Surfing in Cornwall has exploded in recent years, becoming one of the global hot spots for people learning to surf - with millions flocking to the Cornish Coastline each year.
But are the waves actually any good?
I mean, isn’t England supposed to be flat?
Turns out if you know where to go you can find incredible waves in places you'd never expect.
Read on to find out more.
IS CORNWALL GOOD FOR SURFING?
Cornwall is well known (in the UK at least) for having the best, most consistent surf in the country.
Unlike other parts of the coastline that are either protected by Ireland, or blocked by France, Cornwall is exposed to it all (the good and the bad).
This makes it very consistent with surf all year around, plus, with Cornwall being on a far flung peninsular in the South West of England it’s also blessed with dual coastlines (North & South) which give protection from winds from virtually any direction.
Is Cornwall good for surfing, definitely.
Is it world class?
But, for the surfer that’s willing to do their homework they can find waves almost every day of the year, you've just got to know where to look...
SEASONAL WATER TEMP, AND WHAT TO WEAR IN THE SURF
Ok get ready for it, the water in Cornwall gets cold, very cold, and rarely warms up all that much - even in Summertime.
So, you can forget your boardshorts or bikini’s when surfing in Cornwall, and rubber up instead. Thick neoprene is essential.
As a guide you'll need a good 5/4mm wetsuit, plus boots & hood in the winter, with wetsuit gloves an optional extra.
And in summer you can just about get away with a good 3/2mm wetsuit.
Here’s a table breaking down the yearly water temperatures in Cornwall:
AV AIR TEMP HIGH °C
AV AIR TEMP LOW °C
AV WATER TEMP °C
WHERE TO HIRE A SURFBOARD
Like I mentioned earlier, surfing in Cornwall has exploded, and that means there’s plenty of places to hire a surfboard regardless of where you’re surfing.
The best places to look will be a local surf school (of which there are many), or one of the local surf shops.
They’ll sort you out.
And as a rough guide expect to pay around £10 - £20 for a soft top surfboard for a couple of hours hire.
WHERE CAN I SURF IN CORNWALL?
As literally the whole of Cornwall is covered in swell exposed coastline there are a lot of different places to surf.
So, what I’ll do below is split things up into three sectors to make it easier: North West Coast, South West Coast, South Coast.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets dig a little deeper into the different surf spots Cornwall has to offer:
NORTH WEST CORNWALL
This area of Cornwall is by far the most popular spot for surfing, mainly because it’s the first surf destination for city surfers travelling to the area.
The coastline is littered with beaches and coves, all of which produce varying quality waves.
On the plus side the North West Coast is open and exposed to all the Atlantic swell on offer, on the downside though it doesn’t have a lot of protection from the prevailing Westerly winds.
BEST SURF SPOTS:
Bude is one of the hot spots for surf talent in Cornwall, producing some of the country's best.
A break that works well for beginners through to advanced, it's a spot that has it all.
Polzeath is a very flat beach, creating soft rolling waves, perfect for beginners.
Offshore winds are from the East.
Watergate Bay is one of the most exposed beaches in North Cornwall.
On its day it can produce quality waves, however with its long flat beach, that doesn't happen all too often.
Fistral beach in Newquay is the mecca for UK surfing.
The beach produces quality lefts and rights, and picks up tonnes of swell.
On its day, this place can pump!
SOUTH WEST CORNWALL
The South West is where things start to get extra isolated, and that little bit more rugged.
Expect smaller seaside towns, less people, and more country lanes (my favourite).
This area of the coast is littered with waves, pumping out arguably the best surf in Cornwall - if you know where to look that is.
With a craggy coastline full of nooks and cranny’s there’s plenty of waves to be found in almost any winds, making it a hotbed for core Cornish surfers.
BEST SURF SPOTS:
Porthtowan is a swell magnet that on its day can produce hollow waves both left and right.
A big open beach at low tide, compacted into a cove at high.
A high performance wave not suited for beginners.
Godrevy is a bit of a hot spot for learning to surf.
The waves are slow rolling, weak as hell, and break for miles.
Great for a beginner, not so much for anyone else.
Nestled below the Tate Art Gallery, Porthmeor can throw up some epic waves on its day.
Facing slightly North, this beach can be a great spot when the open beaches are too big.
Sennen is a stones through from Lands End, the most southern point in the UK.
Fully exposed to all the elements, this place picks up any swell that is going.
The South Coast of Cornwall is famed for its quality reef breaks, producing world class waves on its day.
But, being protected from prevailing West and North Westerly swells it’s more inconsitant than the other two coasts.
Regardless, when the wind switches to the North the whole of the Cornish surfing community turns their attention to the South Coast, ready in anticipation to pounce should the conditions align.
BEST SURF SPOTS
Porthcurno is probably the most beautiful beach in the UK (at least I think so anyway).
When conditions align this place can fire up some epic wedges, perfect for the tube hunters amongst you.
Praa Sands is one of the most consistent spots on the South Coast.
Oftentimes here you'll find punchy, hollow beach breaks, with ramps and tubes galore.
Pretty much the best wave in the UK, Porthleven is a slabbing right-hand reef break.
On its day this spot throw up insane waves, and can hold swells 8ft+.
Definitely a spot reserved for advanced surfers only.
CHECKING THE SURF: LIVE SURF CAM
For a list of free surf cams for different Cornish beaches click here.
Or for HD cams only, check out Surf Line here (paid)
HOW TO CHECK THE SURF FORECAST FOR CORNWALL
Surfline is the biggest swell forecasting app in the world, with comprehensive surf reports for pretty much every location known to man.
Windy is a great alternative to Surfline, with a different modelling system, and different ways of displaying the conditions.
A good app to use as a second opinion for more accurate forecasting.
WRAPPING IT UP
Surfing in Cornwall is going from strength to strength, with more and more people flocking to the area to get involved.
Sure, there are places in the world that are warmer and have better waves, but there’s a certain novelty charm about surfing in this area of the world, something you don’t get anywhere else.
Rowan is the technical nerd behind the scenes. A lover of everything entrepreneurial, and living a minimal, simple life.