Beginners Guide To Coasteering

If you are considering coasteering in Devon, this beginner’s guide can help answer many of the questions you may have. Coasteering is one of the UK’s most loved adventure activities, and below we look at some of the most frequently asked questions, best practice and necessary skills to get your coasteering adventure off to a great start.

What is coasteering?

Coasteering covers several activities such as wild swimming, deep water cliff diving, low-level traversing. There are many forms of exciting exploration including swimming through sluices, scrambling up gullies, enjoying natural whirlpools and discovering flora and fauna in nature.

The National Coasteering Charter describes coasteering as:

“Exploring and journeying through the impact zone between the levels of high and low, often including total immersion in seawater.”

In the activity’s most basic form, it is thought to have been the result of mountain-starved climbers traversing cliffs near the sea in order to train themselves for sea cliffs seeking for Alpine routes. The term coasteering was trademarked in the 1990s by a Pembrokeshire company named TYF Adventures marking the beginning of commercial coasteering. The activity can now be enjoyed up and down the UK and is one of the country’s fastest-growing leisure activities.

When is the best time for coasteering?

Determining the best time to go coasteering is a significant part of the activity itself. Coasteering takes place where the ocean meets rock, in the intertidal and littoral zone. Navigating and making the most of the ever-changing seascape is crucial, and at the very heart of the sport. Regular coasteerers make sure to pay attention not only to sea conditions but to the daily movement of the tide. It is essential to only take part in coasteering with a recognised and experienced provider, as they have knowledge and understanding of tides and sea states suitable for coasteering activities.

What equipment do I need to go coasteering?

  • Full-length wetsuit to ensure you stay warm
  • Neoprene wetsuit shorts that have been designed explicitly for coasteering
  • Old lace-up trainers or lightweight, waterproof hiking boots. These provide excellent grip on a slippery rock and protect your soles
  • Buoyancy aid (lifejacket) to help keep you afloat in the water
  • A half-cut helmet in case you bump your head (this is rare)

Your coasteering guide will also carry a variety of safety equipment including:

  • Peterson rescue tubes which are often used to point out the right landing spots when jumping into the water. The tubes can also be used as a float or tow for those who become tired
  • First aid kit
  • Mobile phone
  • Throw and tow lines are carried by guides to help with sessions. They may be used to assist in a slippery gully or to assist a weaker swimmer.

What do you do when coasteering?

Wild swimming

When wild swimming, you can access and explore areas cut off by land — sections for swimming link up and provide endless opportunities for exploration of coastline. Swimming distances are often short, and when using a buoyancy aid, even weaker swimmers can enjoy wild swimming.

Low-level traversing

Low-level traversing is where you are partly submerged rocks which will be used to help you cross a section of deeper water. You will have your feet just at water level and will climb sideways one foot at a time. If you lose your grip, you can fall into the water and start again or swim to a point you can get out of the water.

Cliff jumping

This is one of the most exciting elements of coasteering, but one which many people fear. You can start small, building your confidence up to take on bigger jumps as you go along.

Cave discovery

Some of the best areas for coasteering feature sea caves. Sea caves are often hidden by t headlands, or entirely of sight and access can be blocked by the tide. Taking part in coasteering allows you to see some rarely-explored natural wonders hidden in sea caves.

Sluices & pour-overs

Sluices and pour-overs are areas where water rises and as a result, pours over into a pool or pushes between two rocks. Timing your entry can make all the difference allowing the ocean to wash over you or even dunk your head under.


Gullies have been formed over thousands of years, but are often hidden from view. Climbing and scrambling up a gully can allow you to access untouched, beautiful coastline and provide an excellent sense of adventure.


The perfect combination of rock formation, tide and ocean swell can create a natural whirlpool as the water recirculates with a particular space.

We hope you enjoyed learning the basics of coasteering, and that you get out to find your next (properly guided) adventure soon.