Posted by: smithdavid | March 2, 2014

Vast Space

Woolacombe is far down below from this vantage point on Station Road and we cast our eyes there to see what the waves are doing – Magicseaweed says there’s swell. A wave breaks and even from this distance it looks thunderous. Emmet and I look at each other, raise eyebrows.

It’s been a day of shifting plans – I was to pick him up at Bristol but he phoned when I was just outside of London to say that Aer Aerann woudn’t take his board on the flight. The options were Aer Lingus to Birmingham (and a long bus ride to Bristol) or Heathrow. I was passing Reading so turned around and waited at Heathrow.

We park on the Woolacombe Esplanade and walk up along the headland. The flags are flapping briskly shore wards, not a good omen for surfing. We carry on to land’s end, where below the surf take-off point is. The ocean is messy but not quite as wild as we feared when looking from Station Road. It’s been a long drive and I feel compelled to at least give things a try.

down to the wild sea...

down to the wild sea…

The concern for me as I paddle in is that Matilda will seem too small at 7’3” after Christine (8’) and, more recently, the 8’7” hire board in Rossnowlagh. I paddle through the first set of on-rushing white froth, resting for a while in between waves. I’m not all the way out back but see that the waves are reforming. I should keep going, get to the point where there is urgent energy in the wave but I want to catch one, get the confidence up.

I see a wave jack up and I turn and paddle back towards shore. I feel the way it takes Matilda and then feel her solidity beneath me. Soon I’m standing, shifting my weight this way and that, Matilda following. Christine is different – when she’s going she stays on her course, she’s not inclined to deviate. Matilda is open to persuasion – a slight shift in weight will steer her.

When I’m paddling out again I know I should challenge myself, go into the deeper water. But I see one of the re-forming waves rise and I turn quickly and take it. Again I feel Matilda’s sensitivity, again I see rushing water on either side of me, again I steer her towards the churning lip.

not as rough as it looked...

not as rough as it looked…

Emmet is also scratching around the re-forming waves, taking one from time to time.

‘Out back is a bit too far without being fitter,’ he says, shaking his head in disappointment when we sit on our boards at the halfway-out point.

‘Yeah, but these are okay…’ I say, gesturing to the re-formers.

He shrugs.

The light is failing now and we know that soon we must return to shore. I take another re-formed wave and as I pop-up I see that the moon is bright in the dark blue, dusk skies the hang behind the rising Woolacombe hills. Within I feel a sense of vast space.

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