Nowhere are so many extreme sports enjoyed by so many people, in such a small place. The UK, thanks to its mixed terrain and coastal surprises, is a premiere extreme sports destination, and Cornwall is its water sports capital. With international surfing destinations, leading watersports centres and inland wonderlands aplenty, Cornwall is both playground, and testing ground for beginners and adventure sports professionals.
UK weather, as always, is changeable. But thanks to some unique climatic influences, Cornwall gets the best deal. At the most southwesterly point of the UK, it takes the best of the islands’ warmer weather. And, despite the UK’s unenviable position on the end of icy-cold Arctic winds, there is one influence that keeps Cornish seas warm: the Gulf Stream – a band of water originating from Mexico.
The north Cornish coast features rocky coves and rugged cliffs, which rise skyward from its sea. The well-signed coastal paths draw walkers inland, through natural snippets filled with plants rarely seen outside of Mediterranean climes.
Further inland there are grasslands, low-lying hills and the moorlands of Bodmin to explore. Formerly the most significant tin mining community in Europe, and steeped in tradition and Celtic mysticism, Cornwall has its own ‘aura’ – itself a draw for the spiritual sports enthusiasts.
Criss-crossed with maintained bridleways, cycle routes and walking paths, you are rarely far from an opportunity to indulge here.
Bondi beach is hundreds of miles away – not that Brits are bothered – as the UK coast can turn up a wave or two of its own. Newquay is perhaps the ace in the deck, and home to the British National Surfing Championships and World Junior Championships. Body-boarders, knee-boarders, cut-back kings and long board queens all mix it up in the water off Cornwall. Great breaks include Godrevy, Lusty Glaze, Praa Sands and the legendary Fistral. Porthleven and Kannack Sands remain popular on the south side, but expect harsher surfing conditions on the north coast.
Where there’s a wind, there’s a way. And with so much of it, there’s little surprise that kite-surfing is so popular. Thanks to having longer beaches, such as Marazion and Watergate Bay, the Cornish coast has plenty of room for those of you who like to get some wind in your sails. Flat, even sands are ideal for gaining entry to the water and waves are rarely hard to find. Cornish waters are great for beginners learning to Kitesurf. The high tide at Perranporth covers acres of flat sand; perfect for practising those all-important skills without getting out of your depth. Other favoured spots include Daymer Bay, Gwithian Bay and Pentewan.
Four wheels, flat out, on specially-prepared tracks or off into the rough stuff, quad bikes will take you there. For beginners, there is a purpose-built track near Blackwater. More proficient riders may prefer to enjoy their quad riding nearer Newquay, where they can choose between novice and intermediate level courses. With road-legal models now commonly available, it is possible to use a quad bike as general transport. But beware, off-road use is best learnt from qualified instructors and despite tempting, the Cornish countryside is often protected from such four-wheel-drive frolics.
If there’s any extreme sport the Cornish coast is ready-made for, it’s coasteering. For the uninitiated, it’s very simple: Steer your way around the coast using scrambling, swimming and a little climbing. Oh, and the payoff for your efforts? A free jump into some of the UK’s clearest and cleanest waters. As with quad-biking, coasteering activities are devised for absolute beginners and always with safety as a top priority. Commonly tackled routes are from Lusty Glaze, St Ives, Polzeath, Newquay and Bude. Be it sumping (navigating through cave chambers), scrambling or jumping, the Cornish coast will provide.
Enough sea and land, let’s get some air. Why not take a fresh look at Cornwall, from 10,000ft! If there is a premiere league for adventure sports, skydiving is surely a member. The British Parachute Association accredited centre at Perranporth offers tandem jumps for those new to the sport, and static line and freefall courses too. A clean exit here sets you up for arguably the most unique views of Cornwall; the whole county, its beaches and landmarks, as well as the Scilly Isles can be seen. Accelerated free-fall courses, which take beginners from ground training to a level-one sky diver are also available.
Cornwall is a top spot for one of windsports’ latest hybrid activities: land-boarding. If you are new to the sport, it’s relatively simple: Take a power kite, a mountain board (a beefed-up skateboard) and the rest I’m sure you can work out. Safety equipment is a must in any of the sport’s four disciplines: Cruising, Freestyle, Boarder Cross and Cross Country. Novices will find instruction at Perranporth, Hollywell Bay and at some of Newquay’s beaches. Gwithian, Par, Pentewan and Constantine are other top sites.
If you prefer mud to sand, or wheels to waves, Cornwall has some cracking 4×4 driving training for you. Prepare to ‘get gripped’ with dedicated instructors and challenging courses across the county. Off-road centres are at Saltash, Falmouth, at two sites near Newquay and at a purpose-built centre near Portreath. There is also training available further north, in the beautiful Tamar valley, which borders Devon. Taking to the rough stuff is not for the fainthearted, but is possible without a driving license. So if you fancy developing your skills behind the wheel over bumps and swamps, then get off road.
Cornwall has adventure sports running through its veins; warm currents pulled from the Caribbean infuse its waters and visitors with a warmth, and a sense of sporting adventure rarely found elsewhere. Kernow (Cornwall) is a must-go for fans of board sports, extreme sports and for beginners looking to try less boring sports.
Check out the other experiences available in Cornwall, including:.
Hot Air Ballooning
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