Keeping it Kernow

Tucked away in the tapering southwestern corner of England, the picturesque county of Cornwall is known well amongst the UK surf populace for its rugged, unforgiving coastline and its powerful waves. It jumps between sleepy and storm-battered (winter) and blisteringly hot and thronging with humans (rest of the year). Navigating the daily changes to the landscape is resident rising foil-star, Tom Earl…

Photos: Elliott Glynn

I live in a seaside tourist town called Newquay in the county of Cornwall in England, and it’s a mixed blessing… But I wouldn’t change a thing. There is something particularly special about a typical Cornish summer day foiling at home, taking some food and beers down to the headland above where we foil the most in the summer, to enjoy the warm sunshine. 

Our foil scene is very new and very small. We are still at the stage where everyone knows each other, easily being able to recognize every person in the water from their riding style. The carpark vibes are always high. At our most consistent foil spot we have a full shift change between surfers and foilers – as the tide gets higher and the wave gets long and mushy, the surfers, who have had their fun at the lower punchier tide get out the water and leave the carpark to be replaced with our burgeoning foil scenesters.

Cornwall seems to offer quantity over quality with regards to surfing conditions most of the time. There is nearly always something of some description to surf but most of the time not really good enough to get very excited about. The longer, more interesting spots near to me are surfable but also not really good enough to make you satisfied on those more conventional craft. But as soon as I started foiling here, I was excited and content with my local spots on a daily basis.

“We are still at the stage where everyone knows each other, easily being able to recognize every person in the water from their riding style.”

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Being at such a northerly latitude we nearly always have activity in the Atlantic that will generate some waves in our direction. However, being so far north, our tidal range is also huge, and on spring tides it can exceed seven meters. Around high tide is normally the best for foiling at most spots around here. The sand banks we are foiling over at high tide are left dry with a long walk to the water at low tide. The day these shots were taken, I got in twice around the two high tides.

Being summertime, it gets light at around 5am and goes dark around 10pm, which really means we can foil until our legs give up on us. This is of stark contrast to the deepest darkest parts of winter where it’s barely light at 8am and is already getting dark at 4pm.

We try to avoid peak busy times in the water, especially at the busiest beaches (some of which we have an unspoken common-sense approach to avoid all together) which is normally mid-day during mid-summer when all the holiday makers and learner surfers can crowd the line-up. We have formed a group that includes nearly everyone who foils (mainly prone) in Cornwall called the “Kernow Foil Crew” (Kernow means Cornwall in the native yet rarely spoken Cornish tongue). We have a WhatsApp chat that's been going for some time that helps us share information and also to self-police ourselves to hopefully prevent us from shitting where we eat. Thankfully the best spots are mainly uncrowded due to them being not much of a draw to surfers, as the waves are on the fatter side. These spots also tend to be river mouths with very strong currents that drain out of estuaries, and are generally pretty dangerous to other water users.

“Through the stormier winter months that Cornwall is also notorious for, there are quite a few quality foil spots that come to life, tucked around corners sheltered from the wind and swell.”

Through the stormier winter months that Cornwall is also notorious for, there are quite a few quality foil spots that come to life, tucked around corners sheltered from the wind and swell. Weeks or even months may go by without being able to foil the exposed spots we frequent every day in the summer. They end up massive and out of control with unfavorable winds. We are always trying to find others to go foiling with in those coldest six months of the year.

This summer has been really settled and hot for months now though. Short leg thin wetsuits have been the perfect amount of neoprene, especially with all the pumping we get done. There has been a sprinkling of really good days for shortboarding but mainly it’s been dreamy foil conditions. I enjoy foiling those good shortboard conditions… It’s why I have been #loyaltothefoil for some time now, and that looks set to stay.    

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