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News & Advice

Katy Holland: Surf's up! Time to teach my beach boys how to take to the waves

Are we there yet? It's exhilarating to spend so much time in the sea, even if you do end up drinking most of it

If I learned one lesson during our holiday in Cornwall last summer, it was that you should never wear a wetsuit in public, especially if you've spent the week eating Cornish pasties.

Synthetic bodysuits are designed to make you look very uncool indeed (unless, of course, you think Teletubbies are hip), and they're nigh-on impossible to get off again. I needed the assistance of two close acquaintances, who only agreed to come to my rescue once they'd stopped falling about laughing. Thanks, boys.

As though you don't look silly enough in the gear, you then have to get on a surfboard. While it's moving. In the sea. For some reason, my kids didn't see this as a problem, and were soon catching waves like true dudes. I, meanwhile, spent the entire time being hauled around by the tide and swallowing more sea water than I care to remember.

Despite my incompetence, our sojourn provided the most fun that we've had in a very long time. Surfing (or even just trying to) doesn't half get you fit, and it's exhilarating to spend so much time in the sea, even if you do end up drinking most of it. And if your teacher is the effervescent Pete Abell, owner of Kingsurf at Mawgan Porth (01637 860091; kingsurf.co.uk), you'll end up with kids with serious surfing addictions.

There are other great things about surfing at Mawgan Porth, too – and I don't just mean the cream teas they serve in the Merrymore Inn. Mawgan is pretty much the closest beach to one of my favourite places to stay in Cornwall; the five-star Retallack resort and spa (01637 882400; retallackresort.com), a welcoming family retreat tucked away in the hills.

Retallack manages to balance luxury and tranquility with genuine family-friendliness. There's a mini golf course and adventure playground, bikes to be hired and a glorious swimming pool. But it's the attention to detail and personal service that makes this place truly special. The owners have put their hearts and souls into making this place a joy, and they've succeeded. The spa treatments are worth a visit in their own right, and the lodges are immaculate, with la rooms, private decks and huge beds.

But the kids really only had eyes for one thing; our own personal outdoor hot tub. The novelty of this never wore off, and I must admit I was rather taken with it, too. Relaxing in a warm bubbling pool watching the sunset is the perfect antidote to a day being thrown around by the sea. If you're going to get wet, this is the way to do it, and you don't even need a synthetic body suit.

Summer prices at Retallack start at £600 per week for a two-bedroomed house. This summer, it is offering free surfing lessons for all its guests throughout August.