Hemmed by the Atlantic, Cornwall is at the heart of the British surf culture. With breaks for every level of surfer, there’s no better way to make the most of beach life than by grabbing a surfboard and riding the waves. What with high-tech equipment, toasty-warm wetsuits and expert surf schools county-wide, surfing isn’t just a summer pursuit. So, here are some of our favourite beaches to learn to surf in Cornwall year-round:
A majestic sandy beach amidst Cornwall’s craggy north coast scenery, Polzeath lures the surfing community from Padstow to Port Isaac. Gentle, spilling waves encourage longboarders and learners to master the art of wave riding, while a full-throttle beach culture, along with plenty of beachside food and facilities, make it an ideal spot for family beach days. You can even park right on the beach. Kit hire and lessons are available from various beach outlets including Surf’s Up and George’s Surf School.
There are few better locations to start your surfing career than at this crescent of golden sand ten minutes’ from Padstow. More sheltered from the full force of the Atlantic than Cornwall’s big open beaches, here the swell wraps in around granite cliffs. At Harlyn, you’ll often find mellow waves perfect for beginners, or on big swells, it’s where the locals head to enjoy fast, hollow barrels. With plenty of rock pools to explore, beachside parking, a sea view café and the experts at Harlyn Surf School ready with kit hire and lessons, it’s little wonder that this is one of the best places to learn to surf in North Cornwall.
A dreamy stretch of pearly sands, Constantine is a Mecca for surfers, beachcombers and dog walkers. Delivering waves for all levels of surfers and different conditions, you can choose between a challenging reef break and a more beginner-friendly, sandy-bottomed beach break. Between surfs, scour the sand for sea glass, gorge on Cornish ice cream and, as the tide drops, ramble through rock pools to neighbouring Booby’s Bay and discover the remains of a shipwreck. With rocks and rips to contend with, beginners are best to hit the waves with the local Waves Surf School, who offer group, family and one-to-one sessions.
A rugged bay with a grassroots surfing culture, Mawgan Porth is a short hop north of Newquay and just two minute’s from Cornwall airport. Made for bucket-and-spade days, beach picnics and surfing from dawn to dusk, its sandy runway is a swell magnet that breaks on all tides. Whether you want to catch green waves or practise on the white water, you can kit yourself out with everything you need at the surf-side stores and book a surf session with one of Cornwall’s best-loved surf schools – Kingsurf. With beachside parking, cafés and a sea-view watering hole, Mawgan Porth is becoming one of Cornwall’s most popular family surfing beaches.
One of the most consistent surf spots on the outskirts of Newquay, the rolling waves at Watergate Bay lure longboarders, beginners and experts to make the most of nature’s watery playground. Boasting two miles of golden sand, there are plenty of peaks to choose from, and a handful of surf schools to show you the ropes, including the bang-on-the-beach Wave Hunters and private sessions with One-to-One Surf. A stunning location backed by staggering cliffs and a huddle of eateries from street food to fine dining, Watergate Bay is a prime spot for beach lovers, wave riders and dog walkers, all dipping a toe into Cornwall’s stylish beach life.
Dubbed the ‘surfing capital’ of Britain, Fistral’s world-class waves lure surfers from far and wide, and is the location where many of the UK’s pro surfers cut their teeth. There are plenty of peaks for all abilities to spread out along the sandy beach, as well as a line-up of surf outlets and surf schools to get you looking the part and honing your skills. For expert tuition, warm showers and indoor changing rooms, we’d recommend seeking out the Surf Sanctuary to find your find your feet in the waves with a few luxury trimmings. Easy parking, as well as an impressive line-up of eateries from Rick Stein’s to The Stable, means you can spectate or surf to your heart’s content.
Surf in the shadow of the iconic lighthouse on a three-mile beach yawning from Godrevy to Hayle rivermouth. A haven for surfers of all levels, you can pick your peak from a series of breaks littering the bay from north to south. Backed by marram-carpeted dunes, Gwithian is great place to park up and surf check, and wait for the tide from the deck at the Sunset Surf Café. There are plenty of surf outlets to choose from, but if you bag lessons with the long-standing Gwithian Academy of Surfing, the guys here are serious about getting you to the next level of wave-riding, with the best instructors and kit to help you on your way.
An award-winning Blue Flag beach, Porthtowan boast pearly sands, pumping surf and excellent water quality. With easy parking, beachside amenities and peaks that work at all tides, it’s a popular spot with all levels of surfers. It can be a punchy break, but as the tide drops you can shift onto the (sometimes) more mellow waves at Lushingtons at the southern end. Between surfs take a dip in the sea pool, strike out across the cliffs and explore World Heritage Mining territory or kickback in the Blue Bar – one of Cornwall’s most iconic beach bars.
Sandy-bottomed and safe for beginners, St Ives’ Porthmeor is the ideal location to try surfing. Catering for family groups and all levels of wave riders, the St Ives Surf Centre will get you on your feet and gliding towards the shore in no time. Or, if you can’t bear the thought of squeezing into a wetsuit and battling the Atlantic swell, simply rent a deckchair and watch the rest of the family have a go.
White sand, crashing waves, crystal clear water and surfside restaurants – Sennen Cove has got it all for surf lovers. Catching the brunt of the Atlantic swell, if there’s surf anywhere in Cornwall it will be here. Easy parking, surf outlets and plenty of places to eat and drink beside the waves make this an easy place to enjoy the wilder side of Cornwall. There’s a strong local contingent who make surfing look a cinch, but if you need a few tips, hit the waves under the tutelage of the pros at Smart Surf School.
You can’t come to Cornwall without dabbling in one of the county’s most popular pastimes. So, whether you want to master surfing or simply watch from a beachside pew, dip into the surfing lifestyle with Harbour Holidays. Find the perfect accommodation for your surfing holiday from our wide range of holiday homes close to the best surfing beaches in Cornwall.
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