The UK isn’t the first global surfing destination that comes to mind. But this small windy isle is home to a vast range of surf spots and a committed group of individuals who surf them regularly.
From the warmer shores of Cornwall in the southwest of England to the cold, frigid waves of the Hebrides, surfing in the UK can be a challenging but rewarding experience.
Let’s take a closer look at the best surfing the UK has to offer with quality surf breaks from all over England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
The best surfing beaches in the UK
The UK is jam-packed full of surfing beaches just waiting for the right swell and wind conditions to light up.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular surf beaches in the UK that deliver consistent quality waves whenever the conditions turn on.
Fistral Beach is one of the most famous surfing beaches in the UK with a competitive line-up full of the country’s best surfers.
Located just outside of Newquay in North Cornwall it’s home to national and global surfing competitions with the Boardmasters Open acting as a launch board for up-and-coming surfers to qualify for the World Tour.
Best surfed from mid to low tide its shallow sand bottom can offer fast peeling waves with the occasional barrel. Little Fistral at the north of the beach is a reef break that attracts some of the area’s best surfers.
When a solid swell hits at low tide, North Devon’s gem is no joke. Croyde is known for its barrels, when it’s on here you can see rifling tubes breaking all over the beach.
A solid paddle out and shallow wipeouts make it a challenging surf but the rewards are well worth it.
With Saunton Sands to the south and Putsborough to the north, you’ll be spoilt for waves.
Check out our beach and surf guide on surfing at Croyde for a closer look.
Freshwater West is up there with some of Wales’s best surfing beaches.
Located on Pembrokeshire’s southwest coast it’s perfectly positioned to hoover up all the swell available making it a go-to spot for large parts of the summer.
When the swell and wind align Freshwater west can provide great waves, particularly through September and October.
Tullan Strand is a beach break at the northern end of Bundoran, Ireland’s surfing capital and home to a quality reef break we’ll cover later.
This gentle beach break is perfect for beginners and longboarders. On clean offshore days, there’s a gentle wedge at the south of the beach that breaks into a long peeling left perfect for gentle carves and cutbacks.
With great waves at all stages of the tide and quality reef breaks on either side of the beach, it’s no wonder Widemouth Bay made our list of the best surfing in the UK.
The best reef breaks for surfing in the UK
While the UK doesn’t have world-famous reef breaks like Pipeline or Teahupoo it’s still got its fair share of waves breaking over shallow rock.
If you’re an advanced surfer looking to find more powerful, challenging surf spots then the reefs on this list are a perfect match.
Most of the time Porthleven is a sleepy little fishing village in South Cornwall. But when the swell and wind align all manner of surfers descend on this epic spot.
A steep take-off offers a fast shallow left that breaks into bone-dry rocks and isn’t for the faint-hearted.
The right is the better of the two waves with a barrel section followed by the opportunity for a few turns before breaking into deeper water.
You’ll need to be patient waiting for a wave here with many of the UK’s best surfers all vying for waves.
Our first entry from Yorkshire is a good one. Staithes is an epic left-hand reef break nestled in the north of England.
On small days it’s a high-performance wall perfect for snaps and carves as you slide down the line.
It really starts to show its colours when the swell get’s overhead and the previously rippable walls turn into a steep, fast take-off followed by a draining barrel.
Mullaghmore is an absolute beast of a wave. Known for its ability to hold massive swells this reef can create jaw-dropping waves.
Surfed only by the most experienced local and travelling surfers you’ll always find a crew of big wave chargers when this spot starts to light up.
Just up the coast from Mullaghmore lies the small town of Bundoran. Often referred to as Ireland’s surfing capital it’s similar to a small-scale Newquay but with arguably better waves.
The bay inside the town hosts an a-frame reef break called ‘The Peak’. It’s a powerful wave that can hold swells well into the overhead range.
The left is a fast barreling takeoff that slows down into a wall where you can perform a few turns and get another barrel if you’re lucky. The right breaks into deep water with a fast slabbing section before fading into the deep channel.
England’s big wave surf spot, the Cribbar sits just off the cliffs above the Towan Headland in Newquay.
With breaking waves in excess of 30ft it’s strictly for advanced big wave surfers, attracting athletes from all over the world.
The cliffs form a perfect amphitheatre to watch the ensuing carnage with a regular crowd whenever a deep low pushes a large swell across the Atlantic Ocean.
The best point breaks in the UK
While you may not find any waves that can rival the likes of Snapper or J-bay, the UK is home to some classic point breaks when the conditions align.
Let’s take a look at two quality point breaks you just can’t miss if you’re surfing in the UK.
Nestled way up in North Devon is the small fishing town of Lynmouth. With its idyllic location and cliff railway, it’d be easy to visit without realising the potential when a swell arrives.
The large pebblestone point has several different waves as it passes through the tide. At high tide, you’ll find a quality a-frame tucked in at the top of the point that can be a great way to escape the prevailing south-westerly wind.
At low tide, the point opens up with a wave on either side of the outgoing river. Word has it the waves even connect on large, clean ground swells.
Check out our Lynmouth surfing guide to find out more about when to go and what to expect.
Cayton Point is no joke of a wave. Located at the south end of Cayton Bay it’s a sizeable boulder point which can produce some amazing waves on its day.
It rarely breaks, needing a large ground swell and favourable winds to start producing surfable waves.
When everything aligns it can produce large walling left-handers that jack up off the side of the point before reeling into the bay.
Not for the faint-hearted, it’s a long paddle from the beach just to reach the wave and the closer you get the more you’ll witness the raw power of this iconic wave.
Surfing in the UK, your questions answered
We answer you’re most pressing questions about surfing in the UK.
Where is the best place to surf in the UK?
Both Newquay in southwest Cornwall and Bundoran in County Donegal are perfect hubs to start your surf trips. They’ve got a wide variety of waves in the local area with breaks for all abilities.
Where is the surf capital of the UK?
Newquay is considered the UK’s surfing capital with many of the largest surf shops and surf schools calling this growing town their home.
What are the best months for surfing in the UK?
September and October can often see regular ground swells with favourable wind conditions and the water temperature is still fairly warm making for perfect surfing conditions.
Is Devon or Cornwall better for surfing?
Which beach has the best waves in the UK?
On its day, low tide Croyde is hard to rival for quality beach break waves. Its shallow banks can make for some amazing tubes and it regularly plays host to some of the UK’s best high-performance surfing.
Where can you find the biggest waves in the UK?
Both the Cribbar in Mullaghmore can hold swells up to and over 30ft with only the most committed of surfers even attempting to surf waves at this size.
Why are waves bigger in Cornwall than in the rest of the UK?
Cornwall is positioned conveniently at the Uk’s southwest tip, exposing it to swells produced by lows in the Atlantic. Despite this advantageous position Ireland does block some of the incoming swells and is actually the best place to find consistent large waves.
Hopefully, our handy guide to surfing in the UK has helped you out with some inspiration for your next surf trip.
Remember to always be respectful when you’re visiting other surf spots and always arrive with a friendly smile.
Don’t miss more of our helpful surfing guides below for other great tips on where to surf in the UK.