words: DAVE BRAYLEY
A little colour drained from my face as our excellent coasteering guide, Seb Thomas, proclaimed: “You’ll be jumping over 30 feet into the sea.” This was my initial introduction to coasteering, an adrenaline filled activity which sees participants scramble along cliffs, lagoons and caves in search of thrills, spills and nerve-jangling jumps into the sea.
I’ve loved sport all my life, but my focus has always been on mainstream sports such as football, rugby and cricket. When people talk about surfing and kayaking, I often lose a bit of interest. But, after a few hours throwing myself off cliffs one April afternoon on the majestic Abereiddy beach in deepest West Wales, my opinion has been changed forever.
Expertly organised by outdoor pursuits company, Shaggy Sheep Wales, I experienced an afternoon in which I was taken to the very edge of my comfort zone and beyond. Alongside me was Adam Fox, his father Roy and a gang of Adam’s mates who had travelled from Northampton to celebrate his stag do – an afternoon’s coasteering is just about the perfect event for such an occasion.
Pembrokeshire is widely considered as the home of coasteering and Shaggy Sheep Wales have been providing coasteering activities in the area for over 10 years. Chris from Shaggy Sheep explains exactly why Pembrokeshire is the perfect location: “Pembrokeshire coasteering is one of the best, if not the best, places to try coasteering in the whole of the UK. The activity, which combines jumping, swimming, scrambling and team games, was developed in the area, and due to its success has been copied as an adventure activity around the UK.
“We often get customers who state that they have done coasteering in Cornwall and Scotland, but once they have experienced Pembrokeshire they can see that that the natural terrain of the National Park provides a far better experience than other UK locations.”
Having squeezed into my wetsuit, our guide Seb marched us straight into the cold Irish Sea. A quick trek along the reef at the edge of the bay was followed by a lesson on how to shallow dive away from the rocks into the sea. And after a quick paddle out of the bay over to the cliff wall, we climbed and traversed along the cliff until we reached the site of our first jump. No more that eight feet, with the swell of the sea lapping against the rocks below, we were told to look out – never down – cross arms over our chest, then take a big step out into the nothingness. Next thing you know, you have half the contents of the bay up your nose and feel more exhilarated than you have done in a very long time.
It was then that Seb pointed higher along the cliff and mentioned that if you didn’t fancy the next jump, it might be an idea not to attempt it because it wasn’t a very easy climb back down if you froze. At that point, father of the groom Roy looked at me, and we both agreed that this was a good one to miss. After watching those brave enough to take the jump on, we all swam on further to the edge of the headland. Here, it was another climb skywards, before coming to a higher, flatter platform. At 20 feet, this was my moment. Egged on by Midlands policeman Chris Ridge (“You’ll regret it if you don’t do it mate”) I gathered up what little courage I possessed and followed him in. Eyes closed, arms crossed, I hit the water like Tom Daley. I was later told that it was more like Arthur Daley. But no matter, I absolutely loved it. I was a coasteering convert.
A few more jumps, some more climbs, a turn in the fantastic “washing machine” where the tide throws you in, dumps you under and spews you back out, and we headed to the culmination of our afternoon, the Blue Lagoon: a disused and flooded tin and copper mine, and the location of the highest two jumps of the day. All of us undertook the penultimate jump, 25 feet straight into the azure lagoon, but only one would ultimately triumph and take on the final, breathtaking and equally frightening 40-foot leap of faith. It was Chris Ridge again. As he stood there contemplating his fate, I shouted “you’ll regret it if you don’t do it mate”, and with that he was gone. Absolutely awesome. And those are the very two words I’d use to describe my afternoon. If you are lucky enough to ever get a chance to coasteer, take it… you’ll regret it if you don’t.
Coasteering sessions with Shaggy Sheep Wales are £40 per person (including equipment hire) but can be offered for £35 per person if you quote BUZZ upon booking. Info: 01559 363911 / www.shaggysheepwales.co.uk
WIN A DAY OF COASTEERING IN PEMBROKESHIRE
The Pembrokeshire coastline, with its rugged cliffs and hidden lagoons, is the original home of coasteering. Shaggy Sheep Wales who have been providing coasteering days for over 10 years, are offering a pair of coasteering spots worth £40 each. To win, simply answer the following question. Q: What other activities do Shaggy Sheep Wales offer? (name three).