Finisterre’s Tom Kay: The best places to surf in the UK and Ireland

We had the pleasure of a visit from the lovely Tom Kay the other week, founder of cold water surf brand Finisterre, who swapped his clifftop office in north Cornwall for our rather less romantic south London car park.

It’s always inspiring chatting to fellow founders about the passion that drives their business and the shared challenges we all face.

In Tom’s case, it was a passion for surfing and a love of the ocean that he can trace from his childhood in Norfolk through a brief flirtation with London and down to his beloved Cornwall.

Finisterre was born in 2003 – coincidentally the same year we started out – above a surf shop to create a range of technical (and sustainably sourced) clothing for him and his fellow surfers in the cold waters around the British coast.

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

So, when we were thinking of where was the best place to indulge our new-found love of surfing. Who better to ask..?

Tom's Top Five Surf Spots

1. 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.

2. South Bay, Scarborough

You'll find smaller waves ideal for first timers or improvers, South Bay is also be one of the few spots that has some shelter from the huge winter storms.

3. Donegal, West Coast of Ireland

Head to the west coast for clear waters and great surfing, you're sure to find amazing waves and adventure. 

4. Polzeath, Cornwall

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

5. Freshwater West, Wales

This sand and rocky beach is a surfer's paradise but strong currents mean beginners might be better off watching from the shore!

Describe your perfect day… Time with family in or on the sea - when the sun is out! 

Favourite place to surf in the world (and why)… Gwynver, West Cornwall. It's a beautiful setting and whenever I go there I feel like I'm getting away from it all.

What you would say to a beginner who has never surfed but would like to try... What are you waiting for?! 

How did you go about starting your business Finisterre... I started Finisterre in 2003 from my love of the sea and wanting to make the best and most sustainable product possible. It all began with a waterproof fleece and a three-page website in my bedroom, above a surf shop in St. Agnes. (A lot of passion and belief too!)

What’s next for you – and the brand? We became B Corps certified last year, meaning the whole business has been externally assessed to rigorous environmental and social standards. We are the only UK outdoor clothing brand in the UK to be B Corps certified and one of only two in the world. It was a big moment; both a confirmation of the last 15 years, as well as giving us things to get better at as we grow - promoting transparency and sustainability. Our purpose is to connect people with the sea and be innovative and sustainable in all we do. 

What would you tell your 18-year-old self? You got this! 

When are you happiest? In the sea. 

One thing you can’t live without… My boat, dog or 1975 Landrover. 

Guiltiest pleasure… Salted Caramel – ice cream or chocolate!

Dream dinner party guest dead or alive… Sir David Attenborough

Life motto… This is it.


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