The Ultimate Guide to Surfing England

by Rich Francis

Surfing England is a fantastic journey to wild beach breaks, rugged shores, and unforgiving points. From Cornwall to the north country, there are waves for all levels and plenty of potential for staycation surf trips.

Surfing England

Surfing in England at a glance

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The good:

  • Cornwall is one of Europe’s finest surf regions
  • Chase remote waves
  • Family surf schools and surf hotels

The bad:

  • Cold, cold winters
  • Can be expensive
  • Some little pockets of localism

This is part of our larger guide to surfing in Europe

What will I find in this guide to surfing in England

An introduction to surfing England

England is one of Europe’s standout surf destinations. Okay, so it rarely hits the same headlines for surf travelers as the likes of Portugal or France, but it’s simply not true to say it’s worse. In fact, it might just be better because it’s not in the spotlight. Old Blighty can still churn out some totally deserted breaks on wild, windswept beaches, with line ups so small the Algarve could only dream of it.

England has a very eclectic coastline that helps offer more surfing than you can shake your bag of chips at. The most famous part of the country for wave hunting surely has to be the West Country and the south-west. It feels the same strong brunt as South Wales and picks up a kick of Atlantic Ocean swell. Cue Cornwall’s beasty beach breaks in Newquay and Sennen. And this is the home of long strands like Bude and Croyde, which have summertime mush for family beginners and hardcore winter walls alike.

There are burgeoning and even long-held surf scenes all around England, though. Surfing south east England can mean hitting some unruly North Sea swells. There are also occasional winter waves for the brave in Suffolk and Brighton. And then comes Northumberland. An ancient land of haunting castle ruins and rolling heath, this is the place to head if you want to be at one with English nature and don’t mind doing battle with fickle swells with ice in their bones.

Surfers in Newquay Cornwall

The top surf regions in England

England has some fantastic surf destinations up its sleeve. The crème-de-la-crème of the bunch are powered by the Atlantic Ocean. Just like Ireland and Wales, they get the brunt of the groundswells and offer some serious consistency and size. Elsewhere, you might need to hold off and wait a little for storms to kick up in the North Sea and the Irish Channel. Let’s take a look…


South Cornwall waves

There’s not a single guide to Old Blighty’s waves that could possibly skip Cornwall. This long, thin county is the jewel in the crown of surfing England. It’s been the focal point for the sport in the country since anyone can remember, and hosts the self-proclaimed surf capital at Newquay. The variety of breaks is pretty formidable. They range from peaky beaches like Bude to fantastic beginner waves like Praa Sands, with hardy reefs like Porthleven nestled in between.

Dive right into the best this county has to offer with our ultimate guide to surfing in Cornwall


We know, we know, Bristol ain’t by the coast. But it’s close, and the town has what we’d say is up there with the best artificial surf spots int he country (check out The Wave Bristol!). Access to the North Devon and the Welsh coasts only adds to the draws. You will need a car, though.

Get all the local info on surfing in Bristol right now


A point break in Devon

Devon is a charming block of the West Country. It rolls from the Bristol Channel all the way to the English Channel, with sweeping moors and slate mines and little grassy mountains in its bucolic heart. The best beaches for surfing here fringe the north coast in the form of Woolacombe and Croyde. Loads of students fuel a cool surf scene in the ancient city of Exeter, but that’s nearer the south coast, on the cusp of more sheltered breaks like Dawlish and Teignmouth.

Get all the local info on the best surfing in Devon with our ultimate guide to the county


Northumbria coast surf

Northumberland is the wild north-eastern corner of England. The locals here are proud of their county’s place on the frontier with Scotland. It’s an untamed and feral land where Hadrian’s Wall runs under crumbled medieval castles. The place also, rather suitable, hosts some of the most wild surfing England has to offer. It’s all North Sea stuff, so prep for hard paddle outs, low temperatures, and really fickle conditions. It will put hairs on your chest though!

We have a complete guide to all the best Northumberland surf spots


Dorset Durdle Door surf

Known for the UNESCO-tagged Jurassic Coast, Dorset is one of the most iconic seaside destinations in the UK. But it’s not all holiday cottages and cream teas, folks. There are good waves to be had on SW swells along the beaches of Bournemouth and Lulworth. You can also paddle out to reefs that offer neat shapes and even hollow waves – check out Kimmeridge

Read our full guide to surfing in Dorset to get the best info on the breaks in this southerly county


Yorkshire coast

North Yorkshire and the west coast of England gets a full whack of waves whenever the North Sea gets pumping. That’s more common in the winter, and it’s bred something of a warrior attitude among the local crowds, who laugh at the southerners and their 2mm suits. The waves are not as good in these parts as in, say, Cornwall, but they are emptier, offer different challenges, and right by some of the best Victorian-era seaside resorts in the country.

Check out our full guide to Yorkshire’s most popular surf destination: Scarborough

The top seasons for surfing England

England has a four-season climate with really wet winters and, much to the ire of the locals, very wet summers. It’s all oceanic, so you get the full brunt of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. That brings both swells but also onshore winds. However, the nature of the coastline means there’s usually something to surf working at all times of the year. (Be sure to use the UK Met Office for updates on the latest weather conditions before you surf.

Winter (November-March)

The English winter can be brutal. Cross-Atlantic storm systems mean there can be days when you’d need a Deathwish to paddle out, especially on really exposed spots like Bude or Croyde. Play the waiting game and watch the winds drop, however, and you could be in for something very, very special. Think glassy, shaped barrels and tubes and nice overheads all down the West Country. Up north, things get good as the North Sea brings more punch in the winter months. Wetsuits are a MUST all over.

  • Wear: 5/3 or 4/3 and all the rest (gloves, boots, hood)

Summer (June-August)

When there’s a day of swell in the summer, surfing England is as nice as surfing in Sri Lanka. Don’t believe us? Just scoot down to south Cornwall and watch the turquoise waters moving around Sennen Cove. It’s positively Caribbean. In, fact, because it’s a swell magnet, Cornwall is probably unique in hitting a zenith in the summer months for surfers. Everywhere else probably needs some more kick from the Atlantic, so spring and autumn are better.

  • Wear: 2mm or 3/2

Spring (April-May)

Strong westerly groundswells still prevail after the winter months for much of the spring. Heavy spring tide pushes can also bring in more power. The upshot? The west-facing bays of Cornwall’s north shore can get pretty heavy in the spring, but with winds dying down and some good easterlies on occasion, they hold shape well. Wrap arounds and some nice SW pulses also help the south coast work when the W swells aren’t going, so there’s rarely a flat day if you’re willing to drive. Water is really cold though!

  • Wear: 4/3 and boots with gloves and hood

Autumn (September-October)

Arguably the best season of all to plan your holiday surfing in England. Why? Well, spots up and down the surfing UK map will be pumping thanks to the uptick in Atlantic Swells. Things move to a dominant W-NW push to offer strong incoming from north Cornwall all the way to Cumbria. Meanwhile, the south coast can get decent wrap-around swell, much to the joy of returning students in Exeter Uni, and the weather remains relatively good.

Wear: 2mm or 3/2

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

Remember: this is just a small part of our major guide to surfing in Europe

If you can think of anything to add to this guide to surfing England, we’d love to hear your comments below. Alternatively, if you have a surf school in England and think your listing would improve this post, be sure to get in touch.