5 Places to Try Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in Cornwall

Stand-up paddle boarding in Cornwall has boomed since the easing of lockdown, as gyms and swimming pools remain closed and people scramble to take advantage of the good weather and long summer evenings. It has exploded in popularity – on rivers and in the sea – as those who wouldn’t normally take up water sports dip their toes in this perfect post-lockdown, socially distanced activity: out in the fresh air and away from crowds. Paddling quietly along, you experience the Cornish coastline or riverside from a different perspective. Getting out on the water is also a great way of relieving stress – paddle boarding provides you with the same feeling of mindfulness as in meditation, something we all need while living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paddle boarding is an ancient relative of surfing, with roots in Polynesia, where it was used as a quick mode of transport to get between islands. It's a super-simple, fun and low-impact sport. It doesn’t put a lot of strain on your body and won’t lead to damaged muscles, tendons and ligaments. But it does exercise almost every muscle, which makes it a great core workout! 

It’s so easy to learn for everyone of all ages and sporting abilities – just stand on the board and paddle yourself along. You can get up to quite decent speeds if you want to, and if you like to get the adrenaline pumping, ride in with the waves if you’re at the beach.

Here are five places to try stand-up paddle boarding in Cornwall – have fun!

5 SUP Spots in Cornwall

Beginners and families: Harlyn Bay, near Padstow

Apparently it's easier to learn stand-up paddle boarding than to learn to surf, and if you want to learn at one of Cornwall’s most stunning beaches, head to Harlyn Bay. Situated on the eastern side of Trevose Head, just west of Padstow on Cornwall’s north coast, Harlyn is most famous for its rolling breakers, but also ideal for paddle boarding because of its sheltered location. Harlyn Bay Surf School offers an ‘Intro to SUP’ lesson that will leave all members of the family feeling confident to stand up, paddle, turn and simply enjoy flat water paddling while gazing out over Harlyn’s white sand and crystal blue waters. And if the surf’s up, you can even catch a wave and cruise in. Book a lesson here.

Ocean adventurers: Portreath and St Agnes, near Redruth

Located on the north coast of Cornwall, Portreath hosts a spectacular and dramatic stretch of coastline, with caves, rock gardens and remote beaches. Seals can be seen regularly and you can visit ‘Ralph's cupboard’, a collapsed cave. Supinabag hosts tours of this stunning stretch of coastline between Portreath and St Agnes, but only in calm conditioners for those with experience. Visit their website to find out more about tours and other locations.

Helford River

Helford River

Gannel Estuary

Gannel Estuary, Crantock

Maenporth beach

Maenporth beach

Wildlife: the Helford River, Falmouth 

Suitable for novices in calm conditions and advanced paddlers, the River Helford offers both easy access to the stunning coastline of Falmouth Bay and to south-west Cornwall’s tree-lined river and its creeks. Paddle past sailing boats, banks of ancient oak forest, shipwrecks and secluded beaches and keep an eye out for wading birds such as herons and oyster catchers. There are also vast swathes of oysters visible at low tide. Try Gylly Adventures Creeks & Coves Paddleboarding tour.

Peace and quiet: the Gannel Estuary, Newquay 

The Gannel Estuary feels a world away from the popular sprawl of Newquay, but it borders the town just south of Towan Headland on Cornwall’s north coast. This sheltered stretch of water flows according to the tide, revealing sweeping sands and blue lagoons – the perfect tranquil antidote to the waves of Newquay's beaches. Head to Newquay Activity Centre to book a two-hour SUP safari of this enchanting stretch of water.

SUP yoga: Maenporth Beach, Falmouth 

Yoga on a paddle board adds a new element to yoga – balance. Yes, balance is important in ‘normal’ yoga, but doing it on a paddle board only makes balance even more important! Falmouth Surf School offers calming and relaxed SUP yoga classes at Maenporth beach, which sits at the head of a small, sheltered bay with beautiful views of the sea – and the southern Cornish coastline when you’re out on your board. Feeling the warm sun, breathing in fresh air, hearing the lapping water and seeing such beautiful natural surroundings will make practising yoga even more enjoyable. For details on how to book, click here.

Stay Safe while Paddle Boarding

The main hazards stand-up paddle boarders need to factor in are the wind and the tide. Please remember these safety rules:

1. Always wear a leash, so you don’t get separated from your board.

2. Launch at an appropriate spot and don’t leave your board to create an obstruction.

3. If you’re on the river, always paddle closer to the bank when the river is busy – there will be less tide and you’ll be out of the way of larger boats using the river.

4. Be aware of the tides and which way they’re going to take you.

5. If it’s windy be prepared to kneel or lie down to get back, or give it a miss.

6. Be considerate to other water users as you’d expect them to be to you.