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(The Gear Loop) - The UK is an island with a large chunk of its coastline jutting into the wild Atlantic Ocean, so in theory, it should be a surf mecca. 

But unlike the paradise surf spots of Hawaii, Sri Lanka or the Maldives, the UK isn’t really blessed with year-round surfing conditions and the best waves typically roll in during the frigid winters. You need to have a certain resolve to don 6mm of rubber and hit the water in February.

Oscar JohnsonTop summer surf spots in the UK photo 1

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t score fun waves as the sun beats down from above… you just need to know where to look.

Of course, most folk are going to head directly for the South West, where locations like Newquay and St Ives seem the most obvious places to strike, but with a little leftfield thinking, it’s possible to strike gold all around the island.

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We’ve rounded up some of our favourite summer surf spots in the UK, all selected for the quality of waves and likelihood of surf when the sun shines. But first, a quick science lesson…

What makes waves?

In its most basic and succinct form, rideable waves are generally created by large storms and weather systems out at sea or in the deepest ocean, which disturb the water’s surface and create large ripples, this energy then ventures on a lenghty journey towards the shore. This is often referred to as ground swell.

The sudden change of depth in the seabed at the shoreline causes this energy to crank up and a wave to form, but its suitability for surfing then relies on numerous factors, including the topography and make-up of the seabed in the area. It’s complicated stuff, but the best spots for surfing will typically have a particular set of geographical USPs that make them star candidates.

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With that in mind, it’s clear to see why the UK gets the best waves during the autumn and winter seasons, when large storms tend to gather out in the Atlantic and the North Sea due to changes in temperatures and weather systems aligning.

That said, it’s also possible for perfectly rideable waves to be created by long periods of high winds, referred to as wind swell. Fast moving air over the surface of the water creates similar ripples, which can be enough to create waves, even in the summer months.

We won’t go into too much detail about onshore/offshore winds, swell direction and swell periods, as things can get very scientific, but rest assured the odd deep sea storm in the depths of summer can create some brilliantly sunny waves in the UK.

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Check out surf forecast websites like Magic Seaweed and Surfline before you travel, as these do all of the chart-plotting and data crunching for you, making it very easy to judge the likelihood of good waves in your area.

Better still, call in to your nearest surf shop as, after all, nothing beats a bit of local knowledge.

The best summer surf spots in the UK

Newquay, Perranporth, St Ives - Cornwall, England

The stretch of coastline that runs towards the most south westerly point in England is positively littered with fantastic surf spots. The variation of north, west and south-facing beaches means that something will be sucking up Atlantic swell and producing waves.

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Newquay and Fistral beach are arguably the mecca for surf in the UK and they have the full suite of surf shops, surf schools and hostels to stay in, although the entire area gets very busy when the sun starts to shine. 

The further south west you venture, the more likely you are to find a quieter spot or two, but as previously mentioned, keep an eye on the charts or seek local knowledge for the highest chances of scoring quality surf and vitamin D.

Bude, Saunton Sands, Woolacombe - Devon, England

Alternatively, North Devon also boasts equally stunning beaches and will often suck up swell that comes marching easterly and north easterly from deep in the Atlantic. Bude, Saunton Sands, Croyde and Woolacombe are some of the most famous surfing beaches in the area, but again, it’s possible to stumble upon many hidden gems if you know where to look.

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Most of the aforementioned beaches benefit from the full gamut of surf schools, campsites, board hire and places to get a post-surf snack and drink. Plus, they are covered by local lifeguard, making them a safe option for beginners.

Gower Peninsula - Wales

Often considered the main focal point for surfing in South Wales, the Gower Peninsula boasts myriad surf spots. Venture West and you’ll find vast beaches that stick out into the Atlantic and hoover up any swell that may be marching in.

Nick Russil/UnsplashTop summer surf spots in the UK photo 15

Spots such as Fresh West, Broadhaven and, a little further east, Rhossili, all feature huge beaches, which generally helps spread out the crowds, while surf schools and amenities can be found at Freshwater West. Head here towards the end of the season, early September, for the highest likelihood of warmer waters and solid surf.

Saltburn - North Yorkshire, England

With a vibrant surf scene that has been bustling since the 1970s, Saltburn offers a mellow and fun beach break, complete with a picturesque Victorian pier that splits the beach neatly in two and  creates left and right-hand breaking waves.

Amee Fairbank Brown/UnsplashTop summer surf spots in the UK photo 5

The locals are a fun-loving bunch and actively encourage those to hop on a board for the first time, with surf shops, lessons and kit hire all in the local area. Feeling adventurous? You’ll find punchy reef breaks to the north and south of the area.

Lewis - Outer Hebrides, Scotland 

Ok, so this is going to be one hell of a surf mission for even the most dedicated board riders, but the fact Scotland's little islands stick so far into the eastern edge of the Atlantic mean they are often battered by storms and weather fronts.

While it might be tricky to predict the conditions, the summer months are often pleasant and the chances of waves high, seeing as there’s a beach that faces pretty much every direction if you’re happy to drive around the place. Trust us, we've been there and witnessed it in full flow. See the image below for proof.

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It might not be packed with amenities, but the Isle of Lewis and Harris is stunningly remote and feels like a proper surf exploration adventure. Most of the spots are beyond picturesque, too.

Lahinch Beach - Lehinch, Ireland 

There are numerous spots dotted around this large cove-shaped coastline, but Lahinch Beach seems to suck up the most swell, making it great for scoring warm summer waves.

Unfortunately, the place does get quite busy in perfect conditions, with lots of surf schools and beginners in the water, but it’s largely a fun and friendly vibe with enough space for the crowds to thin out. 

Katie Rodriguez/UnsplashTop summer surf spots in the UK photo 4

If you get bored of beginners, venture a little further south and it’s highly likely you will find more advanced waves that tend to put off those in the early stages.

Writing by Leon Poultney.