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Brims Ness, Thurso (Credit: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins)
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The Selkies' Dance - a tale of surfing on the north coast

By Graeme Morgan

The selkies’ dance, the surfers’ dream.

They stopped me as I skirted around the harbour wall, heading towards the esplanade and the shelter of the town. Their mouths were questioning, eyes unbelieving, their shoulders shrugged against the season. Tourists in December.

At first, they had thought we were seals fishing off the river mouth; poaching the salmon that waited the flood tide. Grey heads bottling in the swell. But then they had recognised the music. The bass drum of the surf and the snare of rolling cobbles. The soaring melody of the wind.

They had watched as the others had entered the dance hall below the low cliffs. First donning cloaks of neoprene, before crossing the flagstone floor and into the broken white water that drew against the land. They had admired the graceful strokes through the brown peat-laced water of the river and out into the Atlantic green. Mesmerised as the sets of waves had peaked and reeled, they had cheered as we had swooped and soared.

Surfer riding a wave on a white surfboard at Brimms Ness Brims Ness, Thurso
Image provided by VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins

Surfer at Brims Ness, Thurso

As they talked, I found my eyes being drawn beyond their friendly conversation back to the breaking waves. My nerves were tingling, while my fingers and feet chilled. In my distracted mind, the waves were steepening to grey and I was still paddling to their tune. Top to bottom in a single beat. My heart in my mouth. Salt in my eyes. A graceful arc longwise to the beach. Then turn and cast. Skirts of spray blowing of the lip. And so, the rhythm progressed along the folding waves. Adrenaline was still burling in my body, pushing back the winter air.

Saying our farewells, I started to make my way home through the gathering dusk. Any warmth now receding from my bones, my breath misting in the air. I had one last glance back across the beach to see an encore was in full swing and my pulse quickened. The selkies’ dance, the surfers’ dream.

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