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Surfing in South Devon may not be as widespread a pastime as other watersports like sailing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. It’s focused on a relatively compact part of the region’s west coast, so if you’ve never stopped by Bigbury-On-Sea or Bantham Beach, for example, you might have never spotted a single surfer on your trips to the seaside.
But go to one of South Devon’s premier surfing beaches when the conditions are right, and you’ll see crowds of surfers making the most of the swell. This brief guide to surfing in the local area will give you a rundown of the best beaches and show you where you can find out more.
The best surfing beaches in South Devon are found within a few miles of each other, between South Milton Sands and Challaborough. This beautiful stretch of coastline is easily reachable from popular holiday destinations like Salcombe and Dartmouth, and most of the beaches have excellent facilities. These include fantastic beachside cafés, equipment hire centres, surfing schools and more.
RNLI lifeguards patrol the beach from May to October, 10 am to 6 pm.
If you’d like to learn to surf or develop your skills, you may wish to consider taking some lessons with Bantham Surfing Academy. Their instructors recommend a minimum of two-to-four lessons, with four-to-six recommended for a typical novice. You can also hire equipment, including wetsuits, to practise in the bay in your own time. Lessons are open to children from eight years old and adults, with no upper age limit!
Bigbury-On-Sea is a Blue Flag-awarded beach, linked at low tide to Burgh Island. You can walk across to the tidal island at low tide or take the famous Sea Tractor when the causeway disappears.
Learn to surf at Bigbury-On-Sea with an experienced tutor at Discovery Surf School. The emphasis is on small group tuition, with private lessons also available. You can hire equipment too, either for surfing or for other watersports like stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.
Less popular with surfers than Bigbury Bay, the waves at nearby Thurlestone Beach are nevertheless surfed sometimes by those looking to escape the crowds during the peak season at Bantham. South Milton Sands, the name given to the southern end of Thurlestone Beach, is home to Surfin’ Sam Watersports, which operates from the National Trust Car Park just a stone’s throw from the sand. However, despite the name, be aware that this vendor doesn’t stock surf boards, so you’ll need to bring your own.
Known as a more challenging beach for surfers, Challaborough Beach sits just to the north of Bigbury-On-Sea. The powerful waves can be a draw, particularly for experienced surfers, but combined with the rocky seabed it can be quite a hazardous spot. Take a look at what those who have surfed here think of it.
If the conditions during your visit aren’t right for surfing, why not give something else a try like kayaking, whether that’s battling your way down a stretch of white water on the River Dart or making your way out so sea? Take a look at our guide to kayaking in South Devon here.
Make the most of some of the country’s best beaches for watersports during your next holiday, by booking a break in South Devon. If you’d like to be as close to South Devon’s surfing beaches as possible, why not take a look at one of these fantastic holiday properties:
Burgh Island Causeway (sleeps 4), a beachside apartment with stunning sea views from Bigbury-On-Sea
The Old Milking Shed (sleeps 6), an immaculate barn conversion just a 15-minute walk from Bantham Beach
10 Thurlestone Rock (sleeps 6) is a spacious first floor apartment right by the beach at Thurlestone Sands