Words by Cathy Struthers, Poppy Smith, Nadine Huiban
WATERGATE BAY, Cornwall
There are few places that truly have it all, but Watergate Bay is certainly one of them. A vast two mile sandy beach, unrivalled extreme sports facilities, perfect conditions and boutique-style extras. On top of all that it's far quieter than its noisy neighbour Newquay.
The Extreme Academy (www.extremeacademy.co.uk) sits right on the beach and offers expert tuition in surfing, waveskiing, kitesurfing, traction kiting, mountain boarding and kite buggying. If you're after something a bit gentler, this is one of the best stretches of coastal path for windswept hikes.
The bay has recently had a bit of a boutique-style makeover with Jamie Oliver opening his new Fifteen restaurant right on the beach and the stunning Watergate Bay Hotel (www.watergatebayhotel.co.uk) having undergone a recent revamp. With beach boutique furnishings, fresh wooden floors and vast picture windows onto the ocean, the hotel is now a truly hip hangout (and we rate the service as good as it gets in Blighty). The Cooler team shot this month's fashion here and could have stayed forever!
June, July and August can get busy, so try and head here in September when the crowds have gone, the weather's still good and you can have it all to yourself.
Ssh! Tiree is the secret extreme sports capital of the UK. Measuring only 16km by 6km, it sits at the outermost point of the Inner Hebrides, a magically remote spot which provides a natural playground for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and land yachting. With white sandy beaches, clear blue water and long summer days, it's hard to believe it's in the British Isles. You're even likely to see dolphins, sea birds and the occasional sea otter or basking shark.
Tiree's position means there is always a spot where the wind is working with the swell to produce some sort of rideable wave and the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream removes the chill anticipated in such clear blue water, making it a great place for beginners and experts alike (the Tiree Wave Classic is held here in October). If you want to learn, get in touch with Wild Diamond Watersports who run surf, kitesurf and windsurf lessons and also hire out kayaks (www.tireewatersports.co.uk).
Getting to Tiree involves taking either a four-hour ferry crossing from the port of Oban (www.calmac.co.uk), or a flight from Glasgow airport (www.ba.com). Once there, stay at the Millhouse Hostel, a self-catering hostel with family rooms and dorms in a newly converted barn near the old Tiree watermill at Cornaig (01879220435). If there are a few of you, rent an old thatched cottage (www.visitscotland.com) or set up camp anywhere on the island – just be sure to get permission from the Crofter or Township Grazing Clerk.
For more info see www.isleoftiree.com. To request a free Adventure Guide covering the whole of Scotland, call 0845 22 55 121 or log on to visitscotland.com.
It may already be popular with Germany's well-heeled elite, but this tiny island in the North Sea is fast-developing a far hipper reputation as an extreme sports paradise.
In summer it's beach life and party nights amid miles of heavenly beaches and untouched sand dunes, blooming heathland and rich green meadows. All right next to a hip harbour atmosphere when the sun goes down.
But it's the wind that brings the action sports crowd. The Windsurfing World Cup is held here and conditions are so consistent that it's fast getting a reputation as one of the windsurfing and kitesurfing hotspots of the world.
After dark, fuel up at Osteria, Südwäldchen/Dünencamping (www.reiners-osteria-sylt.de), a 'surfers' paradise' near the camping ground, with an easy-going atmosphere and great food. If you want to shake your booty, head for Pony, Strönwai (www.pony-kampen.de) or, during high summer, head back to the beaches along Sylt's west coast where most nights will see some kind of party going down. The Sylt crowd don't need much excuse to throw a beach party - full moon parties, mid-summer parties, but the most famous is the "Ritmo de Barcardi-Party" on July 29 between Hörnum und Rantum.
See www.westerland.de for further information.
France is home to dozens of Europe's most hidden gems. Try these few for size.
For sweet surf spots head for Cap Ferret, a stunning peninsula between Arcachon and the ocean which hides some amazing beach breaks. Further south, avoid the bustle of Biarritz and travel to less touristy Bidart.
For perfect kitesurf conditions, try the wild coast (Côte Sauvage) around Quiberon, Port Blanc or Port Barra. Great for surfer girls too - when conditions are good, waves are around 3 to 4ft, with consistent lefts and rights (see www.spirit-surf-club.com) or Ecole de Surf de Bretagne +33 (0) 297 524 118).
Rock chicks should head for beautiful Fontainebleau, a wonderful forested area with great rocks and fabulous biking through its many tree runs. It may no be as high or steep as Gorges du Verdon, but it’s really fun and there are tons of opportunities (www.fontainebleau-tourisme.com).