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Here Be Dragons

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Surrounded on all sides by ocean and mountains, Wales is a land steeped in folklore. It’s a rugged country, filled with rugged people. Recently I’ve had the good fortune to get to know the ancient land of Cymru and its surf much better. There are times when Wales reminds me a lot of my home in North Cornwall, but then there are times when the land seems completely foreign to me, with enormous mountains rising out of the sea protecting the land behind them. It seems completely plausible to witness great fire-breathing dragons coiled around the summits of the mountains, shrouded in the ever-present clouds.

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 The Welsh nation is fiercely proud of its heritage and chances are that in many of the line-ups off the coast they will be speaking Cymraeg (The Welsh language). This can be intimidating to a non-native, but show respect and you’ll find that they’re actually a friendly, generous bunch of surfers. 

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The sense of adventure is still alive and strong in North Wales. There are many waves that you won’t see pictures of online. They don’t exist in guidebooks, only by word of mouth. In a world where everything seems to have an online presence, the media blackout up in the North is really quite refreshing. Grab an OS map and go explore. Chances are if you persevere you’ll be rewarded with empty, cold, but often superb waves. There is such a variety of setups, so there are plenty of options for the various swell direction/wind combinations that the Atlantic can throw at you. Between Anglesey and the Llyn peninsula you can normally find some shelter from the wind. And boy is there some wind. Anything less than 25mph is deemed “light” up there. The points and reefs of the region only really light up with swell during the hurricane season, so you have to expect gale-force winds, driving rain, hail, and often snow to contend with. It can feel like the weather gods are conspiring against you, challenging you to battle them and fit in a quick surf before it gets dark again. The weather is incredibly tempestuous, changing moods on a whim. One minute you can be in the middle of “A Perfect Storm” in the line-up, and then the wind will decide to swing offshore and the swell will clean up for you and your mates to brag about the next day.

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Hell’s Mouth, or to give it its correct name, Porth Neigwl, is the go-to spot in North Wales, as it picks up pretty much any swell able to make it up past the big green emerald isle, commonly known as Ireland, to the west. There are loads of other options though when big southerly swells are wrapped round the coastline by southerly winds. I won’t name the other spots, but there are pristine reefs, boulder points, and hollow beaches all lurking around if you look. That’s what I love about North Wales, there’s always such a sense of “I wonder what’s around the next corner?” There are still some undiscovered treasures left for intrepid explorers.

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The water is also much cleaner than North Cornwall's, and marine life is abundant. There is a permanant pod of dolphins living in Cardigan Bay, so chances of seeing dolphins in the summer is high. To conclude, I would have to say Wales is not for the faint of heart, but it's well worth the effort.

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