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Surfing Cornwall

The best beaches for boarding

Cornwall was made for surfing. The full force of the Atlantic bears down on this rugged coastline all year round, unleashing epic waves that rank among Europe’s best.

But couple these wild conditions with a mild climate, grand coastal scenery and pristine beaches and you have something truly special - a breathtakingly beautiful location where everyone can find a surfing spot to match their skill.

Whether that’s learning on gently shelving sands or riding legendary waves at hidden-away reef breaks you’ll find your ideal surfing destination in Cornwall right here.

If you’re a novice, then there’s an unbeatable choice of Cornish surf schools to get your surfing adventures started. Run by pros they’ll ease you into the sport and help you master the basic skills you need to ride your very first wave - a completely unforgettable, adrenaline-filled moment.

Surfing makes the best group activity too. It’s a sport everybody can participate in, where kids outshine their parents, and friends make new lifelong memories together.

But with hundreds of beaches to pick from, choosing where to surf in Cornwall can be tricky. Which is why we’ve put together this list of our favourites, where you’ll discover the addictive thrills of walking on water for yourself.

Fistral Beach - the famous one

Fistral Beach - the famous one

Newquay’s Fistral Beach is where British surfing was born and it remains at the heart of the surfing scene. So join other devotees and pay homage to this legendary surfing destination, by riding its reliably forceful, hollow waves.

West-facing and sheltered between two headlands, Fistral’s renowned for producing challenging, quality waves of 6-8ft year-round. Which makes it perfect for pros! All of the UK’s top competitions take place here, and countless champions have graced its shores.

Of course, amateurs adore Fistral too, with tens of thousands surfing in Newquay each year. This can make it busy, particularly in summer, but the chance to surf at Britain’s best-known beach is completely unmissable.

Polzeath Beach - the mild one

Polzeath Beach - the mild one

Taking lessons at one of Cornwall’s top-rated surf schools is the best way to begin your surfing adventures. But when it’s time to go solo, it can feel daunting. Thankfully, the Blue Flag beach at Polzeath is tailor-made for amateurs.

Renowned for its shallow shelves, the waves here are slow to break and mild so you can take your time to gradually refine your board skills - ideal for family surfing holidays in Cornwall.

And when you’re looking for a new challenge, the outer banks deliver stronger, hollow waves for added exhilaration.

Polzeath Beach - the mild one

Sennen Cove Beach - the dependable one

Sennen Cove Beach - the dependable one

Staring straight into the Atlantic, Britain’s most westerly beach is continually pummelled by powerful waves, making it one of the most reliable spots for surfing in Cornwall. If the sea is still at Sennen, it’s probably still everywhere!

Despite the crushing forces at play, the gentle crescent curve and light gradient of Sennen’s beach makes it suitable for surfing amateurs and pros alike. The south end is sheltered with smaller, rapid waves while the north is more exposed, breaking at 4-6ft.

Combine that with Sennen’s beautifully unspoilt setting, fine sands and azure-coloured waters and you have one the most magical surfing destinations anywhere.

Gwithian Beach - the two-in-one

Why settle for one surfing hotspot when you can have two! Gwithian sits adjacent to Godrevy beach and each offers something unique.

Gwithian is the gentler of the two. Just minutes from St Ives, and characterised by a vast, softly sloping shoreline, the waves here are small and slow to form. They’re consistent too, which makes it the perfect spot to hone your skills throughout the year.

Head towards the northern end of the bay and you’ll find the waves become punchier. This is Godrevy. More exposed than its neighbour, it throws up greater challenges with fast, hollow waves ranging from 3-8ft.

Gwithian Beach - the two-in-one

Porthtowan Beach - the feisty one

Porthtowan Beach - the feisty one

Fast. Punchy. Hollow. The waves at Porthtowan are among the finest in Cornwall, but you’ll need to be able to handle a board to get the most out of them.

Flanked by sand dunes and gigantic cliffsides, this pristine Blue Flag beach faces the Atlantic. It constantly hoovers up swell to create a top-quality beach break, where you can ride powerful, barrelling waves for most of the year.

There are some rip currents, however, and it can get busy with pro surfers so if you’re new to surfing it’s best to leave Porthtowan until your skills have improved. But when you are ready, it delivers some of Cornwall’s most memorable surfing moments.

Widemouth Bay - the ample one

This gigantic golden beach stretches for almost 1½ miles and is lapped by waves along its entire shore - providing awesome surfing conditions for every ability.

The top spot for surfing in Bude, Widemouth Bay features a gentle gradient that creates slow, mild waves that are ideal for novices and children looking for their first taste of surfing thrills.

But there are serious challenges here too. At high tide, fast hollow waves can form up to 6ft and there’s a reef break towards the north end of the beach that will test even expert surfers.

This is a Blue Flag beach that ticks every box!

Widemouth Bay - the ample one

Surf's up on Cornwall’s Fistral Beach

We took the Hodgsons family on a surfing holiday in Cornwall. See how they got on in their first surfing lesson below…

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