Surfing St Ives – by guest Author Johnnie Wells

Who wants to go surfing? A question that in our house delivers a very weather dependent response, on warm summer days we are likely to be packing the wagon with half a dozen boards, a collection of wetsuits and a full set of kids, on winter days like we have been having recently it is a much smaller hardy bunch who make the trip to the beach.

I must admit, Winter surfing in Cornwall takes a certain level of mentally detached dedication. It’s not unique to surfing, you will see it all over the country on wet, winter morning Sunday league gatherings. There is a certain satisfaction to be had knowing you braved the elements and survived!

We are not however, here to talk about the cold tough times, we are here to talk about the good times, and where surfing is concerned St Ives does have some pretty good times.  When the conditions are right, Porthmeor is arguably one of the best places you can surf in the UK and the St Ives Surf School, run by Harris and his motley crew of pro surfers, is an excellent place to learn to surf and would struggle to be beaten.


A beach break (when the wave breaks over the sand), Porthmeor is well known for its consistently good banks. A left hander breaks across from the West End of the beach peeling off a big rock called Gowner, which is visible from ½ tide down. Numerous peaks stretch across to the Island end of Porthmeor, finishing with a heavy barreling right hander at Boilers – so named because of an actual ships boiler you can see at low tide!

The UK is blessed with fairly consistent surf all year round and being on the North Coast of Cornwall means St Ives gets a good share of North Atlantic swells. The best times are Autumn and early Spring, and as you would expect, June and July are the quietest months. Porthmeor faces almost dead North so  needs a good size Westerly swell to work and any Southerly wind, even a light Westerly, will produce some fine waves. The best time for Porthmeor is unusually, on the dropping tide 2 hours after high, and all the way through to low.

Porthmeor’s unusual dropping tide preference frees you up on the pushing tide to nip round the bay to enjoy Godrevy and Gwithian. Only 15 minutes away, these are both easier waves than Porthmeor, slower breaking with longer walls. And if we are talking about other beaches, the South Coast is within easy reach, Praa Sands and the UK’s most famous reef break, Porthleven are both just 15 minutes away and working on Northerly winds means we have almost every wind direction covered.

For those of you inspired to surf and the take the plunge into the Atlantic, here at Cherished Cottages we have several properties which would be perfect for you to stay in! The lovely Surf Cottage (sleeping 2) next to the beach or  The stunning Atlantic Watch (sleeping 12) boasting fantastic views over Porthmeor.   Alternatively,  if you prefer to watch the amazing surfers in action, there is nowhere better than the balconies at 20 Piazza or 14 Barnaloft.

Photography: Nick Pumphrey 

Photographs courtesy of St Ives BID