The beaches below are by no means an extensive listing but are the most consistent and accessible. They are ordered from east to west
Duckpool, Sandymouth and Northcott join up at low tide to create a huge, four-mile strip of sand. All three are less crowded than the more well-known and accessible Bude beaches such as Crooklets, Summerleaze and Widemouth, and all three offer great surfing conditions on their day, not to mention awesome sunsets. Of the three, Duckpool probably represents the greatest challenge to surfers. Somewhat rocky and ripped up, this semi-consistent shady cove produces rights and lefts on the beach and an occasional right-hand reef break at low tide. Minimal facilities and strange rock formations contribute to a distinctive atmosphere and the waves can be hollow and powerful if the swell is up. A small car park right by the beach provides instant access. There is no sand at high tide and the cove is best surfed at low to mid.
Sandy Mouth is managed by the National Trust and something of an idyll. Although the place can be crowded at weekends or during holidays, more often than not it is a place where you can escape from the crowds. Generally a safe, mellow beach break, on heavier days shifting sandbanks can create strong rips. Sandy Mouth can offer a good alternative if North Devon is flat, which does mean that there is a degree of localism. Take care not to get cut off by the tall cliffs at high tide. The beach is a five minute walk down a rocky path from the National Trust car park, free to members. There are no facilities.
Just north of Bude, Northcott Mouth is a remote, secluded beach suitable for all abilities. Difficult access means that crowds are minimal, evidenced by the fact that the National Trust earth car park is unmanned. The large, pebble beach disappears at high tide, but there are no cliffs so being cut off is not a worry. Low tide banks can offer decent waves. For the more experienced among you it may be worth checking out a spot known locally as 'Nudies', an un-crowded wave fifteen minutes walk from either Sandy Mouth or Northcott Mouth. Protruding rocks ensure that the banks are almost always good and at low tide the waves here are usually more powerful than at the neighbouring spots, with steep faces and hollow sections. Watch out for submerged rocks at high tide, rips and a powerful undertow. Not for beginners.
Crooklets is a five-minute walk from the centre of Bude and stretches from Summerleaze to Northcott Mouth at low tide. Picking up a little more swell than Widemouth Bay, a variety of shifting sand banks offer good rights and lefts throughout the tidal range. There is a distinct break at each end, fun, rideable waves right the way along the beach, a pounding shorebreak and a short right hander from mid to high, accessible via the outdoor swimming pool. Loads of facilities, including surf schools, cafes and shops ensure that the place is generally pretty crowded in summer, although in winter it can be enticingly bleak, and big
Another beach that can get very busy at times, Widemouth Bay is fortunately long enough to absorb a large number of surfers without feeling crowded. Popular with families, the beach is dotted with rock pools and made up of three distinct sections, rocks and reefs at the southern end, shingle in the centre and lots of sand at the northern end. Picking up plenty of swell, Widemouth offers a variety of peaks and can hold six to eight feet at mid to high tide, usually remaining clean and with an easy paddle out, although it can get very wild in the winter. More advanced surfers tend to head to the southern end to the distinctive Black Rock, a hollow and powerful reef break that has the potential to reach ten foot on a big North-westerly swell. There is a pub halfway along the beach and the A39 passes directly behind it.
Another spot whose location means that it never gets too busy, Crackington Haven is a strangely long and narrow beach at the end of a steep river valley. Best at low to mid tide and very rocky at high it is usually smaller than Widemouth and therefore a good choice on huge days. The beach offers a choice of waves, from a left-hand point break strictly for the experienced to a friendly beach break suitable for all abilities. Crackington Haven’s location means there is a lot of shelter from wind and the waves can be clean even on very stormy days. Although it can close out at low tide, Crackington Haven can hold big swells.
Trebarwith Strand is a lesser-known, often hyped, surf spot just west of Tintagel. There is no beach at all here at high tide, although a good amount of sand at low. Offering mainly waves that hover on the line between fast and barreling and close-out, cross-waves can give rise to punchy peaks, although this is not a place fro beginners. There are rocks at the northern end and a peak at mid-tide on the left of the beach. It is best surfed at low to mid tide.
Tregardock is a well-kept secret on one of the most beautiful stretches of the North Cornish coast, just south of Trebarwith Strand. Strictly no vans or minibuses as parking is confined to the edge of a small farm track from which there is a long climb down to the beach. Only check this place out if you have plenty of experience and a respectful, zen attitude. Surf at low to mid tide only and expect a fast and powerful hollow wave that can be quite intimidating, especially on the reef at the right end of the beach. The spot picks up a lot of swell and is sometimes epic. The scenery is spectacular and the difficulty and inaccessibility of the wave means that it is always un-crowded and needs to remain so.
Lundy Bay is a generally small and inconsistent sheltered beach composed of sand and rocks and pretty much covered at high tide. Usually flat in summer with no facilities and a degree of localism on its day the spot offers lefts and rights and dangerous rips. A collapsed sea cave called Lundy Hole to the west of the beach is worth a look if you do find yourself surfing here.
Polzeath is a free-for-all. The waves are nothing special and usually cluttered with poseurs from Rock, a holiday enclave renowned for attracting the privileged classes. Loads of pubs, cafes and surf shops increase the sense that this is a place to be seen surfing rather than to actually surf. Having said that the waves are consistent, if generally very mellow, and the beach shelves gently, making it perfect for beginners. There are three distinct peaks plus a left at mid-tide off the rocks on the left side of the beach to which access can be tricky at high tide. A small stream that runs onto the beach past the Surfside Café is periodically contaminated. Avoid. Offshore banks on either side of the beach can produce challenging waves in a big swell.
Trevone bay is best-known for the somewhat menacing rock formation known as Round Hole on the eastern side of the beach. A small cove that produces good waves from low to mid tide, Trevone is not ideal for beginners, with an extremely powerful rip on the northern end of the beach. There can be decent waves from low to mid tide with a peak in the middle offering mainly rights and shorter lefts and a right-hander from the rocks on the right side.
Three miles west of Padstow, Harlyn Bay is a lovely curving beach with plenty of sand at low tide. More sheltered than the neighbouring Constantine, Harlyn comes into its own when stormy conditions make it unsurfable elsewhere. Generally pretty inconsistent it can produce hollow peaks of up to six foot at mid tide while at high tide rocks and rips make it a challenging proposition. The east end is usually bigger and once you’ve taken your beating you can unwind at the Harlyn Inn, which sits right on the beach.
The Slab is popular with bodyboarders and located near the mythical Booby's Bay. Waves at both places tend to be fast and sucky depending on swell size. Rips, rocks, crowds and even a submerged shipwreck make neither spot a good choice for beginners. There are definite peaks at low to mid tide.
Constantine Bay is a justifiably popular surf spot that connects with Booby's Bay at low tide, giving rise to more than half a mile of sand and marram grass-covered dunes. At no time is this a particularly good choice for beginners as the waves all tend to be fast and powerful and break with a range of hazards from serious rips to shallow rocky reefs and a steep high tide shelf. If this is just up your street then you will probably love Constantine, which offers a range of top quality waves. A reef at the southern end of the bay works throughout the tide and occasionally produces long lefts that run all the way into the bay, if the swell direction is right. This reef can get very big and intimidating, however, in which case you may prefer to surf the point at the north end, which produces good waves from mid to high tide, or the sucky high tide peak that produces fast rights and lefts in the centre of the bay.
Just half a mile south of the much larger Constantine Bay, Treyarnon is a popular west-facing surfing beach that works best from mid to high tide. Watch out for rocks and rips at low.