Sunday, December 16, 2012


"Polzeath has to be the only wave in the world where going along it is actually worse than just going straight"

My housemate Benny and I were running down the beach out front of our house towards some distinctly ordinary looking waves when he hit me with this statement.  It's hard to disagree with him, but we still surf our local spot more often than either of us would care to admit, regardless.

Polzeath is a big old expanse of flat sand, fed by sediment flowing out of the mouth of the Camel estuary.  On Spring low tides it's just under half a mile from the top of the beach to the water's edge and the massive tidal range and constant flow of fine sand means that there are never really any discernible sand banks there.  At one point years ago a few of us hatched covert plans to hand out shovels to the young kids in the boardriders club to see if we could get them to dig a rip-bank and make good waves for at least one turn of the tide.  Waves seem to break sideways faster than they travel towards the shore and the wave faces are kind of fat and flat without much of a lip.  This embeds most local surfers with a front-foot heavy stance and an inclination towards running off down the line looking for a section to hit rather than going straight down and back up again.  A visiting Aussie friend of mine claimed that it was a bit like snowboarding, stating that you "just s-turn your way down the face until the thing stands up enough for you to tell whether or not it's a left or a right".
And it's usually busy.  Busy with other surfers, with tourists, swimmers and bodyboarders, legions of surf-schoolers and hordes of longboarders (and, now, more recently stand-up paddlers).  Easy access, a big beach, and nice soft waves.  In past summers the lifeguards used to split the beach in two by anchoring a buoy-line out past the mean low tide line.  When waves rolled through the buoys used to lift the seaweedy green rope up out of the water like a trip wire, either catching people out or forcing a rapid cutback and kick-out from the more-aware.
But we all love our local.  Almost as much as we love to moan about it.  Sure, surfing at home usually makes for a bit of "upwards readjustment" any time you go on a surf trip, but it also makes for good paddlers.  You can't consistently surf the spot with one of the longest paddle outs in Europe and not develop a bit of shoulder stamina.  And almost every other surf spot is a pleasant change when we go up the hill and leave the village.  It makes for happy travellers, even if it's just round the corner to the next beach.

Hating your local surf spot?  You've gotta love it, one way or another.

Image:  Benny - out of season, loving hating on his local, and tearing into it just for good measure.  By Mat Arney.

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