“ You need a permit for that young man.” Said the man in the motor launch with a badge and an officious tone. It was the Chichester harbour master, whose job it is to collect dues for craft using those elite sheltered waters. After I’d recovered from the shock of being called young, I replied:
“But it’s a surfboard sir,” I told him. “I think you’ll find I don’t need one.” And continued paddling while he dove into his book of rules, which, it appeared, made no mention of large surfboards. After all, why would anyone want to use a surfboard in a harbour?
A week later I took this same unidentified craft on the river Thames. I would have received less abuse if I’d walked through Liverpool shouting “Come on United!” The aggressors were owners of exclusive riverside properties, who’d seen a head peering in above their manicured hedgerows. Their complaint was merely based on the fact that they’d rarely been looked in on before. Most other water users had the decency to sit down.
My next outing was down on the Cornish Riviera at St. Ives Bay. The waves were mushy and slopey, but big enough to tempt out a few surfers who were nevertheless doing a lot more sitting than riding. I kept at a respectable distance, but not far enough apparently to prevent comments like, “Hey you on the Gondola, why don’t you just **** off!”
This was 2006. I&