A Tale of Two Cultures: 6 Differences Between Surfing in the US vs the UK

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Surfing is a worldwide sport, yet there are subtle differences between locales. Here are six differences between surfing in the US vs UK.

Surfing is a popular sport worldwide, and while it originated in Hawaii, it has since spread to many other countries. The United States and the United Kingdom are two of the most prominent surfing nations with unique cultures surrounding the sport. While some aspects of these cultures may be similar due to the sport’s global popularity, there are also some distinct differences between the two regions. This blog dives into six key differences between surfing in the US vs the UK.

Distinctive Surfing Lingo

Surfers from the two regions can be quickly identified by their use of ‘bruh’ vs ‘bruv.’ American surfers use ‘bruh,’ while British surfers use ‘bruv.’ Furthermore, American surfers are also noted for using terms like ‘gnarly’ and ‘rad’ while British slang involves phrases like ‘stoked’ and ‘shredding it.’

Differences in Equipment When Surfing in the US vs the UK

Depending on their location, American surfers may be more likely to use longer, narrower boards designed for larger swells, while British surfers may lean towards wider, shorter boards better equipped for smaller, less powerful waves.

American surfers may be more likely to surf on boards made of high-performance materials such as carbon fiber, while British surfers may revert to more traditional materials such as foam and fiberglass.

The type and number of fins on a surfboard can also differ depending on location. For example, British waves may be better suited to single-fin boards, while American waves may require reinforced tri-fins or quad-fins for stability and maneuverability.

Hawaii surfers people relaxing on waikiki beach with surfboards looking at waves in Honolulu, Hawaii. Healthy active lifestyle fitness couple at sunset with diamond head mountain in the background.

American surfers tend to use boards with either three or four fins. Photo by Maridav via iStock by Getty Images

American surfers prefer more extreme shapes, such as swallow-tail designs, to increase speed and control, while British surfers may opt for more traditional rounded or square-shaped tails to improve stability in small to moderate swells.

Variation in Surfing Spots in the US vs the UK

Surfing spots in the US are likelier to have larger swells, more consistent waves, and longer coastlines with varying beach, point, and reef breaks. UK surfing spots tend to have smaller, more inconsistent swells due to the UK’s proximity to smaller bodies of water like the North Sea.

The climate also significantly creates the different surfing conditions between the US and the UK. In America, surfers experience warmer temperatures with more significant exposure to tropical storms and hurricanes that can produce larger swells. UK surfers, in contrast, face colder temperatures and more variable weather conditions during different times of the year.

Finally, the types of beaches found in US and UK surfing spots also differ. US spots have more sandy beaches, while UK beaches are rockier with notable pebble beaches.

Honolulu, HI, USA - September 7, 2013: Surfboards lined up in the rack at famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Oahu, Hawaii.

US beaches, such as this one in Waikiki, are usually sandy. Photo by eddygaleotti via iStock by Getty Images

Unique Clothing Styles

Surf fashion has become a distinct style in its own right, influencing popular clothing and accessories. Because of the climate differences, surfers in the US are more likely to wear clothing suited for warmer temperatures with breathable fabrics, lightweight cotton, and shorts, while UK surfers require clothing specifically designed to keep them warm such as wetsuits, neoprene gloves, and hoods.

Traditionally, US surfers have favored brighter and bolder colors, with a preference for fluorescent hues and “psychedelic” prints. In contrast, UK surfers might lean more towards muted, darker colors and classic patterns such as stripes and checkered prints.

surfing woman in wet suit

In the UK, surfers tend to dress for the cooler weather and cold water. Photo by MaximFesenko via iStock by Getty Images

Surfing accessories such as hats, sunglasses, and surf wax will be similar across both locations, but UK surfers might be more inclined towards functional clothing such as waterproof bags and thermal layers for long days, adding protection from the cold and wet conditions.

In the US, surfboards with brighter-colored, more modern designs, such as colored rails and alternate tail shapes, are more commonly seen. In the UK, older, more classic designs are re-emerging, such as 70s-inspired fishtails or the longboards reminiscent of 1950s-era surfing.

Surfboards on Waikiki

Surfboards sit stacked and ready for renting near the Sheraton Waikiki. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Approaches to Surfing

Generally speaking, US surfers focus on improving their technical ability and agility to help them excel in larger waves. US-style surfing is often characterized by high-performance turns and maneuvers, extensive aerial moves, speed, power, and flow across the wave.

In contrast, UK-style surfing focuses more on finesse and creativity. The emphasis is on reading the ocean swell to adapt and respond accordingly. UK surfers emphasize elegant lines and draw smooth arcs as they move through the wave face while relying on cutbacks, cross-steps, and other stylish variations to stand out.

Surfing Etiquette Varies Between the US and the UK

In the US, surfers view ‘rights’ (or ownership) as paramount when out in the lineup. When someone has ridden a wave, it’s considered their own until another surfer takes it. This can create an intense atmosphere amongst more experienced surfers vying for waves.

Meanwhile, UK surfers are less aggressive, preferring everyone to take turns when waves come. It’s also not uncommon for British surfers to take advice and critique one another to help improve each other’s technique, while American surfers might be more hesitant to do so.

A surfer holding his board on the beach

A surfer heads across the rocks to go surfing in the UK. Photo by Marta Urbańska via iStock by Getty Images

Surfing in the US vs UK

These seven differences show that although surfing is a global sport, each culture brings flavor. Whether you’re a US surfer or a British one, it’s important to respect each other’s surfing culture and show some appreciation for the variety of styles worldwide.

Surfing is a worldwide sport, yet there are subtle differences between locales. Here are six differences between surfing in the US vs UK.


A Tale of Two Cultures: 6 Differences Between Surfing in the US vs the UK

The post A Tale of Two Cultures: 6 Differences Between Surfing in the US vs the UK appeared first on Wander With Wonder.

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