It’s eerily quiet at Rest Bay. Launched just six months ago, the new Watersports Centre overlooks Porthcawl’s Blue Flag Rest Bay beach, and when it is safe to do so will open its doors again to provide the perfect base for adventure seekers eager to sample South Wales’ outdoor activity offering.
Between October and March, local experts Porthcawl Surf School were using the new centre as a base to offer year-round surf lessons and hire as well as stand up paddle board lessons. They also have a fleet of thirty vehicles for hire including mountain bikes, fat bikes, e-bikes, California cruisers and a beach wheelchair.
The centre was just beginning to offer bike tours to points of interest throughout Porthcawl and Newton, as well as a tour based on the legends of Kenfig Dunes. It also benefits the local community, acting as a base for beach cleans and courses on environmental education, outdoor learning and ocean literacy. It also acts as a training centre for lifeguards and surf instructors and as the base for the Welsh Coast Surf Club.
The opening of the new water sports centre had cemented Porthcawl as one of the UK’s fastest growing surfing destinations. Less than three hours from London, it is the closest, most consistent water sports destination from the capital.
And so while we observe the rules and remain in doors whenever possible, here’s an insight into the eventful history of Rest Bay and how it got to where it is today:
Rest Bay gets its name
- 1878 - 'Long Bay' offers a resting house for ill and injured workers, becoming known as Rest Bay. Florence Nightingale is one of its keen supporters.
- World War I & II - Requisitioned as a hospital in use for the war effort
- 2018 - The Rest is converted into luxury studios and apartments.
A golfing hot spot is born
- 1895 - 9 hole course is founded on Locks Common by Cardiff businessmen attracted by the location.
- Relocates to its current position and becomes the first 18 hole course in South Wales
- 1909 - The course is granted Royal status and during the First World War, is turned over to agriculture for the war effort.
- 1951 - Hosts its first major tournament, The Amateur Championship. The competition has returned a further six times since.
- 2014 - Hosts the Senior Open Championship for the first time, Bernhard Langer wins by an amazing 13-stroke margin.
Tourists discover the perfect holiday spot by the sea
- 1900's - Thanks to charabancs and the railway, Porthcawl sees an influx of day trippers drawn down to the sea.
- 1930's - Pines Airways based at Locks Common, offers tours of the sky and an air taxi service.
- 1960's - Porthcawl begins to develop as a water sports destination, particularly for speed boat racing and surfing. Fulgoni's cafe (later known as Malc's) offers ice cream and stunning views over the bay.
- 2014 - Rest Bay features in the Lonely Planet
"When the swell is up - delighting local experts with clean barrels topping 2m - this Welsh beach can rival any surf spot in Europe. But Rest Bay boasts rideable waves on any given day, which is all that learners need."
- 2019 & Beyond - Exciting new developments such as the Watersports Centre lead the regeneration of the resort.
Porthcawl's incredible waves give birth to one of the first UK surf clubs
- 1969 - One of the oldest surf clubs in the UK, Welsh Coast Surf Club was founded as the CREST Surf Club, its name inspired by the local breaks of Coney, Rest, Esp, Sker and Trecco. Re-named the WCSC in 1971, the club continues to underpin Porthcawl's vibrant surfing community, organising competitions as well as the legendary Surfer's Ball.
- 1973 - Tonyrefail Lifeguard Club is founded. The name reflects the fact that the club is formed by families from the Valleys who have holiday caravans in Porthcawl.
- 1991 - The name is changed and Rest Bay Lifeguard Club is officially established
- 1997 - The lifeguard station is opened following the efforts of local fundraisers and the council.
- 2016 - RNLI lifeguards take to their posts for the first time at Rest Bay, supported by Porthcawl lifeboat as required. Following the successful pilot scheme, they will continue to guard the beaches until at least summer 2021.