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Best surfing beaches in North Devon

croyde bay with my son

My son and I love surfing – although he is much bettter than I am! If you are looking for the best surfing beaches in North Devon, this post pulls together all the information you will need to find some great waves in this beautiful part of the country.

Discover the best surfing beaches in North Devon

Calling all wave riders! North Devon in England unfurls a coastline sculpted for epic surfing adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned pro carving flawless lines or a stoked beginner paddling for your first pop-up, this haven boasts an incredible diversity of beaches. From the barreling tubes of Croyde to the gentle rollers of Saunton Sands, North Devon caters to every surfer’s skill level. But with so many options, where do you start? This blog is your one-stop guide to shredding the best breaks in North Devon. We’ll unveil the perfect beach for your experience level, insider tips for conquering the waves, and all the local knowledge you need to score the ride of your life. So, grab your board, pack your wetsuit, and get ready to discover why North Devon is a surfer’s dream come true.

At this point, it is worth mentioning that if the surf isn’t great, you can still catch some great waves at the North Devon wake park, whcih is well worth a visit too.

Croyde Bay: A World-Class Playground

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Croyde Bay is the undisputed crown jewel of North Devon’s surfing scene. This golden expanse of sand, backed by dramatic dunes, consistently delivers powerful waves that attract surfers from all corners of the globe. The beach itself is vast, offering loads of space to spread out, while the dramatic headland on the northern side shapes the legendary right-hand point break. At low tide, corduroy lines peel off the point, creating long, hollow barrels that challenge even the most experienced surfers.

However, Croyde isn’t just for the pros. Higher tides transform the point break into a series of fun, rolling waves perfect for honing your skills. Summer months see smaller swells, ideal for beginners taking their first tentative steps on the board with the help of a local surf school. Be aware though, Croyde’s popularity means it can get crowded, especially during peak season.

Dogs are welcome on the beach year-round, but restrictions apply during the summer. Luckily, you won’t have to stray far for refreshments. The village of Croyde boasts a vibrant collection of cafes, surf shops, and restaurants, ensuring you can refuel after a epic session and browse the latest gear. Croyde Bay is a mainstay on the European surfing tour, consistently hosting competitions and drawing a passionate surfing community. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a complete grommet, Croyde Bay promises an unforgettable surfing experience.

Saunton Sands: A Surfer’s Sanctuary for All Levels

dog at saunton sands - one of the best surfing beaches in north devon

Saunton Sands, a sprawling 3.5-mile stretch of golden sand, offers a stark contrast to the dramatic intensity of Croyde. Here, rolling waves unfurl gently, making it an ideal spot for surfers of all abilities, particularly learners. The vastness of the beach means crowds are thinner, creating a relaxed and safe environment to perfect your pop-up and carving technique.

Unlike Croyde’s point break, Saunton boasts long, consistent walls ideal for longboarders and those seeking long, exhilarating rides. The sheltered nature of the beach also means swells are generally smaller and less intimidating, perfect for building confidence. However, experienced surfers shouldn’t be discouraged. Saunton’s consistent breaks offer plenty of opportunities to hone technical skills and practice maneuvers.

The beauty of Saunton Sands extends beyond the waves. Backed by the UNESCO-protected Braunton Burrows Biosphere Reserve, the beach boasts stunning scenery. Unlike Croyde, Saunton is dog-friendly year-round, making it perfect for a family surfing vacation. The nearby village of Braunton offers a selection of restaurants and shops to cater to your post-surf needs.

Saunton Sands might not be on the competitive surfing circuit like Croyde, but it shines as a haven for learners, families, and longboarders. With its gentle waves, stunning backdrop, and relaxed atmosphere, Saunton Sands is a North Devon gem waiting to be explored.


“The Stormrider Surf Guide England” is an essential companion for surf enthusiasts exploring the waves of North Devon. With detailed insights into breaks, conditions, and local culture, this guide offers invaluable tips for riders of all levels. Dive into its pages to unlock the secrets of surfing in this picturesque region.

Find Out More

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Woolacombe: A Surfing Mecca for All Seasons

woolacombe

Woolacombe Beach strikes a perfect balance between the powerful breaks of Croyde and the gentle rollers of Saunton Sands. This 3-mile stretch of golden sand, voted “The Times Best Beach 2021,” boasts a reputation as one of the most popular and versatile surf spots in North Devon.

The secret lies in Woolacombe’s unique geography. Exposed to the Atlantic swell, the beach picks up consistent waves year-round, with variations depending on the season. Winter unleashes powerful swells that create impressive waves for experienced surfers. But don’t worry, beginners! The long, shallow beach offers plenty of whitewater sections closer to shore, perfect for catching your first waves.

Throughout the year, Woolacombe’s central reef break produces clean, predictable waves that cater to a wide range of skill levels. Beginners can find gentle rollers perfect for learning, while more experienced surfers can venture further out for more challenging rides. This versatility makes Woolacombe a fantastic choice for families and groups with surfers of varying abilities.

Unlike Saunton, Woolacombe boasts a vibrant village buzzing with activity. Top-rated surf schools offer lessons and board rentals, while cafes and restaurants line the beachfront, providing post-surf refreshments and stunning ocean views.

Woolacombe remains a firm favourite for surfers of all levels. With its consistent waves, stunning scenery, and lively atmosphere, Woolacombe Beach is a North Devon gem that offers something special for every surfer. It is somewhere that we have had great times and I would certainyl include it in this list of the best surfing beahes in North Devon.

Westward Ho!: A Family-Friendly Surfing Adventure

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Westward Ho! might not be the first beach that springs to mind for serious surfers, but it offers a delightful surprise for those seeking a relaxed and family-friendly surfing experience. This Victorian resort town boasts a long stretch of sandy beach with a unique charm. Unlike the exposed headlands of Croyde and Woolacombe, Westward Ho! benefits from a slightly sheltered position, resulting in generally smaller and gentler waves.

This makes Westward Ho! perfect for beginners and young learners. Here, the waves break progressively, offering a safe and forgiving environment to practice paddling, popping up, and riding those first exhilarating waves. Surf schools abound, offering lessons and rentals, ensuring a smooth introduction to the sport.

However, Westward Ho! isn’t solely for beginners. More experienced surfers can find pockets of more challenging waves, particularly at high tide. Additionally, the beach offers fantastic bodyboarding conditions, especially when the swell picks up.

Westward Ho! truly shines as a family destination. The beach is dog-friendly year-round, and the calm waters are ideal for paddling and splashing. The charming Victorian town center offers a delightful array of cafes, restaurants, and amusement arcades, perfect for post-surf entertainment.

While Westward Ho! might not boast the power of Croyde or the consistency of Woolacombe, it offers a unique blend of gentle surf, family-friendly amenities, and Victorian charm. It’s the perfect spot for those seeking a relaxed introduction to surfing or a fun-filled beach day with the whole family.

Putsborough Sands: A Beginner’s Paradise Tucked Between Giants

putsborough sands

Nestled between the renowned surfing giants of Woolacombe and Croyde lies Putsborough Sands, a sheltered haven for beginner surfers and families. This 2-mile stretch of golden sand boasts idyllic conditions for those learning to ride the waves. Unlike its neighbours, Putsborough faces away from the Atlantic’s full force, resulting in consistently smaller and gentler swells.

Imagine chest-high rollers peeling off gradually, offering the perfect playground to practice your pop-up and balance. The sheltered nature of the beach creates a safe and forgiving environment, perfect for building confidence without feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, the sandy bottom eliminates the worry of sharp rocks or reefs, making Putsborough ideal for practicing those first tentative rides.

But Putsborough isn’t just for beginners. More experienced surfers can find pockets of more challenging waves, particularly at high tide and around the rocky outcrops at the northern end. Additionally, the sheltered bay provides flat sections perfect for honing maneuvers like turns and cutbacks.

The beauty of Putsborough extends beyond the waves. Rolling sand dunes frame the beach, offering a scenic backdrop for your surfing adventure. Rock pools teeming with marine life provide endless entertainment for curious kids during breaks from the waves. Unlike Croyde, Putsborough allows dogs on the beach year-round, making it the perfect spot for a four-legged family beach day.

Combesgate Beach: A Rugged Challenge for Experienced Surfers

combesgate beach

Combesgate Beach isn’t for the faint of heart. Unlike the family-friendly charm of Putsborough or the bustling popularity of Woolacombe, Combesgate caters to experienced surfers seeking a wild and untamed adventure. Nestled between Woolacombe and Barricane, this secluded beach boasts a dramatic coastline and powerful waves that demand respect.

The star of the show here is the reef break. Submerged just offshore, this natural formation creates long, barreling waves that peel off with impressive force. When conditions are right, particularly with an easterly swell and offshore winds, Combesgate transforms into a surfers’ paradise, offering thrilling rides and challenging maneuvers.

However, taming Combesgate requires experience and caution. The presence of the reef creates strong currents and uneven depths, making it unsuitable for beginners. Additionally, submerged rocks pose a hazard at high tide, so knowledge of the tides and local conditions is crucial.

The rugged beauty of Combesgate extends beyond the waves. Jagged cliffs frame the beach, offering a dramatic backdrop for your surfing session. Unlike most North Devon beaches, Combesgate is relatively isolated, with no cafes or shops directly on the beach. However, the nearby village of Woolacombe offers post-surf refreshments and amenities.

Combesgate Beach won’t be on the itinerary of every surfer visiting North Devon. But for those seeking a challenge and a taste of untamed surf, it offers a unique and rewarding experience. Remember, this beach demands respect – come prepared, know your limits, and prioritize safety – and Combesgate might just reward you with an unforgettable surfing adventure.

Hitting the Waves: Top Surf Schools in North Devon

North Devon boasts a fantastic selection of surf schools catering to all ages and abilities. Here are a few of the top choices to get you started:

  • North Devon Surf School: With locations in Westward Ho! and Woolacombe, this established school offers a comprehensive range of lessons, from beginner group sessions to private coaching for experienced surfers. They also boast a surf shop with rentals and top-notch instructors.
  • Westward Waves Surf School: Located next to the charming town of Westward Ho!, this school specializes in creating a fun and relaxed learning environment. They offer group and private lessons for all abilities, with a focus on safety and building confidence in the water.
  • Walking on Waves: Based at the stunning Saunton Sands, Walking on Waves is Saunton’s original surf school. They offer a variety of lessons, including group sessions for beginners, intermediate, and advanced surfers, as well as private coaching and surf camps.
  • Barefoot Surf School: Nestled in Putsborough, Barefoot Surf School prides itself on its personalized approach. They offer high-quality instruction in a relaxed setting, with a strong focus on safety and building a solid foundation in surfing.
  • Nick Thorn Surf Coaching: For those seeking a truly tailored experience, Nick Thorn Surf Coaching offers one-on-one coaching sessions for surfers of all levels. Nick, a Master Surf Coach, personalizes each session to maximize your skill development and help you achieve your surfing goals.

This is just a small selection of the fantastic surf schools operating in North Devon. With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect school to help you catch your first wave or refine your existing skills.

Gear Up for Greatness: Essential Surfing Supplies at Ann’s Cottage

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Ann’s Cottage isn’t just a haven for surfers, it’s a one-stop shop for everything you need to conquer the waves. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a fresh-faced grommet, they’ve got you covered.

First things first: the board. Ann’s Cottage boasts a vast selection of surfboards, from high-performance shortboards for experienced surfers to longboards perfect for beginners and carving clean lines. They also stock stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) for those seeking a calmer ocean adventure.

No surfer is complete without a wetsuit. Ann’s Cottage offers a wide range of wetsuits from top brands, ensuring you stay warm and comfortable in the chilly North Devon waters. They cater to all shapes and sizes, with options for men, women, and children.

And it doesn’t stop there. Essential extras like rash guards, wetsuit boots, and surf booties are all readily available, protecting you from the elements and ensuring a smooth surfing experience.

So, before you hit the waves of North Devon, be sure to swing by Ann’s Cottage and stock up on all the gear you need to make the most of your surfing adventure.

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