Water sports in St Ives and Carbis Bay

Booked your St Ives holiday? Surf's up! Whether it's playful frolicking in the sea or using your core muscles to stay on top of a paddle board, read our guide to the best water sports to try in St Ives and Carbis Bay.

When you book your holidays in St Ives, there is probably no doubt that you also wish to have some beach fun in the Cornish sunshine! Holidays by the sea in St Ives and Carbis Bay can be enjoyed all year round because the town never sleeps. It gets busier during school holidays and is full of activity, people and a symphony of holiday happiness sounds. Outside of school holidays, it still attracts couples, young families and anyone who isn’t tied to taking their holidays when schools are out!

There are many things to do in St Ives and Carbis Bay; eat in the huge choice of restaurants, visit the many galleries including the iconic Tate St Ives above Porthmeor beach, take boat trips for general sight-seeing or sea fishing, mooch around and enjoy the many local and independent shops, attend St Ives School of Painting to learn or improve art skills but, the one thing that we hear so many times that forms an integral part of everyone’s St Ives holidays is having fun in the stupendously clear and clean sea along the North Coast of Cornwall.

We thought we would offer a guide to the local water sports providers in St Ives and Carbis Bay, or best places to rock pool and snorkel and where you can buy water sport paraphernalia when you are staying at your St Ives or Carbis Bay holiday cottage so, whether it’s learning to sea swim, surf, paddle board, kite surf, kayak or rib ride, Orange Roofs helps you plan your holiday water activities way ahead of your stay!

Surfing and body boarding

There is no denying that the best beach to surf in St Ives if a beginner or to hone new skills like carving and meeting a wave further out from shore, is Porthmeor beach. The beach is on the west side of St Ives and is between Clodgy Point and The Island. To find out the technical reasons on why Porthmeor beach offers the best surf conditions almost all year round, click here

There is a surf school directly on Porthmeor beach called St Ives Surf School and they offer lessons to everyone from the very young (and amazingly cute!) in tiny wetsuits to advanced surfers wanting 1-2-1 tuition. Group lessons are often seen first warming up on the beach on their boards, being taught the key basics of paddling, seeing a wave and popping up to ride the wave back to shore – the ultimate dream!

Wetsuits can be hired from the surf school and the foam board is provided as part of the lesson too. There are public loos at Porthmeor beach and a shower to rinse off after a few hours of fun in the sea.

For surfers who don’t need lessons but plan on coming on holiday to St Ives, Cornwall with surfboards firmly strapped to the car roof, Porthmeor beach is the best place to surf for sure. To know how big the waves will be and if they are ‘clean’, get up to date surf forecasts by clicking this link

If standing up and riding the wave isn’t your thing, then there is a huge amount of fun to be had body boarding! Ideally, be prepared with a good board, fins and either a shorty wet suit with rash vest or full wetsuit. All you need to do is line yourself up with a wave heading for shore and feel the exhilaration as it carries you!

Porthmeor beach has RNLI Lifeguards looking out for everyone’s safety between April to end of October.

Once dried off, there is a beach cafe offering delicious food and drink to replenish calories burned  and a place to sit and watch others trying to achieve the ultimate dream of riding the best wave.

Stand Up Paddle-boarding (aka SUP boarding)

This is a different form of water sport using a board! Stand up Paddle boarding (SUP for short) is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. It is usually done at a more sedate pace (unless you compete of course!) but is normally associated with achieving a calm sense of mindfulness – well, once mastered that is. Using a single blade paddle, the aim ideally is to stand up on the board and navigate your way along calm seas, rivers and lakes. Experienced SUP boarders also surf the waves and are able to cope with choppier seas but we recommend trying SUP boarding for the first time when the sea is like glass! Don’t worry about never getting off your knees while paddling if balance is not a strong point, it’s still a perfect way to experience the outdoors and enjoy some fantastic core and upper body exercise.

For lessons with an instructor, which may be an idea if there are slight nerves, St Ives Surf School also provides paddle boarding lessons from Porthminster beach where the sea is normally far calmer than the surf mecca of Porthmeor beach. Porthminster beach has loos and a cafe for the vital re-fuelling after much exertion. RNLI lifeguards ensure safety between mid-May and late-September.

Ocean Sports Centre is another great place to go for lessons and SUP board hire as it is located on Carbis Bay beach (a private blue flag beach). There are group or 1-2-1 lessons available as well as guided tours around the headlands of St Ives Bay, Cornwall. Carbis Bay beach has loos, outdoor showers and a wonderful cafe to stop at to replenish fluids after a great boarding sesh! Carbis Bay beach is life-guarded by RNLI between July and September.

The best place in St Ives to try your hand at SUP boarding for the first time, if not opting to have instructor lessons, is from St Ives harbour where it is protected from strong currents and choppy water. St Ives Boat Trips offer SUP board hire where a safety boat keeps a watchful eye ensuring safety at all times. If the conditions are conducive to exploring a little further afield and ability allows, then they encourage small jaunts to Porthminster beach for picnics too!

Sea Kayaking


Sea Kayaking is a wonderful way to explore further from the beach and navigate around headlands to explore coves, shipwrecks and caves only accessible by boat. Ideally, only hire a kayak to discover the stunning Cornish coastline alone if proficient in paddling and a strong swimmer. Hiring kayaks from Porthminster beach or Carbis Bay beach means being equipped with the sea kayak, buoyancy-aid and double-ended paddle. There is something quite magical about being afloat, feeling the breeze across sun-drenched skin and watching the sun reflect off the sea like diamonds. The peace and tranquility of sea kayaking is so good for the soul and is made all the more extraordinary when met face to face by an inquisitive seal or playful dolphin.

The two places to get sea kayaking instruction or guided tours in St Ives and Carbis Bay are St Ives Surf School and Ocean Sports Centre. To simply hire a kayak and explore St Ives Bay with a safety boat keeping a keen eye on you, go to St Ives Boat Trips.

Bringing your own sea kayak? We recommend you launch from St Ives harbour as normally there is room on the slipway to park up temporarily and remove the kayak from the car roof before parking it in a Cornwall Council car park (see our list here) or back in your allocated parking space of your St Ives holiday cottage or Carbis Bay holiday rental. If the tide is out, perhaps you already have a small trolley? If not, it’s recommended as when the tide is all the way out, it can be a long walk! To check out the St Ives tide times as supplied by BBC Weather, click here.


A new and exciting water sport to try if you want to taste the feeling of flying over water! Ocean Sports Centre in Carbis Bay is the first to instruct the exciting new sport of Foiling in the safety of the bay and with the help of a jet ski. Master the art of riding the Hydrofoil then head further from the shore to catch more waves and even ocean swells. Click here to find out more and book a lesson!

Foiling is a cousin to traditional surfing, but foil surfing is different to riding a standard surfboard or stand-up paddle board on a wave. For one, it is much harder, giving a new thrill to dedicated wave riders who are exploring and experimenting with this cutting-edge craft. It is advisable that only proficient sea swimmers and fairly experienced water sports fanatics try this and Ocean Sports Centre instruct people who are aged 16 or over.

Photo courtesy of Fliteboard


There may not be barrier reefs, warm sea water or exotically coloured fish in St Ives Bay but snorkelling around sheltered coves can be a very pleasant pastime and way to spend time in the water whilst on holiday in St Ives and Carbis Bay; you will see an abundance of coastal wildlife in its natural habitat. Ideally be equipped with a quality mask that seals effectively against the face and a snorkel that allows good airflow. Flippers or fins are a must if distance is to be covered or you fancy free diving to observe crabs on the sea bed and, if you plan to stay in the water for a while, get a well fitting wetsuit to regulate your body temperature most effectively.

One of best places to snorkel in St Ives is off Bamaluz beach; explore the rocks in the direction and around to Porthgwidden beach or swim towards the harbour wall and into St Ives harbour. If you are a strong swimmer and feel confident in the water, there are some wonderful coves to explore in the direction of Clodgy Point which can only really be accessed by sea.

From Carbis Bay, swim Porthminster point and your snorkelling will take in real wonders of St Ives Bay perhaps including a seal or two!

Always let someone know where you are heading and be sure to take a high viz float or head cap with you if you plan a long stint in the sea; this is for visibility and warmth! Check tide times and weather reports also for safety reasons and always make sure that the sea is calm with no forecasts of big swells.

Rock pooling

Possibly the nation’s favourite pastime whilst on holiday in St Ives!? It’s not difficult to see why too. When the tide goes out around Porthmeor beach, Porthminster beach, Porthgwidden beach and Bamaluz beach, the rocks exposed offer delights for all to see and explore! Crabs, anemones, shrimps, hermits, limpets, starfish, mussels, goby or pipefish, colourful seaweed and so much more. Remember, you could pick your own dinner if you love mussels (as long as the month you are picking them in has a ‘r’ in it!). So, all you need is patience, a bucket, net and sun cream so the rest is easy!

Our advice would be to plan your rock pooling a few hours before low tide so there is ample time to take in all the joys of the pools. Take care on slippery rocks so try and wear no-slip beach shoes and have a towel ready for cold wet feet.

Places to buy water sport equipment in and near St Ives

There are some small shops in St Ives that sell buckets and nets for rock pooling as well as body boards and wetsuits. There are also larger, more specialised shops that sell wetsuits for surfing and swimming, robies, kayaks, surfboards, bodyboards, SUP boards, buoyancy aids, fins and snorkelling gear so we have created a list below which are all within a short drive of St Ives and Carbis Bay.

  • Wind & Sea on Fore Street, St Ives sell wetsuits, foam boards and bodyboards

  • SaltRock on Fore Street, St Ives sell wetsuits, foam boards and bodyboards

  • Mountain Warehouse on Fore Street, St Ives sell wetsuits, swimsuits, rash vests and aqua shoes

  • West Cornwall Surf Company in Rose-an-Grouse (near St Erth) sells everything from SUP boards, surf boards, kayaks, masks and snorkels to wetsuits, rash vests and so much more

  • Watersports Warehouse in Hayle sells practically everything for a water sport fanatic whether a beginner or advanced. Their shop is online with a click and collect service.

  • Down The Line Surf Co Ltd in Hayle specialises in surfboards, bodyboards and their accessories as well as the cool surf wear after sundown.

We hope you have found this article useful with it focussing on water sports in St Ives and Carbis Bay?

To read our article about water sports in West Cornwall which includes coasteering and kite surfing click here

For a personal account from a sea swimmer in Cornwall read more here

And finally, but possibly most importantly stay safe on our beaches in Cornwall by reading our tips here

And lastly, a kind request…

We would like to finish this article with a request if we may. Please do respect the natural habitats of the marine life along our coast by not interfering with their peace and solitude, they are very happy being observed but not harassed. Also, please dispose of any plastic you have bought as part of your beach fun such as buckets, fishing line, body boards responsibly. If there is no obvious recycling bin, please ask a local shop keeper where the nearest one is in St Ives or Carbis Bay. If you have larger plastic items to leave behind after staying at your St Ives or Carbis Bay holiday cottage booked via Orange Roofs, please give our team a call on 01736 806100 and we can arrange for it to be removed and recycled.

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