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Where to go......the surfing apprentice.

A conveniently condensed learn to surf holiday guide.

Ever fancied a go at surfing? The Beach Boys said “catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world”. Have you wondered if it really is as exhilarating as it looks, when daredevil boarders plummet at great speed down the face of an elegant, curving and fluid wall of blue and green, white horses dancing along the crest of the wave as the shore wind whips up their tale? Enough to tempt you to learn to surf?

Or perhaps body boarding, younger cousin to the real thing, for those who are rightfully impatient to enjoy the thrill, but can’t wait, so grab this great opportunity to experience the feeling of being propelled at speed by nothing else but the force of nature?

Maybe you’d just like to watch? Surfing is very much a spectator sport and can be enjoyed from the comfort of a deck chair or lilo, snuggling behind a traditional British windbreak on a gusty day, soaking up the sun and contemplating a dip.

If you are feeling tempted and looking to try your hand, there are a number of great ways to have a crack. The first, surprise surprise, is on a surfboard, with a recognised surf school or academy. The second is to take the bull by the horns and hire a board and try to teach yourself. The third is, more sensibly perhaps, to hire a body board and take the slightly smaller and tamer bull by the horns, and learn the basics by a very satisfying process of trial and error. And last, but by no means least, try out a relatively new concept. An artificial “Sheet Wave” machine inland, with full instruction. Like the one recently installed at Retallack Resort and spa. It’s called a “FlowRider”. More about that in a minute.

“When people first consider the idea it suddenly throws up more questions than they bargain for”

The objective of this short article isn’t just to tempt you with the idea, but to provide a little bit of insight into the best way to go about getting started and enjoying a learn to surf holiday. And most importantly where to go. When people first consider the idea it suddenly throws up more questions than they bargain for, some of which are very hard to answer. Once you know where to go, most of these questions get answered for you. That’s the objective of this concise surfing holiday guide.

The topic of surfing holidays in Cornwall produces a vast array of options, so, what we have done, following a great deal of deliberation, is selected four great locations in Cornwall, where you can enjoy many of the experiences described, in a safe, convenient and frankly rather nice spot.

We have considered access, facilities, quality of beach, suitability of the surf for new comers and all round support for you in your chosen activity.In other words, if you follow up on our suggestions, don’t expect windswept empty beaches with roaring waves. What you will find is a great beach, parking, well equipped hire shops, qualified surf schools and lifeguard, and even appropriate retail outlets for essential last minute purchases, plus other conveniences for a long day at the beach like a few cafes and maybe a bar or restaurant. And not overly crowded.

Watergate bay

Watergate Bay is very sandy and very flat. Although very close to Newquay, it couldn’t be any different in terms of surfing and general ambience, and it benefits from a very consistent year-round beach break suitable for all levels and particularly those sporting “L” plates. Whilst the ocean provides a swell suitable for novices the larger waves are powerful and can hold their shape to deliver on occasion the classic barrel.

“Directly behind the beach is plenty of parking, loos, and a mixture of quite cool bars and restaurants”

The Extreme Academy, powered by the Watergate Bay Hotel, provides all levels of instruction with equipment hire to match.

Other facilities include Jamie Oliver's famous FIFTEEN Cornwall, and a selection of small eateries/cafes on the beach.

Directly behind the beach is plenty of parking, loos, and a mixture of quite cool bars and restaurants, the afore mentioned Hotel taking centre stage. We attended a wedding at the hotel last year and it was magnificent. The view through panoramic glazing of the sunny beach, waves crashing and people surfing, directly behind the couple, was quite unique. Then off to the beach!


Polzeath provides quite a bit of variety in a number a ways. Its surfing will not challenge the hard core but please the majority and can magic up some attractive waves when the Atlantic provides a good sized swell. Similarly the clientele vary, ranging from happy campers to those from the more privileged classes. The benefit of this is that you get a pleasant environment, and thankfully not excessive prices. The cafes and pubs are reasonable and you can even get an informal yet smart meal at the Salt Water Bistro using delicious local produce, and the prices were very sensible last time we visited.

“The important thing is it has all the key facilities we outlined, and the waves are consistent, providing a great place for beginners”

The quantity of surf shops can sometimes make you feel like this is a place to be seen rather than surf. That’s not entirely true, and if it was it just means more space in the water! So yes it’s a bit posey, but why not, you’re on holiday.

The important thing is it has all the key facilities we outlined, and the waves are consistent, providing a great place for beginners and those not seeking the ultimate challenge, though on its day the waves can impress. Just remember to time your visit, as there is not much happening during high tide.

The beach narrows inland between the cliffs, squeezing the waves into a narrow channel. General tide information can be found at Follow this link to go straight to Polzeath info. For surf school visit

Try Retallack Rocks at Retallack resort and spa for smart Cornwall Holiday lodge accommodation, incredibly convenient for Polzeath and the rest or the North Coast Beaches.


Perranporth is a bustling seaside village with a full selection of pleasant bars, restaurants and shops selling beach related fare. It originated as a tin mining town in the 19th Century, and with over three miles of non-stop flat golden sand, its beach is one of the longest in Cornwall. Couple this with the fact that the waves are friendly and attractive for beginners it’s not surprising that it can get a little bit busy during the holidays, though thankfully much quieter than the Newquay beaches further up the cost.

There is vast amounts of space so you will always be sure to find your own spot in which to do whatever you want. The beach is also very popular for sand yachting and flying power kites. The established surf school is the best way to find your feet. You’ll find their base in the Alcatraz Surf and Beach Hire shop right on the beach.

Once you become confident you might be tempted to join the more experience surfers at Droskyn Point, on the far left side of the beach, where underwater sandbanks can produce substantial, well-formed waves. For very comfortable local accommodation which no try out Natural Retreats Fistral Beach. In a much quieter part of Newquay these luxury apartments look right onto Fistral beach. Here you can enjoy all the hustle and bustle of Newquay but at a safe arms length and benefit from fast access to the best surfing beaches on the north coast including Perranport which is only 8 miles away.

FlowRider at Retallack

Retallack Resort and Spa at Winnards Perch is a fantastic concept in Cornish self catering holiday accommodation. Not only does it feature very swish holiday lodge style log cabin accommodation, lakes, tennis, indoor pool and spa etc. it is also the home of the South West’s one and only FlowRider. It’s a mechanical installation which in technical terms produces what is called a “Sheet Wave”, and it’s a perfect way to learn grass roots skills for the real surf experience, or simply continue to develop on the FlowRider itself with impressive turns at tricks. The designers describe it as “the first truly interactive sport/skill ride to emerge in the world of aquatic recreation. It is the only water attraction where spectators enjoy watching as much as participants enjoy riding”. And the great news is there are waves here come rain or shine!! Even when the ocean is flat.

It generates a buzzing social scene too. At Retallack you will find a surf shop, bar and restaurant, not to mention the other recreational facilities mentioned earlier, so, very well kitted out for a surf experience all be it inland. Experienced board riders have to learn from scratch too, and complete novices can pick it up after a matter of hours. Great fun! And it is a sensible stepping stone to the real thing, which incidentally is no more than 11 miles away at Newquay and 14 miles to Polzeath. With over 24 miles between them you are slap bang in the middle so you really can have the very best of three worlds.

If you pick one of these four options you are sure to have a really great experience first time out. We have been to them all and are confident that the recommendations will see you on your way to a fantastic day. Remember to check out the tidal information and make contact with a surf school in advance to make sure that they have space and that they too recommend the conditions on any given day. The rest is down to your own commitment and patience. That’s the last thing, don’t try this in a hurry, you will mess up your own expectations. Take it easy and enjoy, and we are confident you will come back for more.

Let us know how you get on too. Feel free to email us at and we will publish a follow up article later in the summer to find out how everyone is getting on.