With droves of surfers making the pilgrimage to North Devon beaches from summer through winter, the proof is in the popularity when identifying North Devon as the UK’s surfing mecca.
Known for its waves that peak in quality, consistency and variety, North Devon has a collection of surf breaks that has seen the water packed with wave seekers for decades. It is no wonder that GoEuro recently reported that North Devon claims 4 beaches from the UK’s top 10 surfing spots.
Interviewing surfers, from beginner to professional, on their favourite UK surfing spots, Saunton, Croyde Bay and Woolacombe were all included in the top five. It’s now said you’re a very lucky surfer if you find yourself riding solo on any wave along the North Devon coastline.
But what is it that makes the surf so good?
The powerful Atlantic Ocean swells that pound their way into shore provide the backbone of the perfect breaks in North Devon.
With a collection of point, reef and beach breaks, these waves have been the stomping ground for many surf champions, with the likes of pro-surfer Taz Knight and local legends Ralph Freeman, Richard Carter and Scott Rannochan harking from the region.
But with the strong swell comes diverse and often challenging surf conditions. North Devon waves are known to include some board breakers and hefty rips, so it’s important to check your local knowledge of a spot and match it to your ability before paddling out.
If you’re a beginner there are also some top surf schools set up in the area, North Devon Surf School, Croyde Surf Academy, Lyndon Wake Surf School and Walking On Waves Surf School Surf Hire Surf Shop all come recommended, plus you can pick up hire gear if needed too.
So where is the best place to surf in North Devon?
It’s highly likely that number one on the list is Croyde Bay. Historically Croyde was shied away from as a surf spot, with its strong rips and short waves that tend to dump and close out quickly depending on the tide. However, as surfing has progressed it’s now no secret that Croyde is one of the UK’s best surf breaks, as confirmed by pro-surfer Taz Knight.
Growing up with Croyde Bay as his local break Taz sympathises that “if you don’t have the knowledge Croyde can be a real pain of a wave to surf. Heavy and powerful, not to mention most of the time it will closeout.”
But if you have the ability and know the waves, “everytime you paddle out it’s fun.” At low tide Croyde is definitely a spot for the experienced surfer, but at high tide it’s ideal for all abilities, plus you have the opportunity to ride waves that have been described as world class.
Another top North Devon surf spot is Woolacombe, recommended by Sam. This beautiful long sweeping sandy bay is often exposed to South-Easterly winds, however this works in the favour of surfers.
The wind catches swells and builds them up in perfect peaks. Local surfer Sam claims Woolacombe as his favourite UK surf spot “the best waves at Woolacombe are at the Northern end, you can spot the locals as the ones who appear from a hidden set of stone stairs in the cliff and jump straight off the rocks into the line-up.”
The breaks at Woolacombe are described as ideal for learning and progressing your talent in the water.
“As a learner surfer the beach break was the perfect place for progression. You can try to beat the white water and get out to the line-up, but even if it goes wrong (and it will!) you can turn around and ride it in, working on your pop and stance,” says Sam.
A surfer can’t visit North Devon without also getting their feet wet at Saunton Beach.
The long cruisy waves are ideal for learning, perfecting your skill or for leaning back on a longboard. You’ll find many a pro-longboarder gliding down the glassy, perfect right hand wave that curls out from the Northern end rocks, locally known as ‘the cave’.
Named by Charlotte Howells as her favourite UK surf spot, Charlotte claims Saunton in North Devon “is the beach I’ve surfed more than any other. If you’re lucky enough to visit when it’s 3ft and clean, you could get one of the longest waves of your life.”
Beyond these beaches surfers can also explore waves at the likes of award winning beaches such as Putsborough, a spot sheltered from the strong South-Westerlies and is most surfable in winter.
The surf here is smooth and clean, making it an ideal spot for various other sporting events such as the Croyde Ocean Triathlon. but beware of the strong rip currents.
If you’re planning to make a mission to North Devon, there are plenty of surfer friendly campsites around the area that welcome your sandy feet and salt drenched hair.
A few favourites are Surfer’s Paradise Campsite in Croyde, where the name speaks for itself, or Ocean Pitch Campsite where you enjoy insane views of the bay and it’s just a short stroll to the beach.
So there you have it, North Devon in all its surfing glory. And one more insider’s tip, it’s an absolute must that any visiting surfer stop in at The Thatch in Croyde for a post surf refresher, it’s totted as the local surfer’s haunt. Happy surfing.
Main image: Charlotte of Floatstories.com