The Ultimate Guide to Surfing Pembrokeshire

by Asia Kaczmarczyk

Surfing Pembrokeshire takes yo to the westernmost beaches of Wales, where the Atlantic swells hit some daw-droppingly gorgeous bays.

surfing Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire surfing at a glance

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The good

  • Different beaches for different swell directions
  • The most reliable surf in Wales
  • Charming cottages and Welsh B&Bs

The bad

  • Can get wild and cold in winter
  • Touristy in summer
  • Rips

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Wales

What’s in this guide to surfing Pembrokeshire?

An introduction to surfing Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire is a reliable option for any surf travelers in the UK. The region is spread over a trio of peninsulas at the very end of Wales. They’re all darn stunning and all have beaches with head-on westerly exposure to the main SW swell channels in the Atlantic Ocean. Those are the wave magnets of the bunch, and they’re fringed by a whole load of south-facing and north-facing beaches that come with extra shelter for when things get to big.

Three names stand out from the crowd: Freshwater, Newgale and Whitesands. Each of those are classic Welsh surf. That means pretty slabby and hard-going beach breaks that will reward strong paddlers with some gnarly wedges of 5-12 foot. Calmer days – usually in the summer – see Pembroke turn into a beginners mecca. Indeed, there are now lots of local schools offering group and private sessions for.

On top of having countless beaches with reliable surf, this region is downright stunning. A little like Cornwall with all those salt-washed cliffs, it adds a touch of ruggedness into the mix with visions of puffin-dotted Ramsey Island and lush Celtic farmscapes. You can also choose to stay in hearty Welsh towns like colorful Tenby and enchanting St David’s, where fire-warmed surf cottages are the order of the day.

Where is Pembrokeshire?

Pembrokeshire is the headland that juts out of the side of south-west Wales. The region is a county by itself, with St George’s Channel to the north and the Bristol Channel to the south. It starts at the end of Cardigan Bay in mid Wales and stretches around more than 185 miles of shoreline to the open mouth of the River Towy in the south.

Where to go surfing Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire has a mix of west- and south- facing sands that each pick up different swell directions. That maximizes the reliability of the region and means there’s usually somewhere working. Let’s see where’s best…

Surfers on the beach in Pembrokeshire

Whitesands Bay

Whitesands is a perfect example of the sort of high-quality beach breaks that Pembrokeshire excels in. A short drive out of fascinating St David’s, it’s a wide bay that has a direct west orientation. That means it gets firing on head-on W swell lines, which is good news because the spot holds up well to overheads of 12 foot or even more. Take-off zone is prime in the middle of the bay, where the sets can wall up and get pretty hollow. Rides are fast to the left and longer but more sectiony to the right. Generally a perfect intermediate wave, but can also work for experts on higher days. Beware of rips. Another downside is the reliability, which is cut because Ramsey Island protects from good SW swells.

Newgale

Newgale is one of the first places where the Pembroke coastline starts running directly north-south without any huge headlands or cliffs in between. That means there’s plenty of exposure here, despite some SW and NW swell protection from the shape of the region. The result is a very reliable surf spot that is classic Welsh sets of peaky walls. Best days are 5-8 foot with long periods – the paddle can be a real challenge. Rides run better off the cliffs to the north, which means they are predominantly rights and nicely rippable. Close outs can be an issue on strong W swells. Parking close to the breaks and plenty of room for everyone.

Broadhaven

Looking out at the jagged Church Rock from the beach of Broadhaven means gazing at one of the stranger surf spots in the region. A few peaky beach breaks to the north aside, the plot is mainly known for its uber-quick left-hand barrel that mimics the fast lefts on the Bali points more than a rough Welsh groundswell. It’s only for experts because the drop-in zone is tiny and the paddle can be hell. The reward is a very zippy line through a hollow wave that mellows at the finale for some turns.

Marloes Sands

The south-west orientation of Marloes Sands puts it in the prime position to be one of Pembrokeshire’s top surf spots. It faces directly SW into the Atlantic, so hoovers up the dominant swell directions. What’s more, there are no islands in the way to split up the sets, and it’s quite far from the nearest town – that means a much smaller line up. It’s still an intermediate and up spot because the rips can be strong.

Freshwater West

Hailed by many to be the single most reliable surf spot in the land of daffodils and dragons, Freshwater West pokes out of the far south-west edge of Pembrokeshire. It’s cashed in on the regular Atlantic through swells by hosting national Welsh comps and events. We’d say the quality of the wave is high to extremely high, in that it mimics the sandbar A-frames of Hossegor and the French Atlantic. They are fast and tubey on anything over 8 foot and can handle size as well as anything in the British Isles. A truly quality wave with lots of hazards – rocks, rips.

Manorbier

Manorbier is a big beach with good exposure to the south that needs decent W wrap-around to work at its best. It’s got two very different breaks. The first is a set of peaky beach breaks that works on low tide (best for beginners). The second is a stronger, faster right reef that goes on high tide (intermediate and up). Rips occur close to the cliffs and in the river channels. Can get crowded.

Tenby

Tenby is the main tourist town of Pembrokeshire. It’s lovely. Pink and yellow cottages roll around a rough-stone medieval castle to create a town that’s worthy of the postcards. We’ve heard that Tenby South Beach can have a small wave on the biggest of winter days. Our advice? don’t waste your time. There’s better quality within a 20-minute drive!

Where to stay when surfing in Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire certainly has no shortage of top places to stay. That’s one of the good things that comes with being one of Wales’s most popular summer getaway destinations.

Timber Hill Self Catering Cedar Lodges

Surf-hotel-top-pick

Timber Hill Self Catering Cedar Lodges sit on the stunning coast path just past Broadhaven. They’re a series of cozy cottages where you can relax and unwind between green Welsh hills after a day on the pulsing west surf beach below. The lodges are all timber-clad, have make-believe wood burners, and huge outdoor terraces.

Hygge Hut

Best for: Couples on a surf trip to Freshwater West

Surf couples looking for a pad to snuggle up in while surfing the uber-reliable breaks of Freshwater West need look no further than the Hygge Hut. It’s a charming cabin with a Scandi edge to it and a log burning stove inside.

Victoria Inn Brewhouse B&B

Best for: Having a beer after your surf

The Victoria Inn Brewhouse B&B is a quirky and charming Welsh bed and breakfast that also has an adjoining brewery. You can finish up a surf and retire to the bar to sample hearty Celtic ales. The rooms and the rustic-modern design mashup is also pretty special.

When to surf in Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire gets four very different seasons, each of which does something different to the conditions at the local surf spots..

Tenby in summer

Winter (Nov-March)

Winter can throw some seriously beefy Atlantic storm systems Pembrokeshire’s way. They are hefty stuff that can close off the west-facing beaches of Freshwater and Marloes entirely. Of course, they don’t happen all the time. In between, this is the most consistent time to surf the county, with working days peaking at around 80% in January. Just be sure to pack the 5/3, the hood and the gloves.

Wear: 4/3 or 5/4/3 and gloves with hood and booties

Spring (April-May)

Spring sees the same reliable and strong winter swells as December, but also a tempering in the weather and the power of the storm surges. It’s among the best seasons of all for surfing Pembrokeshire, mainly on account of the 55% and 65% of surfable groundswell days that come through from the end of March to the middle of April.

Wear: 4/3 with boots, hood and gloves

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Summer (June-August)

It’s way flatter on the whole when it comes to surfing Pembrokeshire in the summer. What’s more, the beaches can get super busy – this is Wales’s top staycation spot. When sets do roll in and you get those magical SW pushes in the Atlantic, it can be lovely. You’re looking at warm water (some even brave with just a rash vest) and turquoise seas that mimic Greece. Best for beginners.

Wear: 2mm potential with 3/2 for backup

Autumn (September-Oct)

There’s something lovely about the autumn in Pembrokeshire. The cliffs turn a reddish brown as the heather wilts and there’s often decent weather well into September. The real swells tend to kick in around the first week of October, but they aren’t like clockwork as in Portugal and France. Instead, you’ll see a slow increase in the number of surfable days and the height of the sets. It’s a generally reliable and fun time to get in the water for all levels.

Wear: 4/3 should do it. Maybe a 3/2 for shorter sessions

Surf shops in Pembrokeshire

We’ve gone for just the one surf shop in Pembrokeshire. Why? Well…because it’s the only one you’ll ever need. That’s why!

Haven Sports LTD

Just outside of Haverfordwest behind Broadhaven Beach, this huge surf emporium has pretty much everything you could possibly need for a successful surf trip in the UK. There are racks and racks of wetsuits for men and women and kids of all ages. You can buy inflatable SUP and foamies. You can also buy branded surf fashion and all sorts of shortboards and longboards alike. It’s got everything covered. They also run a convenient webcam over Broadhaven Beach. Cheers guys.


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!

This article is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Wales

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