by Helpful Holidays
With its ‘toe’ dipping into the swell of the Atlantic Ocean, Cornwall has a well-deserved international reputation as surfing heaven and we’ve just what you need for a fabulous surfing break: brilliant beachside cottages where you can run down to the sand in wetsuits when surf’s up and back home for a hot shower and evening sundowners.
The joy of Cornwall for surf is the option of north or south coasts – with just a few miles between the two, you can head for the best waves each day.
And you can find the balmiest sea temperatures in the UK. August is the warmest month, with temperatures reaching 17 or 18 degrees, but early autumn is a great time for surfing too. By October, the average sea temperature in Cornwall has only dropped to 14 degrees, and if your neoprene is sturdy and all-encompassing you can even keep surfing through the winter, with the bonus of a consistent swell bolstered by low pressure weather systems.
There are Cornish surf beaches every way you turn, but here are a few of our favourites we pile families, boards and barbecues into the car and head for, most with the reassuring presence of lifeguards in summer and a surf school if you want some tuition.
Image: Paul Walter
A popular, family-friendly, Blue Flag beach suitable for beginners and intermediates. You can park right beside the sand and when you get tired there are excellent rock pools at the Black Rock end to dabble in at low tide. Sand and reef breaks provide a variety of peaks.
Stay at 12 Atlantic Close, within a stone’s throw of the beach.
Take care with your bodyboard here and sign in at the popular village surf school if you’re a novice surfer because you can encounter a risky rip current, but the beach is RNLI patrolled in summer and, since it faces the same way as famous Fistral Beach, catches some great surf.
Stay at Seagulls Perch, above the beach with superb sea views.
Image: Hardo Müller
Possibly the most famous and prestigious surf destination in the UK, Fistral is fondly dubbed the home of British surfing. There’s an International Surfing Centre here and a great mix of calm, tranquil days and adrenaline-surging days when the Cribbar, Cornwall’s famous wave, is ridden by hardcore surfers. August marks Boardmasters here, Europe’s biggest surf and skate festival.
Stay at Rosen, just 100 yards from Fistral Beach.
Beautiful Gwithian has everything going for it if you’re looking for a place to take your board all year round. The four miles of golden sand slope gently into the water, so the slow forming and breaking of surf gives you plenty of time to get to your feet, and the Gulf Stream and heat retaining properties of St Ives Bay make it relatively warm. There’s a good café too.
Stay at Carsilgey, mid-way along the fine stretch of sand.
Plenty of swell here, as well as ample space along the popular three mile beach for the crowds who gather, although it can get crowded between the lifeguard flags. It’s suitable for beginners and experienced surfers and bodyboarders, and there are good surf shops and board hire firms.
Stay at Dune View and follow the footpath to the beach.
Image: John Stratford
Lovely Blue Flag Porthmeor, in the heart of St Ives, is ideal for surfing and bodyboarding all year. And just sometimes you might glimpse dolphins enjoying the waves too. It’s a friendly break here, with a smaller wave height, so Porthmeor is suitable for beginners and intermediates, though it’s worth watching the hardened professionals when they’re blown in from the more blustery beaches.
Stay at Dolphins, which has fabulous views of surfers on the beach.
Popular with expert shortboarders and families, the surf is consistent, though it can be rippy, and is sheltered by the cliffs which flank the village. Several surf schools operate here and there’s an excellent beachfront bar.
Stay at Endymion, a new house on the cliff-top above the beach.
A fine alternative to the beaches of the north coast, this is one to head to when surf’s up in the south. With frequent surf and good facilities, it’s popular with families and all levels of experience. But if you’re not confident, beware the west end of the beach which can have a strong rip current.
Stay at Evergreen, in a peaceful setting 1 mile from Praa Sands.
Perched on the end of England, in the teeth of swells off the Atlantic, you’re pretty sure to find surf here at any time. Serious surfers should head for the swell at the northern end of the beach, where waves can reach 6ft high, whilst the breakwater to the south has smaller, faster surf for beginners. Some of the top surfers teach at the school here.
Stay at Cragford, a stunning nearby cottage in ‘Poldark country’.
Image: James Martin
Portreath, in its sheltered harbour, is a popular surfing beach with families. At high tide, the dumping waves are fabulous for bodyboarders, and the combination of a reef and the harbour wall make for some challenging waves which can keep you guessing.
If you fancy exploring a selection of the beaches that Cornwall has to offer, consider travel hire options to help you get you and your equipment around.
Main image: Praa Sands [simon_44].
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