Surfing on the Yorkshire Coast
When conditions are right, the Yorkshire coast rivals the more renowned surfing centres of the southwest, with a range of surf spots for novices and experts alike.
Yorkshire has become known as one of the top UK surf destinations, as the popularity of east coast surfing has soared over the last five years. Local instructor Paul Tomlinson describes what’s on offer.
All levels are catered for, with ideal learner waves at South Bay and Cayton Bay around the seaside resort of Scarborough. In recent years many professional surfers have visited the Yorkshire coast when the conditions are prime, and experience awesome conditions that come close to matching those of the surf meccas of Cornwall and the southwest.
Winds blowing off the land play a crucial part in surfing and on the Yorkshire coast the prevailing wind is south westerly - a surfer's dream when combined with a northerly swell. Sometimes when Cornwall surf is flat, Yorkshire is firing big time.
Here are some of the the spots you should really check out.
The UK Pro Surf Tour comes to Scarborough each year © Rob Tibbles/UKPSA
Scarborough is the central hub of surfing in Yorkshire and for good reason. It has many locations suitable for all levels of surfers and many different conditions. If there are waves about, you can bet that one of Scarborough’s beaches is picking up the surf nicely indeed.
Immediately south of the town are the two adjoining areas of South Bay and Cayton Bay. The former is ideal for beginners, while Cayton is surfable year round with a variety of spots that work all the way through the tide. Halfway between Scarborough and Filey, this bay continues to attract surfers year after year. On the other side of Scarborough, North Bay offers reliable surf and is the venue for the UK Surf Pro Tour event in October.
Bunkers (Cayton Bay)
Around high-tide the spot named Bunkers comes into its own. It’s a phenomenal beach break on its day and can look like something out of a surfing magazine. The tide is sensitive here, so you’re looking at one hour either side of high tide for the best conditions. 1-5 feet optimum.
Pumphouse (Cayton Bay)
Still in Cayton Bay, about 200 metres north from Bunkers. The Pumphouse is so-named for its old water pumping station rather than the waves themselves. Low- to mid-tide are the best conditions here and all levels are catered for. 1-6 feet optimum.
The Point (Cayton Bay)
This mythical left-hand point break is known for its huge waves and board snapping capability. It roars into life on the biggest of winter swells and commands respect from all who flirt with its charms. The Point is for experienced surfers only as the wave heights, shallow water and big rocks put off all but the adrenaline junkies who call it home. 4-10 feet + optimum.
With slow learner waves ideal for the first timers or improvers, South Bay can also be one of the only spots that has some shelter from the huge winter storms, and due to this fact large numbers of the local surf contingent gather here when huge waves are simply too big or dangerous for more exposed spots. 1-6 feet optimum.
Breaker at North Bay
Two hours either side of low tide, North Bay delivers the goods. It’s one of the most reliable beaches for miles and has a number of different peaks up and down the beach. On a good day it can get crowded, however, so be aware of flying boards and bodies during peak times. 1-6 feet optimum.
The next surfing hub is 20 miles north up the coast at picturesque Whitby. The long stretch of sand from Whitby to Sandsend a few miles further north, has a number of good spots along its length. As the crowds are sparser up here you can often pick your spot and surf it with just you and a few pals all to yourself. The winds tend to be more favourable in the Scarborough area but on a low tide with a south westerly wind, a sneaky jaunt up to Whitby could be a good call indeed.
Under the town on the North side of the river just to the left of the harbour wall a peaky beach break is good fun for all. It’s even better now that the wooden groins have been removed, and it can be one of the only spots in the region with protection form easterly storms.1-4 feet optimum.
This spot has many names. Halfway between Whitby and Sandsend it seems to pick up a little bit more of surf than the rest of the beach and thus is popular when smaller surf is about. Best at low- to mid-tide, as it can suffer from backwash at higher tides which can be somewhat dangerous. 1-6 feet optimum.
The coast north of Whitby © Roger Sharp
This location can really fire on its day and most people have a good story to tell about a session here. Pick a wave and go and surf it! Sandsend is quieter than the Scarborough surf beaches so there’s plenty of room on this big open beach for all levels. Note that the surf is always bigger than it looks from the road. Best around low- or mid-tide, but can break at high if the waves are big enough. 2-6 feet optimum.
Nestled under the northern headland of Sandsend is Caves, a mellow left-hand reef break that trundles away breaking in the same spot giving nice fun long rides. It’s a great reef for the improvers who don’t want to overdo it just yet at the more demanding spots. With good shelter from the westerly winds because of the high cliffs, it’s always fun. Mid-tide only. 2-6 feet optimum.
UK Pro Surf Tour action © Rob Tibbles/UKPSA
The best conditions for the Yorkshire coast generally comes when a low pressure system sits in the northern North Sea, creating waves and swell. It’s even better when, within this overall weather pattern, local surface winds blow offshore from a south westerly direction: this has the effect of grooming the waves into long clean lines that are perfect for surfing.
TOP 5 EXPERIENCES
1. The Point, Cayton Bay
Between Scarborough and Filey you'll find some of the biggest waves on the east coast when conditions are right. Not for novices! Head south of Scarborough on the A165 and park on the main road close to the bay.
Gloriously wide and empty, Sandsend can be one of the best surf spots on its day.
3. UK Pro Surf Tour Scarborough
The biggest event on the Pro Surf UK circuit takes place in North Bay each October and attracts over 100 surfers.
4. Whitby town
A fantastic setting and some great surf. Whitby is a delightful town, so make a day of it and combine some waves with a trip into town.
5. Scarborough North Bay
Some of the most reliable surf on the Yorkshire coast.
WHEN TO VISIT
Best times to go:
The east coast receives some of its best waves between October and March, but at the time of writing June 2014 has been blessed with waves every day – so any time of the year is possible, dependent on the weather patterns. Of course the North Sea is absolutely freezing, particularly from November to June!
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