It’s a perfect three to four-foot and reeling down this bank forever. Mind-surfing the left, you can imagine floaters, powerful face-carves, a few barrels. The wind is offshore and the surf is groomed, corduroy. Anywhere else in the world and it would be busy out there. If the sandbank was anywhere in Australia it would be a lot more than busy. It would be packed to a dysfunctional state.
This bank however, is in Scotland, and it’s a little bit more complicated than paddling out in boardies or a bikini. On this day it’s about 9 degrees, and the offshore is light enough to not drop the temperature by too much. It’s a good day for surfing.
Cullen, Scotland (photo by Cornfield)
The biggest challenge to surfing in Scotland, along with various locales in Ireland, Wales, and on the UK coastline, is the cold. Huge swells from three different sides smash Scotland, and the wind howls from the Hebrides across to the East Coast. The water is often dark green, and there are big seals lurking around at some spots, yet the stoke in Scotland is most definitely up.
The most obvious way of overcoming the cold is to own the best wetsuits available. With current technology in that department, there are some really great, flexible wetsuit options out there. It is generally regarded that the thicker the suit, the less flexible it is, but that is not always the case. There are elastic based materials that bend and flex like normal three millimetre neoprene, even at up to six millimetres in thickness.
Local Holly Lizamore (Lizzy) in her C-Skins fave at Sandend Beach, Scotland
The fullsuit wetsuit is the basic that you need to overcome the cold. Sometimes these suits come with built-in hoods, and these are the win. Might not look the best, but when it comes to surfing in the cold, there’s no one judgment. Along with the wetsuit and the hood, the next most important element is booties. Do not scrimp on booties, and buy a good brand, at least five millimeters in thickness.
We might call it a hoodie, and booties, but we don't call the glovies. Get yourself a good pair of gloves so that you can actually feel your board’s rails when you take off.
Remember that it’s not always that cold. In Summer the water is pretty warm considering how far north you are. A three millimeter fullsuit will do for sunny sessions. The only downside is that swell is rare in summer. When it comes through however, you can surf till about 11pm, which is kind of cool, especially on a school night.
Aberdeen Beach, Scotland (photo by Heidi Lizamore)
In a place like Scotland it also helps to surf with a buddy. Someone who can get you amped, and someone who can help you wriggle into a wet wetsuit if you need to. Having a surf buddy who is as stoked as you are on surfing is always going to get you motivated on those 50/50 calls, those days when it’s so much easier to go home and keep warm.
Before you know it, there will be a Wavegarden in Edinburgh, possibly with heated water (true story) https://www.wavegarden.scot/ but either way it will be open all through the summer months, with long days and plenty of sunshine. That will make it easier for the locals to get their surf time in, and to practice their turns.
The thing is, if you’re stoked you’re stoked, and will find a way to overcome the challenges of the cold, or of the short days in winter. If it does get too much however, there are some special deals to Bali at the moment.