Could it be the fantastic surf, friendly people, or the varied geography of the north east coastline. Perhaps a combination of all of these factors is what is drawing the crowds to Yorkshire and the north east and tempting hardened surfers away from the more traditional south western surf locations.
Over the last 20 years it seems that Yorkshire and the north east coast line has become ever more popular with surfers, those that know their stuff appreciate the varied coastline that stretches from around Spurn Point all the way up to Staithes, Saltburn and Redcar.
Many have suggested that this length of coastline despite the surfing is one of the most interesting in the country. Beginning at Spurn Point the thin peninsula that snakes its way out at the mouth of the humber estuary and finishing around Redcar the geology and geography of the beaches, bays and stunning geographical features are there for all to see. In the south from Spurn Point arguably to around Bridlington the coastline is a relatively low lying beach.
As far as surfing is concerned here the gently sloping bottoms make for a cleaner wave when big northerly swells wrap into the bay however it is generally only the more extreme conditions that provide good surfing, the beaches here though are safe free of rocks and can be quite unaffected by large tourist style crowds. Recommended places to surf in East Yorkshire would be Bridlington, Fraisthorpe, Barmston, Hornsea and Withensea. This part of the coast is particularly synonymous with windsurfers who take advantage of the space regular wind and easy access beaches particularly around the Fraisthorpe area.
The area from Flamborough to Filey Bay is dominated by the limestone cliffs that reach their pinnacle at Bempton with what must be some of the most stunning coastal geological features in the country. It is however hard to access the water along here as the cliffs rise up vertically well over 100 feet in places. At the most northerly end of the chalk and limestone section around Speeton the cliffs subside and mark the start of Filey Bay. Starting at around Reighton and stretching to the Brigg at Filey the Bay is 6 miles or 10 kilometers long There are some great surf spots along here, easy beach breaks that come alive on big northerly swells. Reighton, Hunmanby Gap, and Primrose Valley are the main spots along the stretch of sand here and are good longboarding spots. The northerly part of the bay at Filey is sheltered from big swells by The Brigg a large rock feature heading out into the North Sea that forms a natural shelter.
Heading northwards from here for around three miles between Filey and Cayton Bay the terrain provides difficult access to the beach, the next place of note is Cayton Bay itself which has developed a reputation as a fantastic surfing destination on its day. The beach is supported by the Cayton Bay Surf School which not only offer lessons but surfing accessories,food and free hot showers. There is also parking alongside the shop. It is widely considered that the three main breaks here are Pump House, Bunkers and the Point. The Pumphouse breaks at mid to low tide and is situated at the northern end of the bay, the wave is fast due to the shelving nature of the shore and a quick take off is essential. Many believe this wave to be good for longboarding as it is nice and steady at times but to those new to the area it is advised to be wary of the rocks. Bunkers is the mid tide spot which offers good surf for all abilities and is situated between the old World War 2 Bunkers it is regarded on its day as the classic breach break. There is also another beach break in front of the steps as you come down from the surf shop and this is popular with beginners and is often the area chosen for lessons by the surf school. The predominant break for advanced surfers here is The Point found at the extreme northern edge of the bay leading off from the rocky headland. This break only picks up in the correct rare conditions and can produce a large barreling wave that only the most capable surfers can really attempt, the point is notoriously rocky and the water at the base of many waves is particularly shallow. However, on its day this wave can rival anywhere in the UK. It is best advised to be both respectful of the locals and wait for acknowledgement in any line up on a day when this wave is working as some one out their depth or being discourteous may be unwelcome if behaving unsafely.
Moving on northwards the next well known breaks are found at the South Bay in Scarborough. As a town the would be surfer is spoilt for choice here in terms of surf shops and places to buy equipment or accessories with around 4 or 5 shops based in the town as well as a couple in both the North and South Bay serving the beaches.
The two bays at Scarborough tend to work in conjunction with each other. If a big northerly swell picks up and makes The North Bay unsafe then the more sheltered south bay is more often then not the place to surf. As the beaches are very popular surfing areas it is again advised to be respectful of any line ups on busy days, however the locals are generally known to be friendly and supportive to respectful visitors and the towns surf shops are great places for advice or for any help with knowledge of the local breaks. Bay Surf and Secret Spot can be found in the town itself and Blue Crush by the Sands Holiday Development in the North Bay and Fluid Concept by the Spa complex in The South Bay.
Starting with the South Bay the castle’s headland provides a natural harbour which takes some of the wave height although helps in producing a cleaner wave which is ideal for beginners and lower intermediate surfers. The area is considered best at mid tide although in East or South Easterly swells the area in front of the amusements can produce some great waves.
The North Bay comprises of three main waves, Supersucks as it is known locally is found at the northern end of the beach and is a wave that tends to produce the goods in only the precise conditions of an east of south easterly swell, it does however produce fast hollow waves. Middle Peak works well on most conditions and can on good days produce amazing waves, visitors are advised to be watchful of the tide as when full the waves crash into the sea wall with explosive fury as many a visitor to Scarborough’s Marine Drive in winter storms can vouch for. Finally. Rights as it is known creates a right hand wave at the most southerly edge of the bay, this again can be a world class wave in the correct conditions but can be treacherous to all but the more able surfers due to the frequent rocks which can be hidden in higher water.
From the North Bay at Scarborough up to Whitby is a coastal stretch of around 20 miles of often undocumented areas that are known to have some fantastic surfing, this area is really a great place for the more adventurous and daring surfers to explore, there is not much that is documented about this area of the Yorkshire coast although it is known that there may be areas along here that have not been commercially promoted and are well worth seeking out. There are for instance some breaks around Robin Hoods Bay which are generally unfrequented along the long reef that exists there.
A number of known breaks can be found around the Whitby area. There is a great beach break at Upgang beach between Sandsend and Whitby and this can be quite fierce on a northerly swell although this area can often be quite crowded especially during the holiday season. The local surf shop here is Zero Gravity found on Flowergate and is the only surf shop in the area from here to Saltburn. The staff at Zero Gravity are happy to help with any advice and point people in right direction.
The next notable surfing destination on our trip up the Yorkshire Coast is Runswick Bay. The features to be found here are an exposed reef and point break that provide consistent surfing conditions. Like many surfing spots on this coast the best swells come from the north, the conditions here tend to lend themselves to the more able surfers as there is no beach break and there are a number of rocks that can be hazardous. The bonus here is that the beach is often uncrowded compared to beaches further towards Whitby and those at Scarborough. The nearby Cove as it is known is also a reef break which work on similar conditions and is known to produce world class conditions in the right type of swell generally during the colder winter months.
The destination of Staithes is next on the list of surf hot spots, Staithes has developed a reputation for some of the finest surf conditions in the area when conditions are correct. The right conditions here particularly in the winter months produce big barreling waves which only the most accomplished should attempt. This is added to by the charm of the pretty seaside village which was once the home of Captain Cook. Many of the surfing secrets of Staithes remain closely guarded knowledge of the locals and surfing enthusiasts of the area who are keen to preserve the charm of this particular location.
Although strictly in Cleveland it wouldn’t be right not to mention Saltburn. Saltburn has developed a fine reputation for surfing over the years and is famous for its iconic pier of which many surfers are known to jump off as a way of entering the water! There is a good beach break here as well as a punchy low tide bank to the east at what is known as penny hole. The beach is served by the Saltburn Surf School.
Overall the Yorkshire Coast provides a mecca for surfing and has something for beginners right the way up to Advanced ability. Combine this with the fact that the scenery is stunning with much of the coastline lying within national park as well as the additional bonus of small crowds and friendly Yorkshire people and the result is a destination that is top notch. Hopefully as surfing gains popularity and more people enter the sport the fundamentals that make this area so special can remain the same keeping the integrity of the surfing areas intact.