Posted by: smithdavid | June 16, 2013


We’re in Downs Barton, Nellie & Ruben’s country home, just outside of Bude, Cornwall. It’s raining and there is the prospect of a six hour drive back to London. And the last two days haven’t been great days of surfing. But still it feels like the great mass of the ocean is pulling me irresistibly towards it, like its energy is exciting something within me and I have to move.

‘You don’t any more wet when it rains…’ I say as Emma and Nellie eye me curiously when I gather my wetsuit and head towards the car.

The car park at Crooklets is almost deserted, I move along the concrete walkway that reaches up along the headland that separates me from Summerleaze. On my left are brightly coloured timber change huts which are locked and empty. Now I stop, adjust the hood of my jacket, look out towards where the waves break. It’s the usual routine, looking out at the sea as if what I see will make any difference to my already made-up mind. There are few shortboarders out back, they pop-up occasionally on waves and take short rides.

crooklets/summerleaze headland...

crooklets/summerleaze headland…

I welcome the rain that falls on my head as I walk (now in my wetsuit and with Matilda under an arm) down to the water – it’s another vital element amongst the thunderous ocean, the green hills, the dark rock. In the water I paddle out, feeling the push-back of the incoming white water. It’s no easier than the last few days, my fitness, surprisingly, has not improved since Friday.

When I get out back, I’m gasping and already a side current is moving me away from the headland, out towards where the beige beach is replaced with unwelcoming black rock. For a while I’m cursing how difficult it is to paddle, how the ocean has not provided easy waves to surf despite my faith.

I paddle for a messy wave but it doesn’t pick me up. A guy on a short board spots it and quickly turns and gets up. This seems like insult heaped on injury – it should be more difficult for him to take waves on that board.

shortboarder at summerleaze...

shortboarder at summerleaze…

Another wave leaves me behind and I have to lean down and paddle to keep myself from drifting too far north. Another wave comes and goes. There is some despair within me, a churlish anger at the fact that despite all my effort, surfing is still so difficult. I paddle a little closer to the shore and pick up some white water and as I begin popping up on it my arms quiver and I fall off.

I’m tempted to go ashore, admit that for whatever reason, it just isn’t my day today. But I stay out, perhaps just for the sake of exercise, lunging at a wave here and there.

It’s two hours when I finally belly-ride one in, exhausted. As soon as I leave the water though a sense of achievement grows – at least I didn’t give in, at least I stayed out there in the vast, pulsing energy for as long as I could. And that is enough.


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