Dorset's coastline is undeniably varied and beautiful, with numerous stunning sandy bays and rocky coves as well as a long stretch that has UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The county's sheltered south-facing aspect and protected waters, however, make it an unlikely surf hub. But surf hub it is. Dorset is home to the largest population of surfers in Great Britain and will soon be home to the first artificial surf reef in the Northern hemisphere.

There is an obvious downside to this explosion of surf culture in a place that is inconsistent, to say the least. There are many who complain of overcrowding and the problem of visiting non-surfing city dwellers with all the gear and no idea cluttering up these very long-awaited waves. Nor will the surf reef have any effect when the waves aren't there, although it will make them bigger and longer when they are.

South Dorset's coastline is largely composed of natural reef, so even though a lot of groundswell doesn't push through, the waves here can be surprisingly well-formed, although in the county as a whole you will not experience many glassy faces.

Half of the entire population of Dorset lives in the Bournemouth conurbation, and it is here that the surfing thing has really got a grip, so avoid Bournemouth Pier if you don't like crowds.

  1. Lyme Bay
  2. Ringstead Bay
  3. Kimmeridge
  4. Durlston Bay
  5. Swanage
  6. Bournemouth
  7. Boscombe
  8. Southbourne
  9. Highcliffe Beach

Bournemouth Surf

Bournemouth Pier, good when Southbourne is closing out and heavy, is a hollow beach break that does not pick up much in the way of groundswell and attracts crowds of body boarders.
In fact here you get crowds full stop. Bournemouth is Dorsets biggest settlement and when the pier is working everyone from Lyme Regis to London soon seems to know about it, even though it is never very good!

Durlston Bay Surf

Durlston Bay has a reef and a point that need, again, huge swells to work. When it does work it produces dangerous, sucky lefts and very hollow rights.

Kimmeridge Surf

Kimmeridge is a right hand reef with three options that, again, rarely work, and even if there is swell, are often blown out (even when Bournemouth is offshore). If you are there on the right day (a big south westerly swell combined with a north-easterly wind), you can choose between the Ledges, the Bay and the Bench.

The Bay is only good when it's massive and the other two options are unsurfable, in which case you get great long, sheltered rides.

Lyme Bay Surf

Lyme Bay is fantastically inconsistent: just barely rideable about sixty days a year. This does mean that when it is on there is virtually no hassle, as no surfer in their right mind lives here. If you do get lucky you will have a choice of a beach that breaks right and left and some reefs if you go hunting.