Monster wave hits Newquay beach

By James Mills, Daily Mail

Last updated at 08:53 17 December 2004

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Who needs Hawaii? Newquay's 35ft wave at Fistral Beach.

It is a surfer's dream, a series of perfect waves rolling in one after another, each one an astonishing 35ft high - and no one else there to ride them.

But this spectacular image does not come from the surfers' paradises of Hawaii or Australia. It happened at Fistral Beach in Newquay, Cornwall, last week.

The phenomenon, caused by a rare swell called The Cribbar, occurs only once or twice a year and lasts no more than an hour or two.

The waves would have been travelling at a speed of 30-40mph by the time they reached the coast, having slowed down from about 60mph further out at sea.

A wave of such a size would break with a force of around 6,000lb per square inch - six times the power of a heavyweight boxer's right hook. Only one surfer was able to tackle such an awesome wall of water. Chris Bertish, a 30-year- old South African who lives in Newquay, has a passion for big wave surfing and has travelled the world in search of the perfect example. But these were right on his doorstep.

'It's very unusual to get a wave that big in Newquay,' said Mr Bertish, who sells surf gear. 'It was an incredible experience, but you have to be lucky to catch it because it's impossible to predict when it will happen and it only lasts a short time. I happened to be on the beach at the right time, but not many go surfing in the middle of December.

'It was really special to have the whole wave to myself. I was out there on my own about 200 yards from the beach.

'Riding a wave that big is incredible. That kind of feeling is indescribable, you can't put it into words.

'It gives you a real adrenaline rush rather than just putting a smile on your face.'

Mr Bertish used a surfboard designed for riding big waves. He said: 'It's called the big wave gun and is slightly longer and thicker than normal boards.

'It can be very dangerous if you don't have the right equipment.'

Another surfer attempted the feat but ran into difficulties and his board was smashed against the rocks.

The Cribbar is named after the Cribbar reef, which stretches out under the sea like a finger for half a mile from the headland.

It occurs when certain weather and ocean conditions combine to create the kind of towering waves with smooth faces which are perfect for surfers.

When a swell caused by a strong storm in the Atlantic hits the reef, the size of the already huge waves can double if the tide is at a certain level.

At high tide, the reef will be too far under the water to have much of an impact, while at low tide the waves will break on the rocks. Finally, the weather needs to be mild with only a gentle wind at most, otherwise the Cribbar's smooth waves will be broken up by smaller waves caused by high winds.

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