Sheltered from the shadows of the Cornish dole queues and the other harsh realities of the school leaver in Mrs Thatcher’s Britain I basked in the life of a student in the Republic of South Yorkshire. I studied partying and majored in surfing. If life slowed up I went to some lectures but mainly it was surfing and hilarity. On a whim in 1983 I hitch hiked to the North Yorkshire coast when I first arrived. I found four foot waves at Saltburn with offshore winds but it turned out that was only a hint of treasure that friends and I would seek out over the next 3 years. Friends, their un-roadworthy cars and Sheffield University Surf Clubs petrol money fund would help to reveal the left reefs, points and beach breaks of the East Coast. I filled my boots and then the time was gone. Finished. I returned for a three-day surgical strike to ******* and Sandsend in the 1990s but this coast has stayed largely only in my memory since the 80s. Was it real or imagined?
On Sunday we arrive in Sandsend from Merseyside where we picked up the in-laws. They are elderly and in deteriorating health. My wife wants them to enjoy a short break instead of the long European holidays they used to take in their campervan until this year. My daughter races around the holiday cottage looking out of each window at the beach below. The cottage has three floors, each room has a window with a different aspect over the beach. Every room furnished in seaside chic to my wife’s evident delight. We collect pebbles from the beach before dark. There is no surf. I have taken my go to thruster on an impulse. Magicseaweed suggests the only chance of surf will be on Tuesday, a low grade south easterly windswell.
Monday dawns, from our bedroom window I can see some windswell arriving at the shore accompanied by a strong but warm south east wind. We take in the delights of Whitby until my mother in law feels unwell and we retreat to the warm cottage. This time when I go to the window I can see 3-4 foot peaks torn by the wind and a strengthening rip. Earlier in the day I spotted a length of the beach in the lee of Whitby harbour, it could offer some promise in these conditions. I draw up to the grassy cliff top and look over. Chin high to head high peaks breaking left and right. Three guys in. I surf for an hour or two. The peak is sheltered from the wind and is a good slide either way. The water is surprisingly warm. My memory is of water that is frigid by mid-October but I can easily cope without boots or gloves today. Is it the advance in wetsuit technology, the additional insulation I seem to have accumulated in recent years or the warm autumn? I don’t know or care. I wander back up the cliff and start to get changed by the car. After a while I hear a familiar sound, of trucks on coping. I look across the road and spot the source. A teenager has pulled a fifty-fifty on the steel coping of what looks to be a concrete bowl. After ambling across to take a look at the U shaped bowl I return with my board and pads. After a few spins around it I am done. The bowl is roughly 4 foot deep with an extension on one side and two roll ins. This place is a great ‘bomb around’ bowl, ideal for me because I am starting to regain some confidence after an injury. Dumb founded by my luck I drive home, the trip has already passed my expectations.