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The South West is England’s most popular surf area. It picks up the most Atlantic swells and the coastline offers a range of waves from long, pealing points to mellow beach breaks to reefs and everything in between. The Gulf Stream, which turns into the North Atlantic Drift, is said to aid water temperatures slightly compared to the east coast waters. That said, the winters can still be bitter here, and a 5mm suit with boots hood and gloves are often worn mid and late winter. Autumn, summer and late spring see surfers wearing mainly 3/2 or short wetsuits, though some have been known to opt for a chilly boardies session once in a while. Epic empty waves are becoming harder and harder to find, though some still exist. The atmosphere of South West English surfing is generally friendly, though localism does occur on the odd occasion. Some beaches and other well known spots become so busy that crowds actually become a danger, but this isn’t yet a major problem across the whole coast.

The prevailing swell direction is westerly and unfortunately the winds are often onshore to cross onshore, west to south. Finding shelter and learning which spots work in which conditions can really pay off. The tidal range is high and spots can be massively affected by water levels. When there’s nothing but slop to surf, there’ll still be people having fun, and when it’s huge and there are ghastly onshore winds, there’ll still be a Hellman or two out there. When it’s offshore and there’s some swell around, the waves can be as good as any other in the world. Winter is far more consistent than the summer, and swells of around fifteen feet sometimes grace the shores.

North Devon is relatively consistent for England. Waves start at the very most northern tip of Devon, and though it’s rare that swells come through large enough to fire these spots up, some are said to be the best waves in England. The further south you travel the more swell is picked up. Very popular beaches such as Croyde boast world class waves, though other beach breaks in North Devon are generally average by world standards. There are plenty of spots peppering North Devon, from fickle reefs to consistent enough beaches, and then some very fickle points and other break types.

Cornwall follows on south of North Devon’s coastline. More swell is picked up here, and the difference between a few coastline miles between North Devon and Cornwall can be surprising in wave size. Cornwall is England’s most popular surf area and with golden sand beaches such as Fistral in Newquay offering consistent surf and stereotypical surf vibe, it’s not surprising. A variety of reefs, beaches offering all wave types and other break types make Cornwall a good choice to find waves to suit everyone.

South Devon follows on from Cornwall’s coastline. It is generally less consistent than North Devon and Cornwall, as less westerly Atlantic groundswells reach it. When a south west swell hits it an abundance of spots light up from river mouth to beach break to reef and more.

South West England is the prime region for English surfing because it picks up the most swell and has an abundance of wave type. Crowds are common. The further south you go, the more swell is picked up, until you start going west again into South Devon. Surf schools, budding beginners, pros, and everyone else, love surfing in the South West. There are many holiday towns here with safe, lifeguarded beaches. In the summer there’s always a bubbly vibe with many happy Brits building sand castles and tucking into fish and chips and ice cream. Seawater quality is high, and the countryside is renowned for its natural beauty. Go surfing!

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