Full on Big Salty stoke from Storm Doris today. It was going to be a tough puzzle to solve but the BS alerts and forecasting tools along with the live wind and swell data, we got there in the end. I was intrigued with the storm surge mega swell that was due to slam up the English Channel on Friday morning. Although the proper storm wind was due in the afternoon, I had to check out the prediction for 3.5m @ 18second period. I was extra extra stoked though as Milford on Sea is my nearest spot and it was lining up to be rocking. The afternoon was out of logistical range so the morning mega swell it was to be.
Having SUPrfed at Kbay 3 weeks before under similar period swell the rip currents were like river rapids and I thought the Ledges wouldn't handle it well. The storm surge mega swell would need taming and Christchurch Bay delivered the goods spectacularly. MoS can be seen as a poor cousin to Kbay for SE and NW winds but on this occasion I think gold was struck.
The sight that greeted me in the morning was incredible - huge lines of breakers and white water all the way out to the outer sand bars and breakers crunching out to a line between the IoW and Hengistbury head. I was joined by fellow MoStronaut, call sign CW, who had also sailed a reccy session the morning before. From the car park though, it was hard to get a sense of scale.
We sure got a dose of scale when we headed out though. The volume of water being moved as the swell broke was incredible, like the jetwash from a jumbo jet, only wetter. To start off with the wind was cross-on and getting going was a major challenge. The walls of white water were often impenetrable and after several munchings it seemed like a lost cause. However we eventually got dialed in and the massive double football pitch lengthed gaps between waves did allow options; to get planing, head for an unbroken section or simply to prepare mentally for the inevitable beating. Sometimes backwash from the previous set would help out just when you needed some moral support to punch over yet another wall of frothing doom. The inner channel was also running west-east, effectively a conveyor belt to get back upwind if you were happy to float around and align the kit to take some munchings. The sand bank system off the end of the beach huts was detonating way way out and was pretty sketchy due to the continuous onslaught of munching logo high breakers. CW lead the way and we finally got "out back" but there was always the dark threat of the mega swell feeling sand deep below and dumping a hollow lip on you. On the inside when popping up from a rinsing there was a false sense of serenity as it was strangely quiet - the next wave was nearly 20 seconds away. But don't be deceived, it was coming and it was hungry!
We were underpowered on 4.7, expecting the wind to build during the morning. That didn't happen and it remained a steady strength though with the silver lining being a shift in direction mid morning to perfect cross shore. This brought the prospect of more power in the rig to allow front side turning down the line on the biggest mountains I've ever ridden. On the whole, these massive giants broke progressively without going hollow and allowed plenty of acreage to plot a good course. The speed of the waves was incredible. Even at full twonk it was touch and go making it in front of them. The adrenaline from cranking down these mountains and carving back up was incredible with the buttery cut back at the top feeling pretty epic.
After a couple of hours of this it was time to head back to civilian life. A viscous cropping in the shorebreak where the rig rinsed over and mast chopped me down at the back of the legs left me humble but thankful for enjoying an incredible session. I tried to use CWs camera but it was pretty tricky with only the mast tip visible between the huge waves and the drizzle. From the car park I saw he rode an amazing wave, near logo high, getting 3 good bottom turns and then turning out at the end, that'll be a lasting memory and may have been caught on his boom-cam.
Packing up I had a happy glow from such a crazy session, not sure when those conditions will happen again.
Last edited by Lobsterfunkdaddy (2017-02-03 21:53:21)
Wow - a truly great read. I feel as though I was there, or at least feel excited enough reading this to fell like I was there. It sounds like a truly spectacular session. Well done for tackling it and coming out the victor. I only wish I could have seen it and gotten out there with you guys but my battle was closer to home, which I will explain.
My brother called me from the cliff at MOS to give me an eyeball and on request was glad heconfirmed that a red T4 with Bigsalty Stickers was present in the car park with protagonist out getting in amongst the surges of white water. I was sorely tempted to make it up, but I had to check southbourne and hengistbury head first, and so my story begins at 2pm on Friday.
Parked adjacent to the old Point house cafe (at the end of Harbour Rd, southbourne) looking up towards Hengistbury head I could see there was no beach left due to the high tide and advancing water. Both the shore break and the waves breaking off the bar looked extremely challenging and to make matters worse the wind strength and direction was questionable. It almost felt like 5.3m weather and slightly cross onshore. It just didn't seem appealing but what sparked my interest was the plumes off white water marching in off the Beerpan rocks / Ledges out to sea at the far end of Hengistbury head. I've been waiting for some time to experience a DTL day out there with a solid ground swell. This set up would require either a SE or NW direction and here we were closer to the SE although it felt somewhat more like SSE and a little too onshore on the beach break to be worth the carnage.
So I had a brain wave that I would park at the outdoor centre opposite the Hungry Hiker cafe at Hengistbury head and windsurf up through Christchurch harbour then walk over the sandspit and windsurf round to the long groyne. This way I avoid the launch of death of the beach and get to the Beerpan rocks safer and quicker. I wasn't quite sure what to expect out there but I thought the waves would be big.
After checking with the outdoor centre that I could park my van on their property, I suited and walked my kit down the road towards the woods at the head and rigged up and launched in the harbour.The journey went well upwind and my gambit of taking the 4.7m sail seemed to pay off, although being in the leigh of the headland I had no idea whether that would be suitable once out to sea. I was purely going off the forecast.
I made it to the sandspit, walked over and launched on the sea side through a modest shorebreak. I then windsurfed round to the long groyne and Beerpan rocks and started settling in. Around the long groyne is a lot of current through deep channels where fortunately the waves were absent, this allowed me to float around and wait for the set waves to break off the reef before doing the run through the surf outback to start picking off my first waves. Beyond the channel the reef suddenly gets shallow, during summer time spearfishing about 5 feet is standard and about 100feet out from the end of the long groyne was where most of the sets were breaking.
It was a bit intimidating and I had to do plenty of chicken gybes and tacks before I managed to get out back and then I was greeted with my first set waves to choose from. Tentatively I started tracking upwind on the swells and gauging the way they were breaking. The wind was almost effectively cross shore (port tack) and the waves were breaking hard. They varied from half mast to the largest wave I caught of the day well over mast high. This largest wave seared in my memory. I picked up a set quite far out over deep water and the size and extent of it was mind bending- such a long swell. Seemingly slower than all the others, but it turned out purely due to its size. Then as it started to feel the reef it began walling revealing its length and pitching in slow motion in a truly thunderous way. I got as close to the section as I could without totally risking my kit so I could soak up the energy and feel the stoke, managing only a modest turn before racing back down to the flats and out to safety before seeing the wave collapse behind me.
Variations on this happened for about half a dozen waves with one severe beating where I lost my kit after desperately trying to hold on it in vain, like I might rugby tackle a rhino after flicking his love spuds with a wet towel. A wave or two more and I called it my lot and made the journey back. As a reconnaissance mission it was a success and has given me a hunger to go for more if and when a similar forecast presents itself.
A few observations though from this particular trip:
- I had the fortune to be out there at what I believe was spring high slack tide. Soon after the tide started ebbing. The tides have a huge effect over the reef and require caution around the groyne and goes with out question out to sea.
- There is an inner section of reef of the Beerpan rocks and this extends further out to see in a NE direction towards The Needles and joins up with The Christchurch Ledges. In absolutely no instance would it be a good idea to try to ride the waves on the outer Beerpan rocks or further out without jet ski support. What with the tidal movements, if your kit got destroyed you'd have a very long swim on your hands again up to 6 knots + current. Or there is a real chance with the confused sea that if you lost your kit on a big wave, you may not catch it up before it gets hit by another wave. I decided that the inner reef was the only sensible place worth risking riding the waves plus the waves were easily as big as I wanted to tackle (for now)!
- The wind angle was nearly ideal it allowed DTL turns but not cross off, a true SE or ESE might be preferable.
- I reckon I made the right call windsurfing up through the harbour. Launching off the beach at Hengistbury head would have been a joyless experience.
- Good idea to go with a buddy or support. For safety.
- Looking at the way the waves were breaking I feel like it could handle bigger swell still.
- It's lucky I chose the 4.7m. It was big enough to give me the power I needed to get me through the surf quickly and out of trouble.
It was a scary but exciting experience and one I'm very keen to embark on again. Sounds like we all stuck gold on Friday and that's reason to be stoked.
That is proper exploration, somehow you should have had a pack of huskie dogs and a sledge with supplies, next time maybe and in the form of a blue rhino jet ski. Amazing to get the timing together, you've been talking about that wave for years, so stoked that you got out there and made it back to write the story for us all. I know you've sailed around the head in calmer conditions too, I remember tacking up to the long spit from Avon in pretty light winds and had a memorable time on the waves as they broke inside and down the length of the groyne. The standing waves off the spit area were gnarly though and that was in pretty calm conditions. I had thought about going round the head but there was no way I could beat the tide. It would be interesting to see the wave at slack low water too or maybe the flow would be just too much at a shallower depth. I've just bitten the bullet and ordered a new chart to go on the wall at home, its time to bring down the narrow vista of the Solent and dream westwards. Here's a preview...
I hadn't realised the size of the spit from the Needles to Hurst, perhaps this is what helps focus the swell to the end of the beach huts at MoS, but also gives the frustrating tidal flow that can ruin a good W wind. Its also remarkable that any swell at all gets to Highcliffe and Avon...
Surfed Bmuff pier no crowds waves breaking past the end of pier got a couple of waves before it went totaly out of control , surfed Highcliffe Wednesday lot of fun but very backwashy with a lot of water moving about nice to surf my local after a few years saved me the long drive to K bay. The reef on the right hand side of Hengisbury head is that surfable always keeping meaning to have a look but never got around to it .
The view of the chart is tantalisingly too far out of reach for me eyes. Nothing beats a chart on the wall for eyeing up future conquests but check out this beauty: http://fishing-app.gpsnauticalcharts.co … 11/-1.7283
The area west of the IOW looks fascinating. Not the kind of place you'd want to dabble without the right kit and company but what an exploration that would be. Clearly tides would be critical - far more than Hengistbury head for that matter because who knows where your limp Nemo nibbled body would wash up. Let me know when you buy a jet ski. Time to expand shawfix autos to shawfix marine.
Tides around the headland are a pain, which emphasises why my timing might have been very lucky. If you look at that link the spot that I was catching the waves was pretty much exactly here: http://fishing-app.gpsnauticalcharts.co … 93/-1.7487 (see label Beerpan Rocks). It's that little green bubble and where it suddenly gets shallow and to the gradient to the south west.
Surfing wise matman, the green reef area in the map closer to the shore and inside the long groyne is in theory no worse than your Milford On Sea or Southbourne tidal flow but I've not really ever seen a consistent wave there that makes me think it would be a goer. It seems to lack shape. But then again I've never sat on the cliff top watching it on a good day for any length of time. Mind you, in and after strong southerly winds with high wave, short period swell the shorebreak below the cliff is definitely worth a play. If you're not too precious about your board that is.
Alternatively some of my buddies have enjoyed surfing off the sandspit just north of the long groyne for some shoulder head high long peelers on high period swells. Good shape but super cruisey.
Great that you scored Bournemouth Pier and pleasantly surprising there was no crowds. Wish I was there - sounded epic. My bruther also went out Wednesday morning to Kimmeridge, it was about 6ft and only two of them off yellows. Maybe, just maybe there is an inverse proportional relationship between conditions and crowds that we're overlooking....
Yeah Wednesday at Highcliffe was excellent, I got out on the paddleboard from lunchtime, it was one of the best sessions I've had there. I think the waves had been bigger in the morning but the water movement was ok in the afternoon. My best rides were off the last groyne, some lefts, some rights, all good. Those links to the fishing gps are amazing, had no idea this was available. The chart has arrived, here is a little preview, although it doesn't add much to the online area, only a depth reading over Beerpan.
Oof, I missed a good week out there. There's not much I wouldn't do right now to get out there for a play, which is exactly why if you have the opportunity to, there's no point being sensible and missing a forecast. It will haunt.
More swell this weekend & the long range Bigsalty wind / air pressure weather charts show some more unsettled weather on its way within the next 14 day period. Much of it firing up a bit further north, but at least there is activity. I'm off out to Tenerife for 2 weeks from tomorrow then the sights are firmly set on staying mobile for early spring to catch something when I'm back.
Good luck with your wave stalking.
September and October terrible for crowds never seen so many at K bay but last few weeks it has just been usual crowd sometimes with only a couple out in decent surf. Like Highcliffe only 30 minute drive from my front door seems to back to it,s old glory.