Surfing Wales is all about wild bays with raw Atlantic waves, gorgeous coastal vistas and uncluttered line ups. Move over Cornwall.
Surfing Wales at a glance
- Beautiful coastal scenery.
- Reliable swells thanks to the Atlantic.
- Nowhere near as busy as Cornwall.
- The rain – there’s lots of it!
- Some spots are a trek to get to.
- Closeouts on lots of the beach breaks.
What will I find in this guide to surfing Wales?
This is a branch of our ultimate guide to surfing in Europe.
An introduction to surfing in Wales
Wales is a surfing mecca. But that should hardly come as a surprise. In a country where the coastline ranges a whopping 1,370 miles, there’s bound to be oodles to get the stick into. The shores range from the wide estuary of the Severn by Bristol all the way the Irish Sea, through rugged Ceredigion, and up to the holiday resorts of the north. Along the way, there are enough secret spots and cool coast towns to keep anyone keen on surfing Wales busy for weeks on end!
The best surfing destinations in Wales
Wales might seem small, but the coastline is a behemoth of bays and beaches. It’s perhaps the most defining geographical feature of the country, with everything from saltwater marshes to soaring cliffs inhabited by puffins along its length.
Knowing where to go for surfing in Wales is the first step to putting together any good trip to these Celtic waves. Because there’s such a diversity of spots, you’re going to need to know what’s coming your way. Will it be a wild Atlantic swell with heavy winds? Or will it be a sheltered island point break on the Irish Sea? Let’s take a look what’s on the menu…
The Gower Peninsula
Jutting into the Bristol Channel from the western side of Swansea, the Gower Peninsular has long been a mecca for walkers. They come drawn by the prospect of the first ever Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the United Kingdom. However, there’s also a vibrant surf scene in the area, with some truly reliable spots up for grabs.
The best of them is surely the eye-wateringly beautiful bay of Llangennith. It’s nearly five miles long and magnetises swell from the Atlantic Ocean. That makes it a really reliable choice, even if closeouts and unpredictable left-to-righters are the norm, not to mention a particularly difficult paddle out. Closer to civilisation is the sheltered bay of Caswell. It’s another popular option if you’re surfing Swansea region, especially when there are dominant on shore winds coming from the west and works nicely for short rides at high tide.
Pembrokeshire is the south-western tip of Wales. It’s a beautiful area with the iconic Pembrokeshire Coast Path linking up all its beaches and bays over 186 miles of award-winning walking. For surfers, there’s loads to get stuck into. That’s mainly thanks to the geography, which means the S-SW swells that roll in off the Atlantic shape up nicely as they mingle with the currents of St George’s Channel.
The most famous places are Freshwater West and Newgale. The first is a long beach break with some reefy points thrown in. The other is really easy to get to and benefits from the sheltering effect of the Marloes headland. There’s usually a peak for every rider there, but longboarders are particularly well catered for.
Head outside of the main surf towns and the long beach breaks and you’ll catch loads more surprises in Pembrokeshire. From little coves with rock-bottomed walls to wide sand-based breaks by quaint fishing villages, the region is a doozy for anyone keen on surfing Wales.
You only really need one wave on the radar down in Porthcawl: Rest Bay. Just a short drive from Swansea, Port Talbot, and Cardiff, it’s nestled between the most populated areas of South Wales. That means you can often expect line ups, along with surf schools. Thankfully, the beach break is long and peaky. When it’s windy and big, you can mosey around the town to Coney Beach for some more sheltered swells.
Cardigan and Ceredigion
The midriff of Wales is given over to the huge scythe of Cardigan Bay. The cream of the surf there comes on Poppit Sands. Often flat but great when it starts cooking, the spot gets traction from its river mouth. Watch out for the rips.
The mystical home of the druids is a veritable vacation mecca. It sticks into the Irish Sea on the north-western edge of Wales, looking across the Menai Strait to the misty mountains of Snowdonia. It’s got a whopping 27 beaches around its shores, some of which are simply excellent for any beginners surfing Wales. The best of the bunch is surely Broad Beach. It’s a mellow beachy that rolls both left and right. Good shelter from the nearby peninsular can neutralise on shore winds.
A guide to the Welsh surfing season
November – April
Let’s get one thing straight – Wales is a brutal place to surf in the winter. The water temperature can drop to as low as 8 degrees during this period. And the Atlantic hardly lets up with its constant stream of storms. However, this is also prime time for surfing Wales. Thanks to strong groundswells and wind swells coming straight through to the Bristol Channel and the Irish Sea from the middle of the ocean, there’s almost always somewhere working. Of course, you’ll need booties, gloves, and something thick – we use a 5/4/3 for longer sessions in the middle of the season!
May – October
When the sun’s a shining in Wales, the coastline is simply gorgeous. Consequently, most people come to regions like Pembrokeshire and the Gower for family breaks in the school holidays between June and August. That means extra crowds and more regular surf schools in places like Porthcawl and Llangennith. However, it also means tamer swells that are great for beginners. You can also get away with 3/2 and no boots. The downside is you’re likely to have to wait for a good day. Just keep checking those Wales surf forecasts, folks!
Top things to do in Wales when you’re not surfing
Wales is a rugged land of mountains and bays, steeped in ancient culture and rich tradition. That means there’s loads to get up to when you aren’t in the water. Good news, actually, because flat days are more common here than in Cornwall.
The Snowdonia National Park spreads across more than 2,000 square kilometres of wilderness in the northern reaches of the country. It’s a perfect detour for anyone surfing Wales’s northern coastline, around Anglesey. You’ll need to wax down the walking boots. There are some awesome trails to get stuck into. Think about skipping the popular route to the top of Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales) itself. Instead, go for the rock gardens of Glyder Fawr or the…
Hike the Pembrokeshire Coast Path
A must for anyone surfing Pembrokeshire down in south-west wales is the uber-long Pembrokeshire Coast Path. It links up all the stunning bays, wide sands, and quaint fishing villages of the national park there, going for a whopping 186 miles from start to finish. Highlights include the pastel-painted town of Tenby, the ancient cathedral in St David’s, and the endless dolphin and porpoise spotting that you can do along the way.
Travel essentials for anyone surfing Wales
- Currency: Pound, GBP,
- Population: 3.1 million
- Capital: Cardiff
- Language: Welsh, English
Where exactly is Wales?
Wales is the large chunk of land that juts westwards out of the United Kingdom. Its only land border is with England. That runs north-to-south from River Dee all the way to the wide Severn Estuary, roughly following the line of ancient Offa’s Dyke as it goes. To the west is the Irish Sea, with Ireland itself within 67 miles at the closest point. To the south is the Bristol Channel, which separates the Gower Peninsula and the Cardiff region from Somerset and Cornwall.
How to get to Wales
Drive straight down the M4 from London and you’ll whiz across the Severn Bridge in a matter of hours. A big Welcome to Wales sign is there to let you know when you’re in Celtic land. Those going north for surfing Wales can come in from Manchester. The trip to Anglesey from there is around 2.5 hours on the A55.
The only major airport in Wales is in Cardiff. It’s not got loads of connections, but there are long-haul jaunts to Doha on Qatar, along with a few short-haul flights to Europe and the UK.
If you’ve got anything to add to this ultimate guide to Surfing Wales, then we’d sure love to hear it in the comments below! We’re always looking to update and change the information here so it’s in line with what’s currently happening in Cymru– otherwise it would hardly be the ultimate guide, eh!?