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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Brighton seafront (West Pier), East Sussex.


Brighton seafront (central – West Pier), East Sussex

Spot type:

Located right up the English Channel Brighton’s seafront is a heavily tidal, shingle beach that has many different personalities depending on the weather and Mother Nature’s moods. You can get surfable/SUPable waves, although specific aligning of the stars is required for perfect surf, as well as idyllic flat water and everything else in between. Being the closest coastal city to London – and a heavily populated one itself – means you’ll very rarely be alone on the water.


Choppy is often the term used to sum up Brighton’s seafront (and English Channel coastline as a whole). A deep low sitting in the Bay of Biscay, pumping long period ground swell ‘through the gap’ (in a Sly direction) will see many of Brighton’s beaches light up with around head high clean waves – as long as the wind’s light or from the northerly quadrant at least. Even without ground swell, however, you can still get a solid pulse, but being the windy variety means it’ll be weaker and won’t stick around. That said there’s a frothing crew of local surfers and SUP surfers who’re on it every chance they get! The most likely chance of waves happens during the off season. You may get dribble/onshore mush in summer but it’s winter the hardcore crew hang out for.

Surf aside there’s plenty to explore in SUP touring mode along Brighton’s beaches. You’d do well to have tidal information in mind, however, as the steeply shelving land can chuck up a hefty shore dump even in the fattest of days. But there’s still respite…

The skeletal remains of Brighton’s West Pier – which was burnt out in 2003 – has been left to become a permanent feature of the city’s coastal scape. It offers stand up paddle boarders a point of interest to inspect from atop their boards. Just be aware of the twisted metal remains and submerged pylons that won’t be friendly to flesh or gear.

Brighton’s second Palace Pier still lies intact, and is heavily used, along to the east with the large boating and recreational marina further on again. Keep going towards Rottingdean and you’ll discover looming white chalk cliffs that are suitably impressive viewed from the water.


Big tides, heavy chop, dumping shore break and some localised spots (such as the marina wall) all make Brighton a considered location to paddle. Get it right and this part of the UK can be bliss. Get it wrong and not so much. Knowing how to interpret weather reports for the local area will help. As will having a degree of knowledge about each put in.


Access can be easy or hard depending on where you choose to launch. During summer the seafront road, and its parking, can be absolutely packed out – unless you get there early doors. You may have to navigate a few stairways and trudge across steep shelving shingle but eventually you’ll get to the water’s edge. Depending on how the tides, and inclement weather are, will dictate how easy (or hard) your launch is. 

Popularity (1-10):

6-7 in winter, 10+ (at least on the beach and land) in summer. If it’s particularly good weather you simply might not be able to get anywhere near the water’s edge.


Plenty. All of them! This is a bustling coastal city after all with everything you could want a short walk away.  


Brighton’s proximity to London and other south coast towns and villages means it’s never truly asleep – even during winter. There’s a healthy local crew of stand up paddle boarders who are out come rain or shine. The centrally located area, around the decrepit West Pier, is possibly a tad quieter than other put ins to the east and west. That said it’s noted as having a surfable wave when the bank’s lined up properly so if swell’s in attendance you’ll definitely have company if wave riding’s your bag.

West Pier itself is an interesting focal point for your stand up paddling. Just watch out for the twisted metal and submerged pylon hazards that won’t take kindly to inflatable SUPs and exposed skin and bone should you take a dunking. Makes for some nice photos though, as you can see from the accompanying pics in this bitesize guide. 

With weather on your side there’s plenty of water to navigate east or west and take in the typical south coast views. If you’re up for a proper touring SUP mission you could head all the way along and round to Eastbourne. You’ll need experience and knowledge for this kind of sojourn though. 

Downwind aficionados will also be well served in Brighton – especially with a cross shore breeze in the mix. You can hunt out some fun bumps if you have the skills. 

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