Claire Chappell’s Trip Report – England
My trip to England was not a river trip. But as many of us would have done, I still brought a board and carved out a day or two to see if I couldn’t “hop on a wave”. Turns out to no one’s surprise, summer in England isn’t an easy time to find surf!
The lack of elevation means slow flowing rivers and that the primary source of surf for kayakers and boarders alike, are weirs. Weirs are like small dams in the river, sometimes just cement slabs, sometimes with huge gates that can be opened and closed in response to flow. For surfers here, a combo of weather watching, information sharing and being ready to roll out on a half days notice is the recipe for success. This sort of wave watching is standard in many rain-dependent river regions, it’s almost the rule anywhere that snow doesn’t fall and then melt. Waves appear with heavy rains and might last only hours. Luckily, as you may have heard, England is a rainy place.
Die-hard paddlers stalk the government stream flow websites and the doppler radars. Sometimes they augment with rapidly shared information from the locals at each spot, attempting to avoid false alarms and waste hours in the car. I got to hang out with a guy who’s mastered this game over the years and is always ready to roll when a wave is in.
Dave Adams leads the charge on the UK SUP scene. He was the first person to put SUP boards in rivers 7 or 8 years ago. He has since learned every possible SUP surf spot in the Kingdom and has introduced countless newcomers to the sport. Dave has decades of experience running and surfing rivers in kayaks and is also a passionate ocean surfer and expeditioner. Playboating in the weir-waves was his love and even years before he tried it, he was dreaming about how to surf the rivers.
After much blog reading and emailing with the all-knowing Dave, I was really pulling for the Hurley Weir to come in. It’s by far the wildest of them all in terms of steepness and size and it’s the only one that looked as though it could hold my Sk8. Unfortunately King Hurley wasn’t going to hit the mark of cubic meters per second that it needed to open one of its gates, so we turned our attention other nearby weirs that required less of a bump. After a solid night of storms in the area, we ended up choosing to surf Dave’s local spot called Windrush Wave, in Newbridge. Shallow, yes, but with a lovely shape and the setting couldn’t have been more perfect. A small river meandering through the English country side, bright green foliage with wildflowers everywhere, an old Inn on the corner of the small town and a 400-year-old stone bridge that’s never been repaired.