WATERSPORTS: A SENSE OF ADVENTURE
Kitesurfing, surfing and other adventure sports are big business in Cornwall all year round
Fish and chips. Tea and scones. Sooty and Sweep. Perfect combinations that have brought smiles to many faces – and it’s the combination of keeping fit and the adrenalin rush that has made adventure sports so popular.
“People want to get out and have fun in the elements and the great outdoors!” explains Timo Ovens, co-owner of Mobius. “To possibly try something new and to make you feel alive!”
Cornwall offers the perfect backdrop for adventure sports, with the hills and trails playing host to biking; the rocks and tors setting the scene for climbing and abseiling, and of course, the beautiful blue seas welcoming surfers. This is just one reason why Cornwall is enjoying an adventure sports renaissance. Peter Williams of Shore Surf () says that Cornwall has a natural appeal for local residents to surf. “The beautiful coast and beaches keep them coming back for more. Many of the tourists coming to Cornwall also want to take part in that unique Cornish surfing experience. And who wouldn’t want to surf in that beautiful blue sea?”
“It’s a very exciting time to be in Cornwall if you’re a fan of adventure sports. My kids are growing up in a great era of Cornwall. The great thing about Cornwall is that it is an area of natural beauty, with its hills, beaches and coastlines. There are no flat areas of boredom.”
Extreme Academy (part of Watergate Bay Hotel) allows guests the chance to take part in a bit of adventure and adrenalin, in what sports manager and 2003 Waveski world champion Carl Coombes calls: “a safe, cocooned environment.”
“For us, we have sports available all year round. We offer a wide multitude of sports. Each participant can work at whatever level they want, and they will be supervised by our qualified instructors.”
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The mainstay sport at Extreme Academy is surfing, which caters for all levels: Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced, plus group surfing. “We also specialise in kite surfing, paddle surf, wave ski, stand up and hand planing, which is relatively new,” says Carl. Hand planing crosses body surfing with swimming. It’s an updated way of riding the waves without a surfboard, using a hand-held mini surfboard that is only around 30cm long, and fins.
Adventure sports are today enjoyed by a wide cross-section of people, with more women, children and older people joining in. Shore Surf has seen an upsurge in mothers and their children taking surfing lessons. “We have introduced a women’s and children’s class on Saturday mornings, and this has proven to be very popular with about 15 attendees every week,” says Peter Williams. “This is great because surfing is very much a sport that all the family can enjoy. Women and children have a thirst for knowledge, and so they take on board what you say.”
Extreme Academy caters for all ages from eight upwards, although the minimum age for kitesurfing is 18. “Providing each participant can handle the sport, then the sports we offer are for all adult ages,” says Carl Coombes. “We have had 70-somethings take part in wave skiing activities, so there really is no age limit.
“Gender-wise, it’s pretty much an even balance. Some of the time, we get groups of men or women who have come down to stay at the hotel and to take part in the Academy. Overall, it’s a nice, fine even spread. It’s marvellous that everyone wants to try different things.”
A pleasing aspect of teaching surfing is that it can spur people onto greater things. Peter Williams says that three of Shore Surf’s students have gone on to represent the British surfing team at the World Surfing Games in Panama. It’s a good example of how surfing is seen as a professional, credible sport, and how it has moved on since the 1960s. “Originally, surfing was taken less seriously in the 1960s and 1970s,” says Peter. “It was seen to represent a hippy drop-out sub-culture, but since then, it has grown in stature and today, it’s regarded as a highly professional sport which can lead to careers. It’s one of the top sports in the country. Surf schools have grown in popularity.”
One of the most important aspects of adventure sports, is of course, health and safety. Timo Ovens of Mobius says that people must have public liability insurance, and must use correct and safe equipment for the sport (i.e. kites must have 100% working quick releases). Additionally, beginners should get tuition from an approved centre to learn all the safety procedures.
“We have British Kite Sports Association Approval (BKSA) and teach students how to do a self rescue with their equipment if they get stuck out at sea. We also go through a set of standards (like the PADI scheme for Diving) that covers all safety concerns on site assessment (wind, tides, obstacles, escape routes etc) and they get a qualification for the level that they reach.”
At Shore Surf, at the start of each lesson, each participant must fill in a form stating their state of health, and informing of any health problems such as asthma. “Prior to surfing, we instruct people about a number of important safety aspects,” explains Peter Williams. “These include the role of the lifeguard, flags, hand signals, plus the movements of the currents and how to deal with them. For the children, we also reinforce the risks of skin cancer. We provide all the techniques that you need to take on board for safe surfing, including the smaller points which can make all the difference.”
“Safety is our paramount concern at Extreme Academy,” comments Carl Coombes. “We run all the normal operational procedures, including emergency protocols, and employ qualified lifeguards. The instructors will assess whether the weather conditions are safe and will carry out risk assessments on each person.” Extreme Academy acts in accordance with the ratios laid down by the National Governing Bodies of Sport, to make it as safe as possible for everyone.
If you thought that adventure sports were just for the spring and summer months, you’d be wrong. More and more people are banishing the winter blues by taking part in these adrenalin-fuelled sports, as Timo Ovens explains: “Our adventure sports are great for the winter months as we generally get a lot more wind, the beaches are quieter and flying a kite keeps you warm! (even if you are layered up a bit more!).”
The winter seasons are also proving hugely popular for Extreme Academy. “The winter season is fabulous for us,” says Carl Coombes. “Despite the colder weather, the level of activity stays the same. Because the Christmas season is a busy one, we offer a respite from the Christmas turkeys and puddings!” Extreme Academy offers surfing at Christmas, and guests find this a great way to stay fit during the festive season. The hotel also offers changing rooms, lockers and state-of-the-art hot showers, so participants will never feel cold.
A notable reason why the adventure sports industry is doing so well in Cornwall is because of the local people. Peter Williams comments: “Cornish people have seen the initiative and potential for adventure sports businesses and have expanded upon it. Local people know how to deliver the best adventure sports experiences and showcase it to others.”
And as Timo Ovens says, Cornwall is the “perfect playground” for so many adventure sports. “We have the crystal clear water all around us, over 300 beaches, cliffs and ridges, plenty of moorland in the centre, where else has some much to choose from?! I would say that kite sports, coasteering and stand up paddle boarding have especially boomed in recent years.”
Adventure sports are proving to be big attractions for both Cornish people and tourists. It’s a growing industry, as Timo Ovens comments: “I think adventure sports will definitely continue to grow. We may even see new adventure sports being developed and Cornwall will always be a great venue to host them!”
“Providing the tourism remains and the weather holds up, the adventure sports industry has a very bright future in Cornwall,” says Carl Coombes. “Customers return time and time again, and want to venture into new things. At Extreme Academy, we are always looking to do that extra bit and keep people entertained and fit.”
“The adventure sports industry is expanding in Cornwall, the future is really bright,” concludes Peter Williams of Shore Surf. “It always surprises me how resilient the British are with weather. Even in the wetter months of the year, Brits still want to go surfing – you get wet anyway! The autumn and winter months have proven to be very popular for people wanting to come and learn to surf.”
“We have had a cracking summer, especially with the weather, and this has proven to be a great springboard for the next season. At the moment, there is a great feeling that everybody is happy. The economy is more buoyant and the recession is starting to ease. We are now going back to the days of big tourism in Cornwall and that’s great news for the adventure sports industry as more and more people want to come back again.”