With the warmer weather on its way (hopefully!), no doubt you’ll want to take advantage of the beautiful North Devon coastline, much of which falls within the UK’s Surf Reserve. While having fun on the waves is the most important thing during your visit, we also want you to be safe, so before you head out, take note of these top tips for staying safe while surfing in North Devon.

Start off at a beach suitable for your experience level

There are beaches suitable for all abilities in North Devon, but it is important not to get too ahead of yourself. Some of the region’s beaches have stronger currents than others, so for those of you who are just starting out or want to improve your skills, start off somewhere like Woolacombe or Westward Ho!, which both have gentler waves and can be surfed at all times of day.

In the summer months, these beaches will also have life guards and established surf schools nearby, providing even more support.

Make sure the conditions suit your level

It isn’t just a matter of finding a beach that suits your surfing level, you need to be able to read the other conditions too. If you’re unsure about the conditions, give it a miss. Waves and weather conditions can be unpredictable and if you’re not prepared you can struggle to get back to the beach or find yourself too close to rocks. It’s always good to do a bit of research before you head out, just in case.

Be aware of your surroundings

Before you head out into the water, make sure you are aware of your surroundings so you can have a reference point when you start surfing. This will help if you drift away a little and give you a focal point to head back towards.

Also make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife, especially in the summer when Devon’s waters become home to seals and dolphins or if you’re surfing near Lundy Island, which is a marine conservation area and has several marine and bird species using the waters.

You should also be aware of other water users, no one wants to have their flow interrupted by someone being obnoxious.

Know how to identify, avoid and escape a rip

Rips are the currents that flow out to sea away from the shore. You can identify them by looking out for dark spots in water or gaps between the waves, but depending on your level of experience, they can be hard to spot and even harder to regain control from. If you get stuck in one, try not to paddle against it as this will tire you out and mean you’ll likely float further away than you need to.

Just be aware of them and try not to panic, instead, paddle parallel to the shore until you reach calmer water and then you can return to having fun.

Be aware of what is beneath the waves

Much like we said before, it’s always good to research where you’re planning to go surfing. You should be aware of whether there are rocks under the surface or sand or any other kind of surface. This will help you be more prepared should you fall off your board or when heading back to shore.

Speaking of falling…

Make sure to fall safely

Look, no matter how good you are, you will fall off your board at some point and its important to make sure you know how to fall safely to minimise injury. Always protect your head first – if the water is shallow, you’ll need to be even more cautious than if you fall into deeper water. Often, it is safer to try and fall onto your stomach, as this will help reduce the force and stop you from going under too quickly.

Don’t surf alone

Perhaps the most important thing is to never head out without letting someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Even the best of us get overwhelmed in the water sometimes and it is always important that someone on sure knows where you are should they need to look for you or alert the coast guard. It is always best to surf with a friend, so you can help each other, but if you are going alone, make sure someone is aware of where you are going and how long you are planning to be.

Use sun screen

Even if the sun isn’t shining and you think your wet suit is enough protection, water will always radiate rays from the sun, so make sure to use sun screen and to top it up regularly.

Check your equipment before heading out

Before getting out on the waves, make sure that the rope that attaches to your feet is firmly attached to the board and isn’t frayed or damaged.

Don’t let go!

While you might think letting go of your board is the best way to get out of a sticky situation, keep hold of it – a board floating off can easily injure someone else using the water or drag you with it if you forget that you’re attached. Another thing to remember – don’t put your board between you and an incoming wave – no one wants a surf board to the face.

With those things in mind, enjoy your surfing trip to North Devon and have fun out on those waves!