Newquay is a large seaside town on the north coast of Cornwall, in southwest England. It’s known as the ‘surfing capital’ of the UK and it’s home to some of England’s most popular surfing beaches and many of the UK’s top surf brands.
We’ve created the definitive guide to surfing Newquay with local tips on where and when to surf to get the best possible waves.
We’ll take a closer look at Newquay’s various surf spots, what sets them apart and how you can find the perfect wave.
Don’t miss our guide to surfing in Cornwall for other great surf spots to tick off your list.
Can you surf in Newquay?
Yes, Newquay is blessed with a whole load of quality surf spots in a small area. From the fast powerful peaks of Fistral to the friendlier breaks just up the coast, there’s a wave for surfers of all kinds of crafts and abilities.
With so many beaches in the area, you can normally always find a suitable wave, the town beaches are protected from south-westerly winds and the high tide takes advantage of the large cliffs as shelter from the wind.
This nice variety of waves make’s Newquay a go-to for groups of people learning to surf and if you’re not a confident surfer there’s a wide range of high-quality surf schools to choose from or surf equipment hire if you want to try and teach yourself to surf.
Surf spots in and around Newquay
Let’s take a closer look at the different surf spots you can find in and around the home of British surfing.
Fistral Beach has been voted as one of the top 10 beaches in the world by TripAdvisor users, thanks to its gorgeous sand and crystal clear waters. It plays host to several surfing competitions and draws some of the best surfing talents from all over England.
Fistral’s popularity has grown exponentially since surfers first discovered it in the 1950s. Today, Fistral Beach is known throughout Europe as one of the UK’s best surfing beaches.
The summer season at Fistral Beach runs from May to September, when it attracts large numbers of tourists. This can make surfing here busy and lots of locals opt to head slightly further afield rather than surfing Newquay’s busy town beaches.
You can park at the North of Fistral Beach in a paid car park or opt for the south of the bay where you can grab free parking if you’re lucky (it’s busy whenever the waves are looking good).
South Fistral offers waves through all stages of the tide but it’s best from low through to an hour after mid-tide when it starts to back off slightly. Offering predominantly lefts this corner of the bay is a goofy foot’s dream with a long peeling left breaking just off the cliffs on larger swells.
As you move up the beach you’ll start to find right-handers and a-frame peaks breaking all across this approximately 1/2 mile stretch of beach.
North Fistral offers great waves across all stages of the tide and tends to be a bit better at high tide than the south of the bay. Just to the north of the bay, you’ll find Little Fistral, a high-quality beach and reef combo that offers fast-breaking waves across shallow rocks.
Little Fistral is a go-to spot for some of the best surfers, and competition here is high. Only breaking from low to mid tide avoid this wave unless you’re an experienced surfer. If you’re surfing Newquay as a beginner this can be a great place to go and watch how the pros navigate a rocky lineup.
Towan Beach is one of the most accessible beaches for surfing in Newquay. The beach is located at the end of Towan Road and it is just a short walk from Newquay’s main street.
Offering waves all up this stretch of sand with a novelty left nestled in the harbour this beach is a magnet for surfers. It’s sheltered from south-westerly solid winds making it a go-to when Fitsral starts to go onshore.
The harbour left is a rare gem that only starts working in large ground swells but when it does it can offer some great lefts ending in a patch of rocks that can pose a serious danger to your fins.
Needless to say, many of Newquay’s pro surfers will turn up for this novelty so don’t expect catching waves to be easy. The video below is an oldie but a goldie.
Located just along Towan Beach is Great Western. It picks up a little more swell but can suffer from closeouts when it gets much bigger than head high.
Combine this with the nearly constant crowds and this beach can be a little frustrating to surf.
Next on the list of Newquay’s surfing beaches is Tolcarne. At low tide, this beach joins up with all the others on this long stretch of sand making for average sometimes fast-breaking waves.
The real magic here happens at high tide when the large cliff at the south of this bay creates a refraction as waves bounce off the cliff.
As these refractions meet the incoming swell they create teepee-like wedges that can break with some serious force on their day.
Local bodyboarders flock to this wave thanks to it’s barreling sections and perfect air sections.
Known as one of the UK’s most consistent and documented big wave surf spots the Cribbar is a spectacle to behold when it starts to break. This is one of the only waves in the southwest you can surf when wave heights reach 20ft+.
Large swells roll in from the Atlantic before forming into giant walls of water that break dangerously close to the rocky shoreline.
Only tackled by Newquay’s best surfers and advanced/pro travelling surfers you’ll always find a crowd of spectators lining the cliffs above this epic break.
While not strictly classed as surfing Newquay, this regional classic is so close we couldn’t miss it off the list.
Watergate bay is a three-mile stretch of sand located just north of Newquay. It’s a popular surfing spot that has become somewhat gentrified in the last 10 years.
You’ll find waves all up and down this stretch of beach with easy access via the main car park at the top of the cliffs (you do need to pay to park).
Advanced surfers can head to the north end of the bay from low to mid-tide for a hidden gem that hides in plain sight, offering high-quality banks and long peeling right-hand walls.
Watergate regularly hosts the English National Surfing Championships, check out the video below from 2021, safe to say they scored!
This large beach is backed by dunes and grasslands, with the wildlife-rich Rushy Green rising up behind them. At the end of the beach is Pentire Point West, a large headland that juts out into the sea and adds to the spot’s remote appearance.
Crantock can be a great choice when surfing Newquay’s main beaches is a bit daunting because of the crowds with way fewer surfers and holidaymakers heading here.
The best waves here are typically found on the north end of the bay where the river cuts deep pronounced banks into the waiting sand. Best suited to good to advanced surfers the waves here are fast-breaking and can offer little tubes on good days.
Best surfers from low to mid this break can offer some shelter in southerly winds and is always slightly smaller than Fitsral beach just around the headland.
Learning to surf in Newquay
If you’re looking for a fun, unique way to spend your time in Newquay, learning to surf is a great option. The town is well-known for its surf schools so you can start learning right away!
Surf lessons are available all year long, but if you want to get the most out of your lessons, take them during the summer months.
While you can learn to surf in the winter the water temperature drops considerably and can be quite a challenge without the right wetsuit, gloves, boots and hood.
Surfboard shapers in Newquay
From high-performance shortboards to logs there’s all manner of surfing craft in the local shops.
If you’re surfing Newquay and you’re in need of a new board don’t miss our handy buyer’s guide on the best surfboard shapers in Newquay.
Boardmasters is an annual surfing competition and music festival that is held in Newquay during August, usually located on the cliffs between the town and Watergate bay.
It attracts thousands of surf and music fans from all across the globe who come to watch some of the best surfers in the world compete for prizes alongside a large roster of bands and DJs.
The event takes place over the course of four days, featuring live music performances from the biggest names in the UK music industry and assisting global talent.
The surfing competition runs in parallel to the music, picking the best conditions during the event window.
After being first held in 1987, Boardmasters is now considered to be one of Europe’s largest surfing competitions outside of the WSL world tour.
Newquay has no shortage of surf shops so we’ve hand-picked some of our favourites to save you time when you’re looking for a new surfboard or wetsuit.
North Shore Surf Shop
They offer a wide selection of surfing equipment for every level of surfer, from beginner to pro. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable and will help you choose the right board based on your experience level, height and weight.
They offer a wide range of surfboards including a variety of brands such as Al Merrick, Pyzel, Firewire, Fourth, Lost and more alongside a large range of wetsuits in different thicknesses to suit all seasons.
Sunset Surf Newquay
Sunset Surf is an independent surf shop and lifestyle brand that’s been operating since 1988 in Newquay. They supply surf clothing, equipment & hire.
They also design, source and print their own clothing in Cornwall, which we love here at Honest Surf!
Answering your questions about surfing Newquay
We answer some of your most pressing questions about surfing Newquay and the surrounding beaches.
How big are the waves at Newquay?
Newquay beaches like Fistral and Crantock do get the majority of the incoming swell and large waves, but heading further down the coast to spots like Perranporth can add a foot or two to the swell.
Check out our surfing Perranporth beach/surf guide for more info.
Is Newquay good for surfing?
Yes, Newquay’s varied coastline and surf breaks make it perfect for hunting down surfable waves even when the swell is small or the winds are onshore.
Do you need a wetsuit to surf Newquay?
You can surf for short periods in the summer without a wetsuit but to avoid getting and treating surf rash or cutting your surf short, we always recommend wearing a wetsuit.