Surfing at Fistral Beach, Newquay

Let’s go surfing in Cornwall!

The opportunity finally arrived to surf at Fistral Beach on the North Coast; something I’ve wanted to do for ages! Even though I’m Cornish, I’ve minimal surfing experience. It’s a skill I’ve fancied learning for a long time. It was my sister, Lisa, who came up with the idea of hiring a surfboard in Newquay, and have a day out surfing at Fistral.

We couldn’t wait to pick up our surfboards and ride the waves. 

Where Is Fistral Beach?

Fistral Beach is one of Cornwall’s top surfing destinations. It’s situated on the north Cornish coast between Crantock and Towan Beach. At about half a mile long, Fistral, or Vystel in Cornish, translates to ‘cove of the foul water’, but please don’t let that put you off.

Fistral’s a beautiful beach, surrounded by breathtaking coastline. There are headlands on either side – Towan Head to the north, and Pentire Point East to the south. It’s also overlooked by the Headland Hotel which stands tall and proud on Towan Head. Between the headlands are steep sand dunes that provide a bright backdrop for this wonderful beach. The view on Fistral beach is good, but from the cliff, it’s pretty spectacular. 

View of Little Fistral Newquay

View of Fistral Beach to Town Head, CornwallWhy Is Fistral Beach Good For Surfing?

Fistral has a reputation for being one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall, for both beginners and experienced surfers. As a west facing beach, it benefits from the reliable Atlantic swell which offers consistent waves all year round. This makes it excellent for surfing.

Fistral beach is also home to many surfing competitions, drawing people to Newquay from all over the world. These include Board Masters, the English Surfing Nationals, and The British Universities Colleges Surfing Championships. I think this alone says how good it is. 

Even though Fistral is one long beach, it’s has different parts. This is ideal for surfing as it means those who are experienced and competent surf at the Towan end (North fistral) while learners and beginners stay at the other end (South Fistral). It’s here you’ll see the local surf schools offer lessons. All safe surfing areas are sectioned off with flags.

Fistral is also a dog friendly beach all year round, with many surfers bringing their dogs for a day at the beach. It makes for an ideal day out if you fancy doing an outdoor activity

People having a surfing lesson Fistral Beach

People having a surfing lesson Fistral BeachParking and Facilities 

The road along Fistral beach offers free parking, but it’s quite hard to find a space. There are car parks nearby, all within walking distance of the beach. Luck was on our side though. After driving around for about 10 minutes, we managed to grab a space. 

Not only is Fistral beach good for surfing, it also has excellent facilities. There’s 5 places to eat at Fistral Beach, so there’s plenty of choice. Most of these are on the north end of the beach, in one complex. We laid our towels at the other end, on South Fistral. We were conveniently near SeaSprayFistral for much needed hot drinks and delicious take away food. 

Fistral is a lifeguarded beach, with the RNLI patrolling and instructing where is safe to swim and surf. You can find details of their patrol times here. 

RNLI patrol and lifeguard on Fistral Beach

People surfing in the sea Cornwall

Penny Bedford from The Great Cornish Outdoors holding a surfboardSurfing At Fistral Beach 

We wasted no time booking our beginner foamie surfboards online from the Quiksilver Surf School. At £10 for the day, we thought it was an absolute bargain.

We made our way to the beach and couldn’t wait to start surfing. We were both very excited!

Both me and Lisa are total beginners. I had a surf lesson, almost a year ago while on holiday in Crete. I managed to stand up within the hour but it’s been a long time since I was shown what to do. 

Given it was peak season, the sea was very busy. We checked the conditions before we left and knew waves of 2-4 foot awaited us. The waves were coming towards us at high frequency too so it was hard to get out far enough without being knocked about. It’s all part of the fun though!

People learning to surf on Fistral Beach

Surf Instructor on a surf board

We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are my surfing skills. It’s much easier with a surfing instructor holding my board steady, and telling me when to start paddling. Now on my own, without assistance, I just stayed on my stomach and let the waves take me closer to the shore. How exhilarating, and such fun! It’s amazing how strong, powerful, and fast the waves are. 

Then came the time to try and stand up. I don’t think me or Lisa managed it successfully. It was hard to time it right, so I only gave it one real attempt. Doing the “pop” (or is it, pop up?) and trying to stand before the wave carried me off was more difficult than I remember.

While I wasn’t able to stand, I think some of that comes down to mindset. To learn to surf, regular and frequent practice is needed. I was quite happy whizzing along the waves though. Just trying to stay on my surfboard lying down was challenge enough!

We came away agreeing that a surfing lesson is a must, maybe when holiday season is over. I came away feeling totally invigorated and smiling at having an energetic few hours in the sea.

We’ll definitely be back for another surf at Fistral – what a ride!

For your daily dose of surf and waves, why not check out the Fistral Beach Webcam?

Author: plbedford

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