Surfing rules awright?

Surfing in England has progressed incredibly (and for better or worse) since the 60s when salt-encrusted hippies ruled the breaks and only the hard-core got wet in winter. With a ragged coastline of spectacular cliffs and coves, Cornwall is undoubtedly the premier surf region in ol’ Blighty.

My first venture to Cornwall was a big mistake. Being a fresh of the boat Colonial, I boarded a train at Victoria Station – having paid a ridiculous amount for transporting a board – full of anticipation at getting back in the water. Youthful folly and optiminsm wouldn’t let the fact that it was mid-winter and icy get in the way. The train departed and soon I found myself hurtling through a countryside of green hills, some dusted with light snow as in Hobbiton or some Knightly tale.

Many dreary hours and changes later I was walking up the main strip in a quiet, crisply sunny town called Newquay. I was amazed by the sheer number of surf shops and bars – also called Nirvana for a travel-weary adventurer.

Keen to get out there I dropped my gear off at a B&B and charged down to the local surf shop to hire a suit and boots. The boys chuckled as they pulled out their cobweb-encrusted and mouldy box of hire gear. They may have also been chuckling because I hadn’t checked the surf yet – they just said it was “alright Matey”.

Dashing over the glistening hill leading to Fistral Beach I could hear the pounding surf. The onshore, howling wind almost spun me around but I soldiered on down to the Headland Hotel for a closer look.

It was big. It was brownish grey. And noone was out.

I had come too far to give up now so I crunched my way over the icy sand and took the plunge. When you’ve grown up in a subtropical climate the first shock from the icy water is like being pushed into an electric fence.

The headache set in, reality faded away… all that existed was the numbness, the current, duck-dive, paddle, duck-dive, left-arm swing, breathe, right-arm swing.

I did manage to catch one wave but the hole in my boot meant that my foot felt like a sponge full of needles and the ride only lasted a moment.

The trip back to London was a sorry affair, having selected to try the National Express coach instead of the train.

So, does this define surfing in England? Blown out brown walls of polar mush? Would I do it again?

Hell yes. But that’s another story…