Posted by: smithdavid | June 2, 2013


Every few seconds a wave crashes into the Summerleaze Pier, Bude. I’m standing at the top of the Cornish headland, imagining what it would be like to go in from the pier. I wait for the explosion of white foam, throw Matilda in, dive on to her, paddle like crazy. Then I’ll be out back without having to paddle for twenty minutes.

If I judge by my last surf at Tullan with Nicky, everything will be okay. But that was two months ago and I’m not paddle fit. In fact, I’ve only just started running again.

‘Don’t know if it’s a good idea,’ Emma says, her eyes are on where ocean meets concrete pier. Mine are on the two surfers in line with the pier and the short distance it would be to paddle out to them.

‘Ya, maybe go in from the beach…’ says Simone. Nellie nods too. I shift my weight towards the pier, but then start thinking and reason triumphs over adventure.

We walk down the path but part of me is still drawn back to the shorter, more dangerous way in.

It’s on seasand, not concrete, that I strap my leash on. My back and hamstrings ache, residue from the six hour drive from London.

the waves and the pier...

the waves and the pier…

But when I feel the whitewater wash numbly against the neoprene around my legs and trunk, it’s like I wasn’t in the car at all. I drop onto Matilda and paddle, push up with my arms as whitewater washes in, ride over the top of it, paddle a few strokes, push up ride over the next wave.

The following wave knocks me off her and when I surface I’m gasping for air. I clamber on her again and begin paddling. I’m thinking that maybe I should’ve taken my chances off the pier, something that’s true of so many decisions I’ve made, maybe I should take more chances.

Now I’m in a no man’s land, it’s not properly out back but not in the impact zone either. A wave reforms, I paddle for it and it half catches Matilda. But there is never really any great momentum and soon I’m in the water again, having not fealt the surge.

In some way, perhaps metaphoircally only, I look towards the shore, hoping that the others aren’t watching. I don’t want to seem a fraud after all my talk about surfing.

It’s a little later on and I watch another wave re-form, I paddle for this one and just about catch it and stand and ride it for a while. There is no thrill of the drop but at least I see the blur of whitewater.

a few in at summerleaze...

a few in at summerleaze…

I paddle back out to my no man’s land again, sit on Matilda, wait. Two others launch in from the beach, paddle their long boards easily out past me, start catching waves on the clean.

I look on, thinking – if only I lived near the sea, if only I had more time. But as I lie onto Matilda to paddle again, I see the pink glint of the waning sun on the water and there’s nowhere or no-one else I’d rather be.



  1. Dave,

    You work so hard to put yourself in these moments, like the “six hour drive from London.” It’s inspiring to me.

    Right now, I’m sitting in my home with ice pack on my anke- torn ligament. But that won’t stop me. I will soon be back in the surf, giving it a go.

    Keep surfing, keep inspiring- and keep sharing your journey.


    • thanks tom, good luck with the torn ligament, had that in the kneee before – no joke.
      i’m currently recovering from a fractured shoulder but should be surfing again soon…
      all the best…dave

  2. I went to Cornwall once, looking for waves – inabout 1965. It was bloody freezing mate, couldn’t do it, went to Portugal instead – you have my admiration.

    • it’s really not that cold. but warmer would be better.

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