Kitesurfing in the UK
The UK might not be as warm as other parts of the world, but we have some spectacular beaches and a thriving kitesurfing scene. Some of the world’s best kitesurfers hail from the UK: Aaron Hadlow from Cornwall, five times winner of the (PKRA) World Championships, Lewis Cranthern from Worthing, winner of many big air comps and the man who jumped Brighton Pier on his kite board! And who could forget Hannah Whitely, from Manchester, winner of the big air/ board off comp at the PRKA World Tour back in 2012.
You don’t need to be a world champion to enjoy kitesurfing in the UK, but you do need to be determined, time-flexible and a bit hardy. You won’t be doing much kitesurfing in boardies or bikinis!
The UK has what is described as a temperate oceanic climate. This basically means it’s neither really hot or really cold, and relatively speaking doesn’t experience a large variation in seasonal temperatures.
The UK’s weather is strongly influenced by its latitude (further North is cooler, further south is warmer) and the Atlantic Ocean. Weather systems coming off the Atlantic Ocean to the west provide the western parts of the country with a milder, wetter climate. Eastern areas tend to be drier, cooler and with more seasonal variation.
The prevailing wind direction for the UK is south westerly, but we do see winds from all directions. The windiest places tend to be west facing, and exposed headlands. The windiest area of the UK is the Hebrides. On the mainland it’s the highlands and the west coast of Scotland.
Planning a kitesurfing trip
Kitesurfing in the UK can be a hit and miss experience. Anyone kitesurfing in the UK will at some point (some more than others) experience the disappointment of arriving at the beach to find the conditions less than favourable unusable.
With a bit of forward planning, and careful selection of which spots to visit you can improve your chances of an enjoyable session.
All of our guides feature a wind direction indicator and describe which direction works best. Unless you have a rescue boat available we’d recommend only kiting in on-shore or cross-shore winds. If the wind is going to be on-shore, try to select either a very large beach, or one with fewer kitesurfers (especially if the wind is light) or you’ll be fighting for space along the shoreline.
Another thing to watch for is the quality of the wind. Few people enjoy really gusty conditions. We’ve tried to describe which wind directions will be gusty in our guides, but you can also apply your own logic by looking at the satellite image. If the beach you plan to visit is downwind of a town or a substantial land mass, on the wind direction for that day, it’s likely to be gusty. The closer you are to the object that the wind has to pass over, the more turbulent / gusty it will be. If this is the case, try looking for another local beach which isn’t shadowed by a town or land mass.
We’ve done our best to list potential hazards for our beach guides, but you can’t beat local knowledge. Be sociable! If you’re visiting a spot for the first time and you see someone setting up/packing down, have a chat with them. We’ve always found other kitesurfers to be really helpful. Ask about hazards, the best place to launch and land, and anything else they might want to tell you. The same applies if someone asks you for advice, be helpful. We all want to enjoy the sport as safely as we can.
Be honest with yourself. If the spot you plan to visit has dangerous downwind obstacles, strong currents, massive waves or something else that could prove to be a problem at your level of ability, give it a miss (or make sure your mates keep a very close eye on you). Despite the potential for catastrophe, when you’re just getting started the last thing you need is a massive knock to your confidence from getting into unnecessary hot water (we speak from bitter experience).
Don’t forget your board, kite/s (best to take every size you have, you never know what you’re going to get for sure), bar & lines, harness wetsuit/drysuit, gloves, boots, towel etc. Find a mental routine for remembering all the kit, that works for you (again we speak from bitter experience, having forgotten essential kit in a rush to get to the beach).
Keep some change in your car in case of parking fees, take some food for energy and a tasty beverage. If it’s a dirty beach, we’ve been told that a can of coke is good for killing off any nasties you might swallow.
Enjoy yourself and tell us about your experience in the comments section of the relevant beach guides on this site. We’d love to hear about your session/s.