'Quite scary': surfer's verdict on the big wave

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The Independent Online

The surfer pictured racing ahead of an 8ft wall of water at breakneck speed towards Newquay spoke yesterday of the exhilaration of riding the wave.

Joe Moran was competing in this week's "Big Wave" contest at Cornwall's Fistral Beach in Newquay, with 16 of the country's best surfers. They had waited for three weeks for the "extreme" conditions needed to let them tackle some of the biggest waves a contest on British shores has seen.

Mr Moran, 28, who edits a surfing magazine, Pitpilot, in Cornwall, described riding the mountainous wave on the beach at which he began surfing nearly two decades ago.

"It was a pleasure to ride big waves and it was nice not to have to make the speed - the speed just came from the wave," he said. At times, he admitted that he was daunted by the size of the waves, although he has ridden 10ft breakers at the same beach in the past. "You can get pretty bad 'hold-down' where the wave holds you under the water for quite a while. I got one nasty hold-down but you have to relax under the water for five to 10 seconds. And when you're still under for ten seconds, you have to tell yourself to keep relaxing. It was quite scary at times," he said.

But he said his performance was not his finest moment, and that he would have liked to have surfed as well as some of his friends who scored "perfect tens". "I probably scored five or six for my main ride and I didn't progress to the final.''

The surfers had been on 72-hour stand-by for the competition, for which experts had monitored the weather for three weeks ahead to ensure the one-day contest coincided with the biggest waves, caused by a hurricane swell in the Atlantic.

The British Surfing Association (BSA) had organised the contest, in which surfers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and elsewhere competed.It was won by a Jersey-born surfer, Scott Eastwood, 28, who astonished the judges with a "perfect ten" performance with his "tunnel rides", "cutback turns" and "floaters".

Paul Jeffrey, who was judging the event, said the waves - and sportsmanship - made for a remarkable sight on the Cornish coastline. "It was not your average 'Joe Smith' surf. It was very dramatic. We had some of the most challenging waves. The swell was perfect, as well as the weather conditions, so the surfers could perform at their best. Some of the biggest surf in the UK was ridden in the contest," he said.