Twenty five years ago today, the south of England was hit by a great storm. Most people called it a hurricane, although technically it wasn’t. It is probably most famous for the way BBC weatherman Michael Fish dismissed the prospect of a hurricane hitting the country, rather than the 12 people who died or the millions of trees that were felled.
For me though, it is memorable for a surf session I had in the afternoon. I was one of the few people who made it into work that day as I lived within walking distance and I’d watched the out of control waves hitting the underside of the decking of the Palace Pier in Brighton. I looked out of the window in the afternoon and noticed the flags in the square outside gently fluttering in an offshore direction. That signalled the end of my working day and my boss let me go. I sprinted home, got suited and booted, grabbed my board and sprinted back to my local break, the Pier.
Getting out the back was a case of timing entry just right and using the rip next to the pier. I think I was in for about 2 hours, joined by a few other surfers, catching the monster bombs and scrabbling our way back out again. At one point, a thunderstorm started out in the English Channel and we watched the lightning forking down to the sea, praying it wouldn’t come nearer.
I’ve had hundreds of surfs in the quarter century since then, but that – along with a huge post hurricane session I had in Trinidad at Toco with only 2 others in – stand out in my memory more than any other.
Happy Hurricane Anniversary.