ON A WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON recently Timo and myself found ourselves wheeling luggage across a hot Bordeaux airport car park. Our destination was Thurso, Scotland’s famous righthander and host of the 2006 O’Neill Highland Pro. Despite the fact that France was hot and had waves, I couldn’t wait to get back to Britain. It had been three months since I’d had cheese and pickle sangas, Marmite, chip shop chips with salt n’ vinegar. Plus, each of the three times I’d been on surf trips to Scotland previously the swell had died the day I arrived and cranked the day after I left. Around about the time we were checking in at Bordeaux, apparently the swell was on the rise. We got to Gatwick at about mid-afternoon, a solid pulse of clean 6ft swell was kicking in. According to the buoy, the swell dropped at around 1am, around about the exact time we rolled into the outskirts of Thurso.
On our first morning it had dropped considerably, the contest was off, but the vibes were great. Everyone was stoked on the sessions they’d had the previous couple of days, and to be at a different contest location outside the norm. We hung out. Then the next day was small too so we took a scenic drive. Aussie charger Kieren Perrow came along for the ride. We checked out the stunning scenery, watched perfect 4 inch waves break on slabbing right reefs, only briefly remarking upon the cruel irony of the fact that we had perfect offshore, sunny conditions and one of the best tube riders on the planet in the back of the car keen as mustard to surf, and yet nae swell. Never mind.
We took some comedy snaps of local landmarks like the Dunnet Head lighthouse and the Duncanby Stacks coming out of my derriere, which Timo and I were fairly stoked with. That is, we were stoked until later on that night when we met a Scottish girl in the pub who absolutely schooled us, same concept, only she’d done it with the Orkney Ferry and shot video. Then there were some fun clean days at Brims, small, but the sun was out and there were even Brazilians freesurfing in the sick little right pits. I almost made it to the bottom on a couple of waves.
According to the buoy, it started to pick up at around 2am on the Tuesday morning, around about the exact time we left Thurso. As our flight left from Inverness at 7am Finals day was underway in perfect 4-6 barrels at Brims, and Russell Winter took out the title he looked like he’d had his name on ever since he paddled out for his first heat.
- - We found no evidence of people drying teabags out and re-using them, despite the rumours.
- - Scottish people are hard. When icy winds whipped through town, local kids and adults alike strolled pleasantly in t-shirts/short skirts. No wonder the Romans decided to give it a miss.
- - There are no 24-hour petrol stations between Thurso and Inverness. If you have a 6 am check-in at Inverness, a passenger who needs to make that flight in order to get to the Mentawais the next day and don’t want to roll down every hill on the way in neutral, fill up the day before, idiot.
- - If you want to score really good waves in Caledonia, don’t go with me.
Photos by Timo