Experienced surfers know which local breaks work under specific conditions. This weekend’s combination of medium sized swell and easterly winds made this particularly easy for the savvy senior surfer. As I pointed out in the previous post these conditions were “just what the doctor ordered”.
I woke early on Saturday and checked the webcams. Seeing there was plenty of swell at Croyde I headed for the point. As the car descended down the road to the bay a portent of the weekend ahead hove into view. The lines of swell seemed seemed a little smaller than I had anticipated. I Ignored the omen.Five minutes later I found myself starring out at the point whilst trying to shelter from a persistent cutting wind. There was no swell. Every few minutes a wind burnished foot high peak broke and quickly closed out on the the reef.
What to do? Head for the comfort of Croyde or Downend Point? Nah I felt compelled to seek perfect isolation. Turning tail I drove towards the border. The place I was headed for would be empty and magnify the small swell. “Pretty in Pink” would be a given a chance to prove herself in the mixture of reef and beach beneath the cliffs of this special cove.The car drew up to the edge of the cliff but I had already caught a glimpse of the ocean. Powerful lines of swell pushed into the cove , each sharp line punctuated by a heavy spray from the strong offshore winds. In the twenty minutes it had taken me to find my way through the lanes the world had spun and rearranged itself !I trod around the beach , taking some truly appalling photos , successfully missing the mixture of dappled sunlight and spray against the stratified rocks. I had found a solitary spot with overhead waves and off shore winds. The trouble was they were largely unsurfable. The swell was too powerful , most of them unceremoniously closing out.
Around about this time a surfer of 35 years experience would have carefully evaluated the conditions and the errors of judgement made by 9.30am that morning. He could have concluded that he should have waited for the tide for a few hours and taken advantage of the conditions closer to home experienced by Fisher Viking (click here for an excellent blog and photos) and a good number of others no doubt. Not this surfer though, he had other ideas.
Stanbury Mouth is a spot I have never surfed. Not many do. It’s probably something to do with the mile long walk down a very soggy trail, and the clamber down the waterfall onto the beach or the far more arduous return journey. Ignoring the two surfers who peered down the valley and then left (they must have been surfers, only surfers peer in that way) I slid and staggered my way to the secluded beach. I surfed or more accurately paddled out against the lines of white water and then fought the swirling rip that sucked me uncomfortably close to the rocks of the point for 45 minutes and then capitulated a broken and frustrated man.Very strong winds hamper a man carrying a surfboard whilst wearing slick soled wetsuit boots along a cliff path. The beauty of the double bays and extraordinarily high cliffs and the latent surf potential started to slip from my mind and was replaced by a nagging question.
“Why the f##k am I doing this?”
I cogitated whilst I warmed up driving home. “How did such a promising morning disappear”? I put it down to , experience…which is considerable as I have already said.
Later in the day, I eschewed the powerfully breaking peaks at high tide Croyde for the softer charms of Saunton. Whilst a pod of competing longboarders dealt well with the conditions the shortboarders who had the bad judgement to paddle out spent their time fighting the combination of the very strong offshore winds and famously corpulent walls. Few who surfed boards under 8 feet long rode any waves of consequence. One last look at Croyde before driving home confirmed the afternoon too had been frittered away.
A new morning dawned with more grey skies and biting off shore winds. Using my 35 years of collected wiles and nouse I joined a throng of surfers and enjoyed the low tide three foot peaks and hollow walls on offer at Croyde. If you can n’t beat them , join them.
Painting by Glyn Macey