Cornwall is a beautiful gem of a county in the southwest of England. It’s known for its stunning coast, great surf and impeccable pasties.
But navigating Cornwall’s intersecting roads in search of peeling waves requires some forward planning and a checklist of all the best surfing beaches Cornwall has to offer.
We’ve created this definitive guide to surfing Cornwall, jam-packed with all the best surf beaches in Cornwall so you can focus on surfing instead of trying to find waves. From beginners to seasoned veterans we’ve got a spot that’ll be perfect for you.
Cornwall is a great place to surf, whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer. Surfing is not only a great way of getting fit and having fun but also a fantastic way of meeting new people.
While surfing can be as easy as just turning up and getting out there it’s often best to plan ahead and check the weather and surf forecast to find the best time and place to suit your ability and needs.
If you don’t know how to read a surf report you can check with a local surf school or shop that should be able to tell you about the day’s conditions.
Whether you’re heading down for a short stay or you Iive in Cornwall this guide should help you out with some quality surfing beaches and inspiration for your next surf trip. So check the report, strap the boards on the car and head to one of the many great surfing beaches on this list.
Surfing beaches in Cornwall
The Cornish coast is littered with perfect bays and secluded coves hiding rare gems peeling onto sandy shores. While we can’t give away any secrets we can tell you about some of Cornwall’s most iconic surfing beaches.
Fistral Beach, Newquay
Fistral is one of the most popular surf spots in Cornwall. It’s a long beach with a wide variety of waves offering lefts and rights all along the length of the beach. All levels of surfers can enjoy this spot; however, it can get crowded during peak season (June/July).
South Fistral can produce great left-handers through low to mid-tide with a rock jump straight into the lineup for the brave. Experienced surfers can head over to Little Fistral at the far north of the beach which can have powerful punchy waves that break over a mixture of rock and sand.
There are many surf schools in the area as well as other activities like kite surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and walking trails that make it an ideal location for families to spend an active holiday. Check out our guide to surfing Newquay to learn more about surfing at Fistral Beach.
Sennen Cove, Sennen
Sennen Cove is a beach in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, the beach has been popular with tourists since Victorian times because of its dramatic setting and accessibility from nearby towns such as St Ives.
Sennen Cove is the last surf spot before Land’s End. This beach has bigger waves than anywhere else because of how exposed it is to the Atlantic Ocean making it a great choice if the waves are too small along the rest of the coast.
Gwynver at the north end of the bay can get particularly good when the tide pushes up, offering wedgy lefts and rights great for shortboarders.
Once you’re done with your surf don’t forget to head over to the Surf Beach Bar for some well-needed fish and chips to replace those lost calories.
Crooklets Beach, Bude
Crooklets beach is a short walk from the town centre at Bude and gives you easy access if you’re staying in the town. The waves here can be great when you get the right conditions and it tends to pick up a lot of swells making it a very consistent wave for the area.
Ideally surfed from low to mid tide the waves back of considerably at high tide unless there’s a serious ground swell running.
If you’re learning to surf in Bude you can head south to Summerleaze beach which is just a short walk over the headland. The waves here are much more manageable and there’s a large harbour wall that can provide shelter from onshore winds.
Better yet once you’re done with your surf you can take advantage of the conveniently positioned sea pool. Bude’s a fantastic spot for a trip to Cornwall and if you’re not convinced yet check out our guide on surfing in Bude and you’ll be booking your Cornish shred session in no time.
Polzeath is a small village in north Cornwall, the beach is fairly large at low tide with a car park literally on the sand of the beach. As the tide pushes up it forms a small bay but is still surfable just much less spaced out.
Polzeath is a great spot to learn to surf with a great selection of quality surf schools in the area and surf equipment hire available.
Whilst the waves here are great for beginners and amateurs they can lack power compared to other beach breaks in the area. That being said when large ground swells hit Polzeath can provide some long rides and there are rumours of a mysto right-hand point that only breaks on the largest of swells.
No guide to surfing in Cornwall would be complete without Constantine Bay. Arguably one of the best spots on this list Constantine provides a wide variety of waves across all stages of tide varying from barrels to relaxed peelers perfect for logs and mals.
The south of the bay is interspersed with rocky patches that can offer up quality waves in the right conditions with lengthy barrels to be had for the committed.
The centre of the bay comes to life as the tide pushes up to high with punchy wedges breaking close to the beach much like the beach breaks of southern France.
At the north of Constantine, you can find Booby’s Bay, completely submerged at high tide this beach can hide some serious surprises for lucky surfers. At low tide, a predominant right-hander breaks into the bay offering a variety of sections to perform manoeuvres.
Parking here is a bit of a nightmare so try to get here early or late to avoid the worst of the crowds and save yourself sitting in a traffic jam waiting to park.
Get the low down on everything this awesome beachie has to offer in our guide to surfing Constantine Bay.
Perranporth Beach is one of the most beautiful places in Cornwall, and it’s also a great place to surf. The bay is overlooked by large cliffs at the south and ranging dunes to the north with the famous Watering Hole bar located on the sand overlooking the waves.
At low tide, the beach opens right up with great waves to be had all up and down this long stretch of sand. There’s a great lefthander at the south of the bay that is not for the faint-hearted, offering powerful waves that regularly barrel.
Perranporth is a great option in the summer months when you want to get the most out of the small swells. Its advantageous location further down the north Cornish coast means it picks up more swell than spots like Polzeath.
We’ve created a detailed guide containing everything you need to know about surfing in Perranporth, Cornwall.
Gwithian Beach, Hayle
Gwithian is a gigantic beach in the depths of Cornwall. This exposed beach break is backed by massive dunes and runs all the way to the river mouth at Hayle.
Its exposed nature is a double-edged sword, Gwithian hoovers up any available swell but it’s also quite affected by the wind. Best surfed from low to mid tide there are waves all along this stretch of surfing gold.
The north end has the main car park and is probably the busiest spot on the beach You’ll find lefts and rights here with all manner of surfing crafts in the lineup.
Further down is a spot called Mexicos that can be great when the conditions align. On much larger swells you can head down even further to Hayle Rivermouth for some shallow tubing waves that close out more often than they peel.
If you surf at Gwithian watch out for the strong rips that can run rampant along this beach, dragging you down towards the river mouth.
Porthtowan is a beach break located down in the depths of Cornwall. At high tide, Porthtowan is only a small beach with some great waves that break close to shore much like the beach breaks of southern France.
As the tide drops Porthtowan opens right up with fantastic waves all along this stretch of beach. The large cliffs that overlook the break can provide a little shelter from light cross-shore winds as well.
If you to the south of the bay at low you’ll find fast-breaking quality lefts draining over shallow sand bars. At the centre of the beach a-frame peaks rifle off into long walls that can peel virtually all the way to the beach.
There’s a great takeaway as you drive into town and some nice cafes and bars overlooking the beach for some after-surf food and drinks.
Take a deep dive into the waves here with our in-depth guide to surfing at Porthtowan.
Praa Sands, Helston
No trip surfing Cornwall is complete without a trip to the south coast. Praa Sands is a stunning beach with golden white sand that wouldn’t look out of place on the warmer shores of the Mediterranean.
Unlike many other waves in Cornwall, the wave quality really improves as the tide pushes up to high. At low tide, Praa offers fairly relaxed waves perfect for beginners and surf schools. As the tide rises the waves start to gain more power as they push up onto the shallow near-shore banks.
At high you can catch waves literally 20m from the shoreline with punchy,s sometimes barreling lefts and rights rifling down the beach. Anything past mid tide is best reserved for skilful surfers because the quick pitching waves can easily send you on a collision course with the ocean floor sometimes just cm’s away.
Praa Sands’ somewhat remote location and position on the south coast of Cornwall means it rarely gets as busy as some of the other beaches on this list.
Widemouth Bay, Bude
Widemouth Bay is about a mile south of Bude town and offers a wide stretch of beach with a good variety of waves for surfers of all abilities.
There’s a great right-hand reef break for advanced surfers at the north end of the beach. Careful the rocks are sharp and shallow here, you’ve been warned!
The centre of the bay offers up classic beach break peaks with a slight preference for right-handers. While the main beach is by far the easiest to access and surf it can get considerably crowded in the summer months and is a popular destination with tourists and holidaymakers.
At the far south of the bay is Black Rock, on good days you can find a left and right breaking on either side of the rock with the left being a mellower wave with several rocks interspersed in the line-up.
The right-hander of Black Rock is a whole different story with a pitching take-off just meters from exposed rocks in front of you, bailing here is not a fun experience so handle it with care.
Learning to surf in Cornwall
There are a number of surf schools in Cornwall, so it’s easy to find one that suits your needs. The main ones are located at Bude, Newquay and the other more built-up surf spots with more limited options available at other locations around the county.
Check out our guide on the best surf schools in Cornwall for some of the county’s top-rated schools and instructors.
The choice of lessons and courses available can vary depending on what you want to learn and how much time you have to devote to surfing, but there are plenty of options available. These include all-day lessons (from £40), half-day lessons (£35), evening sessions (£40), taster sessions (£25) and introductory surf camps (from £80).
Harlyn Surf School
Harlyn Surf School is a family-run surf school that has been running for over 20 years. They have a great reputation for providing safe and friendly lessons to beginners who are keen to learn how to surf.
The experienced instructors at Harlyn Surf School have been voted Cornwall’s best surf school by TripAdvisor users on four separate occasions (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016).
Escape Surf School
Escape Surf School is a small, friendly and relaxed surf school located in Newquay. This surf school has a great reputation for offering lessons for all levels of ability. They offer group or private lessons as well as beach camps and events throughout the year.
One of the main things that make Escape Surf School stand out from other surf schools is its friendly atmosphere. The staff all seem to be very knowledgeable about surfing and are willing to share their knowledge with you before you even hit the waves.