Downwinding on the Channel Island of Jersey (the real Jersey)
Words: Tim Rowe
Photos: Mark Juste
The North coast of Jersey is rugged. Very rugged. There are unforgiving rocky shores and very few safe landing spots. It’s a wild coast, however it does provide one of the best and longest downwind runs on the island.
A few have us have done this run once or twice in the past but conditions have never been perfect – wind direction is absolutely critical as is the tidal flow. But on Sunday August 10th conditions were lining up for one of the most epic downwinders in Jersey’s history…
We’d been watching the forecast for days, hoping for a good westerly that would line up with the coast perfectly. As the day dawned conditions looked like they were on, so plans were made and people met up to shuttle cars around. By 13:00 the wind was blowing out of the west at around 30 knots and with an 8-10′ swell to boot.
Boards were carried down the many steps at Plemont and the lifeguards on the beach were notified of our plans. Several paddlers decided today wasn’t the day for their first time on this run, so eventually there were eight of us. Ages ranged from 17 to 55 years and our boards were everything from a 12’6 Hobie Raw to an unlimited SIC Bullet.
Because the wind swings hard around the cliffs where we launched, we basically had a 1km headwind before we could start the downwinder. This paddle out took around 20 minutes and was no fun at all…
However once we were far enough out, we turned to the right and instantly started picking up runners.
The fun started immediately, at least for everyone except Rene, who snapped his leash and decided to head back in instead of risking losing his board out in the open ocean. Ironically, he lost his board on the paddle back into the beach, which made for a nightmare swim to shore.
The rest of us carried on catching loads of good runs. The swells on the first section were big and fast but hard to get down, however plenty of great rides were had by everyone.
Aaron Rowe (paddling an old style 14′ Glide) was flying off into the distance. He was getting so far ahead that he actually kept stopping and paddling back to make sure we were all OK.
John Harvey was showing what can be done on a 12’6, nailing some great runs. I was getting some good runners but falling in a fair bit of the time. I was using the 17′ SIC Bullet – the board was fantastic, it was my lack of skill that held it back.
As we traveled along the coast, the swells got a bit smaller (but still very big by usual standards) however, according to the GPS, our average speeds increased as we were able to link more bumps and relax a little.
We were all flying along but had to stop and check we were all there – Dave Lamy was struggling a bit with a bad back but it’s amazing how fast you can go on your knees when you’re flying down the face of big swells.
Everything was looking good until suddenly (and totally unbeknownst to us) the lifeguards decided they could only see 5 out of the 7 of us in the water. So they decided to call in the life boats…
We were about halfway through the run, enjoying the rides and the freedom of the open ocean when we saw an orange RIB speeding towards us. We didn’t think it could be for us: We were having such a good time and we’d notified the right people before setting off. But it was.
The crew were great, they saw we were all OK and allowed us to carry on with the downwinder, however they did insist on shadowing us for the rest of the trip.
The finish line at Bouley Bay came up all too soon for me – I would have been happy to keep going but we were starting to run out of island. Plus that’s where our vehicles were waiting for us…
It was the best downwind all of us had ever done, perhaps the greatest downwinder in Jersey history. We all learned a lot from it and are looking forward to the next time conditions come together. Apart from the epic bumps and the fantastic coastal scenery, we also spotted a basking shark and giant sunfish as well.
The seven of us that made it were: John Harvey, Chester Mackley, Alan Fernandes, Tim Tredant, Dave Lamy, Aaron Rowe and myself, Tim Rowe.
An amazing day on the water and one we’ll never forget.
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