A few weeks ago, we headed to Cornwall for what could be the last surf of the year…..unless we decide to meet winter head on during the dark cold months of November and December!
We delayed our trip by a couple of days to avoid the St Jude storm which threatened to batter much of England and Wales. The surf forecast was looking dangerous – 10 ft waves and howling winds and from talking to the locals during our stay, we did the right thing. Only a few, very brave (stupid?) headed out in such conditions and even during our stay, we heard reports of people getting caught in nasty rips and getting swept out – fortunately for them, they were rescued and safely returned to shore.
I was eager to try some new spots. Despite being told to check out Fistral, we headed to Watergate Bay just outside Newquay which, according to several surf guides, is supposed to be ok for beginners. First wave I caught, I was on my feet and riding it all the way in. Woohoo!! Couldn’t believe my luck and I thought I was in for a great session.
Unfortunately, what we didn’t take into account was the extremely strong rip that knocked us both of our feet with its power and ferocity. We were fighting a losing battle and so after an hour we called it quits. Disappointed but not gutted, we had the next day to get a good session in. This time, we listened to the people at the B&B where we stayed who advised us to try Harlyn Bay as it’s a sheltered spot – although the St Jude storm had passed, it was still pretty windy.
We arrived at Harlyn and it was lovely and sunny but, unexpectedly, apart from a lovely looking wave which was breaking so close to the beach, there was nothing to surf. We scratched our heads for a bit and headed back to Mawgan Porth to talk to Pete, the surf instructor to get his take on things. He advised us that Harlyn is ‘a bit gnarly’ and you have to catch it at the right time according to the tide. He also said that when it’s really windy, the best place to head for is Towan Beach in Newquay town which is the most sheltered of all the Newquay beaches. Great, although parking is a real problem and everyone else has the same idea when it’s messy everywhere else. We stopped at Lusty Glaze (a few beaches along from Towan) to check it out but quickly dismissed it when we saw the steep steps at right angles down to the beach – not practical when you have 2 minimals which takes 2 people to carry (one at the noses and one at the tails). By this time, I felt gutted at the thought of heading back home with only one bum surf session to show for it.
Eventually, we ended up at South Fistral which, although was still pretty heavy and had a bit of a rip, enabled us to get some much needed practise. Again, it wasn’t the greatest session (stand up count ration was way down) but it was great just being in the sea and to have surfed a new spot.
The moral of this tale:
- Do your homework in advance – read up about the break in advance on the internet or get yourself a surf guide book. Know when your preferred break works best, what the favoured conditions are and find out if its prone to rips
- Don’t head to the beach before you have checked what the surf is doing….or not in the case of our trip to Croyde a few weeks ago. Suited up, waxed up, we headed to the beach only to find it as flat as a millpond!
- Look before you head out. Im just starting to recognise what a rip looks like!
- Talk to as many of the locals as possible – they know their local breaks better than everyone. Explain where you are at with your surfing and they can advise on the best breaks for your ability although bear in mind that some will differ in opinion
With less surfing happening over the winter, I need to set myself a new challenge….learn how to read the surf reports!