Mothecombe Beach – riding waves

“Earlier, we had all picnicked on Mothecombe Beach together, to the west of the estuary, and Mike and I had swum in the bay. It was a Private Day at the beach, which meant that only bona fide local villagers from Holbeton were allowed access.”

With the River Erme to our left and the tide rising, we make our way quickly down to Mothecombe Beach. It’s Sunday, a public day, and so there are a fair few beach lovers scattered across the sand as we emerge from the holloway–like path and over the dunes.

The sea here is raging, high waves being enjoyed by surfers who sit waiting patiently for the right wave to ride back to shore. Awkwardly, I slip back into my wet bathers and wait for Joe, Tom and Keeley to do the same. There’s much grimacing as sandy shorts are heaved back on, cold and clammy after an hour nestled in the bottom of rucksacks and carrier bags.

We all skip towards the water, knowing full well that this will be less of a swim, more of an attempt to jump and paddle along with the breakers as they hit the narrow little bay. I dive under and get a taste for the salty water. I’d started this week with a series of warm up dips further up the coast in Lyme Regis and it’s good to be back in the English Channel, feeling its cold embrace for a few moments before being struck in the face by a massive foamy roller.

Keeley plays in the shallows and watches on as Tom, Joe and I strike out towards a pair of surfers who are having more than a little success in getting upright and riding the waves. I try and dive under a few but end up getting thrown back towards the beach, grazing my knees on the surface.

Every time I emerge after getting taken out by another wave, I feel my face fix itself into a witless, joy–filled grin. We whoop, holler and laugh as wave after wave takes us, pushes us about and leaves us desperate for more. I love wild swimming in all its forms, but there’s a kind of unadulterated pleasure in trying to get the better of whipped up sea water.

There are kids everywhere doing the same. A few feet away from us, a hulking giant of a man, his bald head reddening in the June sun, disappears into the drink and comes up smiling time after time. Even as a grey sheet of cloud slides in and the first drops of rain appear, the water remains full of people desperate to wring every last second out of this precious afternoon.

My towel is soaked through, my neoprene boots huge clown shoes filled with water. It’s the ultimate way to finish our swing through Waterlog’s Devon and Dartmoor swims. I dry off as best I can and look back out at the surfers, still riding, still revelling in this faultless stretch of coastline.

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