An End to Surfing at Freshwater Bay?

If Dick Downes gets his way then it could be the end to surfing at Freshwater Bay, Dick is proposing the building of a harbour and has arranged a public meeting on Sunday the 25th September at The Sandpipers Hotel. Very ironic being that the Sandpipers Hotel is the home to the Wight Surf History’s first exhibition, a selection of images of modern day surfing on the Isle of Wight, (90% of which are of Freshwater Bay).

I believe Freshwater Bay to be one of the best breaks in the country, at least on the south coast. Surfers on the Island have been very influential in surfing in this country and worldwide. If you have kept up with some of the work I have posted here you would have seen the stories of Tad Ciastula of Vitamin Sea surfboards and of another very well known shaper Roger Cooper. I know many of my friends, including myself grew up riding Roger and Tad’s boards. Derek Thompson who invented one of the first professionally made leashes. These guys all grew up surfing Freshwater Bay.

In recent years we have had Zoe Sheath, a British Junior Champion, Johnny Fryer current British Champion and Alan Reed who is leading the British Longboard Masters series. The Isle of Wight Surf Club are also hosting the South Coast Surfing Championships here on the Island and I know that all the competitors will be hoping that the waves are big enough for the competition to be held at Freshwater Bay. Many surfers come to the Island especially in hope of surfing Freshwater Bay.

Freshwater Bay was originally surfed over 40 years a go by the then British Champion Rodney Sumpter who became the Isle of Wight Surf Club’s honorary president. Surfers who were there at the time say Rod said that Freshwater Bay was the best point break on the south of England.

Dick says on his poster that the harbour wall would have a low enough profile so not to spoil the view. Has he not seen the waves in the Freshwater Bay before. Just have a look at the shot below with Joe Truman from last winter. Joe isn’t the tallest guy and his knees are bent, so lets say in this shot he is 5ft and at the bottom of the wave and the wave is peaking at 4 times his height. This was a day when the waves were rideable. I have lived just up the road from Freshwater Bay since 1999 and surfed here since 1982 and I have seen much bigger waves close out across the Bay when it was unrideable.

Surfing brings income to the Island, through the shops, camp sites, holiday homes, hotels, learning to surf and much much more. My last two posts show local children learning to surf, you only have to look at their faces to see how much fun they are having.

I would like to encourage as many of you as possible to make sure you go to this meeting and voice your opinion on this. We cannot let one of the best point breaks in the country be turned into a harbour.

 

Below I have typed up what it says on the poster in case you are unable to read it.

A Freshwater Bay Harbour?

 

A few years ago, there was a storm that was not very well forecast, leading to some boats in Freshwater Bay sinking at their moorings.

I thought then that with two natural arms across the entrance of the bay, with the channel deepened for the salvage of the “Carl”, it would be relatively easy to create a small harbour here.

When researching the history of this, I was surprised to learn that about 50 (?) years ago, the Council offered the locals a choice of a breakwater to protect the road, or,….. a harbour! I find it difficult to believe how the choice was made, or even if the story was true, but I have been told that at least one local has a copy of the plan for the proposed harbour?

I think there is a case for a harbour to be built today.

The advantages as I see it would be as follows………………………..

  1. Shelter for local boats
  2. Would provide protection for the Albion Hotel
  3. Make launching the Lifeboat a lot easier in rough conditions
  4. Provide a “Harbour of Refuge” for small boats caught out in storms that would make the Needles Channel dangerous
  5. The West Wight economy is pretty dire. Building the Harbour (which would be carried out in the winter “off Season” period
  6. Also, when built, there would be employment opportunities for small fishing and pleasure boats, a couple of passenger launches doing trips to the Needles, and other marine activities
  7. Increased activity in the area, with a busy harbour, would draw more tourists to the area, adding to the income of pubs, hotels, etc…

The only downside I see would be the loss of the Western arm of the current bay to surfers, who use it occasionally.

Provided the two arms of the harbour wall have a low enough profile, it should not spoil the view.

While I am sure a government and/or EU grant could be found toward the cost, (which will be substantial), I think it would be nice if it was built by the Isle of Wight locals, rather than a big firm that would cream off the profits rather than keep it in local hands.

What we don’t want is a cock up like the Ventnor harbour, which, for its size, and what it cost, to my mind was a complete waste of money!

There will be a meeting held in the Sandpipers Hotel on Sunday 25th at 7pm to see if there is enough interest locally to take this forward.

 

 By (Dick Downes….phone 740712)