21st July 2014
It’s been a long winter gazing seaward. But the time has come to twist your perspective on the Cornish coastline. As the ocean warms up this is the season to take the plunge and explore the swell-lashed territory where land meets sea. Coasteering brings you face to face with marine life, while taking you into creases of our rugged shores that are inaccessible by any other means. Be prepared for your knees to wobble and your heart pound as you swim through gulleys, ride whirlpools, explore sea caves, scramble up cliff faces and leap from rocky ledges. A coasteering trip isn’t for the faint-hearted, but for families with an adventurous streak, there’s no better way to get under the salty skin of North Cornwall.
For coasteering virgins, you can expect your initiation to go a bit like this… Feet and hands clinging fast like barnacles to the rocks, trying desperately to resist the pull of the swell taking you back into the sea. Heart in your mouth as you leap from a granite ledge. Salty bubbles of adrenalin bringing you back to the surface where you bob like a seal (only ungainly and badly dressed), eyeing gulls and cormorants that swoop overhead. Coast path walkers are just specks on the land; they have no idea what it feels like to see the coast from out here. You ride the next surge of the ocean into the mouth of a sea cave. Another hit of adrenalin. You’re addicted.
The terrain you will witness is unlike anywhere else in the country with its sheltered coves, wave-hewn headlands, natural sluices and smugglers’ caves. And there’s no better time to experience this territory than in summer. “After a long winter the wildlife goes into overdrive,” explains Ben Spicer of Cornish Rock Tors. “In inter-tidal zones you might see starfish or giant spider crabs, while a seal might pop up in deeper waters.” Elliot Walker of Pure Activities agrees: “Coasteering is an amazing activity to experience in summer when clifftops are covered with gorse and wild flowers, birds return from their winter migrations, dolphins are exceptionally playful and sunny days make sea temperatures more comfortable.”
Despite full-throttle adventure credentials, coasteering is a family-friendly activity and doesn’t require superhuman levels of fitness. Launching off sea cliffs and disappearing into tidal caves might feel like breaking all the sea-safety rules that have been drummed into you, but in the hands of expert guides you’re doing so in a safe, controlled environment. There are coasteering trips for all ages and abilities, from easygoing routes for first-time families to power coasters (with aid of a RIB boat) for extreme adrenalin junkies.
“Newquay is the hub of coasteering in the South West,” declares Rob Barber of Newquay Activity Centre. “So standards of service are high.” He points out a culmination of factors that make the coast between Newquay and Polzeath an incredible place for coasteering: “Not only are we lucky enough to have the Gulf Stream warming our waters, but it’s down to the fusion of pristine environment, some of the country’s most eye-catching indigenous wildlife and consistent swell.” Whatever you encounter on a coasteering trip it’s the raw beauty of the coastline that smacks you squarely in the face. Well, that and the North Coast swell.