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The UK's best surfing beaches

UK's best surfing spots

Planning on snaking some UK waves this summer? Here are six of the gnarliest beaches, for everyone from rookies to pros. Just don't forget your wetsuit - this ain't the Caribbean...

BEGINNERS

Caswell Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales

Why here?
With its soft, sandy beaches, the Gower, west of Swansea, is regarded as one of the best places in the UK to learn. And it's a Designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to boot - admire that headland as you go crashing under a wave. Caswell Bay, just a 15-minute drive from Swansea, has small, safe waves that work on all tides, though it's best at high or low water.

Lessons/gear available?
Yes, Gower Surfing Development, or GSD, (www.surfgsd.com) has a hut here. One-day group courses for beginners, with all equipment included (maximum eight learners to one instructor) cost £50.

Best time to go?
It's pretty good year-round. Hippies might like to time their visit for the Gower Folk Festival in June.

Where to stay?
Search for hotels and B&Bs near Caswell Bay beach.

Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Cleveland

Why here?
This friendly little Victorian resort is the spiritual home of Northeast surfing. It has great beginner waves on both sides of its historic pier, and there's a beach lifeguard.

Lessons/gear available?
The Saltburn Surf School (www.saltburnsurf.co.uk) will sort you out with one-on-one or group lessons, lasting 1.5-2 hours, with all the gear included (including thick wet suits - this is the North Sea, after all) from £20. Day and weekend packages are also available.

Best time to go?
Lessons are available May - September, and also March - April, surf-permitting.

Where to stay?
Find local B&Bs 

INTERMEDIATES

Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Why here?
Just north of Land's End on Cornwall's tip, Sennen, sandy expanse refreshes the parts other surf beaches cannot reach - if there's any surf to be had in West Cornwall, you are guaranteed it here.

Lessons/gear available? The Sennen Surfing Centre (www.sennensurfingcentre.com) has group and private two-hour lessons for improvers, with wetsuit, board and vest included if you need them, from £40. Two, three and five-day BSA Finaward courses are also available.

Best time to go?
It's quieter in the autumn, without all those non-surfing holidaymakers - the swell's better then, too - and the sea's still warm.

Where to stay?
Find local B&Bs and guest houses

Croyde, North Devon

Why here?
On a good day it rips, big time. It's great for intermediates, though there are a few rocky spots to look out for, and the bigger waves as the tide pushes in might be a bit challenging...

Lessons/gear available?
Surfing Croyde Bay (www.surfingcroydebay.co.uk) has group lessons for all levels (maximum 5:1 ratio) from £35 for a two-hour taster, with equipment included. It can also hire out all the gear separately.

Best time to go?
It can get busy in summer, though there's a great atmosphere in the village then, with live bands at The Thatch pub. Oceanfest (www.goldcoastoceanfest.co.uk), a celebration of beach sports and music, runs 20-22 June. After holiday season it's much quieter, but the waves are good.

Where to stay?
Find hotels and B&Bs in North Devon

EXPERTS

Thurso East, Scotland

Why here?
Cos it packs the most righteous rights you've ever been clobbered with. These Hawaiian-style waves break on the dangerously rocky reef, ideally with a southerly swell. It's right up near John o' Groats, but it's worth making the trip.

Lessons/gear available?
Thurso East is an education in itself. The Tempest Surf Shop (www.tempest-surf.co.uk) at Thurso harbour will hire anything you might need. A 4:3 wetsuit is a good idea, even in summer. In winter, you'll need gloves, boots and hoods.

Best time to go?
They say Easter is most consistent. Summer is capricious, but the midnight sun means you've time to wait...

Where to stay?
Find local B&Bs

Porthleven, Cornwall

Why here?
Because when conditions are right, this harbour in southwest Cornwall produces an awesome, barrelling wave. Most Cornish surf spots are beach breaks, but this is a rare reef break, accessed off the rocks. It's a hazardous place if you don't know your stuff. It's not a consistent wave spot so local knowledge is key: make friends in the Ship Inn.

Lessons/gear available?
There's gear for hire at Stones Reef (www.praasands.info/stones_reef.htm) at nearby Praa Sands.

Best time to go?
From 22-29 June, there's midsummer Celtic madness, plus world music, at Penzance's Golowan Festival (www.feastoffestivals.co.uk). Surf-wise, though, autumn and winter produce the most consistent breaks.

Where to stay?
Find local hotels and B&Bs

Images courtesy of: britainonview, Thanet District Council, Rod Edwards, ANPA, McCormick-McAdam, Martin Brent

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