Surfing Sucks at Kimmeridge Bay
Full article from edition 2
Charlie ‘The Bikemonger’ Hobbs is well known about town – but that’s another story. He has, as he puts it, ‘probably the best bike-shop in Swanage’; also the only bike shop in Swanage and is a mad keen – and I mean ‘mad’ – single-gear enthusiast. That alone should ring warning bells, but add surfing to the mix and you know that something a little out of the ordinary is going on under that stack hat. In this article he attempts to dissuade surfers from plying their sport at Kimmeridge Bay.
On a fine summer’s day, you can come sliding off the downs through the thatch-roofed village to the shore, sit happily on the rocks with children playing in pools, ice creams in hand, while enjoying a caressing warm breeze, calm waters and the remote countryside – and be utterly fooled by the overwhelming tranquillity of the place.
Descend to the bay on a cold December morning and you’re likely to find a different environment altogether – the fresh sun struggling to dent the freezing air, a flesh-cutting offshore wind and frozen puddles in the rutted car-park. Then, marching out of the mist having travelled thousands of miles to culminate in mighty explosions against sentinel Kimmeridge rocks, wide, solid walls of fluid rolling power.
Gone are summer’s crystal clear waters and light, friendly atmosphere. You are now in an intimidating Jurassic coastal cathedral: spires of towering cliffs, booming white eruptions, liquid thunder for the brave. Geographically awesome for sure, but for the surfer it is also a spiritual place and home to great drama and memories.
Here’s how you do the business:
Pull up, get out. Stand on rocks. Measure up the conditions. Chat for a while. Get naked. Feel the cold ground against your feet. Get rash-vest, wetsuit, boots, gloves and twat-hat (helmet) on. Wax board, attach leash. Skip lightly over the rocks. Wait for the shore break to back off then wade in. Bang shin on submerged rock every [expletive deleted] time. Paddle to the ‘channel’, a rip that will help you get out to the back. Paddle. Paddle a hell of a lot more, trimming the board for minimum resistance and effort. Paddle even more. Duck-dive under clean-up sets that sweep through the reef, clearing the field and leaving it fizzing white. Cold water drills into your ears. Keep paddling.
The horizon moves, someone shouts, paddle for a safe position; watch the first set to see how it behaves. Waves that have built over half a mile out to sea trip violently over ledges of Jurassic rock like a giant drunk running at a low wall, lip pitching forward then falling fifteen feet before exploding, throwing clouds of white water into the sky and reeling off towards the cliffs, crashing against the rocks. Wait. Now experience an overwhelming determination to snag one of these unworldly rides.
The horizon moves again, you’re in perfect position. Wait, turn and paddle like hell, rise as the ground swell picks you up and points you straight down, vertically, into a dark wet pit. Pull the board under your feet – and this is why, this bit is why…
The glide, slide, carve, speed, drop, climb, spray… the feeling! Like standing on the bonnet of a V8 driving furiously forward. There is an expression: ‘only a surfer knows the feeling’, which is an excellent reason for not attempting to describe the indescribable.
The MOD reserve part of the bay for the times they have artillery practice and have effectively outlawed surfing in the most dramatic of K-Bay spots. Broadbench, for example, is considered one of the best waves in the country: a reeling, shallow reef with nowhere to run when things go wrong. When you can get on it, deal with it by charging for the end, charge for kicks, charge for safety… just charge. You can’t dive off, either; where are you going to go? There’s only a few feet of water at most between you and the harsh, unforgiving reef.
Though first surfed in the 1950s, it was not until recently that Kimmeridge became well known. We would occasionally see pictures of incredible waves in surfing magazines tagged Dorset Reefs. In those days the locals were sensitive about media exposure and crowds, but it was the worst-kept secret ever – though the surfing community were principled when describing it: it’s a dangerous place to surf and not for beginners in any way whatsoever. Overcrowding only makes collision and conflict, and indeed injury (from either cause), more likely.
This old secrecy gave rise to a dilemma; how could the surfers protest about access to a place they’re not meant to mention? The era ended with the eventual coverage of over two hundred people protesting from the bay itself in The Times. K-Bay, Kimbo, Kimmeridge is now common knowledge…
But it is still the same cold, mysterious, shifty, dangerous playground it has always been.
Don’t go there.
And anyway – surfing sucks. Don’t try it.
What to look for
Kimmeridge is easily located and well sign-posted from Corfe, Wareham and Lulworth. Be ready for the £5.00 toll road and expect to pay more if you’re towing a boat. Parking is plentiful above the bay and the visitor centre is well worth a nose around.
There is a good selection of reef breaks
Mellowest wave is in the centre of the bay
Many left and rights to the east
Broadbench is for those who know what they are doing
Hideous rip currents
Good wave consistency is dreadful – pretty much unsurfable 95% of the time due to prevailing onshore winds
Loads of underwater obstacles… expect injury and damaged boards
Be aware of rock-falls from cliffs, a very real threat
October to April are the best months to surf here
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