Monday, 24 May 2010

The End of the World

After the delays and distractions of the last couple of months, I'm back on the road. I picked up the trail in Wembury, just east of Plymouth. Last time I was there, it was a mist-shrouded, gothic vale of dark, satanic menace. This time it was sun-filled and beautiful. Plus I met a badger ambling down the footpath by the church. I've never met a badger before. Consequently I acted with rather less equanimity than the badger, which ambled on, oblivous.

Then a sprint through Plymouth in the rain, south to Gunwalloe, where I managed a slack surf in barely-surfable conditions. It was great to get in the water and the shock of being back in a wetsuit was mitigated by the pleasure of not having to wear hood, gloves and boots now. Though I regretted the boots.And the water is amazing! So clear! It's like southern Portugal, maybe clearer. You can see every stone, every wisp of floating weed, and yesterday, every jelly fish (royal blue, easy to spot and rare enough not to be a major worry). And of course, the scenery is stunning.
Here I am at The Lizard, taking the obligatory, sad-bloke-visiting-a-major-landmark-on-his-own shot. It's further south than Land's End (of which more next time), so feels more like the End of the Land than Land's End. But that's marketing for you. Lizard doesn't sound as appealing as Land's End, so everyone goes there instead.
The forecast on the south coast wasn't looking promising, so I skipped up north, to Godrevy. Coincidentally, it's the location of the lighthouse that appears (or fails to appear) in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. It almost fails to appear in this photo, too.
Godrevy was great! One average surf in small waves, one appalling surf in big waves (wrong board, snapped leash, lost nerve), then one absolutely fabulous session in powerful, head-high waves, as dark as Davy Jones' Locker, with decent walls and no one surfing my end of the beach, which is always a bonus.
The north end of Godrevy is covered in rocks, which are in the way at high tide. But at low tide they look like this:
Yes, mussels, and plenty of them. So what's a feral surfer to do, except this?
Followed by this:

The forecast had picked up on the South Coast, so I decided to take a look at Porthleven. Like Thurso, it's a well-known, well-respected reef. I was only going to take a look...

But when I got there, it was foggy and there only seemed a couple of people out there. If I was going to surf it, it was now or never. Tomorrow it might be flat. Or worse, packed with pros. If you click on the photo, you'll see it's about head high, with someone just taking the drop.
I paddled out, full of trepidation, and prepared to do battle. There were a handful of locals out there, who, if not actually welcoming, didn't seem to mind the arrival of a middle-aged incompetent in their midst. The reef was working well, with clean lines coming in and being picked off by the locals with apparent ease. I waited my turn, and when the line-up was clear because everyone had just caught something, paddled smoothly into a small line pulsing my way.

Except by the time it hit me, it was a vicious, vertical wall of power intent on chewing me up and hurling me to the reef bed. Which is where I duly went. Rats.

I waited my turn again. Paddled. And saw the gaping void open up in front of me again. Yikes! I'm not going down there! The next two hours were a testament to cowardice, incompetence and humilliation. Hours: two. Waves attempted: a handful. Number of times my feet met my board: two. Waves caught: zero. I paddled in, weak with exhaustion and self-loathing.

The next morning, I was determined to do better. The swell had dropped, but this was worse, as there were fewer waves for more surfers. Rats again. This time, I spent most of my time going over the falls. Surprisingly, this seemed like progress. At least I was going for it, even if my timing was out. Finally, though, I actually caught a wave! Shoulder high, smooth and powerful. And such a relief! I don't think I could have paddled in without catching one, and might still be there now, flailing like a drowning butterfly. And after that, a second! It would have been nice to have caught a third, but let's not be greedy.

The main break is to the right of the harbour wall. To the left is a smaller, closer break where the local youth test their prowess.

And the rest of the youth watch them.

1 comment:

kukurusta said...

Great article JB. And great waves too. Well done, you got your wave! cheers for that. Ride on.