Daniel Crokett | Deep Mapping the Point

Daniel Crockett

LOCATION: England

I believe every person has a place where their heart feels at ease; whether it’s a city street, a peak or forest.

I see pictures of the point pop up from time-to-time like echoes of another world. Usually the same angle, shot from the car park lookout, with a longboarder easing across one of the endless faces, navigating the suck rock or the flat section in the Fishing Cove. It’s a place Betjeman wrote of often, rare and ethereal and full of a peculiar, light joy. I miss it, this place of fickle frustration and constant alert, to which I gave ten years. I believe every person has a place where their heart feels at ease; whether it’s a city street, a peak or forest. Every surfer has a wave of particular identification, to which they are most connected. It’s been years since I surfed the point, but I still think about it almost every day.
I first saw it on a school trip to the church. We were rubbing the graves with tracing paper, recording the names of the dead as the swallows whipped through the gable arch. Two of us stole away, ran through the marram grass and there she was. Spinning close to the rocks, breaking long and clean at just the right stage of tide to really run, nobody out. I stood for a long time in silence trying to make sense of this thing I did not understand: the way the waves travelled across the estuary in endless bands, and rolled for what looked like forever, the white crest gathering and fading, sprinting down the bar and backing off. There was nobody out to get a sense of scale, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of it, this giant playground of a thing. I’d never seen a pointbreak before. The connection was made.
By luck really, two friends had nearby houses. The point sits in a place of multi-million pound property, favoured by royals. The illusion of a rugged, country feel is maintained purely by an old-boys golf club and robust nimbyism. Most of the houses are second, third, fourth homes sitting shadow-like through the winters when the point breathes into life.
My surfing crew and I bought wafer-thin toothpick thrusters. One day, surfed out on a big swell, we stopped by the point at sunset and I saw a lone fleet figure trimming on a small wall for what felt like forever. He went right by us, gliding away. ‘Kook,’ someone ventured. ‘Looks weak,’ grunted someone else. But something had lodged in my mind. The next term I took my student loan and blew it on an ugly 9’10’’ Stewart noserider and I started to covet the point and learn the vague factors that brought it into being.

Most of the time, the wave lay dormant, and ladies in expensive boots walked their chocolate Labradors along the sweep of sand and rock. It breaks in an estuary mouth, and is therefore intensely tidal. During my ten years of regular attendance, the vast majority of surfers missed the golden window when it would stand up on the bar and run like a scaled-down version of first point Noosa. In common lore, the point was a wave for higher tides, but in reality the second the water got deep enough to push over the estuary bar would start it breaking, shallow and thick through the inside. Somehow, even in an age of surfcams and precise swell forecasts, this fact eluded most. The biggest of springs were ideal, for the added force that made the waves bend and twist, but neap tides meant you could surf it all day long and on the drop.
Each year, the bar changed. I remember once getting to it right on dusk and seeing two unknown shortboarders surfing endless stacked lines on the rare outside section. I surfed it once on a 22-second period swell, when the waves would break in sets of fifteen and the sweep was impossible to fight. I surfed it a lot by myself on frostbitten winter dawns, little runners in the early light, sometimes with my dogs running down the point on every wave.
One of the two friends who had lived nearby was killed, a tragic accident on a bike in London. His parents asked me to scatter his ashes in the water at the point, and with chicken skin running up our backs we watched as it came to life and we all surfed in his honour. After that, when I surfed there, he was there too.
My connection with it grew stronger over the years as I found more and more peculiarities in its character. I got to know the rocks underfoot, knowing where the channels were to paddle out, how to hide behind the jump rock when a big set flooded it. I learned which path to take down the cliff at any stage of tide, knew each section of the wave from end to end. Each year I would try to beat my record ride, past the hill and down through an inside section that might never link up again. There was a very small devoted crew, amongst a wider community of longboarders who thought they were locals. Three or four people who were really on it, and we were rewarded with some epic days, rides that seemed to span forever, kicking out a mile from takeoff, looking back at the lines feeling their way down the estuary. There was a time where I started to love the place, and the inevitable crowds on the forecasted days got me down. It somehow seemed a place beyond all of the stuff that comes with crowds, and I expect it still is, though I do hear stories of aggro and a full car park.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever find my way back there, and ignite the old devotion to it. As a place it has exerted more power over me than any other, yet of course it is no different without me. Whether I catch those sneaker swells with a hint of north bent, high period and not too big to draw the attention of the many, with the bar settled and the small birds dancing through the fishing cove, in the shadow of the hill and the mountain of the Stepper showing the pulses, waiting for the first set to come over the Doom Bar; it will run on and on.
There’s something in this connection to place, this deep map that every surfer builds. It’s strange now to think of all of those lines traced and the patterns they form. I expect I’ll get back to it, one of these years.