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Surf’s Up

Cornwall is home to British surf culture as we know it today.

The home of British surfing

Cornwall is firmly on the surf map of the world. When four Australian surfers brought their new fibreglass boards to England in 1962, they headed straight for Fistral beach in Newquay.

When locals, still on wooden boards, saw the tricks and turns the new boards could do, the birth of British surfing as we know it today, really began.

Competitive surfing took off and championship events began to be held annually in Newquay. Today, there are dozens of surf schools dotted around all the beaches in Cornwall ready to help with equipment hire and tuition. Take a look at our Surfing breaks in Cornwall page for offers on surf holiday packages.

North Cornwall Surf Spots

Fistral beach

The home of British surfing, Fistral is still the most popular spot. Huge Atlantic swells and the infamous Cribbar, a reef off Towan Headland, can create waves in excess of 9 metres high.

The beach can become quite crowded in the summer, but the surf is usually good year-round, so worth a trip at any time of year. There’s a row of shops and eateries and it’s just a short walk into Newquay town centre.

Fistral beachFistral

Watergate Bay

A favourite for many and good for newbies as well as professionals, Watergate Bay faces west and catches great Atlantic swells as a result. It’s one of the few surf spots that works at all tides so is popular with all water sports enthusiasts.

The long golden beach is another attraction and although it can get busy in summer, there’s usually plenty of space. It’s also protected by cliffs.

Mawgan Porth

Best at low to mid tide with fairly constant consistent waves all year, Mawgan Porth can get busy when the conditions are perfect for larger waves. There can be dangerous rips.

The sheltered beach has soft golden sand and a river running down to the sea.

great western beachGreat Western


Towan/Great Western

If Fistral and Watergate Bay are too fierce, this more sheltered stretch in Newquay can work. Fairly consistent surf with a harbour to one side.

The only downside is that being in Newquay town centre, it can get very crowded in the summer.

Constantine to Harlyn

This stretch of the north coast is fairly consistent. Harlyn is good if it’s too stormy elsewhere, whereas Constantine is a bit of a swell magnet with fairly constant year round waves and good in all tides. There’s a rip when the surf is big so be careful.

Further on, Polzeath is popular, particularly with surf tourists.

Harlyn beach Harlyn

Perranporth to St Ives

Gwithian is good for beginners and Perranporth is generally a good all-round surf beach. Both are big beaches.

The beaches around St Ives can be great for surfing. Porthmeor can have good waves, but doesn’t pick up as much swell as Porthtowan. It’s between Newquay and St Ives.

South Cornwall Surf Spots

Pentewan is popular for those staying near St Austell. Good when a westerly wind is blowing, it can get busy.

Further afield, some of the beaches around Falmouth can be popular, although busy. There’s a reef between Swanpool and Gyllngvase which can add interest, although the south is generally calmer than the north.

Porthcurno has heaving top to bottom turquoise barrels and is ideal for bodyboarders.

The south tends to be more popular for sailing and windsurfing.

Surfer at Porthcurno Porthcurno

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