Looking for need-to-know surf spots around Cornwall? We’ve got you covered with years of Cornish surf trip experience, all packed into one handy guide.
We’ll cover all the best beaches, the waves throughout the year, and where you can find the best pasties for post-surf munchies.
Let’s paddle straight out with the UK’s premier surfing destination and one of the best-known beach breaks around.
Uncovering Some Of The Best Surf Beaches Along Cornwall’s Coast
This blessed part of the world is full of a whole heap of secluded coves hiding rare gems peeling onto sandy shores.
We’ll lift the lid on some of Cornwall’s most iconic surfing beaches and some of our personal favourites that aren’t so well travelled.
Fistral Beach, Newquay
Fistral is a consistently good wave for the area. It can handle onshore winds (to a point), and you can surf from low tide to high.
It’s a long beach with a whole load of peaks to choose from depending on the tide and swell combo.
But great waves come at a cost, and being so close to Newquay, it can get crowded during peak season (June/July).
The south end of the beach produces great left-handers through low to mid-tide with a rock jump straight into the lineup for the brave.
If you’re an experienced surfer, you can head to Little Fistral, the far north of the beach. It’s a powerful, punchy wave that breaks over a mixture of rock and sand.
Being as close as it is to the UK’s surfing capital, there’s a whole heap of surf schools if you need to rent some gear or grab a lesson.
*Additional reading – Check out our guide to surfing Newquay to get the full low down on all the waves you can find in the area.
Sennen Cove, Sennen
Sennen Cove is my go-to spot whenever I want to squeeze the most out of a small swell.
It’s the last surfable before Land’s End, so it hoovers up swell off the Atlantic and is well worth a look if the waves are too small further up the coast.
Gwynver at the bay’s north end can get particularly good when the tide pushes up, offering wedgy lefts and rights that are great if you’re riding a shortboard.
Once you’re done with your surf, don’t forget to head to the Blue Lagoon Fish 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 to quality waves.
It’s not world-class, but you’ll find some beach break peaks up and down the beach.
*Beginners tip – If you’re learning to surf in Bude, head south to Summerleaze Beach (just a short walk over the headland). It’s sheltered by a harbour wall, making for smaller, more manageable waves.
Best surfed surfed from low to mid tide. The waves back off at high tide unless there’s a serious ground swell running.
Bude’s an epic 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.
Next on our list is Polzeath, a small village in North Cornwall with a large sandy beach flanked by rocks on either side.
The waves are noticeably more user-friendly here than other nearby breaks. Pentire Head slightly shelters the beach, grooming the swell into long rollers.
Whilst the waves here are great for beginners and amateurs, they can lack power compared to other beach breaks covered in this list.
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. Just be prepared for a marathon paddle out.
No guide to surfing in Cornwall would be complete without Constantine Bay.
Arguably one of the best spots on this list, Constantine provides various waves across all tide stages, varying from barrels to relaxed peelers perfect for longboards and mals.
The south of the bay is interspersed with rocky patches that can offer quality waves in the right conditions, with lengthy barrels for the committed.
The centre of the bay comes to life as the tide pushes up to high; punchy wedges break close to the beach with tubes and powerful sections to hit.
North of Constantine, you can find Booby’s Bay, completely submerged at high tide; this beach can hide some serious surprises for lucky surfers.
When low tide arrives, 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 from sitting in a traffic jam waiting to park.
Get the low down on everything this awesome beachie offers in our guide to surfing Constantine Bay.
Perranporth Beach 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.
A great lefthander at the south of the bay is not for the faint-hearted, offering powerful waves that regularly barrel.
Perranporth is a great option when you want to get the most out of the small swells in the summer.
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. Massive dunes back this exposed beach break 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.
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 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 great waves that break close to shore, much like the beach breaks of southern France.
As the tide drops, Porthtowan opens with fantastic waves along this stretch of beach.
The large cliffs that overlook the break can also provide a little shelter from light cross-shore winds.
If you go 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, an 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 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 in 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.
Praa offers fairly relaxed waves at low tide, perfect for beginners and surf schools.
As the tide rises, the waves gain more power as they push onto shallow near-shore banks.
At high, you can catch waves literally 20m from the shoreline with punchy, 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 inches 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
Located 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 bay’s centre offers 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.
What’s the best time of year for surfing in Cornwall?
Cornwall can get years all around, and being a peninsula, you have the advantage of both sides of the coast.
Autumn normally has the best with consistent ground swells and favourable offshore winds.
Spring can be a mixed bag when it comes to surfing in Cornwall.
Combinations of small swell and north-westerly winds mean many spots are surfable, but you can get the occasional windows of good surf.
The cold water keeps the crowds down, so it’s relatively easy to find quiet waves.
Summer gets packed with surfers, bodyboarders and holidaymakers all vying for precious waves.
You can get some great swells with warm weather when the conditions are on, but the UK can get some pretty lengthy flat spells over summer.
I advise heading further afield and finding quieter surf spots when possible.
Try walking the coast path on a run of good swell; you might be surprised by what you find.
The best time of year for surfing around Cornwall, groomed lines arrive of the Atlantic Ocean matched with light offshore breezes.
Autumn can be all-time with many slumbering reefs and point breaks coming to life.
Winter is perfect for anyone who wants to chuck on a winter wetsuit, gloves and boots.
You’ll have to contend with storm surf and strong gales, but some Cornish gold can be found in sheltered corners and bays tucked away from the wind.
Surf Camps In Cornwall
Cornwall’s packed with quality surf camps for all sorts of budgets.
Here are our top picks:
Cornish Wave – A fun-filled activity weekend with two surf lessons and a coasteering tour. You’ll spend your evening wild camping in a quiet woodland while you relax after a long day of surf.
Rewilding Surf Retreats – Go for the luxury approach with three days of surf coaching and coasteering on the outskirts of Newquay. You’ll be treated to a glass-fronted retreat with a sauna and an ice bath if you’re feeling brave.
Learning To Surf In Cornwall
There are heaps 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 limited options available at other locations around the county.
Check out our guide on the best surf schools in Cornwall for some of the country’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 want to spend surfing.
These include all-day lessons (from £40), half-day lessons (£35), evening sessions (£40), taster sessions (£25) and introductory surf camps (from £80).
*Prefer the DIY approach? – The guys at OMBE Surf have an extensive online coaching program with hundreds of videos to help you level up your surfing.
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, relaxed surf school in Newquay. This surf school has a great reputation for offering lessons for all ability levels. They offer group or private lessons, beach camps, and events throughout the year.
One main thing that makes Escape Surf School stand out from other surf schools is its friendly atmosphere.
The staff all seem very knowledgeable about surfing and willing to share their knowledge with you before you even hit the waves.
Frequently Asked Questions
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to surfing in Cornwall, so we’ve answered some of the internet’s most pressing questions.
What’s the best month for surfing in Cornwall?
September and October offer the perfect combination of good waves and warm water temperatures, with many of the crowds gone after summer.
Is Devon or Cornwall better for surfing?
Cornwall’s much more exposed to swell from the Atlantic Ocean than Devon, so it’s arguably better if you want more consistent waves.
Why is Newqauy so good for surfing?
Newquay has several beaches that face lots of different directions. This makes it great for finding shelter from onshore winds.