Most people in Britain have heard of the Isle of Man and know that it’s famous for the annual TT motorcycle event. But what you probably didn’t know is where it is exactly. Or the fact that you can actually surf there.
Nestled in between Ireland and the north of England in the Irish sea, the Isle of Man does get some really good waves. But you need a fair bit of patience to surf there, as resident and local surfer Neil Kelly testifies. It’s not exactly renowned for its consistency, with flat spells often lasting several months.
We caught up with Neil to find out more about this grassroots surf scene…
How long has the Isle of Man been associated with surfing?
The first I ever heard of anyone surfing in the Isle of Man was a guy called Brian King. He was one of the lifeguards for the outdoor swimming pool in Port Erin. Brian and his friend made some big wooden boards and went out at a beach called Gansey. That must’ve been in the 70s.
Have you always lived on the Isle of Man? How did you get involved with the surf scene here?
The Isle of Man or ‘Manx’ as it’s otherwise known has always been my home. I first got into surfing on here when a friend of mine met two surfers on a night out and told me there’s surf over here. From then on that’s all I really wanted to do.
Tell us more about the ‘Surf Isle of Man’ Facebook page
There’s currently over 350 people following the page. It’s more for awareness really but we post pictures up there and advise where’s the best place to surf on a given day depending on the conditions. Or, we use it as a way to lament the lack of waves!
Do you get a lot of visiting surfers to the Isle of Man? Tell us more about the types of surfers who surf there.
On the odd occasion we do get people coming to the Isle of Man, not specifically to surf but who can surf. It’s always a nice surprise for them when they find out there are waves! You always get people saying things like ‘they’re not real waves though are they?!’
I would say the majority of people you surf with over here are truly dedicated as it’s not the easiest place to surf! By true dedication I mean really studying different waves and learning about the wind and the tides. There is a lot to learn!
Are there any surf schools on the Isle of Man? Is it suited to beginners?
At the minute there are no surf schools on the Isle of Man, just keen parents teaching the little ones and passing on the stoke. Most surfers here are self-taught.
There are waves suitable for all levels from beach breaks to reefs and point breaks.
Tell us more about the consistency of the waves. What are the optimum conditions and the best spots on the island to surf.
Consistency is the bugbear of most Manx surfers! Some Winters you can surf every day. Others like the one we just had can be appalling.
The most consistent spot on the island is around Port St Mary on the south west of the island. ‘The Point’ can be amazing with 3-4 ft of glassy waves.
The majority of waves over here are reef breaks, a few beaches and one or two points. Because of the type of swell, mainly wind, the waves are particularly week for the majority of the time but with the right direction swell we can get ground swell up from the Atlantic. It’s rare but when it happens the reefs really light up with some solid waves.
It wouldn’t get much bigger than 4, possibly 6/8 ft on the biggest days but it’s rare.
What’s your favourite wave on the island and why?
My favourite wave is a left-hander called ‘drivers.’ It’s a hollow little reef break that isn’t very long but on it’s day is great fun!
What do you love about surfing on the Isle of Man and how does it compare to surfing at other spots in the UK?
As far as comparing the Isle of Man to other surf destinations it’s a difficult one. It’s not exactly world-class but it keeps you in the water and helps prepare you to surf in far off destinations. There have been a few pictures posted on Magic Seaweed that have even made ‘photo of the day’.
It just shows you that everywhere can be decent if you know it well enough.
Main photo by Luke Kissack Cashin