If you're looking for specific information about the festival, click the related link in the content table. If not, scroll on to read about my experience at Boardmasters 2017.
- What is Boardmasters?
- When is Boardmasters?
- Where is Boardmasters festival?
- How to get to Boardmasters and move between Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach
- How to get Boardmasters tickets
- Boardmasters camping and glamping
- What to bring to Boardmasters
- The Visa contactless challenge
- Surfers Against Sewage
- Wrap up: my Boardmasters experience
- Pin for later
What is Boardmasters?
Boardmasters is one of the best-known festivals in Cornwall. It combines live music performances, a bit of comedy and DJ sets with world class surfing, BMX and skate competitions.
When is Boardmasters?
The festival usually takes place around the second weekend of August. This year, the Boardmaster dates were August 9-13. The Boardmaster 2018 dates will be announced soon and I'll update this post when they are.
The Boardmaster stage times can be found on the app. They weren't listed on the website this year, but we did get a handy booklet with what was going on where each day once we arrived at the festival.
Where is Boardmasters festival?
Boardmasters takes place in Newquay in Cornwall, which is in the south of the UK. The Boardmasters festival location is actually split between Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach.
Watergate Bay is the main Boardmasters location. It's where you can find the festival camping grounds as well as the festival arena with more than 10 stages, some fun entertainment and a lot of food and drink stands.
Fistral Beach is where all the sports action happens. There's a Surf Village where you can find surf and skate brands – watch out for the outlet stand, it's dangerous! ;-) – as well as some food stands. It also has a beach bar where you can catch some live music during the day, but the main events at Fistral beach are the surfing, BMX and skate sessions.
How to get to Boardmasters and move between Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach
If you're coming from abroad, like I did, you have two main options. You can either fly to Bristol Airport and then book a shuttle to take you to the festival grounds, or you can fly into Newquay Airport.
As there are no direct flights between Newquay and Brussels, it was quicker for my friend and me to fly into Bristol and then take a shuttle taxi. The drive from Bristol to Newquay is about 2.5 hours without traffic.
If you're planning to extend your trip with a little road trip along the Cornish coast, you can also rent a car at the airport. Just take into account that you'll then have to pay to park it at the festival while you're there.
By car or campervan
There's a large Boardmasters parking for those driving to the festival where you can park per day or for the whole weekend. In 2017, the prices were £10 per day, £18 for the weekend. Keep in mind that there's a £10 charge if you want to leave the parking and get back on. This is because traffic in the area is heavy during the festival and so people are discouraged to use the car.
If you can have someone drop you off, they can do so at one of the drop off zones.
Campervans get their own parking.
All of these parkings, as well as the festival's campsites, are located at Watergate Bay. To get to Fistral Beach, you can take a shuttle. More on that a bit further down below.
Newquay train station is a 10-minute drive from Watergate Bay and a 20- to 30-minute walk from Fistral Beach. There are shuttle buses running between the train station and both of the festival locations.
With Big Green Coach
Big Green Coach is the official Boardmasters bus partner. In 2017, the company drove festival goers from 23 different locations straight to the Newquay festival.
The Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach shuttle bus
There's a Boardmasters coach running from 7 in the morning until 4.30 at night (4 p.m. Monday after the festival) between Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach. It's a short ride that lasts only 20 minutes without traffic, but we experienced quite a bit of traffic 3 of the 4 times we used the shuttle.
A single ticket cost £4 while a return ticket was £6. Take into account that you first need to buy your ticket at the bus ticket stand. You can't buy it on the bus.
Also, while the shuttle bus does drop you off right at the campground entrance when going to Watergate Bay, it doesn't actually drop you off at Fistral Beach. Instead, it drops you in the center of Newquay from where it's another 20-minute walk to the actual beach.
I think it's organized like this both to spare the town the traffic and to give a boost to the local economy. You see, the walk from the shuttle drop off point to Fistral Beach goes straight through the main shopping street and you'll pass lots of supermarkets, coffee bars, and clothing stores.
How to get Boardmasters tickets
Boardmasters 2018 tickets can be bought via the official website.
In 2018, Boardmasters ticket prices range from £49 for an adult single day ticket to £350 for the top VIP Charger experience.
My friend and I enjoyed a VIP Boardmasters ticket which included access to an exclusive VIP area with a bar and its own stage.
The VIP ticket also gives you access to the VIP camping ground, but we stayed in the glamping area. More about both below.
A few things to know
How you get your ticket
When you order your ticket online, you won't get it sent to you straight away. Tickets are sent out two to three weeks before the festival starts. You also have the option to get an e-ticket that you then print yourself at home.
Tiered ticket system and Boardmasters deposit scheme
Boardmasters works with a tiered ticket system. That means that tickets are cheapest when they go on sale (“Early Bird”) and get more expensive as the festival approaches.
If you want to get one of the Early Bird tickets but don't have the money yet to pay everything at once, there's a deposit scheme. This system allows you to pay a deposit that secures your ticket at the then current price. You then have to pay the remaining amount by a certain deadline.
There is no Boardmasters refund possible unless you buy extra refund protection. This goes for all types of tickets as well as for the deposit scheme.
Separate tickets for Beach Sessions and after parties
Also good to know is that you need separate tickets for the Beach Sessions on Wednesday and Thursday at Fistral Beach, as well as for the after parties in Newquay center. This is unless you have the most expensive Charger ticket.
Boardmaster after party tickets ranged from £4 to £13 depending on the date and location. The Beach Sessions cost £16 per night.
Day ticket limitations
Boardmasters day tickets do not allow entrance to the camping grounds and do also not allow you to leave the festival site and re-enter again.
Boardmasters camping and glamping
The Boardmasters campsite consists out of the regular camping grounds which are divided up into different areas, the Boardmasters VIP camping and the glamping area.
We stayed at the Cloud Nine glamping site. I'll cover that first and will then tell you what I noticed about the regular camping grounds, as we needed to walk through there to get to the main arena and the shuttle buses.
Glamping at Boardmasters
The glamping area could be entered from the main campsite. The entrance was guarded by security and there was a campsite manager keeping an eye on things or there if you had any questions.
Features of the glamping site:
- reservation of lodging possible beforehand
- proper toilets and sicks
- a lounge area with makeup tables and couches
- free WiFi
- its own food bus
Glamping ticket holders also got a VIP parking pass.
Accommodation at the glamping site consisted of pre-erected tents, bell tents, tipis, yurts, shire huts and domes. Each of these options came with a bunch of in-tent features.
We stayed in a two-person bell tent which included the following, aside from use of all the glamping site features:
- a canvas Door w/ entrance doormat
- 2 single beds bit cotton linen, duvets and pillows
- a ground sheet and flooring
- 2 beach chairs
- a small table and a bedside table
- a small vanity mirror
- a battery operated hanging room light
- a battery operated lantern
- 2 bath towels
I'd been glamping once before and while this was different, I absolutely loved having a bit of luxury at the festival. I stayed in regular tents at a festival a few years, but chocolate knows I've gotten too old for that. Age is a valid excuse, right? :D
When we arrived, we could just throw our suitcase inside and head to Fistral Beach. The free WiFi was also a major plus for me as my data wasn't always working the way it should have.
And the toilets. Well, I would book the glamping just for the toilets!
Glamping vs VIP camping at Boardmasters
Aside from the glamping area, there was also a Boardmasters VIP camping. As far as I could tell, there was only one difference between the VIP camping and the glamping area and that was that at the VIP campsite, you had to pitch your own tent.
All VIP ticket holders could make use of the VIP campsite, but you could also have a VIP festival ticket and still book the glamping.
My friend and I were hosted by Visa at the festival as I was on assignment for them there and we got the VIP festival experience as well as a spot on the glamping site.
Regular camping at Boardmasters
If you plan on staying at the regular campsite, there's no need to make a reservation beforehand. Tents are pitched on a first-come, first-serve basis so it's best to come early if you want to choose your spot.
A nice option, I think, is that you can order a tent package. If you do that, someone else will set up a tent for you when you arrive, including a sleeping bag and a therm rest.
The regular campsites have plenty of toilets, but they're all Toi Toi's *shudders*. There are showers as well and using the shower cost £3 at the 2017 edition. When we walked to and from the festival arena, we often some huge lines of people queuing for the showers, though, so maybe it's best to prepare yourself mentally and simply not shower while you're there.
There's a campsite village with fun rides and lots of food stands. DJ's play here at night as well, so take that into account when erecting your tent.
Drinking water is available from taps at various locations on the campsite and yes, you can bring in alcohol, but only in limited amounts.
As I said, we only walked through the regular campsite to get to the shuttle bus and the festival arena, but I do have to say I was happy we weren't staying there. Festival days are already filled with lots of noise and craziness, so I was happy to be able to have a quiet place to retreat to sometimes.
Camping near Boardmasters
If you prefer peace and quiet plus a bit of luxury over staying right by the festival, there are some permanent privately owned campsites near Watergate Bay as well.
Or maybe you're there mainly for the surfing? Then it might be better to look for a camping near Fistral Beach.
What to bring to Boardmasters
Leaving camping gear aside, there are a couple of things that are good to have at this Newquay music festival.
1. Warm clothes
I know, I know, summer festivals should go with tank tops and sunglasses, but this is a Cornwall festival and Cornwall, as the rest of the UK, isn't exactly known for its exotic temperatures.
While we were there, the daily temperatures rarely went higher than 16°C so I was happy that I came prepared. Aside from comfy trousers and t-shirts, I also brought:
- walking socks that kept my feet cool when it was warm and warm when it cooled down
- my fleece hoodie and my fleece vest
- a wind-resistant rain coat
2. Comfortable rainproof shoes
Because: England :D
I brought a pair of old sneakers that could deal with the rain and mud. The campsites are on farmland and the main arena is a big patch of grass, so even when it hasn't rained (and it did rain), the ground is moist in the mornings and evenings.
You'll also be on your feet most of the day (I hope) so it's important to wear proper shoes to protect your back and knees a bit from all that dancing and jumping.
3. A Visa card
A Visa card? Yup, because you don't need any cash at Boardmasters. How cool is that? For us non-UK peeps that meant we didn't have to exchange Euros and for everyone it meant no fiddling with money, carrying around a ton of coins or having notes that stick to each other because of your beer/cola/smoothie hands.
I'll tell you more…
The Visa contactless challenge
I was challenged by Visa to attend Boardmasters 2017 with a friend and not use any cash money for the duration of the festival. You see, Visa sponsored the festival this year and together with its partner Square, it provided a whole bunch of food and other stands with the option to receive not only cashless but entirely contactless payments.
While we do use debit and credit cards quite often in Belgium, cards that also work contactless aren't a big thing here yet so I was curious to try this out.
For four days, I bought food, drinks, shuttle bus tickets and even some gear (that damn outlet at the Surfers Village! :D) with my contactless Visa card. While not all stands accepted card payments yet, most of them did and I had a wide range of food stands to choose from.
Some of the things I devoured:
- a burger
- noodles and spring rolls
- and egg and bacon toast
- overnight oats
- a smoothie
- lots of tea and coffee
- mac and cheese
Surfers Against Sewage
Visa also partnered up with the charity Surfers Against Sewage. SAS protects the UK's oceans beaches and now runs a campaign to reduce plastic pollution at beaches.
To raise money for this cause, Boardmasters visitors could purchase a branded and reusable Visa and SAS water bottle for only £2. All the money went straight to the charity and the bottle could be refilled at the festival water taps. Every 100th bottle purchased was golden and held a special festival price for whoever bought it.
With the bottles, Visa and Surfers Against Sewage aimed to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles at the festival.
I thought it was a great initiative as I saw so many people getting a bottle and going back to the stand to refill it later on. You could see people walk around with the bottles and other people asking them where they got them from. It was a project with an immediate result and that's not something you often get when donating to a charity.
Wrap up: my Boardmasters experience
My trip to Boardmasters was my eight trip in just as many weeks and so I was a bit concerned beforehand about how tired I'd be and how I'd hold up in the evenings.
But you know what? I had a great time!
It sure helped that I didn't need to worry about getting cash or bringing camping gear with me and that I could sleep in a proper bed every night. But Boardmasters also simply has a great vibe to it.
It never felt super crowded at the main festival area. Everyone was super chill and there were plenty of picnic tables and other places you could sit for a while to eat something or chill for a bit.
Darn, I sound boring now, don't I? :D I just mean to say that it was a relaxed festival and you could choose to jump into the crowds and party (which we did) or take a step back to watch it all without people running into you (which we also did).
I'd honestly expected to see many more people really drunk as well and was quite surprised at how normal most people kept acting as the day turned into the night. I think it's great that Boardmasters limits how much alcohol you can bring onto the campsites and that you need to be 18 to buy it at the festival itself.
I don't drink and my friend and I mostly went for tea and coffee (we're crazy enough sober :-)) so we didn't really get to test this, but when my friend wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes at the festival, she needed to show her international passport. Even her Belgian ID wasn't enough. And she's well over 18 :-D
Before attending the festival, I'd read that the crowd is a bit different depending on where you hang and there is truth to that. I found the audience to be older at the Surfers Village and stages like the Keg and Pasty and the VIP stage, while the party tents seemed to have more teenagers in them. Anyway, we weren't the youngest, but also definitely not the oldest people there!
Lastly, it needs to be said that it's hard to beat the Boardmasters location. The Cornish coast is stunning and there are several great viewpoints right at the festival site. I might just have to come back next year and extend my stay with a little road trip.
Pin for later
I was invited by Visa to participate in the Visa contactless challenge and pay only by card at the festival. As always, my opinions expressed here are entirely my own.