“Nothing like it,” writes Agatha Christie, celebrated author and one of Britain’s earliest wave riding enthusiasts, in her memoirs. “Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seems to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour; all the way in from the far distant raft, until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft flowing waves.” 

“It is one of the most perfect physical pleasures that I have known.” 

Photo: The Christie Archive Trust

In the one hundred years since Christie first took to the waves, the appeal she describes has seen her favourite seaside pastime blossom into Britain’s favourite too, with an ever-growing number striding out into the bracing waters of the Atlantic to sample the thrills of riding atop the breakers. 

Traditionally a summer activity, practised in nothing but a swimming cossie and cap, nowadays a decent wetsuit and a healthy dose of fortitude are enough to keep you in the brine all year round. And while there’s unrivalled joy in bellyboarding under a blazing sun, it turns out venturing out in the colder months offers its own wealth of mental and physical rewards. 

Just the ritual of getting up and going can work wonders. The days are short. Darkness creeps in earlier and lingers much longer. The weather’s usually some sort of grim. Successfully pulling yourself from the warm embrace of your indoor life and plonking yourself down on some windswept beach with just a few hardy pals feels like quite an achievement in itself. 

Photo: Luke Gartside

Doing so also offers the chance to see the sea and coast in all its winter grandeur up close. A world away from soft sands and summer crowds. The internet brims with the professed benefits of immersion in raw nature and freezing water, promising everything from a boosted immune system to an increased libido. But none of that’s really on your mind when you plunge into the frothing shallows, eyes fixed out the back in search of that first wave. Or as you leap forward and kick vigorously, a mate’s hoot ringing out from close by, and feel the energy lift you as the white water rushes around your ears. Sure, it’s calorie-burning winter cardio, without the fluorescent lights and the hammer of a treadmill. But mostly, it’s just really, really fun. 

Photo: Luke Gartside

In our experience, back on the terra firma, basking in the afterglow is often the best time for a catch up with belly comrades. Warm and rejuvenated, brain babbling with endorphins as you retire to a cosy corner of a cafe or pub, ready for a full session debrief. 

Those are the sort of afternoons that make our winter around here and we’d love for you to join us on one of our Sunday Slides – or just grab some buddies and get out there. With no lifeguards around, if you’re new to belly boarding, it’s best to pick a spot away from the full brunt of the storms for your winter excursions. With Cornwall’s hundreds of miles of twisting coastline and consistent swells of all sizes, you can usually find a spot with the kind of waves you’re after, whether that’s spitting tubes or soft rolling white water. Even if you’ve only got a quick hour at lunch, in our experience, you’ll feel better about almost everything for just getting in. 

 Photo: Charles Johnstone

January 13, 2022 — Luke Gartside