Leaping from a cliff edge into the surging ocean is a guaranteed path to take the plunge into the Cornwall’s saltwater lifestyle. So when you sign up for a surfing, coasteering and wild camping weekend under the wing of Cornish Wave, brace yourself for buckets full of adventure and a head-to-toe dunking into this stunning, sea-lashed county.
Families, groups, stag and hen parties, and solo travellers have long flocked to Newquay for its laidback beach lifestyle, water sports and après surf scene. However, Cornish Wave has conjured up a unique spin on a typical surfing break: Hit the waves and explore the heart of Britain’s surf capital, clamber, swim and cliff-jump around a rugged headland, then sleep under the stars the stars in a secret woodland location.
My weekend kicked off with a surf lesson in the hands of South African surfer Jey and his Spanish sidekick, Adrian. By the time our small group of six was kitted out with swell boards and super-warm wetsuits, the sun had eclipsed the morning drizzle and Newquay was bursting alive for the weekend. Cornish Wave HQ is ideally located just a short walk from a choice of surf beaches. Big, onshore swells were hitting the famous Fistral (where it’s claimed surfing was born in Cornwall), so we paddled out on the smaller peelers of the more sheltered Towan Beach.
Having witness a few surf lessons in my time, I was impressed by Jey’s approach to absolute beginners, ensuring everyone mastered balance and control on their bellies before progressing to the pop-up technique and attempting to ride waves on their feet. Applying a practical process to all aspects of surfing, he took time to assess my intermediate skills and helped me target the right take-off spot, judge the breaking point of wave and stay ahead of the pack on the peak. Just two hours into my Cornish Wave experience I’d adopted more of a wave-hunter attitude, was feeling more confident in the line-up and was working on the speed and accuracy of my pop-up and duck diving skills.
The exertion of surfing cued some chill out time to bask in the wall-to-wall sunshine we had the weather Gods to thanks for. With a relaxing three-hour break between activities, there was plenty of time to explore Newquay’s vibrant scene, pad along the string of beaches, browse in the surf shops and enjoy a lip-smacking lunch with a view to the stunning coastline.
Squeezing back into a damp wetsuit and donning trainers, a buoyancy aid, helmet and protective neoprene pants felt incongruous with the cool Newquay vibe, but prepared us for the next level of our adventure: coasteering. A means of scrambling, traversing, jumping and swimming around the terrain where land meets sea, coasteering has become a popular way to explore Cornwall’s craggy coast – and Newquay’s Pentire Headland is a spectacular location for it.
Slipping into the saltwater swell and using the surges to exit back onto the cliffs takes timing and technique, and as our confidence increased we ascended higher and higher up barnacle-clad stacks to leap – pin straight, arms crossed – back into the water. “You’re meant to feel some fear; adrenalin comes from breaking out of your comfort zone,” Jey reassured us as we teetered on an exposed ledge and peered into the abyss of the ocean far below. A marriage of adventure, adrenalin and immersion in Cornwall’s wild landscape, coasteering encapsulates the very ethos of Cornish Wave’s experiences.
CAMPING – OR SHOULD I SAY ‘GLAMPING’
After a duo of saltwater adventures, where better to warm up than around a campfire? Ten miles inland from the party town of Newquay, Cornish Wave has created an alternative version of nightlife in the Cornish wilderness. As the sun set on our woodland setting decked out with bell tents and fairy lights, beers were opened, the barbecue lit we had a crack at all sorts of woodland games including axe throwing (like darts with an axe), log teasing (tug of war on rolling logs) and the slack line (a tightrope between trees).
No ordinary campsite, here every detail was thought of, from driftwood furniture around the weather-proof fire pit, to a camp kitchen complete with a wine rack and a sink plumbed in via a hollowed tree-branch, and a long-drop loo with a woodland view. Jey’s business partner and bushcraft guru Dazza taught us to start the fire using a flint and birch sticks soaked in fir sap, and we toasted marshmallows under the starlit sky until the cosy domes of our bell tents beckoned.
Returning to the busy beaches of Newquay was a bit of a culture shock after the serenity of the woods; but it’s the juxtaposition of buzzing beach life and wild camping that makes the Cornish Wave experience one-of-a-kind. Whether you’re a newbie to water sports and Cornwall or a bona fide beach bum looking to hone your surfing skills and make like-minded friends, it’s the ultimate waves to wilderness weekender without the need to even pack a wetsuit or pitch your own tent.
Cornish Wave runs surfing, coasteering and wild camping packages from May until October.