When most people think of surfing, they do not picture the UK. There is a common misconception that the UK, with its rainy climate and major bustling cities, doesn’t have a great surfing scene.
I am here to tell you that that is absolutely incorrect. The UK has no shortage of some STUNNING surf spots all over the country, from John o’ Groats to Land’s End.
With over 17,000km of coastline, it’s no wonder the UK gets some decent waves… somewhere. The Southeastern side of England (Cornwall and Devon) is home to the most popular spots, benefitting from those famous Atlantic swells. But other parts of the country, such as West Wales, are not to be overlooked.
The surfing scene here is ripe, thriving, and growing. Summer months are extremely busy and, if you’re lucky, you may get some nice weather too!
So, if you’re heading to the UK, grab a board, a wetsuit, and some wax, and head to one of these eight sensational beaches.
8 of the UK’s Best Beaches for Surfing
The UK is jam-packed with some fantastic beaches with year-round swell. It was surprisingly difficult to whittle this list down to a top 8. But I’ve done it guys; let’s paddle into this…
1. Fistral Beach, Cornwall
- Best bit: MASSIVE waves
- Best for: Experts
Fistral Beach is the home of British Surfing and undoubtedly the best British surfing beach – an essential visit for anyone backpacking the UK. Located in Newquay, Cornwall, (the renowned surf capital of the UK) this beach is the best of a magnificent bunch.
While Newquay is home to many outstanding surf beaches, Fistral is the most famous – and for good reason. There are some SERIOUS waves here guys. It’s a great beach for surfers of all abilities and does feature plenty of surf schools, but this is where the experts thrive.
Not only is Fistral one of the best surfing beaches in the UK, it’s one of the best in Europe. Fistral is a world-famous surfing beach and is home to many surf competitions and events including boardmasters – one of the UK’s best festivals.
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2. Croyde Bay, Devon
- Best bit: Powerful swells
- Best for: Beginner-experts
Croyde Bay is one of the best surfing beaches in Devon. It’s also one of the nicest places to stay in Devon, and maybe even in all of England. I have visited Croyde Bay over 20 times, so I would consider myself somewhat knowledgeable about the surf here, but I got nothing compared to the locals.
As far as the surfing goes, it’s a gorgeous little bay which is dominated by shortboarders and overlooks some stunning dunes. The waves are best at low tide, and I’ve had the most memorable sessions here by getting up super early in the morning to avoid the inevitable summer holiday crowds.
The swells here are inconsistent but favour the opportunists. Occasionally a powerful swell rolls in, and this is when the shortboarders come out to play. Whilst the waves break quickly, the power and size of some of the them make for gnarly sessions with bags of adrenaline.
3. Saunton Sands, Devon
- Best bit: Beginner friendly
- Best for: Beginners
Just around the corner from Croyde Bay is Saunton Sands. What makes this area of North Devon so good for surfing is the proximity and difference between the beaches and the surf.
Woolacombe, Croyde, and Saunton Sands are three beaches/bays located consecutively from each other just minutes apart. This part of North Devon is one of the best places to visit in the UK, not just for surfers.
While Croyde is a more advanced, shortboard-friendly beach, Saunton Sands is a longboarder’s paradise. It’s great for beginners too! I have personally had lessons at Saunton Surf School and would recommend them, although they aren’t the cheapest (£40 for a group or £110 for a private lesson).
The waves are consistent, uniform, and reliable. Whilst it can be a battle to paddle out on a longboard, the rewards of a long and steady ride make it worth it every time.
Saunton is a local favourite. But bear in mind, this place can get pretty crowded, especially on weekends. Don’t worry though, the beach is so vast and expansive that the crowding is rarely an issue (except for the parking)!
4. Llangennith, Swansea
- Best bit: Wave consistency
- Best for: Beginners
Llangennith Bach is located on the remarkable Gower peninsula near Swansea, Wales. Most of Llangennith has some great surf. The southern part of the beach, called Rhossili Bay, is the most popular surfing spot.
The best thing about the surf here at Llangennith is the consistency of the waves. It’s a great spot for longboarders or beginner surfers looking to hone their skills.
Llangennith Beach is home to one of the best surf schools in Wales. Any beginners looking to learn to surf in Wales should check out Llangennith Surf School, for sure.
While Rhossili Bay can get super crowded, surfers on the northern side of Llangennith tend to remain fairly dispersed. This makes it an ideal surfing beach for beginners in the UK who can’t steer their board and just go with the flow.
5. Sennen Cove, Cornwall
- Best bit: Gorgeous beach
- Best for: Beginner-Expert
Sennen is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Cornwall. Less than two miles away from Land’s End (the very bottom of the UK), Sennen Cove is tucked away neatly at the tip of England’s toe.
Also known as Whitesands Beach, Sennen is famous throughout the country for being one of the best surf spots around. It’s got consistent and reliable waves all year round, great for all ability levels. It’s an all-around great choice when deciding on where to surf (or visit) in the UK.
I’d love to recommend a great surf school here. It’s especially good for beginners.
Check out Sennen Surfing Centre. I saw one of my close friends having lessons with these guys and she went from a total novice to a certified surfer chick in one day!
6. Thurso East, North East Scotland
- Best bit: Barrels!
- Best for: Experts
Okay, folks, we’re headed up North and going to Scotland for this one. Thurso is right next to John o’ Groats – the Land’s End of the North in the Scottish Highlands.
This is not a luxury holiday destination; this is the home of British cold-water surfing. Yes, you read that right, the water up here in the very north of Britain is stupidly cold – as cold as 6°C in winter!
The surf here is wicked though, famous for its consistent and barrelling right-handers. Surf conditions are at their best when the water is coldest, around October-April time. So you’ll need to come prepared with a THICK ass wetsuit and all the other shenanigans (hood, gloves, boots etc).
Locals are extremely welcoming to visitors looking to surf or just watch the epic scenes as others pump through barrels in the depths of the winter – although you may not understand a word they’re saying… Anyone who’s into surfing and is driving around the highlands should 100% swing by Thurso East.
7. Watergate Bay, Cornwall
- Best bit: Surf whenever
- Best for: Intermediate-expert
Another Newquay beach to feature on this list is Watergate Bay. As another famous surfing beach in the UK, Watergate Bay hosts many surfing competitions. So if professional surf competitions happen here, you can be sure that there are some damn good waves.
As there are so many great surfing beaches in Cornwall, the best way to see them is on a good old Cornish road trip. I would recommend stopping by Watergate Bay to anyone surfing in Cornwall.
The reason Watergate Bay is so good is that, unlike many other cornish beaches, the surf here is fairly consistent (but best at mid-high tide). So, whenever suits you, just turn up and go!
If you’re looking to surf in the UK, head to Cornwall, book a hostel in Newquay, and the rest will sort itself out. It’s really that simple.
8. Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire
- Best bit: Great for everyone
- Best for: Beginner-expert
This Whitesands Bay is in Wales but shares the same name as the beach in Sennen, Cornwall. Whitesands Bay is a beach in St David’s and my top pick of all the wonderful surfing beaches in Pembrokeshire on Wales’ West coast.
This is a great beach for beginners. Waves don’t get massive here, but I had some serious fun on an 8ft rental longboard here last summer. Intermediates and experts can still enjoy this beach, especially the northern side which can produce some powerful waves in the right conditions.
Beware, this beach is extremely busy during the summer peak season. But then again, most of the beaches in the UK suffer from this. So, if you’re serious about your surfing, you may have to sacrifice the post-surf sunbathing and head here in the low season.
Don’t Forget to Get Insured When You Hit Those Waves!
Travel insurance is always a good idea. Ensure you get some quality UK travel insurance before you visit the country. Surfing can be unpredictable and dangerous at times, so make sure you’re insured.
Oh, and make sure your travel insurance covers surfing!
ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.
They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!
Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.
FAQs About the Best Surfing Beaches in the UK
Below are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about surfing beaches in the UK, enjoy.
Final Thoughts: Get Surfing in the UK
As you’ve made it this far to the end of the article, I hope you’ve found some inspiration to give surfing in the UK a go. It’s really an underrated location for surfing; it has beaches and swells for all types of abilities.
If you’re a beginner looking to get into surfing, I would recommend heading to Saunton Sands in Devon or Llangennith, Wales for the best learning conditions. Both beaches have great surf schools too, so you can be sure you’ll be up and surfing in no time.
For the more experienced surfers, I would suggest getting down to Cornwall and checking out Fistral, Sennen, and Watergate Bay for some gnarly swells that can challenge even professionals sometimes.
Let me know in the comments which surfing beaches in the UK you like. There are so many I couldn’t fit onto this list!
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