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A south-westerly blast of wind in summer on the south coast, saw Timo Mullen and John Carter join Nic Hibdige at Southbourne for some welcome wave sailing. They reflect on the session and Timo and Nic give some tips for dealing with wind swell at one of England’s best wave sailing beaches. 

PHOTOS – John Carter // WORDS – Timo Mullen, Nic Hibdige.


Onshore wave bashing is almost more fun than side-shore at our local spots, as it makes it easier to utilize the mush burgers. Scoring Southbourne when it is an onshore wind swell is a bit of a lottery though, as it doesn’t seem to have a rule of thumb for when it’s on. The state of the sandbar at Southbourne makes a massive difference as well. If the sandbar is in a good spot, and there is 20-30 knots on the forecast, you can have some head high bowls to slash. The best sessions are if it has been blowing all night long and continues the next day, this means the wind swell has had a good chance to build. 


When I am sailing cross-onshore, I always rig bigger than normal as the inside is usually patchy and the water is moving so much due to the tide and rip running closer to the shoreline. In these conditions you need mobility and speed. Ideally shorter, flatter boards are better for navigating onshore mush burgers. If you have the luxury of options, take a bigger board, as it will help you blast around the spot a lot easier. This summer the best all-round setup for me has been the 89-litre Goya quad and my 4.7m Goya Banzai.


Where we have quite mushy waves on the south coast, I tend to find cross-on wind helps you make the most of what’s on offer. Riding these conditions is actually really fun for me, it opens up backside riding and I think you can be a lot more creative in your lines, mixing frontside and backside turns. I have had some of my sickest rides starting with a big backside air landing straight into a bottom turn, which sets you up for a nice vertical backside hit as the wave closes out.  


Jumping in onshore conditions is quite tricky as it is difficult to get the right trajectory. With the ramp being upwind of you, as opposed to in front of you, it can send you on a bit of a wobbly one. It’s a hard one to explain, but try and keep your momentum going forward on take-off, if you turn too much into the ramp you will go into the wind too fast, which will kill your height and make you go through any rotation too fast. I think that’s a big mistake in general for people’s back loops. They try so hard for the rotation they go into the wind and do what I just mentioned. It’s important to get the height first and then control the rotation on the way down.  


My best tip for a tweaked pushy would be to try and find a steep ramp as this is going to send you straight up. As soon as the rotation has been initiated, I focus on pulling my front hand to my hip, which pulls the sail through the wind. You can then kind of float/lean on the sail as you continue the rotation and come down. As you are falling down, you push the sail forward in the direction you are going and sort of twist your hips like coming out of a shuv-it. This helps get you untweaked!  


Any shorebreak can be quite humbling! Southbourne is especially heavy and I’ve had my fair share of getting rinsed there. My top tip would be patience. Watch how the sets come in over the outer sandbar and then see how long it takes for them to hit the shorebreak where you are trying to launch. You will nearly always be able to find a nice gap to plane out through it, you just need to be patient and wait for the right moment to head out. This is another reason I always take bigger gear!  


Although conditions tend to be a bit lack-lustre in the UK summer, these strong wind days can provide some great sessions. Also the sea breezes we get in the summer can give you regular sessions, whereas winter can sometimes be not so consistent. The higher temperatures are a big bonus too. Warmer weather gets a lot more people on the water, as the middle of winter is pretty brutal and only the core riders will chase those sessions. For most of summer I use a 2 mm suit as opposed to in winter its normally 5/4 mm and hooded! In summer you can spend the whole day on the water and score multiple sessions, which makes for more enjoyable sailing with friends. Winter is a bit more about picking your time wisely for one decent session, then going back home to warm up!    


Summer for me has always been about taking the positives out of the bonus wave sailing sessions we get in the UK. Unlike the Canaries, which boast trade winds and wind-blown waves in the summer, the UK is usually entrenched in high pressure and light winds. As a frother, I’m always keen for getting maximum water time and finding wind and waves from even the gloomiest of forecasts, but summer often forces me to recalibrate the froth levels and I look to other watersports for my fix. I go wakeboarding, wake foiling, paddle boarding and if the winds are light, windsurf foiling. Every so often though, the weather patterns turn to what the weather forecasters call “the worse”, and the Atlantic gives us a low-pressure system to enjoy. Usually, these lows have no meat to the bones, they lack the same power of an Autumn storm, and the warm air is usually unstable which makes the wind gusty and the waves usually a bit gutless. But they do give wave sailing conditions, so the foil gear can go back in the shed and copious amounts of built up energy can at last be released into some lips and ramps!


When I see such a forecast looming in the Autumn or Winter, I am usually looking at all the usual wave spots – Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, but in the summer past experience has taught me to stay as close to home as possible and make the most of the rare summer wind. In a typical windy south-westerly in the summer, I have a few spots on my radar – Camber Sands, the Witterings and my local beaches like Branksome Chine and Southbourne. As we are still amid a pandemic, I try to keep my travel to a minimum due to the busy beaches caused by everyone on staycation, so Camber was ruled out, same with the Witterings. Branksome is not exactly a swell magnet at the best of times, so that leaves Southbourne as my chosen summer wave sailing Mecca! Well, when I say Mecca, those that know me will agree I have a love/hate relationship with Southbourne. I’d say I have had my top 3 worst sessions at Southbourne as well as some of my best. The funny thing is, during my worst sessions I have witnessed the local boys – Coxy, Bubble and Nic Hibdige, all shredding, so 100% it is a sick spot if you know how to read it well, which I clearly do not sometimes!! 


This was a classic summer Southbourne day! It was pancake flat at Branksome only 5 miles away, yet Southbourne was pumping logo high and looking really good. I couldn’t rig up fast enough, as I had just got my new 2022 Severne Blade 4.7m and Pyro 87, so I was gagging to try them out. Actually even if it was 5.3 weather, I think I would still have taken out my new 4.7 sail, it looked that good!


Straight off the beach it was clear it was as good as it looked, as on my first wave I threw a wave 360, just losing the rig as I got punted out in front of the section; 360’s is the go-to move at Southbourne as the wave is pretty powerful and if you pick the right wave it usually peels as a right-hander with the bowl section right in front of the groyne. The wind was more WSW than SW, which made it a bit more side-shore. As usual the inside shorebreak was pretty lethal on the high tide, although I reckon on a high tide the shorebreak is at its best if you pick the right waves. 


The moves I love in these typical cross-onshore conditions are backside forwards of the lip, frontside smacks and a 360 if you can find the right wave. Southbourne is also jumping heaven, the outside sandbar on a mid-tide is a ramp magnet! It can be a bit of a lottery to time your run to coincide with the perfect ramp, but when you get it right you can be hitting perfect steep logo high ramps at full speed. Coxy is the master here at timing his jumps to perfection! My favourite jumps on starboard tack are any variation on back loops and push loops. When the testosterone rises and things start to get a bit competitive, then I’ll try a few push loop forwards, but those days are rare, thank goodness! As the day went on the wind swung more SW, which is actually pretty onshore at Southbourne and the bit about Southbourne I hate! When the wind swings SW the local boys really start to shine; they are experts at dealing with the Southbourne motocross track that a SW wind direction brings. Then you need a floaty, fast board and must be well powered up!


My ideal setup for these sorts of conditions are my Severne Pyro boards. I have a 99 litre and an 87 litre. I set my boards up as a thruster for these conditions as I like the extra grip and drive that the thruster provides. As the wind swung more onshore, I should have really changed to a bigger sail and board, but as the wind was forecast to drop I figured I’d waste time changing gear.


I don’t often get a chance to sail with Nic, he in my eyes is one of the most underrated wave sailors on the south coast. He is obviously a world-class freestyler, but I think he has one of the best styles in the waves. You can see he has got into the groove of his new gear and loving having the support of a big brand, plus he is a nice down-to-earth guy – a reason to sail at Southbourne more! 



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