GALLERY: Two Hours Before Dark in the UK

Tom Vaughan

by on

Updated 9d ago

Being a surfer in the UK’s winter season can be challenging. Sometimes you get lucky and are blessed with a whole weekend of perfect waves. But, more often that not, it all comes down to timing – and throwing all other plans out the window when you see the wind switch right before dark.

The second phase of a barrage of back-to-back storms had unloaded on the south west UK early last week. With it, came plenty of swell but also unfavourable strong onshore winds for most of the coastline. The kind of forecast that made a bunch of people go ‘yeah, might just put the kettle on instead.’

Live Cam: Praa Sands

In a little corner of south west UK, you can find pockets of gold. Especially if you hold and hold and wait for the wind. Just like what happened on Wednesday. From an onshore howler, to offshore and reeling in a matter of minutes.

In a little corner of south west UK, you can find pockets of gold. Especially if you hold and hold and wait for the wind. Just like what happened on Wednesday. From an onshore howler, to offshore and reeling in a matter of minutes.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

However, things change. On Wednesday, a solid 15ft @ 15 second WSW swell was beating into west Cornwall with a 30mph wind to boot. Within the space of a couple hours though, that wind turned right around, starting to blow from the north, with 18mph offshore conditions for the bottom coast.

These last minute changes can be easy to miss, with nights drawing in and finishing the day-time job in the dark. That is unless you work with a direct eye-line of the lineup like carpenter Nathan Phillips.

Jake Sage finding pockets of cover from the rain.

Jake Sage finding pockets of cover from the rain.

© 2022 - Ross Taylor

“I’d been grafting for the last few days,” says Nathan. “It’s kind of distracting when you’re working on a house and you’ve got the waves right there.

“A couple of us were watching the sets and started to notice some spray peeling off the back of the waves. We checked the forecast and saw it was starting to go offshore.

Nathan Phillips knows this wave like the back of his hand.

Nathan Phillips knows this wave like the back of his hand.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

Tom Crowe, with a stretched out canvas on which to dance.

Tom Crowe, with a stretched out canvas on which to dance. "This session had all the feelings of a couple years ago," he said. "South wind all day and then a variable wind, which banked perfectly."

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

“Immediately downed the tools and got a couple of the boys together for what ended up being a dream session.

“I was in such a rush to get in, I didn’t tie my leash string properly. It came off when riding a barrel and the board ended up about 10 metres away!”

Nathan Phillips, putting more of that local knowledge to good use.

Nathan Phillips, putting more of that local knowledge to good use.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

And what of the conditions? “It was amazing,” says Nathan. “My best wave was so perfect it felt like I didn’t even need to do anything.

“The vibe in the water was great as well. Like I said, just a dream session.”

Woody New, entry and exit.

Woody New, entry and exit.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

Ishmael Hamon bringing a back up.

Ishmael Hamon bringing a back up.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

Father and son duo Ben and Lukas Skinner also paddled out for this brief window of waves before it got too dark.

“The waves felt really good,” said Lukas. “It felt nice, I got one barrel then managed to bottom turn into a second barrel on my last one.

“It proper cleaned up towards the end. Was such a fun session.”

A lonely peak just before dark, around 4pm.

A lonely peak just before dark, around 4pm.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

Woody New and Lukas Skinner finding tubes just before dark. Vid by Nigel Aird.

"I managed to get in for a power hour swim," said photographer Ross Taylor.

Young charger Kalle Tallon, always on it for the big swells.

Young charger Kalle Tallon, always on it for the big swells.

© 2022 - Ross Taylor

Near pitch black and the lineup still making the most of it.

Near pitch black and the lineup still making the most of it.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

"It was nice to be back amongst it, some real energy out there. The weather was dire but there were a few bombs around. I jumped in because it's the best place to be when it's raining.

"It was a spicy swim though. A lot of water moving about made it kind of tricky to be in the right spot but there were some beautiful visions from the water, some lovely waves had."

MSW’s forecast last Wednesday. See the wind swing around 3pm? Given last light is 5(ish) this really was a short-lived venture.

MSW’s forecast last Wednesday. See the wind swing around 3pm? Given last light is 5(ish) this really was a short-lived venture.

Jack Johns before and after dark.

Jack Johns before and after dark.

© 2022 - L: Ross Taylor. R: Tom Vaughan

From town, you can get little glimpses of what’s going on out there.

From town, you can get little glimpses of what’s going on out there.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

The cliff emptied out quick with the rain. Normally a bustling amphitheatre here, this night though, not many people were willing to get saturated watching the action.

The cliff emptied out quick with the rain. Normally a bustling amphitheatre here, this night though, not many people were willing to get saturated watching the action.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan

Woody New will find a barrel in a lake. Let alone when it’s pumping out there.

Woody New will find a barrel in a lake. Let alone when it’s pumping out there.

© 2022 - Ross Taylor

Victory pints! L: Ben and Lukas Skinner. R: Markie Lascelles, Nathan Phillips, Ben Skinner.

Victory pints! L: Ben and Lukas Skinner. R: Markie Lascelles, Nathan Phillips, Ben Skinner.

© 2022 - Tom Vaughan