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Cornwall in January: pure surfing paradise

Nobody could accuse this lone surfer of being a fair-weather sportsman as he braved winter waves averaging 7C (before the chill factor) at Polzeath in Cornwall.

Thanks to continual improvements in wetsuits, winter surfing is gaining followers who might not have previously braced the January seas, but who can now armour themselves from head to toe in neoprene blubber. Put off by the hordes on boards that flock to the prime surf spots in the summer months, September signals the start of the winter surfers' season as low pressure weather systems build up in the Atlantic or Arctic, ensuring that connoisseurs can tackle consistent swells on prime surf spots on the British coast.

Many people assume that surfing in the UK was a 1960s import from California. In fact it was already a popular activity on British beaches by the end of the First World War. Today surfing is an industry worth hundreds of millions in the UK, employing tens of thousands of people.

Cornwall is seen by many as the home of summer surfing in the UK, but in the winter it fights off competition from beaches on the north coast of Scotland and a stretch of the east coast from Aberdeen to Lowestoft.