The UK's top spots for Watersports

The start of the summer season brings us longer days and warmer weather. The searing sun signifies the kick-off of peak bathing and the water sports season, and if the last two years have taught us anything, it is that the UK has a lot to offer when it comes to idyllic trips and days out.


Looking to identify England’s best locations for those wanting to live their most active, fun, and adrenaline-filled summer yet. Our study uncovers the prime locations for all sorts of water sports, from surfing and paddleboarding to wild swimming and kayaking.


First, we were curious to find which water sport has taken the nation’s fancy most of all, and with a 386% increase in searches (Summer 2019 vs Summer 2021), we can reveal that paddleboarding is the UK’s most popular water sport. Making up the rest of the nation’s top three are bodyboarding (+145%) and wild swimming (+119%), respectively.


Factoring in rental shops, water sport activities (June-Sept), number of beaches and/or bodies of water (rivers, lakes, etc.), our research goes on to reveal that the overall top county of all to head to for a fun-packed summer is Devon. Neighbouring counties Dorset and Cornwall follow in second and third places respectively.

Home to popular locations such as Woolacombe beach and Burrator reservoir, the county of Devon ranks highest of all largely because of its wealth in highly rated beaches, boasting 68 beaches in total, with an average rating of 4.35. The county also offers residents and visitors alike 28 bodies of water (average rating 4.48), 106 water sport rental shops (9 per capita), and 173 water sports activities (14 per capita).


Dorset, which is home to fan favourite Bournemouth beach and lesser-known but idyllic Mudeford Sandback beach, is the UK’s second-best county to head for. Although it counts on a much smaller number of beaches (25) and bodies of water (6), both lists of locations have an average rating of above 4.5. However, where Dorset seems to shine most is for its number of rental shops (16 per capita) and activities (15 per capita) on offer.


Ranking third best overall, Cornwall secures the top spot for its choice of beaches specifically, home to 101 in total, including top-rated Porthminster and Crantock beaches which both boast a 5-star rating. Overall Cornwall’s beaches have an average rating of 4.46, whilst its 22 bodies of water have a rating of 4.35. Cornwall also ranks first for the amount of summer water sport activities its hosting over the summer, tallying over 250 (44 per capita). It looks like Cornwall is held back from the top spot by its lack of rental spots per capita, offering 7.5 per every 100,000.

Ranking with the least prospects of all is the landlocked county of the West Midlands. Registering only 8 bodies of water(average rating 4.0) and with no beaches available, the West Midlands suffer by comparison.


Whether you’re a water sport aficionado or just looking to do something new and different this summer, with our guide to the UK’s best locations for watersports, we’re confident you’ll be making the most of your summer and the most fun places the UK has to offer.

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