Just half an hour’s drive from Cardiff, Wales’ glorious capital city, sits Porthcawl, a gorgeous coastal town in the county of Bridgend that’s a huge hit with locals, holidaymakers and surfers alike.
Usually called the Welsh Gold Coast, it’s just off the M4 and makes for a truly beautiful surf spot. Situated in the South, it’s a year-round opportunity to catch some serious waves at one of several beaches you’ll have to choose from. It’s also a massive holiday resort, so there are no end of caravans, hotels and guest houses to stay at if you’re spending the night.
With renowned surfing champions like Greg Owen, Rhino and Elliot Dudley all known to coach or surf in the area, you could end up rubbing elbows with some real superstars. There’s also plenty of competitions to check out, on a small scale between local clubs all the way up to international events attracting folk from all over the United Kingdom.
Today we’ll be taking you through just about everything you need to know about one of the premier surfing destinations in the UK, from where to stay to available courses and equipment rental.
Is Porthcawl good for surfing? That’s a question asked regularly, so without further ado, let’s have a look at everything this gorgeous Welsh sunspot has to offer to answer it!
Best Surfing Beaches in Porthcawl
There are three main beaches in Porthcawl: Rest Bay, Coney Beach, and Newton Beach, respectively. Each one can offer a little or a lot of surfing experience, so where you go just depends on how skilled you are and what kind of atmosphere you’re looking for, amongst other factors.
Definitely Porthcawl’s most popular surfing spot and you’ll find it’s the busiest during the season because it’s the most consistent. As the main beach of the town, it’s home to a variety of different watersports, so you won’t be the only wetsuit in the water!
As it’s such a buzzing spot, it can be a little busy for some surfers, who might prefer to check out the quieter beaches below – sometimes there are hundreds of folk all vying for the same wave, which is off-putting for newbies and pros equally.
During low tide is advised as the best time to surf up here, with some small yet punchy swells to ride, though it’s basically surfable all day long depending on the weather.
Once you hit half tide – when the rocks on the left-hand side of the beach start being hit by the waves – you’ll notice that rips begin to form, leading some unlucky and unsuspecting surfers to climb up and over said rocks in order to get to the shore.
At high tide, it’s possible to surf, though most brave enough are discouraged from trying at this more difficult time, as the beach all but disappears. The large number of rocks and boulders make it quite difficult to surf for an hour or two on either side of high tide unless you’re highly skilled, but even then it’s a challenge!
Another convenient fact about Rest Point is that there’s a surfing rental shop right there in the car park, so if you need any equipment you don’t need to go far to pick it up.
Also, as a Blue Flag beach, it is regularly monitored by lifeguards during the summer, so if you find yourself in trouble at any point you should be able to get some help pretty quickly.
As for Coney Beach, this slightly more family-oriented spot is ideal for surfing newbies, as the waves are high and the kids are plentiful! It’s home to a fairground, arcades and other seaside attractions, so tends to get quite busy during holidays and weekends as tourists flock in.
The waves are especially good during mid to high tide, with the right-hand side of the beach being especially good for those swells you’ll be after.
It’s recommended you steer clear at low tide, though, as there are strong rips that move towards the rocks in the opposite direction, dropping quite quickly and leaving you without much recovery time.
Need equipment, surf lessons, some new gear or a great cup of coffee? Head into Coney Surf where you’ll be able to find everything you need to get started. Plus, there’s usually some gorgeous dogs hanging out on the sofa who are just waiting for your fuss and attention.
Unfortunately, Newton Beach isn’t really considered much of a surf spot, as it very rarely gets any good waves. It’s very much sheltered from westerly winds, though, so makes for a perfect place to sunbathe away from the main crowds when you’re done surfing.
There’s also Porthcawl Point, a very rocky but primo point break opportunity that should only be attempted by the most experienced surfers.
It’s likely to be empty during the week and only populated by one or two surfers on a Saturday or Sunday, so if you’re well versed in surfing and want to avoid beginners then here is the place to be.
Surfing lessons and courses in Porthcawl
Porthcawl Surf School is probably the biggest club in the little town, open every day of the year except Christmas and always ready to offer a range of services.
When it comes to courses, their most popular is a week-long program which offers two hours of surfing every day – the perfect amount of time for a newbie! This is available for those aged between 16 and 70, so it’s a really mixed and versatile group.
Things they’ll cover include wetsuit fitting, introducing you to your board and how to wax it, proper surf safety, catching waves… they’ll even take videos and photos of your performance to help you analyse your skills after! All equipment is provided, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve never surfed before in your life.
As for lessons, each one is 2 hours long and can be targeted towards a beginner or intermediate surfer, with fully qualified and totally insured, Surf Safety approved instructors. You’ll get a surfboard, a wetsuit and tuition included for just £30!
At Porthcawl Surf School, you can even book a day of professional coaching from the European surfing Champion, Elliot Dudley, who is on hand to help you with hands-on surfing, practice and even video analysis.
They also serve Stag weekends and Hen parties if you’re interested in bringing some surf to your big day, as well as accommodating families at the weekend and being bookable for groups and schools.
Want to learn to be a surf coach or perhaps train for surfing competitions? You can do that here too! Prefer to surf with girls only? Head to one of their surfing weekends, organised just for women!
Another popular club, Coney Surf is known for its relaxed, more chilled out approach to surfing, though the lessons and courses they offer are equally as safe and professional! As a family-run surf shop, it’s been in the same hands for a long time and you’ll very quickly get to know the staff.
Their surf lessons cost £25 for two hours of surfing, during which you’ll have access to all equipment you require and spend time with fully qualified, highly trained instructors.
If you’re a total surfing novice or an intermediate with some existing skills already, you can get an introductory session, a multiple-day course or a half-day, pay as you go lesson – it’s entirely up to you.
Bear in mind these are “open” surfing lessons, so you’ll be taught alongside other budding surfers of various ages and backgrounds. If you’d prefer some privacy or want some one-to-one tuition with a surf coach, book for yourself or the whole family to get your own personal lesson. Be aware though, these are significantly more expensive!
As a licensed provider for lessons on Rest Bay and Coney Beach, as well as ISA qualified, professional surf instructors, Adventures Wales offer some of the highest quality surfing lessons and courses in Porthcawl.
Their website boasts that most beginners who take a lesson with their instructors can successfully stand up surf on their very first day! Offering an informal or a formal approach – depending on your wishes and in line with their safety rules, of course – it’s up to you how you’ll receive your instruction.
Whether you want a half or full day of surfing, or you need to hire a surfboard and wetsuit, they can accommodate all of your needs for reasonable prices. You’ll also find they offer a great discount when it comes to kids’ lessons, surfing parties or family tuition if you want to learn in a group!
Choose from a lesson block, a surfing holiday or spreading them out over a number of weeks – whatever you decide, you’ll gain new skills, get plenty of wonderful advice and leave a better surfer than you entered.
Feeling adventurous? Combine your classes with some ocean kayaking for even more fun amongst the waves!
It may also be worth getting involved with the Welsh Coast Surf Club (WCSC) if you’re interested in making friends in the surf scene. They work from Ogmore to Sker and have seen such celebrity surfers as Linda Sharp, Simon Tucker, Mark Schofield and Greg Owen as members.
They’re always accepting new starters, though you have to pay a monthly subscription fee which goes towards the betterment of the cup. Facilitating such popular events as the annual Surfers’ Ball, they’re more of a family than a club, and recommend you check out their Facebook page to learn more and say hello!
For those in the LGBTQ community, Porthcawl based club Karma Seas made history by creating the UK’s first queer-inclusive surf sessions, Surf Out, with a particular focus on the trans community who are often overlooked in the sport.
Working alongside Pride Sports UK, they have LGBT+ surf instructors ready to create a welcoming, safe and friendly environment for LGBT+ surfers and of course, their allies.
Whether you want to practise existing surf skills, dive in and learn a new sport or improve techniques, you can do it all whilst in the company of like-minded and lovely people!
They are a not-for-profit enterprise, trying to make surfing affordable, accessible and enjoyable, whilst simultaneously providing a sporting atmosphere that remains inclusive and safe at all times.
Surfing accommodation in Porthcawl
There are over 3,500 places to stay in and around Porthcawl, so you won’t struggle to find a bed for the night! With caravan parks, holiday cottages, hotels, bed and breakfasts and even entire homes for rent all year round, it doesn’t matter when you’re visiting – this seaside town is ready to receive you!
One of the most popular with those who like to surf is definitely the appropriately named Surfer’s Rest, found just two minutes walking distance away from the ever-popular Rest Bay.
Your stay with them can be tailored to your personal needs, from group size, surfboards, lessons, even a lift from the train station to your lodging! However, you’d like the beds organised is up to you – they’ll do whatever they can to make your stay as comfortable and exciting as possible!
The bathrooms are equipped with a wetsuit drying area in the shower, as well as being set up with surfers in mind – as has the rest of the guest lodge. There’s surfboard storage in the hallway, super-speedy wifi and a smart TV equipped with Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime for when you’re relaxing post-surf.
Your host is an ASI accredited surf instructor, so if you’re a beginner or a dab hand, they’ll be able to offer you some quality tips and even teach you a thing or two, all included in the price of your stay there.
As well as all of the awesome surfing opportunities, from their location you can see some stunning sights: during the summer, beautiful bioluminescence lights up the water by night, and at certain times of the year you can even spot dolphins leaping through it during the day!
If you’re not after anything specifically directed towards surfers, you can certainly optimise your stay by finding something close to the beach you’re planning to check out – as we said, there are thousands to select from!
Conveniently, Tripadvisor regularly updates a list of the best hotels closest to Rest Bay – and if you wanted to check out some of the lesser-known spots, they’re really not that far away, so you might as well stay somewhere nice and highly favoured!
Popular, well-reviewed locations at the time of writing include:
- The Wyndham Arms
- Bayside Guesthouse
- Olivia House
- 19 Mary Street
- The Bear Hotel
- Court Colman Manor
- The Bluebell Hotel
- Seabank Hotel
- Blancos Hotel and Restaurant
- The Great House Hotel
- Coed-Y-Mwstwr Hotel
- The Towers Hotel & Spa
If you prefer a chain hotel, there’s a Premier Inn less than ten miles from the beach, so as long as you’re driving or don’t mind public transport, you won’t need to go very far at all from here to start surfing.
Should none of those sound like your cup of tea, then why not have a look at the range of more than a hundred Air BnB’s in the area? From family homes to spacious flats, there’s superb locations and instant booking to be had, and you can filter out those above your budget. Plus, then you can cook for yourself and save some money!
Surfing holidays in Porthcawl
Although you’re more than welcome to plan your own surfing holiday in Porthcawl. But for organising accommodation and ensuring you have all the equipment required for hitting the waves, there’s only one pre-existing surf “holiday” per se.
That would be the three-day surf camp run by Cressey’s Surf Academy, who are ready and waiting to deliver sessions that are tailored to you and your needs. With fully qualified and experienced instructors who are friendly and able to take you across all of the beaches Porthcawl has to offer, it’s an exciting opportunity whatever your skill level.
In charge is Ingemar Cressey, ASI qualified level 2 surf coach, and a qualified RLSS National Beach Lifeguard: he boasts thirty years of surfing experience in a variety of waters across the world, as well as almost twenty years serving as a surf instructor globally.
Run from April to November, the Academy cater their surf camps for groups of up to thirty or as private lesson packages, depending on what you’d rather do. You can access a shared or private double room, with accommodation, food, surfing instruction and equipment all included in the price of your stay.
On one day, you’ll receive a two-hour lesson based on your individual skills and experiences, at any time and on any day of the week, depending on availability. Though based primarily in Porthcawl, your teaching will be delivered across the entire South Wales coastline, so you can head to the beach offering the best conditions for your ability!
The other days, you’re free to use your surfboard and wetsuit and get out there yourself, or seek out further instruction if there’s anyone free to help you! Unfortunately, they are unable to offer transportation, airport transfer, any other outdoor activities or alcoholic drinks.
All of the above being said, if you were to get in contact with one of the local surfing schools or clubs, it could definitely be arranged for you to do some surfing with an instructor or just fellow friendly faces. You’d only have to find somewhere to stay and figure out how to get there!
Surf forecast in Porthcawl
Though it’s difficult to predict when the perfect time to surf a certain spot is, there are a variety of tools and services that provide a forecast. Just like the weather, though, these are subject to change – so don’t expect optimum surfing conditions every single time.
Magic Seaweed, a popular prediction service, offers a seven-day look at what to expect in the upcoming week, via its Rest Bay Surf Forecast and Coney Beach Surf Forecast pages. If you’re really committed to booking a good weekend in advance, the paid premium service they provide allows you to see fourteen days ahead, though it’s worth reiterating that they aren’t always going to be spot on.
Streaming 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the live Rest Bay Webcam offers hopeful surfers an instantaneous sneak peek of what’s going on at Porthcawl’s most popular beach. On your way down there? Check out the kind of waves that are waiting for you to arrive!
You can also find all of the predicted tide times for all beaches in and around Porthcawl here if you want to work out when will be the best time of day to head down to the beach when you’re visiting.
Remember, it’s impossible to be correct and accurate 100% of the time, so try not to plan your entire trip around one day or a few hours of surfing unless you’re totally sure it’s going to work out. However, should you get there and find conditions that are impossible for wave catching, there’s a whole host of other things to do and see!
Recommended Reading: How To Read a Surf Forecast: Like a PRO
Surf seasons in Porthcawl
Each beautiful beach in this world offers its own ideal time of day or year to surf, as well as a likelihood of successful wave catching – we can share real-time data with you on surfing in Porthcawl courtesy of information gathered by Magic Seaweed.
For instance, the best month for surfing in Rest Bay is in January, where you’ll have an 82% chance of rideable waves and an average wind speed of around 21mph.
At present, August will offer you the best weather but the worst surfing opportunities, with only 33% of waves being good ones and winds of 13mph. You’ll find most success there in Winter, with Autumn and Spring being relatively decent times and Summer just not very impressive at all!
Coney Beach is so close by that all of the predictions are the same, so again, your best bet for surfing here is going to be in the Winter – which is a plus, because Summer is when it’s at its most packed full of tourists and local families.
Map of Porthcawl surfing beaches
As you can see from the above map, all of the surfing beaches in Porthcawl are in very close proximity to one another. This means that if you arrive at one and it’s incredibly busy, it’s very easy just to walk on over to the neighbouring sands and see if they’re any quieter.
Indoor surfing in Porthcawl
Unfortunately, whilst there are several places to catch a real-time wave in Porthcawl, there are no facilities for simulated indoor surfing there.
However, you can indoor surf in Cardiff, which is only a thirty-minute drive away, at the International White Water Centre. At highly cost-effective prices of between £30-£40 per person, you can enjoy an hour and thirty minutes of indoor surfing, with all the coaching and specialist equipment you could want provided.
For those not surfing, there’s a dedicated viewing area, so your friends and family can take in the sight of you catching all the waves your heart desires! Whilst you’re there, why not check out their other water-based activities, as there’s plenty more white-knuckle fun to be had!
If you’re looking to go further afield, there is also the Boardrider, an indoor surf simulator at the LC waterpark, located in Swansea.
Though much more targeted at beginners, you can either bodyboard or practise real surfing techniques, on a never-ending wave that just keeps coming! You’ll also be supported by qualified instructors who will help you to work on your balance, coordination and technique.
Sadly, if you’re determined to surf in Porthcawl, your only option is to head straight to the real thing!
As you can see from the thoroughly mapped out guide above, the surfing community is very much alive and well in Porthcawl.
Not only are there plenty of locals who love to get stuck in, but those who drive from across the country, with others coming from even further afield, as it’s considered one of the closest surfing beaches to Birmingham, Bristol and London.
With three or four different beaches to choose from – and even more secretive spots to discover for yourself! – you’ve got ample space for surfing, and there’s more accommodation available than you can shake a stick at.
You’re sure to meet some fellow surfing enthusiasts whilst you’re out waiting for the wind to pick up, and as we mentioned, you might even make some famous friends there too.
Whether you’re a beginner, you’ve got a bit of surf experience or you’ve been riding waves for decades, you’re bound to have a good time exploring this Welsh gem, so long as you go at the right time of year!
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