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Lockdowns and the increasing cost of fuel have had us all looking a little closer to home lately for adventure and UK ripper Ross Williams is no exception. The Isle of Wight native has been exploring the wilder side of the island and talks us through some recent recon missions to two new for him sailing spots on his home shores – ‘Bonchurch’ and ‘The Grange’.

Words: Ross Williams / Photos: John Carter


“I have always kept an eye on Bonchurch as I usually pass by it on the costal route when I am heading out to my go-to spots like Niton in a strong southwesterly wind. I have often looked over the edge of the cliffs there thinking that the line of rocks could be a perfect setup. But nearly always I get drawn further up the coast to Niton because that is my bread-and-butter spot and I know it so well. But Bonchurch has always been on my radar and I knew that there is massive potential there. It seems like there are various parts of the reef all the way down from Ventnor that could be amazing. At the same time, it is quite a sensitive spot tide wise, so you need the right combination of a dropping tide and a massive swell pumping up the channel.

The more I look at it and now I have sailed there a couple of times this winter, I have realized it works more regularly than I thought it did in the past, and it can actually be better than Niton. After sailing it a bit more I’m more dialled into where I can line up by looking at different houses and landmarks. It is really amazing for jumping as well. The wave comes straight at you and you have a relatively flat section on the inside where you can get a decent run up. At Niton you are always fighting cross current on the inside, which is not nice for lining up and jumping.


Bonchurch has a bit of everything and I can’t really think of a spot I can compare it to. Plus, I feel like I still have not seen it at its optimum best. It is definitely my favourite spot on the island for jumping now. It has given me confidence in my jumping again because the wind feels really consistent and not very gusty there.

The waves can also line up really well; you just need that right tide so the current is working with you. But there are rocks! If you went there and just sailed without any reconnaissance and so didn’t know where the little shallow areas are, I think you could hit them, especially on a low spring tide. But it is not that bad, it looks worse than it is.


When the tide is coming in, the current can be very strong pushing down the channel. It turns a bit quicker than it does at Niton so the current will start going with the wind a bit earlier. Once that happens it is hard to stay upwind and difficult to get back up to the peak after you ride a wave. But on a dropping tide it is like a conveyer belt that takes you back out up the point. I don’t think I would sail it on an incoming tide and big swell. It would be ok for a downwinder, but it would be tough to stay in the right position. So the chances to sail Bonchurch are few and far between, but on its day, I reckon you could get five or six nice turns and then fly out for a really big jump. Potentially it has all the ingredients to eclipse all the other spots that I sail on the island. I rate it so much that it could be my number one spot in the future. After all these years sailing, I have discovered somewhere new right on my own doorstep. I sailed it back in the day on an easterly and thought that was only when it worked. I’m glad I have finally started looking outside the box and not just sailing Niton after all these years. This winter I spent a bit more time trying to find those diamonds in the rough and making an effort to explore. That is when you can discover something super special that has been right in front of you all along. Now I think of all those good days where I went somewhere else and it was probably firing!


Jamie Hancock had come over to film interviews and me riding the new 2022 Gaastra equipment for some of my ‘Island Life’ videos. We started the day as usual at Niton at first light. I was out sailing and I just felt this gut instinct that it was not that good. I felt it was not firing the way I thought it would, so I said let’s go to Bonchurch and take a chance. That is probably a twenty-minute drive. I took a punt. I knew Jamie had his gear with him so I said, let’s just go sailing.

We had not sailed together for such a long time and I thought it would be a good thing for both of us to score some time on the water together. It was mild, sunny, howling windy and the waves were pumping. We had an awesome sail at this new spot with the only thing spoiling the session being that I locked my keys in the van, but that is another story!


‘The Grange’ is definitely one of my favourite surfing waves on the island and is one of the spots along ‘Military Road’ as you drive out towards Freshwater. All along the West Wight coastline there are various little reefs that get covered and uncovered by sand throughout the year. On the right direction of swell, ‘The Grange’ can have epic powerful waves and on the inside it can suck up into a really nice barrelling section. I hate sailing ‘Brook’, which is the more user friendly and popular spot up the coast. I never found it to be a consistent place for any decent jumping or wave riding. That is why I always seem to end up at Niton and not bother driving any further. For this session the wind was a bit more northwest and I felt Niton would be too offshore to sail, but would be really good for surfing. I just thought that maybe Grange would turn out to be another hidden gem, as I knew the wave has quite a bit of punch and is something different. Grange is in a nice setting as well as you walk down past the llamas and pigs at ‘Grange Farm’, which has some nice camping and accommodation too. The cliffs look straight down on the main section of the wave, so this spot ticked a lot of boxes for me. I thought it would be a cool place to shoot and fun to sail at.


This was the first time I sailed it and the wind was quite light. So I kind of took this as a reconnaissance mission to sail out there and see what it was like and what the possibilities were to sail this wave. It is definitely a spot where you will probably need more wind I think as there was quite a lot of current moving on the inside. The swell out the back was pretty big, but then the wave would go soft until it hit the inside. The suck out from the first set wave seemed to offer the best rides, as the first wave of the set was just pushing the water up over the reef and then the next one it seemed to suck up and turn really hollow. A small looking bump could turn into a dredging thick insider. That is why we surf it. It has more push and power than somewhere like Compton just up the coast. In fact I think ‘The Grange’ has a lot more power than anywhere on this stretch of coast. I had a few really nice hits and am now fully interested to go back there again and sail it with a bit more wind. It definitely has massive potential for wave riding and jumping especially on a pushing tide.


I was on my 5.2m and a 98-litre wave board, which was a combination I have not sailed in a long time. I was getting in and out and catching waves no problem. Usually if it is less than 5.0m conditions, I tend not to go wave sailing, but I feel I can enjoy days like this with bigger equipment. I think there is huge potential to score epic sailing on that size of gear. I don’t want to feel like I’m struggling just to catch a few waves for the sake of it, I want to go out there and say that was radical and you can rip in it and the big kit makes all the difference for that. At Bonchurch I was on a 4.0m and an 88-litre wave board and just totally stacked and then at Grange it was 5.2m and 98-litre, which was totally the other end of the spectrum wind wise! This session got me motivated to go out whatever the conditions, rather than just go wing foiling if it is light!”

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