Surf's up so catch the waves. writes PATRICK LENNON
THE stags and hens have been married off, exams have been celebrated and the kids are heading back to school… Which makes this the perfect time for a beginner like me to learn to ride the waves in Newquay, Britain's surfing capital.
The straight stretch of golden sand at Fistral Beach, which plays host to the top surfing competitions during the summer, was the ideal place to start.
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A two-hour lesson costs £30 with Quiksilver Surf School and the basics were surprisingly easy. I soon had the hang of catching a wave, but standing up on the board proved easier on dry land than on the sea itself.
my falling off without crowds of smug teens and sun-bleached surf dudes tutting and laughing at me.
However, if you fancy something with less potential for wiping out, get in touch with global watersports expert Rob Small at his Crantock Bay Surf School, and take a kayak tour up the Gannel Estuary. It's a bargain at £30 for a half-day and you get to paddle up the river.
The Gannel Estuary is tucked over the hill behind the main drag of pubs and clubs, the perfect antithesis of the larger-than-life party town of Newquay.
On one side, the homes of the moneyed class gaze serenely across to the National Trust headland beyond which buzzards and falcons hover.
Crantock itself is a quaint village with a quiet National Trust-owned beach on which the Crantock School has sole licence to operate. It's a relaxed environment in which to learn to kayak or canoe.
Thyme Gliding along or putting your back into it, the estuary is full of surprises. Rob pointed out Stone Age carvings, lime pits, the site of a WW2 bombing raid on a local schooner and a scuttled ship.
To top it off we got a chance to raid nature's larder for Cornish sam-phire, a sea vegetable in high demand with top chefs like Jamie Oliver. The lesser-known Mermaid's Purse is well worth a nibble too. It looks rather like sage but tastes of thyme. It gets no fresher than hand-picked from your very own kayak.
Back in Newquay, a gentle stroll along the Pentire headland to the west of the town is a rewarding experience at the best of times. But why not have something to walk off when you venture up on to the headland? The Lewinnick Lodge is one of the best-situated eateries in the country.
Perched on the northern edge of the headland, its terrace commands an incredible view of the sea. As for the grub, Cornish seafood features strongly. I had a lovely salmon salad to start, a main course of hake with samphire and then sticky toffee pudding. A three-course dinner with wine is a reasonable £30 a head.
Lord A no less awe-inspiring view is that at the excellent Bay hotel on Esplanade Road where food fit for a lord more than lives up to the breathtaking scenery.
The menu is innovative and hearty at the same time. The glazed duck breast is a real star and again the seafood is amazing.
The crab salad and the grilled turbot were tasty and fresh.
The end of the school holidays doesn't mean that there isn't still plenty going on in and around Newquay.
The World Bellyboarding Championships is on tomorrow.
Taking place at Chapel Porth Beach, St Agnes, it's a back-to-basics competition with no wetsuits, leashes or swim fins. A plank and a swimsuit is all you need for this free event, which celebrates the art of riding traditional wooden boards.
On September 15 and 16 is the 2012 Newquay Fish Festival, one of Cornwall's most celebrated seafood and crafts weekends.
Local produce is cooked in the Quay by local chefs. and there's an entertainment marquee featuring Newquay's own brews from the Atlantic Brewery while on stage there will be a programme of sea shanty singers and groups.
On the Saturday night is the Fish and Chip Ball with Motown music at the harbour and fish and chips galore at Truscotts shop.
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Smashing fare to round off your time in the surf.
TRAVEL with First Great Western from London Paddington to Newquay. Book via firstgreatwestern.co.uk Rooms at The Bay hotel and spa cost from £85 per night in peak season.
Click on newquay-hotels.co.uk/the-bay-html or call 01637 852221. For the Lewinnick Lodge see hospitalitycornwall.com/lewinnicklodge
Quiksilver Surf School lessons cost from £30. See quiksilversurfschoolnewquay.com or call 01637 851800.
To book sea kayak tours of the Gannel Estuary call 07536 117966.