What’s it like to ride the UK’s biggest waves – find out for yourself. Newquay surf instructors descripe their thrilling experience.
By Rob Barber
Newquay Activity Centre’s lead surf instructors challenge 15ft waves at Newquay’s Cribbar big wave spot.
On a misty day in September the conditions came together perfectly the UK’s premiere big wave spot to come alive and serve up huge 15 foot waves which were challenged by the Johnny Fryer, 3 x National Surfing Champion and and Domonic ‘Kiwi’ Tatham, both leading surf instructors at Newquay Activity Centre. We caught up with them to see what happened.
Johnny, you competed in the interclub surf championships at Fistral beach on the day of the big swell, how did it go?
It was good – I was in the Isle of Wight team and we placed 4th overall. I was glad that I had the energy left to head out and challenge the waves at the Cribbar when the event ended.
What made you want to head out to those huge waves?
Johnny – we knew the swell was building all day and the conditions would be right. We were waiting for the mist to clear when we started to get ready. As the mist parted it was just an amazing scene with the sets rolling in. Huge waves and hardly any wind.
Dom – I’ve never seen Cribbar break and I was really curious to see what it looked like from close up. I’ve always wanted to give big wave surfing a go and thought this was a great opportunity, especially to paddle out with experienced surfers like Johnny. The conditions were amazing too, there was minimal wind, if anything it was slightly onshore which made it easier to get down the face of the wave. The swell period and size were ideal too, it was firing!
We heard you paddled out on mini-mals – Dom you grabbed yours straight out of the rack at Newquay Activity Centre. Why did you choose these boards?
Dom – I normally surf a 5’8” and didn’t have a bigger board, so through courtesy of the centre I was able to grab a mal! I chose one with the biggest fins to lock the board into the face of the wave.
What was the paddle out like?
Johnny – it was a hectic paddle out through Little Fistral. We got pinned on the inside for ages before finally making it out.
Dom – It was coming in really strong and trying to duck-dive these waves on the mini mal was a challenge, but luckily there was a rip close to the rocks that pulled us out. When we got out there Johnny headed straight in amongst it, keen to get some waves. I waited further out back, watching and gauging the waves, cheering on the boys. It was adrenaline pumping just being out there, the sound of the waves crashing was unreal, it was so loud, and the sets were huge.
What were the waves like?
Johnny – I took a medium one to start with to get comfortable on which felt ok. I then noticed that the othere two surfers, Tom Butler and Josh Hughes were miles out to sea and I was way on the inside. As the set came through I had to paddle for the horizon! The waves were coming through at 12-15ft, Tom Butler who is by far the most experienced out of us all said it’s the biggest he’s seen Cribbar. He was out there on a 10ft board looking comfortable. I cruised around a bit looking for the right spot for take-off. I turned around as a huge wave came through and knew I was in the perfect position. I didn’t want to look too much at the wave, I just turned around and paddled as hard as I could. I coached myself through it, keeping my balance, bending my knees. I managed to escape the white water for a while, but jumped off as it engulfed me. When I came up I only had 1 foot of my board left. I was going to wait for the boys and swim back to the shore with them when they finished their session but as the north fistral lifeguards came over on their jet ski and gave me a lift in which I was very grateful for.
Dom – From where I was sat I could see the take offs which were phenomenal – they were paddling for some bombs, it was mad. It was such an experience to see it close up. I paddled for a couple towards the end – I managed to get the biggest wave I’ve ever had. I was so stoked, I rode it fully without crashing out. The whole experience was amazing, overwhelming really.
What’s your take on Cribbar now?
Johnny – It’s really heavy. I’ve watched it many times before but hadn’t fully appreciated how heavy it is. I have a whole newfound respect for it.
Dom – The whole experience was amazing, overwhelming really. I’d like to do it again, but I’d be a bit more prepared, both with the board and physically, but it was great to push my limits.
If you’d like a surf lesson from either Johnny or ‘Kiwi’ Dom drop Newquay Activity Centre a line on 01637 877722.