Surfing in Cornwall: the best spot for beginners


If you’re planning on going surfing in the UK, then apparently Cornwall is the place to do it. But after arriving in the quaint beach location of Watergate Bay I suddenly became very nervous – I didn’t even know how to get into a wetsuit properly, let alone tackle some of the UK’s choppiest waters. I was with my boyfriend Simon and, amazingly, I was the experienced one having had one previous lesson on the calm shores of Jersey. It’s fair to say we were both absolute beginners, more used to surfing the Internet than the open seas…

Luckily help was at hand in the form of ‘Pete’, a hunky young surf instructor at Xtreme Academy. Having been surfing since his teens, Pete was the ideal man to put us through our paces and teach us some moves on the board. And yes, he did have to help me into my wetsuit after I tried to put it on backwards…

Absolute beginners

cornwall surfing
Listening carefully

Before dipping our toes into the water we first had to warm up on the sand. Surfing uses your biceps and triceps, back and shoulder muscles, abdomen muscles and obliques as well as your hamstrings, calves and even the muscles in your bottom (yes, you do have them). So, erm, that’s basically everything… so as Pete explained, the warm up is the most important part of the lesson. Luckily, the beach at Watergate Bay is a gorgeous stretch of warm, golden sand, hugged by grass-topped cliffs the view was better than the usual one of the gym wall. We were staying at Watergate Bay Hotel, a boutique lodge with a modern twist on beach living and a laid-back, surf vibe. The hotel organised our booking with Xtreme Academy, which is right next door, so we knew we were in good hands.

After some basic circuit training exercises and a jog on the beach we were ready to start navigating our surfboards and mastering the art of going from laying down to standing up in a matter of seconds. Believe me, it’s a lot easier the other way around! Getting the ‘surfing stance’ right was actually easier than I thought and anyone who has ever practiced Yoga or done stand-up paddle boarding should pick it up quite easily. The lesson was fun with Pete keeping us upbeat and entertained with the odd anecdote and surfing story.

Diving in

After around half an hour practicing on the beach things got exciting as we made our way to the water. The big boards are heavier than they look. Of course, Pete lifted his as though it weighed nothing at all as we plodded along behind.

cornwall surfing
cornwall surfing
It looks more graceful than this on Home and Away…

During our lesson, the water was around 18 degrees but as we had on our trusty wetsuits and were moving about so much it didn’t feel cold at all. Besides, the sun was shining so as far as I was concerned it was the perfect weather. With Pete’s help, we pulled the boards out to the deeper water, waited for a big wave and then tried to remember everything he taught us on the beach. I immediately forgot the rules and toppled head first into the water! Simon was better than me and got the hang of it quite quickly. Before long he was cruising every wave in. Surfer Pete, probably used to clumsy city girls like me, was very patient and with his support I managed to get up on the board and ride a few waves of my own.

Drying off

cornwall surfing
cornwall surfing
It started off so well…

The half-day lesson was the perfect amount of time for a beginner with just enough time to learn the technique before getting to play in the waves and enjoy the fun stuff. I wouldn’t have noticed the time if it wasn’t for the rumble in my stomach. A fish and chips lunch at local hot spot, The Beach Hut was already on my mind – the perfect way to warm down after our morning on the water and watch the real professionals take to the surf as the afternoon wind picked up.

Xtreme Academy offers lessons for absolute beginners through to seasoned professionals looking to learn some extra skills and you can even try Kite Surfing if you already know how to surf and are feeling extra brave. For those who want to go it alone, surf board and wetsuit hire is also available but having a surfing pro like Pete out with you is highly recommended. The surf is a lot tougher than it looks twinkling in the sun so if you want to spend more time on it, rather than under it, go out with a proper surf dude. But be careful, it’s addictive!

Half day, ‘Introduction to Surfing’ lessons at Xtreme Academy are £35

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