Friday, 30 September 2011

80 Waves - Wave 4


This was the second beach I surfed, and the first I actually stood on for any length of time (so technically the first beach I surfed):

Conditions were small, with just a gentle, waist high wave peeling left and right, and breaking into clear, clean water. A seal was bobbing around for a while, curious to know what was going on. It wasn't epic surf, but fun, and a beautiful place to be surfing alone.

Earlier, I had seen another seal as I had breakfast, on the other side of the island. This was the view from my bed, when I woke:

Finally, waiting for the ferry, I explored this beach, with a lovely clinker rowing boat called Isabella pulled up to the high tide mark, on the sheltered side of the island:

I messed around having lunch and doing van chores until eventually the ferry arrived, and took me off to Barra, damp and salty and excited to be moving on.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

80 Waves - Wave 3


This is where it all started, straight off the 5 a.m. ferry from Oban, the very first wave of the trip.

Tiree is a small, flat island about three hours from the mainland, separated from Coll, its neighbour and mirror image, by a narrow, swirling sound less than a mile across. Covered in lush grass, with just a couple of hills and only a handful of trees, it feels both desolate and domestic at the same time.

The beach at Balevullin looks north west, out towards the wild expanse of the Atlantic, catching any waves going. It's a beautiful place, with fine, bone-white sand edged by thick grass, and water as clear and crisp as a mountain spring.

There wasn't much swell about, and the waves were no more than waist high, but very clean and fairly fast, with a light off-shore wind keeping everything smooth and well-groomed. As it was the start of the trip, I was disgracefully unfit, despite all those early-morning sessions at the pool, and I had trouble getting to my feet fast enough. A LOT of trouble! Local surf instructor Suds and his friend Adam were out - and doing a lot better than I was.

The tide was dropping, and with it went most of the swell, unfortunately. As the tide comes in, there are rocks at the southern end of the beach to contend with, and a small rock lurking in the middle of the line-up to avoid. Other than that, it's perfect.

Friday, 22 July 2011

80 Waves - Wave 2


At the northern end of the same beach as Machrihanish, with a handy carpark and no golf hazard, but without the handy curve that offers a bit of protection from a westerly wind at the southern end.
A surf school had just got out when I arrived, and a bored local sitting on the fence (literally and metaphorically) told me it was "pisch". As far as I could tell, this wasn't a compliment.
Sure enough, a strong on-shore wind was blowing, making the waves messy and weak, but scudding the clouds away to leave a bright, beautiful day.
A rocky patch lurks just below the surface at the northern tip of the beach, like Scylla, while Charybdis currents swirl around it, trying to suck a hapless surfer into its maw.
So not a classic session. But there are worse places to be on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

80 Waves - Wave 1


I didn't start my odyssey here, I started on Tiree, but Machrihanish is the most southerly beach I surfed on the Scottish mainland. It sits on the Mull of Kintyre, catching any swell that manages to squeak through the narrow gap between Ireland and the island of Islay.

From the carpark, you have to walk through the village and down across the golf course, right in front of one of the tees.
With several miles of beach stretching ahead of the tee, it must be the biggest bunker in the world. Sure enough, while I warmed up, a golfer was desperately trying to hack his ball back onto dry land. Serves him right for playing golf.

The breaks at Machrihanish and Westport are apparently popular with students at Glasgow University, still a good two to three hour drive away. But on a grey, wet Monday morning, there was just a dozing seal in the water. It didn't realise I was there until I was almost upon it, then it gave a startled snort and slipped beneath the surface, popping up a couple of times to see who had disturbed its nap.

The curve at the southern end of the bay meant that the south-easterly wind was slightly off-shore, cleaning up the swell to create nice, long, shoulder-high left hand waves, with the occasional shorter right when the strong current got the better of me. It's mostly a sandy bottom, with intermittent patches of largish boulders. Unfortunately my official photographer wasn't prepared to stray too far from the comfort of the van, so although I caught some decent waves, they weren't recorded for posterity.

But I bet the seal was impressed.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Agent Ahoy!

I'm delighted to announce that literary agent Andrew Lownie has agreed to represent me. Since completing my tour of Britain, I have been hard at work on the book version of Around the Coast in 80 Waves, and I'm looking forward to working with Andrew to find a publisher for it.

For my film/ TV work, I am still with Matt Connell at Berlin Associates.

In the next few weeks, I hope to be blogging about surfing in Brighton and Portugal, and will then be blogging a beach-by-beach surf guide to Britain.

So please stay tuned!