Having just explored Cornwall’s rock climbing regions I thought I might just duck across into another of our favourite topics – kitesurfing – and see what Cornwall has to offer here…
Needless to say – it looks fantastic. Cornwall has the largest area of coastline in England, nine river estuaries and about 300 beaches… not bad, not bad. Whether you’re a first time flyer or a sponsored pro, there is something to challenge everyone.
As with most beaches in the UK, high tide in Cornwall can be a problem and it is not advisable to kite at least 2 hours either side of it at any of the beaches. And, as with many beaches all around the world now, some have restrictions so you do need to check this out about before launching. It is this sort of thoughtless error which is resulting in more and more restrictions being put into place…
Watergate Bay,near Newquay.
An indication of the quality of this 2 and a half mile long beach for kitesurfing is that in 2002 it was chosen as the perfect site for the first European Kitesurfing Championships. It is now used annually for the BKSA tour and it is probably the most famous kitesurfing beach in the UK. There is plenty of room for everyone to fly and, with a variety of winds, something for everyone. The beauty of this beach is its safeness (apart from high tide). There is a prevailing SW, but if it veers W, NW or even N it is still safe to stay out. Big Atlantic swells do come in quite often, so you need to be ready to turn quickly if trying to get out the back. However, it is still safe to stay on the inside and play on the large flat sheets of water where it remains shallow – although you stand the risk of being beached.
The main dangers are a small strip of rocks, just to the right of the beach when looking out to sea, and the high cliffs that effect the wind if you get too close. There are no restrictions on this beach, but you are expected to walk up the beach to the more quiet areas before setting up.
Marazion, south coast and near the island St. Michael’s Mount
The sand on Marazion is coarse so it would probably be a good idea to wear protective booties. There is a small concrete wall separating the road from the beach and although this is useful – it can be a hazard for a kite surfer! Swells are smaller on the south side, but the S, SW or SE winds can still generate messy breaks for you to contend with. There is an outlet pipe further up the beach towards Penzance and also Longrock beach. Some kitesurfers will head over there for flatter conditions but there is the odd small rock and thick kelp so it is adviseable to seek local knowledge.
The main hazard here is getting the tide right because when the waves hit the steeper bank they create a lovely shore break that totally destroys kites! Restrictions are coming into place to stop people kiting above Red River near the town end of Marazion and to prevent any kiting activity near to the road and sea wall.
Sennen and Gwenver
Sennen Cove – also great for climbing, is NW facing. It is just 2 miles round the corner from Lands End and is suitable for all levels of kiteboarding. It has excellent access from the car park. Even at high tide there is usually a sand bank in the top corner where you can rig, launch and land in safety. The waves here are frequently monsters, making Sennen a favourite beach in anything from SW to N winds. Beginners should not attempt this beach at high tide, or in heavy surf. Also be careful of the rip currents outside the lifeguarded zones. These can be ferocious. If you are not confident in rip currents, don’t go out.
But when the lemmings have gone at the end of the day, then Sennen comes into its own – surfers and kiteboarders do battle in style.
Hayle Towans on the north coast in the bay of St. Ives
Hayle, otherwise known as The Bluff, is regarded by some to be the best place to kitesurf in Cornwall, but you can only go there when the wind is N, NW or NE. It is a river estuary providing flat shallow water as well as some swell where the water deepens. It is a great place for working on new tricks. However, as with all river mouths, there are strong currents so keep in the shallows where you can stand up to launch your kite and retrieve your board. Boards are often lost here, so a retractable leash is advisable.
No kitesurfing is allowed in the river when the water is above knee depth or boats are present. Fishermen are making complaints about kitesurfers and this is jeopardising the future of kitesurfing at Hayle. Enjoy it while it lasts…
Gwithian Bay in St. Ives
This is the longest continuous piece of sand in Cornwall but it is named differently depending upon where you park. It is NW facing and is an excellent wave riding spot with N, NW, W, and SW winds. There is easy access from the cliff top carpark and there is generally plenty of space. The beach sand is hard which makes it perfect for buggies and mountain boarding too. There are a couple of big rocks that you need to pinpoint before the water covers them and the water tends to come right up to the cliffs on big tides so watch out.
This beach can get busy with holidaymakers and surfers. There are no restrictions on this beach as yet so make sure you stay in the clear area and then with a bit of luck there will never be restrictions…
That should keep you busy for a bit… there are a lot more beaches down there – 300 didn’t I say? but we have picked out a few on both the north and south coast. Once you start exploring Cornwall you will no doubt be bewitched by a beach I have neglected to mention…
Just one more thing.
It is adviseable to have valid insurance of at least £5m.The BKSA (British Kite Surfing Association) offers worldwide cover which covers all kite activities, even snow-kiting. It costs £30 and can be bought online from the BKSA.