World's best surfers head for the Scottish Highlands

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An elite band of professional surfers who travel the world in search of the most dramatic waves have identified an unlikely new stamping ground - the Scottish Highlands.

The isolated and rugged landscape of Thurso Bay, on the northern tip of Britain, is luring surfers from Hawaii, California and Australia's Gold Coast with its sublime surf.

Thurso will host the biggest international competition ever held in Britain with a prize fund of £60,000, from 24 April to 1 May. The event can be viewed live on the internet and it is the first time a world qualifying series is being held in Britain.

While Thurso was once the surfing community's biggest secret, known only by the most ardent among the surfing tribe, it is now gaining fame as having some of the most impressive overhead swells in Britain, and drawing in increasing numbers of professionals and amateurs.

Waves in the bay can rise to more than 20ft and produce some astonishing barrel waves and tube rides, which are essential for competitive surfing.

The O'Neill Highland Open was deemed such a success when it was held for the first time in Thurso last year, that it has been ranked as one of the prime surfing events of the world.

Widely recognised by surfers as one of the coldest events on the calendar, the wind and swell from the Atlantic also provide some of the best surfing.

One website,, said British surfers were delighted that the international community had recognised the promise of Thurso.

It said: "World qualifying series surf events typically have a setting of blue sky and white sand. To see surfers from all over the world on the Scottish Highlands, the contrast of tanned Brazilian, Hawaiian and Australian surfers against the backdrop of fields of sheep and Scottish castles will provide an interesting and unique event with outstanding imagery."

Sam Lamiroy, 32, who is the British champion and will be taking part in the contest, told The Scotsman that Thurso was the first spot at which he saw "perfect waves".

"I remember when I used to go up there as a 14-year-old being amazed by the sheer power of the waves and how perfect they can be," he said.

After the world's best surfers have competed in Scotland, they move to the warmer waters of Tahiti.