The best places to learn to surf in Devon holiday cottages

The best places to learn to surf in Devon

Ruth 16 July 2019

Let’s be honest – there’s nothing more awesome than surfing. Being able to glide effortlessly along the water, at one with the wave, is pretty cool and that’s without mentioning the style and attitude that goes along with riding a board. So, it’s no surprise that surfing in the UK is more popular than ever.

Along with Cornwall, Devon is one of the best places to learn to surf in the UK and is a natural choice for sea lovers with two coastlines on offer. If you’re looking for the best chance of getting up and riding, head to the north coast, where its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means it gets the best waves in the county. That doesn’t mean there isn’t surf on the south coast, though – there’s just less of it and it’s less consistent.

Surfing is a great way to spend time in Devon’s coastal beauty spots, and you can’t get much closer than being in the water itself. What’s more, it’s truly a sport for all ages. While kids may take to the water a bit more easily than adults, it doesn’t mean you’re too old to learn – in fact, Devon is where a septuagenarian discovered she loves surfing! Paddling out, pressing up into the standing position and staying stable on the board all provide a great workout, which is yet another reason to grab a wetsuit and get into the water!

If it’s your first time on a surfboard, it’s best to get some tuition from the experts. Not only will they keep an eye on you in the water, or tell you if you’re regular or goofy (it’s not an insult, trust us), they can teach you the tips and tricks to get you riding the waves in no time.

Here’s our tips on the best places to learn to surf in Devon, and where you can stay while you’re here!

Already shredding? Here’s our guide to the best surf beaches in Devon.

North Devon

Westward Ho!

Westward Ho!

With around 2 miles of beach, Westward Ho! has been a favourite for beginner surfers for years. The sandy shore means there’s no underwater hazards like rocks or reef to watch out for, plus the length of the beach means your never in anyone’s way.

There’s so much more to Westward Ho! than surfing. Here’s what the locals recommend doing.

Where to learn?

You’re spoilt for choice with surf schools around Westward Ho! beach. The North Devon Surf School has been operating for over 30 years and is a great choice for large groups. As well as surf lessons, Surf SUP Academy offers stand up paddle boarding – great for those flat days when you still want to take to the water. And Westward Waves is worth booking in with just to check out the converted horsebox that now forms the changing rooms. Situated right on Northam Burrows, you can’t get much closer to the sea without getting in it!

Where to stay?

Tors View – sleeps 8

Bring a big group together at this stylish townhouse; its elevated position above Westward Ho! makes it easy for you to watch the sets rolling in from the deep Atlantic.

Golf View – sleeps 8

Definitely a house for the surfer who appreciates the finer things in life – have a post-surf rinse in the outdoor hot shower and then soothe your aching muscles in the hot tub.



This sand-dune-backed beach is very picturesque and popular with both families and dogs – there’s plenty of facilities to keep the kids happy and, unlike many beaches, dogs are welcome all year round. It’s also been used as the location for TV, film and music videos. The gently rolling waves often seen at this beach break make it a favourite with local longboarders.

Where to learn?

Former British and European champ Sarah Whiteley’s surf school – Walking on Waves – isn’t a bad place to start. Or check out Surf Saunton – the surf school’s decking makes a great place to check out the waves before you head in.

Where to stay?

Ocean Point – sleeps 4

Wake up and check the surf from your enclosed balcony, then wander down the hill to the beach. There’s also an outdoor shower and board storage – perfect if you’ve got your own gear.

West Saunton Cottage – sleeps 4

Just a mile from the beach, this character cottage has a lovely garden that’s perfect for chilling out in after a day at the beach.



Croyde is Devon’s most famous surf spot and when it’s good, it really is world-class. The small bay makes the waves slightly bigger than the rest of the coastline, plus some reefy patches produce hollow sections that advanced surfers go mad for. Due to its reputation, it does get crowded and at certain points on the tide, rips are likely to appear – so it’s even more important that you book a lesson with an expert.

Planning a trip to Croyde? You’d better read our local’s guide for the best things to do.

Where to learn?

As you can imagine, there’s no shortage of surf schools looking to help people enjoy this incredible surf spot. Croyde Surf Academy operates out of a car park close to the beach, with facilities including a café that’s just perfect for a post-surf pick-me-up. Surfing Croyde Bay has been operating since 2003 and is a 2-minute walk from the beach. Another long-running surf school, Surf South West has been teaching for 22 years and also offers surf and yoga weekends.

Where to stay?

Dunes at West Croyde – sleeps 8

With an outdoor shower for rinsing off the salt and sand, this large family home is a short walk from Croyde’s pubs, surf hire shops and the beach, and only half a mile from Croyde Surf Academy.

Kenmaron at Croyde – sleeps 5

A great base for a family, this lodge has access to a family holiday park with an indoor pool – ideal if your kids have still got some energy to burn after surfing at the beach, which is 5 minutes’ walk away.

Croyde Shores – sleeps 2

Perfect for a romantic retreat to Croyde, this self-contained annexe is 10 minutes’ walk from the beach and only 5 minutes from the village centre – perfect for a post-surf pint!



Woolacombe is another firm favourite with families, due to its several miles of golden sands. At the southern end is Putsborough, a surf spot that’s very popular with locals due to the shelter that Baggy Point provides from the frequent south-westerly winds.

Here’s what else the locals recommend doing in Woolacombe.

Where to learn?

Woolacombe has a wide range of surf schools to suit all abilities. Woolacombe Surf Centre offers free photos with every lesson – great for bragging on Instagram. Local waterman Nick Thorn has been running surf lessons since 2000; he’s the only man to have paddled from Lundy to Croyde so you won’t be in a safer pair of hands in the water. And Hunter Surf School is one of the few local schools to take under-8s; great if you’ve got little ones in tow. 

Where to stay?

Hartland View – sleeps 4

Only 150 metres from Woolacombe Surf Centre, this apartment has plenty of space for the whole family to relax and lets you bring two pups along for the fun!

Breakers – sleeps 4

At this property, you can head out to the garden area to check out the day’s surf, before walking down the hill to the beach. There’s also a lockable garage which is perfect for storing surfboards and soggy wetsuits.

See The Sea – sleeps 6

Pretend you’re a pro surfer living in the lap of luxury at this stylish apartment, where you can literally see the sea. Only 1 mile from the beach, you can return for a post-surf chill in the hot tub as the sun goes down over the water.

Want to know where else to find the best waves in North Devon?

South Devon



Bantham is undoubtedly the home of surfing on Devon’s south coast, as it picks up any swell travelling up the English Channel – it’s also absolutely stunning. Due to its reputation, the South Hams beach can get absolutely packed in summer so keep your eyes peeled for rogue surfboards! The river mouth banks produce some bigger, faster waves that are suitable for advanced surfers.

Where to learn?

Based right on the beach, Batham Surfing Academy offers surf lessons for all abilities, as well as stand up paddleboarding around Burgh Island and the River Avon.

Where to stay?

East Delvers – sleeps 4

In the small village of Thurlestone, just 1.5 miles from Bantham beach, this 1930s home has lovely sea views and is a perfect size for a family holiday.

West Delvers – sleeps 4

With ample space for a small family, this home is in a peaceful and idyllic south coast location. Book this house alongside East Delvers next door, for a larger group holiday.

Warren House – sleeps 10

Bring the whole group on holiday in this impressive home on an exclusive estate. It’s only 1.5 miles from Bantham beach and has a huge patio with a BBQ for refuelling after a day in the sea.

Bigbury-on-Sea/Challaborough Bay

Challaborough Bay

The other side of Burgh Island from Bantham, Bigbury-on-Sea and its neighbouring beach, Challaborough Bay, both have fairly consistent waves but pick up less swell than their coastal cousin. The popular beach break is great for beginners but watch out for the waves that pick up at low tide – these are only suitable for the experts.

Want to know what else to do when you’re visiting the South Hams? Here’s our local’s guide.

Where to learn?

Open since 2002, Discovery Surf School operates at both Bigbury-on-Sea and Challaborough Bay, to ensure you get the best waves on the south coast.

Where to stay?

Rock Cottage – Salcombe – sleeps 2

A lovely bolthole for a couples’ break, this picturesque thatched cottage is only 1 mile from Challaborough and has a wood burner for warming up salty toes after a winter surf.

Feeling inspired to take to the water? It’s time to start planning your surf break to Devon! Here’s our full collection of coastal cottages in Devon, so you’ll never be too far from the beach. Or check out what other watersports to try while in Devon. Gnarly! 🤙


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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