Surfing In The … UK?

Surfing in Wales

When you think of surfing what comes to mind? That age old song by the Beach Boys about the good ol’ USA? Tropical beaches in South East Asia? Tanned surfer guys with Ozzy accents? I’ll bet a Welsh seaside town didn’t feature very highly in that list did it? It is a shock to most travellers when they discover that Wales is actually one of the most highly regarded surfing hotspots in the world, and this is what happened when I tried my hand at it!

This is a paid article written in partnership with Visit Swansea Bay and Surf GSD. with products or services supplied by them. Full editorial integrity is maintained at all times. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.

I know, Wales – or Great Britain in general for that matter – isn’t very well known for surfing. The stereotypical image of almost perpetual rain, grey skies and freezing oceans generally doesn’t do much to dispel that image either.

But Wales has been keeping a secret from the world for a very long time, the stunning Gower coastline and the picturesque stretch of water along Caswell bay in Swansea is actually a surfers paradise! And with the Gower peninsula being consistently rated as having some of the best beaches in the world, and even the Telegraph naming the Gower as one of Britain’s surfing hotspots, the genie is very close to being let out of the bottle!

Now I love adventures activities and adventure sports, and one of the best things about travelling for me is the opportunity to not only participate in some of the most amazing activities I can imagine, from mountain climbing and canyoning to jungle trekking and zip lining, but also to add even more strings to my bow by constantly trying out new things and learning new skills. So an invitation to try out surfing was never going to be passed up!

Surfing On One Of Wales’ Most Spectacular Coastlines.

Caswell Bay Surfing Wales

Caswell bay is a popular family beach just a short distance from Swansea, with a long, soft sandy beach and blue flag status for the quality of its water and coastline. The whole area has a very traditional British seaside town feel to it, the old world elegance of the beach huts and ice cream parlours at the nearby Langland bay is still evident, but it also has a more bucket and spade seaside feel to it too, with a small, unobtrusive cafe and tea room just off the beach. The sand is soft and clear and the waves are excellent.

Hardly surprising then that the bay has actually been quite famous amongst professional surfers for decades now, with the nearby university offering courses in water activities and adventure management! They’ve been hiding a massive secret from us non surfing travellers for decades!

I arrived into Swansea at lunch time, and not wanting to waste any time I headed straight for the beach and the small hut that was the home of the Surf GSD school.  Of course, being British summertime it was overcast with an occasional drizzle and the sun had inexplicably disappeared on a holiday of its own, but I didn’t let that stop me.

I Was Excited To Get My First Official Surfing Lesson.

I had unofficially tried surfing once before, without a proper lesson of course – on Tioman island in Malaysia – but found out very quickly that being generally Godzilla size by Asian standards, having absolutely no experience, no grace and a complete and utter lack of balance wasn’t a great mix for surfing! I spent more time in the water than anything else and to be perfectly honest my first surf experience was mostly just swimming alongside a borrowed surfboard!

But with the seriously patient and expert help from the guys at Surf GSD, I not only managed to get a spot of surfing in the waves of this rugged Welsh coastline, but I even managed to stay upright!

For a little while, at least. I still spent half my time in the water!

Surf GSD is the only surf school licensed to run surf lessons and courses in the area and is one of the premier Surfing Great Britain approved surfing schools, so I was genuinely pleased to be getting some real advice from the experts this time.

My instructor Tom was waiting for me when I arrived, and I found him staring wistfully out at the ocean as if all he wanted to do was get out there. After seeing the look in his eyes before he saw me I have no doubt that is exactly what he wanted! And it may sound surprising but that really filled me with confidence that I was with someone who knew what they were doing.

I was kitted out with my wetsuit first, and this is perhaps the only small criticism of the place that they need better changing facilities. A big man getting into a wetsuit is not the most graceful of things! But that was soon forgotten and I jogged back to the surf hut for my board. I originally had reservations about this, as in my ignorance I asked if someone my size was suitable for surfing, but those questions were soon dismissed as a huge beast of a board was pulled out. A ten foot surboard that even Alun Wyn of the Welsh International Rugby Team used! Apparently big guys can surf! So that was my excuse for my lack of ability out of the window!

My instructor was excellent and seriously patient. He was a surfer right down to his core and excellent at it, and had just finished his own gap year surfing around the world, so even though I’m not a natural surfer we still had plenty in common. It really does make a difference having an instructor who is passionate about what they are teaching you.  He took me through everything I needed to know before letting me loose on the waves, spending a good chunk of time practicing moving about on the boards on the sand itself.

Learning to surf Caswell Bay Wales

Unfortunately I was told I couldn’t count this as part of the time I was stood up on the surf board, and was eventually let into the water.

And it was exhilarating!

Despite the lack of any large waves, we still got a few decent ones coming through, and after a few tries (and more than a few falls), I managed to jump up and stay balanced for a few seconds. I still maintain if the wave had been a little bigger and I had been going a little faster I could have stayed up for a bit longer!

Learning to surf Caswell Bay Wales

My instructor may disagree but I’m ignoring him on that point!

One thing that surprised me was just how physical surfing was. I knew of course that it would require some degree of fitness, but was genuinely impressed at the upper body and core workouts I got from the experience as well as a fair cardio workout. Since staying fit and healthy on my travels is something I always try and do I was genuinely impressed with this.

I had an awesome afternoon on what is genuinely a stunning beach, and even if you have never tried surfing before, I urge you to at least come and give it a try. If a big guy like me can do it, then no one has any excuse!

I may not be very good yet, but this one lesson has improved my skills a damn site more than they were before, and has given me the bug enough to want to try it again! I’m sure with another lesson or two I’ll be looking like a pro out on the waves! For a few seconds at least before I fall in again.

I know now that wherever my travels take me next, I’m adding surfing to my list of things to do once I get there! And if I’m ever back near Swansea in Wales, I’m certainly coming back here for another lesson!

Because that at the end of the day is what travel is all about. The experiences you gain along the way. And surfing is certainly an exhilarating one!

Did you enjoy this article? Have you ever been Surfing? Would you like to try? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Posted in Travel Health
28 comments on “Surfing In The … UK?
  1. Jakartass says:

    “The experiences you gain along the way [are] what travel is all about.”
    Right/write on, Michael.

  2. Haha, you look like you had great fun! I had never even thought you could do this in Britain!

  3. Sarah says:

    What a fantastic experience. I’d love to have a go at this – and within the UK too. I would only have thought of Cornwall, not Wales. Sounds great.

    • Oh absolutely, Wales is a seriously underestimated place, Swansea and the Gower has some stunning coastline and some of the beaches are perfect for activities like this! Damn surfers keeping it a secret from the rest of us travellers for years now! ;D

  4. mags says:

    I must admit that I’ve not thought about surfing at UK beaches. In fact, the only one I’ve been to is Brighton Beach, and it was cold, and foggy, and rainy. The beach you’re at looks a bit better. Glad you guys had a good time!

    • Aw thank you. 🙂 The weather can be a pain sometimes, but Wales has some awesome coastline and some fantastic beaches for surfing. The overcast sky makes it look colder than it actually was. You should come and try it the next time you’re in Wales! ;D

  5. What a great adventure. Looks like you were prepared for the cold water too. A real novice would’ve quit sooner due to the cold. I’ve surfed a few times but it was more like boogie boarding (ha ha)

    • It honestly wasn’t that cold Elaine, it looks it because the sky was overcast but honestly it was actually quite a warm day and the water was warmish and comfortable too. It was great fun! I think body boarding accurately describes most of my attempts too though to be fair! Haha!

  6. Noel Morata says:

    Looks like a fun thing to do on nice sandy beaches and low surf, a perfect spot for beginners – although that looks pretty to me coming from Hawaii.

    • It was definitely a beautiful beach and a perfect place to learn I think. I just wasn’t very lucky on the day with low surf. There are spots for more advanced surfers too though, maybe you should come down and try it out?

  7. lesleycarter says:

    Good job! It looks like you were pretty successful despite the lack of waves.

    • Thanks! Yeah I definitely want to go back and try it again when the surf is a bit better! In one way it was good the surf was low for my first lesson, but it’s really given me the bug!

  8. I’ve never done surfing but recently received an invite to try it out myself. Knowing that it can be a bit physical, I’m still thinking about the offer, haha! Anyways, I fell in love with Swansea the first time I went there for an open day at the university many years ago. Love the city, the bay, the beach and even the accent, haha! Not so much about the weather though – although I guess there’s no escaping it if you’re in the UK.

    • That’s true, the UK weather is miserable half the time, but the water is wet all of the time so it doesn’t matter too much! You should definitely give it a go, yes there is a bit of physicality involved but it is so much fun! Even if like me you don’t get to stand up for long! ;D

  9. galanda23 says:

    Yea, you are right. When I hear of surfing UK wouldn’t come to mind. It’s so cold and overcast there? How can you have fun on a board in those cold waters? But if you have a passion for surfing, then no place is a bad place.

    • Well apart from a bit of playing about years ago this was genuinely my first time surfing, and my first lesson, so I wouldn’t say I had a passion beyond wanting to try something relatively new. But honestly it wasn’t cold at all, yes it was overcast but it was still pretty warm, and I had great fun out there too!

  10. tamarasw says:

    You were brave! I took a surfing lesson at Waikiki once, and never did manage to actually surf. But I’m using the excuse that I just wanted to give my kids more time with the instructor!

  11. Ayla says:

    I didn’t realise there were any surfing beaches in Wales! Looks like you had so much fun and at least you managed to stand up on the board for a bit – a lot more than I achieved when I first tried it years ago! We’re going to Cornwall in a few weeks and Alex is going to attempt some surfing but I’m staying with my feet on firm ground this time!

  12. I’m not sure surfing is much for me, but I have had visiting the Welsh coastline on radar for a while. I really want to explore the walk along the coast. It’s so nice, though, to take a lesson with a great instructor and feel (even for a few seconds!) the victory of succeeding at something new!

  13. twoscotsabroad says:

    I have never been to Wales (which is terrible considering it’s on our doorstep!) but I was aware of surfing in the UK. We even have spots in Scotland but our weather obviously lets us down!

  14. I’ve only been surfing once in Peru and I got so seasick! It was a lot of fun though, not sure I could manage the cold in this country though!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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