Best be Ready

‘Best be Ready’ from Tube News

“I’ve seen it good here. I remember, it was an August Sunday, one of those days when it seems everybody goes to the beach. This place was packed. The sky was that deep blue you associate with a clean and dustless atmosphere; it was sweltering, the sun a fireball, temperatures at peak for the day. Must have been top nineties. Down on the sand people were laying in the heat, cooling off in the sea every now and then, with dinghies, rubber rings etc. A few had the best of both worlds, afloat on lilos a few yards off shore, slowly drifting up and down in the imperceptible currents. I’ve never seen such a calm before, or since. Just no movement at all, not even at the waters edge, only slow currents at the turn of the tide. It was like glass, Tennyson Down and the cliffs at Freshwater faithfully reflected on the surface of the sea. What a day?

Then, between three and four it was, that timeless part of summer afternoons such as I’m describing, I had a few moments to stop and look out at the scene through the serving hatch of the kiosk. As I watched, a slight line of swell appeared  and moved towards the shore, hardly enough power to lap up onto the sand. Then there was another one, a bit bigger, enough to rock the lilo lollers just off the water’s edge. There then followed the quickest and smoothest swell I have ever seen in all my years at Compton. Within ten minutes it had built to about three feet from nothing: long horseshoe-shaped lines moving in from the ocean, unbroken from Freshwater Cliffs right across the Bay to Hanover Point, cresting white outside the wreck and breaking uniformly all the way across to the steps below my kiosk.

That groundswell lasted three days and the speed it reached its height which was taller than I am – is something I haven’t experienced since. All the surfers had a whale (wail? – which one Roger?!) of a time – of course it was all longboards and beaver-tail diving jackets in those days – not that you needed anything, it was so warm. I did a good trade in my wooden belly boards, too.

Altogether it was quite a display. But what sticks in my memory most isn’t the blazing sun, or the crowds, or even the swell when it was at its peak – but the way it arrived and built, and especially the way the breakers rolled towards the shore, uniformly curved across the bay, which in my eyes amounted to cool, natural perfection.

  • When was this amazing swell?
  • Were you there?
  • What was the kiosk owners name and is he still around?
  • Does anyone have any pics of the old kiosk that was on the cliff top at Compton?

I remember as a young boy being able to buy ‘Commando’ comics and an ice cream but he seemed to sell everything in the kiosk on the cliff top at Compton Car Park.