When you think of surfing, the beaches of Hawaii and Bondi Beach in Australia spring to mind, and that Beach Boys song will drift into your mind and stick. The UK has a surf culture too, that unbelievable has been around for over 50 years now and it has around half a million regular surfers and a large number who try it for the first time every year. Modern surfing was brought to Cornwall by four Australian lifeguards who amazed people with the way they could swoop across the waves. Its spiritual home has remained in the West Country, the place that receives a large proportion of the waves and swells from the North Atlantic. Jonathan Bennett set himself a challenge of catching a wave on eighty separate beaches all around the UK that were suitable for surfing.
But first, he needed a camper van.
Having found one in Hastings, he sets off on his fourteen-month journey around the UK. In what turns out to be the coldest winter for a while, he wishes he had bought one with a heater… Starting in Scotland, he kind of heads clockwise around the country, stopping at promising looking beaches hoping to catch that perfect wave. Living on porridge and endless cups of tea he manages to avoid going anywhere near a regular campsite, sleeping where he can hear the waves crash onto the beach. He will surf alone on one of the most remote beaches in the UK, share the water with seals, great and not so great bodyboarders and the odd unmentionable object.
This is an enjoyable account of Bennetts attempt to surf his way around the UK. The writing is straightforward with good descriptions of the people and places he meets on his surf journey. There is the odd amusing moment and the book is full of surf jargon, thankfully there is a glossary in the back of the book. Sadly what the book is missing is photos, whilst I have been to some of the beaches mentioned, I would have loved to have seen photos of the beaches surfed in the Highlands and Islands. If you have read any of Tom Anderson’s books then you will like this one. 3.5 stars