We guide you through the homeland of British wave kiting – Cornwall
This feature first appeared in KW #95 which was released in October 2018
Intro: Once its own independent kingdom, the county of Cornwall in the southwest of England has a proud Celtic heritage. The Cornish people are fiercely proud of their homeland. No wonder; it’s stacked with epic kite spots!
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Turning up somewhere without knowing the ropes is ill advised. Not because of ‘localism’, but because kiting in the wrong place could cause problems for you, resident kiters and fellow beach users. If you know where and when to go however, Cornwall can offer up some of the UK’s best kiting!
Here’s our little guide to Cornish kiting cream, including thoughts from local legend and UK wave champ, Lee ‘Pasty’ Harvey, to help you get slotted rather than clotted!
WHEN TO GO
Although the summer months are warmest, the wind is less reliable and some Cornish beaches become unrideable due to how packed they get with holidaymakers. The best months for wind and reasonable temperatures are from late August through to October, though you can regularly get out through the winter with a good 5/3 suit (or thicker). Things warm-up again from April with solid conditions through to June.
Cornwall is home to England’s best wave riding conditions from September through winter and into spring time. Scoring great wave sessions in summer comes down to chance and, because of the crowds, some beaches are closed to kiters during that time.
There are a number of surf and kite spots in Cornwall that you won’t find in this guide (or in any other) but the main spots are epic:
One of Cornwall’s best known spots and a good place to start if you’re new to the area. This two mile wide sandy beach is great on a mid- to low-tide. The prevailing southwesterly wind hits cross-on from the left, however this spot also works in southerlies, westerlies and northerlies.
The beach almost entirely disappears at high tide, leaving nowhere to land your kite and the wind also becomes turbulent as it bounces off the cliffs.
On a proper swell, huge surf rolls in to The ‘Gate so be honest with yourself about your own ability before heading out on a big forecast.
OFF THE WATER – The Beach Hut is right on the beach and a great place for a post-session refuel. There are a few parking spots in town, including a long stay just up the hill from the Watergate Bay Hotel.
Daymer Bay is further north and closed to kiters from 10am to 6pm during July and August. Working in everything from a northeasterly back round to a northwesterly, the best place to launch is on the Polzeath side. On a good swell forecast you can score awesome waves at the north end of the bay but Daymer can also deliver fantastic flat water sessions.
There are a few hazards to watch out for, especially if you’re a reasonably novice rider. The ominously named Doom Bar sandbar crops up on a falling tide along with strong rips around the river mouth, which are best avoided.
Fishing boats also pass through the bay on the way to Padstow Harbour, so keep clear of those, too.
OFF THE WATER – The Mowhay Cafe is a short walk from the beach in Trebether and serves up homemade cakes and hearty post-session meals. There’s a large car park at the north end of the bay too.
PENHALE – PERRANPORTH AND PERRAN SANDS
This is another long beach in northern Cornwall that works in the same winds as Watergate Bay, which is just ten miles away. It doesn’t hold quite the same size surf but still has a good fetch for Atlantic swells and you can score some nice flat sections between the waves. As a bigger beach it’s less crowded, especially the northern ‘Penhale’ end that you access via the Haven Perran Sands Holiday Camp (buy a parking ticket from their office).
The Perran Sands end has the best waves. Head there for a southerly wind as it gets gusty at Perranporth. Stick to the kite zones in summer and be aware that kiting isn’t allowed at any time of the year at high tide at the southern end of the beach.
OFF THE WATER – The Watering Hole pub is right on the beach and for the full Cornish experience, grab a pasty at Chapman’s Butchers in Perranporth. You can park close to the beach there and walk up to the kite zone.
Gwithian’s a popular down-the-line spot that’s played host to many a BKSA Wave event over the years! Still on Cornwall’s north coast, this spot gets very busy with beach goers in the summer months, so stay clear of the lifeguard zones and surfers.
Working best on a low to mid tide, Gwithian takes southerly winds right through to northeasterly. There are some rocks to watch out for in front of the car park and it can be challenging on a southerly, but on its day delivers truly world class waves.
OFF THE WATER – You can park next to the beach and Sunset Surf is an awesome surf shack-style cafe with surf school attached and stunning views across the bay.
It’s not all about waves in Cornwall and the Bluff in Hayle – the last spot on the peninsula before you round the corner to the southern side – is an awesome flat water location. Northeasterly through to westerly winds work here, but you need to have insurance (BKSA members will already have that) and you must buy a pass from one of the local kite or surf shops to ride there. The nearest one is Down The Line on the high street. It’s an epic spot, but keep an eye out for boats and rips on a low tide in the channel.
OFF THE WATER – Buying an access pass gets you free parking at Harvey Towans which is just by the river mouth and there are a number of eateries and cafes to keep you fed and watered. Epic pasties too, we hear!
MARAZION / LONG ROCK
Marazion, near Penzance, is a very picturesque location, offering up anything from waves to flat water. Westerly winds through to southeasterly can work here, but they can get pretty gusty when St Michael’s Mount, overlooking the bay, blocks the wind. There are some rocky sections on a low tide to be aware of but in a southwesterly you’ll get waves. Head to Long Rock on a southeasterly for cleaner winds.
The beach is privately owned but the owners are happy for people to ride there, providing other beach users are respected. Also, as with many Cornish spots, kiting at high tide should be avoided as there’s very little space to land your kite as it’s near a road. Beginners will love Marazion, but for more space and fewer people they should stay to the west of Red River, away from the sea wall.
Long Rock is just up the road between Marazion and Penzance. A reef blocks the swell on lower tides, making for nice flat sections but watch out for some submerged rocks. Also, DON’T ride there on a high tide as the launching / landing zone is close to the railway and if a kite ended up on the tracks then it could cause a serious accident or, at the very least, trouble for the local kiters.
OFF THE WATER – Marazion has a range of cafes and restaurants, including some pretty swanky ones. We have it on good authority from Lee ‘Pasty’ Harvey that you need to sample a Philp’s Pasty from their a shop in Marazion.
One of Cornwall’s less-visited kite spots is tucked away between St Austell and Fowey. Working best on a southwester, it’s also rideable on a southeasterly and in general is quite beginner-friendly with cross-on winds and shallow water thanks to the gently shelving beach. You stand a good chance of having the place to yourself as few people kite there!
OFF THE WATER – Park by the beach in front of the caravan park, pump up and go! The world-famous Eden Project is only two miles away from Par. The St Austell brewery is also pretty close.
PASTY’S PRIME INGREDIENTS
Lee ‘Pasty’ Harvey is a Cornish native and a legend of the local kite scene. He’s a seriously experienced wave rider who’s kited all over the world. Here are his top five home spots.
Porthleven: Cornwall’s premiere surf spot also turns on for kiting 10-20 times in winter. One of the dodgiest launch/landing areas in the world and a heavy wave with zero wind on the inside – it’s strictly for pro level wave riders!
Gwithian: Friendly up to eight feet, the wave can hold up to 20 feet but can get very heavy with big rips in bigger surf. Often really busy with windsurfers and surfers, so practise proper wave etiquette and know your limits here! (This is a key rule for kiting in Cornwall).
Marazion: This is where I mainly kite and teach because it has it all. Solid waves in winter, flat water, kickers and great foiling conditions all year round. A favourite with the locals!
The Bluff: Not just flat water – on huge swells it’s also one of our heaviest waves, serving up dredging barrels across the river mouth sandbar!
Hawkers Cove: Opposite Daymer Bay, this is one of the few spots that work in an easterly with awesome flat water pools to shred around. Some good waves kick up in northerlies, too.
Pasty runs lessons and coaching sessions across Cornwall. Find out more at: www.pastyadventures.co.uk
KW would like to thank Rory from Kernow Kite Club for helping us with our Cornish research. Head to www.kernowkitesurfclub.co.uk for more info on kiting around Cornwall
This article first featured in KW #95. Subscribe to KW for epic features like this every issue