Surfer Steve rides crest of wave to promote sea sport in Borders


At first glance, Coldingham Bay on the Berwickshire coast would seem to have little in common with Hawaii’s

exotic sparkling blue shores.



But there is a link between the two and it can be found among the waves that travel thousands of miles to lap the beaches of both.

It was in 1779 that the earliest written account of surfing by a European was first penned, when James King, who had been made First Lieutenant of the HMS Discovery after the death of Captain Cook, jotted down how surfing was practiced by local men at Kealakekua Bay.

By the time King observed Hawaiians riding waves lying down or standing on long, hardwood boards, surfing was an integral part of Hawaiian culture and an iconic part of their society, religion and myths.

And now the sport first dreamed up all those centuries ago half a world away, continues to spread to coastlines around the world.



And one person who has first-hand experience of its growing popularity in the Borders, is Steve Powner, who took over the St Vedas Hotel overlooking Coldingham Bay in 2002.

In the 13 years since, he and his family have turned the hotel and its ancilliary surf shop, surf school, restaurant and beach cafe into a mini Mecca for surfers from near and far.

Steve spent more than a decade farming near Duns before swapping making a living from the land, for making one from the sea.

However, he hadn’t actually put his feet on a surfboard until after buying the hotel. Now a qualified instructor and beach life guard, the sport has become a way of life and one he’s keen to introduce as many as possible to.

“Yeah, it was quite a change for someone who was originally a farmer, but I love it,” he told us.

“Surfing’s now an all year round sport thanks to modern wetsuit technology , which means you are kept nice and warm even in the winter months. Lessons start at the beginning of February and run through until November. It all depends on sea conditions.”

He says the great thing about surfing is, it’s not how many years you have been doing the sport, but how many hours you clock up.

“A lot of people probably only surf about twice a month, whereas I’m usually in the sea most days,” says Steve, who also teaches kayaking, sea swimming and snorkelling.

“It’s an amazing sport. It’s quite a selfish thing - you’re out there riding the swell, waiting for the right wave, with the only other people nearby other surfers. No phones ringing, radios blaring or cars.

“You’re concentrating on what you’re doing and not thinking about anything else. The sea is a great leveller. It doesn’t care who you are. The conditions are the same for everybody.”

And, he says, surfing is for everyone from the age of seven or eight upwards. “As long as you are fit enough and can swim 50m. I’ve even taught folk in their 70s.”

Only closing on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the St Vedas Surf Shop and school has a laid-back atmosphere.

But be warned. If you are only looking for somewhere just to buy trendy surf gear so you can strut along the sand pretending to be a character in cult hit surfing movie, Point Break, forget it.

“We’re a hard-core surf shop. Boards and kit mainly, and not so much in the way of clothes. We have an online shop and we can repair boards and wetsuits as well,” explained Steve.

“Our customers become friends. Surfing can be just a hobby or it can become a way of life. It’s is a very humbling sport. You pull on a wetsuit, paddle out on a board and everyone’s equal. The only difference between surfers is the amount of time people have put in.

“Sure, you fall off a lot when you’re learning. But the first time I managed to stand up on the board and go in a straight line, I was hooked.

And, despite testing his surfing skills in far flung spots like Florida, France and Portugal, Steve says nothing beats surfing your home break.

“On it’s day, Coldingham Bay’s as good as anywhere.”

For details and to view the surf school’s Coldingham Bay web cam, visit