The activity of coasteering has exploded in popularity around the world in recent years, with thrillseekers everywhere from Portugal to New Zealand trying coastal tours with an adrenalin-packed twist. But if you want the true coasteering experience, there’s nowhere better to try it out than its birthplace, the stunningly rugged and moody Welsh coastline.
“It’s everything your parents told you not to do at the beach as a kid,” says Rob Simms, head guide at Preseli Venture, based in the region of Pembrokeshire where coasteering was pioneered in the 1990s. “You’re at the bottom of the cliffs where the waves meet the rocks, so there’s plenty of opportunity to push yourself.”
Unsurprisingly, traversing the base of a cliff at sea level comes with its fair share of challenges.
A typical coasteering session involves scaling tricky natural rock formations, getting washed around hidden sea caves and jumping off cliffs from worrying heights. All of which means that a willingness to tackle the elements head on is essential – especially given the unpredictable nature of the British weather. “We go out in most conditions, even when it’s rough – that’s all part of coasteering,” explains Simms. “When it’s really windy, you know you’re going to have an interesting one.”
As well as offering stomach-clenching leaps and oceanic kicks courtesy of particularly chaotic waves – called ‘play spots’ by the initiated – coasteering is also designed to show off the coastline at its most dynamic. You can even get close to local marine life; curious Atlantic seals regularly tag along for the ride. “It really provides something more immersive than hiking,” says Brendan Rainsford, a university student from New Jersey, USA, who tried coasteering for the first time while travelling in Wales. “It lets you see things from a whole new perspective.”
“You need a decent level of fitness to do this,” says Rob Simms of Preseli Venture. “When you’re trying to swim through 6ft waves, doggy paddle just isn’t going to cut it.”
Want to take on the Welsh coast? Visit: preseliventure.co.uk
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