When it comes to beaches in Cornwall, you’re spoilt for choice. But you can never forget your first beach — the one that started the Cornish love affair.
Every Cornish local will say their beach is the best. “The surf is always cleaner here,” and “the beach is less crowded” are two sayings you get used to hearing and it’s always nice to explore other beaches. Especially in Cornwall, there are no bad beaches. But your beach is unshakable — it becomes ingrained in you. There’s always something special about it; sometimes it’s a memory, sometimes it’s the ease of getting there from home. But often, it’s so imperfect that it becomes perfect.
The more time you spend around Cornwall, you begin to realise that even those who visit Cornwall end up having their favourite ‘local’ beach. There’s nothing like having a little sense of belonging somewhere — as if you have claim to a little part of the beautiful world.
The way the Cornish sea air hits you is incomparable. Liberating, almost. It makes you feel like you’re at the edge of the world as you look out towards the horizon and I wouldn’t change it for anything. The love affair with a Cornish beach encompasses every single one of the senses: the sand between the toes, the soothing sound of the waves crashing against the shore, that sea smell that isn’t particularly pleasant yet grows on you, and the salted lips you’re left with after ducking under the waves. The earthly beauty of your surroundings soon becomes an afterthought.
Some of my earliest memories include running down to the beach after school with my friends and our parents, cars loaded up with barbecues and wetsuits still damp from the day before. That familiar smell of neoprene resonates throughout me and, even now, when I walk past a wetsuit I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia.
The damp wetsuit probably still had sand lingering in it where it wasn’t rinsed properly the day before. It may as well be lined with sandpaper as you pulled it up over your legs. I fondly remember the little dance trying to reach the zip behind your back. The waves are hitting just right and all you want to do is run and dive into the water already.
With our wetsuits becoming a second skin, we’d stay on the beach until the light diminished. Leaving the beach was always the most difficult part — the thought of another day in paradise being over breaks you. Knowing that you’ll be back in less than 24 hours always helped but it only served to patch the wound. Normally when things become so embedded in your daily routine like this you stop appreciating your surroundings. This never happened to me. Peering out of the window, trying to get a glimpse of the crashing waves as you approach. Anticipating how long it’ll be before you’re diving under the waves on the way out to where the good break is.
Even now, all these years later, I still feel the same excitement when I know I’m getting close; I’m still overcome with the innocent childish joy that I used to be. Nothing has really changed. The natural landscape of Cornwall, on brief inspection, looks the same wherever you are. But when you know, it doesn’t. I can still look down the coastline and pick out the parts unique to my beach. It’s the first love affair that you never forget.