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Surfers Flock to England’s Severn Tidal Bore

Text by Tetsuhiko Endo

Anywhere there are waves, there are also surfers. Which explains why there will be lots of men and women in wet suits running around the Severn River in Gloucester, England, today and tomorrow.

The river's estuary, the Bristol Channel, has the second highest tide range in the world (47.5 feet, beaten only the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia), making the Severn home to a famous tidal bore. The size and length (and therefore rideability) of the bores varies depending on the strength of the tides, but a few days every year produce rollers that measure six to ten feet on the face and offer legendary rides of over an hour. The United Kingdom Environment Agency rates the bores on a scale of one to five stars and posts a yearlong bore forecast on their website that is accurate up to the minute. Wednesday saw a few three-star beauties grind up the banks—and even send spectators running for cover. Sources on the ground are talking about a possible four-star rogue set at 10:20 a.m. Thursday morning

Although the frequency and quality of the bore will peter out this spring, things will pick back up in late summer and early autumn. If you are interested in riding, bring at least a 3/2-mil wet suit and a board that paddles quickly and has lots of volume to float you through the flat spots.

If you are looking for a more wild experience, there is no shortage of tidal-bore surfing around the world. To date, there are 67 known tidal bores across the globe, not all of which have been surfed.  Although the Severn bore is one of the more famous, larger and far more powerful ones exist in China's Quiantang River and in the Bay of Fundy.  Perhaps the most spectacular is the mythical Pororoca, that appears in the mouth of the Amazon River in northern Brazil.  However, unlike Gloucester, you also have to share the wave with crocodiles and piranhas.