By: Dom Moore, head coach at Surf Sanctuary surf kite and sup school, Fistral Beach, Newquay.
When you step back and look at it, there are few countries that can rival the UK for sheer volume and variety of spots. Even from the most landlocked places you can get to the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea or English Channel by lunchtime if you set off early enough. It’s a fantastic place for a road trip because you can just make it up as you go along: travel in the UK is safe, you can easily arrange sofas to sleep on or find quiet lay-bys to sleep in, and all the usual travel stresses like lost bank cards, passports, airline baggage charges and mosquitoes are suddenly a non-issue.
The darkness and cold can put a lot of people off but with a bit of planning and the right kit it’s quite possible to live that elusive dream of searching out waves that aren’t marked in guide books and surfing them alone, or better yet, with a friendly local or two.
This winter I made a two-pronged attack, starting in the Orkney and Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland, before coming home to (carefully) ride out the volley of Atlantic ‘Strike’ storms that begun with Bridgit. I made sure I had plenty of waterproof clothing for getting out of the car and checking spots on foot, for nothing crushes your enthusiasm like wet clothes clinging to your damp skin. If I was kitesurfing, I’d just put my drysuit on at the start of the day and then I’d be set for back to back sessions no matter what blew in.
Patience and a sense of adventure is important when surf tripping the British winter; forecasts can look all-time just 48 hours ahead but when the day arrives it can be a damp squib. That’s the time to go off and hike and appreciate the ancient wonder of this land. Or find a cosy pub. When things come together though there are some phenomenal waves breaking in the clearest seas to be had.
I’ve been on many surf trips over the years and although I’ve visited more consistent places with far warmer waves, the overall adventure of exploring in the British winter marks my recent experience as my most memorable yet. Why not take a Monday off work, fill the car up and drive to a beach you’ve never been to before?