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SUMMARY
+ Powerful and consistent
+ Beach and pointbreaks
+ Clean water, no crowds
+ Long summer daylight hours
+ Northern Lights
- High latitude wind exposure
- Cold water
- Large tides
- Changeable, wet weather
- Remote, difficult access
Kustom



Outer Hebrides, Scotland, EUROPE


Cliff, Greg Martin

Surf Spots

Tolsta
Port of Ness
Europie
Barvas
Bus Stop
Bragar
Dalbeg
Dalmore
Cliff
Mangersta
Scarista
Hosta
Culla Bay
Barra - Outer Hebrides
Bagh Siar

The Surf

Stretching for almost 125mi (200km) in length, the Hebrides archipelago lies off the northwest coast of Scotland between 57º and 58º North. The Inner Hebrides nestle surprisingly close to the mainland while the Outer Hebrides, which are often referred to as the Western Isles, sit a further 28mi (45km) out to sea. The area has so many islands, islets and coastline that the potential for finding virgin waves is still high. The Outer Hebrides receive the brunt of the Atlantic's force and have a helpful 180º swell window from the SW to NE. A good range of beaches, points and reefs exist and the small, committed group of local surfers are welcoming to visitors that play by the rules. Strong currents and powerful waves are the norm so seeking some local knowledge can prevent the unwary getting into trouble. The continental shelf is less extensive than elsewhere in Britain and at these far northern latitudes, surfing until midnight is possible on midsummer days. The Inner Hebrides and mainland west coast also get waves, but the dominant winds are onshore. There are some sheltered gems that come to life in big W/NW swells. The Isle of Lewis came under the spotlight after veteran pro Derek Hynd and local surfer Derek Macleod organised the Hebridean Surfing Festival in Oct 2001, which used a novel scoring system based on a handicap criteria.

To the west of the mainland lies the fractured archipelago of the Hebrides. The area has so many islands, islets and coastline that even the environmental authorities canÕt really monitor it, so the potential for virgin waves is high. The Outer Hebrides receive the brunt of the AtlanticÕs force and have a helpful 180¼ swell window from the SW to NE. A good range of beaches, points and reefs exist and the small, committed group of local surfers are welcoming to visitors that play by the rules. Strong currents are the norm and local knowledge can prevent the unwary getting into trouble. The Hebs are a year-round destination but it can get real big and nasty in the winter.

When to Go

The Outer Hebrides are exposed to Atlantic swells from the S, W and N, including NE swells coming from the direction of Scandinavia. Lewis lies on the edge of a cauldron of ocean activity with most of the Western Isles consistently capturing vast chunks of North Atlantic swell. When west-facing spots become out of control, the normally flat north or even east-facing spots start breaking and provide good shelter from the dominant and blustery SW winds. The “Hebs” are a year-round destination, but it can get real big and nasty in the winter. Massive storms batter Scotland but even with such strong wave action the Scottish coast is remarkably resilient, thanks mainly to the NW shield being made of ultra-tough, ancient, metamorphic rocks, which take millennia to erode. The beaches of the Hebrides have the highest shell content in Scotland (90% on some beaches) so they look tropical when the sun is shining on the turquoise waters. Check the NOAA Buoy 64045, 300 km NW of the Outer Hebrides. Tides are very significant with as much as 5m (15ft) of tidal range affecting the points and the beaches in smaller swells.

SURF STATISTICS
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell SW -N SW -N SW -N SW -N SW -N SW -N
swell size (ft) 6-7 5-6 4-5 4 5-6 6-7
consistency (%) 50 60 70 80 70 50
dominant wind S -W SW -NW S -W SW -NW S -W S -W
average force F5 F4-F5 F4 F4 F4-F5 F5-F6
consistency (%) 53 46 43 48 54 51
water temp (C) 7 8 11 14 12 9
wetsuit 5/4 5/4 4/3 4/3 4/3 5/4
Population
26,370

Coastline
Lewis - 546km (340mi)

Timezone
GMT

Travel Information

Weather

The climate of the Outer Hebrides is dominated by the Gulf Stream ocean current. Despite the northerly latitude, winters are rarely cold on the coast and summers rarely warm. Wind and rain are the dominant features with 45% of the rainfall between October and January. May is the driest month with about 16 days a month of rain and December the wettest with about 25. Total rainfall is 1200mm (47in) so it rarely pours and rains don’t usually last all day as the famous Scottish “4 seasons in a day” weather is very changeable. January is generally the windiest month. In midsummer, there are barely 2 hours of darkness. Despite being 1300km (810mi) north of London, the mean minimum temps are about the same. Summer sea temps average out at 13°C (55ºF) and in winter it gets no lower than 9°C (48ºF). The Californians from San Francisco at the Hebridean International Surfing competition said the water was just like home!

Nature

Watch whales, orcas and Risso dolphins, which are most sociable from Aug-Oct. Numerous lochs to fish salmon or trout. Also great for diving, canoeing, sailing, mountain biking, climbing. Don’t miss the 5,000 yr old standing Stones of Calanais or The Broch at Carloway, a mere 2000 years old. Autumn Aurora Borealis can be seen.

Hazards

Waves can get powerful, even out of control, be ready to face an angry ocean with longer boards. Rips, rocks and isolation can increase the fear factor. No dangerous animals: even resident basking sharks are friendly and have no teeth. Stay warm and dry - bring appropriate clothing. Booties needed most of the time.

Hints

Rent everything on Lewis if you’re not staying long. Wetsuit: $20/day, board (beginner) $20/day, shortboard $40/day. Half day trip $60/pax. 2-day trip $180/pax. 5-day trip $500/pax (2-4 pax) on deluxe camper truck tour. In North Uist, ask for Niall at the Uist Outdoor Centre. Sunday is rest day, no transport.