Surfing the Parrett Bore

Votes: 210

by
Tristan Bawn

Tidal bore surfing is by no means a new sport, however it comes as a surprise to many that it is even possible.  Climbing into a river at exactly the right time to catch that elusive wave attracts the more adventurous surfer, and surfing the Severn Bore is something we have been doing at UK Active Outdoors for a few years now.

But did you know the river Parrett in Somerset had a tidal bore too? And did you know a handful of surfers have surfed it?

Whilst talking to Dave Butterton I discovered that he had been surfing this small bore for a few years now, and had spent time searching out any surfable spots.  When he suggested we joined him for a go we jumped at the chance to surf a spot that very few people are likely to have surfed before. Dave has followed on from a small group of bore riders like Stuart Matthews, Steve King and Stuart Ballard, who have previously surfed both the Severn and Parrett bores over the last twenty years. So we had a lot to live up to, oh dear!

Along with Alastair Sinclair, another UK-active bore rider, we met up with Dave just north of Bridgwater in the late afternoon.  We were a little nervous it has to be said but pretty excited too at the prospect of surfing the Parrett. We had heard a few scary stories about what lurks in the water there, from fridges to boulders and even dead cows! Still could be worse….maybe…..somehow!

We navigated the country lanes leading to the river, and arrived at a dead-end stop near the mouth of the Parrett. This was to be our first stop and as of yet an un-surfed spot as far as were were aware.  Getting into the river to surf a bore is always exciting and the adrenaline and expectations were running wild, especially as the sun was starting to go down and an eerie light shone upon us. We were in a river in the middle of nowhere up to our waists waiting for a wave which none of us had any idea how big it would be!

Standing there in the evening light watching the light flickering off the surface, Dave suddenly shouted over to us “here it comes!”. We needn’t have been worried as the wave was six inches high and crept along at a agonisingly slow pace. We jostled for positions and I managed to catch the wave and get up for about five seconds before being flipped on to sand!  It wasn't really a rideable wave but as we watched it move away from us and slowly work its way up river we suddenly saw it break from bank to bank. The ride was still on! 

We jumped back in to the cars throwing our boards on the roof-racks as quickly as we could, and headed up river to the second and last spot. Getting in here we were more optimistic that we might actually get a ride as the wave moved up the narrowing and ever increasing meandering river. We followed Dave in to the river and I asked him how deep the mud was between him and the water just as he said “about knee deep” he sank up to his groin! OK so this was going to be different! After getting completely caked in Somerset’s finest mud-pack we spread ourselves out across the river, which by this time was about twenty feet across and just enough room for three. I could feel huge boulders under my feet so made the decision to try and stay on my board at all costs.

We waited in complete silence until we heard the unmistakeable roar of a tidal bore approaching. And to my complete surprise a solid 1-foot plus wave came around the corner! We had just enough time to straighten our boards and flip the camera on before we were paddling in to the mighty Parrett bore. This time the wave picked all three of us up nicely and rushed us off upstream towards Bridgwater. I had to stay down for a short while but soon managed to get to my feet and have a short ride. It was over prematurely as I felt my fin clip something, which slowed me down enough to lose a dieing wave on my side of the river. Alastair, who was in the middle of the river, soon followed but Dave went around the corner and further on. Laughing uncontrollably, we waited to make sure Dave came back in one piece whilst taking in the amazing views of the retail park we soon found ourselves standing in!

OK so we didn’t get a huge ride, but we did surf the river Parretts tidal bore and it was a great trip out. Covered in mud and laughing we headed back to the Severn to catch up with the Severn bore, and although the Parrett was nothing on the scale of the Severn bore it was an experience we will never forget!

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