A Beginners Guide to Coasteering

All you need to know about Coasteering.
From history to how to's and FAQ's.

A Beginners Guide to Coasteering

Learn the theory behind your Coasteering session with our handy Coasteering guide for beginners…

Our beginner’s guide to coasteering provides insights and understanding to many areas of one of the UK’s most popular adventure activities.

Learn the history of where and how this energising activity has evolved, basic how to’s, good coasteering practice and clearing up those common misconceptions about this fantastic outdoor activity.

If you have ever wondered:

  • What is coasteering?
  • When is the best time to go coasteering?
  • What to wear for coasteering?
  • Safety in coasteering

Our guidance is drawn from over 14 years of coaching and instructing in the outdoor adventure activity industry. Our aim is to promote safe coasteering as an adventure activity suited to all.

All of what is contained in this guide is what we pass on to our guests who join us for our daily coasteering sessions in Newquay Cornwall.


* It is important to note wherever you take part in a Coasteering session, each location, provider delivery and aims of the activity will vary.

Part of the attraction for both providers and participants is in the dynamic nature of coasteering and the constant variables involved in the activity.

Our beginner’s guide aims to give a general overview of how we deliver our coasteering sessions in Newquay, Cornwall. And to provide a source of advice on coasteering as a whole and not as an individual experience.

Click the link to the section you are interested in…


What is Coasteering?

Coasteering is a dynamic activity which can comprise of several elements such as wild swimming, low-level traversing, and everyone’s favourite, deep water cliff jumps.

Not to mention scrambling up gullies, swimming through sluices, getting washed around in whirlpools, exploring large caves or learning about the local fauna & flora.

The National Coasteering Charter describe it as:

Exploring and journeying through the impact zone between the levels of high and low, often including total immersion in seawater

Eatock and Spink (National Coasteering Charter)

A Brief History of Coasteering in the UK

In the 1973 book Sea Cliff Climbing, John Cleare and Robin Collomb said

“A few enthusiasts believe that coasteering will become popular and has a big future”. 

They couldn’t have been more right. According to a Watersports Participation Survey 2015, Coasteering participation numbers were 125,000 in 2014.

Originally, Coasteering in it’s most basic form is thought to have developed from mountain starved climbers traversing sea cliffs seeking new training grounds in preparation for Alpine routes.

In 1990’s a Pembrokeshire company named TYF adventures applied to trademark the name ‘coasteering’. Giving birth to commercial coasteering and Pembrokeshire, Wales as the sport’s birthplace.

In the resulting years, coasteering has spread throughout the UK and has rapidly become one of the UK fastest growing outdoor adventure activities.

When is the best time to go Coasteering?

Coasteering takes place in the intertidal and littoral zones, where the ocean meets rock. Negotiating and utilising this forever changing land & seascape is at the very root of the sport.

For many providers and enthusiasts, this means paying attention to the not only the sea state but the daily tidal movement.

This understanding and knowledge of the suitable tides and sea states is a key driving factor in the promotion of only undertaking coasteering with recognised and experienced providers.

You can check out more about tides and how they affect our activities here.

What to wear coasteering?

Coasteering involves plenty of equipment to keep you both warm and safe.


Wetsuit: Full-length wetsuits provide all over warmth.


Neoprene Coasteer shorts: Wetsuit shorts specifically designed for coasteering.


Lace-up trainers: Old trainers provide great grip and sole protection over wet and slippery rocks.

coasteering-buoyancy -aid-icon

Buoyancy aid: A little help to keep you buoyant and afloat in the water.


Helmet: A half cut helmet for the rare occasion you might bump your head.

What Makes a Good Coasteering Guide?

Coasteering guides are highly experienced water users often trained or accomplished in many other watersports or adventure activities.

Combining both awareness and respect for the ocean and the inherent soft skills needed for leading groups, good coasteering guides are able to tailor a session to both the individual and the group.

What equipment do guides carry?

Prior to entering the water your guides will provide a comprehensive explanation of the key safety points and demonstrate the various techniques used throughout your session.

From the safety equipment they carry, how to enter & exit the water, to the route you’ll travel and what you might encounter along the way.

Safety equipment 

Coasteering guides carry a mixture of equipment:

Peterson rescue tubes: Mainly used as a visual aid for pointing out landing spots when jumping into deep water, this useful piece of kit can also double up as an extra float or method of towing for those who become tired.

First aid kit and a mobile phone: A simple yet specific first aid kit is carried for the odd scratch or minor injury we occasionally see whilst coasteering.

Throw & Tow lines: Various throw lines or tow are carried by guides for aided use in sessions. Be it for help up a slippery gully or some extra help for a weaker swimmer.

The Six Elements of Coasteering

Coasteering can be said to comprise of several elements, delivered in no particular order and tailored to the location. These elements may include wild swimming, low level traversing & venturing through caves, to cliff jumps, scrambling up gullies or being washed around in whirlpools and utilising the rise and fall of the ocean.

The Gazzle copy

Wild Swimming

Coasteering is a totally unique way to navigate a coastline. By no other means can you access, explore and venture into areas cut off from the land by cliffs, rocks or sea.

Short open water swimming sections link one area to another and open up possibilities to reach a new section of coastline and is a main feature of coasteering.

With the help of a buoyancy aid you don’t need to be a strong swimmer to enjoy these elements of coasteering.







Low-Level Traversing

It’s not a scary or difficult as it may sound. Low-level traversing means you’ll be using partly submerged rocks to help you cross over a short section of deep water.

With your feet just at the water level and climbing sideways, one foot at a time you can make it as hard or easy for yourself as you like. There is no right or wrong way if you lose your grip, simply and fall back into the deep water. Try again or swim to an easy get out point, it’s up to you.

Cliff Jumping

Without a doubt, everyone’s favourite element of coasteering, yet also the most feared. As with any part of our Coasteering sessions, we’ll explain and demonstrate all of the techniques several times in preparation.

We start off small and give you plenty of occasions to practise your jumping skills before moving on to some of the bigger jumps.

Throughout your session, your guides will give you feedback and assistance on each of your jumps, helping you build skills and confidence as you progress.

Coasteering is an adventurous activity that is designed to be fun and exciting. If there is any part of the session that you don’t feel comfortable with – you won’t have to do anything that you don’t want.



You won’t have to do anything you don’t want to. You can skip all or as many of the jumps as you like!


The jumps vary from small 1-2 metre step off jumps to big and bold 10-metre cliff jumps and everything in between. We start off small and help you improve your technique throughout your session.


Yes, you’re welcome to stick with the little ones. You won’t need to complete a jump in order to carry on with the session.

Cave Discovery

If your lucky enough to go coasteering in an area with sea caves, these can be one of the most exciting elements of a session.

Often cut off by the tide, with cave entrances hidden by headlands and out of sight, coasteering allows you to you to explore some unique areas of the coastline up close and personal.


Sluices, Gullies & Whirlpools & more…

One the truly unique aspects of coasteering is utilising the flow of the water between rocks, scrambling or squeezing up slippery gullies and being washed around in natural whirlpools.

As the tide reaches just the right level these features come to life and can make a fantastic addition to a session.

Sluices & pour-overs: In the coasteering world sluices & pour overs can be described as where water rises and pushes between two rocks or pours over a ledge into a deep pool.

Timing is everything as you allow the ocean to wash you through or over a section, often resulting in a head dunking.

Gullies: Gullies formed over thousands of years offer a great feature to incorporate into a session. Often hidden out of sight and requiring some wriggling climbing up through slippery gullies providing access to areas of coastline otherwise untouched.

Whirlpools: At just the right level of tide and ocean swell, certain rock formations and layouts create a fun whirlpool or washing machine affects as water recirculates within a confined space.

Rise & Fall Of The Sea

The rise and fall of the ocean has a big part to play in your session and is an element of coasteering that can really bring a session to life. As the ocean swells around the rocks,  creating spray and dramatic atmosphere, each of the features become enhanced and a little more energising as you negotiate your way around the coastline

Is Coasteering safe?

Commercial coasteering in the UK has been alive for over ten years and although often seemingly viewed as by the public as a dangerous activity, coasteering continues to remain a low-risk watersport.

With thousands of people enjoying exploring coastlines across the UK and with over a 100 recognised National Coasteering Charter member providers coasteering safety is in good hands.

What is tombstoning?

Wikipedia describes tombstoning as,

the act of jumping in a straight vertical posture into the sea or other body of water from a high jumping platform, such as a cliff.

Source: Wikipedia

Whilst this may resemble the cliff jumping aspect of coasteering, the two share no other similarities.


What is the National Coasteering Charter?

The NCC is a self-appointed industry body whose aim is “to promote safe coasteering”

With the majority of providers meeting regularly both regionally and nationally to share best practice, lessons learnt and share in the passion of this activity.

“NCC providers adhere to and uphold the below:

  • Setting minimum operating standards to work to
  • Setting minimum training standards to train Coasteering Guides to
  • Upholding environmentally sustainable methods of Coasteering
  • Be a voice to represent coasteering providers nationally to other bodies
  • We provide opportunity for providers to share information to improve practice
  • To share incidents, accidents and near misses to continuously improve coasteering safety

All of the above are continuously developed over time.”

Source: http://www.nationalcoasteeringcharter.org.uk/about-the-ncc/#more-57

Coasteering and the environment

With around 100 or so coasteering providers in the UK delivering regular sessions throughout the year, taking care of the natural environment they operate in and around is of great importance.

This vested interest ensures the coastlines remain in good condition and that the local habitats for fauna & flora are cared for.

As activity providers, we have a duty of care to protect the area’s we use. This is done by many companies each session through education of the local wildlife or plant life and through constant litter picking and monitoring for erosion in pathways.

The main pressure-receptor impact pathways arising from this activity are considered to be:

Abrasion/disturbance of the substrate surface in intertidal and shallow subtidal areas, through general footfall (trampling).
Above water noise disturbance of hauled out seals and birds, related to people noise (from groups taking part).

Visual disturbance, of hauled out seals and birds, related to the presence and movement of people participating in the activity.

For more information about the impact of coasteering on the environment

EIN037 edition 1 Marine recreation evidence briefing Coasteering

Check out some common coasteering questions…


The majority of coasteering companies in the UK offer regular group coasteering sessions. Whether you are an individual, couple, friends or family you’ll be welcome as part of a group coasteering session.

Private coasteering sessions are also available for those seeking the ultimate guided coastline tour.


Coasteering is suited to all walks of life. You don’t need any previous experience and you won’t have to do anything you don’t want.

You will need to be able to swim 25 metres and have no physical injuries that may cause further harm to yourself or those in your group.

Choosing a coasteering company…


A great indicator and tool to help you choose the right coasteering provider for you are reading some past reviews.

WIth plenty of independent review platforms to scan you’re sure to get some great none biased advise to help you decide.

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coasteering- what exactly is it?