Category: Sea senses

Beach safety in Cornwall this summer

Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a trip to the seaside…

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We hope you’re excited for your stay by the sea. While Cornwall is generally a safe place, each year there are accidents on our coastlines.

To ensure this doesn’t happen to you during your time with Beach Retreats, Newquay Activity Centre have produced some beach safety guidelines for you and your family to follow. Their instructors are fully trained lifeguards and work closely with the RNLI.

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You may see a flag with a red stripe on top and a yellow stripe underneath. There will be two of these red and yellow flags on the beach, and these mark out the area that it is safe to swim between. This area will be covered by lifeguards.

Mark Kelly is the Beach Lifeguard Trainer and Assessor at Newquay Activity Centre and says:

“The beaches are busy, and we’ve experienced a big swell recently that has already sadly caused fatalities and rescues. We urge surfers and swimmers to be aware, check the weather, tide and forecast.

For small children, there is also fun to be had in the rockpools and paddling in the shallows. We really hope that the RNLI are able to fully patrol the beaches soon, but we want people to understand how dangerous the sea can be and to stay safe at the beach”.

Discover more safety insights from the RNLI & stay safe at the beach with essential knowledge of natural signs at sea.

If you’d like to participate in a safe ocean activity this summer under the watchful eye of a trained lifeguard, or you would like to train as a lifeguard, please contact

Dogs at sea

Some dogs prefer running through sand, others can’t wait to wade in for a swim and then there are some dogs that love spending time at sea aboard boat or board. We captured three dogs at sea on their preferred craft…

Find your dog friendly holiday.

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The ocean cleaner

Meet Rosie, a crew member at Clean Ocean Sailing. Rosie is happy to leap overboard to gather plastic waste floating out at sea or on the coastline. Her love for the water is such that she once did just that in the Bay of Biscay, fortunately returning to her vessel after an hour of searching.

When it comes to boats, she is as comfortable in the century-old Scandinavian rowing boat pictured here as aboard the main Clean Ocean Sailing vessel The Anette, collecting the plastic material that pollutes our seas or transporting that gathered and sorted waste to Exeter where it is processed and turned into new objects.

Support the work Rosie and her owners Monika and Steve are doing, and find out about volunteering opportunities at Clean Ocean Sailing.

The hardy seafarer

Few dogs have overcome and achieved as much at sea as Toobs. She not only swam to safety in a cave after being lost at sea (making local and national news headlines) but managed to swim the English Channel in 2020 over a number of swimming stints. Here she is aboard her sailing boat and home, moored in Falmouth, on which she is about to embark on an epic sailing tour with owner Wayne. And below Toobs is enjoying a regular dip in the water between harbour and mooring.

You can follow Toobs’ adventures at sea at the Team Toobs website and on Instagram.

The visiting paddleboarder

Not all seafaring dogs live on or even near the sea. Ted, who hails from Loughborough in the Midlands, recently visited Cornwall on holiday where he enjoyed several trips on the paddleboard with owner Amy. Not only does Ted frequent a paddleboard, he goes out kayaking and on land-based adventures in a bike carrier. When he’s looking less alert and his ears are back, Amy knows he’s really relaxing into the boarding.

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Choose from retreats around the coast with enclosed outside spaces for four-legged friends to relax post swim and outdoor showers for rinsing off all that salty sea water. Whether sand runner or wave paddler, or both, bring your dog to beach.

Discover Cornwall’s finest dog-friendly beaches for your furry friend to roam and play.

Change of Pace: Deep

Whether you’re exploring on a single breath, or stealthily seeking your supper, taking your ocean activity beneath the surface is the ultimate in water time contradictions – giving in to the calm surrender of the deep even when your pulse is jumping…

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Breathless discoveries

Credit: Aquacity

Hold your nerve, take a breath, dive. Freediving – diving beneath the surface on a single breath – is not a sport for the faint hearted. With no scuba or air tank to rely on and only your instinct as your guide, it’s at the more demanding end of the watersports spectrum.

“Freediving has the reputation of being an extreme sport,” says Georgina Miller from freediving outfit Aquacity in Porthkerris, “but really, it’s all about relaxing and exploring your relationship to the sea. It’s actually vital that you relax while challenging yourself and pushing your body to its limit.”

“It’s quiet and you’re in such a different environment – you can lose a sense of yourself and relax into it peacefully. But this only comes with patience and practice at being calm and present.”

A competitive free diver and instructor, Georgina explains that the breathing techniques freediving uses are useful for staying calm in any situation. But if you are brave enough to venture under the waves, the sport is even more of a stress buster, says Georgina. “Being underwater, for most people, allows some peace in an otherwise hectic world,” she continues, “It’s quiet and you’re in such a different environment – you can lose a sense of yourself and relax into it peacefully. But this only comes with patience and practice at being calm and present.”

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Credit: Aquacity

There’s no doubt that competitive freediving brings more of a heightened edge to the discipline. Freedivers can regularly swim down to depths of more than 100 metres on a single breath. It’s a very specialist, highly skilled world, where technique and ability juxtapose with mindfulness and calm. Freediving is not without its risks so it’s important to never dive alone and let qualified instructors lead you safely into the deep.

But even at the leisure pursuit end of the sport, there are thrills to be found. Though more often than not, they come from the interactions that happen under the water, rather than the depths reached.

In addition to dolphins and seals, Georgina regularly sees lobsters and spider crabs hiding in the cracks, magnificent shoals of pollock, wrasse and mackerel, and majestic basking sharks drifting through the depths.

“We had a training session recently where a pod of dolphins came to check us out – they looked like they felt sorry for us not being able to swim too well!” she concludes. “When you’re being checked out by marine mammals there definitely seems to be a connection, they’re curious, even playful. It’s pretty incredible.”

Steady stealth

Credit: Chris Moakes

Add the pursuit and excitement of the hunt and catch into your deep water time and you’re taking it up a gear. Spear fishing, freediving’s faster-paced cousin, is one of the most sustainable ways to fish and requires, skill, dexterity, speed and patience, all in one.

This balance of quick action and absolute calm is something Laith Dajani from Spearfishing UK knows all too well, as he explains, of a recent dive. “On one breath I went down to 13 metres, to fish. It took roughly 17 seconds to get to the bottom. I found and speared a 9lb Pollock in seven seconds, and then came back up in another 17 seconds,” he says. The whole experience was just 41 seconds in total. But with that level of excursion and concentration, diving to and rising from the ocean floor all in the smallest window of time, staying relaxed is an epic task in itself.

“It’s all about stealth and tactics. Sometimes fish are curious…Alternatively, stalking works just as well, hiding or moving as slowly as possible through seaweed, not making a sound.”

For Laith, it’s the unique mix of control and quick thinking that gives spearfishing its appeal. “You want to remain as calm as possible. If you’re stressed, the fish will be stressed, and they won’t be comfortable around you,” he continues. “It’s all about stealth and tactics. Sometimes fish are curious, so making grunting noises can attract them, or throwing up sand can bring them in. Alternatively, stalking works just as well, hiding or moving as slowly as possible through seaweed, not making a sound.”

But when the time comes to fire the speargun, you have to think fast. “You need to be in the moment with no hesitation,” he says, “otherwise the fish will scatter and you’ll be swimming to the surface empty-handed.”

Credit: Chris Moakes

If the speargun isn’t for you, you can hunt for lobster, brown crabs, scallops and mussels by hand. For Laith, catching a 9lb lobster off Cornwall’s south coast was an unbeatable experience. “Lobsters like to hole up and can be found as shallow as one metre. You just need to look in as many holes as possible and eventually you’ll stumble across one.”

From combing the sea floor for shellfish to plunging into the deep, underwater ocean time is all about finding the right pace for you and working with the ocean. As Georgina says about freediving, “it’s not about an application of your will over the water, you have to consider the environment and work with it.” And what a magical environment the Cornish coastline has to offer, shoreline, surface or deep. Now, who’s for a dip?

Read about adventures of every pace: on the shoreline or on the surface too…

Experience transformational moments with Beach Retreats as you explore new horizons and enrich your soul.

Change of Pace: Surface

Flat calm or firing, the ocean’s surface offers up myriad ways to revel in the joys of watertime…

Find out why New Year is the best time to visit Cornwall and some of our holiday retreats to stay in for the New Year.

Unsteady balance

Credit: WeSup

A teetering wobble as you clamber to your feet, the unusual perspective gained from standing on the sea, the blissed out feeling of moving steadily forward over the ocean under your own propulsion. Not overly challenging, and easy to get up and running with, it’s no wonder paddleboarding’s popularity has soared in recent years.

“Its popularity with the public is because of the iconic slow-paced adventures around surreal tropical coastlines,” says Harvey Bentham at WeSup in Falmouth, “but the reality is that’s only one part of why paddlboarding is such a joy.”

It’s the variety of ways people engage with the sport, he goes on to explain, that makes it so alluring. “It ticks so many boxes for so many different people. We’ve seen hula-hoops, cartwheels, one-footed paddling – when the weather gifts us flat windless days we can get out and do some yoga, or headstands, or stretch our ‘legs’ and go further around the coast for a longer paddle.”

Check out more of what Falmouth has to offer by staying in one of our bespoke retreats in Falmouth.

“If the swell is up we ride waves and experience the thrill of the ocean pushing and pulling the board around, it’s definitely a different kind of buzz.”

Credit: WeSup

In his book Blue Mind: How Water Makes Us Happy Marine Biologist Dr. Wallace Nicholls explains that the rhythmic act of paddling creates an almost meditative state, with “significant evidence proving that interacting with water offers us huge benefits cognitively.” With this in mind, it’s no wonder that so many people extol the virtues of a paddle before work, or to refresh after a long day.

Simply doing your normal activity somewhere different (yoga on a paddleboard), or seeing the coast in a different way can be exhilarating enough, but for Harvey, there’s another side to the sport that comes into its own when the sets start lining up. “If the swell is up we ride waves and experience the thrill of the ocean pushing and pulling the board around, it’s definitely a different kind of buzz,” he says. Waveriding on a paddleboard is one of the oldest forms of surfing and the rush from dropping into the face and firing down the line is hard to match. Of course, that kind of skill takes years to master, but even for ‘newbie’ paddlers, waves bring a different dimension to the experience. “It depends what you’re looking for from your time on the board, the possibilities are endless – calm or choppy.”

Regardless of preference, there’s one part of paddleboarding that is inevitable and something you simply have to embrace. The swift plunge into cold water when you lose your balance and slip from your board. Enjoy the sensation and revel in the moment. It’s good for your mind, after all.

Surfing slowdown

Credit: Extreme Academy

Surfing is undeniably a sport built around the adrenalin rush of the ocean catapulting you forward full throttle. But its high octane reputation belies one of the little considered truths of surfing. That a lot of the time, it’s about exactly the opposite.

Former waveski world champion Carl Coombes now runs Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay and is keen to advocate the contemplative element of the sport. “The moment before the ride is often one of reflection and wellbeing,” he explains, “reading the ocean, understanding its movements and sensing the right time to go, the right wave to choose. Mastering the process and commitment of your wave selection and the art of patience, it’s as much a part of surfing as charging.”

While each wave lasts only a handful of seconds, a surf session can last hours on a good day, so there’s a lot of sitting in the ocean experiencing the moment. “It’s why surfers have such an affinity with the sea, and often care so much about protecting it,” he continues. “Spending that amount of time in the water, the things you see, the wildlife, skies, quiet, its value can’t be quantified.”

For Dr. Nicholls, surfers exhibit more of the ‘blue mind’ state than anyone: “they’re attuned to the water,” he writes, “used to watching it carefully for hours on end, reading its changes, looking for the smallest indication that the next wave will be, if not the perfect wave, at least rideable.”

“You see a great session bringing the same enjoyment to a seasoned pro and a novice that has stood up for the first time.”

Credit: Extreme Academy

And that starts from the first time you paddle into a wave. Learning with a surf school is about meeting like minds, practicing the necessary physical skills but also understanding more about the sea and how and when to harness its energy.

All of that is extremely rewarding both mentally and physiologically. “You’ll finish a class or a session exhausted but also refreshed, by your time in the water, by the experience you’ve had. It’s a unique sensation,” Carl concludes. “And that’s the thing I love about surfing –  whatever your ability, the reward is the same. It’s fully inclusive, low impact, great therapy, a real adrenaline rush while being relaxing and clearing your thoughts of all life’s woes.

“You see a great session bringing the same enjoyment to a seasoned pro and a novice that has stood up for the first time. Who wouldn’t want to get involved in a sport that can offer that?”

Read about adventures of every pace: on the shoreline or in the deep too…

Read our blog on the best things to do in the sea in every season!

Escape to the sea 

People standing on a beach with a surfboards.


Think of yourself as a thalassophile? If you relish the calm of a secluded cove or crave the adrenalin rush of roaring surf, then, whether you know it or not, you are one.

Derived from the Greek thalassa, meaning sea, and philein, meaning ‘to love’, a thalassophile is someone who feels a connection with the ocean.

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As an island nation nibbled by hungry tides, our natural bond with our watery border is strong.

“Being British comes with a catalogue of sea-themed clichés,” writes Charlotte Runcie in her book, Salt on Your Tongue. “Fish and chips on the beach, or in the car while the rain pelts down, ‘Rule, Britannia!’ at the BBC Proms, the shipping forecast playing out over and over.”

The mystical pull of the sea is universal. Children lift a conch to their ear to listen out for the ghostly whooshing of waves. Adults, weathered by life’s storms, find comfort in the shock of a bracing dip.

But the therapeutic benefits of blue spaces go beyond hearsay. From higher dopamine levels to reduced anxiety, closeness to water is associated with greater wellbeing. In a study on happiness in different natural environments, coastal areas came out top.

Want to stay near several beaches? Have a look at our luxury holiday cottages in Fistral, a next to Fistral Beach, and a short drive from Porth, Watergate Bay and Crantock Beaches.

Focusing on the ebb and flow seems to have a mindful, meditative effect. By immersing ourselves in the elemental force of the sea, we access a restorative cognitive state.

Discover the best ways to celebrate by the sea with unforgettable coastal experiences.

Dr. Catherine Kelly, author of Blue Spaces: How and Why Water Makes Us Feel Better says in The Guardian that “the sea is synonymous with letting go. It could be lying on a beach or somebody handing you a cocktail. For somebody else, it could be a wild, empty coast. But there is this really human sense of: ‘Oh, look, there’s the sea’ – and the shoulders drop.”

Not just a balm for the senses, the sea is essential to life on earth. It’s said that every second breath we take comes from the ocean, and that the ocean is the thermostat of the global climate system. But with climate change, overfishing, deep-sea mining and plastic pollution threatening to destroy the blue planet and drive species to extinction, experts warn that we must act now to protect our future.

So, we’re diving into the wonders of the ocean with eyes wide open – revealing the hidden Cornish coves, asking how we can eat more sustainable seafood and discovering what we can do to reduce ocean pollution. Join us as we #escapetothesea…

Support calls for more ocean protection and restoration

Dawn vs Dusk

The magic hours. Which is your favourite?

“A sculptor’s landscape is one of ever-changing space and light where forms reveal themselves in new aspects as the sun rises and sets.”

– Barbara Hepworth in Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from a Sculptor’s Landscape, 1966,


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The sun rose just after 5 o’clock this morning; it will set just before 9.30pm. We’re in the daylight month and each day the summer sun creates stunning, relaxing and inspiring skies in those early or late hours. Staying steps from the shore means the freedom to enjoy those moments even more.

Coastal skies don’t hold claim to the most spectacular dawns and dramatic dusks but they’re undoubtedly among the best. Sharing an image by Kirstin Prisk (@kirstinprisk) of a sunset sky in St Ives this month, the Tate St Ives nodded to the unique light the sun creates there: “The town of St Ives has long been an artistic hub, attracting artists since the time of J.M.W Turner because of the beauty of the landscape and quality of natural light.”

That corner of coastal light has inspired artists since the 1930s, and around the British coast early risers and evening explorers are rewarded with colour shows to take the breath away.

Which are you, an early riser catching the first light or an out of hours dusk seeker?

We asked members of the Beach Retreats team to share one of their favourite phot0s out of hours at the beach. As you’ll see below, dusk comes out on top.

And if you’ve captured a great shot at the beach out of hours, why not share it with us on Instagram or Facebook ­­– tag us @beachretreats and add #beachoutofhours ­– to be in with a chance of winning a land&water bathtime bundle and luxury Cornish hamper.

Lingering light

Lowenna in the Beach Retreats marketing team likes to catch the fading light as it disappears over the horizon. There’s no better place to watch the day slip away over the horizon than the sweeping vistas of the north Cornish coast.

This shot was captured on the sand dunes that lead down to the breaks at Fistral beach in Newquay. “I like to wait until the sun has completely dropped, to see the lingering glow on the horizon,” says Lowenna.

Open ocean

There’s no denying the sunlight on the sea creates some of the most awe-inspiring views of all. Steve, in our portfolio management team, also prefers the dusk light on the waves.

This photo was taken from Pentire Headland with the sun hovering just above the line of the ocean. “From here, you can see the entire stretch of the horizon glowing and the wide expanse of sea looks truly amazing at this time of day,” says Steve.


Low in the website team finds the lure of the water difficult to resist when the sunset colours the sky. This image was taken on Little Fistral beach in Newquay. “My favourite time of day is dusk, especially the moments just after the sun has set where the whole sky turns shades of pink, purple and orange.

“That day, the setting sun lit up the whole beach in these colours. It looked so magical we just had to go in for a swim at 10pm!”

Explore the wonders of sea and skies with our blog on how to make the most of your holiday with stargazing.

Dawn vs dusk

We’re asking our followers on Instagram and Facebook to choose their favourite #beachoutofhours time. Which will you choose, dawn or dusk?

Explore outside of Cornwall, with the coastal charm of North Devon with Beach Retreats, where relaxation meets adventure.