Cornwall is Britain’s surfing Mecca, with the exposed Atlantic coast offering superb wave riding conditions all year round. We even have our own surf themed music festival and championships at Newquay’s hugely popular Boardmasters event in August. But if you’re one of the thousands of beginners taking a tentative step into our waters for the first time this summer, you’re going to need to prepare yourself – particularly if you’re coming with children.
Come on in, the water’s lovely!
Let’s not beat around the bush, the sea can be very cold, especially at the beginning of the summer season. Water temperature varies throughout the county – Newquay for example can be substantially warmer than the perpetually chilly St Ives. Typically during the summer months, you’ll experience relatively mild temperatures of around 16°C. But you’re going to be in the water for quite a while when learning and will definitely need a decent wetsuit.
The right stuff
One of the barriers to getting involved in this hugely popular sport is the equipment. What board is best for beginners? Should you get a full length or shorty wetsuit? Rash guard? Relax! You don’t need to make a huge investment to get going – hiring your kit is by far the most sensible approach, particularly with kids. The expert staff in the many rental shops around the coast will be happy to advise.
You’ll find a school or two on all the major surfing beaches. Stiff competition means the quality of teaching is consistently high wherever you go. If you’re looking for lessons for your kids or you’re learning as a family, we recommend the following.
- Newquay is the surfing capital of the UK and there’s a host of options to choose from. Fistral Beach Surf School offers one to one private lessons for children aged 5+, while children over 8 can take part in mixed ability group lessons
- Harlyn Bay, near Padstow is popular with families, and the Harlyn Surf School offers tuition for children over 8, along with a surf camp in the summer for 8-14 year olds.
- Watergate Bay is another great spot for beginners thanks to the consistency of the waves. Blue Surf School operates out of the car park and offers equipment rental and a choice of private family lessons, group classes and a kids’ club.
Aside from the temperature, one of the main advantages of learning during the summer is the presence of lifeguards on many of the beaches between April and October. Take particular care if you’re coming out of season – the waves are bigger and currents often strong and unpredictable, so don’t be tempted to go it alone.
Once you’ve learned the basics, you’ll be keen to get out and practice with your family. It’s probably best not to attempt any big swells straight away, but there are plenty of great beginner beaches to hone your skills.
- Lusty Glaze Beach north of Newquay is usually quieter than neighbouring Fistral with less vertiginous sloping waves, ideal for learning the basics.
- Perranporth, 10 miles south of Newquay is a great place to learn thanks to its sheer size and regular swells from the Atlantic.
- Polzeath Beach is perfect for new surfers with tamer, slow breaking waves. You’ll soon be able to stand up on your board and move on to the next level.