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Coasteering near Porthclais, Pembrokeshire

Coasteering is a physical activity that encompasses movement along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming, without the aid of boats, surf boards or other craft. The term was used by John Cleare as the combination of the words "mountaineering" and "coast".[1] and was coined separately by Andy Middleton in Wales in 1985, who then made it a business idea.[2]

Coasteering may include all or some of the following:

  • Swimming or Adventure Swimming: in calm water; rough or white water; and/ or tidal currents. Dressing for swimming in the sea (wetsuits, buoyancy aids etc.) is often an integral part of Coasteering; even on routes where it is possible to stay dry. A route, or activity, where the group start out with the intention of staying dry - whether through route choice or the use of ropes and harnesses - would not usually be considered as coasteering but sea level traversing,[3] which is usually a dry pursuit.[4]
  • Climbing, scrambling, swimming, jumping: the very nature of the coastline that is needed for coasteering demands aspects of these activities. Ropes, as security on rock, are not used. Any climbing activity usually takes place above deep water, with safety spotters used where appropriate. There is a similarity to the sport of deep-water soloing, but this would normally be carried out by experienced individuals not wearing equipment suitable for coasteering. Coasteering is not usually intended as an 'always dry', climbing activity.
  • Jumping and Diving: are often seen as an appealing and exciting part of coasteering. These activities usually make up minimal content of a coasteering session.

A defining factor of coasteering is the opportunity provided by the marine geology for moving in the “impact zone” where water, waves, rocks, gullies, caves etc., come together to provide a very high energy environment.


Although all aspects of coasteering have been informally practised by people for a very long time, if only as a means of access to a cut-off cove beyond a headland, the term appears first to have been used in 1973. In the book Sea Cliff Climbing, John Cleare and Robin Collomb said "A few enthusiasts believe that coasteering will become popular and has a big future".

In 1985, it emerged as a commercially guided recreational activity initially along the cliff coastline of St.Davids in Pembrokeshire in Wales. By the mid 1990s write-ups started appearing in the travel/recreational pages of the newspapers showing that several commercial companies were offering such activity.

In 1999, TYF Adventure licensed a trade mark incorporating the word "Coasteering" in a distinctive script with the intention of creating the highest safety and environmental standards of any outdoor sport. The word was by then in general use to describe the activity and few other operators had much interest in environmental practice.

The activity then spread to all regions of the UK where there are suitable rocky coasts, including Cornwall, Pembrokeshire, Anglesey and the Highlands and Isles of Scotland.

The advisory organisation for coasteering is the National Coasteering Charter (NCC).[2]

In the UK the activity is recognized by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority which is a department of the Health and Safety Executive.

Guided adventure experience[edit]

The rocky cliff coasts of western Britain provide the world's principal location for organised guided coasteering, where it is available from over 100 activity centres.[5] Usually half day or one day trips are offered at a variety of levels catering for beginners, intermediates and advanced. Some trips are especially slanted towards study of the coastal ecology.

Some centres cater for parties of school children.

Adventure races[edit]

Coasteering may be included as one of the disciplines for a stage of an adventure race. This is especially common in New Zealand, but is also to be found in Australia, Canada, and the USA.


In the UK, the HSE has an information sheet of good practice for the Adventure Activities Industry [1].

Basic safety equipment[edit]

Safety equipment reflects the environment in which the sport is performed and often includes:

  • Wetsuit (for cooler waters outside the tropics)
  • Protective clothing and gloves to prevent abrasions - may be provided by the wet suit
  • Shoes to provide grip on rocks
  • Buoyancy aid
  • Helmet


Because of the diverse practices involved in the sport there are a number of hazards.[6]

  • Impact with rocks
  • Drowning
  • Hypothermia

Places known for Coasteering[edit]

  • Wales
  • Madera
  • Athens

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 2011
  2. ^ a b "All About the NCC….. – National Coasteering Charter". Retrieved 6 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "ABOUT". coasteeringsouthwest. Retrieved 6 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Sea Level Traversing". Retrieved 6 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ List of AALA Recognized Providers for Combined Rock and Water Activities
  6. ^ "HSE Information Sheet for Combined Water and Rock Activities" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-05-26. Retrieved 2005-07-06.