River Mouths


I reflected today, as the strap-line to the right suggests I habitually do, that breaks with associated predominant river mouths nearby give the discerning surfer ‘something extra’.

There has been plenty of time to reflect just recently. The appalling procession of weather systems that seem to purposely dump foul weather and crazy winds carries on without any abatement in sight. I did not set a toe in the water during December and have yet to do so in 2012. I have never missed the whole of December…never.

Er.. where was I , ah yes the fluvial  coda that is the river mouth. There are of course learned tomes available these days that will explain in great detail in generalities and in specific cases how the presence of a river mouth enhances a break or is the primary creating force. This is interesting but ultimately misses the point. This surfer and many others likes to surf river mouth breaks in preference to others, why?

Before I attempt an answear to the rhetorical bolloenquiry above though I’ll list some of the spots that have given me some pleasure over the years. This is just to set the scene there are no Malibu’s, Trestles or mysto Japenese spots that would help punctuate my point because ,well shit, I have not been to these places. Here goes anyway.

  • Lynmouth – 2 for the price of one.
  • Melvich
  • Easky Left
  • Sigatoka
  • W******* M**** (I know not much help)
  • Riberia D’Ilhas
  • Crantock
  • Mundaka – the best

In some way these are a motley collection. With the exception of Mundaka none of them could be described as top draw but they all have the river mouth factor so what is it?

The summation of all the learned information available is that the breaks are shaped by the out flowing forces of the river and the accumulation of sand and boulders resultant from the outflow. To make matters more defuse it must be acknowledged that rivers dump their loads variously at the top of breaks (Mundaka), at the end of the wave (Riberia D’Ilhas) or splits the wave (Lynmouth). The thing is though all the listed spots and the other vast number of river mouth breaks around the world have their day, and that day crops up just a lttle more frequently than for other spots. So maybe I have hit the nail on the head there. These breaks are more consistently good. No, that’s not  the answer. Even the breaks listed above are surrounded with consistently better spots. Sigatoka is probably the worst Fiji has to offer. These spots just have something though ….lets call it the X factor. The thing is I can n’t nail this one so here are a few prods that might lead in the right direction.

The flow of the river takes the lazy surfer back out to the line up. In the case of Mundaka it picks you up at the end of your ride and whips you out hundreds of meters to the main peak so quickly it’s a joke. Just do n’t get caught half way out on the sand bar in two minds.

Less pragmatically there is the wonder of the meeting of two giant physical forces in constant attritional war with each other beneath the bucolic appearance of the break on a glassy day. Thousands of tonnes of boulders and sands are shifted one way or t’other dependant upon the ascendency of the cursed weather. Rainfall on land shifts sand out to form banks, storms out to sea wash debris, well who the hell knows where it goes.

The meeting of marine and fresh water wild life. Melvich (Scotland) had otters, salmon, seals and dolphins wandering through the line up. There are the more subtle or perhaps less readily observed mixture of birds, weeds and shell fish that make these places unique. Singatoka , the undistinguished Fijian break (there had to be one and I found it) was different though. The only beak for hundreds of miles where the water clarity was similar to the picture below. At dusk the spot screamed large shark to the extent that I tried to keep my feet out of the water whilst waiting for that last wave to avoid the paddle of shame.

The coalescing  of the waters is a sensual experience. Take the cold peaty waters of the river Easky. Good enough to drink and the colour of whisky. They mix at the peak with the warmer plankton laden  brine of the Atlantic, right at the peak.

There are doubtless many more factors that make the river mouth spot one of the best experiences surfing has to offer. One thing is for sure though if this current plague of north westerlies/ westerlies do not disappear soon I will … well I will …wait it out until I get a shot at W******* M****.