The 5 Things You Need to Know Before Going Surfing in Scotland
Surfing is nothing really new in Scotland. Surfers have been striking out from the capital city of Edinburgh since surfing first arrived in the UK. But in the last ten to fifteen years it has somewhat taken off, it's no longer a backwater, it's a world class destination in its own right.
This is largely due to the waves around a town called Thurso on the North coast of Caithness. Thurso East, a righthand reef break is the most famous and through magazine exposure, and then the O'Neill Coldwater Classic world qualifying series event, it has popularised the whole area.
It's not easy up there though, the weather is harsh and it changes continuously, so before you pack your bags and head north here's five things you need to know.
[part title="When's the best time to go surfing in Scotland?"]
Scotland has epic waves. Only problem is, it's not a summer destination. To get the absolute most out of the reefs and points up there you need to be prepared to put on a fair bit of rubber and take on a Scottish winter. Its position way north means summer swells are pretty weak so the season doesn't really get going until September.
From there it just gets better and better into winter, but everything else starts to conspire against you. The weather and water gets colder. Snow is common, as is ice coming down the rivers. Winds are really changeable and as winter draws in, the lack of light on some days means you simply won't get the right tide to surf certain breaks. It's a harsh place to surf and only for the hardy.
[part title="What are the waves like for surfing in Scotland?"]
Scotland, whilst inconsistent, does have pretty much every wave imaginable to surf. It's most famous for its reef breaks, Thurso East being top of the pile. It was made particularly famous by the O'Neill Coldwater Classic being held there.
There are other less fearsome waves and there are many empty beach breaks where you can learn to surf if you can stand the cold. Even in the harshest of winter storms you can find a place out of the weather to surf .
[part title="Which wetsuit do I need for surfing in Scotland?"]
The short answer to this is a very good one! Even in the warmer months, and despite the fact that the Gulf Stream still reaches up here water temperatures are pretty poor. So you'll definitely need a 4/3 in the summer.
In the winter though you'll need some serious rubber, a full steamer with hood boots and gloves is essential, and really by the time we're into December a 6mm is required for any long sessions. That said with new wettie technology things are a lot better than they used to be.
[part title="What surfboard would I need in Scotland"]
You can pretty much get away with the board you normally use as there are waves for everyone and every sort of surfer. If you're a short boarder, whilst you won't need a gun, the reefs can get heavy enough to start breaking boards, so may be worth bringing a couple.
[part title="What are the dangers of surfing in Scotland?"]
Aside from the obvious distractions of excellent whisky, great nightlife and the heart-stopping, but excellent deep fried Mars Bars, there are not too many dangers. The only thing to watch out for are the reefs. Most of the best waves are reefs - hit one hard and you'll know all about it!