Plymouth isn’t the first location you think of in terms of surfing but it’s actually a great hub for some fantastic waves in the local area. The coast surrounding Plymouth plays host to a variety of beach breaks, reefs and points for those who are willing to look.
If you’re on the hunt for waves further afield look no further than our in-depth guide on surfing in Devon with all the best surf spots from either side of the coast.
Let’s take a closer look at what the surrounding coastline has to offer with our in-depth guide to surfing Plymouth.
Can you surf in Plymouth?
Plymouth itself is tucked deep within Plymouth Sound, the large sheltered bay that leads into the English Channel. Its sheltered position means it’s nearly impossible for any swell to reach this far into the bay and produce surfable waves.
On the very largest of ground swells, there are some waves that do break close by to Plymouth but these are carefully guarded secrets that require an in-depth knowledge of the local coastline and the conditions required to produce waves.
Surf spots around Plymouth
Even though surfing in Plymouth itself isn’t an option there is a myriad of quality surf breaks close by to choose from. Let’s take a closer look at the many surf beaches you can find in the local area.
Whitsand Bay is located to the southwest of Plymouth just a short drive from the city centre. It’s a large sandy beach that can offer great surfing conditions on its day.
You’ll find peaks all up and down the length of the beach with the best waves normally centred around Freathy Rocks and Boiler Beach.
Best surfed from low to mid tide the wave quality can drop considerably as the waves move up the beach, losing power and appearing jumbled due to the backwash from the cliffs.
For those who are willing to look, there are some quality reef breaks further up the beach at Portwrikle and Downderry but they rarely work and need a sizeable swell to get going.
Sitting just above the beach at Whitsand is the military fort which is regularly used for live fire exercises which red flags the entire Tregantle side of the beach.
If you’re thinking of heading to Whitsand Bay for a surf trip make sure to check the firing range times here.
Wembury Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand in South Devon. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon, with plenty of fun activities for kids and adults alike.
Even though Wembury doesn’t get as much swell as other places on this list it can still produce some great surfable waves in the right conditions and it’s only a short drive from Plymouth.
Favouring large ground swells from the southwest and winds from the north it’s fairly rare that you get all of the elements to align for really good surf here but when it does you’ll be met with a few setups to choose from.
At the left-hand side of the bay, a rock reef stretches out to sea, when the swell gets over 4ft a slightly disjointed left-hander starts to break down the reef but it’s rarely great.
At the centre of the bay, there’s an A-frame that breaks fairly close to the shore offering short lefts and rights that break into shallow water so not ideal for beginners.
Here’s some old-school surf footage of Wembury from a winter swell in 2016:
Bovisand is a sheltered bay that sits on the east side of Plymouth Sound. When it works Bovisand can produce quality right-handers that break across a reef just to the left of Bovisand’s small cove.
It needs a large south-westerly groundswell to start working and it’s only surfable from low to mid-tide. It’s a very tight take-off zone here so make sure to be respectful of local surfers and not surf here in large groups.
Bovisand’s close enough to nearly be considered surfing in Plymouth with the city just a short drive away.
The jewel in South Devon’s surfing crown, Bantham is a quality beach break located not far from Kingsbridge and only a short drive from Plymouth.
Bantham picks up the most swell of any of the waves on this list making it a great option if the waves look too small at places like Wembury or Bovisand.
When Bantham gets good it gets really good! The river mouth here can carve some great banks out, offering predominantly rights the waves here can be ridden for a good 100 metres when a solid groundswell hits the coast.
Just check out the video below:
Best from low to mid tide you can find waves all over Bantham but the primary breaks are directly in front of the river mouth and an A-frame peak that breaks close to the rocks at the right of the bay.
It’s popular with surfers from Plymouth and Kingsbridge here so the lineup can get busy, particularly in the summer months.
Check out our guide to surfing Bantham to find out more or if you’re just starting out on your surfing journey take a look at the guide on surfing Bigbury which is a great location to learn to surf with a fantastic surf school just off the beach.
Challabborough is a relatively sheltered beach break just to the west of Bantham and Bigbury.
At low tide, the beach opens up and connects with the sandy walkway between Bigbury and Burgh Island which sits a few 100 meters out to sea. You can find a short right-hander that breaks off a rocky outcrop on the right of the bay. This reef offers a steep take-off with one or two sections before it rolls into deep water in the centre of the bay.
There’s a low tide left that can break into the bay but this rarely provides much power and is generally best on a foamie or a longboard.
At high tide, Challaborough turns into a totally different beast! The swell pushes past the deep section in the centre of the bay and starts to focus on the banks close to the shore. When this happens Challaborough can produce powerful wedges that barrel onto knee-deep sand making for some epic rides.
Check out the video below to get a closer look at Challaborough’s set-up at low tide:
Seaton is a sheltered beach break to the west of Whitsand Bay. It needs a large south-westerly swell to get going and it’s one of the few spots in the area that’s offshore in north-westerly winds.
Best surfed from low to mid tide the beach can offer some fun beach break waves going left and right. Breaks around the rest of the area will need to be at least head high before Seaton starts to provide any wave big enough to surf.
Just be aware that the rips can be quite severe here, particularly at high tide. If you’re learning to surf around Plymouth then Seaton can be a great option for small manageable swell.
If you’re thinking of heading down to Plymouth you’ll be surrounded by quality waves to pick from. Surfing Plymouth requires a bit of forward planning but with our detailed guide, you should be gliding along some crystal-clear water in no time!
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our helpful guides below for more insights into surfing around Devon and Cornwall.