Just like that, it felt a bit like summer again. Surfers in the south west UK have been agonising this past week, watching Portugal bomb, Morocco crank, and Ireland go off, all the while cursing the strong S wind that was causing havoc on blighty’s open beachies. Over the weekend though, the wind let up and swung a touch more offshore, a couple of days of great waves, sandwiched between back-to-back storms – the kind of days everyone had been waiting for.
Though some spots would have been surfable last week, the majority of people wouldn’t have been able to hunt around for them. There’s little time in the morning to get somewhere before work and even less time in the evening, with last light around 5pm. All week-long, Saturday felt like a little glimmer of hope. Like it was a day meant for surfing, with sun, ok-to-good wind, decent size surf, it made for a whole load of buzz along the SW coastline.
Harry Timson, Izzy Henshall, Issac Marshall, three rides, three different beachies, three different approaches, all on the same day. Vids by Vince Timson, Bella Bunce and Nigel Aird.
Sure enough, from first light, there was an unseasonable glow about the place, summer skies and autumnal waves, why September through November are our months. The wind was just fine in the end, could have done with a little more east in it but the swell was pumping – and we even got a first glimpse of the wetsuit hoods and booties in the lineup.
“There was a physical electricity in the air over the weekend,” said Newquay-based surfer Vinny Stelzer. “Everyone was feeling the buzz. It’s not often the perfect combination of conditions align for a weekend. Phones were pinging, car parks were rammed and everyone was out to feast. There was sunshine, solid swell, happy faces and super-sessions with friends up and down the north coast of Cornwall.”
Meanwhile, some 30-miles west along Cornwall’s main arterial road, the A30, St Ives-based surfer Tassy Swallow was surfing right out her front door. “Yeah, Saturday, it was super fun out there,” she said. “It had a bit less size than the rest of the week, so it wasn’t as ‘ride-or-die’ but pretty good and not that many people in, which is always a bonus.”
"Interesting session in the morning," said Izzy Henshall. "Started off on a log to try and paddle out in between the lulls and caught some smaller ones. After about 15 minutes, switched to a twinny. Saw Jacob make a sick tube."
Photographer Jon Snook had been travelling back from a bit of time in Ireland, spent scoring fun-sized waves with UK big wave charger Tom Butler. “The draining insiders were the ones that were giving the best barrel opportunities. The outside peaks were allowing for some big drops, but would quickly taper off allowing for a few turns. There was a slight warble running through a lot of the waves. I reckon it could have done with more of an offshore puff for true Fistral perfection.”
MSW forecaster Tony Butt breaks this session down. “Around Thursday November 10, a small centre of low pressure developed over the Azores, on the southern periphery of a much larger ‘mother system’ covering the northern two-thirds of the North Atlantic. An elongated area of high pressure stretched from Portugal towards the Low Countries.
“Over the following 36 hours, the centre of low pressure moved northeast along the northwest edge of the high, and an associated area of strong WSW winds generated a pulse of swell. The swell slammed into Ireland, along with strong winds, during Friday 11th, before spreading out towards the east and hitting Cornwall shortly afterwards.
“By Saturday, that area of high pressure had moved north, and another large low had started to form west of Ireland, which caused local winds over the southwest UK to back around to the southeast. The swell peaked on Friday, but persisted through Saturday, with wave heights around four to six feet and some good beachbreak surf.”
And here’s a little taste from an eye in the sky of how those swell lines filled in to the south west. Very pleasant. Vid and additional reporting by Tom Vaughan.