Why should you try surfing in Cornwall?
When most people think of surfing they usually associate it with warm, sunny climates like California, Australia or Hawaii but did you know that surfing in the UK is hugely popular too? In fact, the UK has some of the largest and cleanest swells in Europe, especially during winter. There are many great surfing beaches around the UK but undoubtedly Cornwall, the region located in England’s South West corner, is the capital of the UK surf scene.
I’ve surfed in the UK- in Cornwall and South Devon – as well as Portugal and Costa Rica. I actually prefer surfing in Cornwall over anywhere else! I like the mix of big breaks powered by the Atlantic Ocean, the less crowded waters, and the relative safety of Cornwall’s beaches. So I’ve put together this beginner’s guide to surfing in Cornwall to inspire you to share my love for surfing in the South West. In this surf guide, you will find everything you need to know to get started with surfing in this beautiful part of the UK.
If you enjoy this post, please subscribe to Travelacrosstheborderline by email, leave a comment below, and share on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Thanks for visiting!
Best time to surf in Cornwall
Cornwall is a great year-round destination for surfing. The biggest swells tend to hit in the winter and if you’ve never tried winter surfing then Cornwall is a great place to start! The water temperature can vary throughout the year from up to 20℃ in the summer, down to 10℃ in winter. You will need to wear a wetsuit year-round as the UK waters never get warm enough for you to forgo one. Personally, I like to surf in late Summer/early Autumn because the beaches are a lot less crowded after the school summer holidays, but the water is still at its warmest temperature.
Best places to surf in Cornwall
There are many great places to go surfing in Cornwall and lots of excellent beginner-friendly beaches too. The best places to surf in Cornwall are on Cornwall’s North coast as these beaches get the big Atlantic swells. However, there are a few good spots on the South coast too such as Falmouth, Praa sands and Porthleven. Cornwall has a strong surf culture so you will be able to find surf shops and surf schools in almost every town and most of the beaches are continuously manned by lifeguards during the summer.
Below are some of my favourite surfing beaches in Cornwall and in my opinion, the best surfing in Cornwall.
Surfing in Newquay
I couldn’t possibly write a guide to surfing in Cornwall without mentioning Newquay. Newquay is the self-proclaimed capital of the UK surf scene and home to the annual Boardmasters festival. The North Cornwall town is home to the legendary Fistral Beach, where surfers flock from all over the world to compete in various international surf competitions throughout the year. If you want to experience world-class surfing in the UK then this is the place to come.
Surfing in Gwithian
Gwithian is a gorgeous 3-mile-long beach close to the town of Hayle. It’s an excellent spot for surfers of all abilities and never gets too busy which means if you are learning you will have plenty of space to catch some waves without the fear of getting in anyone’s way.
A great place to stay in Gwithian is 3-mile beach, they have boards you can borrow so you’ll be able to get plenty of practice in! You can also rent gear from Gwithian surf hire.
Surfing in Porthtowan
One of my favourite beaches to surf on! There is a car park right at the entrance to the beach making it super accessible and very popular with the locals. The waves here tend to be smaller at high tide so if you are new to surfing this is a good time to go. However, there are some strong rip currents here, so be aware of what to do if you find yourself caught in one (more on that below!).
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife too, the last time I surfed this beach a friendly seal popped up right next to our boards!
Surfing in Sennen Cove
Located at the most south-westerly point of the county, Sennen is another excellent spot for surfers of all abilities. The waves here tend to be quite small in the summer but get bigger and hollower towards autumn and winter. The waves are pretty consistent and never get too steep which makes it a great learner’s beach. Sennen Cove also has several live webcams which you can use to check the current surf conditions before you head down there.
Surfing in St Ives
Another great Cornwall surfing spot, St Ives is one of the most well-known and popular holiday destinations in Cornwall. It is also one of the best places to learn to surf in Cornwall. Porthmeor beach in particular is great for beginners and there are plenty of surf schools in town.
Surfing in Falmouth
I’ve personally never surfed in Falmouth, but I’ve heard great things about it. There are plenty of Surf schools and lessons in Falmouth. The waves here are suitable to surf at all tides which makes it a great place for first-time surfers.
Surfing lessons in Cornwall
If you are looking for surfing lessons in Cornwall then you will be spoilt for choice! There are plenty of surf schools available in almost every coastal town. Newquay and St Ives tend to be the most popular beaches for surfing lessons.
Most surf schools offer a variety of different lessons, which I will explain now:
Group surf lessons in Cornwall
This is the most popular type of lesson and consists of 1 or 2 surf instructors with a group of up to 10 learners. Lessons usually involve some theory, techniques and safety tips on the beach before you head into the water to try your new skills. Group lessons usually cost around £35-£45 and last approx 2hrs. Try this introduction to surfing lesson in Newquay or this three-hour taster surf lesson.
Private surf lessons in Cornwall
Private surf lessons are also extremely popular as these allow you to have one-to-one tuition with an instructor. I recommend a private surf lesson if you’ve already had a group lesson or have tried surfing on your own and want to progress to an intermediate level.
I recommend this Private one-on-one surf lesson in Newquay.
Couples surf lessons in Cornwall
If you have a friend or partner who also wants to learn to surf then I suggest booking a Private two students, one instructor surf lesson as this way you can split the cost of a private lesson.
Family surf lessons in Cornwall
Many surf schools offer Private family surfing lessons for up to 4 people. Learning to surf as a family is really fun and can be a great holiday activity for families.
Kids surf lessons in Cornwall
Some surf schools run Children’s school holiday surf lessons. This is a great way to get kids interested in surfing and keep the little ones busy during the school holidays.
Full day surf lessons
Full day surf lessons include 2x 2hour sessions over one day. If you are trying surfing for the very first time then this is the lesson that I recommend as you can learn the techniques in the morning and then practice until you’re perfect in the afternoon!
Bodyboarding lessons in Cornwall
If you don’t feel ready to try standing on a surfboard just yet then why not start off with a Bodyboarding lesson in Newquay? Bodyboarding is just as fun as surfing but is slightly less intimidating if you are feeling nervous.
Surf courses in Cornwall
Surf courses are group surf lessons that run weekly for a set number of weeks. This can be a great way to really improve your skills and take yourself from beginner to intermediate. Gwithian surf academy offers a surf course which runs every Friday for six consecutive weeks.
Surf camps in Cornwall
Surf camps can be a great way to immerse yourself in surfing over a few days whilst staying with like-minded people. The instructors will take you to some of the best surf spots and you can also combine surfing with other fun activities such as yoga or coasteering. Below are a few of the best surf camps Cornwall:
Surf schools in Cornwall
There are a lot of surf schools in Cornwall. Below are a few of my favourites.
Cornish wave Newquay
I cannot recommend Cornish Wave highly enough! They are fantastic. I had a great lesson with them on my most recent trip to Cornwall and I had a fantastic time. The instructor was friendly, kind and patient and really helped me to improve my technique quickly.
Gwithian surf academy
Gwithian Academy of Surfing is in a great location on a fantastic beach with three miles of waves. It’s a great place to learn to surf and has accommodation and surf packages available so that you can really immerse yourself in surfing in Cornwall.
Fistral beach surf school
This surf school is very popular as it is located on the famous Fistral beach in Newquay, where you can find some of the best surfing Cornwall has to offer. The staff here are friendly and super helpful. You can also rent surf equipment and wetsuits as well as get lessons.
Sennen surfing centre
Sennen surf centre is another place that has incredibly friendly staff and instructors! There is also a great beach bar above the surf school.
The unicorn on the beach/Eskinzo surf school
I absolutely love Eskinzo surf school. Located in Porthtowan, this surf school is great. They run a bunch of different surf lessons as well as yoga and HIIT sessions on the beach. Also shoutout to these guys for looking after me when I stood on a Weever fish!
Surfboards for beginners
Once you’ve had a few surf lessons you will probably start to think about buying your own surfboard. However, it can be very daunting at first as there are many different types of surfboards and it’s easy to get overwhelmed! As a beginner, the general rule is that the longer and wider the board, the better! A board that is longer than your height and has a good width will help you with buoyancy and stabilisation. Foam boards are also recommended for beginners. I’ve listed a few boards below that are great for beginners.
[shopr collection=”surfboards” order=”random”]
Hire surf equipment for surfing in Cornwall
If you don’t want to buy your own surfboard or wetsuit then no worries! There are plenty of places where you can hire surf equipment in Cornwall. Almost every beach or town will have at least one surf shop or surf school that rents out boards, wetsuits and other surf equipment. A board and wetsuit will usually cost around £15 – £20 for a couple of hours. Most places will be happy to store your bags/valuables whilst you surf. However, not all surf shops have changing facilities so I recommend using a dryrobe to change in and out of your wetsuit on the beach.
Surfing safety when surfing in Cornwall
It is important to be aware of safety when surfing in Cornwall. The beaches in Cornwall are generally quite safe as many of them are manned by lifeguards. There are a few important things to be aware of:
Always check the beach for flags and safety signs before you get in the water. If the beach does not have any lifeguards currently on duty there will be a sign to let you know. If you see a red flag this means that the water is unsafe to enter. When surfing be sure to stay between the black and white checkered flags as this will be the safest spot for you to surf. For more detailed info check out this RNLI guide to flags.
Several beaches in Cornwall have strong rip currents. This doesn’t mean that you can’t surf there but you do need to be aware that the rips are there and know what to do if you find yourself stuck in one. Rips are strong currents which pull you out to sea. If you find yourself stuck in one DO NOT try to swim against it. Instead swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the current. If you find yourself in danger and need the assistance of a lifeguard, raise your arm in the air and hold up your fist. To learn more about rip currents check out this guide to rip current safety.
Most people who surf in Cornwall regularly will eventually encounter a weever fish! A weever fish is the UK’s most venomous fish and although their sting isn’t life-threatening it can be very painful! Weever fish like to spend their time lying in the sand and will sting anyone who accidentally steps on them. If you get stung by a weever fish, don’t panic! Simply soak the sting in hot water for 10-20 mins to draw out the toxins and you should be fine.
Surfing etiquette when surfing in Cornwall
If you are new to surfing then it is important to know that there are a few basic rules that you need to follow in order to have good surfing etiquette. These rules make sure that everyone gets a chance to ride the waves and helps to avoid collisions. The most important rules are:
- The furthest out gets right of way
- Don’t cut in front of other surfers
- Don’t hog the waves
- Only surf waves suitable for your abilities
For more information, there are plenty of great surf guides available such as this one.
Surfing in Cornwall summary
As you see there is a lot to consider when planning to learn to surf but I hope that this beginner’s guide to surfing in Cornwall has helped you to see that Cornwall has a lot to offer and is a great place to learn to surf in the UK.
Have you ever tried surfing in the UK? Let me know in the comments!
My Favourite Travel Resources
Travel Itineraries: I offer a range of pre-planned travel itineraries for many popular destinations. Use them to make planning your next trip a breeze!
Ferries: For cheap ferry tickets I use Ferry Scanner
Cashback: With the WayAway Plus membership plan, users get access to premium travel support, travel content prepared by locals, and cashback on flights, hotels, car rentals and other travel services. I love using Wayaway to get cashback on my travel expenses. In fact, it is one of my fave budget travel hacks 😉 Click here to get 10% off of a WayAway Plus membership
Foreign Currency: I highly recommend getting an international card to save you loads of money in expensive bank fees. The Wise Card allows you to spend in 150+ currencies and withdraw cash from ATMs anywhere in the world without paying any bank fees!
Travel Insurance: Never travel without proper travel insurance! I always use EKTA
Luggage Storage: Radical Storage is a Luggage storage network that operates in over 70 countries and 350 cities with more than 3500 storage points. I love using Radical storage to store my bags before or after checking in/out of my hotel as it gives me an extra day to explore without having to worry about dragging my luggage around with me.
Travel Planning services: Did you know that I offer travel planning services and custom itineraries? Let me plan your next trip for you!
Psssst… Need inspiration for your next adventure? Check out my travel store!