Alternative ways of doing surf spot research
Taking a break from the Cornwall Spot Guide for today, we’ll be back on it tomorrow with Penhale, but I thought you might like something a bit different, so here are a couple of ideas for getting extra intel about a new spot you want to surf or kite.
Usually, when we want to learn about a spot we haven’t kited or surfed before, we just need to ask someone who has already ridden there. But if we are interested in a new, or ‘mysto’ spot, about which information is scarce, then we might want to turn to other more established water user groups for help.
Here’s a snap shot of a sea chart that I have. It covers the area you can see here in Newquay plus several other spots up and down the coast in good detail. The advantage of a sea chart over Google Maps is that not only can you instantly see what angle a beach faces in relation to incoming wind and swell, but you can also see the bathymetry of the location. In this snap shot for example, you can clearly see the abrupt depth change around the area marked as ‘Cribbar Rocks’. So even before we’ve checked the place out, we know that there’s a fairly abrupt reef down there, which at less than 4m deep at low tide, could have potential for creating a wave. Obviously we know that the Cribbar produces waves, but it’s interesting to get a bit more info on what’s going on under the water.
Sea charts show you the depth at astronomical low tide, that’s the moment of the lowest tide you’ll ever see. Google Maps on the other hand is a mish-mash of satelite images taken willy-nilly, paying no attention to where the tide is. If you wanted, you could cross-referrence a sea chart with an almanac and then you would be able to predict the depth of water over your reef at any given time of the day. You’ll know how much beach will be left for that late launch. You’ll also have a better understanding of the ocean currents at work in your area.
The UK has a large, active diving community and these people are naturally experts in what’s going on under our seas. Today I scoured my sea charts for obscure wrecks, reefs and shoals and punched their names into Bing, I’ve had enough of Google. The results that came back were all from dive sites. As I clicked through, I saw the divers were posting photos of the things they’d seen whilst diving these places. Sure, I’ve yet to see the grand panorama that lays bare the secrets of Spot X, but the point is these guys and girls have been down there. So I’ve started to make contact with the people that have dived some areas around here, asking for their descriptions of what’s down there.
Walkers, of which the UK has millions, have amassed a wealth of images and info about beaches and coves all around the UK, and like most things these days, it’s all up on the internet for free. Via a searches and leaps and bounds, I arrived at this stunning vista of a beach tucked up off the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall. Actually we have kited here before, but all we had to go on then was a road map and we had no idea what to expect. But with this photo as a cross referrence, we can see that it’s certainly going to be worth a go at low tide. This image is from a Flickr stream; if you tap into the right gallery of photos relating to the area you’re interested in, it can be like stumbling upon a goldmine.