After a year to forget with the long lockdown of 2020, many of us wanted a much needed break to refresh and create some unforgettable experiences.
With holidays abroad limited and quarantines in place, we saw an unprecedented rise in demand for staycations. We'd instantly refunded everyone when the lockdown first occurred. So we weren't sure how the season would play out.
Within a week of the lockdown restrictions being lifted, we saw a surge in demand for Newquay surf lessons. It quickly became clear surfing would become the UK's most in-demand activity of 2020.
There's no other activity that's so suited to these circumstances. Surfing is a socially-distanced sport by nature. Which makes it the perfect all-weather activity for adults and kids alike looking to escape the city.
Why is Newquay the most popular place to learn to surf?
There's too many reasons to list here! We'll break them down in future blog posts (so be sure to sign up to the mailing list). However let's start with the most obvious. Newquay is the home of British surfing and has been for over 60 years.
The Museum of British Surfing has records of surfing in the UK going back to the 1800's. Lewis Rosenberg and friends took a train down to Newquay in 1929 and that surf trip is the earliest recorded on film. At almost 100 years old, it's fascinating to see in some ways how little has changed, how stoked they are and how much fun they're having.
Easy to get to
The Great Western Rail line that took Lewis and his friends from Brighton into the centre of Newquay town still operates today. The popular route was called "God's Wonderful Railway", "Great Way Round" yet most often known as the "Holiday Line".
The train line also opened up camp sites as an low cost alternative to inns and hotels. Check out this brochure from 1935!
Trains run to Newquay from all over the country. With direct routes from London, Bristol, Birmingham, Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.
Fast forward to today, Newquay not only has a train line that runs into the heart of the town centre but also an airport. The airport is only a 10 min drive to Newquay centre and only a 5 minute drive to our school.
The ease of getting a flight made Newquay the obvious choice for many across the country. You can fly to Newquay from Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester,Bristol, Dublin, Cork, London Stanstead or Gatwick.
A wide variety of accommodation
Although just over 30000 people live in Newquay year round, in the summer this number can swell to over 100000. Luckily the area is perfectly suited with over 50 campsites along with too many hotels and hostels to list.
We did notice that accommodation was snapped up at a rate no-one had seen before. This carried on right into late September when the season usually drops off. Many campsites couldn't open or were operating at limiting capacity due to the restrictions. If you're thinking of booking a trip down, we honestly recommend you secure a place far in advance. All the indications are that we'll be seeing a repeat of last years demand.
Unsure of where is best to stay? Check back for our next post for a carefully curated list of the accommodation we personally recommend our guests.
Safety comes first
From speaking to customers, we knew there was some anxiety around the guidelines and social-distancing. We'd been planning during lockdown for the strictest possible restrictions. So when the guidelines were released and the lockdown was given a lift date, we were well prepared.
At Westcountry Surf School we prioritise personalised lessons and one-on-one time. So it was vital that we guaranteed that our learners were not only unaffected, but had the best experience possible.
We took a range of precautions to guarantee we exceeded the guidelines. Our learners safety is always our number 1 priority. This meant staggering the group start times and hiring more staff. The added running costs were worth it for the response we had.
Our wetsuits and rash suits were always immediately washed and disinfected as it's good practice. However we were more strict on this. To be extra safe, we bought a significant number of brand new wetsuits and rash vests.
We also asked our customers to change into their swimwear beforehand. This is good practice to save time anyway but made sure we limited usage of the changing rooms. This year, we're excited to let you know we've just installed 2 new heated changing rooms.
The benefit of smaller group sizes
As a highly popular and top rated Newquay surf school, our group sizes always were industry-beating at just 6 learners to 1 instructor. This guarantees everyone gets plenty of one-on-one time and everyone gets involved. Yet most importantly, the lesson stays safe.
During the 2020 season, our teaching operations remained largely unaffected as we limited group sizes to 5:1 to meet the 'group of 6' guidelines. As the season progressed, we hovered between group sizes of 5:1 and 6:1.
Quick tip: Always be sure to check if the surf school you're considering has group sizes larger than 6:1. As this can impact the experience and raises safety issues.
We often heard on the phone from customers who'd had a bad experience before learning to surf in a large group. Not only is this unsafe, it doesn't create the best experience for learning.
The feedback we got each day was humbling. We received a record number of reviews on TripAdvisor and Google. We knew our focus on smaller group sizes and a strict safety process had paid off. Not only that, our enviable location with its spacious private car park and on-site facilities meant you could be away from the crowds.
Check back for our next post on the best places to stay in Newquay for every budget.