Run by local surfers wanting to support the surfing community in the UK, Surfing England is the recognized NGB for English surfing. As the national governing body, it has brought a level of service and support to the activity whether it is a serious sporting pursuit or a weekend leisure interest. Proudly serving surfers, coaches, clubs and surf schools they have taken responsibility for the entire lot.
We caught up with operations manager Hannah Brand regarding Surfing England, to discuss the operations of this organisation and its goals for the future. And, how they are looking after their members during this trying time when everyone wants to hit the water for the spring tide.
It was always the intention of Surfing England to be surfing’s leading NGB, in June 2017 after a journey of almost a decade they were recognized by Sport England as just that. This followed the merging of Surfing GB with the English Surfing Federation at the end of 2016.
Hannah explains that the body represents the entirety of the sport. Covering the disciplines of short board, long board, body board, body surf, knee board and stand up paddle board. Accredited by Sport England, England’s sports council, as well as the International Surfing Association and the European Surfing Federation their primary purpose is to support and develop the sport, its participants and its athletes.
Operating as a membership organisation they offer services to surfers, affiliations to surf clubs, and accreditations to surf coaches and surf schools. At the elite level they operate the annual English Surfing Championships and take care of entering national teams to International events.
“At grass roots level we also support surf clubs and help break down barriers to surfing,” Hannah says, “Educating on safety and etiquette and working to protect the environment and much more.”
HEALTHY SURFING COMMUNITY
According to Hannah, their organisation came into fruition to serve the English surfing scene, with ambitions to ensure that they maintain a ‘healthy surfing community’ at all times which is inclusive and offers equal opportunities.
“Since we have developed, we have a growing membership database, as well as a thriving hub of Accredited Surf Schools, Coaches and Affiliated Surf Clubs,” she says, “We proudly have team’s representing England on the world stage, in shortboard, longboard, SUP and Adaptive surfing!”
As a national governing body, Surfing England is looking after surfing all up and down the English coast. From the depths of Cornwall’s brightest bohemians right up to the hardy cold-water surfers in the North-East. They also have a network running along the South Coast, hopping over the Isle of Wight and into London.
The iconic sport of free-thinkers and free-spirits surfing has an attraction that is difficult to put into words if you’re not a surfer. However, it is important for instruction and health and safety, that certain things are managed and looked after. For example, Surfing England has been able to directly improve the quality of surfing by ensuring that their accredited surf schools are operating to governing body standards. This includes abiding to recommended coach-participant ratio and having quality equipment for the safe delivery of surf lessons.
“We strongly support the club scene in England,” she says, “And we are seeing more local competitions than ever before. All of which are run by incredible volunteers.”
One of these is The Wave in Bristol which opened last year. Hannah says, “This venue will be a gamechanger for the sport as it offers our highest level surfers consistent waves for training and nailing certain manoeuvres. It is such an exciting time for the sport in England!”
The Wave is the brainchild of Founder, Nick Hounsfield, whose vision is at the heart of this £25 million project, which was nine years in the making. The Wave fully opened its doors and shores to the public on 4 November 2019.
Using the Wavegarden Cove technology, The Wave provides up to a thousand waves of varying sizes and shapes every hour (roughly a new wave every ten seconds), with heights from 50cm to 180 cm.
The 180m surfing lake is at its heart, but The Wave is not just about surfing. It’s about sharing incredible experiences with anyone who wants to enjoy them, in a naturally healthy space. It’s about improving health and wellbeing, helping people feel like the best version of themselves and having a shedload of fun in the process!
For Hannah, surfing is not like any other traditional sport. Surfing captures the attention of the physical body and trains the mind. She explains that many people surf for mindfulness and to enjoy the time immersed in nature and the wildness of the ocean. It is sport that supports a lifetime of activity with options available for any level or age.
“A surfer might start off as a child on a bodyboard, then progress to a short board,” Hannah suggests, “Then move onto a long board, then a stand up paddle board and maybe go onto bodysurfing. Then again, there are as many pensioners spinning off the waves on shortboards as there are youngsters keeping to bodyboards!”
She adds, “Surfing is hugely adaptable to support the individual’s needs, whether it is adapting for a disability, an impairment or old age there is always a way to get in the water, and that is what we love to facilitate.”
ENGLAND’S BEST SPOTS TO SURF
Arguably Cornwall has some of the best places to surf in England and it always takes the leading spot here, with world famous breaks such as Fistral Beach. However, throughout the wild winter, the South of England has seen some incredible surf, as has the North-East which benefits from the same offshore winds and swells from the North Sea that makes it a hub for renewable energy. For the dedicated surfer, travelling and seeking waves is all part of the experience. It is the chase to find the surf, get out of the wind, and seek those lesser known spots that make it such a passion for so many people.
Hannah reveals that surfing in the UK has seen quite a lot of changes over the last 15 years with different governing bodies. It has been great over the last 3 years to see Surfing England develop as a trusted NGB for the sport in England.
“Our biggest challenge is that we do not yet receive core-funding, and currently rely on our base of incredible members and our commercial partners,” she says, “There is so much more we could do for the sport with funding, but all of these things take time. We are positive that the future is bright and will be reaching a new standard of awesomeness. Especially as surfing has finally been incorporated into the Olympics!”
Granted the 2020 Olympics are currently postponed until it is safe to continue. As disappointing as this is for the UK team, at least they know that they have earned their way into the games when they reschedule the dates.
“During this time, it is important to keep our members updated with the latest information regarding the stay at home lockdown,” Hannah says, “This includes keeping our news page up to date as well as social media. If we all follow the guidance and stay at home this will be over sooner than later and we can return to the waves where we belong.”
Four core staff members are employed, two of which are full time. The training offered for their staff is a combination of on the job training as well as utilising some free of charge workshops that support not for profit companies.
Hannah admits that they are very fortunate that their staff team have wide-ranging skill sets and knowledge pool that can be shared amongst the group. Of course, they are all surfers themselves too.
This year is going to be a big one for the business as their goals are to charge on with all operational areas across the organisation. According to Hannah, their big projects include developing their own custom-built membership system which will in-turn support them to generate revenue.
“We also have big goals for growing, developing and delivering our events,” she says, “One of which ran on 14th-15th March passed and was hugely successful. Our other big ambitions are to start receiving some core funding to further develop our services and the accessibility for our members.”