Surfing the Natural Wave: the Phenomenon of the Severn Bore

Experience the thrill of nature with our expert guide to the Severn Bore phenomenon. Dive deep into the science behind this natural wonder, explore the unique surfing experiences it offers, and join the community celebrating this spectacular tidal wave. Learn more about the frequencies, ideal viewing spots, and how to ride the longest wave in the UK while preserving its breathtaking environment

Ste Wright | 6 min read

Embark on a journey to the southwest of the United Kingdom and you'll find the River Severn, a natural spectacle where river waves are not only an expectation but a grand celebration. The Severn Bore, recognized as one of Britain’s most spectacular natural phenomena, is a large surge wave that can be observed in the estuary of the River Severn. This remarkable event brings together surfers, tourists, and locals, all of whom gaze in awe or ride in exhilaration on the bore’s majestic wave.

The Frequencies of the Severn Bore

The Severn Bore doesn’t adhere to a strict timetable, yet its appearance is reasonably predictable. This tidal spectacle predominantly occurs around 12-13 times a year, chiefly during the spring and autumn equinoxes when the gravitational pull from the moon and the sun synergise to influence Earth's large bodies of water. The exact dates and times of the bore can be anticipated based on the lunar cycle, with high amplitude waves most commonly appearing a day or two after the first full or new moon following the equinoxes.

The Science Behind the Wave

Understanding the Severn Bore requires a delve into the realms of tidal physics. The phenomenon is essentially a tidal bore, which arises due to the estuary’s particular shape and tidal activities. The Severn estuary, which funnels into an increasingly narrow channel while simultaneously shallowing, sets the stage for the creation of this mesmerizing event.

As the incoming tide from the Atlantic Ocean travels up the estuary, the water is confined into a progressively constricting and shallowing channel, forcing the tide to surge upwards and forwards, thus generating a single, often substantial, wave. The bore can reach heights of up to two meters and travel at speeds around 10-13 miles per hour, providing a unique spectacle and surfing experience.

The bore’s magnitude and timing are influenced by various factors, including the time of year, the phase and position of the moon, wind direction, and atmospheric pressure. It’s the amalgamation of these components that delineates the precise nature of each bore event, making every appearance uniquely enthralling.

Surfing the Severn Bore

Surfing the Severn Bore is an unparalleled experience and has thus attracted a dedicated group of surfers and enthusiasts who chase this remarkable wave. The continuous ride on this tidal phenomenon provides a surf of length and duration that ocean waves simply cannot offer. Surfing records have been established on the bore, with rides lasting for several miles and extending over an hour.

Embarking on the journey to ride the Severn Bore is not merely a surfing experience; it's a unique adventure that navigates through some of the UK’s most picturesque and notable places. As surfers ride this exceptional wave, they traverse a collection of remarkable landscapes and historical sites, all while surfing one of the world’s most renowned tidal bores.


A quintessential starting point for many bore surfers, Minsterworth offers expansive vistas and a popular viewpoint for both spectators and surfers alike. The Severn Bore Inn, located conveniently close to the river, provides an excellent viewing spot and is traditionally a gathering point for the surfing community and onlookers. Surfers often start or finish their rides here, as the bore manifests prominently in this segment of the river.

Newnham on Severn

Newnham on Severn is another favoured spot for bore riders. The curvature of the river here can amplify the bore, making it a thrilling section to surf. The village also brings historical charm and offers visitors a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Severn’s past. For those interested in prolonging their stay, Newnham provides quaint accommodations and a serene environment to relax post-surf.

Stonebench, Elmore

With its tranquil and scenic landscape, Stonebench in Elmore is an ideal spot for those who wish to immerse themselves in the serene beauty of the Severn while observing or riding the bore. Surfers navigating through this point are treated to a natural spectacle, as the lush surroundings enhance the ethereal experience of riding this lengthy wave.


The historic city of Gloucester, with its rich maritime heritage, provides both an urban backdrop to bore surfing and a contrast to the more rural locations along the river. The bore is usually smaller in Gloucester, making it suitable for those looking to experience a more moderate wave. Moreover, the city offers an array of amenities, historical sites, and post-surf activities for visitors to explore.


Epney, a beloved spot among the bore surfing community, offers a harmonious blend of vibrant energy and serene landscapes. The river’s width here provides a different surfing dynamic, with the bore occasionally splitting around the river island. Spectators often gather at the local pubs, making Epney a lively hub during bore events.

Surfing the bore
Surfers on the Severn Bore

But riding this tidal wave demands unique skills and an understanding of the river’s dynamic. The wave can appear as a tranquil rolling water one moment and transform into a robust, surging wave the next, requiring surfers to be adept and vigilant. Beyond merely surfing, the bore surfers must navigate obstacles like sandbanks, debris, and the riverbanks themselves, transforming each ride into a navigational challenge.

The Severn Bore also provides a fascinating blend of community and culture, where the collective anticipation of the wave and the communal respect for the river fosters a distinctive social atmosphere. It is not only an event for surfers but also for spectators who gather to witness the intriguing interaction of natural forces and human audacity.

Conservation and Respect

As we marvel at and interact with this splendid natural occurrence, it's imperative to acknowledge the necessity for conservation and respect towards the Severn Bore. The river and its surrounding areas are home to various wildlife and habitats, which need to be preserved and protected. Thus, the enjoyment and utilization of the bore for recreational purposes must always be balanced with a commitment to maintaining the health and vitality of the estuary’s ecosystems.

In conclusion, the Severn Bore serves as a magnificent manifestation of natural forces at play, uniting communities and inviting adventurers to ride its lengthy wave. It stands as a reminder of the awe-inspiring phenomena that occur on our planet and underscores the importance of aligning recreational pursuits with the stewardship of our natural world. So, the next time the moon aligns, perhaps you too will find yourself on the banks of the Severn, basking in the majesty of the bore.

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