With cold water, prevailing onshore winds, a small swell window and fickle tide dependant spots, north Wales looks, on paper at least like a terrible destination for the travelling surfer. Every “north Walian surfer” has had the “Imagine if Ireland wasn’t in the way…” conversation (and yes, Rhyl would be vastly improved with a few peaks out front) but Ireland is there and we must make do with the limited swell we get. On the positive side, the geography of the coastline in this area is varied and mitigates against the generally hostile wind conditions that prevail.
There are numerous surfable spots with waves from mellow, beginner friendly, beach breaks to hollow points and boulder reefs for the experienced. The majority of waves are uncrowded in the depths of winter, with a hard core of locals keeping the faith through the coldest months.
Visitors will find the vibe very chilled as long as due respect is shown. The very good days here are infrequent so visiting surfers should be aware that the locals may have been waiting a long time for good conditions so bear that in mind if you strike it lucky. When the very good days do arrive there is very little to dislike about surfing North wales.
The backdrop of Snowdonia is utterly breath taking and the beaches are unspoilt gems. There is no hustle and bustle of urban living and, without trying to sound too much like a stereotypical ‘surf dude’, the experience of surfing here is one of connection with the environment and the power and majesty of nature (Yeah I know, overdid it there).
The top surf spots in north Wales
We have listed the most widely used surf spots in this guide to keep it concise and more of a beginners guide to surfing in north Wales. Obviously there are many other spots both on the north coast of anglesey and some parts of the north west coast, that work on a different swell direction, but for the purpose of ease, we’ll just assume a west/ south westerly swell direction. Whilst we will be mentioning the well-known breaks, this will merely give a general overview of the areas and how best to time your surf seeking forays. There is plenty of opportunity for exploration so if you’re adventurous, get some wellies and OS map and you may be justly rewarded. As a point to note, there is a noticeable difference in the size of waves in this area dependent on tidal conditions. On large tides the timing of your surf can mean the difference between head high perfection and flat. It really is that tide dependent.
As a general rule, North Wales spots work around high tide. There are few exceptions to this and if you are to make the most of surfing the area you will be well advised to remember that ‘time and tide wait for no man’! An ideal swell direction for North Wales spots is from the SW as there is quite a narrow swell window. Large W swells do wrap up the Irish sea (often quite well) but swells from a NW direction will pass us by without so much as a wave (do you see what I did there?).
On very large swells, the north coast of Pen Llyn (Lleyn Peninsular) has several spots that can work.
These spots are all fickle and can be pumping one day and flat the next in seemingly similar conditions. This is due to the swell period affecting the amount of ‘wrap’ that the swell has. The calculations required to predict the likely presence of a given swell at a given spot are likely to boggle the mind of a supercomputer so the best advice is to go early and search. Locals develop a sixth sense of where is likely to be good based on years of trial and error so don’t be disheartened if you hear the beach down the road from the one you surfed was gangbusters when you surfed two foot mush. My best advice here is if you see surfable waves, get in.
Pen Llyn is vast and you can waste a lot of time and fuel searching for the pot of gold that might not even exist. That said, you may luck into the best surf of your life with no-one but you and your mate to tell the tale. The north coast of the Llyn provides shelter in winds from SW to SE and is therefore the go to area in the common SW gales that batter the region in winter.
Main surf spots on the Llyn Peninsula
1 –Porth Oer
Surfing on Anglesey is centred around the village of Rhosneigr with Treath Llydan (Broad Beach) and Traeth Ty’n Tywyn (The Usuals) being the go to spots. The swell is always smaller and less consistent on Anglesey than it is at Porth Neigwl and the tide two hours later. This means that if you check Anglesey and it’s small, you will have missed the tide at Porth Neigwl. If the forecast is for anything less than large surf, Porth Neigwl is always a better bet. Having said that, the beaches on Anglesey are very mellow and waves are weak which is ideal for newbies and longboarders/SUPs. There is understandably a large SUP scene in Rhosneigr.
There are fewer sheltered spots from the frequent gales on Anglesey than on Pen Llyn but there are some small bays that offer crowded and poor quality surf. I won’t name them as they do fill to bursting point but you won’t miss them if you look for the vans in the car parks. There are a few surfable spots on the north and east coast of Anglesey in very rare northerly windswells and the quality of the surf at these spots is dubious to say the least, but it could be worth a foray in the right conditions.
Main surf spots on Anglesey
2- Treaddur Bay
3- Silver bay
Of course a blog on surfing would not be done correctly in north Wales without giving a mention to the flagship inland surf lagoon Surf Snowdonia. When the surf is down and you need a pick me up or to train and get your back hand turns in, Surf Snowdonia is an amazing centre that caters for all types of surfer. From beginners to advanced surfers, it is covered by all. They do both tuition and board rental.
Their 300ft lagoon sits proudly in the Conwy valley and can boats all year round surf by a mechanical wave system. They have hosted the world championships and have fast become one of the best adventure tourism sites in north Wales. There is a crash and splash lagoon and soft play area for the younger ones also on site, so while mum and dad go surf- kids are taken care of. They also have wooden camping pods now for families to stay in also, which basically gives the whole operation quite a sustainable and wholesome feel.
Surfing kit you may or may not want for you trip
Having some descent surfing equipment is pretty important, all though brands aside good quality items like wetsuits, boards, leashes and helmets will make or break the surfing experience in some cases. I love to know that I’m going out on the water safely, that means checking my leash that connects me to the board (your lifeline) in bigger swells. Wetsuits that are too thin will allow your core temperature to drop, which means chilly surf session! and surf spots near rocks mean helmets. Simple. A beginner board is listed for our readers who may be new to this sport, more advanced surfers know what board to use location wise. Rest of the kit, you can browse the internet until you hearts content! There are the items the I use (apart from the board- I have a 8ft Mal and a 6’8 Bunty design), but by no means should you get the same. I have used lots of kit for years and found what I like.
That said I haven’t been for a surf in a while, with work and other sports like climbing taking pole position, its been a while. But with autumn surf season here, I think its time to get back in the water!
In the surf culture there are many cool things that catch my eye and I’m sure may Cath yours, here are some of the more cool items that have mossed my path this year..
Electric skate boards
Weather and surf reports
Surf tuition in north Wales, board hire and surf shops
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Bit about the blogger : My names Nicholas Fraser and I’m a local Marine Geologist and Oceanographer. I have moved back to the island of Anglesey for the past four years having grown up here and moved away. I am a passionate outdoor lover with a penchant for all things natural. When I’m not blogging in ofter found on the water, climbing or out in the wild in and around north Wales.