Standup paddle at Fistral Beach – multi terrain!

Standup paddle at Fistral Beach – multi terrain!

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Fistral Beach is one of the more swell exposed beaches in the country which makes it a great place for surfing on a daily basis, but historically, it hasn’t been a very versatile place for flatwater sup paddling, exploration and skills building. Sure a few people to sup surf there but there will probably always be a quieter more suitable standup wave somewhere else not too far away.

Reb watches Kate atop her SUP at Little Fistral
Reb watches Kate atop her SUP at Little Fistral

However, things are changing around here. Right now, we are in the middle of an extended flat spell thanks to a large high pressure that’s settled over the British Isles. It’s preventing any new swell coming through and with all the sunshine and light winds it reminds me a lot of the famous heatwave of 2013, the best one in a generation. At the other end of the scale, we had the worst winter storms in living memory which have actually changed the profile of the beach. Now, Fistral Beach is more steeply shelving and deeper at high tide than it used to be, and this effectively flattens out surf up to the 2ft range.

Deep at high tide, and incredibly clear
Deep at high tide, and incredibly clear

The blocking high pressures and deep water at high tide have combined to make Fistral a much more tranquil place, and now its doors are opening, if just ajar, to standup paddle boarding, and unlike a lot of the large exposed beaches in Cornwall, Fistral is actually a pretty impressive place to paddle around.

Turquoise waters at Little Fistral
Turquoise waters at Little Fistral

The rocky areas at North and Little Fistral fill up nicely as the tide comes in, creating lots of interesting gullies to explore and shoot through on your paddle board. On these gentle northerly winds a nice route that we’ve been getting into at the school is to paddle out from North Fistral, wide of the rocks to the right and towards the lee of the Towan Headland to practise some skill drills. Once the balance is tuned in, we go for a little mooch about through the gulleys between the rock stacks, and if the energy levels are good, take a look out to the Cribbar to get a sense of being out in some really open water. Here, by lining up with buildings on land, you can get a sense of how much even light wind and slack tides can affect your positioning.

Exploring the rocky gullies of the Towan Headland via standup
Exploring the rocky gullies of the Towan Headland via standup

The route home is a straightforward downhill run with the wind and swell (even when it’s FLAT, there’s always something moving around out there) or for the adventurous, continuing right around the Cribbar Headland and then coming in at the lifeboat slipway. Caution is advised though: the route around the headland is always further than you think, ALWAYS choppy thanks to the effect of the tide over the reef and climbing out at the slipway is only safe at high tide when the metal runners are covered up. And even then it’s slippery.

Out in the deep between the launch at North Fistral and the Towan Headland
Out in the deep between the launch at North Fistral and the Towan Headland

If on the odd day you find yourself down at Fistral on a low tide, with not many surfers about because the swell is so small, outside of the lifeguarded flagged areas you can pick up some really nice little waves that peter out as they run into the deeper gulley that runs along the shoreline. It’s a good spot to get your wave timing down and practise kicking out after your ride into the deep water. There’s usually a handy rip to paddle back out in too.

SUP Yoga? Why not give it a shot in a sheltered lagoon
SUP Yoga? Why not give it a shot in a sheltered lagoon

On first impressions Fistral doesn’t really sell itself as a versatile sup venue but once that swell drops a load of options open up from basic paddling to catching waves to downwinding to exploration. The low tide walk also isn’t as far as Watergate for example, AND, you can rent SUP boards from us at Surf Sanctuary for £20 for half a day. We of course offer instruction too to help with paddling basics and very importantly, planning a session on the sea. We overlook Fistral from our base at the Headland Hotel so it’s an ideal spot to survey conditions before heading in.

Tom, paddling out past the Headland Hotel and Surf Sanctuary HQ
Tom, paddling out past the Headland Hotel and Surf Sanctuary HQ

If you would like any more info on standup paddle boarding at Fistral, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Cheers! Oh, and here’s that video:

small clean waves that grow in the sea from Dom Moore on Vimeo.