There was a moment last Sunday morning (Aug 5)
which just about summed up how dreadful 2007 has been for the Wolls on the whole. The day before we'd enjoyed an adrenaline-fuelled couple of hours or so at Godrevy (Jnr in particular!), before moving on to Camborne to see our beloved Pirates take on Leicester in a pre-rugby season friendly. All in all a feeling of contentment prevailed as we drove back up to Poundstock with a glorious evening sunset to enjoy, and the promise of some more big waves the next morning.
We rose reasonably sharpish by our holiday-mode standards, and made our way the short distance to Widemouth. As expected the large, clean swell was still there and pounding the shore with intent. Ben and me suited up hurriedly though with an air of nervous expectation, no doubt built up by the respect that such conditions command. Waterside it was clear that the need to evade the heavy shore dump was the first priority; beyond that, then the paddle out would be arduous but not beyond our capabilities. Ben more so aware of this, after his exploits at Godrevy less than 24 hours earlier.
Patience and timing would be in order and, as is the way of things, a gap appeared to arise which we pounced upon. For a couple of minutes we seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough even if the secondary shoredump hampered progress. Then a 'rogue' loomed in front of us and all my efforts to see it past came to no avail leaving me spat out and on my butt in the shallows.
Ben had missed the worst of it, but when I made to retrieve my board the vision was soul-destroying. The 'old faithful' lay strangely in the swirling water as if something was amiss. The reality quickly dawned as I began to comprehend the vision relayed by my eyes. My Hobie templated 9'3" was for all intents and purposes now in two pieces; completely snapped just ahead of the fin box, and held together by only a slither of the decks' outer glassing
Irrational thoughts flooded in as I contemplated the remainder of the holiday sat on the beach, watching others enjoy the waves without me. Maybe I was being punished for some reason? Perhaps fate was getting 'her' own back for that wipeout the previous Tuesday (Jul 31)
, when my back foot failed to make firm contact with the deck of Ben's board (we'd swapped minutes before), and sent a 9'+ trajectory towards an out-coming female surfer. If you're reading this-unreserved apologies again and I still feel sheepish about it. After effectively ten months out of the water, my take offs were still very rusty on occasion, and this was one of them! :o(
Either way, this particular session was over before it began as Ben followed me back to the van, obviously worried that something similar might befall him. Suz returned soon after having taken the hound for a gallop and we quickly gathered up our gear and drove into Bude to see what, if anything could be done. Optimistically, Ben and I stayed suited up even if it was case of a board share scenario. First thing though was a chat with Nigel in Zuma's
to see if it was repairable. One or two at Widemouth had suggested it was, though it was clear this was not going to happen in the near future.
Eight days earlier (Sat Jul 28)
, such thoughts couldn't have been further from the mind as we pulled into the car park at Widemouth after our leisurely drive down overnight. Unlike previous trips down like this, there had been no real hurry as conditions weren't sparkling, and an early drop off of periphery gear at our digs was not possible this time. Hope of a mellow clean wave in the week leading up hadn't quite materialised. Indeed, with a receding tide and an unfavourable breeze, we decided to wait until after low tide (11.39) before going in.
The first dip for an hour so didn't produce much with both Ben and me way off the pace. I only managed three waves of sorts to Ben's one, thus making it clear there was a lot of effort needed to catch up for lost time. Our paddling out had improved some though, and we'd both made it out in conditions that were not too dissimilar to those of three weeks previously. Around 4pm we went back in for another hour as conditions began to clean up a little, but the wave count remained well below par (5-1 in my favour overall ;o) ). Not unsurprisingly our intended Dad v Son, fortnight-long surf challenge was put on hold for a day; this counting only as a pre-contest 'warm up'. mmmmmnnnnnn..........
Sunday (Jul 29)
marked a bit a turnaround in fortunes and ambiance as the day progressed. The morning was again messy and so us chaps put off any thoughts of getting wet until later in the day. Suz therefore pounced at the chance at going in first and enjoyed everything to hand for the hour or so she was in the sea. Lunch was taken and Steveo from the Widemouth surfcam message board arrived with his family to swell the ranks. Stephh and Evie also turned up for parade.
The tide had now reached mid push as Ben, myself and Steveo paddled out around 3pm in conditions that were improving quickly despite a light and gusty NW breeze! The waves were now cleaner and showing a bit more size to them and at last we found a rhythm hitherto lost to us both. Steveo's company may have been the factor, who knows? But a reminder of some pleasing times a year sooner may have been in the back of our minds and spurred us both on to better things. Son and father shared over two dozen waves in the couple of hours or so we were in, this time in Juniors favour and kicking the competition off in the process.
More importantly, it was Suz who noticed from the clifftop a return to a visible bonding in the water; a factor sadly missing of late. He and I could be seen to be more relaxed with each other, and enjoying the company and the banter not experienced for way too long! Ben's demeanour at last looked and felt more at ease with the world. Throw in a dose of summer at last and the promise of Steveo's company the next day too, and it was fair to say that all felt well, even if concerns with my mother back in Lincs were still evident.
Monday (Jul 30)
dawned bright, sunny and warm and had been earmarked for 'other things' in the morning. Plans quickly altered though as Ben confirms our suspicions having cycled to the vantage point about there being some very mellow longboardable waves on offer. The van is primed ready on his return and we're parked up and getting organised before 9am. Steveo isn't far behind and sets up camper van camp next to us with those 1-2' and super clean waves luring us over all else!
The paddle out is a doddle for once and all three of us are into our strides immediately, particularly as the masses still haven't shown up. With hopes of even better things later once the tide has turned and evening beckons, we're only in for an hour or so before getting out for a bite to eat. Even in such a short space of time Ben and I once more racked up over two dozen rides between us, again in the formers favour; but we don't care as things have once again fallen into place.
Around 3pm and it is clear that conditions may actually be deteriorating for the duration. This however is compensated by the arrival of some dolphins, perhaps as many as nine(?), who make their way majestically from south to north before disappearing.
A couple of hours later and Ben and me decided to go back in regardless of the conditions after saying au revoir to Steveo & Co. High tide wasn't far off (17.50) and there was only a testing shoredump worth playing with. Ignoring the obvious risk to damaging boards, we eventually got into a routine and snagged a further 30 plus rides which followed a similar pattern-namely a banzai take off over shallow water close in--quick ride--smack! This made more easier to put up with, with the continuing summery spell.
The following morning (Jul 31)
, we were surprised to find a 1-2' and clean as a whistle wave, being gently fanned by an offshore breeze. A novelty to us in recent times and something we made the most of for just short of two hours before the breeze veered and we got out some forty rides to the good between us. By now the competitive element was creeping in more and more and we started to push each other accordingly.
I hooked up on a particularly pleasing long wave to begin proceedings which triggered Ben to start experimenting once he'd got a couple or so under his belt. Not to be outdone, this inspired me to cross-step up to the badge on a couple of occasions at least without quite managing to cheat a '5'.
Fatigue towards the end of the session, combined with a change of boards did, as previously mentioned, cause the uncharacteristic lapse on my part. This contributed to my calling it a day for the time being to re-group and recover.
Later in the early evening with high tide now nearing I went back in to the north end of the beach over the small reef outcrop I'd last surfed in 2005. I eventually got things back in sync' and enjoyed a short session which saw me capture another 9-10 notable rides. Strangely, the only times I missed waves or went ride less was when Ben & Suz came over to watch from the shoreline. Odd that!
Wednesday (Aug 1)
almost followed a similar pattern if for the fact the wave size had decreased, and with it any punch. We walked out to the lineout and made the best of it while there was little or no wind. We repeated the feats numerically of the day before and even shared some water time with local hero Pete Ash, before things not unexpectedly poo-ed out.
Thursday and Friday (Aug 2-3)
subsequently became the only two days where Ben and I didn't go in, though Suz did to continue her own personal campaign for water time.
Saturday (Aug 4)
saw us venture further afield for the first time on this trip, having up till now not felt the need for much mileage. Boris' fuel consumption, particularly on these Cornish up and down bits, makes this more prohibitive. There's the environmental impact to consider of course, and then our cash flow situation which has become more testing this summer; to add to the already trying time!
Oh well, hang the expense and give the cat another goldfish! There was the prospect of waves and the Pirates taking on the Premiership's Leicester Tigers to look forward to, not least because it was a chance to hook up with some good friends not seen since the end of April.
With the forecast of winds to be S - SW I opted en route to divert slightly and have a look at Lusty. On inspection it was tempting but we decided to stick to the original plan and head to Godrevy. This proved to be inspired in many ways as our first glimpse revealed a solid 4' cleaned up nicely enough by a cross-offshore southerly. Obviously things weren't going to be easy in view of our recent long layoff; but at least the reforms would provide enough entertainment if nothing else.
For half an hour or so this is what we ended up doing, as we all but resigned ourselves to not being able to find a way through the lines of whitewater. Not disheartened though we tallied up a dozen or so rides each to compensate. Then, yours truly spots a gap, and ignoring any temptation to turn and ride another reform uses this channel to head towards the more interesting stuff. Ben is right behind me and paddles strongly to share this discovery with the Old Man.
Once through I briefly stop to survey the options which allows Ben to get further in front of me as he presses on. This proves to be a critical point as I quickly find myself in line for the next set and risking being washed back inside. Ben in the meantime has paddled far enough forwards to slip over the top of the first wave to safety, leaving me needing to make a snap decision. It's a no-brainer and rather than risk having no glory at all, I swivel round just in time to make the wave. A good ride follows if not classic, but I foolishly opt to stay on it too long, catching the reform in the process, and so requiring another long hard paddle out.
Frustratingly I never quite make it out again and so I am left cussing my poor choice. In addition there is also a nagging concern about Ben being left out there on his own, in what are probably the most demanding conditions he's ever been in. During a couple of my paddle out attempts I do briefly spot him, or what looks like him, managing more than adequately. Once I clearly see him riding down the face of a beauty on the front hand before he disappeared from view yet again. This convinces me he is OK, but with time ticking by before our next 'appointment', I ask a couple of surfers on their way into the water to remind him if they get a chance.
From the Lifeguards hut on the way back to the National Trust car park I spot him catch another very tasty right, and breathe a sigh of relief as he makes tracks shoreward. Back at the van and it is not unreasonable to suggest he is well stoked by his efforts. Suz listens to his recollections with the look that says "Is this really my 'little' boy now?"; but quietly shares the pride that Dad feels too. Needless to say the rest of the day at the Rec in Camborne is just icing on the cake, even if the Tigers win that particular encounter as expected.
Then came the mini disaster at Widemouth the following day (Sun Aug 5)
Having spoken to Nige at Zuma's and arranging to speak in a little more detail the following morning about the next steps to take, we headed back to Summerleaze to salvage something from the day. Ben kindly offers the use of his board although naturally I insist he goes in first to get the best of things while there is a large clean wave in the harbour mouth to play with. He goes in with the intention of not venturing out into the more active stuff beyond the Barrel Rock mark but I wonder how long that will last, bearing in mind Godrevy the day before!
With Charlie in tow and Suz manning the camera, we lock up the van and take up position on the sand dunes behind the Lifeboat house. We see Ben catch a couple of the smaller ones inside the harbour, but then become aware of his absence from view. I'd seen him paddling back towards the peak he'd found and allowed my view to wander elsewhere. Then I think I spot him further out still paddling, and then a short while later I'm convinced I've seen him on a big right further out. There's only one way to find out and we quickly make our way to the higher vantage point above the Sea Pool and there he is, one of the furthest out!
To quell any concerns we may have, almost immediately he swivels round and takes a wave with confidence, before kicking out and making his way back to the lineup. He manages to snag a couple more, including one that draws him towards one of the outcrops of reef that mark the point where Middle Beach begins. Coolly he paddles briskly towards the channel without any dramas which can all to easily happen if you get caught in the area.
After an hour or so he makes his way back in but not before I grab this sequence testing the motor drive set up on the camera first. Pity he didn't stay in longer as I was about to try out the movie function. Another time perhaps....
I was never going to match his efforts when taking over use of his board, my confidence knocked by earlier events. I did though switch to a tri fin set up to attempt a fresh approach mentally. Happily in the hour or so I was in, this did pay off a little as I bagged 8-9 waves if not actually setting the surfing world on fire.
First thing the next morning (Mon Aug 6)
and we begin an unplanned ritual that involves a daily visit to Zuma Jay's
My mind is by now a little clearer about how to proceed on the board front. A replacement is the obvious solution and would provide a quick fix, but even if we could afford it I am reluctant to rush into anything. Besides, a week seems too short a space of time to hunt down a new ride, and I am concerned that any choice before we return to Lincs may be a rash course of action. I owe it to myself and the others to explore the repair options fully regardless as to whether even half an eye on a new board is permissible.
News that the board is repairable is tempered by the fact that the earliest possible fix date wouldn't be till September. This doesn't surprise me but it does create a problem for what to do for the remainder of our time down here. Everything is consequently left up in the air although there is a chink of light in the shape of the use of a range of Surftech test boards available from Zuma's.
Now I'm not daft or naive enough to realise where, when this option was offered, that this could all end. But then over the years I guess a degree of trust has developed which guarantees no foul play by either party. I certainly wouldn't take the p1ss by using these boards as some kind of cheap or even freebie alternative to play for time selfishly. Neither would Nigel have suggested this if there wasn't a chance of some hire fees or a sale in the process.
To be truthful, I'd been curious about these Surftechs since Parky and I had been on a Longboard Clinic with WCS at Watergate some four years ago. I'd switched to one after struggling to paddle for one session and been impressed at the difference between it and my own board, but had left it at that. At the very least I could spend a day or so trying a couple of them, and even if I liked what I saw but had to resist for the time being, then sobeit.
I left the shop with a 9' Hobie PSD tucked under my arm, a rare pleasure with a board in my own case, and headed back to Summerleaze. The decision is made to give it a whirl there first and head on to Widemouth later and surf there as well to try and give a broader picture. The harbour mouth is smaller than yesterday but still a pretty useful messy-ish 2', fanned as it is by an onshore breeze. I paddle out well enough but struggle to make much of anything early on as the knock to my confidence persists. If anything the move to Widdy needed to happen sooner as on one occasion I know my hesitance just about balked one other surfers ride. Even so I ride in with some success to note and this increases with my time at Widdy as I begin to get a handle on the boards capabilities.
Tuesday (Aug 7)
sees me switch to a 9'2" McTavish Original and with a smaller, cleaner 2' wave on offer we head straight to Widemouth this time. Conditions at mid flood look good enough to me and I go straight in while Ben prefers to wait till later.
This model has a channel on it's underside, a feature I have sometimes wondered about. When I catch the first wave I go for and feel the acceleration beneath my feet, my interest level increases even further. Confidence begins to flood back too as the wave count returns to a more normal level before I get out around high tide (12.50) when a NW breeze messes things up somewhat.
Around 4pm and after Suz has had some fun too, Ben and I head back in despite a lack of improvement to the quality of the waves. He settled into the rights almost directly in front of the Lifeguard hut and enjoyed a better than expected session. While I, after drifting to the Black Rock end of the beach did similar with a mixture of lefts and rights there; sharing the same space of water as another local hero of ours, Mike Raven. Needless to say my own personal successes didn't overshadow him! At this point the McT had nudged ahead in any possible purchase stakes and despite my not being able to tuck it underarm.
During the day we'd spoken with Parky about our get together and opted for the Wednesday (Aug 8)
instead of Thursday, as there was at least a small chance of a small wave. Thursday was likely now to be flat even if another swell should start to show on Friday and build for the weekend.
The summer weather continued as we first headed into town to return the McT to Zuma's. I wasn't sure if another board was available for this day; conscious as I was of not taking advantage of matters. Parky though had said that Lewis's longboard was at my disposal if necessary, as unfortunately he wasn't well enough to surf himself it would seem. I'll admit to being hesitant about that offer for obvious reasons, but it mattered not as without asking I found myself leaving the shop with yet another board to try! A 9'1" Beau Young - Bear which fitted underarm nicely.
At Wadebridge I rang Parky with our ETA to discover that a lack of waves may be the order of the day, at least at Porthcothan. I wondered if, like up 'our way', an open beach may be a better option and suggested this as a possibility. It was decided to check out Watergate as a result with an option to move onto Newquay if this wasn't a go-er. There appeared to be a small clean wave and so Ben and I parked up in the overflow car park while Parky dropped off Sam at the Skatepark in town first.
With temps a little up we could have opted for rashie and shorts instead of wetties but chickened out. I did though rig up a way of wearing a 'leashed' cap to protect my less than protected head top and this proved invaluable. Not only did it act as a sun block and as a visor; but also as a means of a cooler when put back on full of water.
Ben and me headed for the lefts at the southern end of the beach which was packed in it's state of high tide (around 2pm) and the subsequent small area. In the water though wasn't too bad under the circumstance and it wasn't that long before Ben and I got into conveyor belt mode with wave after wave. This after a slow start personally as I sought the sweet spot on the deck. Parky soon joined us and a very mellow session followed even if at times turning practice was at a maximum setting to avoid all the bods inside!
Parky headed back in just after 3.30 to nip into town for Sam. But we stayed in till gone 5pm as the lineup emptied, particularly when the Air Ambulance made a beach landing to pick up a casualty! To our surprise and delight the quality of the small 1-2' wave was maintained throughout and despite a receding tide. Not epic by any means, and not to the level of our 'classic' Sandymouth session of 2005, but with easily 50-60 rides each notched up was it any surprise we were chuffed with ourselves?!
On the way back up the beach it was as if fate was stepping in too as Pat from WCS stopped us for a quick chat when he caught sight of the board I was carrying. It turned out he has an exact same model and then proceeded to sing out it's virtues which made my ears prick up. Advice about fin choice also came and tallied with my own experiences just past. Now tell me why my mind was rapidly coming to some conclusions, and how it was our post surf barbie was so chilled. Must fill up the windscreen wash reservoir on Boris too!
On Thursday's visit to Bude (Aug 9)
I'm now in a position to discuss the possibility of buying a new board. The previous three days have been an eye-opener with the difficulty now being choosing between them. Comparisons are made with any custom options but it's blatantly clear I need some more data and before I can say a word, I'm headed back to Summerleaze with the PSD back in my possession!
I grab no more than 20 minutes in a small clean wave at Tower just after low tide before the hordes descend, and the difference with Monday and the board's performance is obvious. Suddenly the choice becomes that bit harder! We head back to Widemouth to ponder, christen Ben's new fin and get Suz back in again, she having dipped out the day before.
Ben enjoys his first dip and reports back that the fin does indeed add to the experience. Observation from ashore would seem to confirm this assumption. Around 6pm we both go back in for an hour or so and notice that the signs of another more notable swell are showing. I've been bold as this morning and gone in in boardies and rashie and thoroughly enjoy the freedoms this offer.
Keen to exploit any opportunity the following morning (Aug 10)
we head to Summerleaze first thing (before 9am) to try Tower once more with the PSD...oh and his fin! The wave is bigger today but at beach level doesn't look as good; that is until we'd paddled out through the messier stuff due to the river flow. Outside it is a clean 2-3' left that captures the eye and we're straight on it. We don't stay out for too long though as the PSD obviously has to go back, but there was enough time to hook half a dozen good waves each and establish that the PSD's pintail does indeed make it quite lively at times.
Maybe a bit too lively? Who knows? Still in wettie and scarred from battle with sand on my feet, Nigel all but thrusts the Beau back under my arm knowing I'm close to a choice. He's right of course and another session (or even two if I get in on a final morning) should clinch it.
We headed back to Widemouth and opt for a 'sit it out till later' strategy with the promise of better things to come by evening. Odd goings on in the car park added to the mix, but did little to spoil our enjoyment. Some outrageous parking by another (then absent) driver prompted no more than a cheeky positioning by myself on arrival. I couldn't resist and besides the other cars' position suited us in a perverse way. A little later on and the attendant returns with female driver and some manoeuvring ensues with an exchange of words between them. Although we don't catch much of it as we can't honestly be bothered, it would appear we are suspected of 'grassing up' which is the proverbial cow do-do's. We think nothing of it.
Later in the day another driver with passenger and we presume grandchildren arrive, and after shifting the first vehicle slightly parks next to it. Was there detection of 'burning martyr'? Again we ain't bovvered and any tension is defused with the antics of Charlie in the van who is being mercilessly tickled by Ben-much amusement displayed by the 'neighbours' who head to the beach.
Mid afternoon and Joss Ash, jogs by, acknowledges our greetings and goes out to rip the not quite there waves to shreds for a couple of hours. I wonder whether to crack first but resist which frees up Suz to have a final hurrah. Ben needs no second invitation to go in half an hour later while I wait for Suz to return before going in myself to wet the Beau once again.
By the time I join Ben in the sea the breeze has eased right off and the wave is cleaning up nicely; almost glassy at times! The weather too, having threatened to cave in earlier has brightened up once more and created a near perfect summer evening surf scenario. My first wave is a peach and makes up my mind as to what to go for boardwise. The ride is a left and I turn up onto an upright liquid wall I cannot see over the top of! I kick out and paddle back to record the success with Ben who has had four similar already.
Even though it's a case of quality over quantity we still manage a useful quota of waves between us before Ben eventually goes in around 7.15pm. There were a couple of occasions where I got caught inside and missed out for a few minutes each time, but after this last fortnight I am a lot fitter and up to speed.
I stayed out for another half an hour and had the dubious pleasure of witnessing a parascender(?) consider the possibility of jumping off the cliff in next to no breeze. He finally opted to stay on the higher ground! By the time I was in and changing he'd gone, perhaps embarrassed by his intended exploits? Whatever. The fish and chips eaten in the van as the sun set were delicious.
Our final morning arrived (Aug 11)
and loading the van up seemed endless. After saying our farewells to our hosts it would have been rude to have bypassed Widemouth even if there was the test board to return to Zuma's. This proved a good move too as there was a super clean 2'+ on offer and sunshine too...yet again! Ben and I almost ran out to the water's edge and yet another dry hair paddle out was accomplished.
Maybe it was the impending journey or perhaps fatigue was beginning to kick in. Either way or otherwise I struggled to catch a wave for some fifteen minutes while Ben cheekily carried on in his own inimitable way! The first ride did come though and despite the break becoming ever more crowded as time went by, plenty more were to follow; predominantly rights.
After perhaps an hour we were joined by Mr Ash (P) once again, who promptly showed everyone the way to go about this surfing lark with a calm, un-hurried style. I'd like to say some rubbed off on me but honesty has to prevail doesn't it?! I did though snatch a couple of good rides in his wake, but would have preferred to have been able to end them in a somewhat more composed manner so close to his proximity . On one such occasion I was glad to have my usual dexterity and awareness to grab board and/or leash when 'dismounting'!
Despite this I was rather chuffed to be quizzed by a couple of female surfers as I paddled back to the peak, as to the etiquette to be adopted when paddling out and facing an approaching surfer on a wave. I was even more pleased as, having explained my take on this subject, a rather nice wave appeared which I turned into and caught right on cue with then end of my sentance!
Time though caught up with us and all too soon the board had been returned, a deal struck and the homebound journey had begun.................