McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Westward Ho!, North Devon.


Westward Ho!, Bideford, North Devon

Spot type:

Atlantic facing tidal location flanked by a huge expanse of beach at low tide. Split from Saunton Sands, to the north, by the Taw & Torridge estuary, its 2 miles of sand is a draw for many visitors.


Although Westward Ho! technically sits at the mouth of the Bristol Channel it’s still a magnet for Atlantic born surf that can pulse in at any time of year. Being further up the coast it doesn’t get quite as much swell as it’s southern counterparts, yet it can still produce a decent SUP wave. Rolling in from way out back pulses wrap around Hartland Point and slingshot towards Westward Ho! beach. The waves tend to be more rolling in nature and therefore easier to catch. Upon hitting inside sand banks the surf will pitch and usually close out. When it goes flat there’s opportunity for recreation/touring paddling.


Rips at certain stages of tide and sizes of swell; rocks and reef to the southern end (town side); rocks, groynes and large boulders at high tide; strong currents flowing out of the estuary to the north; other water users (kitesurfers, windsurfers, kitesurfers); beach users.


Access is via the main car park in town or the Northam Burrows end which has parking next to the golf club.

Popularity (1-10):

8 in summer falling to around 1 in winter.


Plenty of facilities including cafes, pubs, amusement arcades, restaurants and such in town. Toilets can also be found here as well. There isn’t anything other than an ice cream truck at the Burrows end. A few surf and SUP school offer hire and tuition.


Westward Ho!, unlike its more popular neighbour Saunton Sands, isn’t quite the surf town you’d perceive. More a seaside resort the Ho! doesn’t attract wave riders in the same numbers as other more popular North Devon locations. As such it’s a peaceful surfing spot. The peak closest to town does get fairly busy as it’s walking distance from a lot of accommodation. Simply head towards the Burrows, however, and you’ll find less people in the water. The waves themselves are noted as being mellow with easy roll in take offs up to about 4ft. After that whitewater can be a bit relentless making paddle outs arduous. As swell hits the very inside it does tend to dump and close out. High tide sees the beach all but disappear, although riders can still get wet if they’re careful. When surf disappears WH can be nice for a spot of cruising. You can even paddle into the estuary if you know what you’re doing! Don’t underestimate the current flowing out of the estuary’s mouth. For further flat water touring head round to Appledore or across to Instow for an easy, white sand beach launch. If you’re into winging, kiting or windsurfing Westward Ho! can deliver some fun in westerly, onshore winds. Whereas many south western beaches aren’t doable in onshore breeze the wide expanse of beach means booting up and down, parallel to the sand is fine. Even with monster white water and waves outback navigating the inside section is still no problem. For swimmers there’s a tidal pool located on the rocks at the south end where you can indulge in some saltwater crawl, if that’s your bag. A number of villages surrounding the Ho! have decent pubs and eateries with Bideford itself having a selection also. If you’re after a quieter North Devon surf SUP spot, offering easy access within walking distance amenities Westward Ho! could be the spot for you.

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