RIDING CORNWALL'S WAVES WITH PRO SURFER ALAN STOKES

PUBLISHED: 11:59 17 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:17 30 August 2017

SS14T1_Alan-Stokes03

SS14T1_Alan-Stokes03

Cornwall's pro-surfer Alan Stokes reveals his favourite surf beaches in Cornwall and how he got into surfing

Cornwall has captured the hearts of many international surfers. ELLIS TAYLOR talks to Newquay-based pro Alan Stokes about what makes our county so perfect for catching waves

After moving to Cornwall at a young age, Alan Stokes’ passion for surfing was sparked and he’s stayed here ever since.

“We used to live in Aldershot in Surrey and then we moved to Cornwall when I was about five or six,” explains Alan. “Behind the shed in our garden in Aldershot was a polystyrene surfboard. I remember finding that in the garden and Dad saying oh you can bring that with us because there are waves where we’re going to live”’, so I took it with me, not having a clue what surfing was about!”

“I’ve been lucky enough to come at a time when people’s perception of age in sport, particularly surfing, has changed. When I first started people would say that you only have a 10 year career in sport, but last year’s world champion was 40 years old!”

Once the Stokes family made the move down to Newquay, it wasn’t long before Alan started getting involved with the local surf scene. After mucking around in the sea for a while, Alan became a part of the Newquay Surf Life Saving club as well as the Crantock club. “I used to compete in Surf Life Saving events in Cornwall, so I was always around sports in the sea.”

From this grew Alan’s love of surfing, “I then had surf lessons down at Fistral with a guy called John Briant who’s still there giving surf lessons now!”

Aged just 13, Alan had his first big surfing break which has since lead to a host of opportunities “I was asked to go on a trip with Carve surfing magazine. Since then it’s been non-stop! I’ve been bouncing around the world competing. It’s been pretty cool, I’m really lucky.”

Having surfed the world and returned to Newquay, it is clear that Alan thinks highly of Cornwall’s beaches. “I’ve been to loads of coastlands around the world, Australia, America, Hawaii, South Africa, I’ve been to all of them and they’re beautiful places but Cornwall is unique. You’ve got all these options and all these variables for wind and swell. If it’s too big on the north coast you can go to the south coast and vice versa. And then all of our little bays and beaches face different directions, so depending on our winds and the weather, there’s always going to be a little spot that has a rideable wave. There aren’t many places as unique as that in the world.”

Cornwall shores are recognised as some of the most consistent waves in the world, allowing surfers to get in the sea almost every day of the year. This is also makes Cornwall the perfect place for beginners to get started, “the waves are really forgiving and it’s all sand; there are no rocks to worry about. It’s the perfect place to learn to surf,” says Alan before adding “and it’s the perfect place for someone like me who is constantly trying to get better!”

But for Alan, now 33, it isn’t just about catching waves and winning competitions. “I’ve got the opportunity to go to Papa New Guinea at the end of the year to help with a sustainable surf tourism project. It’s really nice that surfing has allowed me to do stuff that is actually going to help communities.” Alan also hopes to try his hand at coaching and making surfboards, but it’s clear that he isn’t going to slow down any time soon.

“I’ve been lucky enough to come at a time when people’s perception of age in sport, particularly surfing, has changed. When I first started people would say that you only have a 10 year career in sport, but last year’s world champion was 40 years old!”

And his thanks go to sponsors: Animal, Luke Hart at Fourth Surfboards, Modom Surf, Bodyglove wetsuits and FCS fins, as well as his family and girlfriend Celine Gehret for their support.

ALAN'S SURF TIPS

Go and have a surf lesson! There’s heaps of good surf schools here, if I could recommend one I’d say go and see my friend Johnny Fryer who’s also been a professional surfer in the UK for years and he’s one of the best coaches in Cornwall. Go and see him and within a few hours he’ll get you surfing really well!

When you buy your first surfboard make sure you buy a really big wide one, something around seven or eight feet. Don’t think you can just jump on a tiny board; it’s just going to make it way harder for you and dangerous for anyone near you!

Whilst you’re learning always go between the black and white flags on the beach…and make sure you can swim!

If you’re a fairly athletic person and are willing to give it a good shot you can learn to catch a wave and stand up in about two hours. Within a day you could be riding waves. With regular practice your standard will improve quickly.

The key is to have good equipment, a nice warm wetsuit and then practice makes perfect!

ALAN'S BEST SURF BEACHES IN CORNWALL

Fistral

It’s now my local and that’s where I like to surf! Fistral is where we have most of the major events like the British Nationals and stuff like that. It’s pretty cool!

Newquay Bay

It’s a bit of a random choice, but when the beaches here are kind of too big and messy, when we have big winter storms, the bay is kind of our saving grace at Newquay because part of the beach always has a rideable wave on it. When I was growing up I learnt to surf in the bay.

Gwithian

It’s kind of the same as Fistral in that it gets heaps and heaps of swell, especially in the summer. It’s a beautiful place, its national trust protected coastline there and it’s just a massive expanse of sand so it’s perfect for all kinds of stuff, surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, everything! There’s always a good spot at Gwithian.

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