Down By The River
To set the scene. On Monday, 14 November, the moon was the biggest and brightest it had been in more than 60 years. It’s what is commonly called a “supermoon”, or technically a “perigee full moon” – a phenomenon that occurs when a full moon coincides with the moon being the closest it gets to the Earth on its orbit.
Wednesday, 16th November and the remnants of the Supermoon hung high, we drove the country lanes of Gloucestershire to an undisclosed location, giddy with excitement for one of the most unique surfing experiences on the planet.
06.55: We meet Steve King on the slipway. The morning is still and our guide for the day has just lowered the boat into water. River Severn caretaker and bore surfing aficionado Steve has been surfing the bore for as long as he can remember. Having surfed the wave on his own for the best part of 20 years, it’s a story not too dissimilar to that of Jeff Clark and Mavericks over at Half Moon Bay.
07:15: Suits on. The bore can roll through 20 minutes or so either side of its forecasted time. Plus, we had the option of riding a few miles up towards the river mouth to meet it earlier on. This was subject to how deep the river would be as there had been limited rainfall in the lead up.
07:50: Aboard the rib. Helmed by Duncan, riverside resident. He knows how to navigate the waterways here better than anyone, a testament to a life spent on the river and at the wheel of many a vessel.
07:55: Race with the typical flow of the river. Heads down, boards splayed across the front, Surfing’s version of a Navy Seals covert operation. Anticipation builds and thoughts of having the one and only wave pass you by is realized.
It’s probably a good time to mention that Steve has not surfed open ocean in over 6 years now. However along with the committed entourage; The Muddy Brothers (The Severn Bore’s finest and most respected) and Duncan, Steve has been able to clock up more surfing miles than most.
08:05: The river shallows out. Unable to take the boat any further at this stage, we sink into the brown water and use the rivers current to sweep us into position. It’s cold and the choice to wear the 5mm pays off. We remain here, standing in the turbulent flow of the river for a further 15 minutes, sinking mud underfoot, questioning our sanity.
08:20: Birds take flight from around a hidden bend. 20 seconds later and the white brown body of water comes into view with a nod and a smile from Steve. The mornings still is finally disturbed by the rumble of the approaching mass.
To have been taken out on the boat was the equivalent of being hosted at one of the 5-star beach properties overlooking Pipeline, Hawaii. Thank you to Steve, Duncan and the rest of the river surfing community for sharing this treasured feat of nature.
Photographs by Dale Adams