Isle of Wight featured in the 1972 book ‘Surfing In Great Britain’ by Carl Thomson
Obviously prices, telephone numbers and much of the information given below is now not relevant and only for historical interest. For example please do not expect to get a ferry for £1.50.
Extract on the Isle of Wight below:
Isle of Wight, Hants
Ordnance Survey Map 180 (1 inch to mile)
Bartholomew Map No. 5 (1/2 inch to mile)
The Isle of Wight situated off the Hampshire Coast, and part of that county, is easily accessible throughout the year by boat and hovercraft. The car ferries from Lymington, dock and Yarmouth (IoW); from Southampton, dock at Cowes; from Portsmouth, dock at Fishbourne.
Portsmouth – Fishbourne (telephone: Portsmouth 22571): if you wish to cross on Saturday – between June and September – you have to make an advance booking; otherwise just turn up at the quay. The advance booking forms are available from some British Rail Stations, or write to British Rail Central reservations, Isle of Wight Car Ferries, 102 Broad Street, Portsmouth.
For Southampton – Cowes (telephone 22042): just appear at Red Funnel Steamers Ltd., 12 Bugle Street, Southampton.
For Lymington – Yarmouth (IoW) (telephone: Lymington 3301): for the summer, see Portsmouth above; otherwise appear at B.R. Car Ferry Booking office, Lymington Pier.
Prices: the return for a car is between £2 and £5 but cheaper rates apply off-season, and during the week. Day returns are cheaper, working out between £1.50 and £3.75 depending on the size of the vehicle.
The Island is a very popular tourist resort during the summer, so the beaches become crowded at that time; but this shouldn’t affect surfers too much as the best conditions appear after the summer. months. The main surfing coast is on the south-west; the one catching the Atlantic swells as they come up the English channel through the year.
At the moment there are no surf shops or board manufacturers on the Island but D.V. Thomson makes Surf leashes, which he sells by mail order. Write to Cosmic Surf Products, 16 Crown Court, Isle of Wight.
Cosmic Surf Products
16 Crown Court
D.V. Thompson manufactures surf leashes based on American types, 3 3/4″ diameter discs are supplied free for sticking to the surfboard. There are several models available from the Fistral (70p) – made from low stretch, plain rubber tubing – to the La Barre (£2.90) – made from the high stretch surgical tubing, polyester cord stretch limiters and spring clips. All models are suitable for attachment to wrist or ankle and the prices quoted include post and packaging.
Derek ‘Cosmic Leashes’ Thompson along with Geoff ‘Ned’ Gardner, Tad Ciastula, Dougie Clark and Bob Booth started their working lives as Apprentice Engineers at British Hovercraft Corporation.
You can read more about these early times together by clicking here for an article on the training centre
I shall describe the beaches from the west point going down the coast in a south-easterly direction.
For the information about the Isle of Wight, I would like to thank Roger Cooper, Bob Groves and Bez Newton, who all came flying to the rescue when things looked grim.
Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight
Yarmouth (IoW) 2 1/2 miles, Cowes 16 miles, Fishbourne 16 miles, Newport (IoW) 11 miles, Ventnor 19 miles from Fishbourne, the A3054 to Newport, then the B3323 to Carisbrooke, fork right on to the B3401, then on to B3399 at Chessel. From Cowes, the A3020, then right on to the A3054 via Yarmouth.
It is worth taking a small detour of only a couple of miles to see The Needles – a series of rocks, like a row of teeth stretching out in a line westwards. Near the car park is Alum Bay with its multi-coloured cliffs – indescribably attractive.
The car park is by the beach.
Cafes and Accommodation
Those by the beach are open only during the summer months. B & B places usually open around about Easter time and then close again at the beginning of October. There are a few places that stay open all through the year. Try Totland, Yarmouth and Newport if in difficulties finding a place. Prices for a single room are around £1.25. There is a very good pub, right by the beach.
On this western side of the Island there are many camping and caravan sites.
Accommodation Bureau: Newport (IoW) 4343. EC Thursday.
Beach and surf
For tides see local newspapers.
This horse-shoe bay faces south. There is a right point off the rocks, giving very fast hollow waves on a south-west swell. The reef break on the east side of the bay is not such an easy ride, and is generally left alone. Paddle out from the middle of the bay. There is a very strong rip, running out by the Stag and Arch Rocks – so keep well clear. Waves from 3 feet up to about 8 feet are fairly common here.
There are no lifeguards or restrictions, at the moment.
There are two surf clubs on the Island, but there seems to be some difficulty in contacting the organisers.
The Elite Clique Surf Club – no present address available.
The Isle of Wight Surf Club. This club owns a small hut at Compton Beach, so this would probably be the best place to make contact with the members. Annual membership subscription is £1 which also includes 3rd party insurance.
Compton Beach, Isle of Wight
To the East adjoining Freshwater Bay.
Adjoining the beach.
Cafes and Accommodation
There are many of them during the summer months, but it is sandwiches and thermos flasks when visiting at other times of the year.
For B & B see freshwater Bay. The nearest village is 1 mile away and the nearest town, 2 1/2 miles.
There are many holiday camps, caravan and camping sites near the bay.
Accommodation Bureau: Newport (IoW) 4343. EC Freshwater, Thursday
Beach and surf
See local newspapers for tides.
This long concave bay faces south-west, with 1 1/2 miles of beautiful sands. The sand-bar breaks are contnually changing position, as the sea shifts the sand frequently. The breaks work all the through the year, but are best during the spring and autumn months, from about 2 hours before high tide, till just after high water. The waves are between 3 feet to 8 feet.
The beach is considered safe for novices.
There are no lifeguards or surfing restrictions in practice.
See Freshwater bay above.
The Isle of Wight Surf Club have a small hut at the beach.
Niton, Isle of Wight
Situated at the most southerly point of the Island, St. Catherine’s Point, about 10 miles due south from Newport.
The beach is due south from Niton. There is an A class road from Niton to the beach, then you turn off onto a steep, rough lane going down the hill marked ‘Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles’.
The car park is at the end of the steep, rough lane, near the beach, then it is an easy walk.
Cafes and Accommodation
This is a sandwiches and thermos-flask beach. The nearest village is Niton about a mile and a half away, and the nearest town is Ventnor, about 6 miles along the coast to the east. The B & B places are at Ventnor and are quite expensive – around £1.75 for a single room at the majority of places. Most of them have a season from March till October.
There is a caravan site, virtually on the beach, that is open during the summer months.
Accommodation Bureau: Ventnor 703, Newport (IoW) 4343. EC Ventnor, Wednesday: Newport, Thursday.
Beach and surf
For the tides see the local newspapers.
The beach faces south, and has a very rocky shoreline. The summer months are the only time of year that this beach doesn’t work as it needs westerly or south-westerly winds to put up the surf. The waves don’t work below 3 feet, but are excellent up to about 8 feet.
The sand-bar breaks, and right slide off the rocks work best at high tide and for a short time either side of high tide.
There are some hollow waves here, to attract the surfer, but it is an extremely hairy beach. The paddle-out can be very difficult at times, and also dangerous, on account of the many rocks and dangerous rips. It is necessary to kick-out on all the rides as you are surfing up to the rocks. Loose your board here and it can be a write off – and you have to get yourself back to shore. This is definitely not a beach to surf unless you are very experienced.
There are no lifeguards of restrictions.
See Freshwater Bay above
About 6 miles east from Niton.
There are several car parks in town.
Cafes and accommodation
Mainly a summer holiday town, but there are cafes open all year.
B & B is quite expensive, working out about £1.75 per night for a single room, with the majority of places opening in March and closing again in October.
Accommodation Bureau: Ventnor, 703; Newport (IoW) 4343. EC Ventnor, Wednesday; Newport, Thursday.
Beach and surf
see local Newspapers for the tides. See niton for conditions required for surf.
The beach faces approximately south. This beach will also work after there have been gale force winds blowing from the east. At low tide the beach is considered to be too dangerous to surf, because of the rocks etc., but fast, well formed waves can be expected from the break over the rocks at half tide.
When a heavy swell is running, the best rides are at high tide – but this is the exception rather than the rule. There are also reputed to be rides off the pier, and off the breakwater, about a mile further east, at Dunnose. None of these rides can really be called safe for novices.
There are no restrictions nor lifeguards. During the summer months, this beach is very crowded.
See Freshwater Bay above.