Looking for an in-depth guide to surfing Plymouth and the surrounding coastline?
Plymouth isn’t the first location you think of in terms of surfing, but it’s a great hub for some fantastic waves in the local area.
The coast surrounding Plymouth hosts a variety of beach breaks, reefs and points for those 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.
Can you surf in Plymouth?
Plymouth 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.
Some waves can break on the very largest of ground swells, but these are carefully guarded secrets that require in-depth knowledge of the local coastline and the conditions required to produce waves.
The Best Surfing Beaches Near Plymouth
Even though surfing in Plymouth isn’t an option, there are lots of quality surf breaks nearby.
Let’s look at the best beaches near Plymouth and the waves you can find when you’re in the local area.
Whitsand Bay is located 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 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 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 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, check the firing range times here.
Wembury Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand among South Devon’s many surf beaches, but its relatively easy access makes it popular with surfers from Plymouth.
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.
A rock reef stretches out to sea at the left-hand side of the bay.
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 I found of Wembury from a winter swell in 2016 that gives you a rough idea of what the setups are like:
Bovisand is a sheltered bay 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 be respectful of local surfers and do 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 and the closest you’ll get to a Plymouth beach.
The jewel in South Devon’s surfing crown, it’s a quality beach break located not far from Kingsbridge and only a short drive from Plymouth.
It hoovers up the most swell of any surfing beaches on this list, making it a great option if the waves look too small at places like Wembury or Bovisand.
When it gets good, it gets really good!
The river mouth here can carve some great banks, offering predominantly rights. The waves here can be ridden for 100 metres when a solid groundswell hits the coast, making for some leg-burning rides.
Interested? Just check out the video below and head over to our comprehensive guide to surfing at Bantham, packed with local tips on when to go and what to expect.
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, which can make the lineup busy, particularly in the summer months.
Check out our guide to surfing Bantham to find out more, or if you’re starting on your surfing journey, take a look at the guide on surfing Bigbury, a perfect spot to learn to surf with a fantastic surf school just off the beach.
Challabborough Bay is a relatively sheltered beach break 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 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 epic rides.
*Extra reading – We’ve got a detailed guide on surfing at Challaborough here.
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 must 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, Seaton can be a great option for small manageable conditions perfect for getting your feet on the board.
What’s the best time of year for around Plymouth?
Autumn’s the best time of year for surfing when clean, groomed waves march up the channel, and water temperatures are still relatively mild.
The south coast of Devon and Cornwall doesn’t get as much swell as the other side of the coast, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get great waves all year round.
Spring tends to see a lot of offshore northerly wind, so you can score some great windows of good surf if you’re lucky.
The cold water keeps the crowds down, and the many sheltered coves around Plymouth are perfect for escaping the wind.
Summer gets packed, with surfers, bodyboarders and holidaymakers all sharing waves at the beach.
Our advice here would be to head to the north coast in the summer, Summer can be hit and miss with the swell, and North Cornwall tends to make the most of small waves.
You can check our definitive guide to surfing around Cornwall for a closer look at the great breaks on offer.
The best time of year for surfing around Plymouth, large waves align with light winds to create epic sessions.
Autumn can be all-time all across the south coast, but be prepared to battle out with the hundred other surfers trying to get a slice.
Winter is perfect for those willing to tackle cold waves and thick wetsuits.
With offshore winds and good swell, you can have great windows to surf through winter, but you’ll need a snug wetsuit to make the most of it.
Plymouth is a perfect winter surfing hub, with spots like Seaton and Wembury offering great shelter in winter storms.
Our Wetsuit Guide For Surfing At Polzeath
Keep yourself comfortable in the water so you can focus on your surfing with one of our editor’s toasty, flexible wetsuit picks.
|Season||Our Recommended Wetsuit||Hood||Gloves||Booties||Approx. Water Temp.|
|Spring||4/3mm C-SKINS REWIRED||Yes||No||Yes||10°C – 12°C|
|Summer||3/2mm O’NEILL HYPERFREAK||No||No||No||13°C – 17°C|
|Autumn||4/3mm – 5/4mm XCEL COMP||No||No||Yes||12°C – 14°C|
|Winter||5/4mm – 6/5mm C-SKINS WIRED||Yes||Yes||Yes||8°C – 10°C|
If you’re thinking of heading down to Plymouth, you’ll be surrounded by quality waves to pick from.
Surfing Plymouth requires some planning, but with our detailed guide, you should be gliding along 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.