With so much sea (and lakes too!), Southeast Cornwall is a fabulous destination for watersports enthusiasts.
You could always go down to one of our gorgeous beaches and simply dive in (or at least have a paddle), but if you’re looking for something a little bit more adventurous, read on…
Surfing, Windsurfing and Kitesurfing
We can’t talk about watersports in Cornwall without of course mentioning surfing. Unlike the brash and busy north coast, our beaches are quieter and more beautiful. You won’t find other surfers getting in your way. There are two excellent surf schools based at Whitsand Bay and the beach is perfect for beginners and intermediate surfers alike.
Surfing at Whitsand Bay, image Adam Gibbard
Kitesurfing combines, as you’d imagine, surfing with flying a kite. The results are spectacular. Skilled kitesurfers can move at incredible speed and use the surf and the wind in the kite to get massive jumps. Once again because of its wide open spaces, Whitsand Bay is an excellent kitesurfing beach.
Windsurfers will love southeast Cornwall – not just for its beaches, but also for the flatter waters of Siblyback Lake. Local windsurfers reckon that the best beaches are Hannafore (ideally one and a half hours either side of high tide when the wind is coming from the southwest – which it usually is), Millendreath (especially at low to mid tide) and Seaton (if the wind is coming from the east or southeast).
South East Cornwall is also superb for scuba diving. The waters off the South East Cornwall coast are teeming with interesting wildlife, especially the numerous reefs close to the surface. Reefs aren’t always so popular with sailors of course, and the area also boasts several diveable wrecks, most notably the SS James Eagan Layne (a WW2 liberty ship sunk by a U-Boat in 1945) and HMS Scylla (a 1970s Royal Navy frigate sunk deliberately in 2004 to create an artificial reef).
East Cornwall Divers provide fully-accredited BSAC Ocean Diver training for beginners plus more advanced courses for experienced divers. They operate frequent club dives and welcome both new and experienced divers from other parts of the country. Care should always be taken when diving in the open sea, especially in and around wrecks, and it is safest to do it with local experts.
East Cornwall Divers
If you arrive in Cornwall by train, you can’t fail to notice that the Hamoaze (that is, the wide stretch of water where the Tamar, Tavy and Lynher estuaries meet, which you’ll cross on Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge) is almost always full of yachts and dinghies. This is a great sailing spot. Saltash Sailing Club organises regular racing events three times a week to take advantage.
Looe has its own harbour and a sailing club that concentrates on dinghy racing.
As well as the Hamoaze, and Plymouth Sound just around the corner, another great natural harbour for sailing is Fowey. The River Fowey, like the Tamar, is navigable for a surprising proportion of its length – but be aware of large ships taking on cargoes of china clay at Bodinnick. Every August sees the Fowey Royal Regatta. As well as ground based attractions (a carnival, crab-catching competitions and a fun run) the Regatta has a full programme of races, including Fowey River class dinghies and Troys, a class of sailing boat only built in Fowey.
Fowey River class dinghy, off Fowey, image Victoria Clare
Rowing and canoeing
You can hire rowing boats for a bit of gentle messing around on the water at Siblyback Lake. However, if your idea of rowing is a little bit more…energetic, you could try your hand at gig racing. Cornish pilot gigs are sea-going boats for six rowers and a cox, and racing them is one of the most important sports in Cornwall. Go to any stretch of coast or large river, and you won’t be far from a gig club. Caradon Gig Club (based at Saltash Sailing Club) has won the men’s world championships more than any other club.
Calstock Regatta, image Victoria Clare
Canoeists will find much to enjoy in South East Cornwall. You could try sea kayaking off the coast (a great way to spot wildlife like birds, seals and even basking sharks – just don’t disturb them by going too close). Just as much fun can be had exploring our rivers and their many creeks (or ‘lakes’). In fact, quite a bit of South East Cornwall is really only accessible by canoe or kayak! There are canoe clubs at Fowey River, Plymouth and on the Tamar. Canoe Tamar run daily guided Canadian canoe trips along the tranquil river.
Exploring the Tamar in a Canadian canoe, image Matt Jessop
Another watersport to try in South East Cornwall is Stand Up Paddleboarding (‘SUP’). SUPRental, based at Whitsand Bay, provide equipment hire and lessons. They run a weekly club evening plus additional group sessions and weekends and holidays. If you have your own board, they’re happy for you to come along for free.
Stand Up Paddleboarding, image Active-8
Walking along the South West Coast Path isn’t enough for some people. If you want to experience the coast as much from the sea as from the land, you should try coasteering. Put on a thick warm wetsuit, buoyancy aid and a helmet and let Active-8’s qualified guides lead you from shallow water, across rocks and ledges, into sea caves and gullies as the sea rises and falls around you. Then, to get the blood pumping, try some bigger jumps into deep water!
Coasteering, image Active-8
You can also try freshwater coasteering at Adrenalin Quarry, in Menheniot. Coasteering at Adrenalin Quarry is unique, not just because it’s inland (so arguably not ‘coast’eering at all!), but also because of ‘The Blob’. Your friend sits on the end of a 12x3m inflatable tube. You climb up the floating tower and jump onto the tube. Your friend shoots up into air, down into the water. You’re next. Children of 10 or older are welcome, making this a great family activity.
The Blob, image Adrenalin Quarry