13 October 2015

Traditional British Bellyboarding

The portion of the Global Wave Conference I was invited to attend was scheduled to end at 5:15pm, leaving enough time for one last surf in Cornwall before my early-morning drive back to London. With swell conditions suboptimal, I planned to take Rebecca up on her offer to surf on a traditional British bellyboard.

I ducked out early from lunch to walk to the beach at Magwan Porth. The tide was low, exposing a vast area of sand beneath the bluffs. A woman carrying a bellyboard stopped at the top of the beach steps to check the surf.
When the conference ended, many of the participants dashed to put on wetsuits and grab boards so they could surf before darkness fell. As I got into my diesel Renault Captur, big wave surfer Greg Long ran across the parking lot like a stoked grom, incongruously carrying a foam longboard. I had my still-wet wetsuit in the car along with the borrowed 5'8" so I could've surfed with Greg and other boldface names in the surfing world, but I had other plans.

After a slight panic when Google Maps lost signal and briefly stopped giving me directions, I made it back to the farm. We all piled into the van again and reached Penhale just before a glorious sunset.
Chris and Rebecca checking the surf 
The waves were decidedly meh so a bellyboard was a more fun choice than a surfboard, and I was keen to try it anyway. 

A bellyboard is a wood plank, narrower and longer than a modern bodyboard, with a nose that curves gently upward. Chris had made one of theirs from leftover plywood. In Hawaii, it's called a paipo. The bellyboard somewhat reminded me of a sled, and I had a brief thought of using it to ride down the dune to the beach.

Chris watched the dogs, who were off chasing rabbits, while Rebecca and I walked into the cool surf.
My first bellyboard! (Photo by Rebecca)
Rebecca gave me tips on how to ride: Hold the board toward the back end, (since I was standing and finless) push off the bottom and jump into the wave as it arrives, then pull your body forward onto it. After a couple of tries, I caught whitewater and rode to the shallows. A bit later, I made it onto the face of a wave. Woo hoo!

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