As we reached the penultimate session for the season, it was felt that we should get a team photo as we were ready early for the surf. Of course, there are quite a few members missing, as any Saturday in the holiday season presents; but our banner picture has a fair few of the class of 2021.
The surfing itself was very good on the day – sweet little waves that allowed most kids to stroke themselves in with time to get up on the board. Our Sharks may have felt deprived of the bigger stuff that they prefer, but i did see some of them practicing cross-stepping and tandem riding and generally enjoying a longboard kind of vibe, so I’d say that all tastes were catered for on the morning.
Heavy rain and a strong North wind greeted our coaches and helpers as we set up on Saturday morning for an 8.30 start. That wind was creating short choppy conditions for our surfers, and a very difficult paddle out for our advanced chargers. We had pre-warned all groups the previous evening that this session would be unlike any experienced so far this season, but attendance was still hearteningly high and we hit the water on time with that can-do attitude that is the foundation of achievement in any sporting life.
I offer some pictures of our endeavours, apologising for the absence of any action from the Sharks, who were out beyond the breakers and invisible from my position at the waters’ edge. Rain and poor light were also hampering photography, so I’m selecting from far fewer shots this week.
School holidays have arrived and we are forging ahead with our Kids Club season. Conditions for our seventh session were friendly and there was a large turnout of young surfers, all keen to show their chops. Just like learning to ride a bike, repetition and practise is beginning to pay off as our young chargers are developing confident pop-ups and more assured balance on the board. Hopefully the holidays will offer plenty of beach days and waves to develop those burgeoning skills over the next few weeks!
Our sequence of favourable Saturday morning sea conditions continues as we enjoyed pretty perfect surfing conditions for the sixth Kids Club of the season. A gently dropping tide on a warm day brought out our largest attendance so far and our young rippers were keen to take advantage of nature’s bounty. The camera captured some of the fun …
Arriving for our fourth session of the season we were confronted with a tricky challenge. The water was barely back off the high tide bank after a spring tide and there was the remnant of a Northerly swell pushing some lumpy waves into the beach. It promised a difficult paddle to get out back for our more accomplished surfers and some battles on the inside with breaking waves for our younger participants and their helpers. To everyone’s great credit these challenges were met head on, resulting in some fine surfing and with a growing confidence in all groups that we can be comfortable and find suitable waves even in a moody Porthmeor swell. We had a full gamut from the chest-to-head-high waves that the Sharks tackled to the running ankle-slappers on the inside that the Dory and Nemo groups shared. Some of the action is shown below:
The third session of the season saw the largest turnout to date and enjoyed pretty perfect Kids Club conditions at Porthmeor. The waves were friendly enough for the Nemos and Dorys, yet also offered some peaks and faces for the Sharks to lay down some turns and polish their small wave skills. Our newer instructors are beginning to appreciate the talents of their young charges and are helping them push their techniques to higher levels. All in all, a perfect morning’s surfing for Saints Boardriders! The party wave in the banner picture sums up the relaxed vibe of the day.
Kids Club membership is fully subscribed for this summer and I list the proposed dates and times below. There will be only a single session of one hour each day so we ask that you arrive early, preferably with the correct money and ready to get in the water. Please be aware that Porthmeor car park is too small to hold all the families we have, so late arrivals will need to find an alternative space.
The dates below are subject to tides, weather, Covid-19 and G7, but we will endeavour to keep as close as possible to the published timetable.
Here is a sight you may have encountered when walking a local beach. This seal is alive but well up the beach beyond the tideline. On finding a ‘stranded’ seal you may wonder if there is anything you should do to ‘help’, or if there is someone you should contact about the animal on the beach.
Below, I have copied the information provided on the website of British Divers Marine Life Rescue – the body who respond to calls about creatures stranded or in distress around our coastline. This explains a few checks you can make visually to assess the situation from a distance, and also gives their helpline phone number if you feel you should call and alert them to the situation. Remember the advice below and put this number in your phone in case you need to make that call.
If you find a seal on a beach, watch it from a distance. Do not approach the animal. Seals regularly haul out on our coasts – it is part of their normal behaviour and, in fact, they spend more time out of the water, digesting their food and resting than in it. Therefore, finding a seal on the beach does not mean there is necessarily a problem and do not chase it into the sea as this may stop it from doing what it needs to do – rest. A healthy seal should be left alone.
Do not approach a seal, or allow children or dogs near it. Seals are wild animals and although they look cute, they will defend themselves aggressively if necessary.
After stormy weather and / or high tides, seals will haul out on beaches to rest and regain their strength. Many do not need first aid, but we will always try to find someone to check them out just in case.
However, if there is a problem, there are a number of things you may see:
Abandoned: If you see a seal with a white, long-haired coat in the autumn/winter, or you see a small seal (less than a metre (three feet) in length) alone between June and August, then it is probably still suckling from its mother. Check the sea regularly for any sign of an adult seal.
Thin: Signs of malnutrition include visible ribs, hips and neck and perhaps a rather baggy, wrinkled skin.
Sick: Signs of ill health include: coughing, sneezing or noisy, rapid breathing and possibly thick mucus coming from the nose, wounds or swellings, particularly on flippers, cloudy eyes, or thick mucus around them, or possibly one eye kept closed most of the time. A seal showing little response to any disturbance going on around it (although remember they could be soundly asleep) could also be a sign of ill health.
Entanglement: Seals are susceptible to being entangled in fishing gear and other debris. heavy commercial gear will be obvious, but monofilament nets and line is hard to see, but could be caught around the neck, flippers and body. Sometimes seals can have nasty wounds due to fishing gear and marine debris cutting into their bodies.
If you see a seal that may be abandoned, thin, ill or injured, then call for advice and assistance:
Well, at the conclusion of the season which simply didn’t happen due to Covid-19, we gathered on Christmas Day morning to remind ourselves that we are a club and that we will celebrate our togetherness in keeping the tradition going in these straightened times. A strong onshore Northerly welcomed our surfing contingent. Those dry-shod supporters at the waters’ edge were well-wrapped against the wind and in good spirits!
As always, my apologies for those participants whose image is not recorded in my pictures – mainly the score or so higher up the beach, but also maybe a surfer or two who evaded my lens. Here’s hoping we will all be back on Christmas Day 2021 with the plague firmly behind us!
Happy New Year to all saints boardriders and our supporters!
We are living in strange times. The covid-19 pandemic has taken thousands of lives in Britain and brought dislocation to our economy and a lockdown of the conduct of our personal lives which would have been unthinkable just six months ago. Daily we have learned of the loss of life of loved ones, and of the titanic struggles being fought in our hospitals, care homes and social services to save the stricken and to protect the vulnerable as the country has responded to the crisis. People who fell ill were asked to self-isolate at home and only ask for help if their condition became serious. Those of us fortunate to remain well were also confined to home with a strict regimen which permitted one daily walk of an hour around the neighbourhood, and a single weekly food shop if possible.
The government eased these strictures on the use of public spaces as the first month elapsed. Longer times were allowed outside the home and a licence to travel further for exercise was greatly welcomed, particularly here in St. Ives where days upon days of unbroken sunshine enabled many families to bring their children to the beach. Sea bathing and surfing were approved as acceptable forms of exercise and Porthmeor offered plentiful space for social distancing.
One element of the beach experience was missing, and the surf forecast for the forthcoming Whitsun weekend sounded the alarm. Strong onshore winds and large waves were expected at the beach, but there were no lifeguards. The RNLI had curtailed it’s recruitment and furloughed it’s permanent staff when the pandemic struck. It was unprepared for beach lifeguarding, and advising people through social media that they should not go into the sea.
At Porthmeor, The St. Ives Surf Lifesaving Club, St. Ives Surf School, Saints Boardriders, the Porthmeor Beach management and the unemployed lifeguards who were using the beach daily felt they could jointly offer a response to this absence by devising a safety cover which would foresee and prevent a dangerous event from happening and also have the capability of providing a first aid service for minor injuries.
It was up-and-running within a day – a low-key service of ‘safety officers’ advising those going into the sea on the conditions and the safest area for their activity. The local community was immediately supportive, to the extent that one resident opened a fundraiser, several local restaurants have provided lunch for the volunteers and some of our junior lifesavers have joined the volunteers and gained valuable experience while their schools are closed.
Over the three weeks in which the service operated there were few incidents and no real alarms. Then a sting in the tail gave a thunderous emphasis on why the service was needed. In the final hour of the last day of volunteer cover, a group of four bathers was swept into a rip which took them into a boiling sea of short head-high breaking waves. They were disorientated and in trouble. There was a high speed dash down the beach by three of the volunteers on duty while the fourth made radio contact with the coastguard service to alert them to the incident. The lead lifeguard smashed through the waves with a rescue board and reached three casualties, who were able to cling to the craft and draw breath. As a second rescuer then brought them back toward the beach, the leader again plunged into the waves to find the fourth swimmer who was now struggling to stay afloat. He succeeded in reaching the swimmer and bringing her back to the shore where her companions were now safely recovering aided by the other two rescuers. Disaster was averted without the need for the lifeboat and other emergencies services.
As we welcome the RNLI back to the beach we can reflect on the lessons learned from this endeavour. The preventative aspect of beach lifeguarding has been the most crucial element of the exercise. Keeping an alert watch, maintaining fitness and preparedness to act, along with those useful interactions at the waters’ edge with surfers and bathers have helped the days pass quietly. Coastal communities elsewhere in the country have sadly seen the loss of life during this time. Some other beaches also moved to set up ad hoc lifeguarding teams and no lives have been lost where these have operated.
In closing, I offer a few pictures of some of our volunteers and a list of all who stepped up to serve. This is a time of international tragedy when too many people are grieving for lost family and friends. It’s also a time that has seen magnificent efforts from NHS staff, carers, shop workers, police and emergency services to prop up civil society as we struggle to understand how the world will look tomorrow. We are learning that we depend on those who stand up and offer to do something. In a small way our volunteers found a way to help Porthmeor be a relief valve for the emotions and energy which lockdown contained. The community instantly showed whole-hearted support for them. Thank you all!
Here is a list of all those who volunteered their time and expertise over those three weeks: