Rising tide of women exploring surf culture in embracing Scarborough's glacial waters

A hidden secret among surfers is the supremacy of Scarborough’s waves, which with a glacial chill can rival the best of Britain’s beaches.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th May 2021, 12:29 pm
Scarborough surfer Ruby Wyborn is launching more surfing lessons for women to break down barriers and encourage sporting endeavours. Image by Richard Ponter

Now amid a surge in interest in the wake of lockdowns, a rising tide of older women are embracing the sport in pursuit of a surfer’s high.

Ruby Wyborn, who launched lessons for younger girls last summer, has found an unrivalled enthusiasm which spans the generations.

“A lot of people have realised, especially in Scarborough, that one of the few things we can do is outdoor activities,” said Miss Wyborn.

Scarborough surfer Ruby Wyborn is launching more surfing lessons for women to break down barriers and encourage sporting endeavours. Image by Richard Ponter

“For a lot of people surfing is seen as a hobby that they always wanted to try, and this may be the best time to start.”

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Miss Wyborn, an economics student at the University of Plymouth, launched lessons for girls aged eight to 16 when she returned home to Scarborough last summer.

The ambition had been to keep girls and teenagers engaged in sport, but when the 21-year-old was approached by a number of women she soon discovered a broadening intrigue.

Scarborough surfer Ruby Wyborn is launching more surfing lessons for women to break down barriers and encourage sporting endeavours. Image by Richard Ponter

“It’s been a big success,” she said. “The aim was to get more girls involved in sport and we managed that – none had surfed before but they are now quite confident.

“This year I’ve expanded. There’s been a lot of interest, not just from girls but from women. There are a few mums, but mainly it’s just lots of local Scarborough ladies, of all ages. I thought I’d start with a couple of ladies’ sessions – they are fully booked already. There’s a great interest from women wanting to get more involved in sport.”

Women in surfing

Women are said to make up just 20 per cent of those on the waves, despite an estimated 500,000 surfers taking part in the sport across the UK. According to research, the majority are aged between 25 and 44.

Scarborough surfer Ruby Wyborn is launching more surfing lessons for women to break down barriers and encourage sporting endeavours. Image by Richard Ponter

Surfing, with its laid-back reputation and Instagram image, is often seen as an inaccessible sport for many older women and girls, said Miss Wyborn.

“For me, it’s a way to relax,” she added. “In Scarborough, it’s a nice community of people, doing something that they really love.”

Bridlington is said to be the birthplace of British surfing, with two Hawaaian princes having been recorded as riding the waves here in 1890.

Harry Potter star Rupert Grint would later go on to champion Scarborough’s surf, fronting a Staycations campaign to ask why anyone would go anywhere else.

Scarborough surfer Ruby Wyborn is launching more surfing lessons for women to break down barriers and encourage sporting endeavours. Image by Richard Ponter

Glacial chill

For Ms Wyborn, what defines Yorkshire’s waters is the chill, which can dip to 6C in winter, and are among the coldest seas to surf anywhere in the world.

This is what makes Scarborough’s surf special, she laughed, as a good way to clear your head, improving mental health and easing anxieties.

“It can be a challenge in winter,” she said. “But when you see these empty waves, you don’t think of a struggle with wetsuits and gloves and a hood, you just want to be in the sea.”

Ruby’s Rippers launched lessons this week, with ladies’ sessions and after-school clubs from June 7, and then from July 24 there will be summer schools.

“This is a sport that uses Scarborough’s best asset, which are the beautiful beaches and seas,” said Miss Wyborn. “I find the surf in Scarborough as good as anywhere in England.

Scarborough surfer Ruby Wyborn is launching more surfing lessons for women to break down barriers and encourage sporting endeavours. Image by Richard Ponter

"Better actually, because it's more hidden, and quiet and picturesque, and it's that unknown-ness that makes it special."

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