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A Family Guide to Surfing - All your questions answered

Posted by Libby Chivers.
First Published Jul 2014; updated May 2023.

Many people enjoy surfing, but is it safe for kids, and can you really do it in the UK? Surf instructor Libby answers in this excellent guide to family surfing.

Ace family surfing instructor and outdoor activities leader Libby has created this fantastic guide to family surfing, including how old your kids should be to start surfing, where to go (yes, the UK has surf!) when's best to go surfing, and what gear you might need if your family wants to ride the waves regularly...

Why Surf?

Surfing can be great fun for all the family.

The feeling you get from being in the sea = awesome!

In the rain or on a sunny day, it doesn’t matter. It’s good fun any time as you will get wet anyway! The feeling you get from being in the sea = awesome!

What age can kids learn to surf?

Having fun in the surf

We recommend kids start learning from about age 8 as at this age, they seem to understand the concept and begin to be able to catch the waves by themselves!

They can, of course, start before this age but you will have to be there with them, helping them to catch waves, surfing in with them and giving lots of help.

You’re never too old to give it a go!

As for Mum, Dad, Granny and Grandad…..you’re never too old to give it a go! We encourage everyone to try it. It really is good fun!

The best time of year for surfing

Technically there can be waves all year round. However, the sea is warmest in August/September, after the sun has warmed it up all summer!

it’s a good idea to have a lesson with a surf school

If you have never surfed before it’s a good idea to have a lesson with a surf school as they will give you some top tips and safety advice.

If you are heading out without an instructor, hunt out beaches that are lifeguarded. Most of the popular beaches in the UK are covered from mid-May until the end of August.

The RNLI provides a great service and if you surf in the right area they will keep an eye on you and the family. (Click here for a list of beaches the RNLI Lifeguards watch).

They are great for advice too, so head towards them if you are somewhere new and need to know if it is safe and the best spot! They have a whole world of info online too, lots of safety advice so look them up if you decide to go without a lesson from qualified coaches. (Click here to download the RNLI Beach Safety in the Surf guide).

Waves, wind and tides…

The most important thing is to make sure you stay safe!

Sometimes a beach will have waves – they might be small, they might be giant! The most important thing is to make sure you stay safe!

Take note of the weather and decide if it safe for you and your kids. A windy day can be fun, but not if boards are flying around like a kite (better to leave the boards and fly a kite!).  If you are not sure, best to leave it!

The tides are important too, make sure you know what they are up to! They usually go in and out, but this can mean rocks are covered that you don’t know are there, or the beach might all be covered and the waves will be crashing into a rock bank so you can’t surf! Take note of tide times, they can usually be found on a notice board near to the beach.

Click here for the Met Office weather and tide time information for beaches.

Top UK destinations for surfing…

Dude, well, to list them all would take a while, so here is a summary:

Surfing in Wales

Newgale Beach

Newgale Beach

Pembrokeshire is the best (but then we might be a bit biased!) with plenty of beaches to choose from…too many in fact! One of our top ones would be Newgale as it’s big, lifeguarded in season and has the facilities too!.

The Gower is also a fab choice and not as far West as Pembrokeshire, so if you are short on holiday time this is great!

Surfing in Devon and Cornwall

Inspecting the waves at Sandymouth new Bude

Inspecting the waves at Sandymouth new Bude

Great places, LOTS of beaches to play on here - too many to choose really!

Bude and Croyde are popular spots! My personal childhood favourite was Bigbury-on-sea…many good memories there!

[Gav: We like Sandymouth near Bude. There's a family campsite there. RNLI Lifeguard in the summer. A good beach when the tide is out. And good waves.]


A bit further away for most, but some stunning beaches!

The water remains chilly up there a bit longer usually, so take those wetsuits!

Practical bits and bobs….


Children learning to surf

It is important to have a board. It makes things a bit easier (but of course body surfing is an option and good fun!).

If you are not sure what you want or need, then get yourself into a hire shop or test centre and try some out, with advice from people that have knowledge!

If the kids really fall in love with surfing be aware they are still growing and perhaps get a board which will last them a good few years! (It might mean the board is a little big for a bit but soon it will be perfect and you don’t have to fork out for a new board every time there is a growth spurt!)

BIC Minimal Padded Surfboard - ideal for kids and beginners

The best kids' learning boards have a soft top and slick bottom, a little bit more forgiving when they fall near it!

There are so many boards out there to choose. Still, we at Board Games like to recommend the BIC boards as they are super durable, around about the 7’6 mini-mal size is good, for a board that will last until they are a grown-up…maybe!


learning to surf

This can be expensive if they are still growing, but really do help to keep them warm!

At Board Games surfing we don’t bother with anything less than a winter 5/4mm wetsuit - nice and warm all year round.

Make sure it fits and it’s not too baggy as it won’t do much good if it’s hanging off them!  A wetsuit works by trapping water between the neoprene and the body…if it’s really baggy it just flushes with cold water constantly!

Extras you might want…

  • Hoods, boots and gloves - all a great addition, especially if you intend on getting in the sea all year round! They are not essential, but if you have the budget, do it, it will keep everyone A LOT warmer!
  • Ear-plugs – A piece of kit that is largely overlooked, but it can save on ear infections from playing in the water! If they really get into surfing too it will protect their hearing in the long run!
  • A key-pod – these are great bits of kit to pop your keys into when you are heading into the water. You attach it to the car, and then you don’t have to worry about your keys getting wet!

find a beach, find a surf school, find a wave and go ride it!

So that’s it…now you know a bit more, go…find a beach, find a surf school, find a wave and go ride it! Enjoy and adventure safe!

Photo Credits: Photos of kids having surfing lessons c/o Board Games Surfing.