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 …
The fifth week of Kids Club met with waves sized ‘nothing to not very much’. Disappointing for the Sharks, Dolphins and our hardboard riders but a chance to shine for the tiny tots and the younger groups who can fashion a ride from the gentlest push. Well, they gave us a show with some delightful rides, and there was even time for a little rafting fun mid-session! Here are some of the scenes we witnessed as the Nemos and Dorys found their feet. And a dolphin headstand demonstrates that the right board can deliver a ride in the smallest of waves. Cheers!
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.
Week two and we are blessed with fine surfing conditions again. Attendance was a little down due to a couple of Covid related scares in some school classes plus the once-in-a-lifetime hazard of road closures and diversions due to the world’s leaders meeting for a G7 summit in Carbis Bay! However, those who were able to get to Porthmeor had a fine old time as witnessed by some of our pictures below. I was particularly impressed by the Sharks group this morning. They were hitting the lip hard and seemed to be competing to see who could pull off the most outrageous layback. Here’s a flavour of the scene, with a random waterborne message concerning the protection of the ocean which passed across the beach during the session.
Twenty months or so after our last Saturday morning gathering we were finally able to get together, reconnect with our junior surfers and get Kids Club 2021 on the road. It was a chilly, misty morning, which may have been a disincentive to some, but those who got to the beach for the session had some peachy low-tide waves to work with and an enthusiastic bunch of coaches and parents to cheer them on. It was great to welcome back some familiar faces and equally to greet some new members and introduce them to the delights of surfing. The pictures below have a flavour of what went down on the morning.
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:
Liam Dennis Green
Here’s St. Ives Surf School’s salute to the new year which I’d like to share with the members and supporters of saints boardriders. Harris and his coaching team are a mainstay of our club and we thank them wholeheartedly and wish them a fabulous 2020!
And those good wishes go out to all our members, supporters and friends too. Happy New Year!
We came together for the final kids Club of the season last Saturday to celebrate another successful campaign, gauge our progress and give the Dolphins a chance to show off their competitive streak and give just one girl and one boy the chance to claim the title ‘Champion 2019″. The younger groups took to the water for a last coaching session of the summer, impressing us with their confident skills, and maybe hoping to catch the coach’s eye and claim an award too.
Meanwhile, further along the beach, the girls competition was underway, studied from the balcony of the clubhouse by our judging panel led by Minnow Green of Surfing Great Britain. The first semi final was distinguished by Senara’s bomb of a ride from a heavy take off out back right in to the beach where her big smile told us she was rightly pleased with herself!
The girls finalists grace our banner picture and they put on a great show. It was a close affair throughout and the last few minutes were a mad scramble to get that one outstanding wave that could put the event beyond doubt.
Next up, the boys final found the conditions somewhat messier as the tide dropped out and required a quick reassessment of tactics to find the best scoring waves.
Ollie stuck to the timeworn strategy of looking for the bombs from out back to nail the heat. Tim and Caz varied their attacks between the big green stuff and the inside reformed waves. Teddy had a quick look out back and decided to come inside and let his quick surfing and nimble turns do his talking.
At the final hooter we all repaired to the clubhouse to learn who had won the trophies for 2019. Surfer of the Summer, Most Improved and Most Committed were the categories for the younger groups and our chairman, Steve had the privilege of awarding them to the surfers selected by their coaches.
Minnow then took the floor to enthuse members with his report of the recent ISA World Surfing games in Japan, which will also host the inaugural Olympic surfing competition.
He then had the honour of asking the girls finalists to come back to the centre stage to receive their trophies. Last up, and thus our champion for 2019 was Eleanor! All three judges had her just a half point better than Senara in the final. Then the nervous wait was over for the boys and they could learn their result. Teddy was last to be called this time, earning a just reward for a summer spent doing little else but catching waves. Well done to all our competitors! It was a pleasure to witness the skill, endeavour and sportsmanship on display out there.
Our thanks are due to Minnow, Neil, Jack and Eve for judging the event, and to Porthmeor Beach for feeding the competitors on the day. More generally, we are indebted as always to St. Ives Surf School whose coaches lead our sessions every Saturday, to Porthmeor Beach lifeguards for their unstinting support and to Porthmeor Beach management for the nourishment and welcome we find there every time. Parents and helpers are also an invaluable resource to the club and praise is due to them too!
And I end with the welcome news that the 2019 Surfers Ball is just around the corner on 25th October. Tickets are on sale now at the clubhouse or at Tregenna Castle, price £30. Small Wonder headline this year’s entertainment, along with DJ Chewy, Tom Quirke’s jazz in the lobby, roulette and blackjack in the casino, those red carpet photos and a photo booth, the big ticket auction and, of course, a sumptuous meal into the bargain. Let’s get dressed up and come out to play!