Surfing - the importance of the weather and waves

How weather affects surfing, from Dan Kinsman, of Adventure Bay Surfing

The ability to predict the weather and understand the ocean has to be at the forefront of surfing, particularly if you happen to be a surfer living on the UK's South Coast. Sure, we get our share of world class days to be counted on both hands and a bare foot or two in a good year, but for the vast majority of the time we'll take whatever the Atlantic offers.

South-west surf beach


Flat periods are common in the summer due to inactivity in the Atlantic and a large, natural breakwater but moving into autumn sea activity will pick up. Whilst North Cornwall and Devon are blessed by uninterrupted and more consistent conditions, Land's End deflects all but the medium to large westerly swell heading towards South Cornwall, South Devon, Bournemouth and beyond; its affect often exacerbated the further up the English Channel you go. Storms heading north from the Bay of Biscay also produce some fun ones for us south coast warriors.


Swell is propagated by wind and the best swell is born of intense winds blowing for a long time over a large area. Some of the best swell is created when tropical storms and hurricanes heading west from Africa intensify as the storms gather energy from the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Some of these systems continue onto land where they wreak havoc before losing energy relatively quickly, whilst the good stuff continues North up the eastern seaboard of the United States sending energy coursing through the Atlantic in the form of long period ground-swell onto our shores.

Wind and tide

Light offshore winds or no wind at all will offer the most favourable conditions as oppose to onshore wind as this causes the tops of the breaking waves to crumble and turn into mush and man, do we get our fair share of South Westerly winds!

Far from the madding crowd and in breath-taking, unspoilt and often dramatic scenery, the south coast offers us both excitement and challenges made less challenging by our ability to interpret the weather. North Coast's less fortunate cousin, we are not.

Sunset surf

Content provided by Dan Kinsman,

Adventure Bay

Surf School

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