Surfing Harlyn Bay

surfing at harlyn bay

Harlyn Bay is a relatively sheltered beach on the Atlantic coast of North Cornwall, not far from St Merryn and Padstow. This northerly facing beach is tucked behind Trevose Head and offers stunning views of the surrounding coastline.

Popular with beach goers, walkers and tourists this beach can get busy over the summer months with a large car park overlooking the waves.

If you’re heading to Cornwall for a surf trip and you’re looking for some beach break inspiration we’ve got all the local knowledge you need to have a great time surfing Harlyn Bay.

Can you surf at Harlyn Bay?

Yes, even though Harly Bay faces north it still receives waves when the swell is large enough. Offshore winds are anywhere from the south and any north in the swell direction will considerably increase the size of the waves here.

Typically Harlyn is a great option when the main westerly facing beaches are too large for you to manage and paddle outs become marathon slogs of paddling endurance. Head over to our guide on surfing in Cornwall to explore the other more exposed surf spots the area has to offer.

That being said if you’re just starting out on your surfing journey Harly is a great way to get away from the competitive peaks and relax with some small peeling waves and very few people out.

Is Harlyn Bay good for surfing?

Yes, when large swells are met with southerly winds, surfers flock to Harlyn Bay to take advantage of its quick powerful waves. The oceanography here means that swells come out of very deep water onto shallow sand banks making the waves break with considerable power and speed.

The peaks are all fairly similar up and down the beach but the swell does start to decrease the further you walk down the beach away from the car park.

Best from low to mid tide you can still surf here as the tide pushes up but there tends to be a trench which means that many of the waves dissipate and lose power very quickly and aren’t great unless you’re just starting to surf.

There’s a rocky outcrop on the right-hand side of the beach that’s submerged at high through to mid tide. When it’s smaller this can act like a little reef and produce awesome right-handers that offer up a few sections to hit before closing out in the shallow water right on the shore.

When the swells massive there is a mysto left-hander that breaks at the far end of the bay but its proximity to the jagged rocks and super fast speed means it’s best left to the experts.

Learning to surf at Harlyn Bay

Harlyn Surf School are a fantastic option if you want to experience surfing here first-hand.

Where else can you surf close to Harlyn Bay?

If the lineup at Harlyn Bay’s looking too crowded or you just fancy a change there are some other surfable waves just a short drive away.


Trevone is a small beach just up the coast from Harlyn. Not known for its great surfing waves this small beachie can still deliver the goods on the right day.

Only surfable from low to mid tide there are some reefs round to the right-hand side that are worth exploring for the adventurous and the beach itself can throw up some interesting wedges and peaks.

Constantine Bay

If Harlyn Bay looks a little small or you’re on the hunt for some big waves to surf you can move around the headland to Constantine Bay which faces straight west and picks up all the available swell.

Well known for its quality beach break peaks you can’t go wrong with one of north Cornwall’s premier surf spots. Check out our guide to surfing at Constantine Bay to get the low down on all the waves this spot has to offer.

Other surf spots in the area

Cornwall’s north coast is littered with a range of beach breaks, reefs and point break that can all provide great waves under the right conditions. Make the most of Cornwall and check out these other surf hubs that offer a wide variety of waves for all abilities.


Bude is a thriving surf community and waves to match. Summerleaxe is the perfect training ground for new surfers and Widemouth Bay is perfect for amateur surfers honing their craft.

Don’t miss our detailed guide to surfing in Bude to find out more about all the different waves in the area.


The iconic home of surfing in Cornwall, Newquay is home to some of the UK’s biggest surf brands and for good reason. It’s surrounded by a wide assortment of quality waves for all kinds of swell and wind conditions.

If you want to have the highest chance of finding surfable waves on a surf trip to Cornwall then you can’t look much further than here. Take a look at our guide to surfing Newquay to find out why it’s cemented itself as the home of surfing in England.

Can you surf Harlyn Bay at high tide?

Yes, Harlyn Bay is still surfable at high tide for beginners and longboarders. The shallow outer bank means that waves often lack power and shape here at high tide.

Is it dangerous surfing At Harlyn Bay?

Harlyn Bay is lifeguarded through the summer seasons so it’s a relatively safe place to surf. If you’re not experienced in the water stay between the allocated flags and avoid the rocky areas at either end of the beach.

Can you surf at Mother Iveys Bay?

Mother Iveys is a very steep beach that is more of a shore dump than a surfable wave. Worth considering if you’re a bodyboarder but a recipe for disaster on a surfboard.