I’ve always been fascinated by tales of the Cribbar Wave in Newquay – although I’ve not seen it yet as I always seem to find out the day after the Cribbar Wave appeared.
The Cribbar Wave is a monster wave that arrives occasionally – and has been surfed by few – it’s also referred to by some as The Widow Maker. The Cribbar Wave face can be in excess of 30-40ft.
Where is the Cribbar Wave?
If I tell you that I’ll have to …. OK. It’s off the Headland, on Towan Head, beyond Little Fistral Beach, Newquay. If you’re standing in the car park, with the old lifeboat station to your left, ahead of you is Towan Head and at the top is a small white lookout tower – if you follow the path up the outcrop, staying to the left hand side, so you’re on the western side of the Head, then it’s there.
The Cribbar wave forms as the sea passes over a shallow reef off Fistral Beach, creating a very steep wave, in the same way a tsunami wave would react upon meeting shallower water.
The Cribbar takes its name from the rocks on the western edge of Towan Head – it takes a low spring tide combined with a south-easterly wind to produce the Cribbar wave.
I’ve often sat in the car park on stormy evenings watching what seem like huge waves coming round that corner …. I sit and sometimes think they’ll just keeeeeep coming. So, there are large waves in that spot quite a lot – but The Cribbar is something extra large and very special.
Some Cribbar Wave Dates:
The Cribbar tends to come in autumn and winter, here are some dates it’s been spotted or ridden in recent years:
- 16 December 2016
- 24 September 2017
Who Has Surfed The Cribbar Wave?
The first answer is that not many people have surfed the Cribbar, but for a variety of reasons.
- Firstly, the Cribbar isn’t seen an awful lot of times.
- Secondly, to surf it you’d have to know it was there – and before we had texts, the Internet, great satellite images of weather, it couldn’t be predicted.
- Thirdly, you have to be a top surfer to surf the Cribbar, or you’ll probably be mashed to pieces and die. Fact.
So, surfing the Cribbar is certainly not for everybody, or even just the brave. It’s for the professional, the experienced – or the exceedingly stupid!
Surfers Who Have Surfed The Cribbar Wave
The Cribbar was first surfed in 1966, by Ric Friar two Australians (Pete Russell and Johnny McElroy) and an American, Jack Lydgate.
These first four to surf the Cribbar were planning a Cribbar Reunion for the 50th anniversary of the time they first rode it. That didn’t happen in the end.
It can be almost impossible to know everybody who has surfed the Cribbar, and precisely when, but below are some surfers and dates when the Cribbar wave was surfed.
These are in no particular order, but if you’re miffed you’re down the list – or not even ON it – and want to be at the top then leave a comment to say why your name (or somebody else’s) should go higher on the list – and some ‘evidence’ in the form of news links etc and we’ll think about it. This list is provided as is, for entertainment value only – it’s no League of Cribbar Wave Riders and Heroes at all 🙂
- Chris Bertish
- Ben Skinner. (2010, 2011).
- Ben Granata. (2010).
- Jim Moore, from Porthtowan (2008).
- Dan Joel. (2005).
‘Famous’ Cribbar Wave Moments
One person who made the news in relation to the Cribbar was Captain Calamity – a hapless sailor known to the RNLI for getting into difficulties at sea with various (often since sunken) craft. In 2010 Captain Calamity ventured out with his catamaran to tackle the Cribbar (or maybe he was just clueless and had no idea it was there) – and not only did the catamaran get totally mashed up, but somebody caught it on video too!
There was a Cribbar webcam, fixed to the Old RNLI hut, which could be viewed at cribbarcam.com – it would point down towards Fistral when the Cribbar wasn’t about -and be turned to watch the Cribbar wave in real time, live, when it was active – but that service stopped after a couple of years and no longer runs.
Video of The Cribbar Wave
Here’s a few minutes of the Cribbar Wave in action – Ben Skinner and Ben Granada surfing the Cribbar Wave, courtesy of Youtube: