North Cornwall Surfing Guide



Watersports in North Cornwall



From quiet nooks and coves to exciting surfing venues, all flanked by magnificent coastal scenery, North Cornwall has some of the cleanest beaches in Cornwall - and that's official.


The North Cornwall area is home to some of the best beaches in Cornwall, which are perfect for family holidays. There are also some excellent surfing beaches, such as Polzeath and Harlyn Bay. Polzeath Port Isaac


Beach Safety In North Cornwall


The wild and rugged coast of north Cornwall with its shining surf and golden beaches, holds both immense natural beauty and hidden dangers for visitors to the area. Beach safety is essentially an exercise in common sense, and if you and your family take note of the advice that follows then you will enjoy a happy and safe holiday in north Cornwall.

The 14 main tourist beaches in the district are covered by lifeguards throughout the summer season and their instructions should be obeyed at all times. Remember to listen for their whistle, you may be in danger.

Where there is no lifeguard, please seek local advice and always read warning notices before entering the water.


Lifeguard patrolled beaches employ the tried and tested flag system, which is easy to understand and very hard not to notice. The simple rules are that you should always bathe between the red and yellow striped flags and must, on no account, enter the water when the red flag is flying. A major hazard of bathing in the ocean is the rip current. This is the seaward movement of water caused by natural drainage of water brought in towards the beach by the tide. These currents test all but the strongest swimmers and are invisible to an inexperienced eye. The best advice is always to bathe only on patrolled beaches. These currents, along with offshore winds also dictate that inflatables should never be taken into the sea. It is all too easy to loose control and be swept out.

There is a large rise and fall of tides in north Cornwall and the times of high and low water, as laid out on this page, should always be checked before you set off on long walks on the foreshore. The incoming tide rises rapidly and consequently it is very easy to find yourself cut off. We want you to enjoy your holiday, so please do not take any unnecessary risks. If in doubt, seek expert advice - remember, it is not only your life but the lives of the emergency services that can be put at risk by you not taking the time to think!
Beach Safety Officer, North Cornwall District Council.






Be alert to people who may be in distress. You could save a life. If you see a red flare, orange smoke or a craft or person in difficulty, find a phone quickly, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.




  1. Spot the dangers:
    If in doubt stay out! Look for a beach patrolled by lifeguards with zoned areas, i.e.
    RED over YELLOW FLAGS for swimming, belly and boogie board riding.
    BLACK and WHITE CHEQUERED FLAGS for surf craft.
    A RED FLAG means do not enter the water DANGER.

  2. Know the difference: You may be used to a nice warm indoor pool, but its not so easy in cold outdoor water

  3. Check new places:
    New places, may have dangers that you do not know about.
    Ask the lifeguards, the locals, somebody who knows.

  4. Take Safety Advice:
    Special flags and notices warn you. Know what they mean, do what they tell you.

  5. Do not go alone:
    Children should always go with a grown up, even at lifeguard patrolled beaches, lifeguards are not babysitters.

  6. Learn how to help:
    You may be able to help yourself and others if you know what to do in an emergency, "so" join a lifesaving club at most swimming pools or at a beach surf lifesaving club near to you.
    For details contact the Beach Safety Officer on 01208 893410

  7. Strange Objects:
    Don't touch strange objects.
    Dangerous items such as flares or canisters of chemicals may sometimes be washed ashore.
    Tell the Coastguard or the Police.



  • Keep well clear of the cliff edge, it may be unstable and even dry grass can be slippery.
  • Before walking along the beach under cliffs, check the tide times, you don't want to be cut off.
  • Don't climb on cliffs unless properly equipped. You should always notify the local Coastguard of your intentions.
  • Don't dig into soft cliff faces. They could collapse and bury you.
  • Don't sit on or walk close over rocks about to be washed by the sea. You could be swept off.




Unsafe. Picks up any swell hitting the North Coast. Badly affected by westerly winds.
Dangers; Unsafe north side. Unsafe low water + 2hrs . Very experienced surfers only.


Good beginners beach. Faces west, works best with the easterly winds.
Typical Beach break with no defined peaks.
Wave quality alters with the tide and position of sandbanks.
Usually surfed low to 1/4 tide, with fast hollow waves.
Dangers Watch out for unsafe currents at low water + 2hrs. Rocks at high water. Ferocious rip currents in surfover 5ft.


Northcott Mouth
Southern end of Sandymouth. Rips make it unsuitable for beginners unless surf is small. Best surf low to mid water.
Dangers Unsafe low water + 2hrs.


Works well in easterly winds, low tide through to high tide. Five minutes out of Bude, popular with the locals, crowded in Summer. Good right off Wangles Point to the north.
Dangers. Rips can be strong at low tide.


Summerlease Beach.
2 minutes from the town centre. On low tide a fast left hander breaks outside the harbour wall. As the tide rises, a right hander off the breakwater develops and short lefts off the swimming pool.
Dangers. Rip at low tide by the breakwater in surf bigger than 4ft.


Widemouth Bay.
Good beginners beach. Works well on all stages of the tide. Popular with all kinds of craft and abilities.
Dangers. Currents around rocks, especially at low water.


Crackington Haven.
Good left break off rocks at southern end.
Best low water to 3/4 tide. Cliffs give shelter from the wind.
Dangers. Strong rips at southren end at low water. Rocks at high water.


Trebarwith Strand
No beach at high water. West facing picks up a lot of swell.
Northern end protected from north winds.
Dangers. Watch the tide!


SAFE. Good beginners beach break. Right hander off Pentire Point headland at low water.
Popular with all types of surfcraft. Can get crowded in summer.


Daymer Bay
One of the U.K's most popular wave sailing venues good for all abilities.
Good right hander at most stages of the tide. Wave size often increases as the tide rises.
Dangers. On big high tides a nasty shore dump can develop, best avioded by beginners.


Constantine Bay
West facing bay one of the best swell pullers in North Cornwall. Mid to high tide a wave breaks left and right in most swells. At the southern end a left hander breaks over the rocks. Any wind not from the east can ruin the wave.
Dangers. Notorious rip currents , be careful ! Not suitable for beginners, rocks at the west end.


Boobys Bay
Northern end of Constantine. Excellent right hander for experienced surfers only off the the rocks at the northern end of the beach from mid to low tide.
Dangers. Not suitable for beginners. Strong rips and dangerous rocks!


West facing often above average beach break waves. Can be a left hander at the southern end of the bay.
Dangers. There is a strong rip round and out of the bay.


North Cornwall, A Surfing Paradise.


Surfing in North Cornwall The North Cornwall Beach Guide


North Cornwall has a wealth of beautiful beaches, each boasting the unique opportunity to do a number of different activities. One of the most popular of these is surfing. On a good surfing day, the sea from Bude to Porthcothan is teeming with people riding the exhilarating North Coast waves. There are many beaches to choose from, each producing conditions suitable for all standards of surfing. So grab a board, squeeze into a wetsuit and, using the next few pages as your guide, find the perfect surfing spot for you.


This spectacular Atlantic Coast is the true home of surfing, not only in Cornwall but also in the British Isles. The sport and its supporting industry began in the heady days of the sixties. In fact the first documented British surfing took place at Treyarnon Bay in the very early 1960's.


Stuart Charles was a lifeguard at Treyarnon Bay then and was part of the group who first rode the waves on their wooden boards. He has fond memories of those groundbreaking times. "Surfing was very different in those days, the boards were huge and weighed a ton, it was a struggle simply getting them down to the water! There was no such thing as leashes, you just had to be very careful that you didn't lose your board when you surfed." Stuart, who was long boarding champion in 1967 and 1968 still surfs around the area today among many of the others of that generation who are still in love with the sport.


Polzeath Surf Life Saving Club
3 Hill View
West Rae Road
Cornwall PL27 6ST


Tintagel Surf Life Saving Club


Harlyn Surf Life Saving Club
Cornwall PL27 7UL


Crackington Haven Surf Life Saving Club
Bay Park


At the northern tip of North Cornwall, the traditional resort of Bude offers some excellent surfing at the beaches of Summerleaze, Crooklets, and Widemouth Bay. Bude is where the first Surf Life Saving Club in the country was established by an Australian called Alan Kennedy. After a chance visit to the resort in 1952 he decided to emulate his home country's beach patrols and help set up the Surf Life Saving Association of Great Britain. Mini Fry has been part of the club for eighteen years. Today he is a paid lifeguard on Summerleaze beach, and sees it as an important way of life in Bude, "We have a huge number of members, including one hundred 'nippers' (children), it is very popular among the people of Bude. There's even an annual sponsored swim in the sea every Christmas Day. We had over 120 people doing it last year!"


Bude also has a surfing hall of fame. Famous competition surfers such as Mike Raven, one of the top surfers in Britain comes from the town. The tradition has carried on with 9 year old Ruben Ash already starring in national competitions and 12 year old Taz Shepard, the current Under 18 lady champion in bodyboarding. Bude is also recognised on the national surfing circuit and last year held the U.K's first night surfing competition. As darkness fell some of the best surfers in the country were picked out in huge spotlights as they were riding the autumn Atlantic waves to the shore.


BudeSummerleaze beach is just a short walk from the town and it attracts a huge number of visitors. Unlike other resorts Bude is laid back about surfing, everyone is welcome to have a go, and the relaxed atmosphere in the town adds to the general feeling of you being part of a special surfing scene


Across North Cornwall there's a vibrant surfing industry. Wetsuits, boards, surf fashion, sunglasses, sunblock - you name it, it can be found. For visitors just dipping their toes surf gear can be hired from any number of outlets. Nigel Moyle of Zuma Jay Surfboards has been riding the wave of surfing's popularity for some time. He puts the success of the industry down to its accessibility to people of all ages and all walks of life. "The great thing about surfing is that it crosses generations and is classless. In the water there is every type of person, from professionals to school children, and they are equal, all with the same ambition, to get that adrenaline rush that you only get with surfing. There's also a huge camaraderie amongst the surfing set with expert information such as surf checks, available free at shops like ours."


Down the coast from Bude is Polzeath. Another popular surfing resort that attracts a wide range of visitors. Kelly Griffiths who works in Ann's Cottage says that Polzeath is particularly popular with visitors from the north, and they come specifically to have a go at surfing. Polzeath is an ideal beach for surfing, appealing to novices and the more advanced. If you're a beginner there is a surf school based on the beach called Surf's Up, run by Jane and Peter Craske. Jane says taking lessons is a very good way of getting a feel for the waves. "The sponge boards are ideal for beginners as it makes it so much easier to have a go at surfing and they're good fun too. You notice in the water there are twice as many people on sponge boards as there are swimming." Once again the surf industry in Polzeath, is growing with the sport. The shops hire out all sorts of surfing equipment and the surf school offers different sorts of tuition, from complete beginner courses to advanced and refresher courses.


As with all North Cornwall surfing beaches Polzeath has a large surfing community, and it is a place where everyone knows everyone else. The social side of surfing at Polzeath is very friendly and mellow, and on summer's evenings the beach buzzes with people having barbecues and watching the sun going down over the sea.


On the other side of the Camel Estuary lie the beaches of Harlyn Bay, Boobies Bay, Constantine Bay and Treyarnon Bay. All of these are exciting surfing beaches, set against dramatic cliff and headland scenery. Their unspoilt almost isolated nature adds to their charm and each offers a different type of surfing. If you're looking for fairly easy waves Harlyn is ideal, or if you're after a challenge Constantine is the best beach, but be warned it has strong rip currents and is only recommended for advanced surfers.


SUrfing - Mawgan Porth in Cornwall

Again there is an active surfing community with a local surf club The Bull Rock Boardriders. With over 70 members, the club has grown rapidly in the three years since it was established. Its aims are to promote the sport of surfing, be aware of environmental issues affecting the area and organise socials (a very popular function of the club!) Club Chairman Dan Hutton says they cherish the surf and the members want to make sure everyone benefits from it. "Surfing, as we all know is a very popular sport, but around this area there really isn't many of the young children surfing, our aim is to get more of them in the water. One way is to have a Grommet contest. This is a fun event attracting many of the up and coming under 18's wanting to have a go at surfing against each other and get a feel of what competition surfing is like. We're hoping to make it a regular event."


For surfers North Cornwall has a lot to offer. The beaches are wonderful for surfing, with a comprehensive industry to match. In the evenings finding a place to socialise is effortless with friendly locals and some great pubs. Not only is there a large number of surfing beaches, many of them won the prestigious Seaside Award given annually by the Tidy Britain Group. The beaches that have been given the award include Sandy Mouth, Widemouth Bay, Polzeath, Harlyn Bay, Constantine Bay, Treyarnon Bay and Mawgan Porth. If you're feeling adventurous you can find secret spots up and down the coast where you can have the waves completely to yourself. If you're not sure about equipment or where the best waves are there is always a friendly face who can help you out. You can learn to surf at one of the many schools in the area and hire or buy equipment at one of the surf shops. There are many different places to stay when you are on your travels from stunning hotels to caravan and camping sites, depending on your desires and on your pocket. Wherever you decide to go remember to respect other people in the water around you and most importantly enjoy yourself.