Surfers Against Sewage give us a run down of Britain’s rarest waves, some of which, are on the brink of being lost for ever.
Rare swells grace this heavily localised break for disease-immune experts only. Situated on the east coast of England and hidden under the nose of urban sprawl, a hardcore crew know the unusual conditions needed to light up this long, barreling right-hander and they are on it whenever it works… even if it’s outside of daylight hours.
It is also one of the UK’s most threatened waves, with a myriad of environmental pressures bearing down on it – terrible water quality from nearby combined sewer overflows, heavy industrial, chemical and diffuse pollution and add a nuclear power station as a neighbour. Shipping risks from the huge tankers and freighters that scrape past the lineup also prevail and, most recently, offshore developments are springing up remarkably close to the surfing resource. As with every other spot, marine litter is also a constant issue along the strandline. So this place pretty much encapsulates SAS campaigns these days, and demonstrates just how bad things can get.
The waves do pump, but surfers currently risk illness every time they hit the lineup. Surfers often miss the first days of a swell here just to make sure they’re not ill for the best days.
This world-class south coast surf spot in the UK is off limits for up to 228 days a year, most of these throughout the winter season when the wave is most likely to work. The wave is already difficult to predict, with many variables at play to deliver epic days, and the chances of surfing it good are made even more rare by the military restrictions stemming from the nearby firing range.
The reef sits on the very outer edge of the weapons danger area for the range, which severely limits access.Matching surfable days with times when the range isn’t firing isn’t the easiest of asks. Arriving to find perfectly peeling lines exploding on this unique Jurassic reef only to see the red flags flying and access denied has to be right up there in the league of maddening surf experiences. So maddening in fact that the local crew decided it was more important to spread awareness of the threat to their wave, Broad Bench, than to keep it a secret spot any longer. SAS is trying to establish how to maximize water time for local surfers without disrupting the MOD’s training schedule.
Ultimately, SAS believes that given the quality and rarity of such a wave, and the natural geographical features creating the spot, efforts should be made to free it from the weapons danger area of the range.Nearby, at a cost of over £3million, the artificial surfing reef development at Boscombe, Dorset has been estimated to generate £3million of direct income annually, with an additional £10million of image value. This is the valuation of a spot that currently only creates low quality, irregular waves, highlighting the value and exceptional conditions which create one he UK’s best surfing waves that is Broad Bench.
This is one of the few breaks on the Isle of Wight that can handle serious swells and so often lies dormant for many months, but when it lights up and does its thing, the local surfing community descends on Freshwater Bay for the some of the most special days of the year.
On epic days, the wave can look just like Bells Beach, with long, peeling right-handers rolling off the point. Good days at Freshwater are not to be missed, and the unique geographical features of this spot need fully protecting.Recently local developers ‘mis-identified’ Freshwater Bay as a good site for yet another marina for the IoW and thankfully decided to bring together local residents for an informal public consultation.
Together with Isle of Wight Surf Club and its Chairman and SAS Rep Matt Harwood, Surfers Against Sewage mobilised the IoW surf community to voice its objections to this development that would obliterate this jewel in the crown of IoW surfing. Surfers attending the consultation ensured the overwhelming opposition to the development was officially recorded. That should be the end of the matter, but unofficially we are hearing the developers are trying a different route to advance their wave-destroying proposal.
There are plans for 10 Oyster Wave Energy Converters (WECs) to be deployed directly in front of the surfing reef at Marwick Bay in Orkney. Oysters WECs are dramatically different to other WECs as they can convert wave energy from the nearshore shallow wave environment into sustainable electricity. The current proposal is to drop the Oyster WECs just a few hundred meters beyond the peak at Marwick.
Their interaction with the swell will most probably result in a dramatic reduction in the wave quality including the wave height, peel angle and period of the swell. As these machines are to be deployed so close into shore SAS is requesting that they are moved out of the swell corridor for Marwick Bay surfing reef. This would give a win-win allowing the machines to generate the same amount of clean green energy and safeguarding one of the Orkney’s best waves.
This may not register high on most UK surfers’ travel itineraries with the limited surfing days available at a real premium. And, like every spot around the UK, beaches in East Anglia suffer from the blight of marine litter and discharges from combined sewer overflows. Thankfully, Lowestoft is currently part of SAS’s pioneering Sewage Alert Service so at least you can ‘know before you go’ and protect yourself from sewage pollution. According to the water industry itself, there are approximately 31,000 CSO’s around the UK, many of which are completely unregulated.
The CSO is a kind of emergency outlet for the sewerage system, discharging raw sewage and wastewater into rivers and the sea when the system is overloaded. However, it appears that many CSO’s are being used too frequently as a means of regular sewage disposal, not just in the extreme weather conditions they are designed for. In 2012, as part of the Sewage Alert Service, SAS issued over 30,000 text messages in just ten weeks, warning water users about the 416 raw sewage discharges across just 62 beaches.
Protect Our Waves
Make sure that you get more involved with Surfers Against Sewage to protect the rare days at these and other spots aren’t made even rarer by chronic water pollution, development, marine litter or any other environmental threat. Renew your membership today, sign the Protect Our Waves petition, join them at an SAS beach clean or connect with your local SAS Rep. Also make sure you sign up for the free Sewage Alert Service to know about pollution before you go!