BEACHES & SURFING
SURFING BEACH LOCATIONS
As a really popular surfing hotspot, Cornwall is home to some of the best beaches and surf locations in the UK and Europe – it’s well worth the trip to experience the famous waves!
Although some of the Cornish waves are renowned across the surfing world, there are also plenty of hidden gems, where you can enjoy some real surf magic!
The west-facing beach at Porthtowan is protected by south Cornwall’s jutting headlands. For surfers, it offers a consistent beach break, with the waves mixing out at around eight to ten feet. It is a great spot for more experienced surfers.
As a Blue Flag award-winning beach, it is one of the south coast’s most popular surfing locations. There’s full lifeguard cover from 1st May to 26th September, with weekend cover in October and then full cover again during the October half-term break.
Located in North Cornwall, Portreath Beach’s fairly exposed beach break offers consistent surf. With the sand and shingle backed by majestic cliffs, it’s a stunning location for any staycation. A surfing hotspot all year round, it provides right and left-hander reef breaks, with the right-hander breaking off the harbour wall – popular with body-boarders, as it’s an easy paddle-out.
It’s okay for less experienced surfers, as the average surf height on a calm day is four feet. As an RNLI-lifeguarded beach, it is popular with families, as well as surfers.
Gwithian beach is Cornwall’s answer to the best surfing for beginners. The long beach, just around the headland from picturesque St Ives, is a popular destination for a fun family trip to the UK’s south coast. However, it’s rarely overcrowded, as it is such a big beach.
The peaks are strong, sometimes hollow and can be steep. There is also a secondary swell and the currents sculpt good banks, with long rights and lefts that hold a decent size. When there are a lot of surfers about, it’s probably more suitable for intermediates. The surf height on an average day is six feet and there are lifeguards patrolling the beach. There are two cafes nearby for post-surf refreshments.
Porthmeor beach is overlooked by the Tate Gallery. The stretch of golden sand contrasts with the rocky headlands, which box it in, so there’s a degree of shelter, thanks to its northwest orientation. It’s a good spot to surf when the big, rolling, south-westerly waves come in – average wave height is four to six feet.
The crystal-clear seawater produces all kinds of waves, from walls to barrels. In summer, there are plenty of surfers around to enjoy the action, not least because of the buzz of St Ives. When autumn and winter come around, it’s still a good surfing spot, although not as busy outside the summer months.
Some of the best surfing on England’s south coast can be enjoyed at Praa Sands. This stretch of golden sand features a beach break that’s best surfed at mid-tide. In winter, the north winds can help create some off-shores and right-hand barrels coming towards the jetty. It can get quite busy in summer but goes pretty quiet, apart from locals, as autumn approaches.
On mild days, when there’s no wind, you can expect gentle waves of around three feet high. These can increase to six feet on an average day. Lifeguards are provided by the RNLI, as it can be a busy, popular beach, especially at peak season.
The beautiful, sandy beach of Kennack Sands, in south Cornwall, provides a sheltered beach break. Surfing conditions are ideal when the winds are from the northwest, as it receives a mix of groundswells and wind swells. It offers both right and left-hand waves, with good surfing conditions at all stages of the tide.
Although surfers descend on Kennack Sands all year round, winter is the best time of year, in terms of the consistent, clean waves, with a rideable swell and light offshore winds. The waves might be considered too small by the more experienced surfers, but it’s a good place for beginners and intermediates at most times of the year.
There is lifeguard cover every weekend from 19th May to 6th July and daily from 7th July to 2nd September.
The compact bay of Trevone is sheltered from the full thrust of the Atlantic Ocean. A surfers’ favourite on stormy days, the refraction around the point provides interesting, fat waves. It’s a popular spot for beginners, with the gently sloping sand making the waves less formidable.
The best surf on an average day is at mid to low tide, when there are various right and left-handers breaking off the rocks mid-beach.
The RNLI lifeguard service provides daily cover in summer from 19th May to 30th September.
The Cribbar, Newquay
Newquay’s biggest surfing spot is the Cribbar, alongside Fistral Beach, where its massive waves of up to 40 feet are famous for attracting top surfers – definitely a spot for pro surfers only! Created when the sea crashes over the reefs 500 feet off Towan Head; the waves at The Cribbar are described as “death-defying”.
Conditions are ideal only a few times a year when the swell and wind combine for the perfect giant waves. The location became famous in 2003 when South African surfer Chris Bertish surfed there. His photos went global, putting The Cribbar firmly on the map.
When is the best time to go surfing in Cornwall?
You can go surfing in Cornwall all year round, as long as you’re prepared for the different conditions. Between April and early June, as the weather warms, there is plenty of tamer surf on the Cornish coast, with May probably being the sweet spot of spring.
At the height of the summer, in July and August, when Cornwall is in complete holiday mode, the coast is descended on by visitors, many of whom are surfers. Although the water is busy during the day, if you get up early, the surf could be the best you’ve ever experienced!
In September and October, as autumn arrives, it’s still a great time to surf in Cornwall. The dominant swells of the Atlantic wrap around the shores of Ireland and push into the seas around the northern coast of Cornwall. It’s a great time to catch the hollow waves, particularly at Fistral beach.
Between November and March, the height of the big swells arrive in Cornwall. The surf can hit around 10 feet on stormier days. The coast can still be pretty hectic in terms of surfers, with beginners arriving at Praa for lessons. More experienced surfers are likely to be found at Porthtowan and Fistral, where the barrels get going.
Globe Vale Holiday Park is an award-winning, family-run park, in the heart of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches and coastlines. Rated five stars by the AA, we provide top-quality facilities including WiFi.
Why not come down and see us? Oh, and don’t forget; bring your friends!