At one time the economy of Scarborough was very much based upon the sea - fishing boats sold their catches, shipbuilders busy in shipyards, and merchant seamen going from port to port. Nowadays Scarborough relies on tourism - yachtsmen come to enjoy the sailing, pleasure cruisers sail from the harbour, and young children come to paddle in the sea.
Occasionally if the conditions are right Scarboroughs beaches are filled with surfers. This is an increasingly popular sport which brings a lot of money into the local economy.
Scarborough does not match the surfing capital of Britain - Newquay in Cornwall. There the waves travel right across the Atlantic and the surfers frequently enjoy waves of 30 feet high. Scarborough's waves travel across the North sea. Occasionally northerly swells will come from Norway - these will provide excellent surfable waves. But generally the strength of the waves does not compare to the South west.
Nowadays surf forcasts are accurate to days ahead. The excitement builds up as waves are predicted. The best place for surf forcasts is magicseaweed.com - this website has forcasts for Scarborough, Whitby and Filey. These are accurate days ahead.
There is a predictable pattern to surfing waves. First a storm builds up and the seas become a mass of disorganised water. Scarborough surfers will go out in these waves - they break thirty or forty metres from the shore. Then as the seas start to settle down the seas become more organised.
The waves will start to break closer into the shore. The speed of the waves slows down - they are slow and fat. These waves are the most popular with surfers - they are well formed. Occasionally a bigger wave will come along and the surfers ride the waves for ten seconds or more.
Occasionally surfers are to be seen in the South Bay just bobbing up and down. The waves are barely two feet high. These die hards are probably staying all week and will go in the water with the slightest wave. Sometimes groups of surfers will be seen in shallow water. They are probably beginners - there are lessons run through local surf clubs. They start in the shallow water and will ride very small waves. Later they move to the deeper water. As their confidence grows they move further out.
Scarboroughs surfers generally do not surf the Scarborough beaches - they prefer the local 'secret surf spots'. The Scarborough beaches are packed with tourists. Local surfers are generally a friendly bunch but there can be some 'territorialism'. On Cayton Bay there is concrete machine gun bunker left over from the war. On this is painted a message to all visitors saying "If you don't live here then don't surf here!". Locals will generally go up or down the coast to lesser known places - climbing down steep cliffs and paths to get to the shore. Here the waves will be much better than those on the South Bay beach.
Many of the 'Secret Spots' are not that secret. The internet is good source of information. Here previously secret beaches are now advertised. It just takes one person to break the code of silence - then a secret spot is blown. However, there are spots which are genuinely secret and which are not mentioned anywhere on the internet.
The local Surf Club is somewhat ironically named the Scarborough Malibu Surf Club. They tend to be all long boarders - in surfing there are long and short boards. Short boards tend to be more manouvarable. Many of the members of the Scarborough Mailbu surf club live elsewhere. There are many who come from the Hunmanby and Flamborough area. Joss Wescombe is one of the most talented short boarders.
The North sea is never that warm - even in the summer its not that warm. The surfers wear their wetsuits all year round - they never swap wetsuits for colourful surfers board shorts. If they are in the water for hours they need the wet suits. In the winter the seas get very cold. But with 7 millimetre wet suits its not that uncomfortable. The surfers have helmets and boots on. The coldest part of the year is late February and early March. The sea takes a long time to cool down. The warmest period of the year is in late August and early September.
Surfing along the Scarborough coast tends to slow down during the summer. Thats a pity as this is the warmest time of the year. The currents tend to change in th North sea around May. There are definitely fewer surfable waves in these months. But come September there is surf again. The spring and autumn tides are highest which make these the best times of the year for surfing. Competitions will often be scheduled for September 21st or March 21st - the two equinoxes.
The best place to watch surfing is probably Saltburn (nearly forty miles north of Scarborough). Here the pier extends deep into the seas. When the tide is in the surfers can be seen at close quarter. Its an excellent place to take photos from. The surfers come very close to the pier. The surf shop is just a short distance from the pier. Many come from Middlesborough and Teeside. Some are beginners and come to try the sport out - they hire yellow boards from the surf shop.
The surfers along the East Coast are some of the hardiest in the world. They will be seen in the sea on a cold winters day with snow on the ground. They keenly watch the surf forcasts and wait for the days when they can take their boards down to the sea. There is usually a chance to surf every month. The wait helps the surfers to build up their appetites. Then they are back on the beaches meeting their old friends.