Bude’s Surf Forum meeting – improving water sports for all?

Recently, 36 interested people assembled at the Parkhouse to attend a Surf Forum meeting led by Councillor Martin Dorey.

They represented all aspects of the surfing industry from surf schools to charities, retail and manufacturing – and even Bude’s own surfing champions. It has been a busy summer for everyone involved in the industry, so it was amazing to see such a good turnout.

The rationale for the meeting was to work together as a community along with the Council.

Cllr Dorey (who specialises in ocean and board sports) noticed that surfing discussion/consultation was needed to ensure that this vital industry for Bude continues to attract community and visitors, but vitally we also need to look closely at how the water sports experience could be further improved for all, as part of the Local Plan.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) say that surfing contributes a massive amount to the Cornish economy, including surf lessons but also the add ons: food and drink, accommodation, kit, and so on, so the knock on effect of surfing impacts many areas of tourism. Just for info, I overheard a family only yesterday ( a Thursday in September) discussing how much they had spent on holiday in Bude and the answer was (so far) around £600. So, visitors tend to bring money with them – and they spend it.

The forum is not about making summers busier but making the whole year good, extending the season for more meaningful jobs/employment, while being mindful of environmental impacts.

Bude has incredible natural resources, including cliffs, ocean and hinterland. Also, there are lots of other good facilities such as sea pool, canal, and harbour that can be used in many conditions. Adventure and outdoor tourism are both possible here, as well as surf and ocean sports. Bude shouldn’t just confine itself  to surfing. There are lots of other activities to offer here: coastal walking, cycling, climbing and other water-based sports – but it is also renowned for surfing which remains a vital part of its community and economy.

However, no one wants a busier summer than 2021. There are other ways forward.

Green/Blue health are important to deal with eco-anxiety and climate change, while social prescribing is an opportunity, too –  this is already happening with the Wave Project. Bude is also creating a niche for adaptive and restorative surfing and training, thanks to Bude Surf Vets, Activ8, The Wave Project, Surfwell and others, including Big Blue Surf School who remain passionate about offering sand wheelchairs and adaptive surf lessons. Thus, there is already a lot of potential to become a centre of excellence for adaptive and restorative/therapeutic surfing /training.

From Surf Well Twitter page

Let’s not forget our own young people. Bude already trains the town’s youngsters to eventually become lifeguards, coaches and trainers, often starting at Bude SLSC Nippers, or via Waveriders, but there is no longer a pathway provided by formal education, particularly for those who might otherwise drop out of education. Bude, therefore,  has the potential to become a centre of excellence for lifeguard and outdoor training. Surfing is a big part of Bude’s culture, which offers a pathway to young people to develop careers, while also attracting visiting people to activities like cold water surfing and swimming, kayaking, etc.

The downside …

Various issues were raised, one relating to the sterling work done with veterans suffering from PTSD:

 “You can’t have a surfer with no legs and one arm, who has served his country and who is here to improve his life, changing into a wetsuit on the tarmac in Summerleaze car park.”

Unfortunately, that is precisely what Bude has right now.

  • The sector feels let down by Cornwall Council and their handling of the beaches and its infrastructure: the showers don’t work, and there is a run-down infrastructure, with a marked lack of care. This is partly because we are isolated from Cornwall Council, who don’t really know what we are doing up here.
  • Alas, car parks are neglected, remain unmodernised and are seen as solely a cash cow for Cornwall. Machines have been broken for most of the summer, yet parking tickets are still given out.
  • Bude’s ‘Changing Places’ toilet (the only one in Cornwall) is not currently working – what a waste!  It could be used more by the surf community, particularlySurf vets and Surfwell. So improving our offering is crucial.  Adaptive surfers need facilities to be working and in good condition.
  • There is evidence that prescribed outdoor activity can save the community money through good health and mental health – in NHS bills, prescriptions and doctor visits.
  • There is fear that being successful as a surf town will bring more crowds to the water and here is some concern over crowding levels at beaches; therefore, we should be diversifying Bude’s offering to include walking, climbing, canoeing, kayaking etc. Diversity would protect us, to some extent, from the effects of climate change if we can no longer rely on the sea because of pollution, sea level rises and weather events – and it gives the Tourist Information Centre plenty to promote, as we also need to be choosing the type of visitors we want, ones who care for our beautiful environment as much as we do.


Watch this space for this discussion will surely continue …


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