Eurogems: Porthleven

How to surf Cornwall's best wave

By local legend Sam Boex.


Er… Porthleven, Cornwall


A relatively short righthander, with a hollow take off and an even hollower end bowl; it works best at high, but can be surfed through the tide. It sits on an unforgiving wave cut platform, we’ve all been thankful for having to wear wetsuits at times.


NE is straight offshore but also good with light E or N.  

Water Temperature

9ºC (February) – 17ºC (October).


Autumn/Winter are the best, especially autumn when you can score glassy days and warm water. Winter early morning sessions can be cold, but worth it once you’ve tapped the frost off your booties.

What boards to bring

6’0” to 6’8”. You don’t really need bigger than that because the wave can be really fast and hollow, especially in west swells.

Who’s in the line-up

Sparky (Mark Richardson) is always in come rain or shine, also the Lawless brothers, Mole, Berny (who’s been surfing the wave for 30 odd years) my brothers Will and Jake, Robyn Davies. There are about twenty locals altogether.

Swell window

Works best on a west swell, too much south in the swell and the wave will lose its shape and become too fast. Swells usually last a day or 2 so you need to be on it.

Where to stay

There are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts around Porthleven, but the one I would recommend is Beacon Crag — it has stunning views of the coast and overlooks the wave so you will always have the advantage. You can’t stay in vans because you will be moved on, there’s very little space for parking.

Nearest airport

Newquay airport is the nearest airport (around 40 minutes away), Exeter is the next best (2 1/2 hours).


Umm… well, it’s not known for major partying, but it’s a really nice fishing village with loads of traditional Cornish pubs, where it’s nice to sit around the fire and sample the local ale.  For partying I would head to Falmouth or St Ives, with nice bars and plenty of young people, all up for a laugh.

Interesting facts

Porthleven is the only west-facing harbour in Cornwall, and it’s pretty impressive to watch big winter storms hitting the harbor [see top]. It has the highest ratio of blokes to girls any where in the Europe… well that’s what it feels like. There’s still an active fishing community.

Sam’s Golden Rules for surfing Porthleven

  • Don’t come to the wave with a car load of people, you won’t be welcomed with open arms, come by your self or with one friend…we’re a friendly bunch, but we don’t like an instant crowd.
  • Sit and watch the wave for a bit, don’t just paddle straight to the peak — you will push people too deep, the take-off area is only about 2.5 metres across… so not much space.
  • Take a strong leash — quite a few boards that snap or that the leash breaks are washed up into caves at high tide, and aren’t found again or are found by a fisherman 2 miles out to see the next day!!
  • Water is cold, and hold downs can be long, you need to be experienced, and to have surfed reefs before.


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