So that’s it for summer then?
This time last week, the view outside the window was one of autumnal perfection. Head high waves, light winds, sunny skies. The sort of conditions almost every surfer would break into one of those tottering jogs for. Now, the view looks very different. The horizontal rain is back and there are white horses galloping all the way to the horizon. It seems winter is upon us.
And so, it’s time to stray from the comfort and ease of our favourite forgiving beachies and spread out across our 31 thousand kilometres of coastline, in search of whomping novelty wedges and maxed out corners. Perhaps this winter, you’ll even catch a glimpse of your coastline’s treasured mysto waves; the rarest, most formidable and totally inaccessible. The ones that hang in the space between reality and fiction, built on dubious stories, told in car parks (and on wannasurf) and grainy photos. More like riddles than actual surf spots.
Although there are hundreds to choose from, we’ve selected five of our favourites to review for you here, worth keeping an eye out for this winter if you happen to be near:
With the international appetite for big unruly, wind bitten burgers reaching fever pitch at Nazare, surely Europe’s hardest chargers are on the lookout for new, as yet unconquered mountains to climb (or rather, bounce down). If so, then may we suggest you look no further than the most mystical of mysto spots, situated two miles out from Britain’s most famous surfing beach.
Zorba’s reef is a large finger of uneven granite that extends from Pentire headland at Fistral’s southern end, where long swell lines snag and pitch to form a left and right, which bumble haphazardly into a deepwater channel. It starts working when the beach is double overhead and could, in theory at least, hold pretty much any size the Atlantic could throw at it.
During Cornwall’s brief era of tow surf enthusiasm, when most decent days at nearby Cribbar became a-buzz with skis whipping guys like Skindog, Mark ‘Egor’ Harriss and Dan Joel into feathering 15 footers, many too took a keen interest in Zorba. However, according to everyone we spoke to, despite much discussion, no one has ever attempted to surf it. (There are rumours a windsurfer might have whizzed past it once when it was breaking, but like those flips they do where they land completely submerged and then pop out like a cork, that doesn’t count.)
Of course, it needs an incredibly rare alignment of giant, long period swell and SE winds to get it going. So anyone keen for a crack would definitely have to give up excellent waves elsewhere on the continent (and perfectly clean 6-8 footers just up the coast). If all went to plan though, you could end up with a few memorable rides and genuine pioneer status, or (perhaps more likely) you could spend an expensive afternoon getting blown off the back of giant windy mush burgers while crowds watched on disappointedly from the cliff.
The Welsh Superbank
Breaking out in the Bristol Channel, this freight train right-hander appears in photos to be Cymru’s mud-stained answer to the Superbank. A small amount of investigation however, reveals its largely an optical illusion; the perfect impression of a perfect wave, without any of the capacity for long, mind-melting tubes served up by its Aussie namesake.
Subject to the second-largest tidal swing in the world (between 12m and 14m) and requiring a huge double-digit swell to get it going, on the best days the lineup is ravaged by impossibly strong currents, dead set on dragging you way past the take-off spot and all the way to the Severn Bridge.
While some of the local crew swear they’ve copped excellent tubes here once in a blue moon, we suspect more often the routine involves snapping a photo to send to their mates with a message along the lines of: “looks like Kirra butt, im out there”, before driving off to look for somewhere decent to surf.
Channel Coast Wedge
Surely the least well known on our list, this brown a-frame wedge breaks somewhere super sheltered in the English Channel, where jumbled storm swells wrap around a corner and morph into hard breaking peaks on a series of rip-formed sandbars. Although the spot offers good shelter from the howling prevailing winds, the rest of the conditions required are rare.
Having only been discovered fairly recently, for the first few years there were just a smattering of local surfers who knew of its potential. Then, in a gesture of unparalleled benevolence, the guy who found it decided to post a pic to a local surf group on Facebook, even letting fellow shredders know roughly where to look. He figured it could handle a lot more people and was unlikely to ever get properly crowded. A few years on and the spot hasn’t become, as many might have suspected, a fable of foolishness for the digital age, as according to our source, there’s still only a handful of people who show up to tackle it for three of four sessions a year when it’s properly on.
Surfs up. When it works it is a perfect wave. Golden Ball. Tresco Island. #surfing #surfphotography #uksurfing #islesofscillyPosted by 5 Island Web Design on Saturday, December 28, 2019
Despite its proximity to the surf-obsessed south-west, there’s relatively little online about the surfing potential of the Isles of Scilly, a small archipelago located 25 miles off Lands End.
In fact the only semi-well mapped wave is Golden Ball; a bowly right-hander that breaks off the north-west coast of one of the Scilly’s 140 uninhabited isles. Apparently the most consistent of any of the nearby breaks, it forms when swell lurches out of deep water and onto a cluster of rocks and reef. On smaller days, it bowls up and can tube through the inside, while on bigger swells it breaks more as a long fat wall. If you don’t have a boat, the only access is via a hairy 800m paddle through a narrow channel between two islands.
Although you can get a ferry or fly from Cornwall, the islands are the perfect destination for a wind-powered surf mission, (surely peak staycation in the current climate) and thanks to the prevailing winds, which make a direct route impossible, you’ll feel like you’ve sailed halfway around the world by the time you get there.
Like Zorba, Oysters is a rare offshore bombie, situated out the back of one of the south west’s most famous surfing beaches. Shifting peaks break over a sizeable spine of reef, which sits about a mile out from Croyde’s southern end. It’s more of a left than a right, with long walling sections that, like Zorba, can hold pretty much any size.
Unlike Zorba, this one has been surfed quite a few times. As with many of the waves around Croyde, it was pioneered by local legend Ralph Freeman, who tackled the one-mile paddle and double overhead sets by himself many times throughout the early and mid 2000’s. Since then, Matt, Taz and Peony Knight have all paddled out for a look, while charger Adam Amin surfed it fairly regularly before moving to Maui.
They all say that thanks to the currents, getting out isn’t all that difficult, but getting back is an absolute mission, with Matt citing a particular day when it took him and Peony an hour and a half of constant paddling to make it back. However, they also said that, minus the current and positioning difficulties, it’s actually quite a good quality outer bombie on its day. Amin especially speaks fondly of his numerous sessions alone on the peak and, judging by his subsequent efforts in waves of consequence in his new Hawaiian home, we figure it must have been good for a hairy drop or two…
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