Surfing is as Cornish as the pasty. Fact. It was in 1929 that a man first surfed in Newquay, and then, when four young Australians came to Watergate Bay in the 1960s with their fancy fibreglass boards in tow, the rest was history.
If you’re looking to learn to surf, then there’s no better place than Cornwall – not only is it the historical and spiritual home of surfing in the UK, but the waves are the most consistent in the country and there’s a huge selection of surf schools to choose from too. Plus, you can’t get much closer to the beautiful Cornish coast than actually being in it!
Here’s our pick of the six best beaches to learn to surf in Cornwall and where you can find surf lessons while you’re there.
Looking for a surf shack to come back to after riding the waves? Take a look at our selection of Cornish coastal properties.
Newquay is the surfing capital of the UK, let alone Cornwall, so if you’re going to learn to surf then there’s not many better places to start. There are a whopping 12 beaches to choose from, some more suitable for beginners and some which host international surfing competitions – so there’s a wave to suit all abilities.
Because it’s such a popular surfing destination, there are plenty of surf schools too – like Fistral Beach Surf School – as well as many surf hire centres if you want to go it alone. Just remember – always stay in between the lifeguard’s black and white flags.
Take a look at our cottages in Newquay or read our local’s guide to find out what else to do while you’re there.
Just round the coast from Padstow is Harlyn Bay, a large, sandy beach with plenty of rock pools and no end of waves. Harlyn is really popular with families as it’s so easy to have a great day out at the beach – there is a large car park, toilets and some refreshment facilities, plus that endless expanse of golden sand.
Harlyn Surf School runs surf lessons on the beach and takes children from 8 years and over, plus they run a kids’ surf camp in the summer for 8 to 14-year-olds – let the kids tire themselves out in the waves while you sun yourself on the beach!
Take a look at our cottages in Harlyn and Padstow.
Just south of Bude, Widemouth Bay is a huge, sandy swathe of beach backed by rolling countryside. As well as a car park, toilets and a café, there are loads of surf schools nearby, and with so much space to spread out, it’s a great beach to learn to surf on.
As the tide comes in, the water conceals jagged rocks so it’s best to have a lesson with an instructor who knows the beach really well; Outdoor Adventure has been running at Widemouth Bay since 1981. Or wait until low tide, when kids can enjoy a spot of post-surf rock pooling!
Take a look at our cottages in Bude.
Around 10 miles south of Newquay, Perranporth is another huge expanse of sand which gets even more vast at low tide when it joins together with nearby Penhale Sands. It offers the best of both worlds: Perranporth is more bustling with a busy village and plenty of facilities while Penhale Sands is quieter with a network of sand dunes to explore.
Due to its size, it picks up a large amount of swell from the wild Atlantic Ocean, so it’s a great place to learn to surf. Ticket to Ride Surf School not only offers surf lessons, but surf and yoga sessions too – perfect for a Friday night chill-out by the coast.
Take a look at our cottages in Perranporth.
St Ives is most famous for its art galleries, museums, restaurants and shops, but it’s also a great place to learn how to surf. Its crystal blue waters can be fully appreciated when you’re head-to-toe in neoprene, waiting for the next wave.
The main beach is Porthmeor, where St Ives Surf School is based. You’re in good hands – they’ve coached the UK junior champion to glory and as well as surf lessons, you could have a go at sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and coasteering.
Take a look at our cottages in St Ives.
Up the coast from Padstow sits Polzeath, a small but picturesque village with a laid-back vibe and a lovely sandy beach. It’s a great place to learn to surf as the waves are slower than its north-coast counterparts meaning you have more time to get up and riding! Plus, you may even spot dolphins in the bay.
Wavehunters Surf School is based right on Polzeath beach and as well as highly qualified instructors, it offers a professional photographer on each lesson, perfect for those Instagram snaps... if you’re not too busy wiping out!
Take a look at our cottages in Polzeath or read our local’s guide to the village.
When you’ve mastered the basics, why not scope out the best surfing beaches in Cornwall? Take a look at our full collection of Cornish coastal cottages and start planning your ultimate surfing holiday to Cornwall.
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