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A Surfer’s Guide to the Cornish Coast

Written by Alice de Courcy Wheeler on

Surfer riding a high wave in Newquay on the Cornish Coast

It’s a well-known fact that Cornwall is the home of surfing in the UK. At over four hundred miles, the Cornish coast is the longest continuous coastline in the country, more than 150 miles of which is Heritage Coast. The northern edge abuts the Atlantic Ocean, and south-westerly to north-westerly winds sweep in off the sea, giving the region a wild, elemental nature. The south coast, while lacking the rugged look of its northern counterpart, still has some good waves, and far more sheltered beaches to enjoy.

It’s impossible to mention surfing in this country without thinking of Newquay. The Cornish coast town has eight different beaches to enjoy, all within walking distance of the town centre. Fistral Beach is the surfer’s best friend; a long, sandy west-facing strip of coastline with good quality surf almost all year round and waves that regularly reach 6-8 feet. For this reason it’s home to one of the biggest pro-surf competitions in Europe, The Fistral Boardmasters, which has been attracting some of the biggest names in the surfing world for over ten years.

Fistral tends to draw in the crowds, but if you’d prefer to surf somewhere that is a little less crowded then Watergate Bay is another consistent all year round beach break, just three miles from Newquay. Powerful waves provide surf for all abilities, and several surf schools operate in the area. You can reach the bay by several access paths that run down the cliffs, and once you’ve exhausted the surf for the day there are three miles of sands to enjoy and some lovely restaurants to try, including Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen.

A few miles east along the Cornish coast is the town of Tintagel, famous for its magical castle. What’s not so well known is the beach just outside the town. Trebarwith Strand is an excellent surf spot at low and mid tide (there’s no beach at all at high tide) that offers some seriously fast waves. This is not a place for beginners, but if you’re an experienced surfer then you’ll love the challenge of riding the barrels and waves that come from right and left.

Bude is Cornwall’s most northern town, and somewhere you can enjoy great surfing. The best beach to board from is probably Widemouth Bay. Another one of the long sandy beaches that proliferate along the Cornish coast, there are plenty of facilities and several surf schools to help you learn to surf or bodyboard.

Perranporth is another spot on the Cornish coast that’s managed to escape the notice of the crowds. It picks up plenty of swell, especially at the Penhale end of the beach, and unlike many other surf spots it’s easy to feel that you’re miles from anywhere.

While most of the best surfing beaches are along the fiercer north coast, there are still a few gems along the south Cornish coast. Whitsand Bay has one of the longest beaches in the Southwest, and the regular peaks that roll in make it a great place for beginners and intermediate surfers. Powerful westerly winds create the best surf so the eastern edge of the beach is the place to catch the best waves.

Alice de Courcy Wheeler

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