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The minimum recommended age is 14 years

Thurso East

Thurso East

Scotland - Caithness , United Kingdom

Surf, Bodyboard

This right pointbreak is known as the best wave in the north of Scotland and possibly all of the northern coasts. The Thurso East is a world class barrelling wave which can be defined as being a mix between a long section of Jeffreys Bay and the Nias barrel, with the addition of the beautiful surroundings and the castle remains overlooking the peak. The Thurso East right can be found in the village of the same name, in Caithness, in the north eastern extremity of Scotland. The nearest airport is two hours away in Inverness and from there you can rent a car and drive up the scenic A9, the main road which links this area with the south of Scotland. If you rent a car, make sure you park responsibly in the farmyard in front of the break as it can be a bit tight, or alternatively in the harbour from where you can paddle out up the river to the line up.


The smooth topography of the kelp covered rocky bottom that’s made up of slabs and stratified rock ledges at the mouth of the River Thurso that have formed over thousands of years has resulted in a maximum quality mechanical wave. Like other spots of this quality, it confirms that chance does not exist in surfing and thanks to this excellent bottom it doesn’t matter if it breaks with one metre or three, or even with a slight onshore breeze because Thurso maintains its shape. Only a few waves in the world have these characteristics. It’s important to note that you can’t trust the conditions at Thurso because they can change radically in a short time, there can be nothing one minute and suddenly a one metre series, that will more than likely leave most clueless, can appear without warning. Be aware that in the winter the peat stained river that leads to the line up is freezing. The peak is very clear and the take off isn’t complicated so the locals are tolerant as long as you respect them and the balance that rules this pointbreak. If it’s not big enough, you have the option of the more exposed Brimm’s Nest nearby.

The first surfer to appear in the area was the New Zealander Bob Treeby in 1973. Two years later, the Scottish Surf Federation was created and the championships began together with pioneers like Pat Kieran, Barbara Wilson and Sheila Finlayson. Chris Noble and Andy Brain are currently some of the best locals along with many that come from Fraserburgh and Point Northeast, other places with good peaks further south. Thurso East is now better known thanks to the successful competitions that have been held there recently, such as the O’Neill Cold Water Classsic, a WQS circuit stop.


A 100 metre long right that holds between 1 and 4 metres and works better at mid tide. SW wind helps to keep it barrelling but in general, the offshore S breezes offer perfect conditions. The water temperature oscillates between 8 °C in the winter and 16 °C in September, the warmest month. In the summer you’ll need a 4 mm wetsuit and a 5 mm in the winter with gloves, hood and booties. It’s worth noting that geographically Thurso’s high latitude means that it goes dark very early in the winter, around 3 pm, and during the summer the days are long with around 20 hours of light. The best time to travel there is at the end of the summer, during September and October, as it’s when the first quality swells arrive, the climate is moderate and the days are still long, or in May or June when the water is cold but the days are longer and the spot is quite consistent.

For Thurso to work it needs a swell originating from anywhere between Iceland and Norway, or even further north in the Atlantic Ocean. WNW is very good but NW is better as the barrel holds from beginning to end. With N and NE Thurso loses its barrel and becomes more surfable. The drop in is accessible and it’s an easy spot in that the current takes you back to the peak. It’s better to paddle out to the west from the river if you’re new to the spot, however there is another entrance point at the east of the peak which is faster but unsuitable if you’re not familiar with it.
Optimal Conditions
  • Wave
  • Wind
    S - SE
  • Tide
  • Swell
    NW - N
  • Bottom
  • Size
    3 to 15 ft
  • Time of year
    From August to October
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