SEVERN Bore surfer Steve King may have ridden some of the biggest river waves in the world – but nothing quite compares with the rush of paddling out on to his favourite spot near his home in Saul.
More than three decades since he first caught the Severn Bore, he now has hundreds of tidal rides under his belt – and isn’t about to let severe weather and flood warnings scupper his latest bid.
In 2006, Steve entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest continuous wave ride, surfing the Severn Bore for an incredible 9.25 miles.
As the wave’s popularity has grown, so has Steve’s love of the sport. It is a passion which has taken him all over the world in search of the perfect river wave.
Steve, 49, learnt his skills on beach breaks in South Wales and Cornwall.
He first tried his luck on the Severn in 1981. Since then, Steve and friend Dave Lawson have grown into local legends, seen as pioneers by many in Gloucestershire’s river surfing community.
Steve said there is something special about the Severn and will be paddling out this weekend, despite warnings from authorities to stay away, with dozens of other surfers hoping to catch the perfect ride.
“It is a pretty dormant river but when the bore arrives it comes alive,” he said. “There are other bore waves around the world but no one would think Gloucestershire is one for the best places to surf in the world. It was first surfed in the late 1950s and then Australian lifeguards came over in the 60s and 70s and it took off.
“Sometimes there can be up to 100 people on the wave, it’s an incredible experience. A normal wave can last 10 to 15 seconds but on the bore you can surf for more than an hour.”
Steve uses various boards from 7ft to 10ft, depending on the conditions. He said: “Bore surfing has created a strong community. People look out for each other as you may only get one chance to catch it.
“Some spectators can be disappointed when they see the bore for the first time. But if you know where to watch it from it can be pretty spectacular. I know some great secret spots on the river from where to watch it from. I try to keep it quiet. That’s the problem with mobile phones, as soon as the secret is out, it gets very busy.”
He added: “I’ve seen some strange sights on the river while surfing. There have been oil drums, fridges, gas tanks and dead animals washed down river. One year there was an inflatable elephant and a coffin as students got in on the act.”
Steve has surfed the Pororroca wave on the Amazon in just a pair of shorts. He said: “It got to 15ft in height but, if I closed my eyes, I could have been back home on the Severn, apart from the crocodiles and piranha. The longest wave was Bono in Sumatra in Indonesia. It was a 13-mile ride but wasn’t a world record as you couldn’t stand up all the way as it was too rough.”
In June, Steve is heading to Alaska to take on a river bore there. It will be an extreme environment but, hopefully, an amazing experience.
This weekend’s bore is expected to be the biggest for years, with tomorrow’s wave predicted to be five star and up to 6ft in height.