Surf's Up

Camel Estuary, Padstow, Cornwall

Camel Estuary, Padstow, Cornwall

One of my favorite places to surf turns out to be the cold, rainy, wind swept northern coast of Cornwall. I know I just sold the destination to you with that description, but bear with me. Cornwall is the English Florida. When you go off season it's mostly you and a lot of pensioners (English word for retirees), but that means its quiet and easy, which I prefer. July and August get a bit crowded, but any other time of the year and Cornwall is a wonderful, kinda magical, with a coastline dotted with extraordinarily pretty beaches, and, as it turns out, great places to surf. 

I have a very soft spot for Cornwall as its where I spent many formative summers freezing my little half-French bum on the beach until I was about 13 and decided I'd rather spend my summers in a country where it actually gets hot, like France. I did have one major advantage over all the other children, I tanned when the sun came out. Nothing marks you out like a healthy brown glow in a sea of angry pink. So the place is full of beautiful beaches, if slightly dodgy weather, and more importantly to the gastronomically inclined, this is the spot to get the best Cream Teas on planet earth. A Cream Tea (I'm capitalizing this on purpose, it deserves respect) for the uninitiated is comprised of a big pot of your favorite tea - I go for Darjeeling now - a mound of warm buttery scones, a shimmering sweet pile of fresh strawberry jam, and a large dollop of creamy cllotted cream. Clotted cream is basically impossible to find outside of the West Country in the UK, it doesn't export well and there is something very 'terroir' about the local cows and the quality of the cream. I should also mention that Padstow, the local attraction, is the headquarters of the Rick Stein empire, the man who taught the Brits how to cook fish again. It's a pretty little village, nestled in an estuary with a picturesque port and two Michelin starred restaurants.

To be able to eat as many cream teas as my digestive system would let me, I had to find a corresponding physical activity. As you can imagine, these babies aren't exactly low fat. (I've learned that if anything is both shimmery and creamy at once, then its probably damaging your arteries. Oh well). A few jogs on the coastal path were not going to cut it so, dragging my brother off the links course nearby, I signed us up for a couple of hours of surfing.

You have to wrap yourself up in a thick wetsuit, and it rained for at least one of our days in the water, but it was amazingly fun. No sharks or coral to worry about, a softly angled sandy beach, so no scary neck-snapping breaks, and, for the non-believers out there, some serious waves. For beginners like us we stayed close to shore and cut out when it got to big, or we got too cold. The beach we surfed on was Constantine Bay and neighboring Booby's Bay (yep, not a typo that's the name). At the top of Constantine, some local entrepreneur has set up a little espresso stand and never has a latte tasted so good. As my father has finally admitted, gastronomy has arrived in England. Quelle bonne surprise!