The UK’s south coast had a couple of special days last week — in particular one, wild reef in the deepest, darkest depths of Cornwall was kissed with light offshores, bright blue skies and a swell that packed a bit of umph.
One of those redemption sessions after the UK has been battered by relentless rain and onshore wind for a few weeks now.
Before this swell, Wales saw some great conditions (albeit a lot windier) towards the end of last year that lit up a certain wedgey beachbreak, and local legend Logan Nicol who surfed over 500 times in 2022 (more on that soon) was sniping barrels on his backhand.
"Often you'll either have a session of lucking into gems or you'll have a full session of not getting many. I managed to get a couple. Probably not my best session ever out there but got a few teepees. Always fun when it's a bit bigger as it thins the crowd out.
"That day was very cold and very windy so you had to work hard for it."
In Cornwall, 13-year-old grom Nate Giddens was having a mind-meltdown looking down at one of the south west’s favourite reef set-ups.
“I’ve surfed this spot a few times but never like this,” says Nate “Not this time but maybe one day.
“I watched Jack Johns take off on this absolute bomb and it literally took my breath away. Crazy power and so much water moving.”
St Ives-based Jayce Robinson was bagging tubes the same time as Jack.
“It felt like a bit of a dream,” said Jayce. “Glassy perfect peaks barrelling off along the whole stretch of reef. There were definitely a few crew around, but the consistency of the sets was very unlike this spot.
“I guess the swell was building through the day which helped. I really had a lot of fun, with the wind finally whistling, lightly offshore and the sun showing it’s face for the first time in a while. I mean it doesn’t really get much better than that.
“Days like that don’t come around all that often these days, but when they do it puts a smile on all our faces.”
Welshmen Nathan Phillips has been around these parts for a while but a couple years ago suffered an awful injury to his foot at this very spot.
“The second day was offshore and pumping. Jayce, Harris Rothschild, all getting sick ones,” he said.
“I remember this one. It was a little double up nugget. Wasn’t a big set but it hit the reef just right, one of those ones that look like close outs always end up being the best there.
“I took off and just landed straight in the pit, it was classic because I’m good mates with the Walrus (photographer) and didn’t realise it was him. I’d not seen him for a few weeks so when we both popped up we were frothing we hooked up on that one and high fives were exchanged.
“It’s hard this time of year with so many memories of trips to warmer places. Then you have to slip into a 5mm wetsuit with a metal foot. I won’t moan too much though, a tube is a tube.
“The Guinness tasted lovely by the log fire in the pub afterwards though, best part of the session!”
It wasn’t just the furthest flung regions of the UK’s southern tip that felt this, Dorset got it good and Wittering as well.
Meanwhile, South Devon’s Bantham Beach was lapping up that south swell and further east, photographer Danni Pollock had her viewfinder fixed on the small but clean waves rolling into the seaside town of Bournemouth.
"It was one of those rare mid-winter days," said Danni. "The kind of day where tiny peelers are enjoyed by local loggers and shortboarders alike.
"A slow paced, sunsoaked afternoon in January."
And yet further east again, the swell just about wrapped into the breaks of the Witterings — east and west. Yeah, it may have been small, but these are the kind of days that bring the stoke in this part of the world.
“It was quite small here but lovely and clean for once,” said photographer Emma Haylock of Shutterbug Photography. “And the sunset was awesome!”
Emma’s partner, Mark Iles calls this place home and loves to glide on a log whenever swell reaches this far into the English Channel.
“It is always nice to get any kind of swell to the Witterings,” says Mark. “We have struggled for a clean swell recently but this was lovely to catch a few small peelers in the orange/red water from an amazing sunset!
“I had just warmed up enough from the morning session and was so glad the pushing tide gave something and even though small it will keep me smiling for a while.”
“The swell may not have been an ideal angle for the south coast of England, but there were a few spots that work on a westerly,” said UK forecaster Jamie Bateman.
"Those regions received a moderate-sized pulse that filtered in during the afternoon on Monday, January 16 and was still there the following day but with more favourable north wind. West swell, north wind, sunny skies, it’s as good as it gets for some people.”
The swell hasn’t stopped for the south west UK. There was plenty more for the north coast over the weekend and into the start of this week. Keep an eye on the cams, here; Praa Sands | Bantham | Fistral | Croyde |
Cover: Jayce Robinson by Laurie McCall.