Surf's up north as Scarborough hosts tour event


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Scarborough is better known for its bracing airs and donkey rides than it is for hanging five and riding tube waves. That, however, could be about to change as the North Yorkshire seaside resort reinvents itself as the surf capital of the North.

With its rolling North Sea swells and wide-open beaches, the spa town is now taking on the traditional south-west meccas for British boarders after being appointed for the first time as a stopping-off point on the prestigious UK Pro Surf Tour.

In October, leading exponents of the sport, including current tour leader Russell Winter, will be seen carving through the spume off North Bay – described by organisers as a "natural amphitheatre" for the sport. More than 5,000 are expected to turn out to watch the stars as they compete for the UK Professional Surfing title.

Conditions are more than adequate for most leading surfers to show what they can do, tour director Dave Reed explained. "Scarborough can rival Newquay with the quality of the wave when it breaks and as far as the support for the surfing goes we have a big population in that area compared to Cornwall so it could be very attractive for people to get involved," he said.

Despite respectable wave heights of between two and three feet, many – until now – have been put off taking to more northern waters because of the colder sea temperatures compared with Devon and Cornwall, where the sport has helped to transform local economies by luring tens of thousands of neoprene-clad young people keen to try it out.

But developments in wet-suit technology mean that surfers can now brave chillier waters for longer. New surf hot spots are opening up in places such as Greenland, Iceland and Canada. Thurso, off Scotland's north-eastern tip, lays claim to some of the biggest and best waves in Britain, if not the world, Mr Reed said.

Scarborough was hit hard by the advent of the package holiday in the 1970s and has fought to recover. Welcome to Yorkshire's Janet Deacon said she hoped the surfing contest would help the town's renaissance by extending the summer season. "Scarborough has seen a huge increase in the number of surfers over the last few years and we wanted to develop this in terms of bringing in new markets and younger generations to the area."