Surfing Scotland by Samuel Howard
Surfing is the sport I picked up latest in life. It was never a sport I considered doing in Scotland. Until quite recently it wasn't commonly talked about here and most people would think you were a dafty for getting in the North Sea in search of waves.
At university I met a great group of lads that introduced me to the alien idea of surfing in Scotland. I picked up the basics quite quickly and was immediately hooked. I learnt mostly in the summer when the water is "warm" (only 5mm suit needed). I went on to travel to some amazing places around the world with surfing and found my love for photography on this journey.
Photographing the ocean and surfing allowed my creativity to rise to the surface. I like to daydream, visualising shots in my head and then capture and create them with my camera. Surfing and photography are a great escape from my ordinary life. Being out in the ocean or capturing shots from the land helps me forget about any stress or worries I may have. It’s a meditation that quietens my mind and allows me to immerse in the present moment.
Upon returning home after surfing the coast of South Africa from Cape Town to Mozambique, I scored a session of better waves in Scotland than I had anywhere else on my travels. The waves were sick when I was away, but it did remind me of how good Scotland can be when everything aligns. Although insanely cold compared to Mozambique, this sparked my bug for cold water surfing.
All this aside, Scotland is pretty inconsistent. You need to know where to go and when. This also makes Scottish surfers quite secretive about their spots. You have to respect that part of the Scottish surf community. You gradually learn the ins and outs as you meet people in the water and get chatting. Scotland has an angular coast with hidden bays, points and reefs. An hour up the road it can be firing but where you are it can be flat. This creates a bit of adventure around surfing this small rugged country, and also a massive high when you score some empty waves with your pals.
The best waves in Scotland come around the winter months when the temperatures can vary between 10 to -10 degrees Celsius and colder. The days are also short at this time of the year and the winds strong. In the coldest months you can be kitted in a 6/5/4 hooded suit with ≥5mm gloves and ≥6mm boots, depending on how warm you intend on keeping your plums. All to find the right spot at the right tide to grab one surf in the daylight.
Wetsuit technology today is so good meaning being in the water isn't too cold. I'm usually fine even when shooting in the water for a good while. Getting in and out is the trouble. You develop methods of changing efficiently very quickly!
Surfing and photography have helped me visit some of the most beautiful and remote places in Scotland. Surf photography pulls me away from the tourist areas to wild coast and wrenching slabs, that right now, I would shoot but leave up to the others to surf.
The north coast of Scotland has some world class breaks. The rolling hills and cliffs dropping into the sea combined with the spells of low golden sunlight scattered between the storms open up an avenue for dramatic surf photography. There is definitely surf photography talent growing in Scotland giving some gifted Scottish surfer's
the platform they deserve. I'm looking forward to hopefully catching the last of the winter swells up on the north coast shooting some slabs and bigger waves. The colours in the ocean are beautiful on this coast as peat whisky coloured rivers marble with the icy blue water of the North Sea. I can't wait to get back out there.