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Photos From An Epic Run Of Swell On The British Isles’ Atlantic Coast

When it comes to waves, weather and world events, January has been a pretty bleak month for many. So, when the forecast lit up last week with prophecy of the biggest clean swell in recent memory, it was the perfect ticket to lift the spirits of surfers and storm watchers alike. 

Woody New, slotting in somewhere blue. Photo: @cornwallsportsphotography

After a few fun warmup sessions among the forerunners, the swell kicked in in earnest on Saturday afternoon, accompanied first by howling south easterlies and lashings of rain, then calm winds and hanging sea mist, and finally a gusting north easterly, giving several regions a window of solid, clean surf before darkness descended. 

A quick glimmer of sun illuminates the line up at Fistral after a long day of rain. Photo: @lugarts ⁠

The following two days saw the sort of big, groomed groundswell that transforms the entire coastline, with regional classics, tucked away novelty waves and sleepy outer bombies all coming roaring to life. In Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and beyond, surfers got amongst it and socially distanced crowds turned out to ooh and ahh together, elated at the rare opportunity to experience a bit of collective awe and share musings on something other than the pandemic. 

Spectators gather to watch the Cribbar. Photo: @maddiemeddings

Further south, Europe’s coastlines received plenty of the same swell but were mostly blighted by howling onshores. In scenes reminiscent of the Fairy Liquid in the local fountain prank, popular circa 07, some of SW France’s darling promenades were covered in a thick layer of sea foam (which Euro-Editor Paul Evans wasted no time in riding his bike through.)

However, as we write, the wind has just swung offshore and with a solid swell marching down from Biscay, France and Northern Spain both look set to see some epic waves over the coming days. And with more swell for Blighty on its way at the end of the week, let’s hope this was just the start of a classic February all round.  

For now though, here are a few choice moments from the last couple of days, captured around Ireland, Wales, the South West and the Channel Coast:

A wild a-frame captured through the blizzard in Wales. Photo: @rhyde.waves

Gearoid Mcdaid snags a bomb on Ireland’s west coast, on a board left for him by Mick Fanning. Photo: @landandseavisuals
Mawgan Porth macking. Photo: @kingsurf
Luke Dillon lining up on a bomb. Photo: @lugarts ⁠
A rare sight in the Isle Of Wight. Photo @paul.blackley
A perfect Fistral teepee as the swell filled in. Photo @lugarts ⁠
A surfer stares down the barrel of a hollow one in Dorset. Photo: @ot_.photo
Groomed lines and sharp granite. Photo @tobybutlerphoto
James Bunney parking it in a wide one at Croyde. Photo @alandanbyphoto
The swell arrives at Fresh West in South Wales. Photo: @seasidehues
Novelty peelers somewhere super sheltered at the peak of the swell. Photo @lugarts ⁠
Fun size peaks in Dorset. Photo: @ot_.photo
A giant left rifles off through the mizzle at Porthtowan. Photo: @surfscapes_of_cornwall

Cover photo: @lugarts ⁠


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