Hayling Island is the birthplace of windsurfing and is still known nationally as one of the best places to windsurf in the UK. On a classic windy summers day, you will see hundreds of windsurfers launching from the main beach on the seafront.
During one Hayling Island windsurf session, you will see many blasting around on slalom or freeride gear, others playing in the waves on the sand bar and a few freestylers showing off in the shallower and flatter water near the beach.
Along with kitesurfers, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight as the backdrop, it’s a fantastic sight and brilliant for anyone who loves getting on the water.
Location of Hayling Island
Hayling Island is located centrally on the south coast of England.
The Island is at the very south of the A3, which makes it very easy to access for all South West Londoners. On a good day, it’ll take about 1hr 20mins from Surbiton to the car park on West Beach, which probably makes Hayling Island the closest beach for many folks living in London.
Hayling Island only has one bridge connecting it to the mainland, so on a hot summer weekend, the roads can get jammed quickly.
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Hayling Island Windsurf Spots
Windsurfing on Hayling Island can deliver glassy flat water to proper wave jumping and riding conditions, it all depends on tide, wind direction and swell.
Being an island means it is one of the only places on the south coast that can work in any wind direction. As long as there is a good wind forecast, Hayling Island can be a safe bet to have a great windsurfing session.
Overview of conditions
Best for flatwater: Westerly winds at low tide. Easterlies can also be relatively flat at low tide.
Best for waves: Southwest or southerly winds. Any sort of groundswell will make fun jumping waves.
Wind directions: E, SE, S, SW, W
Suitable for: Intermediates +
When to avoid West Beach: The high tide shore dump is not fun at all.
West Beach is right on the seafront, and probably the image you have in your mind when dreaming of the perfect windsurfing day on Hayling Island.
More precisely, West Beach is the most west point on Hayling seafront, just beyond Inn on the Beach.
This is the most popular windsurfing spot on Hayling Island and for good reason. It offers a multitude of sailing conditions and can be very exciting in anything above 20 knots. On a warm summers day at low tide and with the sand in between your toes, it feels more like you’re on one of the Canary Islands rather than in the UK.
The sand bar is the main feature at West Beach, which is the reason this place gets so much attention and love. In a westerly wind with no swell, the sandbar gives protection against the waves, creating perfect flat water for blasting or freestyle.
In south-west or even southerly winds, the waves wrap around the sandbar and you can always find an area where the waves ramp up and deliver fun jumping and easy wave riding.
Whilst the sandbar is where all the fun is, I’ve seen so many people catapult into the sand when they didn’t realise how shallow the water is.
The tide can rip into Langstone Harbour with some power, so beginners and early intermediates should try to avoid practising mid-tide.
Finally, avoid high tide. The sandbar disappears so there is just choppy water to windsurf on, whilst the shore dump has destroyed its fair share of kit throughout the years.
The park situation has changed a lot in the past few years, with Havant Borough Council closing much of the beach off. There is now probably half the amount of parking spaces there were, so get to the beach early if you want a prime spot.
You have to pay for parking all year round now.
Overview of conditions
Best for flatwater: Westerly winds at high tide. 2 hours either side of high tide.
Best for waves: No waves at Esso.
Wind directions: S, SW, W, NW, N
Suitable for: Beginners +
When to avoid Esso Beach: Low tides and any easterly wind.
Esso Beach is close to the entrance of Hayling Island, near the bridge. It is located in Langstone Harbour and offers very different conditions to West Beach.
Esso Beach is called this because it is right behind the Esso petrol station. Other names you may have heard include ‘The Oyster Beds’ or ‘Poo Beach’.
The main feature of Esso is that it is a west-facing beach, meaning it is one of the only spots on the south coast to work in a northerly wind. Being in the harbour makes Esso a very safe spot to learn windsurfing, but it is also very popular with free riders and freestylers due to the flat water.
Esso Beach itself is in a kind of mini bay, around 400m in length and many sailors are happy to blast around in this small area. It’s shallow at both ends, meaning you can practice turning around and never have to worry about being out of your depth.
There is a shingle bank running parallel to Esso beach, around 100m out. At either side, the bank is raised, which gives protection from any chop and makes the water very flat.
If you want to head out beyond the shingle bank, you have the whole of Langstone Harbour to play in.
All the shingle and shells make for a very sharp seabed, and I’ve cut my feet open a few times here. Make you bring some windsurfing shoes or boots to protect your feet!
The shingle bank at Esso is a fin wrecker and catapult creator, so be careful! If it’s your first time windsurfing at Esso, get there 3 hours before high tide and you can see the seabed and locate the areas where the shingle is raised.
Esso Beach is also known as Poo Beach, for 2 reasons. Firstly, the beach is very popular with dog walkers who seems to just leave poo right where everyone rigs up, mixed in-between the seaweed. Secondly, there is a sewage treatment plant called Budds Farm, which has been known to discharge stormwater into the harbour when there is a lot of rainfall. Beware the poo!
Any East in the wind and Esso will not work. The wind will be offshore, gusty and not enjoyable.
There is free parking right on Esso Beach, but there are spaces for around 10 – 15 cars only so it doesn’t take much for this spot to feel crowded. There is an overflow car park and on busy days people park over the road, so you can always find parking but you might have to walk a distance with your kit.
Hayling Island Sailing Club (HISC)
Best for flatwater: Strong westerly winds at low tide. North easterlies and easterlies can also be great at low tide
Best for waves: No waves at Hayling Sailing Club.
Wind directions: W, N, NE, E, SE, S
Suitable for: Intermediates +
Hayling Island Sailing Club (HISC) is another superb spot if you are able to gain access. The beach is gated so you must be a member or have a guest pass to windsurf here.
HISC is located on the east side of Hayling Island, in Chichester Harbour. It is right near the harbour entrance with West Wittering just over the other side of the water.
HISC is great in a number of wind directions. If the wind is a strong westerly and it’s low tide, you can windsurf directly north up the channel for perfectly flat water. It could be 30knots plus and the water will stay incredibly flat, it’s really quite amazing to sail in these conditions.
If the wind is north-easterly, you can find sand bars in the middle of the harbour entrance for some flat water blasting or freestyle. The tide is very strong here so you must be a confident windsurfer to sail.
I will only windsurf in Chichester Harbour entrance in a northeasterly once the tide starts coming in again. If the wind and tide are both trying to take me out to sea, it will be a constant battle to tack upwind and not an enjoyable session.
When the stars align with the northeasterly and strong incoming tide you can fall in, get a lift upwind via the tide and keep practising without having to tack!
We have already alluded to the very strong tide here, so please be careful. At it’s strongest the tide rips at around 10 – 15 knots in places, so if you get in trouble or your kit breaks, you have very little chance of swimming to safety especially if the tide is going out.
There is plenty of parking at HISC, but it’s a member’s only club which includes access to the car park.
Windsurf shops and lessons on Hayling Island
If you need to buy some gear or forgot your UJ on a day trip to Hayling Island, Andy Biggs Windsurfing Shop is packed with the latest equipment to get you back on the water.
The staff at Andy Biggs are all mad about watersports and seriously know their stuff. If you are new to windsurfing on Hayling Island, it could be worth heading to the shop where they will give you the low down of where to windsurf on any particular day.
For windsurfing lessons on Hayling Island, there is GetWindsurfing. Phil and Danielle from GetWindsurfing have been running private and group lessons for years and both used to compete internationally. So if you want to learn something new, they are the go-to instructors on Hayling Island.
About the author
Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.
Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.