• Crap Surfing in East Sussex

  • Being a crap surfer I thought that other fellow wannabees would appreciate some no nonsense opinion about where to surf in the area between Eastbourne and Seaford in East Sussex.

    Please bear in mind that I am, and always will be, truly crap at surfing and whilst I may know my mind I know absolutely nothing about surfing and therefore you would do well to ignore this article.

    Look at any surfing guide to the UK and you will see that this stretch of coastline is just about the worst place to be if you want to surf. Eastbourne is so far up the Channel that it is very rare for any sizeable clean groundswell to reach us from weather systems pumping way out west. Conversely it is too far west to see any action from waves generated by storms doing their thing out in the North Sea. What we do get are massive, messy windswell monsters when it is blowing a south westerly gale right on our doorstep. I have been told that surfing these lumps is an acquired taste, sometimes preferable to the glassy lines that you might experience in the West Country. However, I think that that is a load of rubbish and I would be quite prepared make the 12 hour round trip to North Devon to avoid being pummelled round here.

    From East to West:-

    Eastbourne Pier

    If you are crap and you don't know it yet you may want to have a go right in the middle of the prom next to the pier. Here you will be gawped at by the multitude of pensioners who come to admire the ‘Carpet Garden' floral display. Because it will be cold, windy are likely raining they will offer such great advice as “rather you than me” and “shouldn't you put a cardy on under that”. This beachbreak works around low tide once the water has ebbed from the steep shingle to expose some sand. It can work here when the occasional strong south easterly crafts a few windblown tiddlers. Watch out the groynes.

    Wish Tower

    There's a tea room (one of many as you can imagine) on the prom called the Wish Tower which juts out slightly into murky depths of he channel and apparently there is a break off here. I've never surfed it but when it is working you get a few of the local crew parked up by Life Boat Museum there.King Edwards Parade

    Where the road starts to rise as you head west along the prom into King Edward's Parade you need to pull in just opposite Jevington Gardens. A path snakes down to the beach to a more secluded spot normally only reached by the rollerbladers and the Dotto Train. When there is a big south westerly storm blowing and Birling Gap is blown out you can get some really decent waves here because of the shelter provided by Beachy Head. It works around mid tide when water is deep enough to cover the outer reef and shallow enough wall up on the rocks below. If conditions are right it's fun to watch the expression on people's faces as surfers appear running from all directions down to the shore.

    Birling Gap

    The spiritual home of surfing in the area. This south-westerly facing beach picks up all the meagre groundswell that this coast has to offer. Situated where Beachy Head meets the Severn Sisters this has to be one of the most picturesque spots along the channel shoreline. The waves break over a chalk reef and it's surfable on all stages of the tide except for the hours around high tide when there can be a heavy shorebreak. For crap surfers like myself the local crew can put the ‘snake eyes' your way and it is best to stay clear of the main line up. The rich pickings are to be had just east of the steps but there are sloppy seconds if you ply your trade in front of the steps over the sand or even slightly further west. It can be a bit embarrassing when the coach loads of German students turn up and if you are there during some fleeting summer swell you might also encounter the odd naturist ‘hanging loose' who would do well to keep it covered up.

    Cuckmere Haven

    I hope that I am not giving away some fabled secret spot but I have once encountered a fairly decent surfer having a very mellow session just west of the mouth of the river in front of the Coastguard Cottages. I enviously admired his graceful hot-dogging and then felt a lot better as I realised that he then had to tackle the mile walk back to the car park at the top of Seaford Head. One for the truly dedicated methinks.

    Tide Mills

    The place to go if you are really crap. Situated between Seaford and Newhaven there is a good expanse of groyneless shoreline that is mainly sand around the hours of low tide. If you have cut your teeth on the golden sands of Cornwall, Devon or South Wales then his will be the nearest thing to that experience. As you drive along the A259 past Bishopstone look towards the sea and if you see a load of white builders vans you know that it is on (they tend to be the only slackers that can put off Mrs Jones kitchen refit so that they can skive off to go surfing). The first hazard is to negotiate the dogs mess in the car park – boots recommended. The next is to scurry across the railway line and squeeze through the kissing gates before you get mown down by the Brighton train. It will invariably be blowing a gale so carrying anything bigger than a thruster will be a real mission (why is it that I am the only one who seems to have trouble carrying my board without being blown all over the place?). Don't be tempted to enter the water where the path meets the sea. It's always best to wander further west towards Newhaven to gain a bit more shelter from the harbour arm. Don't go too close to the pier though because you could get caught in a rip or end up being dragged underneath it like my crappier surfing buddy. There is loads of room to avoid getting in the way of any proper surfers and the dog walkers don't bother calling the coastguard anymore when the see any idiots being tossed around in the bay.

    That is about the breath of my local knowledge. Surf safely and never alone. Stay crap, you'll make me look better!

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