall – One of Cornwall’s most famous beaches, many people flock here due to its consistency.
- Croyde Bay, Devon - Great for beginners at high tide, but provides a much punchier and heavy wave on a low tide.
- Porthleven, Cornwall – A favoured reef break by advanced surfers, it can get as big as 12ft!
- Lynmouth, Devon – The go-to choice in Devon when other spots are too big, windy and messy. It can be a rough paddle out, with many rocks to clamber over, so best left to the experts if you’re unsure.
Wales offers some great spots for surfers of all abilities to get stuck into and can make a fantastic destination for a surf trip!
Best Time to Surf
Wales is most preferred in autumn, but also winter can offer some exceptional surfing conditions.
Recommended Surf Spots
Beginner – Pembrokeshire
Many sheltered beaches in Pembrokeshire lend themselves to beginner surfers and families who are after gentle waves.
Intermediate – Hell’s Mouth
Don’t worry; the name sounds slightly more intense than the conditions! This gorgeous four-mile long beach is complete with a reef at the north end and attracts surfers of all abilities.
Advanced – Porth Ceiriad
Right at the top of the Llyn Peninsula, you can find this remote beach. A long walk from the car park, this spot excels during winter storms, creating steep, hollow and barrelling waves between mid-to-high tide.
The exciting surf found in scenic Northern Ireland has become an all too familiar tale, with many of us eager to get in on it! If you’re hoping to experience its glorious coastline, take a look at some prime locations!
Best Time to Surf
Like the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland excels in the autumn and winter months. The water at this time is notoriously cold, so make sure you have a decent 5:4 suit, complete with hood, gloves and boots! Over summer, a 3:2 should be thick enough.
Recommended Surf Spots
Overall, the north coast of Co. Antrim and Co. Derry/Londonderry tends to provide some exceptional places to surf. Portrush, Portstewart and Portballintrae are also heralded as great surf spots. We take a look at some below!
Beginner – Benone
A highly-regarded spot for beginners, the seven-mile-long strand of Benone has room for all, providing smaller sized, gentle, breaking waves.
Intermediate – Portrush
A hub for surf, Portrush is a world-class spot, The East Strand tends to be more sheltered than the West Strand. However, it is worth mentioning that in the winter, both spots produce powerful swell.
Advanced – White Park Bay
A stunning, secluded spot, White Park Bay can be found in County Antrim. It is often recommended for more experienced riders as there is a long paddle out.
How Do Surfers Spend Their Money?
If you’re trying to decide what wetsuit you require, you need to decipher what time of year you will be surfing, where and what wetsuit you can afford.
If you think you will be surfing in the warmer months, a 4:3 is a natural go-to. However, if you are surfing throughout winter, you will want to invest in a decent winter wetsuit at a 5:4 thickness. This is especially important for colder parts of the UK such as northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Any 5:4 suit being used in winter will also require boots, gloves and a hood to keep heat retained. If you’re surfing in the spring, you will no doubt still need neoprene accessories as the water remains cold.
Essentials For Out of the Water
Out of the water, you may want to invest in a robie to get changed with to help ease the cold! A Gorilla tub is also handy to have because you can put wet wetsuits inside for storage when on the move.
Hopefully, we have enough information to get you surfing in the UK! Still got some questions about which wetsuit is best for you? Chat to one of our team at Wetsuit Centre who can provide expert guidance!