Top spots for coasteering, kayaking and surfing

With dramatic sea cliffs, rock arches, sandy beaches, sea caves and hidden coves, this wonderful stretch of coast is ripe for exploring...

4 mins

Sophie Hurst is owner and operator at Preseli Venture, one of Pembrokeshire’s top outdoor adventure centres. Here she offers advice on some of her favourite watery activities.

Coasteering

Coasteering in the Brecon Beacons (Shutterstock)

Coasteering in the Brecon Beacons (Shutterstock)

Coasteering originated in Wales. Early climbing pioneers here took to traversing rocky sea cliffs some 20 years ago and from this a new sport was born. Originally the idea was not to fall off – now that’s part of the fun! These days coasteering is practised on a worldwide scale, but like Guinness – I think it’s best experienced in its birthplace!

Kitted up in a wetsuit, buoyancy aid and helmet you traverse the coastline at sea level, getting up close and personal with the flora and fauna and maybe even spotting a grey seal or two. Sessions usually last a couple of hours or so, in which time you’ll typically find yourself swimming through rock gullies and into sea caves, being swooshed around by waves, scrambling over low cliffs and, the piece de resistance, flinging yourself from vertical rock faces!

The best part of coasteering 

Immersing yourself in a true communion with Mother Nature – floating around in the briney, even the most hardened city slicker will start to embrace their inner hippie.

Who is it for? 

Almost anyone can go coasteering in Wales (Crown Copyright)

Almost anyone can go coasteering in Wales (Crown Copyright)

Almost anyone (accompanied by a licenced guide). You don’t need to be a super strong swimmer but it does help if you can at least doggy paddle. If you’re not a fan of heights not to worry – the cliff jumping part is optional and most routes offer a range of heights depending on how you’re feeling. Coasteering must be done under supervision – only licenced operators are permitted to run trips on the Welsh coastline to avoid damage to the environment. Don’t try to do it on your own!

Sea kayaking 

Sea kayaking in Wales (Crown Copyright)

Sea kayaking in Wales (Crown Copyright)

Of all of the ways to discover the magnificence of the Pembrokeshire coastline, sea kayaking has to be my favourite. The sea kayak is the ideal craft for exploring. It’s easy to manoeuvre and far less tiring than coasteering or surfing. You can spend hours bobbing away close to the shoreline exploring the hidden coves, beaches and sea cliffs that make up the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It’s probably the best way to get up close to the wildlife too, particularly seabirds and seals.

The best part of sea kayaking 

Gliding soundlessly beneath sea cliffs, enjoying the chance to see a plethora of sea birds including razorbills and guillemots at close hand.

Who is it for? 

You don't need experience in kayaking to enjoy the sport (Crown Copyright)

You don't need experience in kayaking to enjoy the sport (Crown Copyright)

To explore the coast by kayak you don’t need to have kayaked before, just make sure that you choose a session and a provider that will suit your level of experience and fitness. Kayaking opportunities can range from half day sessions on sit-on-top kayaks (great for beginners and children) through to multi-day expeditions of offshore islands (suitable for experienced kayakers only).

Surfing 

Wales in great for surfing (Crown Copyright)

Wales in great for surfing (Crown Copyright)

Stereotypical images of bleached blonde beach-bum ‘dudes’ aside, surfing is enjoyed by all sorts of folks along our coastline. There are the fitness fanatics (abs of steel, anyone?), those looking for the adrenalin rush of riding bigger and faster waves, those in pursuit of inner peace and harmony and lots of people who just love the challenge of staying upright on a board for at least a few minutes at a time. It might not be the warmest of waters, but some of the UK’s best surf spots can be found in Wales, and Pembrokeshire is home to some fast hollow wedges suitable for experienced surfers only, through to consistent beach breaks which are perfect for beginners too. There are plenty of surf schools too and you’d be surprised how quickly you can progress with the right tuition and some determination.

What is the best part of surfing?

Getting to your feet (or even your knees) when you catch your first wave. ‘Whooping’ is obligatory! 

Who is it for? 

Beginners can try surfing lessons in Wales (Crown Copyright)

Beginners can try surfing lessons in Wales (Crown Copyright)

You’ll need to be a swimmer for this one, and water confidence is pretty much a pre-requisite as you could well find yourself being rolled around underwater when you take a tumble. As a beginner it’s best to start with a lesson which will give you a good idea about the basics, as well as an introduction to the all-important surfing etiquette.

Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing in Wales (Shutterstock)

Kitesurfing in Wales (Shutterstock)

Kitesurfing is an exhilarating blend of surfing and kite flying. It’s relatively new to the UK, but is one of the fastest growing extreme watersports in the world. British kitesurfing champ Kirsty Jones is Pembrokeshire born and bred and holds the distance record for a kiteboard when she travelled 225km, crossing solo from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Tarifaya in Morocco.

Although you’ll probably not be undertaking such record-breaking feats, Pembrokeshire’s expansive, windswept beaches make it the perfect spot for first timers to try their hand, and for experienced kitesurfers to get the chance to ride some great waves on quiet beaches. Beginners start with a power-kiting lesson or two, to learn the basics of kite control on dry land. Easy it isn’t, exhilarating it sure is!

What's the best part of kitesurfing? 

Nothing beats the buzz of taking control of the kite and using the power of the wind to skim across the waves for the first time!

Who is it for? 

You need to be able to swim if you want to kitesurf (Shutterstock)

You need to be able to swim if you want to kitesurf (Shutterstock)

You need to be a confident swimmer and have plenty of stamina. It helps if you have windsurfing or wakeboarding experience.

How to stay safe during water activities 

Saty safe in the water in Wales (Crown Copyright)

Saty safe in the water in Wales (Crown Copyright)

All waterborne activities carry some degree of risk. Stay safe by following these simple steps:

  • Always use a fully licenced operator – all those featured on the Visit Wales website are.
  • Wear the right clothing – even on sunny days, the water is often cold so don’t skimp on the wetsuit.
  • Check tide times and swim and surf in designated areas on beaches where a lifeguard is on duty.
  • Don’t paddle, surf or swim alone. Always let someone else know you’re going.
  • Buy a waterproof pouch so you can take your mobile phone with you if you’re kayaking.
  • On sunny days it’s also easy to get sunburnt when you’re on the water so use a high factor sunscreen.

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