The best places to surf in the UK and Ireland

Finisterre’s Tom Kay on where to catch the best waves this summer

Where’s the best place in the world to surf? Our minds instantly turn to the turquoise waters off Bali’s Canguu coast, although we wouldn’t say no to soaking up Aussie surf culture in New South Wales’s (aptly named) Surfer’s Paradise.

For Tom Kay – founder of cold-water surf brand, Finisterre – the best waves are found a little closer to home.

“My favourite place to surf is Gwyner in West Cornwall,” he says. “It’s a beautiful setting and whenever I go there, I feel like I’m getting away from it all.”

While there’s no denying the beauty of Britain’s southern coastline, surfing in this country presents its own unique challenges; namely, that the sea temperatures are far from ideal. In Cornwall, the waves typically reach a toasty 18˚C in the summer months – which, when you consider that a standard swimming pool is heated to around 25-28˚C, is definitely on the chillier end of the thermometer.

So, if you’re feeling inspired by the addition of surfing to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, it’s worth investing in a bit of kit to keep you warm as you crest (or, let’s face it, tumble into) these British waves – and that’s where Finisterre comes in.

The brand’s mission is to create a range of technical, sustainably sourced clothing for surfers to survive the cold waters around the British coast.

“I started Finisterre in 2003 from my love of the sea and wanting to make the best and most sustainable product possible,” says Tom.  “It all began with a waterproof fleece and a three-page website in my bedroom above a surf shop in St. Agnes. Our purpose is to connect people with the sea and be innovative and sustainable in all we do.”

Since then, Finisterre has won many awards, had a visit from Prince Charles and become one of the only outdoor clothing companies in the world to be B Corp certified – a massive achievement that is testament to their environmental and social credentials.

We can’t think of anyone better to ask about where best to try our hand at surfing this summer. So, without further ado, here are five of the best surf spots in the UK, as chosen by Tom. 

Chapel Porth, Cornwall

“Chapel Porth has some of the best waves on the North Coast and consequently some of the best surfers. The waves are generally powerful so it might not be ideal for beginners but it's great for finding space.” S W Coast Path, St Agnes, Truro TR5 0NS

South Bay, Scarborough

“You'll find some smaller waves ideal for first timers or improvers at South Bay. It’s also one of the few spots that has some shelter from the huge winter storms.” South Bay Beach, Foreshore Road, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1NU

Donegal, Ireland

“Head to Ireland’s west coast for clear waters and great surfing. You're sure to also find amazing waves and adventure."

Polzeath, Cornwall

“A beautiful beach, perfect for bodyboarders, knee boarders and surfing novices. There's also plenty of places nearby to enjoy a post-surf pint!” PL27 6SS

Freshwater West, Wales

“This sand-and-rock beach is a surfer's paradise, but strong currents mean beginners might be better off watching from the shore…” Pembroke, SA71 5AH