Cornish beaches are synonymous with surfing. Any day the surf is above a foot or so you’ll see neoprene-clad folk heading for the waves armed with a surfboard. There’s no doubt that surfing is an incredible way to experience the Cornish coast – it’s accessible (rental boards and suits are readily available), you can enjoy it with no previous experience (although to become a good surfer takes years) and it’s just so much fun. There’s a rich culture and heritage surrounding surfing that some find irresistible – it almost feels like a rite of passage to grab a board and at least attempt to ride a wave when you’re in Cornwall.
The north coast is arguably the best and most famous side of the county for all things surfing – Fistral near Newquay has a long-held surf culture, while beaches like Watergate Bay, Perranporth and Sennen catch every swell going.
Surfing is not, though, the only way to commune with the big blue. Stand Up Paddle surfing has just as illustrious a history as standard surfing, and some would say it exhibits more grace on the water. This sport involves a much longer board (up to 14 feet) and a long handled single paddle. The surfer remains standing to both paddle and surf waves; you’ll see the SUP guys out with the surfers when the waves are cranking, but they’ll also be out gliding around on calm, flat days when surfers are staring glumly out to sea waiting for the next swell. Beginner boards are big and stable, making this a very accessible sport to try.
One of the hardest elements of surfing to master is the balance – not everyone is blessed with cat-like agility. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to surf without having to struggle to get onto your feet and then stay on them for more than 3 seconds? Waveskiing gives you just that. A bit like a kayak, but one that you sit on, not in, a waveski is a buoyant, stable way to ride the waves. Easier to master than a surfboard, you’ll be catching waves confidently in minutes.
You don’t necessarily need all kinds of kit to get on speaking terms with the surf. People were surfing long before boards were invented, using just their bodies. Bodysurfing is a very pure way to use the energy of the ocean and modern hand planes intensify the experience. These are like mini plastic or wooden boards with hand holds that reduce the drag of your body through the water and allow you to catch waves. It’s so simple it’s ridiculous – but addictive.
The Extreme Academy
Watergate Bay, Cornwall, TR8 4AA, 01637 860543
Surfing, SUP, bodyboarding, waveski and hand plane hire and lessons.