I was beginning to feel that Bantham wasn't all it had been cracked up to be. Sure, the group of lads who were getting out on Sunday as I was getting in had all been raving about it. But still. I wasn't convinced. Wanting to try something else, and to get out of the wind, I was going to have a look at a fairly unlikely spot, on the off chance. As an alternative, the guy in the surf shop recommended a beach I had grown quite familiar with. Nah, I thought. I've spent too many hours staring at a flat horizon there. I was going to stick to Plan A. Until I drove past the sign post to the familiar spot. Only a couple of miles out of my way, might as well have a look.
As these things sometimes work, a couple of local lads were just getting out. A good sign. They told me I might still catch a few decent waves down there, so I decided to give it a go. And had a really fun session. Small waves, but reasonably powerful, and enough of a ride to make it worth the effort.
I decided to camp there and surf it again the following morning. Except the following morning, it was flat. Curses. I had to head back to civilisation later that day, and was eager for a final South Devon surf. So rather reluctantly, I headed back to Bantham.
I needn't have been quite so reluctant. There were three cars already there. Knowing time was of the essence, and the tide was on its way in, I didn't bother walking the quarter of a mile down to the beach to check it out. Big mistake! Instead I asked a guy who was about to head down there with his board if he had had a look. He had. Fairly mellow was his analysis.
Fairly mellow? Are you kidding?! They were the best waves of the week! Absolutely fabulous! Somehow the wind had moved round and was off-shore, cleaning up the faces of beautiful big, clean waves rolling into the bay with metronome regularity. And only a handful of surfers out there.
I caught the rip out, fluffed a couple of waves and got caught inside among the whitewash. Not part of the plan. But having surfed there on Sunday, I realised I knew what I ought to be doing, and told myself to do it. I paddled back to the beach, caught the rip out again, and had another go. Having surfed nine sessions over the past six days, I was at the end of my energy. But somehow I managed to catch a wave. And stay on it. I couldn't believe it! Just overhead, a steaming freight-train of a wave that powered on for a hundred metres. I came off, not fully realising what had just happened but glad to have surfed a decent wave at last.
As I paddled back out, on the rip again, I saw one of the locals catch a monster. Easily double overhead, clean and rolling, it was one of those cinematic waves that etch themselves on the retina. And in a way, helped me realise what I had just surfed. I got out to the back and waited.
Soon enough, another wave came rolling into the bay. Not double overhead, but certainly overhead. I turned and paddled, and somehow, against all expectation, caught it. Got to my feet and made the drop. These were all right-handed waves, so I was on my backhand - though I'm beginning to feel I'm better at catching back-hand waves for some reason. I stayed in a low crouch, holding the left rail until I felt I was stable enough to stand. This wave was bigger, hollower and more powerful than the last, with a vertical wall of water beside my left shoulder, and above my head, the start of a curl showering water onto my shoulders. Not a cover-up, but the closest I've come. It was fabulous. Not as big and powerful as the session at Thurso, not as much to play with as the left at Sandsend. But for the combination of power and control, perhaps the best, most exhilarating wave I've surfed so far. And easily the longest, powering on seemingly for ever (or about a hundred metres again, which when you're surfing amounts to the same thing). I surfed it to the end. And got out, trembling, exhausted and ecstatic.