Surfs Up

Scotland is better known for its highlands, whiskey, lochs and bagpipes than for waves, but there’s little doubt that all three of Scotland’s coasts receive excellent waves. With the improvements in wetsuit technology these days, more and more surfers are braving the cold to seek out Scotland’s thick, heavy barrels, in uncrowded line-ups. The West Coast is one of the remotest surf zones in Europe, fully deserving its reputation as the “Wild West”. Offshore from Cape Wrath, the NW corner of Scotland, the Inner and Outer Hebrides take the brunt of the massive west swells. The drier East Coast enjoys swell from both North Atlantic and North Sea storms, and enjoys a predominantly offshore wind. The remote Orkney and Shetland Islands further north see the occasional hardcore surfer and are known to hide a few lonely but perfect set-ups.

The ÒNorth ShoreÓ is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of EuropeÕs premier heavy water destinations. The wildly scenic coast, divided between the counties of Caithness and Sutherland, runs from John OÕGroats to Cape Wrath. The difference is marked, the flat slab reefbreaks and low-lying topography of Caithness are a stark contrast to the mountains, honey coloured rocks and sandy beaches of Sutherland. Like its Hawaiian namesake the North Shore surf can get huge and currents can be treacherous. The plus side is the area is very consistent. Thurso East is the jewel in the North ShoreÕs crown; the world-famous reef is one of EuropeÕs finest waves, when it breaks. Unlike most of the N shore waves Thurso is quite fickle and has a limited swell window. The town itself is the only settlement of any size and the only place with full facilities. Going west the breaks are more exposed and spots like Brimms Ness hoover up any swell going. Swells from the W round to NE can occur year round, September to November are the prime months for good swell and reasonable weather. Deep winter and spring can be cold and classic, flat or wildly out of control. The area is one of the most sparsely populated in the UK so surfing by yourself, or with a few seals, is a real possibility.