Nestled in between Somerset and Cornwall on the Southwestern coast of England is the shire county called Devon, known for its cream tea, endless coastline, and beautiful sandy beaches.
The surfing beaches of Devon are often overshadowed by those of its bordering neighbour Cornwall, but we’re here to shine the limelight on some of Devon’s best surfing spots.
Upon a surf trip to Devon, you’ll get to make the most of the chilly yet thrilling waters that all surfing abilities will be able to enjoy.
If you’re looking for a laid-back and beginner-friendly area to visit to put your surfing skills to the test, then why not make the most of Cornwall’s humble neighbour and take a short mini-break to Devon.
Whether you’re looking for mellow rides, big barrels and generous-sized swells, at least one of the Devonshire beaches will be able to provide you with exactly what you’re after.
We’ll be providing you with an in-depth guide with everything you’ll need to know about planning a surf trip to Devon and also navigating the beaches for surfing whilst you’re there.
Best surfing beaches in Devon
Devon boasts a plethora of stunning beaches all of which have varying surf swells and waves suitable for all abilities.
Before organising your trip to Devon, research what beaches are best suited for your level of surfing so you’ll be able to make the most of your time experience instead of being way out of your depth.
Most popular surf beaches will have at least one surf camp located on or near the beach, so if you’re a complete beginner then you’ll still be able to pick up the basics.
Situated in North Devon is Woolacombe beach, popular with both sunbathers and surfers, especially during the summer months. It has an exposed reef break that has plenty of swells regardless of where the tide is.
It’s a pretty long beach so we recommend walking further down if you’re looking for fewer crowds to enjoy riding the waves.
This beach is well suited for beginners as lifeguards are patrolling during the high season, so if you’re not too confident on a board yet then you’ll be reassured that help is only a wave away.
If you’re a more experienced surfer and looking for more thrills, then take a short walk to the rocky point at Combesgate where they’ll have bigger rolling barrels and fewer crowds.
However, there is a strong rip here and lots of rocks around so you’ll want to take care and make sure the conditions are safe enough before you head out.
Croyde is considered to be one of the best places to surf not only in Devon but also in the whole of the UK. It’s a go-to destination for more experienced and confident surfers as the waves can be fast and it can get extremely busy during high season so less confident beginners will want to visit during quieter periods to practice.
Croyd offers consistent good waves at all tides but especially low tides hence why it’s considered one of the best in the area. There are surf schools dotted around the vicinity so if you’re a beginner you’ll be in safe hands if you’re looking to learn the ropes on a board.
If you’re visiting South Devon then Bantham will probably be one of the most recommended beaches to surf at, regardless of what surf ability you are, however because of this it’ll also be the busiest one.
Inexperienced surfers will need to be careful of the strong rips that come from the River Avon as they can take you by surprise. There is a good swell at all tides with heights reaching around 12 feet on good days so you’ll be in for a treat if you plan your trip right.
If you’re looking to enjoy some fewer crowds in the waters then why not try Lynmouth beach, traditionally not associated with being a surfer beach but offers some good lefthangers when the conditions are just right.
It can be a little more difficult to get to hence why it’s not as busy as other beaches in the area. If you were looking for guaranteed rides then you’ll want to give this place a miss if you’re not clued on when the surf will be right.
Putsboorough is located at the far end of Woolacombe in North Devon and can get some pretty big waves compared to its neighbour 3 miles down the coast.
The shelter from the headland makes it a good location for rides when the winds are strong with strong rips to the southern area of the beach, perfect for veteran surfers looking for a good time. However, inexperienced surfers will need to take care and make sure they’re amongst others who can look out for them.
Saunton Sands is a huge beach that’s well suited for beginners due to the slow walls of water with some good peaks allowing beginners to take their first standing positions whilst riding the waves.
The beach is huge but it can get pretty busy with families, classes and experienced surfers in the summer months but you’ll never struggle to find a spot in the waves for yourself.
You’ll have to pay £4 to park during peak season but in the early hours of the morning, late evenings or the winter months car parking is free.
Families who are looking for the complete beach package including fish and chips, arcades, ice cream as well as some good surf for beginners will find it at the seaside village of Westward Ho!
Experienced surfers looking for thrills won’t find it here, but those who are more casual about their surf will find this little village quite endearing for its understated waves.
It’s a great beginners spot for those trying to find their confidence, with the best places being near the left of the beach or on the right-hand side of the estuary.
Challaborough is an exposed beach in South Devon that offers its most consistent surf during the wintertime. The best swell direction comes from the southwest but with offshore winds from the northeast.
The area offers something for all surfing levels but beginners are recommended to pair up with an expert who knows where the points breaks are as well as being able to point out the dangerous hidden rocks.
Surfing lessons/ courses in Devon
Whatever your ability, Devon’s coastlines boast many surf schools and courses for you to choose from to help improve your skills.
Whether you’re looking for a couple of hours here and there or a full week of scheduled surf lessons, you’ll find something that suits your itinerary for the trip.
We’d always recommend booking way before your trip to avoid disappointment as Devon is a popular surf destination and places can be taken up very quickly.
Discovery Surf, Bigbury-On-Sea
Discovery Surf is considered to be one of the top surf centres in the UK to learn to surf so it would be an outrage if we didn’t recommend them if you happen to be staying in South Devon near Bigbury-On-Sea.
They’re a family run business that offers surf lessons for the whole family to enjoy and even fast-track surf courses for those looking to spend a while longer on the South-west coast during the peak surf season.
Whether you’re more advanced or looking to expand your already adopted surf skills, the school can accommodate almost anyone, the only catch being everyone needs to be able to confidently swim 50m.
Croyde Surf Academy, Croyde
If you’re staying in or around Croyde Bay, then you’ll want to check out Croyde Surf Academy regardless of if you’re an absolute beginner looking to gain some confidence in the sea or an advanced surfer looking to tidy up your skills.
Their professional instructors have over 10 years of surf teaching experience as well as over 20 years of experience on these beaches so you’ll know you’ll be in safe hands.
They provide kids, adults, family and private 1:1 lessons to help you enjoy the outstanding waves and scenery of Croyde’s beaches. Equipment is covered in the cost of your lesson, so if you’re travelling from up the country then you won’t have to worry about buying or bringing your own gear if you don’t want to.
Surf South West, Croyde
Another highly recommended surf school located in Croyde is the Surf South West surf school. They offer an abundance of packages and courses that’ll be able to suit whatever length of your trip and how you plan to spend it.
They can accommodate schools, hen & stag parties and also have half-day surf lessons if you’re just briefly spending the afternoon in the area on your holiday.
All equipment is included in the cost of your lesson or course so you won’t need to go and pay over the top rental fees just for a few hours of surfing.
If you’re considering private lessons at Surf South West then we’d recommend taking along a friend or your family as the more people who join you, the lower the costs will be per person.
North Devon Surf School, Westward Ho!
North Devon Surf School located in the seaside village of Westward Ho are open for business all year round, so even if you’re looking to enjoy a bit of surfing in the colder months of the year, you’ll still be able to take advantage of the lessons they offer.
You can choose from half-day to 10-day packages with all lessons lasting for 2 hours with all equipment included in the price. There is also a surf shop and cafe on-site, so if you’ve got those less willing to get out in the water they can always enjoy a nice warm cuppa whilst looking out onto the beach.
The surf school has been awarded a ‘centre of excellence’ award by UK surfing associations so you know you’re in good company if you decide to take some lessons here.
Woolacombe Surf Centre, Woolacombe
Whether you’re touching base in Woolacombe for the afternoon, or looking to enjoy a whole week down at one of Devon’s most popular beaches, the Woolacombe Surf Centre will be able to welcome you regardless of what you’re looking for.
They have a friendly and professional team who have surfed the shores of beaches from all over the world and will be able to cater to whatever ability you’re bringing to the board.
They also offer free souvenir photography whilst out on the waves, so you can get some great snapshots of you and your friends ripping up the water to take home to show everyone.
Surf Saunton, Saunton Sands
On the North Devon coastline is Surf Saunton, a surf school that can accommodate those who are looking to learn the basic skills as well as more advanced surfers who are seeking to refine things they’ve already learned in a friendly and safe environment.
The 5-person team at Surf Saunton have years of knowledge and experience to share through private 1:1 sessions or group sessions with locals and tourists in the area.
They even have a Land Rover surf tour available that allows guests to surf the untouched stretch of the coastline whilst touring in their brand new 11-seater Land Rover Defender.
Hunter Surf School, Woolacombe
Hunter Surf School located directly on Woolacombe beach offers courses and lessons to suit all ages and abilities although they won’t be able to accommodate anyone under the age of 8 in their group lessons.
They pride themselves on teaching students the fundamentals of surfing whilst also showing them how to stay safe in the waters and also keep up with the changing conditions.
They provide equipment and wetsuits included in the price of the lessons, with changing rooms and showers on-site for you to change and freshen up after you’ve hit the waters.
The surf school recommends booking months in advance if you plan on taking lessons between July and September as they book up fast and you may be unable to turn up on the day and get a lesson.
Surf SUP Academy, Westward Ho!
Surf Sup Academy offers courses and lessons across North Devon but they’re primarily based on the village green overlooking the sea at Westward Ho!. They tailor their surf lessons for complete beginners up to advanced surfers looking to brush up on their skills.
Most lessons span 2 hours but will vary depending on the tides and weather conditions on the day. It’s a very beginner-friendly beach, so well suited for kids and families who’ve never stood on a surfboard before, although advanced surfers may find it uninspiring and may be better off going to a beach where they have the largest swells and rips.
Surfing accommodation in Devon
Accommodation for your surf trip in Devon is certainly not hard to come by and you’ll be spoilt for choice by how many hotels, cottages, camps and boutiques you’ll find just a 5-minute walk from the sandy beaches of the southwestern coastline.
Devon is a popular holiday destination in the summer months, so booking in advance is highly recommended especially if you’re looking for accommodation that will accommodate large groups of family and friends.
Some surf schools work in collaboration with local hotels and holiday rentals to create an all in one package that includes surf lessons, equipment rental and cosy accommodation, so it’s always best to check the website ahead of time.
If you’re looking for a no-fuss trip and focussed on getting as much surf as possible, then a hotel would be recommended for your stay in Devon.
They’ll provide you with breakfast, lunch and dinner depending on where you’re staying so you can spend more time in the water and less time worrying about where you’ll get your next meal from.
If you’re bringing your own surf gear, some hotels near the beaches will offer storage facilities to keep your boards and wetsuits when they’re not in use, to carry them up and down from your room each time.
If not, you’ll have to face the task of trying to store all your equipment in a small room, which doesn’t sound ideal to us.
Hotels will skyrocket their prices during the summer months, especially if they’re located only a stone’s throw away from the beach so book early to avoid extortionate pricing.
Lodges, Cottages & Rental Properties
Self-catering is often one of the easiest options when it comes to booking a surf trip down in Devon. Many cottages and homes will be located right on the beach fronts or upon the cliffs, meaning guests will only need to take a short walk with their boards down to the waters whenever they want.
It also gives guests the choice of bringing along their own equipment like wetsuits and surfboards that they can leave outside out of the way, something which would prove more difficult in a hotel.
You can do a giant food shop once you arrive at your accommodation to avoid racking up dining costs when you’re out and then come and go as you please and always having a cosy haven to return if the surf conditions suddenly change and ruin your plans.
Rental properties will have a more laid back and relaxed atmosphere, allowing guests to come and go as they please and also providing a comfortable place to get changed in and out of their surf gear instead of behind a towel or in a tent on a beach.
Guests who stay at the Saunton Beach Villas will get 25% off their lessons at the Saunton Surf School.
Camping is often the most affordable option you can go for when visiting Devon but not always the most convenient.
Public shower blocks may mean you’ll have to wait to freshen up after returning from surf down at the beach and you may not have protective storage areas to keep your boards when you’re not around.
You’ll have the choice of bringing your own food or venturing out into the local communities and trying some well-loved restaurants, so you can make your camping experience whatever you want.
Some recommendations for camping accommodation for surf trips in Devon are:
- Hidden Valley Park (surfing in Croyde)
- Lobb Fields Touring Park (surfing in Saunton)
- Cherry Tree Camping Farm (surfing in Croyde)
Some surf schools on the Devonshire coast will offer surf camps and retreats where guests can stay in a hotel, lodge or campsite whilst also partaking in surf sessions.
Some of which are provided solely by the surf school themselves whilst others will partner with businesses in the local community to provide an all-inclusive package for guests.
Surf South West surf school offers a surf and yoga weekend twice a year where you’ll get to enjoy inclusive accommodation in a rustic farmhouse, a surfing lesson each day and morning and afternoon yoga sessions to help ease your body and mind from the thrills of the waves.
If you’re up in the North of Devon and seeking a surf yoga retreat, then Surf Saunton will accommodate you with their surf yoga week retreat to help you improve your fitness and your wellbeing.
Surf forecast in Devon
To avoid disappointment on your surf trip to Devon, we can’t recommend checking and keeping up to date with the surf forecast a few days before your trip and throughout the time of your trip as conditions can change within the hour.
If the surf isn’t looking promising in the location you’re staying, a quick check at the surf forecast will be able to notify you if it’ll change within the next few hours or if a nearby beach or location has something more to offer for your level of surfing.
Some locations will have better waves during the early hours of the morning and then die down by the afternoon, so the forecast will allow you to plan your trip better so you can get as much time in the water as possible and then do some other activities whilst the waters aren’t so great.
If you’re a non-surfer and not down with the surf lingo or can’t understand the forecast website, ask one of the pros down at the beach whether that be a resident surfer or an instructor at the local surf school, they’ll be able to guide you where and what the best time to surf is based on your abilities.
Although most surf forecast websites will offer beach webcams to show live footage of what the water is like at that specific time.
Surf seasons in Devon
Despite Devon only being blessed with bearable water temperatures and glorious sunshine in the spring and summer months, the best time to surf is during the autumn. You’ll be graced with great sets on all tides so you won’t be waiting around too long before heading out on your board on your trip.
By the end of autumn, the waters may get a bit choppier so if you’re not experienced in the water then we’d recommend having an expert or instructor with you at all times.
Popular beaches like Woolacombe and Saunton are often at their best during these months due to the strong westerly swells but with tamer winds that won’t be so sharp if the weather is cooler.
However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to surf during the height of summer as Devon’s coastline still has a lot to offer when it comes to surfing in good weather.
If you are looking to surf through June to August, we’d recommend sticking to the north side of Devon as they offer some nice rides that are suitable for beginners through to intermediate surfers. Waves in South Devon are disappointing during the summer, to say the least.
Spring surfing in Devon is a bit inconsistent, you’ll be able to find some nice A-frames on the west-facing beaches but don’t come and expect huge barrels or clean waves for the duration of your trip.
If you’re brave enough to venture out to surf in Devon in the winter, then you’ll want to hit up the Southern coastline as that’s when things start to get interesting, although you will have to wait for the swells to come through from the English channel.
The Northern beaches like Woolacombe are still a good option for winter surf as they’ll have strong Atlantic storm surges which can create some impressive waves.
If you’re not confident in your surfing abilities or are only starting to learn the basics of surfing, then we’d avoid coming during the busy summer months as you may find it overwhelming with the number of surfers and swimmers out enjoying the water.
Indoor surfing in Devon
Unfortunately, Devon does not yet offer any indoor surfing opportunities so you’ll have to endure the more natural waters of the beaches.
However, the surf complex ‘The Wave’ in Bristol, located an hour and a half away from Devon has an inland man-made surf pool that you will provide consistent waves to suit all