Coastering and Surfing in Wales
Published: June 2012
Being an adrenaline junkie I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend coasteering and surfing the Welsh coast with Preseli Venture. On previous holidays I have been mountain biking, wind surfing and coasteering in the Dominican Republic, white-water rafting in Alaska, Wyoming and Costa Rica where I also zip-lined through the canopy of their tropical rain forest. My father taught me to surf when I was thirteen in Florida where I grew up next to a river, forging my love for water sports like skiing, canoeing, kayaking and tubing at a young age.
Preseli is nestled in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales. The weekend included a stay in their eco lodge and was all inclusive on meals which were prepared by friendly staff who gave generous helpings of lasagne, chicken stew with rice, and jacket potatoes with all the fixings to name a few staples always followed by dessert. Prior to arrival one must fill out a form stating any dietary restrictions which they will happily work around for you. The lodge where the food is dished out also serves as a recreation hall and full service bar. The sound system can be commandeered to play tunes of your choice if you ask the staff nicely. Whether plucking through the board games made available, roasting s’mores over the pit fire, or having a lager with your mates the lodge is the place to socialise after a tiring day out on the water. From central London, Preseli is just a trip on the rails away if you take the tube to Paddington and catch a train all the way to west Wales which is what our group did. Be warned though it is at least five hours on the trains so bring a good book or your laptop. Pick up from the train station is provided and once you get to the lodge your bedroom will be sorted.
Preseli Venture gives you a choice of two adventure activities out of; coasteering, sea kayaking, or surfing. Hiking is included on one of the days and is a much needed respite from all the action. Getting straight to it our group of study abroad students was sent coasteering first thing in the morning the day after we arrived. Water temperatures are around 45°F or 7°C in March so it is of sheer necessity that one must wear a full wetsuit. Not only are the wetsuits in all sizes imaginable provided but so are the extra neoprene vests, shorts, hoodies and booties that are used to layer up to fight off the frigid waters. Helmets and life-vests go on top to complete this ensemble and once you are suited up one feels like a fish out of water. Thankfully the bus ride to the coast is a short one. On the shore we are given a brief albeit informative safety instruction from our guide telling us to not grip the rocks and try to hold on when a wave crashes on us and to go feet first as much as possible to avoid smashing ones head into the jagged rocks protruding around every corner. These instructions prove vital as our first swim is through a channel with constant swells slamming us up against the rock wall making hauling yourself up out of the water a task involving as mush skill as luck. Always being the first to volunteer I was able to catch my breath, that was taken away by the cold as well as the slight terror that I might not be able to get up and out of the water, and watch from my perch above as the rest of our group had to brave the perpetual white-wash. Once we where all one group again we cheered and praised our guides who kept us calm and got us all up the rock in one piece which was touch and go for a time with those less seasoned swimmers. The coasteering group climbed and swam our way to the first cliff jump point without being challenged as much as that first plunge. After a few jumps we came to the climax of our tour, the twenty-five foot leap. Depending on the tides the height varies but the novice are not allowed to jump from any higher than the twenty-five foot mark. I asked because in the Dominican Republic it was more of a jumping trip and I love the rush one gets in between the time your foot leaves solid ground and hits the top of the water. After jumping solo initially I scaled back up the rock, counted down and took the leap with a friend. The tour culminated with a swim through a cave (not my cup of tea) which led to a beautiful pebble beach and waterfall. Here the whole group took the quintessential photograph proving we had survived and then hiked back up to the van to strip off our now soaking wetsuits and put on fresh clothes.
After a warm soup lunch and a short instructional meeting about swimming hazards we might encounter we trekked back over to the gear garage and squeezed our now satiated bellies back into wetsuits and full gear for kayaking or, my choice, surfing. Hopping back into the van we drove a little further this time to the shore and hauled our large yellow and blue foam boards down to the water’s edge. There our guides instructed us on how to best catch a wave and pop up to our knees sending us out into the surf to practice before any standing up technique was taught. With eleven years of surfing in the States under my belt I was determined to stand up on the first wave I caught. Succeeding I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the water, doling out insider tips to fellow Venture goers on how they might place themselves on the board to ride better waves. The rest of the day was spent being instructed on how to stand on the boards and the group vigorously honing their newly acquired skills. Hot cocoa was passed around at the van were we stripped down once again and got into our dry clothes for the trip back to the lodge to dine and rest up for our hike the following morning.
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is a picturesque and preserved piece of Welsh coast that you do not even need a passport to get to if studying in England like our group was. Not only do you get to experience the wildlife and untouched natural wonders (coasteering we saw a seal and I heard that the kayakers were able to get even closer to them) but Preseli Venture offers a great way to get your adrenaline fix without a constant drain on your wallet with their all-inclusive packages. Not sure what to do and have a spare weekend? Take the train to Wales!
Coastering and Surfing in Wales
Rachel has completed her internship here at Travel Channel and recently graduated with her Masters in Media & Communication Studies. She loves to travel, immersing herself in exotic cultures and seeks out a true native experience leaving the tourists to their crowds. She hopes to continue her career path in media and thrives when working for global organizations.