#StormWatch. Riding the Storm, Oxwich, Gower 20th August 2016.

Surfing Oxwich Bay

This has been on our #StormWatch radar for over a week. A massive unseasonable storm heading for the UK. Winds over 40 mph, and a ground swell of 12 feet plus. Adding to that there was a high spring tide that threatened storm surge conditions. All of which meant that nearly every Gower break was death on a stick!

Is there surf in Oxwich Bay?

Warnings were in place, surfers were urging people to look out for each other on social media, and the seafront businesses were putting their sea defenses in place. Lessons have be learned from since 2014 when Caswell was decimated by a storm surge (high tide coinciding with a large storm). It is times like these when the only surfing choice is Oxwch Bay, Gower.

Oxwich Surf

You may ask does Oxwich Bay get surf? It is the most fickle beach. It is a sheltered bay that faces south east. That orientation is for rare for a Gower surf beach as most face west or south west. That south east orientation makes Wales’ prevailing south west wind an offshore wind, giving Oxwich tall, steep and hollow waves when it has surf.

Surfing Oxwich August 2016

The problem is that it virtually never ever gets waves. It is so sheltered there is sometimes not even a ripple, which makes it an ideal Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) destination.  There needs to be a 15 foot swell to get a 1 foot wave at Oxwich. This storm was hovering around 11 – 13 foot. The fantastic surf conditions website GowerLive was saying there was just a 0.5 foot wave at Oxwich. That was good enough for me to have a punt.

DimExcuses Surf Oxwich

The fierce offshore wind was pushing the wave faces up and it was more like a consistent 1 foot wave, fast, step and exciting to ride as it closed out hard and heavy. A very rewarding surf.  It was well worth going in. I snagged this hollow face below just as it closed out. My girlfriend Sharon taking this photo just at the right time.

Hollow wave at Oxwich

Now I am looking beyond this storm. The best surf is always after the storm. All the bays should be back to safe conditions with a good swell by Tuesday (23/08/16), so start planning your next session, DimExcuses.

StormWatch. The calm between Storm Gertrude and Storm Henry. Langland to Caswell Bay, January 2016.

Path from Langland to Caswell

No sooner than we have taken a battering from Storm Gertrude and Storm Henry is on the way. The Met. Office is naming all the UK storms this winter and the list is already decided. The list is alphabetical and alternates boy girl, like the seating plan in my old GCSE Chemistry class back in the day at Bishopston Comprehensive.

StormWatch

The list of 2015 / 2016 UK winter storm names are:

  • Abigail
  • Barney
  • Clodagh
  • Desmond
  • Eva
  • Frank
  • Gertrude
  • Henry
  • Imogen
  • Jake
  • Katie
  • Lawrence
  • Mary
  • Nigel
  • Orla
  • Phil
  • Rhonda
  • Steve
  • Tegan
  • Vernon
  • Wendy

So this weekend Storm Gertrude had finally past us and we heard Storm Henry was on the way. Taking advantage of the calm between the storms Molly my Frenchton and I decided to get down Langland Bay and walk the Wales Coastal Path to Caswell Bay, to maintain our Gower StormWatch and check out the post storm surf.

Rotherslade Bay

Firstly we entered Rothersalde Bay (slightly east of Langland) as the tide was falling as can be seen above. We could just about make it around to Langland Bay as the tide fell but it required some rock scrambling.

Molly StormWatch Langland

In Langland itself the surf was pumping in and the surfers were making their way in. You can see why it is Gower’s premier surfing beach.

Surfers Langland, Gower

Through the surf was large the conditions were good and waves quite clean so the SUP (Stand Up Paddleboards) guys were going in too.

SUP Langland Bay

The walk around to Caswell Bay was equally impressive in the post storm conditions.

Storm Gertrude Surf Caswell

It was a fantastic day for a walk, Molly and I racked up 7.5 km walking in the end. With this endless rain and storm after storm you have to make the most of the calm between the storms and get out there, DimExcuses.

StormWatch. The Pebbles only Winter sees. Pobbles Bay, January 2016.

StormWatch Pobbles

January maybe a bit of a cold wash out, but that doesn’t stop me and Molly the French Bulldog from getting down the Gower beaches. We are maintaining our StormWatch and observing how climate change is effecting the Welsh Coast.

StormWatch Three Clffs

Last time we were checking out the big surf at Langland Bay, today we were further down the Gower coast at Pobbles Bay. Pobbles is the small bay before the famous Three Cliffs Bay, and you can see Three Cliffs in the picture above. From this angle it doesn’t look too unusual at Pobbles Bay, but if you walk down there today you have a striking view in front of you as you reach the entrance to the beach. See if you can spot Molly among the pebbles.

Storm Erosion Pobbles Bay

The pebble storm beach at the top of the beach is at least twice the size it should be with many pebbles exposed by storm erosion. These are pebbles that are never seen in the summer buried by several feet of sand.  This large section of exposed rocks is making it difficult to get on to Pobbles beach itself. I saw two horse riders really struggling to get their horses across this hazardous stretch of pebbles.

Storm exposed cave Pobbles

In the coves and caves the sand lost is very clear and the pebble beds that only winter sees are clearly on display.

Find the Ball

Note the metre of bare rock with no barnacles at the bottom these cave sides showing where the sand level would normally be. Molly was having a proper investigation, and the pebble caves make for a challenging of game fetch the ball. Especially as there are now some sizable rock pools in those caves.

StormWatch Rock Pooling

But Molly always gets her ball.

Rock Pool French Bulldog

Always keep your eye on the ball…

Eye on the Ball, DimExcuses

…unless you can touch your nose with your tongue.

Touch your Tongue with your Nose

We explored all the caves in Pobbles Bay, seeing a lot of bare rock you wouldn’t normally see at other times of the year.

StormWatch Pobbles Bay January 2016

This is the furthest east in Pobbles Bay.

Pobbles Bay

And here is looking back at Three Cliffs.

StormWatch Three Cliffs

And finally another look at those impressive caves exposed by winter storm erosion.

Storm Erosion Caves

It is really impressive seeing how much sand is moved around by storms and the seasons, and with it only being January there is still plenty of winter left for Molly and I to continue with our StormWatch observations, DimExcuses.

 

Stormwatch. After the wind drops the surf rises up. Langland / Caswell 2nd January 2016.

StormWatch Langland

Rain, rain and more rain as storm after storm hits the UK and temperatures refuse to drop to anyway near average temperatures for this time of year. Coupled with high winds the weather has not been good for getting out and about in South Wales.  As always I have been on the StormWatch, especially on the DimExcuses Christmas Coastal Walk earlier in the week when I saw Caswell Bay had yet again got a bit of a hammering. Nothing like when Caswell  was devastated in January 2014,  thankfully the storm protection measures put in since then seem to be holding up.

DimExcuses Surf Langland

But yesterday (the second day in January 2016) was a respite from the recent storm generated wind and rain. Spotting a good few hours of decent weather Sharon, Molly and I headed down to Rotherslade Bay, to walk around to Langland and Caswell Bay. You can follow our route on Strava here.  Before we had even left the car, we could see that the massive storm swell was still here, but now with no wind to spoil those big peaks and they were coming into Langland in beautiful massive straight lines.

StormWatch Caswell

Caswell Bay was no different with plenty of surfers in the water due to the above average temperatures. There was a 10 degree air temperature which matched the 10 degree water temperature. The sun even came out for a bit and with no wind it felt more like 13 or 14 degrees.  The beach at Caswell looked more like late autumn or early spring with families playing games and having BBQs. There were people in short sleeves, some in shorts, and even some bare foot walkers dipping their toes in.

Mild Winter on Gower 2016

It really is quite worrying. I recall Halloween 2008 when it was barely over 2 degrees for that last week in October and the Halloween night itself. Or there was the freezing winter of 2010 when it did not go over zero degrees on Christmas Day, and it wasn’t until March that we got temperatures even approaching 9 degrees. This winter we have only seen one frost and temperatures barely left double figures throughout December.

Storm Surf Langland Gower

By mid afternoon the word was out, GowerLive was posting some impressive video and surfers were coming down in droves. Langland was looking really busy with a full line up scrabbling for their go at the straight lines. A great afternoon and the 7km walk was just what was needed for Molly the French Bulldog who has been going stir crazy in this poor weather. With more storms forecast we will be continuing to keep up our StormWatch, watch this space, DimExcuses.

StormWatch, Langland Bay Going Off, 7th November 2015

Langland Surf

The winter weather may not be here yet, but the winter swells certainly are. Molly and I were in full on StormWatch mode today heading to Langland Bay, Gower to see a full line up scramble for some seriously pumping surf on the rising tide.

Molly Langland

Molly was straight in the waves, she is such a surf bulldog.

Surf Bulldog

It was a day for short boards, fast and steep. With the winter temperatures still not here there were some summer wetsuits and bare feet in the crowded line up.

Surf Langland

The surf was really peaking with some tall faces testings all the short boarders.

High Tide Langland

We had a great view on the high tide.

Surfer Langland Gower

Some surfers were really charging the heavy swell.

Surf Gower

The waves on their own were worth watching, fantastic curling faces.

Autumn Surf Gower

This autumn in Gower has been fantastic.

Warm Autumn Surf

It is not cold at all yet with air temperatures never leaving double figures.

Surfing Waves Langland Gower

Molly was watching all the riders, and casting a wise experienced eye over the crashing shore break.

Gower French Bulldog Molly

Even though it was a scramble, if you were the right place you could get a cracking ride. Plenty of wave face to carve.

DimExcuses Langland

…but then you had to get back out again.

DimExcuses Surf

Molly needs to get her paws in the water and face in the waves when she is on StormWatch.

DimExcusesSurf Bulldog

What a great afternoon of pumping surf at Langland Bay, Gower. This autumn is really shaping up into a year to remember. With winter just around the corner you can be assured that Molly and I are back on StormWatch, out and about checking on all those Gower winter waves for you, DimExcuses.

StormWatch Surf Bulldog, Caswell Bay, March 29th 2015

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It has been a pretty dark, wet and windy weekend, culminating in 50 to 60 mph winds today.  With my swaying fence looking like it won’t make it to April and the scafolding groaning on the roof, I decided ignorance is bliss and headed down to a dark Caswell Bay with Molly and Sharon.

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The Gower Live Website was saying Caswell had head to overhead surf, but with this wind it was a nasty mess. If you could get out through the punishing white water there was a head high face, but it was looking dark and mean.

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Several surfers were giving it a try, and fair play some serious waves were getting ridden. We on the other hand we staying with playing stick in the shallows.

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Two surfers decided to brave it with short boards. Molly ran down to give them some heavy swell pointers.

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Before focusing back on her stick.

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People tell you French bulldogs don’t swim, but Molly says different.

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And if she is not in the sea she is in the river.

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Looking majestic as always.

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This is one surf bulldog looking forward to the end of StormWatch and for a spring to emerge.

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One thing is sure, whatever the weather we will be down the Gower beaches, DimExcuses.

StormWatch, Caswell Bay, Dusk 6th March 2015.

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With almost spring like conditions, I rushed from the commute train to catch the last of the light at Caswell Bay. Sharon (& Molly) grabbed me at the station and we raced down to see the dusk surf as we were quickly running out of beach and light.

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There was a rapidly rising high tide and a considerable swell. The sunny clear skies of the day, now gave no insulation, so it was real Welsh winter cold.

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There were some mad ‘ have a go heroes’ rapidly chasing every wave like the tide would never go out again and the sun would never rise once set. They looked proper stoked.

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Then, not concerned for the cold conditions, someone got their chopper out.

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In the face of cold, heavy swell, rising tide and failing light in was inspiring to these guys ‘Mentro Allan’ venture out, DimExcuses.

StormWatch Gower January 2015.

StormWatch Molly

So, we have had a few storms here in Gower, South Wales, but luckily we haven’t had the tides.  The storm surge conditions of big storms on very large tides that devastated the UK coast last year fortunately haven’t occurred.  yet I am still seeing a lot of sand movement and some quite substantial erosion at the top of the beaches.

Pobbles Winter Sand Levels

Molly and I now have a regular 5 km loop of Three Cliffs Bay and Pobbles Bay.  I have mentioned the route before in this link. It is my default exercise route for the little Frenchton (French Bulldog / Boston Terrier) on a Sunday when we are racing to make the most of the short Winter light.

DimExcuses Bulldog Molly

It always starts with a stunning view over the UK’s most photographed and painted view, Three Cliffs Bay.

Three Cliffs Valley

This time we were able to drop into the valley(it is tide dependent), and make our wave down to the cave through Three Cliffs itself to get to Pobbles Bay. The tide cuts the two bays off from each other so it is important to keep an eye on the tide,

Three Cliffs Valley

There has been quite a bit of high tide erosion as you enter Three Cliffs Bay, I can’t see the footpath above this collapse lasting another few storms.

Three Cliffs Erosion

Some quite big chunks of Gower hillside have come away.

Gower Erosion

There is definitely some retreat here in the face of Winter storms.

Storm Erosion

After getting our Storm Watch photos Molly and got through the cave and entered Pobbles Bay. Molly concentrated on her new obsession, playing stick…

Molly & Her Stick

…Before going on the lead so she couldn’t bother her other obsession, horses.

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We did a longer than usual walk climbing up to the Pennard Cliffs rather than our usual walk up to Pennard Golf Club. This allowed me to get some shots of Three Cliffs from an angle I don’t often photograph from.

Moody Three Cliffs

The sweeping beach was almost untouched.

Sweeping South Gower Bays

Three Cliffs are fantastic from any angle, especially in the light of a bruised Winter’s sky.

Rugged Three Cliffs

The view from Pennard Cliffs is of pure rugged beauty.

Pennard Cliffs View of Three Cliffs

All in all January hasn’t been too bad, the storms we have had haven’t coincided with high tides that caused so much damage last year. Molly and I have got out on the beach most weekends, you can see more photos on my @DimExcuses twitter, or you can get down there and see those views for yourself, DimExcuses.