The coastline of the UK is dotted with surf shops that would not look out of place in the Caribbean. In fact, step inside one and immediately you are transported into warmer climes with the mixed aromas of rubber wetsuits and sex wax. Obviously you are not physically transported in a way that would make Dr Who jealous but simply in the mental way.
A surf shop is not the typical type of store you would expect to find along the coast of an island that is famous for its wet, windy and cold weather but it's the windy stuff that makes the place so good for surfers. It's also the wet, cold stuff that means these very surf shops make a mint from extra thick wetsuits.
Wetsuits have come a long way from the basic suits of history. We now have super douper materials that keep you dry and warm and hug your body like they never want to let go, which is great until you try and take them off. There are black wetsuits and we all know no girl should be without a little black number for those fat days. Yes, I said girls. Surfing is a game for the girls as much as the boys these days.
In fact, surf shops have caught on to this and are now stocking wetsuits in every shade of pink for those feeling a little girlie or for the gay guys - whatever floats your boat (or your surf board). There is a whole range of coloured wetsuits to choose from, accompanied by a whole price range depending on your budget. You can have glued, moulded, stitched or glued, moulded and stitched. You can buy ones that are shaped to make you look like Angelina Jolie (I have one of these - they look like Angelina Jolie even when they're on the hanger!)
You can buy surfboards of unlimited designs from surf shops throughout the UK. There are the plain, simple starter boards, there are kids mini boards, there are huge, great surf boards for the professionals and there are even shops that will paint your own, unique design on the board for you.
And of course, no surf shop would be complete without the sex wax. Nowhere near as exciting as it sounds, sex wax is simply a product that surfers apply to their boards to prevent them from slipping off while in the water.
For those who like to pretend they live in the Caribbean, surf shops can kit out your whole wardrobe with designer surfer dude clothing. All surf wear is made for comfort and protection from nasties such as nipple rash. Most of it will be covered in large flower designs or logos that are meant to depict speed. (That's velocity, not the drug) Anything from shoes to shorts to T-shirts and hats are available for kids to adults.
Footwear for surfers is a whole new style. Of course, there are the casuals that you would expect in the form of flip flops and then there are the surfers boots. If you can imagine a boot size plimsoll this is roughly what they will look like. Not to be knocked, these are mega comfortable, protect your feet from stones and jellyfish and are also great for doing the housework in, although nip to the corner shop in them and you're going to attract some funny looks.
Accessories from surf shops come in the form of sun creams and sunglasses. Yes, a little out of place in the UK but surfers are nothing if not optimistic. Wetsuit shampoo is also available but I wonder if it does any favours for the surfers hair - a modern phenomenon that will give you the best bouffant you have ever seen. Of course, no visit to a surf shop would be complete without picking up a waterproof housing for your iPod. Who would dream of any surfing trip without being able to tune into the summery tunes of the Beach Boys?
Expert surfer Catherine Harvey looks at what you can get from a surf shop and what the point is given our climate.