Learn to surf in two hours - and more watersports to do in a day

Surfer at sunset in Cornwall

Surfer at sunset in Cornwall - Credit: Carol Burns

Cornwall's coastlines are filled with expert surfers and pro SUPers - but you can learn the basics of most water sports in just a few hours

You may only be here for a short visit – but learning watersports  can take as little as a few minutes to a lifetime:  here's our expert rundown on the top ten water activities – and how to learn 


Young blonde female paddles a paddleboard at the sea

Paddleboarding in the sea - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What is it: Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is balance on a paddle board and row. The boards are specially made and while most SUP takes place on lakes and still water, there is much fun to be had SUP on coastal waters. 

How long does it take to learn the basics:  20 minutes 

Pros: The view; the exercise: done right it is a full body workout. 

Cons: Expect to pay several hundred pounds for a SUP kit – although you can hire boards from most surf shops.  

Most Read

Getting started: Start off in shallow waters and remember safety comes in numbers. Most surf schools will also offer sessions to learn how to use your board. In the beginning you might spent more time in the water than on the board. One you’ve learned the basics have a go at SUP polo. 

Find out more: bsupa.org.uk


Surfer leaves the beach at Fistral beach at sunset

Surfer leaves the beach at Fistral, the home of UK surfing - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

What is it: Where have you been? Surfing is Cornwall’s national sport (look away pilot gig rowers). Surfers of various skill levels to be found floating on most of our coastline waiting for the perfect ride.  

Time to learn the basics: two hours 

Pros: Expect to get wet 

Cons: Beware! Waiting for your set to come in can be addictive 

Getting started: Surf schools sit on most of Cornwall’s beaches with good surf and they remain the best, safest and quickest way to learn the basics. They can also supply everything you need from the board to the wetsuit. You’ll begin by learning to jump to stand on a board while on dry land and progress to riding small waves within an hour.  

Find out more: surfingengland.org/ 

SUP yoga 

stand up paddle board yoga performed by beautiful girl on the bright city background, yoga training

Stand up paddle board yoga - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What is it: Yoga is mindful exercise - so where could be more mindful than on a beach SUP yoga involves yoga postures while balancing on a SUP board in the water 

Time to learn the basics: if you can balance on a SUP you are already there 

Pros:  Impressing everyone on the beach 

Cons: Falling over a lot 

Getting started: There are increasing numbers of classes you can attend on local beaches. For most you will need essentials, such as a board, paddle, leash and PFD, and you may consider an anchor, as well.  Some poses are easier than others on a paddle board. 

More information: wassupcornwall.com


A young boy jumps into water at Gwithian beach in Cornwall

Jumping into the 'Sheep Dip' at Gwithian - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

What is it? A fairly new entry into the annuls of water activities, coasteering is a physical activity that encompasses movement along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming, without the aid of boats, surf boards or other craft. Specialist companies have cropped up that will take you on a coasteering adventure from beginners to experienced 

Time to learn the basics: we’ll let you know 

Pros: The most exhilarating time you can have on a coast 

Cons: Bring plasters 

Getting started: Book yourself on a beginner’s session and prepare to get wet and wild. 

Find out more: coasteering.co.uk

Cornish pilot gig rowing 

What is it: Cornish pilot gig rowers row and race a fleet of traditional wooden Cornish Pilot Gigs - a 32 foot long, six-oared rowing boat. 

Time to learn the basics: 20 minutes 

Pros: As a team sport it is really sociable 

Cons: you’ll need to live in Cornwall – this is a regional sport. 

Getting started: Join one of the 86 teams around the county. Get good and start competing. 

Find out more: cpga.co.uk 


Teenager learns to sail as part of Discover Sailing event

Teenager learns to sail as part of Discover Sailing event - Credit: Carol Burns

What is it: Using the wind to propel a craft on the surface of the water. 

Time to learn the basics: You can learn to sail safely within a few weeks 

Pros: Once you’ve learned to harness the wind you can sail anything – not to mention windsurfing, and kitesurfing 

Cons: Sailing has a reputation for being prohibitively expensive - a new yacht will set you back tens of thousands of pounds while moorings will set you back several hundred pounds a year. But there are other options. 

Getting started: From the beginning of May, Discover Sailing offers free taster courses you can undertake to pick up the basics and everything is provided. 

Find out more: rya.org.uk

Sea Swimming

Swimmer prepares to dive into the water

Preparing to dive in - Credit: Cornwall Wold Swimming

Time to learn: Zero. Sea swimmers should be strong swimmers   

Pros: All you need is a swimsuit and goggles 

Cons: Cornwall’s water temperature can drop to around seven degrees in the winter (summer is a balmy 17) 

Getting started: Sea, open or wild water swimming has become hugely successful across Cornwall and beyond. There are clubs set up to swim together for safety in groups of varying abilities. Alongside regular races, there are special events such as might swimming events and all-inclusive for those will less ability. 

Find out more: seaswimcornwall.co.uk

Comments powered by Disqus