That's right. Not one, but two back-to-back crazy swells for England. A raw double pulse straight out of the Atlantic that sent waves all up the English Channel. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, remember that swells like this aren't uncommon for England. Numbers of this size will semi-regularly jack in during the swell season. But what made these past few days super special is that two of them rifled in one after the other. And that is something to shout about.
Two days of solid surf. Two days of paddle until your arms noodled out. On Sunday, things were kind of slow, washy. That long swell period meant lengthy waits between sets, particularly across the south coast of Cornwall. Oh but when they came? Double, triple overhead tactical nukes, detonating across rock, reef and beach – sending more than one board to the locker of Davey Jones, and more than a few people described the sets as the heaviest ever, between scooping jaws from floor.
But also marred by mizzle and fog. What's mizzle? Well, think of rain, but more like, a slow moving sheet of finely droplets. Soaks you rotten. Makes shooting super tricky. Luckily, this team of photographers are used to it.
The above pic? That's English champ Jayce Robinson on an absolute monster. "Got a couple of solid ones," he said, in the understatement of this swell. "It was inconsistent, but the odd bomb. A bit hard on a 5'4"."
And why a 5'4"?! "Just like a challenge," he told MSW. "Always liked riding smaller boards but it was way too warpy for it to be honest."
Warpy is a good way to describe it. Monday, beachies along the south coast of Cornwall capped out at 9ft@18 seconds, from the west south west. When it's that size and that big a period, it makes for a tense waiting game. Whereas further up, in the likes of South Devon, the swell filled in from the south west, capping out at 3@19 seconds. That angle was perfect to get into some of more open locales across that stretch. Waves 100 miles apart, but at some point, looked remarkably similar. Also, the ocean had some time to settle after a smaller but more typical swell filled in on Friday. It meant that second punch could glide into the UK (and the rest of Europe), uninterrupted.
This swell also wrapped into North Devon, North Cornwall, Wales and even as far up the Channel as Dorset, with the Jurassic Coast delivering a punch yesterday afternoon.
And this pic above? That's Huck New. "A group of us turned up to check it, looked big but nothing special, we decided to watch with a pasty, ended up in the pub," he told MSW. "After I sat down I could see the stillness on the water, new the swell was building into the eve, and that we had little light left. So, jumping up, I told Woods, my twin, I was getting in, he kinda looked at his pint, but still met me at the car for our gear.
"This wave, it was a wide one, I had to turn and take off late, the guy at the peak backed out. The drop felt pretty intense, especially as I hadn’t had a wave in a while and my arms hurt. I pulled up into it with a load of speed from the bottom turn, wasn’t particularly deep, but still felt wicked to hold on to it. A bogged grab rail cutty after, and I was in the white water. A nice refresher to winter."
Despite yesterday being fairly colossal, albeit shifty and gnarly, this swell actually peaked over night Sunday and into today [Monday November 15]. Tom Butler was looking out over Little Fistral and the Cribbar from 6am this morning. “Sometimes it happens like that,” he says. “But it's still fun out there, it must have been a solid six foot on the beach and the Cribbar much bigger. We had great fun out there on the ski. Bit of practice for when the bigger stuff comes through later in the season.”
The jewel of the session was probably the south coast from yesterday. A colossal 9.5ft@18 seconds felt its way into all the nooks and crannies across that stretch.
Photographer Mike Newman (AKA manonaplanet) has been shooting across the likes of Cornwall for years."I buzzed from beach to beach, capturing frothing rippers and seasoned champions as they took apart the thick lipped wave," he said.
"A fruitful photo fest of pristine Atlantic barrel perfection at one spot, then mega crammed shorebreak carnage at the next spot. A-frames all the way down the beach and a weird swell angle creating waves in parts of the beach that you don't normally have to keep an eye on. Much head swivelling and a rapid trigger finger were needed to capture all the action.
"Next morning for the dawn patrol was a totally different story, with hanging fog swirling around a headland in the half light. Massive chunks of water moved shoreward in slow motion. The grey and grainy photos of peeling A frames looked like 3ft, but were actually closer to 23 feet, if the wave buoy is anything to go by. And unsurprisingly, there were no takers for scale.
"I got great shots at other spots, but it was a day-long technical battle against the driving Cornish mizzle laced with salt spray. Trying to stop it getting inside the delicate (and expensive) equipment. I spoke to a lot of cursing photographers hiding their long lenses under their coats, some had decided to simply not shoot (and went for a wave instead)."
And as for when it gets that heavy, there's always a few casualties. "I saw at least three boards broken at one spot," Mike said. "And a surfer hobbling away after a crunching reef wipeout at another. Even the smallest beachie was heavy enough to rip the leash out of a boogie board. After hitting seven or eight spots over the weekend I ran out of time to go in myself, but I had managed to catch up with lots of different surf faces from all over Cornwall, so for me, it was a really epic social swell!"
And yeah, we know our brothers and sisters in Ireland were scoring too, but more on that soon.
MSW forecaster Tony Butt said: "The swells originated from two low pressure systems that developed in the far northwest of the Atlantic towards the end of last week. The first deepened north of the Azores and tracked northeast, passing over Scotland on Friday before quickly dissipating in the North Sea.
"An area of storm-force winds on its southern flank generated a large swell and some windy conditions for northern areas on Friday and some cleaner swell in the south on Friday and early Saturday.
"The second system was hard on its heels, deepening northwest of the Azores on Saturday, before arcing north towards Iceland and hardly encroaching on local areas in western Europe. It generated a pulse of high-quality long-period swell that reached most areas on Sunday and is currently decreasing through Monday.
“In the southwest UK, the first pulse of swell coincided with some very lumpy conditions, with wave heights hitting 15 feet or more at the most exposed spots, in strong westerly winds.
"The second swell was much better, particularly in northwest Ireland and in Cornwall, with wave heights around six feet or more, periods of around 17 secs and light southerly winds.”