Surfing on Scottish Waves – A Same But Different Aloha
Scotland’s coasts are regarded as some of the best surf spots worldwide. Never did I imagine and little did I know about surfing in Scotland when I first arrived in Stirling. With the launch of The O’Neill Highland Open Surfing Competition by Swatch in 2007, the Scottish city Thurso made a name for itself in the surf world and transformed Scotland into a major destination for surf lovers.
With such ideal surfing conditions at hand, it would be a shame if the University of Stirling did not have its own surf club. However, no need to freak out – they actually do have one. Being a surf lover myself, I felt obligated to talk to Siobhan Barr, the president of the Stirling University Surf Club, and gained some interesting insights on the club while doing so.
About the Club
Hi Siobhan. Thanks for taking your time! Let’s start right away: What goals does the University Stirling Surf Club wish to achieve?
We’re trying to inspire new members or people who already surfed before to join. For example, we had a member called Leo who is a former lifeguard and used to surf all summer long in the Jersey Island. Therefore, it was a no brainer when he joined us. His passion for surfing hasn’t left him since.
Who is eligible to join?
There are no requirements. We have an open house type policy and welcome all of our newcomers warmly. To beginners we teach the basics on the beach. If there is a high demand for debutants then we arrange some professional lessons.
How much does a membership cost?
It only costs 20 Pounds for the sports union club. There is no need to buy the gym membership because we don’t have training sessions. Our surf membership includes free use of all our surf equipment.
Surf Spots Nearby
The Loch of the University of Stirling is fairly calm – no big waves, no strong currents and no scary sharks! So where exactly does the club usually go surfing?
The closest place to us is Belhaven Bay in Dunbar. It’s about 1 hour and 15 minutes away. There is another place called Coldingham Bay, which is further away. This beach is very convenient, because the surf shop is right next to the beach and you can just get whatever extra equipment you need from there.
Which beach is your favourite?
I really like Coldingham! It’s a little cove and usually it isn’t too busy. So, for the most part, you have the waves to yourself whereas Dunbar has been, at least the last time we were there, very crowded. But it was also a beautiful sunny day, so I guess everyone wanted to catch some vitamin D.
Of course, whenever the sun is up in Scotland everyone makes good use of the beach then! What does a typical surf day look like?
We leave early in the morning. As soon as we arrive at the beach, we get changed in the car park, then jump into the water and stay there for around 2 hours. Afterwards, we refuel on hot drinks and food and around 16:00 we head home. So, it basically takes up a whole day.
Surfing Through the Cold
Surfing during wintertime must be freezing cold. What does the club do during the winter season?
We still go! The only times that nothing happens might be during December to January, because then we have exams and holidays.
But the water…
… it’s cold, but if you have a sunny day – which we luckily always do on our trips – it’s fine, you just grin and bear it. We also supply surfing hoods and boots if it’s too cold. We even have access to gloves as well if needed. Then it’s alright and not too cold as long as you keep moving. And it’s just so much fun that you forget about the temperature!
I’ve read that the club organizes surf trips and events. Tell me more about that.
We’re trying to organize a trip for next summer to Moilet, France again. It’s so nice there! We also do pub quiz nights and we had an under the sea themed night, where we all dressed up. For example, Holly – our club treasurer – was dressed as a hammerhead shark and I was a jellyfish, so it was tons of fun!
Does the club participate in competitions?
We’re not a strict competitive club, we’re more of a social and fun club. Last year we went to BUCS surf championship, but it was more of a social surf trip. If you enter a competition, the University will pay for your accommodation and transport, so basically you get a free weekend and obviously that’s great! We wanted to participate again this year but we didn’t have enough people. However, there’s the Scottish Universities Surfing Championships coming up in 2018 which we’ll be organizing.
Any special projects planned for the club?
Holly volunteers at a charity called The Wave Project. This charity is located in Dunbar and it helps children build their confidence through surfing. In fact, she won the award for best volunteer of the year in the whole UK! Now we’re trying to get more people involved. You don’t need to be good at surfing; you just need to want to help the children.
One last question to finish: What do members appreciate the most about the club?
Everyone knows everyone, so it’s like a little family.
Interested in joining the club? Then sign up here. To share your own Surf Moment, use the hashtag #STIRsurf. The best picture wins a membership!