You may know that I have a great mate who goes by the name of Smiler. Well, Smiler and I seem to share the same fascination with, and desire for, surfing whatever the Atlantic can throw on to our doorstep. We’ve had some milestone moments: the Polzeath near death kitesurf; the great Fistral love surf (where my distorted memory tells me we out paddled Alan Stokes and Jonny Fryer – that’s how I like to rememebr it anyway); the insane Watergate big wave kitesurf of January ’09; the Unmaxibles death surf…I could go on. But the point is, the most incredible moments I’ve had in the sea around here have been with Smiler, mostly just us two out there. I don’t know what it is, but he seems to just ‘get it’ and I reckon if you asked him he’d likely say the same about me.
Today, we were trotting down the path at the back of the golf course, ready for a nice surf at Fistral. We had spoke about paddling out at The Cribbar but decided that it wasn’t on after a cursory eyeball check. But as we ran to the beach, we saw a set break cleanly out at The Cribbar. We were carrying out shortboards and had a quick debate as to whether we should run back and get the guns or not. We decided to just go for a surf, and if The Cribbar was still looking doable, we could grab the big boards then.
Well, after about one wave each at Fistral, we saw another set go out there and just looked at each other and started paddling out there. I’ve been out there a few times, Smiler’s even kitesurfed it, but neither of us at that point could claim having bagged a wave there. It’s a funny place, you get out there and it’s always a little bit scarier and heavier than you remember. I was on my 6’4, Smiler was on a 5’10 of all things, but we figured if we just paddled out and had a look, it would be a good start for going in next time with the right equipment.
We soon found ‘the boil’ and tried scratching into a few waves. The sound was intense and the height of the backs of them defied belief considering the swell that was running. We were missing waves, we had to duck dive a few, but then a perfect one rolled in. We were both going for it, head down, and we both caught it. It felt like we were just being lifted up and up as it swelled underneath us. I can clearly remember that we were just dropping down it for ages, the slap of the board and the speed over the chop was something else. I was so pleased to see Smiler to my right, we were laughing at the incredulity of it, and at that point we linked hands, it just seemed the right thing to do!
We kicked out and the feeling of sharing an experience like that with such a good mate was undescribable. We’d both had our eye on this place for a while, we both really wanted for a long time to be able to say ‘I rode it’ and today it happened. The best part was that neither of us had to suffer being the second guy to ride it out of the pair of us since we caught that first one together.
After that, we were pumped right up. Smiler took off on a hairball left which had him cartwheeling down the face. I had to duck dive the rest of the set and that was bad enough, I looked back at one point and saw him scratching through a huge lake of foam. He took a whopper on the head that ripped the board from his hands but made it out to the deep water on the Towan side and paddled back out to the boil. We’d set up transit lines with some features on land so we knew where to go back to.
Another ideal looking set marched in and I was torn between paddling over it or swinging round and paddling into it, but I went for it. Getting in wasn’t that difficult but the bottom just dropped away like nothing I’d ever seen before, it felt like the wall was completely vertical and I have no idea how the hell my board managed to stay engaged in the face of the wave. The speed and clatter was off the scale as you can see from the video, spray everywhere, the drop was so intense and I couldn’t believe I was making it. I don’t know how big the waves were today, it’s a very different game compared to surfing regular Fistral, in fact I’d say this is far and away the most challenging and frightening wave I’ve ever surfed. The noise when it crashes is frigthening, there are these wierd striations of foam running up the face as it sucks the water ahead of it before it breaks. The lip is super thick and the whole thing moves in like a freight train.
We both decided we wouldn’t want to surf it much bigger, it would be outright foolhardy without a rescue ski because you could easily become overwhelmed and dashed on the rocks. People do paddle into it much bigger, but they are a better class of sportsman than I.
Here’s the video, the GoPro wide angle doesn’t do much for the scale of the wave, it’s pretty much as if it’s shooting up a slope, you don’t get that sense of height. But it’s evidence, and if you’ve ever seen The Cribbar breaking I hope you might be able to relate to it a bit.