Phil's providing a special surfing service

Phil Sadler


Pembrokeshire is blessed with a beautiful coastline and splendid beaches where the conditions are superb for a range of water sports – and someone who is using them to the full is Phil Sadler, who runs his Pembrokeshire Surf School for participants of both sexes, all ages and ability.
For Phil it is a case of ‘Have van will travel’ because it is packed with the kit needed for holding his classes for newcomers yet to have their own equipment – and where they are held depends on the prevailing weather conditions so social media is also important in making sure that everyone is in the right place at the right time to meet up with him.
Phil started his venture in 2018 and despite the problems caused by the pandemic has absolutely no regrets in doing so after a lifetime’s pleasure from surfing and a long time tutoring youngsters in a range of outdoor pursuits across our county.

Early start on the South Coast  - and the chance to qualify in this area!

But he started his involvement with the sea as a youngster living on the South Coast, in  Brighton, and joining his pals on their surf boards, and gradually extending his experiences in Devon and Cornwall, and then in our county.
“I really took to Pembrokeshire,” explained Phil, “and so when I decided to take on a BSc course in Sports Science, with the emphasis on outdoor pursuits, it was perfect that I could pursue it via The University of Glamorgan but through Pembrokeshire College – and so here I am!”
“I already had experience as a surfing coach from work in S Africa 1999 and when I came here I was for some time a freelance outdoor instructor in a variety of activities that included not only surfing but sea kayaking, canoeing, mountaineering, orienteering, mountain biking and other environmental things – and I worked at Twr y Felin, in St Davids, Preseli Venture (Mathry) and the Prince’s Trust at Llanion in Pembroke Dock.

Phil on the crest of a wave

Business plan from college finally put to use

“As part of my degree course, I had to write a business plan for a new venture which was afterwards placed carefully in a drawer – but in 2018 I decided it was time to dust it off, give it a few tweaks to update it, and now I am using it to its fullest extent with my own surf school.
“I am always happy to coach people from ‘up the line’ but my principal focus is on developing the young talent that abounds more closely to home in Pembrokeshire – and I do one-to-one coaching if newcomers feel they need it, or with serious surfers looking to develop a particular aspect but in the main I have classes where a maximum of eight can take part at any one time.
“Newcomers can use the equipment from my van to get started but then I am also able to advise them when they want to get their own boards for their future needs – and it is fair to say that they can get a decent second-hand board from about £100 but once they have really progressed a lot and they aim for a fibre-glass, polyester or epoxy resin board it can cost up to £1,500!

Family matters . . .

It is fair to say that Phil’s wife Jane gives him massive support with his endeavours and on occasions has done a good job as unofficial photographer for his web site but ask her if she is a keen surfer and her answer would be firmly in the negative – although she says she might be more tempted to give it a try if it took place somewhere nice in the tropics!
Their children Nell (14) and Toby (12) have already been surfers but also have other sporting interests. Nell is a keen rock climber and regularly uses the climbing wall at Haverfordwest Leisure Centre under the watchful eye of Liz Collyer – and Toby has played rugby, football and tennis.

Other sports . . .

With regard to other sports for Phil, he used to really enjoy rock climbing around Pembrokeshire’s rugged coastline, at St David’s Head in the north and around St Govan’s in the south.
As long ago as the 1990’s he also used to take part in mountain bike racing.
“Now I do it just for relaxation but in those days I used to love the thrill of making speedy downhill descents through wandering forest tracks, trying hard to overtake others in the process.
“I also used to play a bit of football for Camrose,” admitted Phil, “but now my focus is on surfing, which is the best sport of all!”

Phil Sadler shows his skills

Back to surfing – and helping elite surfers

Which takes us nicely back to his surfing involvement and as well as coaching eager newcomers and those beginning to develop their own style he is also committed to coaching some of the elite competitors in readiness for their representing Wales or England.
Phil took a group of Groms (surf speak for kids) to the Rip Curl Gromsearch event in Newquay Cornwall and they did very well – good performances all round with standouts form Betsy Owen 1st in U14s girls, Josie Hawke 2nd U12s girls and Indi Lynch 3rd in U14s Girls. Also in the team competing were: Arthur Buick, Euan Buick, Seth Reed, Nell Sadler, Poppy Owen, Elijah Jones and Ted Owen. They are all looking forward to the Welsh Nationals in Llantwit Major on the 2-4th July.
“There are some superb surfers in the county,” said Phil, “and none more so that Seth Morris, who hails from Broad Haven, and was Welsh, English and British Junior Champion – and was still one of the best surfers in the UK until surfing was brought to a temporary halt by Covid.

Another string to his surfing bow

Phil then added another facet to his surfing involvement since he has qualified as a surfing competition judge.
“It meant going on a course organised by the Welsh Surf Federation,” Phil told us, “which involved a written component and lots of practical hours where I was assessed at competitions.
“So now I am able to be one of the three or four judges who officiate at a range of competitions: as we stand on the beach and look for things like progressive moves, speed, control and high risk moves in critical wave sections of as many rides as each competitor can complete in 20 minutes, with the best two attempts marked out of 10 and giving them their final placings.

So how does one start out in Pembrokeshire as a surfer?

“It’s basically just contacting me on my web site – but one important criteria is that prospective surfers with me need to be confident in the water and able to swim at least 50 metres freestyle.
“A one to one first lesson is always beneficial – and we can also provide video analysis via our lap top on the beach as another bonus.”

And finally . . .

One of the areas that Phil excels in is working with people with a disability – indeed, we at first came upon Phil’s name from a chat with a parent whose son has autism and who really loves his new-found interest.
He also works with groups from local schools, both primary and secondary, as well as with those who would like to complete a surf  instructor training course or learn to train as a lifeguard, so his diary is usually a full one.
But he is ever-ready to take on newcomers and all it takes is an email to – and you will be guaranteed a warm welcome!

Phil on top of a wave