The Wider View: Surfing the swell of the Severn Bore

Far from the ocean waves, past churches and fields, surfers ride the swell of the Severn Bore, one of Britain’s few truly spectacular natural phenomena.

Tidal bores are high, often dangerous, waves formed as incoming tides filter into a narrow channel, increasing the height of the water.

The power of the surge is clear in these pictures, taken yesterday near the village of Hempsted, south of Gloucester, where surfers met for three of the biggest bores in recent years.

Surfers on the Severn Bore as it passes through Gloucestershire

Boats follow the surfers, ready to collect them when they fall and carry them down the estuary so they can catch the swell again.

The Severn Bore is the second highest in the world; it has been known to top 6ft, with an average speed of 10mph. Large bores happen on about 25 days a year.

Surfing the Severn Bore is now a competitive sport and hundreds vie to record the longest ride. The current champion is Steve King, from Saul, Gloucestershire, who rode for more than seven miles at up to 20mph.

But the bore could soon be destroyed by the proposed Severn Barrage, a £15billion plan to dam the estuary and generate electricity. Critics of the barrage say it will destroy local wetlands and rob us of a unique part of our landscape.

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