Bringing uncovered sport into the light

Phoebe Strachan: Becoming a successful surfer in Scotland

Ailsa Harvey

Phoebe Strachan moved from Edinburgh to Thurso with a dream to one day hold the title of ‘Scottish Women’s Surfing Champion’. In April of this year the 22-year-old did exactly that.

After striving for this result for five years and securing the position of runner-up in the previous year, Phoebe’s victory at the Scottish National Surfing Championships definitely qualifies as her proudest moment to date.

“It felt absolutely awesome if a little surreal.” she says. “I had wanted it for so long so I think to finally win it I felt like I had achieved my goal. When I was standing on the podium I was actually just worrying that they would make me do a speech and I really couldn’t think of what I’d say.”

Since she was young, Phoebe has always enjoyed being in the water, so it came as no great surprise when she joined an after-school surf club and fell in love with the sport. Beginning surfing at the age of fifteen, it originally took a back-seat to her dancing which she began at just two years old. She started Scottish Highland Dancing competitively and although the two sports require some of the same skills, such as balance, Phoebe grew to realise that progressing in surfing differed massively to what she was used to.

“If you want to get good at dancing you just practise more and more and you get better every time. But with surfing there are so many changing variables. No surf is ever the same so it’s harder to practise one thing and improve at the rate you would with dancing. I love both sports equally and hope to do them both for as long as I can.”

“You have to be hardy and super keen”

Credit: Malcolm Anderson

On average, Phoebe trains at least five days a week in the winter season; however, the unpredictability of the Scottish sea means that wave forecasts can often dictate her training and cause her schedule to differ immensely each week.

“Obviously a disadvantage is that our best waves are in the winter when it is grim and dark. We often only have six hours of daylight so if you work full time you can say goodbye to surfing during the week. It would also be nice to have good waves in the summer, but I guess you have to get some work done too, so it’s a blessing in disguise.”

At the coldest times of the year many are put off surfing by the harsh Scottish weather, but this has never held Phoebe back. She comments, “I like surfing in Scotland. You have to be hardy and super keen and it definitely ain’t for the faint hearted.”

Phoebe continues to find the positives that come with Scottish surfing, “Unfortunately the water is always so cold that you have to wear 6mm of rubber all year round. This is an advantage as you tend not to lose as much skin as you would in Indo”.

While Phoebe says she would love to live in a warmer climate, she also speaks of the benefits the cold creates by attracting fewer surfers, “With the warm [weather] comes the crowds. I hate crowds.”

Media coverage of surfing in Britain is relatively limited in comparison to areas with more ideal surf conditions such as Australia, Portugal or the United States. This appears to have both positive and negative implications on Phoebe’s surfing lifestyle as she comments, “It does mean that there isn’t much funding for the sport. It’s particularly difficult when it comes to going away for international competitions. No big brands are keen to sponsor so we have to do the fundraising ourselves.”

Keeping upbeat, she adds, “I like that it’s quite low key as it would be a lot busier in the good places and a lot more secret spots would be exploited.”

What inspires Phoebe to improve?


In the water, Phoebe continuously works to perfect her skills and manoeuvres. “I don’t have a coach as such. I mostly learn from just surfing with the other guys and gals in the water.” She continues, “They push me and give me the tips I need.”

As well as looking towards the surfers close to her, Phoebe is inspired by her favourite professional surfer Sally Fitzgibbons. “I really like her style of surfing and how she likes to keep herself fit and healthy through lots of different activities. She seems to have a good vibe about her and keeps positive even when she doesn’t get the results she hopes for. She is a good role model for the upcoming girl surfers.”


“Scottish surfers need to strive to be part of the British team”


The announcement of Surfing’s debut in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo was cause for celebration for many surfers, however Phoebe sheds light on how the news could produce disadvantages for Scottish athletes like herself.

As Scotland competes as part of the British team during the Olympics, athletes are now required to remain in this same team for other competitions such as the World Surfing Games, resulting in a decrease in the number of Scottish surfers taking part. This is to aid countries using the event for their Olympic selection process.

“I think [surfing in the Olympics] is a cool thing and great for Britain. But it means that Scotland can no longer compete as a nation on the world stage anymore. It’s a shame as it was such a fantastic opportunity to represent our small country at the World Championships alongside other great surfing nations.”

Phoebe is still confident that surfing in Scotland will continue to strengthen independently, “It just means that Scottish surfers need to strive to be part of the British team, which could definitely happen in the next few years”.

What is next for Phoebe Strachan?

With the winter season beginning this month, Phoebe has new competitions to look forward to and new goals to achieve. Her first competition of the season is the UK Pro Surf Tour, taking place in her hometown of Thurso beginning on the 17th of October.

Following this, she is looking forward to the Celtic Cup; a competition which will see Scotland facing Ireland. This event will also be held in Thurso on the 10th – 11th of November.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the Irish surfers again and hopefully it will be a good laugh.”

Keen to spread her passion onto others, Phoebe’s advice to those considering taking up the sport is quite simply to “Go for it!”

“It’s not easy; you have to be determined and be prepared to get in [the sea] even when the weather is atrocious. But the fun you’ll have and the people you meet are worth it.”

“I hope that I can continue to hold the Scottish title and compete at the international competitions. But most of all enjoy surfing for as long as possible.”

Credit: Malcolm Anderson


  1. Loving PACE news! I hope Phoebe makes it on to Olympic team GB to represent all our home nations – I’m a Scot who surfs in Wales and Cornwall. We are all one great team!

  2. I agree Phoebe and Mel! We need to get more Scots in the British teams!!

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