I grew up in a place where surfing was more popular than football, and every other car was a sky-blue vintage camper van with surfboards strapped to the roof. My friends were lifeguards and surf instructors, or worked at the restaurants that clung to the coast. Every summer was eternal, and we lived our lives at the beach. It was only as I got older that I realised how unique and special my home was; people traveled from all over the world to sample our waves and chill-out in the warm breeze and summer sun. I appreciate it sounds like I’m talking about a scene from ‘Baywatch’, but I didn’t grow up in California – instead, I was born and raised on the Gower Peninsula in south Wales, UK; one of Europe’s biggest surf destinations.
Sure, many come to Wales for the stunning scenery or some incredibly difficult walking in places like the Snowdonia or Brecon Beacons National Parks. Others come here for the relaxation and detox options that Wales should definitely be more famous for. However, I always come back for the surfing and always at Rhossili. Do you want to know why?
What’s on offer at Rhossili?
Surfing isn’t something that you can really express in words, but I’ll try my best to express why I love surfing at Rhossili beach on the northern tip of Gower. Unlike a day at your grubby, local, sports centre, surfing’s true beauty lies in the fact that you have to be in the ocean (God’s playground) to do it. Surfing at Rhossili is an almost spiritual experience, and makes me think of what it would have been like to surf during the Jurassic period. Green-topped-cliffs shoot up from the ocean and cast vast psychedelic clouds over the crystal clear water. A wild seal-colony, hidden away at the end of the headland, makes for an interesting (if not scary) surf session. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been greeted by seals that were so big that I feared for my life. You needn’t be scared though, they are completely harmless and more akin to a playful puppy than a deadly shark. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the local porpoises, which jump and play in the surf, like overzealous children.
Oh…..and the surf!
Sorry, I got carried away and forgot to talk about surfing! The dramatic cliffs of Rhossili, protect the waves from the strong winds, which can often spoil the surf at other nearby surf spots. This makes Rhossili somewhat of a ‘surf sweet spot’. Ideal for longboarders or beginners, the shallow, slow forming waves provide long, right and left hand waves all the way to the beach. Although the conditions are smaller than the surrounding beaches, it’s simply better formed and the beautiful back drop is impossible to beat.
Best Time To Go:
The surf works best on a rising tide and a westerly wind. The biggest swells come during the winter months, but the water is exceptionally cold and you will need heavy-duty gear to keep you warm. The summer months offer warm water and steady surf conditions, which is much more suitable for beginners, but also great for all levels of surfers. Accommodation can be expensive and hard to find during bank holidays, so avoid coming during these times if you can.
The Baby Seal—The beach breaks at Rhossili Beach are suitable for beginners. On a low-tide, it’s possible to walk out to the very end of Rhossili’s headland, and say hello to the seals. It’s not an easy hike but you may very well be able to get up close and personal with the stinky seals, if you’re brave enough!
Extra bragging points if you:
- Get knocked off your surfboard by a playful porpoise
- Get stung by one of the giant jellyfish that come to the area every now and again
- Manage an early morning surf after a late night session in the Worms Head Hotel beer garden.
Surfing at Rhossili is free (unless you need to rent equipment or book lessons), although, during the tourist season you’ll have to pay about £3 to park in the car park. Food and drink is reasonably priced and you shouldn’t have to pay much more than £8 for a bite to eat and a beer/coffee. You can book surfboards and wetsuits for around £15 per day, but I would suggest you book a lesson, which also includes all the equipment you need, for around £25 per day.
- For a quality pub lunch with epic views of Rhossili bay, check out the Worms Head Hotel. The beer garden is the ideal place to refuel after a monster surf session, but you will have to use your ninja skills to get a table at this popular summer eatery.
- For hardcore surfers that are planning an early morning surf, make sure to visit the Bay Bistro for the best breakfast (and coffee) in the area. You’ll also find Sam’s Surf Shack on the same property, and Sam is the man to talk to about surf lessons or board rentals.
- Accommodation comes at a premium in Rhossili, however, a mile or so inland is the sister village of Middleton you’ll find ‘The Bunk House’. It’s a simple, affordable and clean hostel with sea views and everything you need. It’s the ideal base for exploring the local area without spending a fortune.
- Sam’s Surf Shack offer surf hire and lessons – www.samssurfshack.com
- Rhossili Bunkhouse offer quality budget accommodation – www.rhossilibunkhouse.com
- The Bay Bistro offer great food, coffee and views over the bay – www.thebaybistro.com
About the Author
When Ben isn’t surfing at Rhossili or wrestling with seals, you’ll find him working at Nucleus surf clothing and urban fashion store. You can also contact the Nucleus team for local surf conditions and surfboard rental.