Glorious Surf Pass and Cornish Cream
Before going into detail about our splendid long weekend chasing surf in Cornwall, I think it's important to explain the term "Surf Pass" and its importance to those of you reading this who are lucky enough to be;
a) Ignorant of the term
b) In a situation where there is no necessity for the term and therefore potentially in category (a) above
c) Too young for the term to warrant an existence and therefore in categories (a) and (b) above
i.e SINGLE / NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP!!!!
A surf pass is, in it most rare incarnation, a reward or present awarded to you by your "significant other" because they love you and think you're wonderful.
Most commonly it is "payment" (with a very limited, but unspecified, use by date) for an ungodly amount of hard work invested by you in household chores, DIY, behaving yourself and generally putting up with a whole load of crap over extended periods of time. In any circumstance they are highly valued and highly coveted once gained.
Mart found himself to be, temporarily, in category (b) above and so enquired as to my availability for a long weekend in Kernow, (not the famous Cornish village!) but the county of Western England known as Cornwall, on a feral surf search. I immediately and excitedly replied "Yes! Definitely! ......errr... I'll ...errr...see if I can negotiate something with Deb...you know...Sennen's a handful for a whole weekend...but you never know eh?"
So I spent a couple of days contemplating the various psychological techniques (lies, bribes, pouting etc) I could employ to ensure a positive response, while spending this time thinking I subconsciously became the model husband and father again. So by the time I'd worked out my game plan and was about to put it into action, while serving her breakfast in bed one Wednesday morning she asked "What do you want?"
Taken aback by this frontal assault and the realisation that I am so transparent, I spurted "Can I go to Cornwall with Mart surfing for 3 days?" to which she replied "As long as it's not this weekend (the weekend of classic October swell) of course you can." I left for work excited at the prospect of arranging a trip and bemused at what quality of pass I'd achieved, I'm pretty sure it was the rare reward.
We decided on Friday to Sunday the weekend of the 21st October as there seemed to be a decently large swell and strong wind predicted for the Friday with residual swell hanging around for the Saturday and Sunday.
Thursday 20th finally arrived... I hadn't been away with a mate on any kind of surf trip for at least 8 yrs so was in a state of heady anticipation and full on stomach churning, regular lavatory visiting excited hysteria.
I finished work early, prepped the van for the 5-6 hour journey down the M4, M5, A30 to Kernow (not the village mind you!), got to bed early, wanted to be wide awake for the early predawn start. After a totally restless night, too excited and worried that I'd miss the alarm I was up and away by 6.30am.
Mart equally excited, attended the opening night of a new club in Cardiff, spent the evening fraternising with C list celebs (that guy who used to be in "Belonging") and quaffing the odd dozen free cocktails. Needless to say he was "minging" when I picked him up at 7.30am on Friday morning but to his credit he was up and ready to leave.
After two hours of driving the van side ways (due to horrendous high winds) down the M4 / M5, it became clear that passenger and driver were about to slip into unconsciousness due to lack of sleep (in both cases) and alcoholic overindulgence (in one), a pit stop was made, where we powered up on fresh bacon butties cooked in the van and coffee from Costa (boy did they choose the right name!)
We arrived at our deeply discussed destination at 1.30pm, Harlyn was the only place we could identify on the North Cornish coast that seemed to offer shelter from the howling SSW wind, it not only offered shelter but it was offshore, with a thumping good swell powering up the coast, a good start! The beautiful bay seemed to be showing promise, and our guide book described it as working best from low tide up, as it was a bit before low, we decided on more food at the local hostelry.
To say we were offered a warm and generously friendly welcome from the attending landlord would be an exaggerated exaggeration, the guy looked like he hadn't cracked a smile in his entire life, the pre surf power up steak, mushroom and onion ciabatta sandwich, however, couldn't have been better if it had come from my imagination.
Fuelled up we hit the beach, to be met by clean offshore waves pushing in around a solid 3ft with very few people in. Lovely, short paddle outback to where the waves, at first, were coming through fast and pretty hollow, Mart, still recovering at this point was slightly off his game, I on the other hand was gagging for it and for the first hour or so snagged the majority of nice waves on my Fatboy Flyer.
After 90 minutes or so Mart and the waves picked up and started ripping / firing respectively with a really good clean 5 footer coming through on the sets, throwing out very tempting but difficult barrels, the offshore was brutal, throwing watery iron filings into our eyes.
It continued like this for another two and a half hours with Mart getting a number of rides that raised hoots of appreciation from a friendly local.
I managed to get one round of applause for one wave and complimented on the lateness of take off and steep drop into the barrel I managed on my frustration wave (you know the wave you get after a period of poor performance / fatigue where you think "F~*~ this I'm going!") which I hasten to add I made and exited through the dog flap. Luckily for me no one except Mart saw my super kook performance of paddling so hard for a wave that I paddled myself off my board sideways and over the falls!!!
We emerged from the water in the dark four hours after we went in very happy indeed. Changed, secured the van and boards and headed back to the "Harlyn Inn" for a couple of beers, some more good grub, a few games of pool and the live entertainment of "Joe Francis and The Ammunition", three young lads who couldn't have given more if the crowd had been treble the size it actually was, approximately 8 people including bar staff. Their renditions of Police and Queen covers will stay with us for some time.
After a relatively sleepless night in the van, due to the cold (someone left the ceiling vent open) numerous trips to urinate and general discomfort (Mart found the "coffin" compartment in the roof a little claustrophobic and was suffering from acute hyperthermia!), Saturday was spent chasing the surf, which had disappeared overnight, we surfed Fistral at a sloppy 3ft in the morning for an unremarkable hour or so.
I was so tired I could hardly flap my arms and this lead to yet another super kookage of catching one of the nicer waves, failing to get to my feet and riding the face beautifully in the prone position until the wave barrel rolled me off! Oh how we laughed!
After endless hours in Tunnel Vision surf shop, Newquay, with Mart talking "Bonzers" and trying on Excel 6/5/4 hooded wetsuits (oh how I laughed!) and making completely false promises about future orders, we made for a meet with a mate of mine - 'Olaus' and a surf at Gwithian. It was pushing 2ft at best, but we went in and flapped around some more with a lone seal and cormorant for company and Mart performed some kookages on my mate's 10ft Harbour plank.
Saturday evening was spent in the company of friends, beer, a very tasty but somewhat paltry portioned house special chow mein (Mart gave it a measly 4/10 for portion size) and some more beer. The only low point being we missed "Terry and the Tillermen" set in the local pub - 'The White Hart Hotel' a "must visit location" for taxidermy enthusiasts...complete with stuffed Pike, Perch, Eels and a full sized Wild Boar!
Sunday was a no swell day, so we came home early, still stoked from our session at Harlyn or was it Hayle?
Surf Pass and time well spent? I think so....
Words and images by Kev Child