Long, salt-curled hair. A full-body wet suit and bare feet. And, a face of full concentration while waxing their board – which is balanced precariously on the open back of a ute.
Cornwall is associated with surfing culture for a good reason. Winter or Summer, the Cornish coastline is always full of surfers in the ocean or the car park prepping for a surf. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, the atmosphere is impossible not to love. There is a laidback-grab-a-coffee-before-and-after kind of vibe that makes surfing in Cornwall just so special. I love even watching the surfers from the beach, and the surfing community has strong position on land and in the water.
But, Cornwall is undeniably a large county, with lots of beaches to choose from for a day of surfing. So, what are the best surfing beaches in Cornwall? I’ve prepped a quick guide to beaches you should check out, alongside some common FAQs. Enjoy!
Fistral Beach is somewhat of a darling amongst surfers. It is easily one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall – if not for its conditions, but for the surfing community that it attracts.
Fistral is Newquay’s main beach and is home to plenty of surf schools and rental shops. Newquay also hosts the annual Boardmasters Festival, which involves a full week of music and surfing. Partly because of Newquay’s fierce surfing culture and the Boardmaster Festival, Fistral has become an iconic UK surf spot.
Of course, the conditions are also a winning factor for Fistral Beach. In general, the south end of the beach is calmer and best-suited to novices (beginners might want to give this spot a miss), while the north end is known for BIG waves and provides the experienced with a challenging mixture to catch. On Fistral’s north end, The Cribbar is particularly notorious and has had giant (over 30 feet high) waves in recent years!
In Porthtowan, experienced surfers should head to the South end of the beach – not north. And similarly, intermediate surfers should be able to get involved with the fun.
The surf at Porthtowan is fairly reliable and consistent all year round, so it is definitely worth a trip out. As a beach break, its waves are quite mellow and great for practising and perfecting intermediate techniques. Porthtowan’s consistency is really what makes it one of the best beaches in Cornwall, and while it lacks Fistral’s oomph, it provides a great day of surfing.
If you feel a little underconfident, you can also take advantage of Porthtowan Surf School. For £25, you can have an hour of tuition, including a wetsuit and surfboard rental. Since classes have a maximum of eight surfers, this is a good option for those who are confident with the basics but still want a small group environment to get more one-on-one attention.
Widemouth Beach gets bonus points for being just three miles from Bude, one of Cornwall’s best surfer towns. It is also a Blue Flag Beach awardee, meaning it excels in environmental management and public safety requirements. Widemouth Beach is basically a golden child (it even has free parking).
As a long, open bay, you can expect reliable waves and also space to surf! In busier seasons, lots of Cornwall’s beaches become jam-packed. For experienced surfers, this can feel limiting, while for intermediate and beginners, it can be anxiety-provoking! Who needs to worry about rights of way and ocean etiquette while still dedicating three-quarters of your brainpower to successfully standing on your board? Keep Widemouth Beach in mind during busier seasons, as its length somewhat counteracts its busyness.
Widemouth is suitable for everyone – beginner to experienced! However, just beware of rips and rocks in the middle of the beach. If you are unsure about conditions or surfing outside of lifeguard times, joining a group lesson with Raven Surf School might be best.
Looking for a sheltered surf spot? Towan Beach is one of the best-sheltered surfing beaches in Cornwall.
It does get quite busy though, with lots of surfers rushing to it as a backup option in bad weather and strong southwesterly winds. At these times, I suggest experienced surfers only as it gets quite chaotic with surf traffic since it is quite small. Towan Beach is still a good option in Northwesterly winds, but only for experienced surfers as paddling conditions can get rough.
Otherwise, Towan is great for intermediate and experienced surfers nearly all year round and is an extremely reliable option. The waves are lots of fun regardless of high and low tide, so it is a beach that you can rock up whenever and know you’ll enjoy.
Sandymouth is as much a beauty spot as a place to surf. As a deserved National Trust site, it is easily one of the prettiest surfing beaches in Cornwall.
Sandymouth is an exposed beach break and has a surf school conveniently on the beach. Aside from looking pretty, Sandymouth has reliable, all-year-round surf – although it thrives under easterly winds.
Unlike Towan, beginners and intermediate surfers will want to visit Sandymouth at low to mid-tide. It is also wise to remember that large swells can cause strong rips at Sandymouth, so only experienced surfers and strong swimmers should attempt powerful surf conditions. If you are unsure, make use of Sandymouth Surf School for supervised surfing!
Feeling a bit left out as a beginner to surfing? Not to worry. Polzeath is somewhat of a nanny beach and perfect for beginners looking to get to grips with the basics.
Polzeath is known for slow-breaking, consistent waves. Again, easterly winds bring out the best surf conditions at Polzeath, so keep an eye on the weather forecast when choosing! Similarly, you should aim to surf during low tide, not high, for the best experience.
Out of the water, Polzeath village is a laidback Cornish surfer town with plenty of independent shops to explore. I’d recommend catching the surf in the morning then spending an afternoon shopping or grabbing a bite to eat at a café. TJ’s Surf Café is particularly popular and has dining views over the beach.
Southern winds? Head straight to Porthmeor Beach to catch its optimal conditions.
While not as reliable as some of our other best surfing beaches in Cornwall, Porthmeor is still a fairly solid option regardless of wind direction. Plus, the smaller waves actually make it perfect for beginners and intermediates nearly all year round. For experienced surfers, the conditions at Porthmeor are best during winter.
And, if you are looking for a lesson, St Ives Surf School has daily sessions and run equipment rental. It doesn’t get much more convenient than lessons and rentals off the beachfront.
Watergate Bay Beach
Watergate Bay is another fairly consistent addition to our list.
Watergate does best for larger waves with south-eastern winds, but beginners and intermediates should find it suitable all year round – aside from being a bit crowded in peak surfing times. Plus, it works on both tides (which is always handy when it’s a bit of a drive).
Like Porthmeor, Watergate is more of a winter surfing destination if you are chasing optimal surf. However, you shouldn’t notice a massive difference when visiting during other seasons.
Extreme Academy runs lessons, provides equipment hire, and has lockers next to the beach, which is also massively handy. Since they are open seven days a week (9 to 5 pm too!), you’ll always have nearby facilities.
Wanting one of the southern best surfing beaches in Cornwall? Sennen Beach is your answer.
Barely two miles from Land’s End, surfing Sennen is an ideal combination with visiting the Land’s End signpost and viewpoint. In this instance, tourism and surfing can go hand in hand!
The only downside is that Sennen can get busy. But you should be able to avoid peak surfing times as Sennen Beach works on both tides. It is only semi-exposed too, which means it copes quite well with bad weather and has a bit of shelter – just watch out for rips.
On a calm day at low tide, beginners will thrive on regular, mellower waves. While, on slightly stronger days at mid-to-high tide, experienced surfers can test their skills on barrels and the pointbreak at Sennen’s North end. For extra learning opportunities, you can always head to Sennen Surf School for a lesson or two.
Surfing in Cornwall FAQs
Does Cornwall have good surfing?
Yes! Cornwall has some of the best surfing in the UK.
Why is Cornwall good for surfing?
Cornwall has the longest coastline of all the UK counties, leaving lots of beaches to surf. Having lots of beach options means that there is always at least one beach suitable for the weather conditions.
Cornwall also has a fantastic surf culture, which is an encouraging, fun atmosphere to surf in.
Where are the biggest waves in Cornwall?
At The Cribbar on North Fistral Beach, waves have reached 30ft in height.
Where to get surf lessons, Cornwall?
You can get surf lessons on most major beaches. I’d recommend Escape Surf School if you are staying near Newquay.
Where to find tide times, Cornwall?
You can check Cornwall’s tide times here.
Are there sharks in Cornwall?
There are sharks in Cornwall, although there have been only a few shark-related incidents in the past century. Don’t worry too much, as incidents are extremely rare.
Mako, thresher, porbeagle, and blue sharks are the most popular in Cornwall.
As great as Cornwall’s surfing is, don’t miss out on the rest of the region’s attractions! Tintagel, Newquay, St Ives, Penzance, Truro, Padstow, and Polperro are all fantastic destinations to explore. And attractions like The Eden Project and St Mawes Castle are equally deserving of a space in your itinerary.
As far as surfing holidays go, Cornwall ticks most boxes. If any local surfers have more suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments below