Fistral Beach is quite simply, stunning. It’s a long straight sandy stretch reaching from Pentire at the south west end to the tale end of Newquay proper at the northerly end and if you stand with your ankles in the surf and stare straight out to the west the next land you’ll see is America. Well possibly Canada but certainly that neck of the woods. It is the UK’s most famous surf beach and yet for all that it hasn’t been spoiled. Coming from the south coast where we rate beaches by how difficult they are to get to and how likely you are to find anyone else there, it was lovely to find that apart from a little surf shop on one end and a little cluster of surf shops on the other end, there was nothing else to take away from the joy of the beach, and 750 metres of sand in the middle backed by rolling sand dunes that let onto the golf course on the top of the hill.
As we walked down the hill in the morning we could see the waves rolling in but as the tide came up to the high watermark the surf died down so we made camp, remembered just how chilly life can be on a beach in a northerly wind especially when it’s sandblasting your calves, and hightailed it off to the surf shop to hire a windbreak so we could enjoy the sunshine properly – well that and the built in comedy of watching the RNLI courses run through their paces on the beach in front of us.
The girls set to in building a giant boat sandcastle with Grandpa (his speciality) and christened HMS Surf by Kitty.
Definitely shades of my own childhood, I remember making so many boats, all with a bridge big enough to use a spade for the steering wheel, a good bow and lots of seats in between. Where Fistral Beach really came up trumps was when Kitty and I set off for the tide line to find shells to decorate with and filled a little pink bucket in next to no time and the whole boat was decked with white polka dots. Where it fell down a little was the quality of the sand; above the watermark it was too dry, and if we’d tried lower down it would have been too wet. Very Goldilocks. But whilst the finished craft was possibly the most structurally unsound boat on the beach that day, the girls did enjoy taking trips down to the water and back to fill up a bucket, carry it lovingly back up, and try to pour it over the sand to wet it without washing it away.
And all the while Pip entertained himself with tasty fistfuls of sand. In days gone past the girls have both done the hand-sand-mouth manoeuvre, make the most unimpressed and disgusted face ever seen on one so small and never tried it again. Pip still made the face, but then went straight back for another handful. Distracting him from eating the entire beach became a Herculean task, and was inevitably only partly successful. Let’s just say we had some interesting nappies when we got home!
And as the tide started to ebb the surf came back and H and I took the girls off to hire wetsuits and a couple of boogie boards.
And that’s where my photos take a bit of a break. Because given that it was early June and the sea wasn’t that warm, the surf shop were hiring out winter wetsuits. Full length, thick, tight. Getting into them was possibly the funniest thing I have ever tried to do. For a while I was waddling around like a penguin because I just couldn’t get the neoprene to go any further up my legs, even though my arms were in and the zip done up. H seemed to manage a little better and before too long we were hitting the waves, with Grandpa left in charge of all three little ones. From watching the sections of the beach with full board surfers it did look like a lot of fun but we both went for boogie boards mostly because we knew we couldn’t leave the children too long, and we’d get more surfing this way. And actually it was brilliant. The wetsuits were the best decision ever, even though I went swimming in the sea in South Devon in just a cozzie the sea has not warmed up in June and it was definitely a quick dip. With wetsuits on we genuinely didn’t feel we were getting wet for the first 10 minutes, and by the time the water had soaked through we were already warm, it meant we could stay in long enough to remember how best to catch a wave, and oh how I love that feeling when the water catches you and flings you forward.
Dad braved the waves with wooden board and just bathers to show us all how it ought to be done, and then while I reassured Pip that I hadn’t disappeared forever, H took Kitty for a go while Elma took her Grandpa off to jump in every single tide puddle she could find. I’m told she found lots and it would be hard to say who had the more fun of the pair of them.
But putting wetsuits on and off is tiring work, to say nothing of the surfing in between so we packed up and headed to the north end in search of somewhere a bit more sheltered and a promised ice cream.
Up on the top level, with big windows set in a swoop looking out over the bay we found Rick Stein’s Fistral Beach Canteen. It had amazing ice cream, sorbet, piping hot chip butties and a very good treacle tart and we sat at a big table while we watched the surf build and the wind skit across the waves, while the salt dried on my skin, our smiles grew ever wider, and we mentally reversed our ideas about the merits of restaurants on beaches!
What more could you want from a surfing day.
PS – Proof of a little south coast swimming before breakfast!
You can read about the first part of our adventure in A Postcard from the Pentire Peninsula
Ok this really is it. I definitely promise that this is the very last time I will ask, but if you’ve been utterly immune to my entreaties so far and yet you do still intent to vote in the MADs awards, please (a) vote now here, it closes today and (b) vote for Space for the Butterflies for Best Baby Blog – thank you!