Surf Boating


It’s rowing, but not as you know it! Forget the sophistication of river rowing at Henley on Thames, public school etiquette and Pimms. Welcome to the exciting world of Bournemouth Surf Boat Club and the super friendly, gung-ho adrenaline sport of Australian surf boat racing!


Crews of four rowers and a specialist coxswain, called a ‘Sweep,’ line up beside their boats in knee deep surf, waiting for the starters whistle. A few meters away white water pounds the beach. At the whistle the crews leap into their boats and row hard and fast into the breaking surf to get as much speed as possible. The boats plough head on into the waves, the crews rowing hard to maintain momentum, no matter what. The Sweeps ride their surf boats like ‘Ben Hur’ chariot racing gladiators, their shouts of encouragement a cracking whip to drive their rowers onwards. Four to five hundred meters from the beach, the crews ‘hand-brake turn’ around bouys and increase their stroke rate, rowing faster to catch a big wave and earn a free ride home. Once surfing, the rowers lie back and ‘trail oars’ over their heads, then hurry to the back of the boat so their combined weight lifts the bow as they cling on and surf wildly towards the beach. As soon as they reach shallow water, the bow rower jumps out and sprints to the finish line.


The racing is fast, frantic and exhilarating for both competitors and spectators. This spectacular water sport is run by the UK Surf Rowers League ( who organise the summer race series in stunning locations in Bournemouth, Devon, Cornwall and Wales.