Posted by: smithdavid | June 10, 2013

Without real conviction

I’m standing on a timber slat platform, looking up along the Widemouth Bay beach. The beach iteslf is similar to Hell’s Mouth or Rossnowlagh, a long, slowly curving, north reaching stretch of light brown. Beyond the sand though, things are different – there are dark, jagged cliffs, jutting into the sea and back away again. Widemouth is different too to Summerleaze and Crooklets, the sharp bays of Bude, a few miles up.

I’m standing here as if what I see will have some impact on whether I suit up and go in for a surf. When you’re at the ocean as infrequnetly as I am, not making some attempt to surf does not even enter the consciousness.

‘We’ll see you in Bude,’ says Emma. She, Simone and Jimmy the dog are going to walk along the cliff tops into Bude.

‘Sure…’ I say. They can probably already notice (even Jimmy the dog) the way my attention is out back past the breakers, already trying to figure out where will be best to get waves.


Now I’m waist deep in the water and paddling. I remember how quickly I became breathless yesterday and it’s no different. I make a few strokes and then a surge of whitewater is on top of me, pushing me a few yards back towards the beach. I wait for a while, let two or three more come past me, and then paddle again, more urgently this time so that I make some headway before the next broken wave takes me back. This reminds me too of the time I surfed Woolacombe with Tim – we were unfit and it was hard to get out back.

At last I get past the worst of it and look this way and that to see where I might be able to pick a wave up. But they’re coming in, windswept, from all angles, the chance of getting one clean is slim. And the wind is pushing me down south, away from the beach, I have to paddle frequently just to hold my position.


I paddle for a wave, my arms lack power after the long paddle out and the wave is not clean. I never really believe that I will make this wave and soon I pull out, having not felt a true pull on Matilda. I sit up for a while to see if I can find another spot to take waves from. Another half-formed wave comes to me – I should just let it pass, have some faith that there will be others. But I paddle for it, again without real conviction and it too leaves me behind.

I console myself with the fact that no-one is really making that many waves. But I know I should really just focus on what I can do.

Eventually I’m wahsed into where the beginners are standing. I take a few waves there, riding them for a short while and then jumping off before it gets too shallow. Further out back waves are jacking up quickly, a few are making them on shortboards, popping up quickly, making a few turns, turning off the shoulder.

I try to get out there but I’m too tired and have to satisfy myself with short, slow rides. But even these are better that no surfing at all.


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