Camber Sands – swimming with kite surfers

“As the tide receded, Camber was all sand–pools, lagoons and impromptu sand rivers snaking to the tideline…The sea, brown with churned sand, was marginally warmer than at Dungeness, but still cold.”

The pop of rifle fire crackles over the never–ending breeze as we cycle past the MOD firing range and back towards Camber. The bike ride to Dungeness had been fun, if a touch blustery, but this is pure torture. In low gear, Joe and I push hard against the wind, barely moving faster than walking pace as we reach the road and the relative shelter of the dunes and the sea wall, Camber Sands beyond them.

I pause to slather my face in sun screen, Joe, Tom and James pulling up behind me to take a break. Eyes stream and curses are muttered as we moan about the weather. But there’s no escaping it, we must plough on. We pass Pontins in Camber, families and kids congregating outside a corner shop comparing ice creams and smoking e–cigarettes. The ride has been hellish but a late afternoon swim is at hand.

Chaining the bikes up to a wooden fence, we scale Camber dunes and drop down onto the vast sands. It’s late, 6pm, and most beach goers are confined to the cafe, nestled safely from the relentless gusts. The water is hundreds of metres away, kite surfers zipping across the shallows at lightning speed, their sails dancing in the distance.

We’re rushed for time, our train back to London calling. And so while James keeps an eye on the bags, Joe, Tom and I clumsily disrobe and head for the water. We settle into a quick jog, splashing through pools, cracking over shells and scaring off black–headed gulls feeding in the hardened sand. It’s tough on the feet, but the coolness of the water makes each thudding step more bearable.

We reach the water and wade for what feels like ages to find somewhere approaching swimmable depth. The proximity of the kite surfers keeps us from venturing further out. Being decapitated by a surf board doesn’t sound like much fun, especially on a gorgeous summer evening like this.

So we content ourselves with diving under in the shallows, riding the low waves in an attempt to recreate our time in the foamy drink at Mothecombe. It’s not as much of a workout, but the low water provides other opportunities. Joe manages an impressive hand stand while Tom is pushed back towards the beach by the biggest wave of the day.

Looking back up towards Camber, I struggle to get my head around this place being so empty. It may be vast, but the hundreds of nearby holidaymakers are missing out on such a huge, natural delight. As Roger said, it’s as if most people here are ‘unsure of the immense freedom before them’.

Back at the bags, dried by the wind after dropping into some gloopy mud in what looked like a  shallow pool, we get togged up and climb back to the bikes. A car might have made this journey quicker, but being out in the windy elements has made me appreciate this landscape even more. The warm seawater, the whirl of the on–shore wind farm, the sheer scale of Dungeness itself. We head off to Rye, London on our minds after a delicious day of dips.

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