Surfing at Coldingham Bay

For their birthday a few friends of ours suggested some surfing at Coldingham Bay, south of Edinburgh on the North Sea. I jumped at the chance. I have always wanted to try surfing, and have long held the dream of being a surfer girl- sand in my long blonde hair, salt on my lips, free laughter under the beat of Californian sunshine... Now, unfortunately, Coldingham is on the east coast of Scotland. So a more accurate idea is full wetsuits with potential bouts of shivering. Luckily as we drove across Scotland it got sunnier and sunnier, and the weather on the east coast was lovely. It was also ideal surf for beginners- waves around 2-3ft and nothing too scary or windy.

We made the bay in reasonable time, with an entirely understandable early pit stop in Glasgow for brownies and other pastries at the Cottonrake Bakery. Our wetsuits, boots and boards were hired from the St Vedas surf shop, which sits immediately beside the beach entrance. Their rates turned out to be super reasonable and they were really friendly. I always forget how hard wetsuits are to get in to when I go for a while without wriggling into one! If the weather hadn't been so nice we would probably also have needed hoods and gloves. The boards are also surprisingly heavy- just carrying them down to the beach in pairs was a bit of an arm workout. 

I'd been a google warrior in the run up- what to wear, what to watch out for... I mainly gathered that you try not to hit rocks, or the beach floor, and you don't let your board get between you and the waves lest it smack you in the face. It was helpful but limited information. Our friend filled in the blanks by giving us a quick lesson using 'boards' drawn in the sand. Typically, the girls laughed that the wonky shapes looked like yams... and the boys drew a bell end on them. Classic men. She taught us how to consider popping up. Then we headed straight into the water.

At first it’s really rather difficult even just to balance on the boards lying down. The slightest shift of the hips tips it one way or the other and trying to correct it can make it worse. However, I eventually got the hang of the lying board balance and of sliding forward to sit up with my weight centred. I can totally understand why surfers have such fantastic abs- its constant ab work as the board and the waves constantly move. 

Then we had to catch some waves, duuuude. The trick here seems to be paddling fast to crest the wave when it is just about to curl over. My initial technique was to stay level with the pal who had surf experience, and then paddle like crazy when she did. It worked. The feeling when a wave catches you is amazing. The pull backward as the wave keeps forming, followed by the tiniest time lag before it sweeps you up and surges forward with you and your board on top, triumphant. It’s a natural source of power but it feels like you have harnessed it, bent it to your will. What an incredible rush.

In seconds you're almost on the beach, so you turn and paddle back out. After the first few I did try to rise up a bit but never got higher than a kneel. I'd love some more practice to get on my feet. One of the boys did, but everyone else apart from our resident professional stayed mostly on their bellies. Its brilliant fun even if you never stand up. I did find spotting the wave timing very hard. It seems like there is a pattern, say 1 in 3 is a great wave, then you wait for wave 3 and it breaks the pattern! I also ended up either too far back on some occasions, in which case you get a sort of mini surge and nothing else, or too far forward, in which case you get chopped up as it breaks up into white and then you get dumped off. The waves also seem to have an uncanny knack of being where you aren't! It’s also really important to note where everyone else is, we almost had a couple of collisions and I had to jump ship off a wave to avoid one such collision. I also didn't know that the ankle leash is capable of pulling you off your feet if a strong wave catches your board!

At around 3pm the waves really died down, but to be honest we still had a fantastic time paddling about, trying to lie on our backs on the boards, trying to stand up without a wave and so on. Everyone really enjoyed it, despite the vast majority of us being total beginners. Have to say that everyone also looked very snazzy in a wetsuit- they are very, "The names' Bond, James Bond". I've never particularly fancied surfers but seeing the S.O. with wet hair and salt in his beard grinning in neoprene... I think I get it now!

If you're thinking of trying surfing, do it. It really is a superb way to spend a sunny Saturday and I will be back as soon as possible. It does leave you supremely tired- at the house party that evening I fell asleep on the sofa! The next day I didn't feel any specific aches, but at bouldering every muscle in my body just seemed very tired. I also have bruised hip bones and ribcage bones from lying on the board 


Have you ever surfed? Fancy it?


  1. I've spent many an hour sitting on the beach at Coldy waiting for D and watching the surfing. Only took me about 8 years to work up to trying surfing in Scotland for myself! Love that bay, love it so hard.

    1. We should go sometime! Its so stunning :)

  2. I went surfing with my boyfriend in Cornwall in the summer, it was honestly the most fun I've had in ages - I ached all over the next day! This looks like a beautiful place to try surfing!

    Rachel - Cake Doesn't Count xx

    1. Its SO much fun isn't it! Very jealous of Cornwall- I've never been! xox