Five Surreal Days of Sun and Waves for the UK Bank Holiday

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 14d ago

It's almost been surreal in the UK over the past weekend. Five days of clean surf and blazing sunshine and although it certainly wasn't the biggest swell we've ever seen -- it was the kind of run where you look at the forecast every day and it just makes you smile.

A 5.5ft@12 seconds pulse that had a little bit of joie de vivre wrapped up in it, marched straight into some of the more Atlantic swell-sucking locales in England's south west from Thursday. That made for five days straight of clean, fun waves. Nothing XXL or anything like that, but it doesn't have to be for most surfers to enjoy it.

Spot guide: UK + Ireland

You think they saw the wave behind?

You think they saw the wave behind?

© 2021 - Mike Newman

Try telling us an at-a-glance forecast like this doesn't make you salivate.

Try telling us an at-a-glance forecast like this doesn't make you salivate.

And – sun and waves! To people all over the world, that's a combo they'll never have to worry about. But for the SW UK, it's somewhat a novelty. The kind of swell that happens maybe a couple times a year as the seasons shift from spring to summer. That's not to rag on the UK, mind. It's just that during the summer months, the northern hemi is asleep of course, so those fun days of lines to the horizon are infrequent.

Classic Cornwall.

Classic Cornwall.

© 2021 - Clare James

When, like this past weekend, the skies clear, the swell's decent and the temperature perks up enough to ditch 5mms of all-over rubber, it makes for a few days of happy faces. Especially as the swell never really let up for five days straight. By the end of the run, the wind was a little funky, making for a few ragged lines but for most people in the water, that didn't really matter.

Live cam: Fistral

© 2021 - Mike Newman

Now to give some scope about how this swell impacted the UK - trace your finger from the southern-most part of the island, starting in deepest Cornwall, up to the edges of Wales and note the amount of little setups that are ripe for plucking swell from the Atlantic. Most of them were blown a little kiss of waves thanks to this sustained swell run.

One more evening.

One more evening.

© 2021 - RT Shots

With every national holiday though (and a country emerging from a lockdown that prevented inner city folk from escaping to the coast) there's bound to be crowds and this weekend was a particularly packed out experience. Though if you went at the right time, it was easy enough to find a quiet peak to yourself for a couple hours before the masses descended. Can't really blame people for travelling though – most have only seen the beach via our webcams for the past year.

You're probably used to seeing Tom Butler at the likes of Nazare and Mullaghmore. But, sometimes, there's just no place like home.

You're probably used to seeing Tom Butler at the likes of Nazare and Mullaghmore. But, sometimes, there's just no place like home.

© 2021 - Jamie Elliott

Little barrels, too, if you knew where to look – like Tommy Butts. “It felt epic to find a few tubes a couple of days ago,” he tells MSW. “Tubes can almost seem as rare as parking spaces around Cornwall. But there’s always a few corners that produce hollower waves than other beaches.”

Tom Harper.

Tom Harper.

© 2021 - Mike Newman

MSW forecaster Tony Butt said: “The swell originated from a pressure gradient between a large, semi-permanent high west of the Azores and a complex area of low pressure southeast of Greenland. An area of strong westerly winds generated some long-period, small to medium swell that arrived in western Europe around Friday and continued through Monday.

Where to surf in the UK?

© 2021 - Mike Newman

"At the same time, a band of high pressure between the main Atlantic high and a smaller centre in the North Sea maintained conditions clean over southwest England and Wales. At exposed spots, wave heights averaged around three to four feet all weekend, with a slight dip on Saturday. Winds were mostly light and from an easterly quarter.”

A well-known West Cornwall beauty spot, the views of which, inspired a Virginia Woolf novel.

A well-known West Cornwall beauty spot, the views of which, inspired a Virginia Woolf novel.

© 2021 - Mike Newman

Pushing fins to the brink.

Pushing fins to the brink.

© 2021 - Mike Newman

North Devon's Woolacombe. Just pure fun.

North Devon's Woolacombe. Just pure fun.

© 2021 - Alan Danby

One more wave?

One more wave?

© 2021 - Mike Newman

© 2021 - Mike Newman

Cover shot by Clare James.