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CORNISH OASIS


words and photos by Caleb Giddens

photos of Izzy Henshall and Taylor Gowland


Imagination is funny; the human mind envisions a perfect situation yet quickly dismisses it as we tend not to want to be disappointed. We are told never to expect something perfect because we will always be let down.


I receive a text from my mate Taylor, my phone buzzes on the desk at work. I take a quick peak at it as my boss walks past and glances an icy look. "Dunes with Izzy tomorrow?" (To clarify, if you search for a place called Dunes in Cornwall, you won't find one. For the sake of others, I have renamed it for this article. Otherwise, I might get my tires slashed… not a big fan of strong localism). My mind instantly painted a cheesy, perfect image of some idyllic paradise—lines on lines, boiling white sand, and crystal water. I quickly dismissed the thought.



 


"It will be tiny, mate."

"Nah man swell size is actually decent and there is a nice period" - Taylor


"I might shoot tbf"


"Yeah man do it" - Taylor


As you can tell, our text conversations are not the most flamboyant.



 




My alarm goes off at 7:30; I glance at my phone. There is a notification from Taylor. 'Leaving now bro' - delivered 11 minutes ago. He lives 15 minutes away. In a mad rush, I grabbed my camera off the charger, scraped up my wet wetsuit off the shower floor, grabbed my housing, and shoved it all in a rucksack. Apple, Penguin bar, and a family-size packet of Chilli Heatwave Doritos (I'm not sponsored by them, just mildly addicted) and out the door. Closing it just in time to not let the dog out. One thing you must understand about a Cornish person is that they can not go to the beach in the summer without a Cornish pasty. It's like some kind of unspoken covenant. Taking this into mind, I pegged it down to the cafe at the bottom of my road. They had just opened. "One large steak pasty, please" - I wheezed. The look I got was classic.



Taylor and Izzy turned up in 'Megan". Megan was Taylor's Renault Megane; one summer night, things got crazy, and somehow the E was removed from the car logo. Henceforth creating a mildly comedic running joke. This car has since been scrapped.



The boards were typically strapped to the roof in the sketchiest way possible. I carefully balanced mine on top of the pile, and off we went. With a tasteful mix of Ocean Alley and The Growlers grunging out of the speakers, we made our way to the waves, windows down, souls content. The track to Dunes is, to put it nicely, alternative. It may have single-handedly been this road that sent Megan to the scrapyard. In fact, I'm certain it was. Believe me when I say it was worth it. Over Speed-bump after speed-bump, we tried to glance at the line-up as the car bounced above the hedges. We were trekking to "Dunes" because of an anonymous tip-off Izzy had gotten. Her buddy Lifeguards up that way. We hiked the dunes, and believe me, carrying a board, housing, camera, and about a gallon of water for half a mile takes a physical toll on a human being. Again… worth it. We all stopped in our tracks. No one addressed that we had just stumbled upon a Longboarder's oasis. We all shared a moment of silent fascination. Click, click, click, click. The camera was in the housing. Click, click.

Fins in the boards. We made three tracks of footprints in the sand as we ran down the hot sand towards the reeling left-handers. We all stopped for a moment before splashing through the shallows. Not a single person out. I gazed down the beach, expecting my eyes to lock with a group of fellow frothing longboarders or, God-forbid, another photographer. But no. No surfer or ocean sport-related participant in sight. Unbelievable. My eye locked with a large middle-aged gentleman struggling to get out of a rubber ring. He was clearly on holiday and having the time of his life. However, I doubted he was a threat to our perfect comic-book-style waves. Taylor smirked before shouting something stupid and running into the water.




The waves weren't big, about waist to shoulder-high on the sets. But they were consistent. The crystal blue lefts came through like clockwork, perfect steep face and hollow inside section. Taylor and Izzy powered out back as I sat on the sand, putting my fins on. I swam out before one of the bigger sets and sat in the channel, waiting for Izzy to do her thing. As I was swimming out, I took a couple of waves on the head; I was diving below the white water and opened my eyes. Perfect blues and whites swirling around. Then I noticed the sand. It was incredibly shallow. I realized this sandbank was the source of all our daydreams. I heard Taylor shout 'paddle!' So I started snapping. Izzy had taken off on the first wave of the day. A casual paddle in, followed by a smooth but steady bottom turn. Cross-stepping to the nose, board gliding through the wall like a knife through butter. A hang-five, then a hang-ten, sticking it through the section into the inside. Cross-stepping back towards the tail and skilfully utilizing her speed to carve into a beautiful cut-back, showering the camera in spray. She was surfing a custom-made 9'4 Parry Surfboards nose-rider, white with electric blue rails. An artistic weapon.


Taylor takes a wave, a very late take-off, and the lip curls right over; you would have thought he'd been eaten and washing-machined. In reality, he pulled in and scored a beauty of a little tube. Unfortunately, that was on a right, and I was shooting the left. I managed to capture a moment from behind. I took his word for it.


Izzy takes another wave, cruising into a set wave with perfect positioning. Now, this is the story I like to call "How I almost lost an eye" One thing you have to know about Izzy is that she doesn't alter her surfing for a photographer until the very last minute. We had a standoff. She was cruising towards me right on the nose; I was taking photos like a crazy person; I think I shot about 50 pictures on that sequence alone. Izzy wasn't moving to miss me, and I wasn't ducking under the wave. This continued until she glided right past my face. At this moment, I believed it was how I would die. But I kept shooting. By some miracle, I was untouched. I don't know if you believe in Divine protection, but this was a ridiculously close one. The session ended with us all crowded around the camera, sitting on the beach, and me reluctantly sharing my Doritos. It was an all-time Dunes session, and everyone was stoked to have scored completely uncrowded pre-summer waves. The sad thing is I filmed half the session, and the files disappeared into the ether. Never to be seen again. But the photos live on.




To conclude, these sessions are very rare, and nearly all the times I surf, it's either packed or onshore, but there are moments like this where everything aligns, and you find yourself living in a daydream. Questioning whether you snoozed the alarm and are still asleep.










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