In the far South West of England lies a small town, a holiday destination for hundreds (thousands) of tourists every year. A place that, in winter, is a windswept ghost town and summer, a bustling hub of madness as thousands from across the country descend on its shores– tapping into the perfect beaches, surf, restaurants, and bars. Oh, and sun if they’re lucky.
Whether you’re a beginner or well-seasoned advanced surfer, St Ives has some super fun waves on its day, and while not comparable to the world’s best surf destinations, like Mexico or Indo, for somewhere to hang out, make friends, or learn how to surf, it’s a hard place to beat in Europe. Here’s everything you need to know about surfing in St Ives.
Table of Contents
Surf Spot Breakdown
Porthmeor is the focal point for surfing in St Ives. Porthmeor faces due North and so gets the most swell of all the beaches in St Ives. In Cornwall, waves come from the West, so the larger the swell, the better for Porthmeor.
Porthmeor is a beach break with a couple of defined peaks. You can’t surf at Porthmeor on the high tide; it only works mid/low. The best waves happen (usually) two hours after high tide (dropping tide) and, weirdly, always bigger on the outgoing. For beginner surfers, I’d recommend surfing at mid-tide. (Avoid high and low as waves are dumpier).
As an advanced surfer, always try and time your surfs two hours after high tide, and depending on the swell, you can surf at low tide, at the infamous Boiler, a peak breaking around an old shipwreck (The Alba), which on its day can produce heavy right-hand barrels.
St Ives Water Temperatures
In Summer, water temperatures hover around the 15°c mark, so you’ll need a decent 4/3mm or at least a new 3/2mm. In winter, water temperatures drop down to as low as 10°c, or even lower sometimes, so a 5mm wetsuit , boots and hood are minimum requirements.
Where is St Ives?
Where Else to Surf in St Ives?
On the largest swells, head around the corner and surf Breakwater. A long left point that only works when the swell is macking (winter only), but don’t expect to score it on your own. The quality of the wave also changes depending on the banks! Fickle, but epic when it’s on.
Where to Stay?
There are some wicked places to stay in St Ives, and while not the cheapest surf town you’ll ever visit, you’re spoiled for choice between the various Airbnbs, hotels, and hostels in town. If you’re on a budget, check out Cohort Hostel to meet people and put yourself mere minutes from the action; bars, cafes, and Porthmeor.
Where to Learn Surfing in St Ives?
The best and only surf school in St Ives is the epic St Ives Surf School. Harris and the crew down on Porthmeor have everything you need to learn how to surf, equipment, and wave knowledge. I worked here for years and can’t speak of everyone highly enough! Check out their lesson schedule here.
People don’t just come to St Ives to surf. The town has countless cafes, restaurants, and bars to tap into; great cocktails and epic seafood are your go-tos, followed by a walk around the cobble streets or out onto the island for spectacular views across the harbor and surrounding beaches. If you time your trip with great weather, you won’t believe a place like this exists in England.
While not a world-class surf destination, surfing in St Ives offers everything from great beaches, food, people, and mellow waves in a beautiful setting. When I show people photos of St Ives and tell them this is England, people are shocked, so go and get a piece of it for yourself and let me know of any questions you have regarding surfing in St Ives.