The best water sports in Cornwall
With numerous beautiful beaches comes plenty of opportunities to try some exciting water sports. Challenge yourself and have tons of fun on your next visit to a Cornwall holiday park by partaking in an adrenaline-fuelled activity, or if you’d prefer something more relaxing, choose a more leisurely water sport. In this guide, we reveal the very best water sports you can try in Cornwall, whether you’re an expert on the water or a complete beginner.
Stand up paddleboarding
Feel like you’re walking on water and take to the Cornish sea on a Stand Up Paddleboard. This water sport has grown in popularity during the last few years and is often enjoyed on lakes, estuaries and in the sea.
Stand Up Paddleboarding (also known as SUPing) is perfect for people of all ages and levels of experience. If you’re a beginner, expect to fall off the board a few times at first, but once you’re confident enough to stand and manoeuvre the board, SUPing is one of the best water sports for exploring coastal views.
Cornwall Watersports, based in Pentewan, offer an array of exciting water sports including water-skiing, banana rides, wakeboarding and stand up paddleboarding. We spoke to Beccy from the team, who explains why it’s worth trying water sports: “It’s good for your heart, mind and soul! It’s so great to get out on the water with family and friends. Plus, it’s fun even if you’re a beginner, in which case we would recommend you book a taster lesson in sailing, windsurfing or SUPing. One to one or small group bookings are best for giving you some great experience and safety knowledge.”
You can try SUPing in many spots across Cornwall, including the harbour village of Porthleven, where Vertical Blue is based and offer SUP and Kayak lessons and hire. We spoke to the team to find out more:
“SUPing is the fastest-growing water sport in the world and Porthleven is one of the best places to try it. We’re situated in the most southerly harbour in the UK, with amazing conditions and scenery for complete beginners through to advanced paddlers to enjoy. For those wishing to get a bit wetter, try a Harbour SUP session whereby the end of your first lesson we will have you trying headstands and back step turns as well as numerous amounts of falling in!”
Hop on a kayak to explore hidden bays, spot local wildlife and admire the views of quaint coastal towns. Kayaking is the perfect water sport for those looking for something less strenuous as you can embark with double the muscle power on a two-seater kayak.
You can give sea kayaking a go at Cornish Rock Tors, based in Port Isaac. We spoke to the team to find out more: “Our guided sea kayaking is really accessible as we use stable sit-on-top kayaks, and the bay at Port Gaverne is sheltered, so it’s a great place to learn the basics before heading out to see some of the coastline with one of our guides.”
There are centres dotted up and down the Cornish coast that offer kayaks to hire and guided adventures, including Koru Kayaking. We asked Hetty from the team to tell us more about their kayak experiences: “It’s is an amazing way to enjoy the natural environment and discover Cornwall from a different perspective, as there is such a diverse coastline.
“On the north coast, we kayak along a World Heritage Site, famous for Cornish mining. We also kayak into caves and through archways that were carved out during the mining era. There’s incredible wildlife too with Atlantic grey seals, sunfish, dolphins, basking sharks, razorbills and guillemots all regularly sighted.
“On the south coast we kayak along the Helford River and creeks, which is also a conservation area, that is lined with ancient oak trees growing out of slate. The slate is home to hundreds of wild mussels and oysters whilst the oak trees turn from silver in winter to bright greens in spring and summer – it’s beautiful in all seasons.
“The great thing about kayaking in Cornwall is there is so much to see from the water, wildlife, great houses, historic villages and the Cornish mining history. Our mild climate allows us to kayak all year round and we have so many lovely waterways to enjoy for all levels.”
Cornwall is the UK’s surf capital, with a swell reaching almost every beach as well as surfboard hires and surf schools situated across the county. If you’re eager to try and catch a few waves, check out the best places to learn to surf in Cornwall. For beginners, we recommend signing up for a surf class where you’ll join a small group of people and learn the basics before heading out into the water.
If you’re not quite convinced surfing is for you, it can still be great fun to watch one of the many surfing competitions unfold from the safety of the shore. Take a look at the surfing competition calendar before your holiday to Cornwall to find out the closest one to where you’re staying.
Feel the wind in your hair as you travel across the water windsurfing. There’s no better place than to give this fun water activity a go than at Polkerris Beach, who also offer an exciting range of other activities to enjoy on the waters of St. Austell.
We spoke to the team to find out more: “There’s no sport quite like windsurfing; the thrill, freedom, challenge, versatility, fitness, travel and people. Riding an ever-changing sea, you can forget your worries and feel exhilarated.
As the Polkerris Beach team are experts on water sports, we continued to ask them what they recommend for beginners: “We have taster sessions in all disciplines: sailing, stand up paddleboarding and windsurfing that are ideal for beginners! Getting a lesson in water sports is key to maximising your learning, fun and safety. Make sure to check your water sports providers are appropriately qualified. Polkerris Beach is a BSUPA, RYA and AALA recognised training centre: your assurance that we are equipped and trained to provide you with quality and safe experiences. We provide all equipment, including a full wetsuit and buoyancy aid, and have changing room facilities with showers, a cafe and shop all on-site!”
Push yourself to your limits by scrambling along rocks, cliff jumping and swimming through caves. Coasteering can seem daunting, however, in a no-pressure and safe environment, this water sport can be rewarding and lots of fun. Although it depends on the water sports centre, coasteering is usually suitable for those aged eight or above.
We wanted to find out more about what coasteering in Cornwall entails, the team from Cornish Rock Tors continues: “If you’re after a bit of an adrenaline rush or have children or teenagers to entertain, then coasteering would be a great introduction to water sports. Coasteering is an explorative journey along an otherwise inaccessible stretch of rocky coastline, you’ll swim, jump between rocks (we start small and the jumps get higher as the group progresses), explore whitewater features and caves.
“Coasteering takes people into an environment that they may not be familiar with, or in some cases comfortable with, so we always say to believe in yourself and trust our experienced guides. We often have clients who never thought they’d be able to swim in the sea, let alone jump into it from the rocks, but by starting small and with good instruction and encouragement they finish the session amazed at what they did and having boosted their self-confidence. So, our top tip would be to believe in yourself, and trust us!”
If surfing doesn’t appeal to you, but you still want to experience riding a wave, then bodyboarding is the water sport for you. It’s also great for those who prefer staying in the shallow end of the sea.
To take bodyboarding to the next level, you can sign up to a bodyboarding school, suitable for complete beginners and experts who are keen to learn new tricks. Newquay Water Sports Centre offers a range of bodyboarding lessons as well as lessons in rafting, jet skiing and more. We asked the team to tell us more:
“Getting out and enjoying the outdoors with friends, family or on your own can be relaxing, extremely fun, educational and boost your confidence whilst creating memories that will last a lifetime. Why not experience something new, improve your skills, learn something new, all whilst seeing Cornwall from a different perspective? All our activities include all equipment and highly qualified, experienced instructors.
“If you don’t fancy a lesson, perhaps you would like to hire a kayak, paddleboard or surfboard. We advise that you have a lesson beforehand if you aren’t experienced in using the hire equipment safely.”
Although it may not seem like the most thrilling water sport around, snorkelling is great fun and can be enjoyed without the hassle of booking a lesson or hiring any equipment. If you don’t own a snorkel mask, you can often find them for a low price in most seaside shops. With the Cornish sea being crystal clear, you’ll be able to spot little fishes and other underwater creatures on your snorkel adventure.
On your next holiday to Cornwall, make the most of staying near the Atlantic Ocean by trying some of the best water sports. For quick reference, here is a checklist of the activities you can enjoy:
- Stand up paddleboarding