There’s one thing for sure, after endless hours of research you will never be able to learn enough about the Outer Hebrides to fully plan a surf trip. As we drove deeper and deeper into Scotland I realised that the only planning tools we really needed here were a compass, an ordnance survey map and a general understanding of the swell size and direction, you must seek and find for yourself!
There are very few captures of what it is really like to surf the Outer Hebrides, tales were told to us of ice cold waters, theatrical coastlines and tremendous weather systems. Were there, amongst all this, some perfect waves waiting to be surfed?
It takes only a few seconds on arrival to realise just how extraordinary the place is. Towering mountains hide their summits into dark clouds, shades of deep greens from the dense forest meet the icy blues and silvers of the ocean and lochs Somehow it gives an incredible feeling that the outer isles are far and distant to the UK, although the Scottish highlands loom on the eastern horizon.
Having driven the six hundred mile journey from the southwest and taken the early bird ferry from Skye, a surf was much needed. This however was not as easy as it should have been. We ended up driving the length of the islands coastline asking locals (that had obviously never even thought of surfing a wave,) checking spots that on a map should pick up even the smallest swell. We had been beaten, it was time to give up.
Relentless surf hunting can become tedious very quickly when the result is not improving in the slightest. It seemed that each beach had its own pristine war grave cemetery, which had a backdrop of cliffs and the atlantic ocean. These are incredible the first two or three times you run into them. When your visit to one becomes every 15 to 20 minutes with zero sign of swell, this has to be the time to stop. Lunch was calling.
Seeing some toilets in the far corner of the cemetery, I stretched my legs and made my way to what would be a game changer… the toilet wall was home to a lonely advertisement which read ‘the islands only surf hire/surf-guide’ along with a telephone number and directions to the local filling station. It was worth a shot. With some sort of new stoke, I took some snaps of the directions and ran back to the van.
After a quick chat with the Derek the super friendly surf guide who runs ‘Hebridean Surf’ (check them out,) we learned that we were looking in all the wrong places and that the swell here only works in conjunction with a specific tidal range. To our amazement, this is when we saw three hire boards being strapped to a car. At this point, the first question that came to mind was ‘Oh will it be busy?’ He replied ‘Maybe today if those three are in the water’.
Less surfers than a typical lineup live on this island.
‘This beautiful and tranquil area was once home to people who lived and thrived here for three thousand years or more, the landscape has evidence of powerful forces and stories tell of mystery and misery’
This was the sign that greeted us at the spot which we had been guided to. I think at this point we were hoping that the powerful force was the ocean. With cliffs as high as these, you would expect a clear view of the ocean and the conditions that await. This is not quite the way that it works as your first task is finding your way down to look at the surf before even committing to getting wet. Between checking the surf and actually surfing, there are the usual things that you would do such as returning to the van, applying sunscreen, waxing the board and wrenching on a wetsuit. None of these I could even remember doing on this occasion. The surf in the Outer Hebrides was flawless and this is what is to be remembered.