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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Chilling out in a lifestyle resort
Watergate Bay
One of the best surf beaches in Europe

In most seaside resorts, the holiday season is fairly short.

Businesses open up at Easter, and the number of visitors rises gradually before a sudden peak in August.

Then, when the kids go back to school, the beaches start to empty. By September, a slower pace of life has resumed.

The seasonal nature of the holiday business has always been a problem for areas like Cornwall that depend on the income from tourism.

Surfers' paradise

At Watergate Bay, just outside Newquay, one company thinks it has found a novel way of extending the season, by focusing on the needs of young people hooked on beach sports.

With two and a half miles of sand, this bay has long been a favourite with Britain's surfers.

Extreme Academy Beach Bar
Beach bar and bistro an all-day hang-out

But until recently, anyone arriving here hoping to catch the perfect wave had to put up with some very basic amenities onshore.

Surfers may be a hardy bunch, but they wanted something more than just a small cafe and a shop selling buckets and spades.

So the premises have now been taken over by a company called the Extreme Academy.

It had the bright idea of taking the kind of facilities normally associated with an alpine resort, and transplanting them into a beach setting.

The building has been substantially rebuilt, creating a Mediterranean-style bistro and a bar where surfers can hang out.

The company has teamed up with experts in various beach activities, like surfing, power kiting and land yachting, to provide the kit and the training that enthusiasts need.

"We think there is a crossover between alpine sports and beach sports like surfing," said director Henry Ashworth.

"So we have created a kind of ski resort on a beach, with equipment sales and rental, and lessons for people who want to try new sports."

Surf widows

The new bistro, with its panoramic view of the bay, is a key part of the company's strategy in creating a venue that can operate right through the year, while catering for different tastes.

"If you get a group of mates here, two will be in the sea all day, two will be fair-weather surfers, and others won't want to go into the water at all," said Henry.

Henry Ashworth - director of the Extreme Academy
Henry Ashworth creating a vibe

"We used to talk about surf widows. She would be in the car with a flask of tea, reading a book, while he was in the sea all day. Now if there is something for her to do, she'll be happy to come along with her mates.

"We have created a vibe, a lifestyle venue. It is much more mellow now."

With an airport just down the road, and cheap flights from London, the company is hoping to attract a lot more people outside the usual holiday weeks.

It has already become a venue where companies can entertain corporate clients. This week a mobile phone manufacturer flew in with two dozen guests.

They are sampling a range of sports, including surfing, kiting and mountain boarding. Naturally there is a barbecue on the beach.

"We have been very busy, lots of food, lots of drink, lots of action," said the event organiser, Chloe Betson.

"This is better than being in the office. You really get an adrenaline rush doing this. It is brilliant, we are so chilled out."

By providing an escape for stressed-out business executives, the company has tapped into a new market that could help to extend the tourist season, and provide a boost for the local economy.

While some of the ideas may be new, the venture capitalises on Cornwall's finest asset - its beaches.

"People coming here can blow away the cobwebs," said Henry Ashworth.

"They need something active to take away the pressures of the day. Here you can get physically exhausted and relax your mind."

The BBC's Peter Gould
"All year round venue for beach sports"

At the seaside

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