, , ,

How to Choose a Surfing Lesson

Thinking about surfing in Newquay? Here is the insiders guide to what surf lesson is best for you.


Making the choice to join a surf school for tuition is an important decision that certainly starts your surfing career off in the right direction. But what actually happens, what do you learn and what type of surf lesson is best for you? 

These are just some of the common questions we are asked by people who join us at our Newquay surfing school. In this post we go behind the scenes, break down what actually goes on and answer those common questions that all beginner surfers face when learning to surf. 


Benefits of taking a surf lesson:

Before we get into the detail of answering those important questions, lets take a look at some of the top benefits of getting some surf tuition from the pro’s. 

  • Get answers to common surfing questions
  • Gain insights & coaching based on tried & tested methods
  • Discover the do’s & don’ts and save the embarrassment of surfing faux pas
  • Build your confidence in the ocean
  • Save time by learning the correct methods from the start
  • Learn the basics from a professional surf instruction


Whatever your rationale or taking a class, learning to surf in a supervised environment with a qualified surf instructor is the best way for you to get a complete introduction in the surfing world, giving you a great head start in the sport. 

different types of surf lessons & what is involved in each one?

We’ve kept it simple for this post but you can find out more information by getting in touch or by visiting each surf lesson page.

  • Group lessons 
  • Private lessons 
  • Progessor surf course 

All of our lessons are two hours long from once you are ready. We don’t include enrolment time or getting changed as part of this so you’ll have plenty of time on the beach and in the water. 

‘Our pledge to anyone joining us for a surf lesson is to have passed on enough information for you to feel comfortable enough to rent some surf equipment and head out to a beach and practice surfing on your own with a clear understanding of basic surfing techniques and beach safety awareness.’


Group surfing lessons are designed to provide a fun and informative introduction to surfing for absolute beginners. You’ll be in a group of up to 8 other likeminded individuals, typically the lessons are made up of a wide variety of budding surfers from solo travellers, couples, groups of friends and families, all eager to give surfing a go. 

Delivered by a friendly and experienced surf coach your group surf lesson is fun and safe environment to pick up the basics.  Perfect if you want to see what all the fuss is about or if your at the start of your surfing path. 

What will I learn? 

  • Introduction into beach & surf safety
  • Basic surf terminology & parts of the surfboard
  • Prone surfing, how to catch waves on your stomach, and controlling your surfboard.
  • Fundamentals of how to pop up, ride waves to the shore and wiping out safely.


Private surf lessons are the arguably the best surf lesson format for learners seeking optimum coaching – you can enjoy these as part of a small group of friends, family or on a One to One basis. 

1) Choose a private surf lesson if you want the undivided attention of a surf professional, maximising the amount of knowledge, skills and feedback you can obtain. 

2) Mixed ability groups – if you are visiting Cornwall with a group of friends or maybe some have more surf experience than others, a lesson exclusive to your group gives the coach flexibility to provide tips for both beginner and developing surfers without the distraction of other members of the public in your group. 

3) small children under 8 years old? Typically surf schools in Cornwall only accept students into group surf lessons that are eight years and older. If you have youngsters who are dying to surf then private tuition is the best way to ensure they have a great time and learn about the sea safely. 

click to Take a look at our range of private surfing lessons 


Condensed learn to surf courses tailored to your ability and timetable are the ultimate vehicle to learn & improve quickly. 

Much like an intense driving program, these progressor surf courses are a full immersion into the surf world. A good learn to surf course should touch on all areas of surfing from the basic physical movements to understanding the ocean and even the finer details of surfboard shapes, styles and history. 


Learning to surf or even developing your surf skills can be a long draw out process for most.  It seems that unless you’re lucky enough to start surfing at a young age or have plenty of time to donate to your new favourite hobby, surfing can prove to be a frustrating road to success. 

The good news is, given time in the water your surfing will improve even if it doesn’t feel like it.  To give yourself that little boost to get ahead of the curve, taking a few tips from a dedicated and qualified surf coach can really give you that edge, progressing your understanding and developing the correct techniques that are proven to work. 


, , ,

How to Spot a Rip Current

Understanding Rip Currents & Surf Safety.

Being able to spot a rip current is an important skill that could one day save your life or the life of other surfers. In this post we aim to highlight some vital information about rip currents and basic surf safety.

What is a rip current?

A rip current is a body of water that travels away from the shore, out to sea. This body of water contains strong flowing currents that can move quickly out to the deep ocean, often exhausting the surfers ability to out paddle the rip currents strength.

Rip Current:

‘A body of water trying to find it”s own level’

How to identify a rip

– Look for patches of water that are darker in colour to the surrounding water

– The surface of the water flickers or dances in the area where the rip is

– Waves look different and don’t break as often

The characteristics of rips change quickly and don’t always show all of the above signs at once.

Why are rip currents dangerous?

“Rips are strong currents running out to sea, which can quickly drag people and debris away from the shallows of the shoreline and out to deeper water.” (Source)

How to handle a rip current?

If caught in a rip current, don’t fight it! Paddle parallel to the shore or back to land at a 45 degree angle.

– Examine your options

– Never ditch your surfboard

– Call for help

– Paddle parallel to the shore or an angle of 45 degrees to escape the ‘grip of the rip’. Never swim against it.

What causes a rip current?

Rips are made up of three distinct parts. Understanding the details of each of these greatly improves your knowledge and understanding of what causes rips and understanding how to deal with them.

Image courtesy of NOAA

Diagram showing three main feature of a rip current

Feeder – This is where the rip originates and is where the water brought towards the shoreline by waves, starts to recede back into the ocean.

Neck – As waves break and dissipate on the shallow shoreline, water then needs to return back out to deeper water.

In areas of the beach where there are deep channels sided by shallow sand banks or fixed piers or headlands, water will naturally flow towards deeper areas and back out to sea.

Head – This is typically behind the surf zone and often where the strength of the current will weaken and slow down.

What are the different types of rips?

Fixed – Often found at large exposed surfing beaches, away from headlands, rocks or piers. As sand bars build, shift and break up, fixed or ‘open coast beach rips’  can be found regularly along the beach.

Permanent – Found where the beach has established piers, cliffs, groyne’s or any permanent feature extending into the surf zone. Otherwise known as ‘Topographic rips’, these immovable obstructions interrupt the parallel flow of water, and force the rip to travel along the feature out towards the ocean.

Travelling – Initially this form of rip current travels parallel to the shoreline, then changes in direction heading out to sea.

Flash rips – Caused by a sudden shift in sand banks or large increase in surf size.

Key points & facts about rips

Rip Currents are caused by waves

Rip currents can be very strong and travel up to eight feet per second.

Rip currents account for over 80% of rescues performed by beach lifeguards in the US. (Source) 

Over 60% of RNLI lifeguard incidents involve rip currents. (Source)

A rip is strongest near the surface of the sea.

, ,

10 Reasons To Go To Surf School In Newquay

Why Attending Surf School In Newquay Is A Must

 With its stunning beaches, thronging nightlife and vibrant surfing atmosphere, Newquay has always been a spot which attracts lots of visitors. A surfing destination unrivalled by any in the UK, surfers come from around the world to take advantage of the many surfing beaches and soak up the summer surf scene.

We love our work and we love Newquay, and we think you will too. Here is our list of reasons to get down here and learn to surf in Newquay.

surfing at fistral beach newquay cornwall

Top Reasons to Attend a Newquay Surf School

Surfing is a fantastic sport that an ever-growing number of people are taking up. In the UK, surfing has been practised for many years, especially in the county of Cornwall, and the booming coastal town of Newquay. Both county and town are known for being legendary surfing locations and draw thousands of visitors each year to sample the Atlantic waves and the surfing culture that is ever-present.

Attending supervised lessons with a professional surf school is a fantastic way to start this sport and as you will see below, offers a great deal more than just supervision and training. Firstly, learning surfing can improve your quality of life and self-development, but also allow you to experience what Newquay has to offer.

For self-development and quality of life

1. Build your self-confidence and bravery

Surfing requires a great deal of bravery and self-confidence – It takes courage to swim into the water and attempt to stand up on your board as the waves crash around you! Each time you climb on your board, paddle out and attempt to pop up, your confidence will grow, and you will learn to conquer any fears you have of the water.

2. Maintain a strong level of fitness and activity

Exercise is often hard to come by, and new technologies provide us alternate means of entertainment such as smartphones and tablets. Joining a Surf School can give you a reason to exercise and help boost your fitness levels. Surfing requires a great deal of strength and stamina and each time you attend a lesson, your physical fitness and cardiovascular fitness will improve.

images source: flickr images source: flickr

3. Find a release from the stress of modern life

In today’s modern world, the pressure of work can often mount up and cause long-term effects such as depression and anxiety. Learning how to surf can offer a potent form of stress relief – You can forget about work, leave your worries behind and simply enjoy surfing!

4. Learn a new sport and have fun

It is important to try and test ourselves and learn new skills – This is how we develop as human beings. Attending a surf school can provide you with a new challenge and the opportunity to test your own skills and talents at a new sport. Furthermore, surfing is just a whole load of fun, therefore surfing lessons will be something you can look forward to each week.

5. Improve your knowledge of nature and the ocean

You many think that surfing is just a simple case of standing on a board and trying to not fall off – This could not be further from the truth. Surfing requires an in-depth understanding of nature, the ocean, the formation of waves, weather conditions and tidal motions. Learning to surf will help develop your own knowledge of the world we live in.

Because Newquay and Surfing are awesome

6. Newquay is a fantastic coastal resort

Newquay is a wonderful place to visit – It experiences great weather, favourable temperatures in spring and summer, and it is well developed with a host of attractions. Learning to surf at Newquay will allow you to immerse yourself in this region of Cornwall and really get to know this charming town.

iconic headland hotel, fistral beach, newquay. Surfing mage source: Lisa Malone iconic headland hotel, fistral beach, newquay. Surfing mage source: Lisa Malone

7. Newquay is the home of UK Surfing

The history of surfing in the UK is intertwined with Newquay and the first surfers practised here back in the 1920’s. Where better to attend a surfing school than the birthplace of surfing in the UK? Today, Newquay still stands as a fantastic surfing location and professionals from around the world flock to this Cornish town to participate in tournaments and enjoy the surfing culture.

8. Fistral Beach

This epic beach is one of the most renowned surfing locations in the world. The angle of the beach, the enclosing arms of the promontories, and the formation of the waves from the Atlantic Ocean make the conditions at Fistral perfect for surfing. By attending a surf school in Newquay, you can make use of amazing beaches such as Fistral and give yourself a head start.

9. Learn from a professional and do it properly

The most obvious reason is that you will receive professional training and guidance! Learning to surf on your own can prove extremely difficult. By attending a surf school in Newquay, you will be instructed by someone who actually knows their stuff! They will correct your bad habits, and help you develop into a fine surfer.

surf coach delivering a surf lesson on fistral beach, newquay

surf coach and students learning to surf

surf coach celebrating success for student 

10. Make new friends and socialise

As most surf schools will be composed of classes or groups of students, there is a real chance to socialise and mingle with a new group of like-minded people. You can help each other progress, provides tips and hints to help improve each other’s techniques, and then, of course, you could meet up after lessons to experience what Newquay has to offer. Surf schools are the perfect place to expand your horizons and enter the world of surfing culture.

As you can see, attending a surf school in Newquay is a truly fantastic way to improve many aspects of your life and start learning this amazing sport!


Contact us with the dates that you wish to join us for some Stag Do Coasteering

Confirm that you are happy with your Coasteering session details & pay securely via Paypal or over the phone on 01637 872031 between 7am and 9pm each day.

You’ll be given your arrival time in your booking confirmation email. Meet us at our central base in Newquay (4 Alma Place, Newquay, TR7 1NF) Bring a towel and a something to wear under your wetsuit. We provide the rest!

For further information about any of our Stag Do Coasteering sessions or Wilderness & Adventure packages please get in touch using our contact form, send us an email using hello@cornishwave.com or give us a call on 07771 718 125 or 01637 872031.


, ,

The History of Surfing in Newquay, Cornwall

Discover the rich history of surfing in Newquay. We ask why Fistral beach is the ‘Home of British Surfing’, discuss the link between surfing & tourism in Cornwall and what the future holds for surf schools in Newquay. 


Discover 4 Of The Worst Mistakes All Beginner Surfers Make

surfer wiping out

4 Common Mistakes All Beginner Surfers Make

Learning to surf is hard, it’s more than hard, it’s really hard and on top of that you can’t just go out and practise when you want. So really hard and frustrating! 

The good news is when you do get to go out, surfing is the best thing ever, and with each session you improve your surf skills and surf knowledge – even if it doesn’t feel like it. 

A huge benefit for those learning to surf today is all the helpful information you can pick up during your down time. 

Through delivering daily surf lessons in Newquay we often come across common errors and bad habits in how people learn to surf.  Spotting these trends during our surf lessons is how we help you solve problems and develop as a surfer. 

In this post we cover 3 of the worst mistakes we see nearly all beginner surfers making during their first few years of surfing. 


1) Too much weight on the tail of the surfboard

Each section of the surfboard has different reactions to the weight or pressure placed upon it. A common error with many new and developing surfers is to hold too much weight over the back third or tail of their surfboard, causing their board to slow down unnecessarily. 

Here are two areas that we see this happening the most.

Paddling – Keeping your weight evenly distributed across your board when paddling is fundamental to surfing and is an easy fix. Many surfers simply have their stomach too far back on the board, especially if they have been pearling and are scared of it happening again. 

Ensuring you are trimming your surfboard correctly, that the most amount of surface area is in contact with the water allowing the board to plane efficiently simply takes some small adjustments each time you jump on your surfboard. 

Make a visual reference of where the sweet spot is to help you quickly discern your positioning on the board.   

Popping up – standing to tall once you have popped up forces weight over the tail, causing your board to stall and slow down just when you need the speed.

To help combat this keep your arms and hands low to the rails of your surfboard during take off. This helps to keep your body position low and legs bent. 

Long boards or short boards, surfing is about moving your weight up and down the board in reaction to the wave shape and the manoeuvre.  One question all beginner surfers should be constantly asking themselves is ‘hows my positioning on the board?’ 


2) Surfing with your knees apart – The Pooh Stance

The pooh stance doesn’t sound great and looks even worse. The term pooh stance comes from a surfer assuming a stance somewhat resembling a person in a squatting position. 

In many other sports a strong stance requires legs bent and knees apart for stability. In surfing this position on a surfboard hinders your ability to trim your surfboard and keep balance.  

If there is one thing all beginners kneed to get right quickly it is to “bend your knees inwards” 


3) Pearling

Every surfer remembers the feeling of catching a wave, only to have the nose of the surfboard dig into the water at a crucial moment, sending gallons of salty sea water up your nose and in your mouth. 

Being lunged forwards because the wave is too steep or your reactions are delayed is not fun and possibly the worst type of wipe out there is in surfing. 

To combat pearling the surfer needs to paddle and catch the wave earlier, keep a keen eye of how the wave is forming whilst they paddle, or to begin to angle your take offs.

Angling the surfboard towards the direction of travel will engage the rail of the surfboard into the wave face, thus propelling the surfer in the direction the wave is breaking (trimming).

Often a good reaction to a steep wave about to break or cause a surfer pearl can be to radically adjust weight towards the tail of the board, levelling the surfboard out. (Popping up)

The trick to beating the pearl is to pay attention to two important indicators:

  • Always keep one eye on the wave behind you. Like anything you want to catch you never take your eye off it. Keeping your eye on the wave allows you to adjust your paddle speed and recognise how steep a wave is when you start to catch it. 
  • The second indication is to feel or look for when the nose of your surfboard starts to dip down the wave face. This is the indication that you have matched the pace of the wave and gravity is now pulling you and your board down the the wave. 


4) Reading the ocean

One of the toughest yet most overlooked skills in surfing is understanding how to read the ocean and the game of surfing. So many new or developing surfers become caught up in the physical motions of surfing without knowing barely anything about surf science or oceanography. 

Taking the time to learn about tides, wind conditions or even what manoeuvres are suited to certain sections of a wave is the key to becoming a well rounded surfer. Understanding how waves are formed, spotting patterns in their movements and being knowledgeable in areas of the sport is the key to unlocking your success in surfing. 

Read and get book smart on as much you can about the subject of surf science. There are great resources out there such as Surfline’s Surfology, or books on surf science such as An Introduction to Waves for Surfing by Tony Butt. 

Watch and analyse what good surfing is. Whether at your local surfing beach or on online through web clips such as Hurley’s Surf Club.


Developing as a surfer is as much about learning the physical aspects of the sport as it is understanding the how and why’s that make up the sport. Reading, asking and learning in all formats on all topics is the key to becoming a great surfer. 


, ,

Learn How To Read A Surf Report For Beginners

Image source: Surfer Today Image source: Surfer Today

How To Read Surf Reports & Understand Surf Forecasting Websites

If you have ever wondered:

Where surf forecasting websites get their data from?

What is wave period?

how do you read a surf report?

Then this guide is for you.

In our guide to learning how to read a surf report for beginners we take a look at each of the ingredients that go into the making of a surf forecast and teach you how to read a surf report effectively.


In the days before the internet, savvy entrepreneurial local surfers were known to set up premium rate phone lines and provide eye ball surf checks for land locked hopefuls.

A far cry from the good old days and the coconut wireless, todays surf forecasting websites take a huge amount of data and compile it into easy to read formats.

Surf forecasting websites have pulled surfing into the 21st century.

Image source: Magicseaweed Image source: Magicseaweed


Surf forecasting is seen by some as somewhat of a dark art. With many taking a dim view the moment the surfing conditions on the beach don’t match the pre conceived readings online.

For new or developing surfers understanding and deciphering all the information provided can be a mine field, leading to misjudged surf conditions, disappointed expectations and a distain for ‘trusting’ surf forecasting websites.

Taking the time to learn and understand the basics of how to read a surf forecast is a good skill to learn and will help you to put together another piece of the surfing puzzle.


Surf forecasting is a collection of meteorological data combined with complex algorithms and swell models to predict local surf conditions in advance.

All designed to assist surfers in understanding what surf conditions can be expected at their local surf spot, displayed in a way that is easily digestible and quick to understand.

swell lines 


Swell is energy that has been transferred into the sea by wind. The longer and stronger the wind blows (like a hurricane) the more energy that is transferred and so larger the swell.

This energy then propagates from where it is created out into the ocean, much like ripples in a pond.


As any surfer will tell you – having advanced information at your fingertips can play a big role in the planning of surf opportunities and allows the modern surfer to manage their time efficiently. With surfing conditions in constant change from one day to the next, the insights provided through surf forecasting proves invaluable to the surfer whose days in the water are limited.

Image source: World Surf League Image source: World Surf League

On a national or international level surf forecasting provides data backed guidance with the planning of successful surfing events and competitions. Large scale surfing competitions are big business with events becoming increasingly popular. Well known non surfing brands provide considerable sponsorship deals in exchange for exposure to the ever growing surfing audience. Surf contest directors are under more pressure now than ever to hold surfing contests that allow surfers and destinations to showcase their potential.

On a philosophical level, surf forecasting provides the average every day surfer with the means for a higher understanding of their local surf spot, surfers now have the means to learn and understand the favoured weather patterns or swell period and direction needed for that elusive secret spot.  This deeper understanding brings with it a further appreciation for the waves we ride and the elements needed for surfing to be enjoyed to it’s fullest.


All surf forecasting websites glean at least some of their data from the same source. This data is provided by the American agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NOAA)

This is a US government funded service and provides the data for free, allowing surf forecasting websites to collate what data they wish and display it in a format that is useful for surfers.

The main payers in the surf forecasting world are Surfline and Magicseaweed. Each use data provided by NOAA combined with many other meteorological sources to feed their own unique swell models.

Using complex algorithms, mathematics and historical data, these individually unique swell models decipher the information and produce the forecasts we see online.


There are a whole host of surf forecasting websites to choose from, a great place to start is to find a surf forecasting site that suits you, your location and the depth of knowledge you wish to gain form it.

Take look through the list below and find a site you feel comfortable with, you should find the layout of the information easy read, even if you don’t quite understand it all yet. How each website displays it’s data is key to the user understanding what the surf report actually means.

List of surf forecasting websites:









Only concentrate on the three main areas which will provide you with the most valuable and important snippets of information. These bits of information only become valuable to you when you can relate what you see on the screen to what you see on the beach.

Once you understand these three basics you can start digging deeper, which we cover later in this article.

Wave height (not swell height)

Wind direction & strength

Tidal movement

Image source: Australian BOM Image source: Australian BOM


Not to be confused with swell height. Wave height represents the average size of the waves you may expect to see at the beach.

Wave height is typically measured in feet although most forecasting sites will allow you to switch between feet and meters.

In a separate guide we discuss referring wave height to body parts for easier and often more accurate wave height assessment.


Wind direction is shown by an arrow icon. The direction of the arrow represents the direction the wind has travelled from.  (direction the wind is originating from)

Learning the difference between what a favorable wind direction is and what isn’t, plays a massive role in the quality of the surf.


Wind strength can be just as important as wind direction. Each surf spot will handle various wind strengths differently. Some areas may be better suited to strong off-shores, others may be protected or sheltered at certain stages of the tide. Generally speaking most surfers will prefer little or no wind.

The important point to remember is you need to relate what you see on the beach to what the forecast predicted.


For each 24 hour period there are two high tides and two low tides. Understanding which tidal state suits the beach best or favours the shape of waves you like to ride should be a factor in where and when you surf.

Some surfers may prefer waves, which are steeper, faster and break quicker. For surfing in Newquay, these surfers will often wait for the lower stages of the tide for these waves.

If you can remember surf sessions where you found the waves hard to catch, too fat and lumpy or the waves were not pealing that well, the tide may be an influence in this and knowing what tides suit the beach best should affect your decision of when and where you surf.

Learn which state of the tide suits your beach and your surfing the best. Being aware of the tides, how they work and affect the waves is important to your surfing decisions.


Understanding these three basics when reading a surf report and relating your online understanding to what you see on the beach is key to managing your expectations and to really getting to grips with reading a surf report accurately.


Once you have mastered the basics it’s time to dig a little deeper and begin to relate some of the more in-depth topics into your surf forecasting understanding.






Wave period is measured in seconds and is the gap between one wave and the next. Simply said the wave period is the amount in seconds that pass between each wave.

The higher the wave period, the more energy in the swell and so the larger the wave and more often than not this results in better quality waves for surfing.

Wave period can be measured from trough to trough or from the crest of one wave to the next.

Ground swell” refers to a swell that has a wave period of roughly 12 seconds or higher.

Wind swell” refers to a swell that typically has a wave period between 1-11 seconds.

graphic showing wave period


Wave period is measured in the seconds between each wave. 

  • 1-5 Un surf’ble – Created by local weather conditions and usually accompanied with bad on-shore winds which created the minimal swell. Such a low wave period will mean small mushy, weak waves breaking very close together.
  • 6-8 Weak – Only a slight improvement from a 1-5 second wave period. Expect waves to be very close together, barely rideable, weak and mushy.
  • 8-10 Poor to Average – Waves with this period are beginning to show slight signs of quality. Expect crumbly, fairly weak waves with minimal wave face. Waves will break close together but will be surf’ble.
  • 10-12 Good to Great – Decent surfing waves arriving in uniformed sets. Expect more wave face, longer rides with more pronounced shape.
  • 13+ Excellent – Great long period ground swell generated by a large storm and high winds far out to sea. Local wind conditions permitting expect uniform lines, big gaps between sets and good times.


Waves are generated by strong winds blowing across the open ocean.

The harder and longer these winds blow, the more energy that is transferred from the wind in the form of kinetic energy, resulting in longer wave periods within a swell.

Large swells with long periods travel extensive distances across open ocean, their energy extending from the oceans surface towards the sea floor, otherwise termed “ground swell”.

When this ground swell reaches a shoreline it is forced upwards by the sea floor into a wave. (shoaling) The longer the period the more energy that is underwater and that can be forced upwards forming a larger wave.

As the wave period increases the more uniformed and orderly the waves will look as they roll into the beach.


A wind swell is created by local weather conditions a few hundred miles off a coastline. The wave period is short because the winds creating the swell do not blow strong enough for long enough, having transferred only a small amount of energy into the sea and typically a short distance to travel before reaching coastlines.

Unlike long period waves that travel unopposed over vast distances deep within the ocean, wind swell travels within a few meters of the oceans surface and is affected by opposing winds and existing sea states.


Typically swell direction is shown as an arrow icon. Much the same in how wind direction is shown, the arrow shows the direction the swell has travelled from.

Typically coastlines will receive incoming swells from one or two predominant directions. In the same way as regional areas receive prevailing winds from a particular direction due to it’s geographical location and weather systems.

Surf breaks act in much the same way and will have a favored and predominant swell direction.

The direction that a beach faces, the topography of the seabed and the angle the incoming swell reaches these features will have a huge affect on how waves form and break.


With oceans being so vast and so easily affected by varying winds, multiple swells are formed within relatively small areas, resulting in multiple swells travelling towards or reaching coastlines within the same period of time.

In this scenario the different swells are categorised according to their wave period, direction and swell height. The swell with the most potential to reach the coastline is usually given the title of ‘primary swell’, subsequent swells then will be of a lower period and categorised as secondary swells.

A factor in deciding which swell is the ‘primary swell’ is the anticipated wave height a particular swell will be produce when reaching the beach.


Swell height refers to the average size of the swell out at sea.  This is measured from the peak to the trough and the seconds between one peak and the next using historical and real time data gathered from off shore buoys.

Wave height is the average wave size a surfer may expect to see when reaching the beach.

Depending on the swell model used by differing surf forecasting websites each may show a slight difference in wave height.



Swells and the individual waves within a swell travel at different speeds. For the swell to keep moving forward, individual waves are constantly rotating positions. Fast waves catch up with slower waves & slower waves are caught up by faster waves in a continuous conveyor belt.

Swell speed is measured in nautical miles per hour or knots. (1 knot is 1.2 miles on land.)

In order to work out the speed that a swell is travelling multiply the wave period by 1.5. The result is the speed the swell is travelling in knots.

To work out how fast individual waves are travelling multiply the wave period by 3.


Wave decay refers to the energy loss within a swell as waves propagate outwards from where they were generated. The further the distance travelled the more energy is lost and is dissipated.

A quote from Willie Wong’s blog ‘Bubbles Bad, ripples Good’ he states

“dispersion is the tendency for the wave to occupy more and more area as it propagates.”


Surf forecasting websites have become very accurate over the past 10 years. The introduction of near shore swell models, the ease of gathering meteorological information and the freedom of data provided by NOAA has allowed surf forecasting sites to provide detailed relative information for surfers. Combined and developed with local impressions surf forecasting websites are at the forefront of surfing.

However the caveat remains that understanding and interpreting the data provided is a personal expectation that needs managing.


Shoaling is the name given to how a wave forms and breaks.

As waves reach the shallow water of the coastline the wave runs out of space. Think of the wave as a recirculating sphere that rotates towards the shore, as the sea bed becomes gradually steeper and the depth of water decreases more of the waves energy is forced upwards towards the surface, gradually increasing the waves height.

Waves with a longer period have more energy and so more water is forced upwards creating a larger wave.

3ft @ 10seconds = 2-3ft wave with not much power

3ft wave @ 16 seconds = a much larger and more powerful 4-5ft wave

Waves will start to break in water 1/3rd the height of the wave. 3ft wave will break in 5ft of water. The topography of the seabed will affect how quickly a wave will form and how it will be break.

Waves that travel from the deep ocean and reach a sharp incline will form quickly and break fast.

Waves that travel on a gentle incline will form slowly and crumble.


Wave buoys give surf forecasters a real time idea of what is happening out at sea. Contrary to common beliefs wave buoys do not provide much information for day to day surf reports.

The majority of the data needed for surf forecasting comes from a variety of meteorological weather stations, satellites and historical data, enabling a forecast or advanced picture of what can be expected to be produced.

, , ,

Surfing in Newquay: A Guide to Tides

Yellow buoy and chain on a beach - sea & waves in the background

Have you ever wondered:

How are tides created?

What is the difference between high tide and low tide? 

Do tides affect how waves break?

In this detailed guide we answer all of these questions and more to give you all the understanding you need about tides.

The tides that shape our coastlines play a huge part in how and when we deliver our surfing and coasteering activities here in Newquay Cornwall.

What are tides?

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun, and as we all know we have high tides and low tides.

A way to get one’s head around the process of tides is to think of a massive, slow moving wave created far, far out at sea that travels gradually towards the coastlines with every ebb, flow and cycle of the moon.

The moon and the sun do not have an equal gravitational effect on the tides, with the moon counting for roughly 2/3rds of the gravitational pull as opposed to 1/3rd from the sun.

Although we experience a stronger gravitational pull in our day to day lives from the sun than that of the moon, the tides are not generated by the strength of gravity but instead by whats known as gravitational gradient. Since the moon is closer to the earth it exerts more gravitational gradient than the sun and so has a stronger effect on the world’s oceans.

Despite the moon being smaller, it is much closer to the earth so it exerts greater gravitational gradient over our oceans. This is why you would have heard of the connection between the tides and the moon.

How many tides are there in a day? 

The majority of the world will see two tides each day or within a 24 hour period. Two high tides and Two low tides. There is a period of 6 hours and 12.5 minutes between a high tide and a low tide.

Example: High tide is at 12pm – the next low tide will be at 6.12.5pm (6 hours and 12.5 minutes) or there is a high tide every 12 hours and 25 minutes. So for instance, if it’s high tide at 12pm today, the next high tide will roughly be at 12.50pm the following day.

As both the sun and the moon have an effect on the earth’s tides we can split these two forces into separate days for the ease of understanding the effect of each.

Stormy surf at little fistral beach in newquay, cornwall

Solar day:
In a solar day, it takes the earth 24 hours to orbit around the sun.
Lunar day: 
Unlike a solar day, a lunar day takes 24 hours and 50 minutes to make its full rotation of its axis. This is longer because the moon revolves around the earth in the same direction as the earth rotates on its axis. Because of this, the earth takes longer to catch up to the moon’s rotation. i.e 50 minutes.

The moon and the sun affect the earth’s tides on a daily basis and follows a monthly lunar cycle and is why we are able to predict the tides in advance. A common misconception about tides is that the ocean only moves in one direction, towards the side of the earth that is closest to the moon.  If this was the case there would only be one high tide and one low tide in each 24 hour 50 minute period.

In reality, the part of the earth that is both closest to the moon and furthermost away from the moon will receive high tides within a 24 hour  50 minutes period, whilst other areas of the earth will then see a low tide.

This is because water is being pulled towards the moon on one side of the earth and the earth pulled away from the water on the other side of the earth, creating a bulging effect and a high tide at opposite sides of the earth.

time lapse showing phases of the moon

What is a high tide?

A high tide is when the ocean is at its fullest point on the beach. On the beach, we notice that there isn’t much sand to walk on and the waves are breaking close to the shore or at the top of the beach. A high tide is caused when the moon is overhead or at its closest to the earth and when it is at its furthermost away.

What is a low tide?

A low tide is caused when the ocean is at its lowest point of the beach. On the beach, we notice that the sea is far away and leaves a large patch of sand once covered at high tide exposed. Low tides are caused when the earth is a right angles to the moon.

Spring tides –

As well as having high tides and low tides each day we see a variation in the size of these high tides and low tides. This again is due to the rotation of the earth and each phase of the lunar cycle that we pass dictates the size of the tides.

What is a Spring tide?

A spring tide or king tide can be defined as high high tides and low low tides or large tidal movement between one tide and the next.   If you are surfing or at the beach during this phase of the lunar cycle you will notice a big difference between low tide and high tide.

grahic displaying the cycle of the moon in relation to tides

What causes spring tides?

You’ll notice a spring tide occurs when there is a full moon and/or a new moon. When the sun and the moon are aligned (both on the same side of the earth) that makes the gravitation pull very strong creating high high tides and low low tides.

What is a Neap tide?

A neap tide is where we don’t see much difference between low tide and high tide. The tidal range is smaller than of a Spring tide. Neap tides occur when we see a waxing and/or waning moon. This occurs twice every month when the sun and the moon are at right angles to each other the solar tide partially cancels out the lunar tide making for a small tidal range.

Sublunar tides – this is when the moon is directly over a specific point on the earth and the moon’s gravity pulls water towards the moon.

Antipodal tides – this is when the moon’s gravitational effect on a particular spot on the earth is at its weakest. i.e when the moon is furthermost away or opposite side of the earth from the ocean.

How do tides affect the surf?

The tide will affect the surf in a variety of ways.  Waves are formed as the energy or swell in the ocean moves from deep water to shallow water and is forced upwards, waves will then peak and start to break as the hit sand banks or reef that make up the bathymetry of the sea floor. The volume of water that covers these sandbanks or reefs will effect how quickly the waves form and break.

Bathymetry – is the shape of the sea floor

Waves at high tide are said to be fat and slow ,or lumpy due to the large amount or volume of water that is sitting over the sand banks or reef on that particular beach.

Waves at low tide are said to be quick, steep or dumpy, this is because there is very little water sitting over the sand bank or reef allowing the ocean swells to travel from very deep water straight into very shallow water.

Every beach is different: All beaches have a different topography which causes the waves to form and break. Some beaches suit a high tide where some may suit a mid or lower tide.

large white water waves breaking on the rocks at little fistral beach in newquay, cornwall


For our surf lessons in Newquay we typically avoid running lessons within 1 hour before, during and 1 hour after a high tide. When the tide is full or high this typically causes the waves to break close to the beach which we find doesn’t always create the best conditions for learning to surf.

Tides for Coasteering in Newquay

Many people that join us for a Coasteering session are surprised that we cannot deliver Coasteering sessions any given time of day. Typically the most popular Coasteering session will involve a mixture of elements such as wild swimming, low-level traversing, and deep water cliff jumps.

With many folks interested in challenging themselves to a cliff jump Coasteering companies in Cornwall need to keep a close eye on the tidal movement in their area each day to ensure that there is enough water for customers to plunge into.

Never attempt to go Coasteering without a local professional Coasteering provider

Here in Newquay, our high tides are usually in the morning or late afternoon, this makes for some fantastic still early morning or classic sunset Coasteering experiences.

What is tidal range or coefficient? 

Tidal range or coefficient refers to the distance between a high tide and a low tide and is measured in meters.

surgewatch.org refers to it as: Tidal range is the vertical difference in height between consecutive high and low waters over a tidal cycle.

The tidal range will change slightly each day due to local weather conditions and as the cycle of the moon moves around the earth from neaps tides to spring tides.

When reading the tide times or surf forecast this is shown as 6.2 or 5.7 in the middle column after the morning high tide or low tide time. The higher the figure, the greater the coefficient or tidal range that day.  As we know this is directly related to spring or neap tides.

When we refer to “how big the tide is” this is in reference to the coefficient or tidal range on that particular tide. Not the distance that the sea has travelled up or down the beach. 

What is Chart datum?

Chart datum is the highest or lowest astronomical tide possible or the highest or lowest point that the tide is expected to rise or fall under average meteorological conditions.

This level then sets a bench mark for tidal movement. All tidal movement is measured above the lowest astronomical tide and below the highest astronomical tide and is used in part to map out minimum or maximum depths of coastal waters.

One of the points in the UK that chart datum is measured is Newlyn in Cornwall. In the UK we measure chart datum as a figure of zero. Rising tides will then measure how many meters above zero or chart datum that particular tide will rise or fall.

American chart datum is taken from a mean or average low or average high tide.  This means that you can often get negative tides during spring tides and bad weather.

Congratulations if you made it here!

Although a very investing topic, truly understanding the the process behind tidal patterns takes quite the explanation.


Surf School Newquay: 5 Great Newquay Beaches

Cornish Wave is a tight knit family of qualified instructors with a passion for surfing, we can’t get enough of the surf, sand and stunning North Cornwall coastline that we call home. We also love sharing that lifestyle and love for Surfing with others, so it’s hard to keep quiet about some of our favourite surf spots! 

Here’s the run down of our Top 5 Newquay surfing beaches this season:

5. Towan

Also known as the Newquay Town Beach, this surfing hot-spot is right in the middle of all the action of downtown Newquay and still gets incredible surfing conditions. With the surf lifestyle on show and overlooked by a cavernous Walkabout bar, some have come to call it ‘Little Australia’.

Sand. Sun. Surf. Short walk from our office, we’re pretty stoked about our local beach; meet us for a surf session at Towan and we’ll show you why!

4. Bedruthan Steps

Look it up – the raw and spectacular landscape surrounding this surf beach makes the place look like it’s straight out a Star-Trek set! It’s unreal, and so are the waves, but if you’re lucky enough to land there, make sure you keep aware of the tide and don’t get caught out. Read more on how to stay safe on the beach with our guide to beach safety.

3. Perranporth

The surf is excellent and there’s a bar right on the beach, no wonder it’s one of our favourites and a regular stop on our Surf Coaching multi-session lessons like the Surfari Package.

If your arms get tired of paddling, get yourself a skim board and some ski goggles and try sand surfing down the dunes. This beach is big. Really big. So big that it gets it’s own blog feature – see our Top 3 Reasons to Visit Perranporth Beach.

2. Watergate Bay

High-end rippin’. Complete with the trim hotel, Jamie Oliver’s, Venus café, Beach Hut, Wax bar, Zacy’s restaurant, Living Space bar… The place attracts celebrities, high rollers, families and people just out to have a good time. Oh, and the surf conditions are excellent.

We love instructing here, check out our guide to surfing at watergate bay and get involved.

1. ‘The Home of British Surfing’

That’s right, Fistral Beach. Don’t book abroad again before you see this place. The world famous beach is Newquay’s cultural heart. It’s got the good vibes, music, views and of course renowned Surf conditions. This 750-metre stretch of coast knows how to deliver good waves.

If you do make it down to the Home of British Surfing, be sure to drop in and say hello. Cornish Wave HQ is based just up the road. Pop in the office and head coach Jey will sort you out with the surf lessons that will get you just as hooked on surfing as the rest of the Fistral crowd.

Related blog posts


Surf School Perranporth: Three Reasons to Visit Perranporth Beach

We’re always hunting for the perfect waves to let you make the most out of your surf session – it’s part of our ethos and it’s why we’re Newquay’s only fully mobile Surf School. The surf van lets us seek out the very best beach on any given day.

North Cornwall has so many amazing surf spots it’s always hard to play favourites, but when the surf’s up at Perranporth Beach, it always puts a smile on our faces – here’s why:

1) It’s… Huge!

It’s surprising that such a big beach enjoys a relatively low profile, even in the busy summer months. Perranporth is a 3 mile long stretch of clean sandy beach, is backed by dunes extending nearly a mile inland. Its massive!

It’s also home to The Watering Hole, the UK’s only pub quite literally on the beach. There’s regular live music, good hot food and everything you need right there on the sand. You can go from riding your board to ordering rounds at the bar in minutes, it doesn’t get much better than that. The amazing facilities right on the beach make this a perfect choice for Family Surf Lessons.

2) The Heritage

It’s not just a top Surf Spot – if you’re into history, Perranporth’s got its fair share. Winston Graham, the author of the Poldark novels lived for most of his life in Perranporth. Period drama fans will recognise the rolling Cornish landscapes, flowing coastline and mining heritage that serve as a backdrop to the popular TV adaptation of the epic Poldark saga.

The disused tin mining caves invite exploration and the dunes are home to rare flora and fauna. Penhale Sands, as the dunes were christened, was excavated two years ago to reveal one of Britain’s oldest chapels.

3) That Sweet Atlantic Swell!

Get your gear on and throw up your ‘shaka’s’, the surf’s pumping! Perranporth enjoys consistent swell on most days and it doesn’t fail to attract the beach bums and sun worshipers every season.

Good, consistent surf makes this a great choice for beginners and intermediate surfers. Even on a busy day, the sheer size of Perranporth usually allows you to find a quieter spot so it’s a go-to choice for group lessons and private surf coaching sessions.

The small town with the big beach really delivers and can be a refreshing break from the more commercial vibe of Newquay with its quaint setting and 19th century buildings. Perranporth Beach is a regular stop-off on our multi-day Surfari Surf Lesson Package. This 3-day tour of 3 great surfing beaches will take you to the very best Cornwall has to offer.

Related blog posts

, ,

Surfing at Watergate Bay: Top 5 Reasons to surf Watergate Bay

Top 5 reasons to surf Watergate Bay

Watergate bay is a firm favourite among North Cornwall locals and visiting surfers alike. It’s not hard to see why when you have all the ingredients of a perfect surf session. Check out the top 5 reasons why Watergate Bay should be your next surf spot.

1. The Tide’s Just Swell!

Unlike most beaches in Cornwall, Watergate Bay is a surf spot that allows great surfing conditions on most tides. Generally speaking, you’ll find the best waves at a mid or high tide. Watergate Bay picks up a lot of ground swell (especially Westward) due to it’s facing West; straight out to the Atlantic. The swell generally increases with the tide – the higher the tide, the bigger the waves.

2. Natural Shelter

The Bay performs best on a light south-easterly offshore wind because shelter is provided at high tide by our big imposing cliffs. A local’s tip is to check Watergate Bay even if the rest of Cornwall is blowing a gale.

3. Pro Favourite

A pivotal stop on the UK Pro Surf Tour, the Bay plays host to The English National Surfing Championships every May – the UK’s longest running pro surf competition.

Clean waves at Watergate Bay Clean waves at Watergate Bay

4. Beachside Facilities

With restaurants, bars and places to stay the night in abundance, there’s something for everyone off the water as well as in the surf. An added bonus is ample car parking just a few minutes walk from the beach.

5. Easy On The Eye

When you’re not catching waves, you’ll be taking in the views. Watergate Bay is a stunning 2 mile stretch of golden sands backed by towering cliffs. Sit back and take a deep breath, this is simply a nice place to be.

Find out more about this surfing sweet spot, and what surf lessons are available in our surf spot guide to Watergate Bay.

Watergate Bay - A nice place to be Watergate Bay – A nice place to be

Related blog posts