Today saw a huge, long period swell pummeling much of Europe’s Atlantic facing coastline, with the accompanying light offshore winds in south-west Blighty making for some of the biggest cleanest conditions in years.
The waves have been pumping here for three days straight and we’ll be dropping a full round-up in the coming days, but for now, we’ve got a dispatch from this afternoon’s action at Newquay’s big wave spot, the Cribbar.
The headland was packed with socially distanced spectators, with eyes trained on the small crew of chargers searching for makeable ones among the big, shifting teepees.
According to reports, the session began a little sleepily, with only a bloke on a motorised board managing to snag any decent ones. However, as the tide began to push, those unaided by jet propulsion managed to scratch into a few. Over the course of an hour, there were notable rides from adaptive surf champ Pegleg Bennett, local big wave standout and BWT competitor Tom Butler and boogie boarder Rob Barber, who had just made his way in when the session took a dramatic turn.
First, another bodyboarder, called Colin, was cleaned up by what a seasoned observer described as a legit 20-foot set. His leash snapped and he was forced to swim in through several lines of whomping white water to the safety of the beach. Then the rest of the pack were caught by a wide one and just as they began to resurface, a thick fog spread across the lineup, obscuring them from view.
After a tense ten minutes, a pair of COVID council officers, who rose to the occasion to become unofficial Big Wave spotters, informed the two RNLI lifeguards keeping an eye on proceedings they’d seen the remaining surfers making the long paddle back around to the headland’s leeward side. And, after a quick chat with a large seal, they were all able to make it safely up the rocks.
Back on land, Butler described the feeling of suddenly being lost in a fog bank a hundred metres out to sea as pretty unsettling but, unsurprisingly given his experience in far hairier waves than our own cute Cribbar, he didn’t seem particularly rattled.
Although there weren’t any ‘biggest ever’ headline-grabbing rides, the swell served as a great opportunity for people to gather safely in the open air and share in the excitement of a natural spectacle. A rare thing these days, and certainly one to be savoured, even in the mizzle.
Check back tomorrow for much more from this swell around Europe.
Cover photo: @jonathansnook