It’s no use saying that you don’t know nothing.

It’s still gonna get you if you don’t do something.

Sitting on a fence that’s a dangerous course.

You could even catch a bullet from the peace-keeping force.

Even the hero gets a bullet in the chest.

Oh yeah, Once Upon A time In The West

– Dire Straits 

The hazy grey clouds of a Thursday morning blurred into the choppy south-coast surfscape I woke up to. The swell was non-existent. I was running late for work already so a quick speedy run down the Marazion bypass, I clocked in 2 minutes late. Only 7 hours and 58 minutes till we ran out the door and legged it to the waves. (For the logically minded, that is 480 minutes, enough time to listen to U2’s The Unforgettable Fire around 9 1/2 times.) Me and Josef Fitzgerald-Patrick (@CornwallSportsPhotography + absolute legend) work together throughout the week shooting artwork. The waves were definitely the conversation for most of the day. It was one of those forecasts that was incredibly hard to read. Small swell all morning and a bigger swell hitting around 4/5 o’clock with an increased period. The forecast was set up to be all-time, yet the lingering doubt of MagicSeaweed’s reliability stuck in the back of my mind. 

4:58, 4:59, 5:00 – Go. Housing and fins in the back of Josef’s VW Golf as it reluctantly cold-started. 2Pac hit the speakers quicker than you could imagine. Final forecast checks and mental preparation as we snaked the Cornish hedges. The excitement was immense. My eyes locked with the horizon, a dark brooding line across the skyline, below it was another line, and another. My stomach turned in a mix of adrenaline and fear as I screamed out, “Look at those lines!” It was like nothing I had ever seen, corduroy as far as you could see. 

We met Nigel Aird as we were getting changed. “Gwenver is big, just got out and it’s solid double overhead, closing out a bit though. Sam and the boys were out. After I got out everyone else got washed in.” Josef and I shared a concerned laugh.

 Dylan arrived in his Fiat Panda, extremely convinced that Gwenver was the place to go. After many attempts of persuasion, we reluctantly headed down towards Gwenver. We crossed down along the cliff, trampling down the gorse. I should have worn boots. Housing and fins in hand, I turned my head towards Sennen and the breath was taken from my lungs. A grinding left was rolling through, hollow as you like and blue against the dull grey day. A group of after-workers were scraping over the top of a steep left-hander as a monstrous set loomed over the horizon. The glassy peak bowled onto the inside into a brutal shorebreak. I turned to the right just as an absolutely mutant right-hander hit the point. Spray sent 30 feet into the air and whipped back in the offshore breeze. The wave bounced off the rocks into a deadly cavern, reeling and reeling. Dark cyan and white, cooked up into some sort of inhuman force, as if I was staring into the Eye of God. Scattered panicked screams, whoops of disbelief and slight fear spread throughout our group, as we headed down the winding cliff path to Gwenver. The first thing we noticed was the incredibly strong rip, a biblical scene of moving water, dividing the beach in half. The current could be seen miles offshore. You got caught in that with a camera and you are either getting rescued by the coastguard, having breakfast in the US, or getting swept out into choppier and more intense sea conditions and swimming until your body collapsed from exhaustion and you are consumed by the dark depths of the Celtic Sea. Not really how I’d planned my Thursday evening. We met up with the team from Sieve Fins on the beach as Dylan was testing some of their fins. Dylan Smith, Alex Platt (shaper and owner behind the legendary Rose Surfboards), and Torran James headed out into the lineup. As soon as Alex hit the water he was swept down the beach towards the rocks by the tormenting current. Wave after wave unloaded onto his head as he crawled his way through the shore break. Dylan made the same mistake and powered through for about 20 minutes until he got outback. Alex snagged a couple of epic outer set waves. Torran headed in further down the beach. Sensible. Dylan scraped into a few golden rights that grinded onto the inside. A stylishly angled bottom turn followed by a death hack across the face. After a few waves, he paddled in. He snapped a fin. A borrowed fin. As he was out we managed to convince him to go down to Sennen as I could get out there without the risk of getting dragged out to sea. As we trekked the path above the beach we devoured some mini-pizzas that Josef got from Lidl. Best things ever. No joke. Along the way, we met Ross Taylor shooting from the beach. He gave us the rundown of where to be, and where the best surfers were. 

the Biblical rip

Dafins on my feet and housing in hand a waddled down the beach like a suicidal duck, the foam of the wave exploded through the back as they dumped onto the sand. I hesitated and assessed the situation for about 10 minutes. A lull came along so I full sent into the knee-deep swirling foam and dived under the 6-foot shore dump. Frantically kicking and swimming with one arm I managed to make it out into the channel. It seemed a lot bigger in the midst of it. Immediately my senses were amplified, aware of surfers, aware of heavy sections, aware of currents. My mind was constantly marking myself to landmarks on the headland and beach to make sure I wasn’t drifting. So the lineup, Mikey Lay was out, Toby Pearce, Dylan Smith, Torran James, and Alex Platt. Not too shabby if I say so myself. Dylan stylishly glides into a beauty of a left, the lip looming overhead, glassy and turquoise. Torran gets into a right from the same spot, equally as heavy. There was a nice a-frame peak to the right of me, slightly smaller sets were breaking there. To my right was the big left-hander, breaking into the rip. Mikey was sat out in position for one of these. A set came onto the horizon, dark, black, aggressive lines. At this point, the sun is starting to dip in the sky and the once overcast day turned orange in the late evening. The water shimmered in a moment of calm before the set arrived. Mike powered into a beauty of a left as the night set in. Stylishly bottom turning as it crashed behind him. 

At this point, the sets were starting to get bigger and bigger. And the shoredump was getting gnarlier and gnarlier. I began to consider swimming in, but thought I’d stay out for one more set and try to get a bit further outback. Another freight-train set began to charge in. All I remember was this 10-footer unloading onto the flats, about 2 meters in front of me. The white water was sent flying high into the dusk air as I stood off against the wall of water. I swam down, and deep. The pressure in my ears got more intense as I continued to kick down towards the bottom. I opened my eyes and everything was pitch black. Booms of the whitewater passing overhead thundered as I frantically kicked towards the surface. Breath filled my lungs as I broke the water. That was when I decided it was time to head in. 

I stood on the beach and watched as the last few surfers headed in until it was just Dylan out. He caught an absolute beauty and pulled the tail around, slicing the top off of the wave. He rode the white in and we all made the walk back up hill as perfect lines faded into darkness. We all knew the next morning would be epic.