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The Best Beaches for Surfing and Bellyboarding in West Cornwall

Updated: May 22, 2023

Last week The Times featured an article about Britain's best surfing beaches and we were delighted to see a number of West Cornwall's finest on the list, all of which are within easy striking distance of the cottages.

Bellyboarders looking at waves on the beach
Bellyboarders checking out the surf at Praa Sands

Chris and I aren't really surfers (I can just about stand up) but we are keen bellyboarders and the cottages are just a five-minute drive from one of our favourite beaches at Perranuthnoe.When the conditions are right, the surf can be fantastic but make sure you check the tide as the beach disappears at high tide. There's a new car park in a field at the top of the village but whether we're bellyboarding or heading out on our SUPS, our tactic is to arrive early and grab a space in the car park closest to the beach. The beach is lifeguarded during the summer and if you're after a post-surf snack, you can choose from The Cabin or The Peppercorn.

A bellyboarder on the beach
Perranuthnoe is our favourite bellyboarding beach

Our closest surfing beach is Praa Sands. This long stretch of golden sand is the premier surfing beach on the south coast. It tends to have smaller waves than the beaches on the north coast, which means it's good for beginners (particularly in winter), but there's also plenty to offer experienced surfers when conditions are right. Parking is good are there plenty of options for eating.

I learned to surf with Global Boarders - a fantastic mobile surf school which offers lessons from Praa Sands. They also operate at Gwithian, one of the major surfing beaches on the north coast. Gwithian is also home to a number of surf schools including Gwithian Academy of Surfing and has excellent facilities.The beach is part of the long stretch of sand that makes up St Ives Bay. Conditions are good for all levels. It's also worth exploring the options offered by the adjoining beaches at Godrevy to the east and Mexico Towans to the west but be warned, the trek back through the dune to the car park from Mexico Towans feels epic after an hour or two in the water.

On the right day, Porthmeor in St Ives offers world class waves but its location in the heart of the town makes parking almost impossible during the summer months. If you're hiring a board and wetsuit a better option may be to take the train from St Erth. St Ives Surf School is based at Porthmeor and, of course, there are dozens of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Non-surfers will appreciate the fact that Tate St Ives is right opposite the beac.

Further west is the celebrated beach at Sennen which often serves up waves when everywhere else is flat. Beginners can book a lesson at Sennen Surfing Centre As you would expect, the facilities are excellent but it does get busy. If you'd like a bit of peace and quiet while someone else in your party surfs, then the next-door beach at Gwenver is the spot for a swim or spot of sunbathing.

In the opposite direction, former professional surfer Dan Joel operates a surfing school at Poldhu Cove on the Lizard. The beach is owned by The National Trust and has a nice little cafe. There's a large car park but it does get busy even though Poldhu tends to be quieter than some of the better-known beaches.

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