Words & Photos By Sharpy
I won’t lie to you. I really hate getting up. I love my bed, I cherish my sleep and the daily transition from slumber to a state of awakeness pains me dearly. It’s always been the same ever since I was a baby, in the first few years of my life I apparently only woke up to eat and poop, sometimes at the same time, a few decades later nothing much has changed…
The simple fact is I love being horizontal. There is only one thing in the world that makes me wake up and jump out of bed like a CIA torturer has electrified the mattress. One pure reason: just give me a reasonable guarantee of good waves and a breath of offshore wind and I’m up before the sun has even thought about cracking its head over the horizon. Nothing else has this effect on me not even a fire alarm coupled with an overly pungent whiff of acrid smoke.
“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”
Aristotle, Greek philosopher bloke who knew his onions.
Of course that reasonable guarantee of good conditions is a lot easier to come by these days, with web cams, swell buoys and a plethora of surf forecasting systems at our disposal. Not to mention mini-computery iPhone devices that you can hide under your pillow.
The real super dawny days are easy to spot, generally the second day of a long range swell, after a day of big, leading edge, unruly, wobbly swell you know the more lined up, clean, perfect waves are coming on the morrow.
We had one of these days a few weeks ago. I’d been chasing the aforementioned unruly swell without much luck on the first day and after hundreds of miles and what seemed like a whole day in the car punctuated only by a few hours shooting on a lacklustre reef somewhere I collapsed in a delightfully chintzy £35 a night hotel room. The kind of hotel that doesn’t even have a star rating, just a rusty bracket where the star sign use to hang. It did have some snazzy free biscuits that sufficed for dinner, the walls were thick enough to mute the sound of the neighbours dumping and humping (not the same time I hope) and it had a sea view so it wasn’t all bad.
The forecast for the next day was perfect: three to four foot, sunny and offshore- the optimum conditions for Cornwall’s beach breaks.
“Morning glory is the best name, it always refreshes me to see it.”
Henry David Thoreau, Early pioneer of environmentalism and log cabin fan.
Of course the night before a dawny is always tricky. You do your best to become a sullen hermit, blowing off invites to barbecues, avoiding drinks with friends and generally switching your phone off. All so you can get some of that magical sleep. Of course it never happens, the excitement of knowing the surf is going to be pumping taps into the elusive feeling you used to get as a kid on Christmas Eve.
The end result is you lie there staring at the ceiling tiles hour after hour as your sleep time ticks inevitably down on the cheap red LED alarm clock.
As animals we are prone to respond to our circadian rhythms: sleep when it’s dark out and hunt when it’s light. In these latitudes at this time of year it doesn’t get dark until gone 10 and starts getting light at silly o’clock. British Summer Time is a right twat for that.
Anyhoose. Exhaustion takes over sometime around three o’clock, and you get a few fitful hours sleep until the orangey-purpleness of first light worries the window. From this point on sleep is out of the question … the dawny is on. Thanks to the cheap hotel being built before anyone cared about land prices in Cornwall the sea view is a killer. Clean three-foot lines are rolling in and the dawny buggering sea mist is nowhere to be seen. It’s at this point you realise you’re exposing your naked self, full frontal, meat and two veg to anyone else daft enough to be up at this hour and go put some clothes on.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and the cool old dude in Gladiator.
As the fiery rim of the sun starts peaking over the moors I’m in the car and getting an eyeball check on the surf. The waves are for once, as predicted, the dawny has been vindicated. Corduroy lines are stacking to the horizon, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the wind is a light zephyr from the south-east. Of course more often than not a well-planned dawny comes to naught. The swell will have buggered off overnight, the wind made an unplanned switch to hell onshore and to add insult to injury it’ll be blowing in a heavy sea fog. This is normal, this is why I don’t dawny unless I feel in me bones the day is going to be epic or near as damn it.
First things first on the dawn run: a decent hit of caffeine. Getting a decent coffee at silly o’clock has always been a problem for those of us with a coffee addiction and liking for early surfs. Thankfully the arches that are golden now open at daft o’clock. So there is time for a sneaky cup of java and the ultimate in drive thru breakfast cuisine: the double pork pattie, cheese and chicken ovulation sandwich known by its trade name as a Sausage & Egg McMuffin.
From there it’s onto the beach. This is why we dawny: because there’s a) no one in the sea and b) you can park where you like, nailing those elusive free spots, sticking it to the council’s obscene parking charges and bully boy clampers. To borrow an awful cliche it’s a win-win situation.
The world’s a magical place at dawn you owe it to yourself to see the sunrise…
•Dawn is defined as the time that marks the beginning of twilight before sunrise. Recognisable by the presence of weak sunlight while the sun is still below the horizon.
•The duration of which varies wildly depending on latitude, lasting mere minutes on the equator to hours in the polar regions.
There are technical definitions of the different stages of dawn:
•Astronomical dawn: the moment after which the sky is no longer completely dark; formally defined as the time at which the sun is 18˚ degrees below the horizon in the morning.
•Nautical dawn: the time at which there is enough sunlight for the horizon and some objects to be distinguishable; formally, when the sun is 12˚ degrees below the horizon in the morning.
•Civil dawn: that time at which there is enough light for objects to be distinguishable, so that outdoor activities can commence, formally, when the sun is 6˚ degrees below the horizon in the morning.