One of the most intriguing things about British surf culture is the sheer spread and diversity of its many wave riding communities.
Whilst the spotlight tends to shine on Cornwall, South Wales, The North East and Scotland for their wave quality and surfer numbers, there are hundreds of other little pockets of British surfing scattered along our 19 thousand miles of coastline, filled with frothing surfers waiting for the next pulse.
Most of the lesser known regions are defined by their fickle nature and hostile conditions, but for those who live there, searching for set ups, studying the charts and working out what everywhere needs to get it firing requires just as much dedication as actually learning to surf.
No where exemplifies this better than The Isle Of Man, which sits equidistant between the coast of England and Ireland, and would be perfectly placed to receive the full brunt of the Atlantic’s might, were it not for the latter of these two landmasses casting a massive shadow over it.
As it is though, the island boats a coastline littered with quality set ups, but very rarely gets the swell it needs. However, that doesn’t stop it playing host to a small and dedicated surf community. We recently caught up with one of its members, Luke Kissack Cashin, to find out about this little known outpost of British surfing
Hey Luke, tell me a bit about the surfing community on the Isle Of Man? How many of you are there? What kind of people is the scene made up of?
I would say there is 10 actually really dedicated guys. By that I mean surf all year round. It’s mostly guys, there are a couple of girls but they’re fairly thin on the ground.
What sort of walks of life do these people come from? Why such a low number do you think?
All walks of life – But the guys who get out the most are self-employed. Its a pretty fickle place. So you have to be on the ball. We have some young surfers coming up, but some of the breaks are pretty loose and dangerous, so you find a lot of the younger guys are more comfortable surfing beach breaks for a few years before they approach some of the reefs.
You have to really want it here. It’s growing – but I think the low numbers are due to the fact that it’s kinda a hard place to figure out. You could be turning up to a spot thinking you know how its coming to be and it turns out to be something different.
How fickle is it? How rare are the weather systems you need to get it pumping?
Its constantly changing. Last 12 months has been hard and the charts have been crap and you find yourself scratching around in mush. But then we could have an Autumn / Winter where you are getting decent surf every other week.
What sort of weather events are you looking for, massive SW storms?
Exactly. Mostly it’s wind swell though. To get it to work – you really need all the right elements to get it amazing.
Tell me a little more about some of the set ups?
We have a variety of set ups – we have a point break, a couple of decent right handers, we have a really shallow hollow reef break called Drivers. Everyone knows about this, but not many people surf it, you get a few kamikazes though. Drivers can be rough, it even ripped a gold ring right off my finger! haha
Tell me about the heaviest stuff you’ve seen over there?
One of the guys Max Clague cracked his head open on the reef at a big day at Drivers a few years ago. I think the heaviest day I’ve seen was 3-4 years ago, we all pulled up to 10-12ft onshore and then the wind flicked offshore.
There were just massive barrels rolling through everywhere, everyone there knew it was a special day and so we all jumped in and made the most of it. They are the days you really live for over here – but they are few and far between, let me tell you that
What’s the most memorable day of surfing you’ve ever had on the island?
I think the most memorable day was at a well known spot and It was just me and a mate with perfect conditions with no one out in the water.
And what does a classic day of waves look like? I guess it’s not BBQ’s on the beach, but do you and the crew have any rituals?
On a classic day we spend all day chasing spots on the tides, in 30 mph winds and seeing the same boys suiting up every time.
Do you like that the surf community is so small there? or would you rather a bigger one with events and local shapers, and the chance for people to actually work in surfing?
I think it’s as big as the surf will allow it to be. You spend a lot of time chasing what you think will be a decent swell and you sometimes end up pretty disappointed. If Ireland wasn’t in the way, I am surf we would have a much bigger surfing community!
Thanks Luke, hope the next classic swells graces your coastline sometime soon.
All photos by: Luke Kissack Cashin