Skip to main content

Great Western is The OG, the first surf beach of its type in the UK

Great Western beach is nestled in the heart of Newquay bay. At low tide it is connected up with the other town beaches and forms part of a vast expanse of breathtaking golden sand. At mid to high tide it’s a secret spot, revered by locals and joyfully ‘discovered’ by tourists who stumble across it.

From Cliff Road there is an alleyway that runs between The Great Western Hotel & Koncept Gym, this is the path, known as ‘The Slope’ that winds itself scenically down to Great Western Beach.

The History of The Slope

The slope is a great people watching spot, from the path you have an unobstructed view across Great Western, Towan, the harbour wall, the Huers hut and beyond. As the ocean swell wraps around the Towan headland organised lines of swell march in to the bay 24/7. It’s a water lovers paradise, and always has been.

“From the Victorian bathing machines of the late 19th Century… Great Western’s sands were always a popular beach playground of locals and holiday-makers…. It was the advent of stand-up surfing on Great Western in the 1960s by individual pioneers of the practice, using large fibreglass surfboards, that kicked-off the sport in the town…

‘The Slope,’ as the earliest resident gathering of surfers called the road to the beach where they hung out between wave-riding sessions, evolved to become the centre of this blossoming surf culture. This often misunderstood group of people who spent their days on the beach on Great Western were often referred to as a counter culture by the dwellers of the surrounding cliff-tops. This was the inaugural birth of a beach lifestyle culture!

Great Western was probably the most influential beach, by example and product, of early UK surf culture!”

credit: Roger Mansfield

The Slope was the very spot where a sporting movement was born. What we now know as an Olympic sport, mainstream activity and thriving industry, was 60 years ago a bit of an eyebrow raising, sigh-inducing hobby. This gathering of colourful characters who loitered on The Slope, spreading their wild ideas and displaying their crazy antics, did in fact turn out to be the pioneers of surf culture, our first competitive champions, and the sparks which would ignite this new sport across the UK.

So people have been enjoying the water and the waves at Great Western for centuries, but it was 1963 that stand up surfing really took off here, and 10ft Hawaiian surfboards became part of the scenery.

Celebrate the 60th Birthday of Stand Up Surfing at Great Western

So 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of stand up surfing at Great Western, the UKs original surf beach. We want to mark this landmark birthday, and will be celebrating it in an epic way later in the season. So watch this space for more info on that…

  • This post is the first in a series of specially produced articles that will be celebrating both the history and the future of surfing.
  • We want to both look at how far we’ve come in 60 years, but also look forwards at where we are headed
  • We have launched a photography competition to find the ultimate shots of Great Western, the OG, the true birthplace of British surfing.
  • We’ll be building a picture of what this unique and amazing place means to us all, to locals and visitors alike. Great Western has a magic hold over us, so let’s speak to the people who have fallen under her spell
  • Can you help us tell the story of this special beach, and mark the landmark 60th birthday of British surfing? If you’d like to be involved in this series of articles please contact

Leave a Reply