Thurso East attracts world-class surfers and the Cribber surf-break off Newquay’s Fistral beach does passable imitations of Hawaii. Yet Porthleven, south Cornwall, is the wave to really test your mettle. It jacks suddenly outside the harbour wall. Make the steep take-off and you’re in for a fast, intense ride with the chance of a barrel (where surfers ride within the curl of a breaking wave). Get it wrong at low tide and you’ll end up picking barnacles from your forehead. Do it at high tide and the Atlantic will slam you into the coastline’s gullies.
The most dangerous wave in Britain, agrees Roger Sharp, editor of UK surf magazine Carve: “There are way more injuries and broken boards here than elsewhere.” Study the wave from the harbour wall when it’s big and ask watching surfers for tips – there are always some when Porthleven is pumping. Godrevy beach is a tough, but a safer option on the North Cornish coast.
As challenging as the surf is catching a wave before the whipsharp pack of locals and pros descend. They may be doing you a favour. ● To find out more, see visitcornwall.com/ places/porthleven as The Catwalk, this is a 9a-graded route that only the best weekend heroes can aspire to climb. It’s not just a question of hauling yourself up the rock face with brute force; completing its technical overhang challenges your mind as much as your muscles.
A grade too far? First stage Raindogs should be on every 8a climber’s wish list; a classic endurance route, with a panicky, power-sapping grab at the summit. Either way, this is sport climbing at its best: sensationally beautiful – an amphitheatre of rock arcing before a pretty valley like a stage set for a swords-and-sandals epic – always friendly. ● Visit the UK Climbing website (ukclimbing.com) for information on routes and local guides.