Surf's down: Why those who swapped heat of Hawaii for cold Cornwall were left beached

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For these professional surfers, who had sacrificed exotic winter escapesto Hawaii, Australia's Gold Coast and sunny California in the hope of riding the elusive Cribbar, the "diminutive" wave and misdirected wind, it was "a very bad day at the office''. But the life of the dedicated wave-chaser is prone to such disappointments.

Duncan Scott, a 28-year-old South African surfer, had turned down at least three opportunities to ride warm waves in Hawaii, guaranteed to rise to at least 25ft every day, hoping to surf the giant of the UK waves known as the Cribbar in Newquay. One came along on Monday, and yesterday a repetition was keenly anticipated. The surfers gathered and waited in vain.

"I could be doing warm, fun surf but instead I've been hanging here for this big stormy bastard all winter," said Scott.

The legendary Cribbar is famously inconsistent, appearing about one or twice a year and created by a unique combination of weather conditions, ground swell and wind direction. The surfers said they had spent more hours monitoring internet sites on tidal movements and Cornish weather conditions than on their luminous fibreglass surfboards.

Mr Scott, who is sponsored by O'Neill to tour the world hunting for undiscovered waves, said he has surfed in 48 countries but there was a particular satisfaction in conquering a UK wave.

Surfing pundits say that the trend to discover the true extent of UK waves has only just begun. Last year, the surfing legend Rusty Long, from California, found a new surf wave in Ireland.

Dr Malcolm Findlay, a surf science expert at Plymouth University, said it was very "in vogue'' to chase big waves and that there was an emergence of big-wave pursuits in the UK.

"The waves in the North Atlantic are bigger than anywhere else in the world. With the advent of the jet ski it makes it easier to pursue big-wave riding. Just as we have the 'Big Three' in Hawaii, Mexico and North California, perhaps we might one day see the North Atlantic Big Three in Ireland, Newquay and northern Spain,'' he said.

He said the Cribbar's appeal could be it's "gladiatorial aspect". He said it was potentially one of the deadliest big-wave breaks in the world because of the cold, the prevalent currents and the isolation involved. But yesterday, the wave never came.