Setting out on this journey, I knew that the first few weeks would be pretty barren on the wave front. My intention is to hike the length of the Cornish Coastal Path; 300 miles of coves, beaches and reefs that absorb most of what the Atlantic swells have to offer.
The difference is that I am carrying my board, a 5’10 SBS Hero that goes in almost any conditions, and surfing my way from Plymouth to just north of Bude, taking every opportunity to suit up and paddle out whether it’s overhead and offshore or 1ft onshore wind swell.
It’s a romantic idea, to find hidden waves with no one else out
It’s a romantic idea, to find hidden waves with no one else out and revel in the opportunity to surf in isolation on one of the most popular stretches of coast in Europe. Unfortunately (some may say predictably), sitting past Lands End the fickle early spring seas had so far not delivered.
Over 100 miles into my walk, I had surfed only twice. My first was in 3ft onshore shorebreak at Kennack Sands; hardly something to write home about, and my second was basically just a swim at a near-flat Praa Sands.
I’d had to turn my back on Praa and Porthleven with the charts not showing any signs of picking up, but a slight bump in the forecast was showing signs that there may be a wave further along the coast in the coming days.
The forecast looked complex however, with a series of intermingling swells from various different sources leading to a modest rating on most forecasting engines.
Nevertheless, late the next evening I was sat on a beach expectantly waiting for the tide to switch. A small wave was hitting the sandbars but it was not ideal.
Would it pick up with the switching of the huge spring tides? I was hopeful, but after suiting up and paddling out I sat getting increasingly cold waiting for anything that seemed rideable and with an air of despondence I waved the white flag and paddled to shore.
I decided it’d be worth another shot in the morning, and hitching a lift back down to the beach I again sat with expectant enthusiasm as a slightly bigger swell was pushing in.
The tide was bottoming out, and sitting on the rocks I watched as two longboaders exchanged lazy rides. I had to remind myself that if I saw a wave on this trip, I was determined to surf and so stretching into my still damp Gul Flexor suit I joined now only one other surfer in the line-up.
I’d walked 150 miles for that session; two weeks on foot for two hours of surfing
Immediately it switched on. As the tide started to push the sea went from nearly flat to comfortably head high in minutes and all of a sudden we found ourselves exactly where you want to be. Clean, head high waves were peeling off the well-formed bank and heading right into deeper water, running to give lengthy rides with enough power to make for some seriously fun surfing.
The wind was light, surface glassy, and as the tide pushed harder the wave frequency was so consistent my arms were burning after only a few minutes exchanging rides. Another surfer had joined us now, but the three of us sat in an instinctive priority situation where we took turns catching wave after wave in what was quickly becoming a natural footers dream.
The water was crisp and clear, and as the tide rose the wave slowly fattened and in combination with the backwash from the rocks any evidence of the previous two hours lay hidden under deeper water.
I’d walked 150 miles for that session; two weeks on foot for two hours of surfing. Was it worth it? Every single step.
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