Winter Waves

1 min read

I grew up near the Welsh coastline where I spent countless hours searching for remote and empty waves to surf. In this short article, I retrace my footsteps to one of my favourite secret spots on the Gower Peninsular.

W inter swells pound the Gower Peninsular as I wind my way along the rugged headland, traversing the coast somewhere between Mewslade Bay and Rhossili.

Surfboard under arm, wetsuit in bag. This is one of the regular routes I take in search of remote waves. Years of walking the same coastal path has worn its way into my memory. Sometimes I am with company, a fellow surfer or dog, but most of the time I come here by myself. I never feel alone with the sounds, sights, and smells of the sea.

A light frost has tinted the spiky tips of gorse, its bright yellow flowers bursting out from a backdrop of muted greys, browns and greens - iconic colours of the Celtic coastal landscape. The mud underfoot deceives me, not squelching but crunching as I walk. This will thaw to deep, thick mud by the time I return from the water, so I am glad to be wearing my wellies.

I look out across the endless Atlantic ocean, standing where sea meets sea cliff makes salt mist spray. Flocks of storm gulls hover effortlessly overhead, pressing their wings against the offshore breeze. Today I am in luck, there are clean lines for as far as the eye can see. A rare combination of large north-westerly swells, high wave period and northerly offshore winds means the waves at the destination I am heading to will be perfect. Conditions like this are rare so this reef only breaks a handful of times a year, always in Winter. I feel a quiet contentment pour over me as I breathe in the sea air one last time before winding my way down the headland to greet the ocean.

It is December 2020, and the UK is still in full lockdown. My winter surfing experience from last season seems a lifetime ago now. I reel in my thoughts as I scroll, the garish blue glow from the laptop lighting up my face, through the weekly online surf report reflecting from my retinas. The buoys are showing light northerly winds, high wave period, swell pumping from the north-west; perfect conditions for one particular surf spot I know on the Gower, situated somewhere between Mewslade Bay and Rhossili.

The compass needle of my attention swings from checking the surf report to the latest lockdown restrictions in Wales. News headlines say another month to go until it eases. Frustration creeps in as I glance outside from the wrong side of the window. Trees sway gently in the breeze, confirming the light northerly that will be accounting for those perfect, empty waves 10 miles away on the coast. Another month to go. These offshore winds will be vicious gales by then, howling onshore in their usual Welsh Winter manner. I close the internet browser and return to my half-finished illustration of a set of empty peeling waves framed perfectly by four segments of a window.

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