The previous post ended at Sennen Cove, a beautiful surf beach on the far southwest of the UK. This is where I cheated. The surf was meant to be small, so that day I hadn’t carried my board. Arriving at Sennen though, there was a wave. Sure it was small, but it was just surfable and so I immediately started scheming on how to get my board.
It was still early afternoon, so I had time, and I had some friends coming down that evening to see me so a group surf was definitely on the cards. The buses in this part of the world have a habit of being absent however, and the next one was not for another 3 hours. I could walk back to the hostel, a cool 12 miles from here, in less time than it would take to catch that bus. So I set off. I wasn’t planning on walking the entire way of course, as having already completed some 14 miles that day I would certainly then not fancy surfing. I walked with my thumb out, and before long a beaten up Ford van pulled in and offered me a ride.
Lou was late twenties, and somewhat of a stereotype. long blonde hair, ragged from the wind and sea, he had a glazed look in his eyes and stated that he worked for one of the surf centres in Sennen. That was lucky, and he was seemingly interested in my walk. He was clearly a spiritual chap, and before long talk turned to meditation and conversations way too deep for a 12 mile journey.
Yearly, he went to a meditation camp for nearly two weeks, a seemingly fulfilling pursuit if that’s what you’re into. I asked where it was, expecting a destination such as Nepal, India, or another nation dominated by Buddhist practises. Where was it? Surrey.
Driving on, the conversation turned swiftly to current affairs and the general meaning of life.
“Everyone is so f***** up these days”, was one statement. At least we could agree on that.
“You need to be ready to accept death when it happens, man. It’s just another part of life. Everyone changes, everyone morphs through life and death is just another part of the cycle, y’know”.
I don’t, but I found the conversation genuinely interesting and we got on quite well in the short 20 minutes we had in the car. So much so, that when he dropped me at the wrong hostel I didn’t have the heart to say. Lou was certainly a character, a personality, and someone that I’m sure I will never forget from this journey.
Back at the hostel I ran into some newcomers who had travelled from all over to be here. Two German ladies, a Japanese man, several solo travellers from the South East, and a Swedish couple had all come to Penzance seemingly to “see what Cornwall is like”. I got on my high horse about this. Penzance is quite a cultural place, with the working port at Newlyn and access to some of the more well known landmarks in the area. These tourists had seemingly come simply to visit Penzance however, and particularly one lady from London, when questioned about her plans, stated simply that she planned to just wonder around the town for 3 days before heading back to the big smoke.
I deplored her to get to St Ives at least, or certainly jump on the short bus journey to the Minnack Theatre and Porthcurno, swiftly grabbed my surfboard and headed out to catch a lift with the Falmouth lot back to Sennen.
The surf was not so good now. It was a touch smaller, the outgoing tide seemingly holding off the rising swell. My friends decided not to surf, but being selfish as I am I put on my wetsuit and paddled out. I’d rather be wet and cold than eating mediocre fish and chips anyway. I caught a couple of nice waves as it turned out, and there was actually more of a purpose to this surf than it may have appeared. The swell was rising overnight, the energy from a distant storm finally arriving on our shores and, with a bit of luck, the early morning wind would be offshore.
I’d managed to negotiate a lift back to Sennen in the morning with Andrew, one of the owners of the AirBnb at Praa Sands who worked at the airport near the beach. Hoping to score good waves in the morning, I was checking out a sand bank that Lou had recommended in the midst of our in-depth conversation about life and death. Sure enough, there was a beautiful wave breaking off the rocks between Sennen and Gwynver beach to the North, and on a low to mid tide it looked as though it would provide some amazing right hand waves.
After catching up with friends, my next days plans were simple. I was breaking in the walk to return to Falmouth for a friends birthday. I’d wake up early, surf until the tide was too high, then attempt to negotiate a bus ride to Penzance, where I’d hope on the train to Truro and then another train to Falmouth. Sometimes walking around Cornwall seems easier than anything else.
It was good to see Andrew again, and we chatted the whole way to Sennen. Dropping me off at the top of the steps above Gwynver, we wished each other well again and he went off to work. I went to surf. It didn’t look that good, it certainly didn’t look as good as the forecast had promised.
It was approaching low tide, and although the winds were light and offshore, the waves were still really small and there was only one other guy out. I watched it for nearly 20 minutes, saw only a couple of rideable waves, but decided to start putting my suit on nevertheless. After all, I hadn’t embarked on this journey to look at the see and then walk away. Karma (am I turning into Lou) was on my side that day. Almost as soon as I scrambled down the rocks to enter the water, the first decent set rolled through. The single longboarder, seemingly very good at his craft, graced the first wave with poise and technique, riding the wave some 150m down the line before kicking out on the fringes of Sennen beach. The next two waves went unriden and I watched for as long as could before duck-diving under the set and stretching my arms towards the horizon.
It was about head high, with a bit of power, and the sand had formed a bank just in front of the rocks that gave the wave such a defined shape. As I reached the takeoff spot, I broached a courtesy “good morning” to the longboarder and we were soon joined by another surfer who, taking off on his first ride, appeared to also surf at a high level. For the next hour, we surfed as a three, exchanging perfect peeling right hand waves, cheering each other on as set after clean set rolled through the lineup before most people were even awake. It was the stuff of dreams, a lucky tip off from Lou, and clearly the two other guys new the spot well and had turned up knowing that the tide would improve conditions like it had.
After an hour or so, we were joined by another couple of surfers, although they seemed with the inferior left-hand wave on the other side of the peak. Shorter, weaker, it was incomparable to our wave merely 20m away, but we weren’t complaining.
Some three hours of arm-aching surfing later, the tide was getting too high and the waves were breaking on the rocks. The session was over, but what a session. It was exactly why I had come on this trip. Sure, I’d cheated. I hadn’t walked to the wave. But climbing up the rocks, sitting in a cafe for breakfast, did I care? Not one bit. Because if I hadn’t walked this way, hadn’t taken on this journey, hadn’t met the people I had and put in the time and effort to learn from people and surf the night before, I’d have missed out on possibly the best session of my life. And to me, that was what this trip was all about.