When it comes to surfing, picking the right location is half of the battle. As well as finding a spot that has great waves and is surf friendly, it is also important to get a feel for the local surf scene — people who are as passionate about the activity as you are.
Wave fanatic and current British Senior Surf Champion, Johnny Wallbridge, founded outdoor clothing and equipment company Yakwax in 2002, after catching the surf bug when he was just 14-years old.
Johnny is an expert on surfing in Guernsey, having won the Guernsey Championship on seven separate occasions, and his shop has played a great part in establishing the celebrated Guernsey surf scene. He believes that when it comes to surfing the Channel Islands, Guernsey is the most accommodating and enthusiastic surf scene to experience. Here’s what Johnny had to say:
Visitors are welcome
Currently the surf scene in Guernsey is a thriving one. The friendly, community feel is probably the biggest draw to surfing in this part of the world. It’s definitely got an ‘everyone knows everyone’ vibe to it, but it’s also very accommodating and welcoming of first-timers and visitors, which makes for a really cool atmosphere out in the water.
It doesn’t hurt that we have some amazingly different scenery compared to other places in the world — from the beautiful, steep cliffs of the south coast, to the raw west coast beaches that are overlooked by war-time fortifications, you can’t help but admire your surroundings when surfing over here.
The children are our future
We have more kids learning how to surf which is great to see — this is thanks to the Guernsey Surf School, which teaches kids the basics as well as ocean awareness.
As we live on an Island, it’s very important to have a good knowledge of the sea. While in the past we haven’t been able to compete with other Channel Islands and the mainland in terms of producing good surfers, we are quickly catching up due to the amount of work being put in by the likes of the Surf School and the Surf Club — the future is looking very bright for the Guernsey surf scene. (If you’re looking to learn how to surf, check out some of Drift’s top tips here.)
Why not Jersey?
It’s no secret that Jersey has much better, more consistent waves than us, but Guernsey has that close-knit feel to it.
The Island is smaller in size along with our bays and surf spots, which means everything is more accessible — when the surf is good in one particular location, it doesn’t take long to head over and get out on the water. We do have a little more variety in terms of types of waves, as well as unique surroundings which makes it quite refreshing.
Vazon is Guernsey’s most popular spot and has a variety of tides and winds for you to surf. It is great for beginners and those a little more experienced, though the more-seasoned surfers are usually found surfing down at Portinfer, where the waves can be larger and more powerful.
For the explorers, Petit Port on the south coast is a secluded spot that is separated from civilisation by over 300 steps — but it is more than worth it.
My personal favourite season is around Autumn (September-December). The water is still warm and the air temperature is still a long way off the plunging lows of deep winter.
I find it’s during these months that we get some amazing swells, along with wind patterns that offer us great conditions — it’s also a lot quieter in the water compared to the height of summer.
Life is what you make it
Come with a mellow vibe and enjoy it for what it is. It’s very unlikely that you’re going to get the best waves of your life, but you will be sure to meet some super-nice people and have a lot of fun in and out the water.
Also, keep a close eye on the tides as we get some of the biggest in the world — you’ve only got a few hours at each spot when it’s at its optimum. And don’t forget to visit our shop, even if it’s just for some friendly advice!
Words and Images with thanks from British Surf Champ, Johnny Wallbridge