A Beginners Guide to Surfing Widemouth Bay
Widemouth Bay (In Cornish: Porth an Men) sits three miles to the south of Bude town. It is made up of two main beach areas both with their own carpark, cafe and toilet facilities. Black Rock Beach sits at the south of Widemouth Bay and Trelawny Beach to the North. The name Trelawny has all but faded away and the Trelawny Beach is more commonly referred to as Widemouth Beach. Both beaches share a large sandy bay between Black Rock (The big black mound of rock) on the south side of Black Rock beach and Camel Rock (the large rock that looks like a one humped camel!) on the north side of Widemouth Beach. There is no defining line between the two beaches from low tide until mid to high tide where there are some low lying rocks at mid tide and a larger rock towards the high tide area of the beach. Both beaches can be accessed by one another across the sand unless there is a Spring High tide where the beaches are cut off from one another.
The benefits of surfing are pretty clear which is why surfing has become so popular. Widemouth Bay is especially popular due to the location of the bay, the convenient position of beach carparks, the cafes, the black and white flagged area (surfing zone – Widemouth is the only beach in the Bude area to have a designated surfing area) and the waves themselves. The waves at Widemouth often break more gently than Bude’s other surfing beaches and this is for two main reasons. Firstly, Widemouth Bay is positioned in the corner of Bude’s west facing coastline. This offers the beach some shelter from the brunt of swells that have arrive from a more southerly direction. This shelter often makes the waves smaller and less powerful. The second reason is due to the shape of the bay and low lying areas at the top of the beach. These low lying areas at the top of the beach allow sand (which is blown around by the wind) to escape off of the beach and not be built up at the top of the beach causing the beach to be much steeper. The beach is also larger which allows for the sand to move around the beach. This movement of sand caused by the wind and the waves causes sand banks also known as sand bars too be formed. It is these sand banks along with the swell that moves over them which dictates the shape, speed and power of the waves. So with less swell and more gently sloping sandbanks make Widemouth Bay the beginner surfers beach of choice!
Dangers – Due to the designated surfing area marked out by black and white chequered flags, we would always recommend surfing in this area. We would not recommend surfing when the lifeguards are not in operation, however if you did choose to surf during this time then there are some things that you should be aware of. Both Black Rock, Widemouth Beach and most surfing beaches have currents that move water along the beach and out beyond the breaking waves. These are called Rips Currents. They can be dangerous if you don’t know what you to do if you end up in one (See post on Rips and beach safety), however if you do know how to spot a Rip and how to get in and out of one then they can be very helpful as you can use them to move around the beach to get to where you wish to get to. The lifeguards will put their flags in a position so that you will not need to worry too much about these, however we would recommend reading the information about these. If you did go surfing when the beach is not lifeguarded then we would recommend:
That you always stay in a depth where you can keep your feet on the ground. This helps as you know that you can always stand up and walk back in to the shore if you feel uncomfortable. It also helps you to understand which way the currents are moving.
Make note of your position in relation to the place where you got in. To do this if you try to notice a fixed marker in the foreground (not a person or dog as they move!) and line it up with a fixed marker in the back ground. An example of this would be to line up a large rock on the beach and a house on the cliff. By lining these two objects up will allow you to take note of any drifting that may not be aware of. You can then use these markers to try and hold your position.
The Widemouth Beach Cafe (which can be seen up on the cliff) is usually a good marker to try and stay in front of. This puts you roughly in the middle of the beach and so if you do start to drift during your surfing session then you have plenty of time to act and move back in to position.
When is the best time to surf at in Widemouth Bay?
At Freewave Surf Academy we would always recommend surfing in Widemouth Bay 2 hours after high tide or two hours after low tide. There are lots of other times that may a be better time to surf but this is often dependent on the size of the tide, the swell size, wind direction and speed as well as the day of the week. These factors change regularly making it difficult to be specific for each given day. The reason that we would recommend two hours after high or low tide is because the tide is a factor that does not change according to the weather. We know where the waves are going to be years in advance on any given day and so it is a factor that we can guarantee. 2 hours after high tide and or 2 hours after low tide is where the waves will be breaking over the flattest section of the beach (Do you remember reading above about the effect sand banks have on breaking waves?). This flat section causes the waves break more gently and also causes the white water waves to travel a further distance. This travel distance allows more time for learners to get up to their feet and more distance and time in which to enjoy riding the wave in a stand up position. The more time on the wave, the more learning you get and the quicker you progress! There are other stages of tide that you can surf in Widemouth Bay too:
High Tide – Spring high tide is not a good time to learn to surf at Widemouth Bay although small neap high tides can be fun as long as the waves are small. This risk at high tides are that you don’t get a lot of distance to ride the wave before being ejected on to the dry sand!
Mid tide – This is the best stage of tide (See above for details why this is?)
Low tide – Spring and Neap low tide is very much dependent on the shape of the sand banks at the time (which changes frequently overt the year) as well as the swell size and quality. For more information on surf reporting read How to Read a Surf Report