Monday, 22 March 2010

Devon Cream Tease

After the fossilised frustrations of the Jurassic Coast, Devon is fantastic - lovely beaches, picturesque camping spots and plenty of waves - eventually.
I arrived ten days ago, just in time to catch the tail-end of a burst of swell, and between Paignton and Bantham, managed a handful of sessions of average waves in bright sunshine, or under beautiful sunsets.
Things went flat and sunny, which was a little frustrating until the waves came rolling in again last Wednesday. It's been a bit messed up by on-shore winds, but I've managed to surf at least once a day for the last five days, and often twice. Plenty of drizzle and fog, too, but when you're surfing, who cares?!

Bantham is the classic spot round here, so I camped out in front of the No Overnight Sleeping sign for three nights, until I was asked to move on by a rustic employee of the family-run estate that owns it all. I headed to Bigbury-on-Sea across the Avon estuary (not the same Avon that Shakespeare used to surf). It's no more than a mile or so along the beach, but about 10 miles by road - or slightly less if you want to risk the tidal road.
There were fabulous waves here on Thursday - just overhead, with good, clean faces, but fairly easy to catch. They were mostly right-hand waves, so I was on my backhand, and though they offered an exciting, dramatic drop followed by an exhilarating few seconds hugging a gleaming wall of water, they didn't open up quite enough, and the rides ended quite quickly. And wetly.

Then on to Wembury, a foggy, Gothic bay overlooked by a looming church and dark satanic mill (now coffeeshop), with a fabulous left-hand wave.

It's not far from Plymouth, so there were quite a lot of locals on it on Friday morning. But the mood in the water was friendly and it wasn't too difficult to get the occasional wave. And they were fantastic - well overhead, but again easy to catch, and with a long, long, exhilarating ride towards the beach followed by an easy paddle back out again. Epic!

If it's Saturday, it must be Salcombe, sheltered from the howling South-Westerlies, surfing clean, waist-high waves by the ruins of Salcombe Castle.
Then back to Bantham for a crowded Sunday surf in soggy waves. Not the best session. Or sessions - I got in at 7.15 on Sunday morning, but the tide was too high, and what had looked promising soon petered out. So I had a huge breakfast and went in again once the tide had dropped. It was a bit better, but still not great, and very busy - long-boarders, short-boarders and even a knee-board. Whatever rocks your boat.

Today it's howling out there, so unless the wind drops later, I might be able to give my aching arms a day off. On the other hand, there's another beach I've got my eye on, so if there's half a chance of getting in later, I will.

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