Lockdown has made many people in the UK consider relocating to Cornwall. John Carter hears from three windsurfers that have already made the move.
WORDS – Andy King, Steve King, Steve Thorp.
PHOTOS – John Carter.
I moved to Cornwall because in my opinion it offered the best watersports conditions in England. Warmer all–round sea temperatures, frequent good wave conditions and a huge variety of beaches all within an hour’s drive, with the south and north coast being so close.
This means that in Cornwall you can go wave sailing in any wind direction and it is not only feasible, but common place to sail good quality port and starboard tack conditions on the same day. Added to the great watersports conditions and beautiful beaches, Cornwall has equally stunning landscapes and less populated areas such as the moors and woodlands that offer great exploring opportunities whether on foot or on a bike.
On a less selfish note, Cornwall still manages to escape the negatives of big city life. Rush hour, high crime rates, pretentious fashions, trends and commercialism etc., all seem to disperse once you leave Devon! So I couldn’t think of a better place in England to settle, work and raise a family.
I am a police officer, covering most of Cornwall at times, trying to keep locals and visitors alike safe. It’s an interesting job, certainly not for everyone, but it pays the bills and has been key in our successful move to Cornwall. I work variable shifts, switching from early to late shifts to nights. So, in summer, I can still sail at some point every day if the wind continues to blow. If it’s windy during the winter, early shifts suck, but I’ll take leave if it looks really good. I have a very understanding and amazing wife and family, so when it’s windy I am lucky to get a lot of time on the water still.
I ride Goya boards, sails and rig components. I am so lucky to have had over a decade of riding for Goya. Not only was Francisco the most stylish world champion and one of my idols, but the UK Goya team are so genuinely passionate about wave sailing that we all share the same focus and ambition, which is to produce, ride and get others riding what is without doubt the best windsurfing equipment available. I may be biased, but in 14 years I’ve never thought about riding any other equipment, not many team riders can say that.
I’ve also had great support from K4 fins, taking full advantage of all of Thorpy’s and Murray’s hard work to benefit from some great fins. Having Steve in Cornwall now as a permanent fixture is a great addition to what is already an inspiring group of local / regular Cornish windsurfers. At all levels of ability, the sailors I am lucky enough to meet and sail with in Cornwall are as key to making a memorable session as the conditions themselves.
Flymount help me capture and share some of the best sailing moments on the water and James Cox at bigsalty.co.uk keeps me on track with the best forecasts and hooded tops and finally I am now supported by ION wetsuits and accessories thanks to another of my windsurf idols, Nik Baker. They are super comfortable wetsuits and their mountain biking knee pads are thankfully equally good and have kept me out of hospital a few times now!
Any windy day I enjoy, I try not to be fussy. If I can land one back loop then it was a good session, if it’s not raining or too cold it’s a bonus, but I’ll take whatever is on offer once I arrive at the beach. Dream day would be 35 knots side-shore starboard tack with head to logo waves, but that’s few and far between in Cornwall, so I’ll settle for logo-high port tack cross-off down-the-line as long as there’s a cheeky make or break back loop opportunity now and again.
There is only one factor that stops me windsurfing and that’s when there’s not enough wind, so when storms promise big wind speeds I can’t wait. Of course with experience you learn that you can have too much wind to sail at your best, but I am yet to find storm conditions where I was unable to at least throw a push loop or too and find that all important back loop in a lull somewhere.
I am happy to sail in big and challenging conditions, but I would say I have more of a sensible head on my shoulders these days. Through my work I see and hear of so much tragic waste of life that I do think more of worst-case planning and try to avoid a situation where to be rescued I’d endanger others doing so. Thankfully the Goya kit doesn’t let you down, as proved by Brawzinho at Jaws recently!
Before I moved to Cornwall, I was spending hours on a Friday driving back from work sites all over the UK towards South Wales where I was renting a room. If the wind or surf looked good, I’d just fill up with fuel at Strensham services and cruise on down to Cornwall to get a weekend of surf or windsurfing. I’d spend endless hours in the water all weekend and then face the mammoth drive back to say Leeds or Manchester to start work again the next day.
I remember aiming for certain motorway services, then sleeping for two or three hours with the free parking, then doing another stint on the road before another stop and so on. Monday would always be a hard day for motivation, but by the end of a long week working on various building sites in landlocked cities that addiction for surfing or windsurfing was back at full whack, ready for the next marathon mission.
I work as an environmental consultant investigating the extent of contamination in the ground or structure of buildings following oil spills and then developing remedial strategies to clean up the contamination. I have a lot less free time now so I’m just more selective, I pay more attention to the swell size, period and direction and even more importantly the tide times and size of the tide. I make sure I always have a surfboard with me as a back-up in case the wind doesn’t show.
I use Five Oceans sails, which used to be made here in Cornwall by Matthew Burridge, but he has now moved across the channel to be based in Brittany. I help give Matthew feedback on his new designs with an aim to develop a really good all-round performance wave sail, one design that is just at home in mast high cross-off Gwithian as it is hammering out at cross-on Mazza, skimming over masses of foamy reforms to finally find a hooky launch ramp to boost off. Matthew has such a great set of skills, knowledge and a real understanding of sail performance, which is way over my head, but I try to just give structured feedback on how I find the differences in performance and feel and the resulting sails have been amazing.
I ride Moo Custom boards, which I have had for a while now. I used to ride the same gear about four/five years ago and I really got on well with the boards and sails. So, with the extra cost of kids and a mortgage etc. I’m riding my old twin fin 86 and 92 litre Moos and loving them. I also use No Limitz masts as I have tried and tested them in the heaviest of north coast sections, mostly with some badly timed hits and they come out intact and I use K4 fins to give me the grip and drive when I want it.
For it to be on for the north coast, I look out for southerly or SSW winds and a big southwest or decent west-southwest swell, check the tides, couple hours after high and boom, Gwithian could be on. Any real west in the wind direction I’m instantly looking to see is it low tide for Marazion, if it is, will there be any swell? But more importantly what direction is the swell? If it’s too west it is going to be small to flat. That’s when you have to start searching elsewhere.
I prefer stronger winds, that to me is what windsurfing is all about. It’s like having the most powerful motocross bike you can get your hands on. Add in some fun size ramps and it’s going to get exciting. I know other folk love massive waves and lighter winds, but I’m not on any kind of mission to ride the biggest wave of my life on a windsurfer, it’s not really my thing. I personally would rather try and ride a decent wave as best as I can and then get another and another and so on.
I like jumping more than riding. An ideal day for me would have good jumping and some riding thrown in, but give me a full power 4.2 day of jumping over a clean, glassy float and ride day every time. If it’s a wobble out with a risk of smashing up your kit, I’d rather go surfing. For me I like riding when it’s breezy enough to plane around and have fun, so you can still try tricks on the wave or some really critical turns or aerials without having to pay for any mistakes, either in broken kit or any injuries.
I moved down to Cornwall, pretty much at the same time my Dad wrapped up the family business and we had a little boy ‘Denali’, so it was definitely an ideal time to up sticks. I realised pretty quickly that going wave sailing would no longer be an option with the sea four hours away.
‘Bye love I’m just off for 3 days’ wouldn’t really be good for long term harmony in the home. I remember saying to a friend (pre redundancy/pregnancy) that once we had a child that could well be the end of my time on the water, but as luck would have it, it’s worked out to be the opposite. Now I wish I had moved to Cornwall twenty years ago!
I worked for my Dad’s injection moulding company for 25 years doing the mould making. I ran the CNC’s. Most of the work was ‘point of sale’, make up stands, automotive parts, cases for electronic stuff, but I’d also started up the fin side almost by accident – I made some, they worked, friends had some, people started wanting to buy them. It grew quite rapidly as a lot of my mates were pro riders and loved them, and Murray Saunders saw the potential and came on board at quite an early stage. He put his youthful energy and expertise into distributing them to the shops worldwide, having previously worked for Zero Gravity distributing Quattro, Goya and MFC. By the time my Dad sold up we realised that it was just about big enough for me to be able to survive on that alone, so I now concentrate on just the windsurf business. So I design the fins, make the moulds, outsource the moulding now, but do all the drilling and printing down here. Murray does the finishing, packaging and distribution from his place in Lyme Regis.
To fit everything in, I don’t sit still basically. No TV, no pub, unless it‘s with the family. I windsurf and fit work around that and spend any free time as quality time with the family. Decorating a room usually takes about 6 months though!
I am riding a Fanatic Grip 75 and Stubby 82, Ezzy Taka 4.7-5.0, Wave 3.4 – 4.2 and K4 Fins of course. I love my gear! I don’t need to ‘follow the money’. I ride the stuff I want to be on. The Ezzy gear in particular is amazing for me, high performance mixed with bomb-proof construction, so I never need to worry about it breaking. I can ‘clobber’ or be ‘clobbered’ by anything! If you’re regularly out in good waves you need equipment that’s built for the job and still looks good 12 months later when you sell it.
It’s no secret I love the big days, and I always try to hunt out the biggest lumps, but I’d say the best days are the logo high ones when the waves are pumping, the wind is cross-off and light, and you can just get fired off the lip with your eyes closed as everything’s so perfect! Once it gets bigger down here, it’s obviously still epic fun, but it becomes super hard to time the sections and sail away without getting stuck in the lip or swallowed in the turbulence on landing. It is fun trying, but always seems a lot more forced and less pretty. That said, I do like to be flying down the face of a massive swell line, anticipating how it’s going to unload on the sand. So 20 mph with a lot of south and a [email protected] swell is pretty much the recipe for a great day. Sunshine is always a bonus. I can’t get over how much it rains down here, just all the time basically through winter!
To be honest, I am not especially keen on the big windy storms! In the past that was always time to go speed sailing for me. I mean I love going windsurfing full stop, and there is something about surviving a brutal day that makes it memorable, but I do prefer the clean punchy wave days to the mega windy days.
I’m definitely a wave rider. I’ll always find somewhere that’s cross-off rather than cross-on jumping conditions. I love jumping, but I love riding more. Windsurfing’s great isn’t it!