13th -20th Aug
Three days without any action was beginning to tell by Sun 14th
, more so because one or two less than ideal opportunities to at least get wet may have been passed over. I rang ZJ's to save the short trip to Widdy for a surf check and had my suspicions confirmed that there was swell still showing and that the breeze was still to the NW though forecast to lessen as the day went on. Crackington was my obvious choice as the high cliff there should provide at least a little shelter and so I texted Brox who'd arrived in the area the day before with Gill of this intention to get there around 2.30 [HT 12.20].
We arrived first and parked up at the 'honesty' car park up hill where we suited up ready for battle. Conditions were quite messy but certainly do-able with a waist/shoulder high wave clearly showing signs of improvement. Ben was in as ever like a shot around 2.30 with Suz and I joining him half an hour later; around about the time Brox & Gill pulled up. As I paddled out using the left hand channel, I saw Ben catch a reasonable right which I commented on as he joined me out back. There wasn't much time for deep conversation as I immediately snagged one myself for a short banzai ride of my own. Three more followed in the next 30 minutes which gave clear indication that we at least going to have some fun on our first surf proper at the Haven.
Ben's company in the line-up temporarily ended after he'd taken a couple more waves with a sugar low. At that time Brox appeared out there in his place, clearly happy to back in the sea after nearly a year without. Ben got back up to speed after a spell on Suz's bodyboard before rejoining the 'Big Boys' for a last enjoyable spell prior to the conditions poo-ing out around 5.30. All in all a nice baptism to the place with a dozen or more waves of varying quality and length with the vibes continuing on into the car park afterwards.
With the weather calming down again by Mon 15th
, hopes of a cleaner wave were boosted with a check of the town beaches in the morning while Ben sorted out a new wettie at Zuma's [a tidy C Skins X-act 3-2]. However, by the time we pulled up at Widdy around high tide [13.48], a cross-onshore breeze had developed from where else?...the NW! Conditions were not good and any chance of a satisfactory surf appeared wrecked. I got out after only 20 minutes with a handful of gutless rides to show for it; it was that bad. Though ever the optimist I wondered if it may improve once the tide had receded onto the banks. It didn't, though I did go back in around 4.30 for an hour or so having been entertained earlier by some of Ben's experimentations on my log. There was some success though as Suz reported with glee her first proper 360!!, and we again tallied up with Brox and Gill; as ever a pleasure. Oh and cheers to Tony for helping us get out of that sneaky deep sand in the car park!!
A pre brekky eyeball check on Tue 16th
confirmed fears for the next 2-3 days...clean yes...but flat or as good as. The following morning [Weds 17th
], I rang Zuma's again just to save a wasted journey and so we opted to head to Trebarwith Strand for a more staid beach visit. Our stop there was shortened by the tide and after a rushed lunch on the rocks we called in on the way back to base at Widemouth to continue our 'lazy beach day'.
As ever, you hope for a surprise in these circumstances, but with high tide approaching [4.30ish] it wasn't inspiring. The weather was still glorious but apart from what appeared to be a small peak at the north end of the beach, prospects weren't encouraging. Even so and after some nagging by Ben to go back for the boards to at least get a paddle in, I relented and he and I returned to the 'van for the gear. We were back and in by 4 leaving Suz with instructions to top up the car park ticket. Even so, after only a few minutes I still wasn't convinced feeling it was just a waste of time.
After only 10 minutes I voiced this opinion to him and decided to make the long paddle over to the north end of the beach over the rocks where I'd earlier seen that peak. As I approached the spot I noticed that the few already there were at least getting some rides; one in particular, and so hopes raised a little. Conscious that this was the first time I'd ever surfed over anything approaching a reef, I watched for a few minutes to gauge the form; I was desperate. It paid off as within 10 minutes I had pulled into a pleasing little right giving me more chance to improve my backhand technique; something this trip has given me more than normal.
By the fourth wave I'd gotten into a nice groove and was at last beginning to enjoy myself, and in such a short space or time as it was now only around 5pm. Could it get any better? Well yes and how! Over the next hour everyone was treated to a fantastic display by some dolphins which easily distracted us from our surfing. No-one cared even though plenty of waves snuck through un-used as we felt so privileged to witness a magnificent show. Not long after this ended though not without a ride or two more, this spot became just a bit too shallow so I got out and moved back down the beach to where the others were. We conferred over the dolphin experience and went back in; Suz now also suiting up for some action.
For the next two hours or so we shared plenty of clean, mellow waist/shoulder high waves; swapped boards and had a generally great time. The swell was also showing promising signs of building, so prospects tomorrow looked good too. In this spell we noticed that Joss and Pete Ash were in the water which gave further inspiration if any were needed. Not surprising when you consider how much of an influence they have been on this family's surfing progress, though they wouldn't be aware of this.
No surprise then that it wasn't until past 8pm before we got out totally stoked and knackered. My wave tally was again well into the 30's as at Sandymouth a week earlier, whereas Ben could also add to his tricks CV with a [claimed] Hang 5. Well he is a stone lighter please note! But I have to confess that he is definitely showing great promise with the longboard which makes the old man smile with pride.Thur 18th
dawned with the swell still in fine fettle. Ben and I popped down to Widdy to confirm this before texting Brox and Parky who had arranged to come over with his lad Lewis and his mate Andy for a camp-over. We couldn't wait till later though and just had to get in as soon as, with it showing a solid 3' and clean with little or no breeze. Back to base, pick up Suz and the gear and straight back it was then! Brox pulled in to the car park at Widdy around the same time as us just before low tide at 11am and was as impressed as we were with the waves. It should be no surprise then that no one hung around with the gowning up and getting in bits!
Early on with the tide nearing the end of the ebb, conditions were really good, and the quality of rides was up there as you like it. Quantity wasn't the issue and it was also good to be able to watch the likes of Joss Ash again show us lesser ability guys the way to do it. Worryingly though just after low tide, the rips that had messed things up last week, showed up again though weren't as drastic, and as the flood got more underway they eased. The first signs of Parky's arrival perhaps showing? Who knew for sure but there certainly seemed to be a pattern developing concerning his 'influences'. Happily at the time though, the promised windier, wetter weather still seemed to be holding off and hopes that conditions wouldn't cave in before he got here still held out.
At least that is until we got out around 1pm to try and save some energy for later, when things began to get gloomier ever increasingly. Over the next couple of hours or so the breeze gradually picked up and around 3pm when he apparently had crossed into Cornwall as he later stated; the rains and wind arrived! Mercifully it didn't last as long as feared, but by the time he had pitched up at our site and got over to Widdy by 5pm, it did look as if it may clear up some. The waves had messed up, but by the time he paddled out on his new Very Blue Surftech noserider to join us it was at least rideable of sorts. Oh how we ribbed him about being here yesterday or even that morning!!!
Even so, we remained in the water until around 8pm and at least scored some rides to make it worthwhile. Brox it should be noted claimed his most satisfying wave for a very long while as well. I took a while to notch my first as I'd decided to revert back to having the fin at the front of the box to see if that made any difference. I wonder if it did taking into account the early frustrations, but by the end I was at least getting into a few of my own. Ben also had one right that stood out from the rest with a super fast down the line ride which was seen more clearly by Suz and Gill on the beach.
For the last hour or so, the two lads got in on the inside and were joined by Parky after we'd made our way well shattered from what had been 9 hours in the water in the previous 24! The post surf barbie put on by Parky was therefore most welcome and set a good seal on a great day.
Overnight the weather again worsened with the NW wind getting up quite a bit before easing in the morning of Fri 19th
although it was at least sunny in between the showers. Parky had decided to move onto his own caravan at Porthcothan later in the day but came along to Crackington Haven in the afternoon to at least check out if he could get in again with that Very Blue Board once more. Brox and Gill were already parked and suited by the time we got there around 3pm and as we made our way down to the beach we found Parky and the lads also there in the council car park.
Only Brox and I went in for a surf as Ben was feeling the effects of a broken nights sleep, and Parky decided that the 3' or so gnarly waves just didn't look worth the effort. Gill also went in for a spot of body boarding leaving Suz also back onshore not bothered about going in , in what were clearly challenging conditions. As I waded out and waited for a lull in the wind assisted sets memories of that session a couple of years back at Praa, and thoughts along the lines of "What the hell am I doing here" came flooding back. I saw that Brox was struggling and knew that he'd probably end up on the inside which hopefully he'd get some use of.
Then I saw the gap I was looking for and broke through quicker than I had imagined. There were a handful of locals and one of the lifeguards already out there and it was soon clear that it was indeed quite hairy. However after a few minutes once more sizing up the best tactics I settled in for what I decided would be a short and sweet, but kamikaze surf. I figured it may all be over with the first ride when I found myself unable to get back out again. How wrong I was even though it took me a good 20 minutes or so to catch my first ride proper.
I'd missed a couple and waited my turn patiently for another opportunity which suddenly came again in the shape of another larger set. I let the first two through and made my intentions clear about the next one. I had started to wonder if I should have reset the fin to the front of the box to make it looser, but with an extra couple of paddles into this baby, such thoughts disappeared. Maybe speed had been the key after all as I felt the board lift and then slip down the face. No further hesitation was required and I popped up nicely with ample time to reach the bottom and turn powerfully left. On reflection I should have perhaps brought her back sharply up the wave and maybe attempt a step or two, but it was so nice just shoot quickly along the line before pulling off 'pumped' !
No worries about getting caught inside now as adrenaline kicked in and I was back in the line up without too much fuss, ready for some more. In the remaining 45 minutes or so I caught three more banzai type rides, one of which was very bumpy and I did well to keep on the board voluntarily. The final one I rode determined not to risk spoiling the session by going off the boil. But it had been fun and been a further indicator of my own progress again. Sadly there was no further action on this visit as conditions didn't really improve enough on our final day [Sat 20th
], but at least we enjoyed Brox and Gill's company into that evening with a fish 'n' chip supper and a go in their 'bus' to fetch it.