It’s fair to say that local people have in general been less than complimentary about the actions of the surfer whose distress caused the Hastings Lifeboat to be launched during Storm Ciara earlier in the month.
Some have even suggested that the surfer should have been sent a bill to cover the costs of the launch and the rescue effort. Local anger was intensified when the video emerged of the lifeboat almost capsizing in heavy seas as it was unable to get back ashore at Hastings – something that highlighted the very real risks the crew were taking by putting to sea.
But this week Wavelength, a magazine and website that bills itself as ‘Europe’s longest running surf magazine’ came to the defence of the ‘Hastings storm surfer’.
“…a lone surfer jumped off a harbour wall for a surf in Hastings as solid six-foot onshore waves pounded the shoreline,” the magazine writes.
“Nestled way up the channel coast, in the south-east corner of Britain, Hastings isn’t exactly a surfing hub. But still a small community of wave riders exist there, waiting patiently for violent storms or howling wind swell to give them a chance to get among it.
“At some point, the surfer in question’s leash snapped and his board was washed up on the beach prompting panic from onlookers. In a video released later, you can see him, swimming calmly, but board-less in an eddy just off the shore as a voice off-camera concludes that ‘he’s fucked.’”
The piece goes on: “Eventually, he made his own way ashore, five miles east of where he entered the water, after what was no doubt a harrowing sweep down an uninhabited stretch of coast, under towering cliffs, through surging walls of whitewash, halted only by the relative safety of the next harbour. He was taken to hospital for a checkup and is reportedly pretty much fine.
“As one of the lifeboats tried to return to Hastings it was captured being buffeted by the swell. The video was quickly posted online and has led to widespread condemnation of the ‘idiot’ surfer, who was deemed by the masses to have selfishly put the lives’ of his rescuers at risk.
“Many called for him to repay the money he cost the RNLI. Others said he’d made his bed and they shouldn’t have bothered trying to rescue him at all. One furious tweeter even called from him to be charged with attempted murder.”
The magazine argues that, “while you wouldn’t want to be out yachting” in prevailing conditions, “both crew and lifeboat are fully equipped to deal with navigating high seas. The boat in question is self-righting and therefore almost impossible to capsize.”
It says that as, “The crew were strapped in with helmets and all walked away unharmed,” says the magazine which concludes. “Was it hair-raising? Definitely, but life-threatening? Probably not.
“What real surfer can honestly say they’ve never been out in conditions that are too big or sketchy for their experience and ability?” the writer asks.
He goes on to defend the actions of the ‘Hastings storm surfer’ saying: “Thousands of surfers tackled the stormy seas as Ciara hit, from Dorset, throughout the south-west, Wales, Scotland and all over Ireland, down the east coast, across the north sea in Holland and all over Europe, surfers of all abilities tried their luck in a wide variety of conditions.
“From what we can gather, very few got into enough trouble to require the assistance of a lifeboat.”