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The Times April 11, 2006


Severn Bore takes surfer on world's longest ride
By Jack Malvern, Arts Reporter




The world record for the longest surf ride has been set not by a professional surfer off the shores of Hawaii, but a railway engineer two miles outside Gloucester.

Steve King, 41, rode the Severn Bore — a tidal surge along the Severn estuary — for 7.6 miles at speeds of up to 20mph. His triumph regains the record for Britain after it was snatched in June by Serginho Laus, a Brazilian, who surfed for 6.3 miles along the Araguari river in northern Brazil.

The father of three from Saul, near Gloucester, was the last man standing among 1,000 surfers who had travelled from as far as Australia and Hawaii to catch the wave last week at Newnham.

“Hundreds of surfers were falling off their boards every minute, but I managed to stay on and keep my nerve,” he said. “As time went on, people kept shouting encouragement to me from the bank, so I knew then that I had a chance to break the record. I jumped for joy when I was told I was a record- breaker. It was just fantastic news.”

He fell exhausted from his board after 1hr 17min when the wave, which started at the mouth of the estuary at Avonmouth, near Brisol, broke at Minsterworth, two miles west of Gloucester.

“Navigating the wave as it rushed inland is not easy, because it breaks over the sandbanks on the riverbed. But I’ve been there so many times that I was able to use my experience to navigate a path through them without losing the power of the wave.”

Mr King has ridden the bore more than 100 times in the past 20 years. But this year’s waves could be some of the last for the Severn if the Welsh Assembly approves a proposed eight-mile barrier designed to generate electricity. Rhodri Morgan, the Welsh First Minister, told a conference in Cardiff on Sunday that the barrier would be an important source of renewable energy.

The British Surfing Association confirmed yesterday that Mr King had taken the record.

Karen Walton, its national director, said that she had notified Guinness World Records, adding: “What Steve did was a remarkable sporting feat and was witnessed by one of our professionals

“Surfing America recorded the journey. They followed him in a boat and tracked his position using GPS (global positioning system).”

CREST OF A WAVE

There are more than 60 bores around the world, including tidal surges on the Seine and Gironde in France, the Indus, Hooghly and Brahmaputra in India, the Araguari in the Amazon basin and at the head of the Cook Inlet in Alaska

The 1.2m (4ft) Severn wave occurs about 12 times a year at the spring and autumn equinoxes

The world’s biggest bore is on the Qiantang river in China, where waves can reach up to 7.5m (25ft)