The Ultimate Guide to Bude Surf

by Oliver Sander

Bude surf kicks off the north coast of Cornwall not far from the county line with Devon, offering reliable beach breaks that pull off plenty of strength from the Atlantic swell.

Bude surf

Bude surf at a glance

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The good

  • Reliable, west-facing beach breaks
  • Top-class surf schools
  • Lovely town atmosphere

The bad

  • Hard paddle outs
  • Some rips
  • Busy in summer

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in England and surfing in Cornwall

What’s in this guide to Bude sufing?

An introduction to the Bude surf

Bude is a bit like Newquay without the pizzazz. A down-to-earth holiday town and fishing port, it sits in the middle of some fantastic surf beaches in the far northern reaches of Cornwall. Okay, so there’s no uber-quality break like Fistral. But there’s excellent reliability that keeps it working throughout summer and winter, along with surf schools that cater well to the family crowds between June and August. If you’re planning a trip to the Cornish beaches this year and fancy trying your hand on the waves, you can hardly go wrong with Bude!

Intermediate surfers shouldn’t despair at that. Bring a car and you can whiz down to catch Widemouth at full tide or on the push. that gives wally, punchy waves that are classic UK surf stuff with lots of power behind them (the paddle can be hell but it’s worth it). There are also some nice points and reef breaks that the locals know of around the rugged headlands between Bude town and the local coves.

Where is Bude?

Bude is just off the A39 on the north-west coast of Cornwall. It’s around 50 minutes’ driving from Barstaple and the same from Padstow. It’s pretty near to the county line with Devon, with beaches to its west that face directly out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Bristol is the nearest major city. Getting in from there by road should take in the region of 2.5 hours, but you’ll need to go via Exeter on the M5.

A guide to the Bude surf spots

There are only a handful of surf spots in Bude itself, but they should offer enough to fill any surf holiday. The reason? Although they are technically beach breaks – and typically Cornish ones at that – they also pack in reef and point sections that give waves of a whole different sort.

Crooklets Beach

Sandymouth Bay

Sandymouth Bay is a very reliable beach break that can work on swells of 2 foot and up. It’s often bigger than that but has a knack of staying nice and clean whenever there’s anything other than a straight southerly wind. Can be dumpy at full tide but nice and rippable at low tide, when it will attract some of the best of the local shortboard crew. There’s parking but it’s paid National Trust.

Crooklets Beach

Classic north Cornwall stuff, with brown sands and grassy headlands that poke out west into the Celtic Sea, Crooklets Beach gets some fun sandbar waves on W and SW swells. They can be fast and sometimes hollow, but also decent for starters when they are smaller. There are a few pockets of reef to watch out for in the middle of the bay, along with the compulsory Bude rips.

Summerleaze Beach

Summerleaze is the closest beach to Bude town. You’ll find it tucked between the headlands just below Bude Castle. Technically a rivermouth break, it hits north where the River Neet or Strat divides the bay. There can be some rippy conditions that throw you across shore, but low tide is nice for mushy sets on the north end – lots of the local schools use them. The outer section can see a hollow barrel but it needs a decent size on a low tide, while high tide can offer some nice rights off the harbor. Well surfed, especially in the winter.

Widemouth Bay

Widemouth Bay is one of the most spectacular spots of all when it comes to Bude surf. Lying to the south of town, it spreads down over half a kilometer’s worth of the Cornish shoreline right below the SW Coast Path. It’s got excellent exposure to the SW and W swells, which keeps it churning out waves when Summerleaze is quiet. Often a foot or so bigger than other Bude surf spots up north. The great thing about Widemouth Bay is the mix of levels that it can handle at once. There are ample beach break peaks for the beginner schools who often come in spring and summer. They’re matched by the patches of reef that meet at Black Rock and Camel Rock, offering neat rights and lefts that can tube for a few seconds.

Where to stay when surfing in Bude

Bude has a nice mix of glamping and camping, of pubs and deluxe hotels. Here’s a little snippet of some of the best options for surfers hitting the town this year…

Atlantic Surf Pods

Surf-hotel-top-pick

Try not to be tempted by the uber-cool Atlantic Surf Pods. Hidden under the hedgerows and oaks of a farm just outside of Bude, these charming glamping pods are an experience in themselves. There’s easy access to Widemouth and Summerleaze, in quaint, hobbit-like boltholes or quirky treehouses.

The Beach 

Best for: Some class

The Beach is a gorgeous B&B hotel right on the seafront of Bude. There’s nothing quaint or kitschy about it – it’s all-round class and style, from the elegant New England suites to the salt-washed bar terrace overlooking the coast. Go on – treat yourself!

Brendon Arms

Best for: Feeling the local vibes

Want to feel like a real local in Bude? There’s nothing better than a stay in the heart old pub of the Brendon Arms. A classic Cornish tavern, it offers cozy rooms just 300 yards from Summerleaze Beach, along with an on-site bar that serves West Country ciders and ale. It’s especially lovely in the summer when the beer garden is in action.

When to surf in Bude

We’d say the best time to surf in Bude is in the autumn, when the water can still be warm but you don’t have the same crowds to contend with. Expert surfers are likely to enjoy the winter swells, which can cook up overheads on exposed Widemouth Bay. Spring has options for all levels. The summer tends to lend itself to the beginner crew.

Summer (June-Aug)

Summer is surprisingly great fun in Bude. The westerly orientation of the beaches ensures there’s plenty of power coming off the Atlantic, so there are lots of surfable days. Mornings (early mornings) are best because the winds tend to be lower and the beaches quieter. Swells are typically smaller but that’s good for beginners looking to hit the surf schools of Summerleaze and Widemouth.

Autumn (Sept-Nov)

Autumn is arguably the best season of all on the Bude surf. The crowds from the summer holidays have dispersed, so you’ll almost always find somewhere to yourself on the long stretches of Widemouth Bay. On top of that, the Atlantic shows some serious attitude and you can get lovely big 10 footers curling into the Celtic Sea. It’s the perfect time for improving intermediates.

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Winter (Dec-March)

Storms and onshore winds are the enemy of Bude surf schools come the winter months. There’s a drop in the number of days that are suitable for beginners here, but the more advanced riders tend to love it, especially with those reefs down on Widemouth that can handle up to 12 foot. Prepare for something pretty exhausting – the paddle out in this part of Cornwall can be gnarly on heavier winter days.

Spring (April & May)

Spring is a mix of harder and heavier waves suited to the Widemouth Bay reef and easier conditions that open the beginner breaks of Summerleaze. Those spring surge tides can be wonderful on the harbor wall, too, but that’s an expert break. The end of the season, in May, is a fantastic option for families who want to dodge the summer crowds.

Surf shops in Bude

Bude is well-stocked on the surf shop front. Some offer rentals on wetsuits and boards for the day, while others are also fully-fledged stores filled with buy boards and gear.

A surfer in Bude

Zuma Jay

Zuma Jay’s has one of the largest selections of surf hardware in town. They stock a huge range of wetsuits, with branded C-skins and other options that are tailor-made for Cornish waters. There’s also a big board rack, complete with foamies and shorties alike.

Ann’s Cottage Surf Shop

Ann’s Cottage Surf Shop is now a pretty big player in the UK online market. But it doesn’t forget its roots, and this Cornwall outlet is a case in point. We’ve always had super-friendly service and professional fitting advice for wetsuits. There’s also a mega array of surf fashion if you’re after a few threads.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This article is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in England and surfing in Cornwall

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