THE ISLE OF WHITE HORSES

Photographers have a good life, right? Plenty of travel, warm tropical waters, the center of attention for any passing rider who spots their lens sticking out of the water and plans to be the next Foiling Magazine cover star? Not always. Sometimes it’s about braving cold UK waters in a howling storm and hoping you’re not going to end up drifting over to the French coast. So it was for photographer John Carter…


I had arranged to meet Ross Williams at Yaverland, our local beach on the Isle of Wight for a day of wing shooting back in April 2022. I knew it was going to be windy but had no idea it would be gusting over 40 knots. When we arrived at the spot, the sea was all whitecaps and looking wild and I was not sure Ross would even be able to get up on the wing.

My plan was to shoot from the water. It did not look so appealing. 40 knots and ice-cold water. I would be wearing a 5/3 with hood and boots. Ross was confident he could get going so it was game on. Luckily, I checked my camera as I was going in the water… I had not tightened the lens port on the housing and that would have meant it would have flooded immediately. Situation resolved and I was in… Once I was acclimatized to the water I swam out and positioned myself for where Ross would be jumping. The wind was so strong that I was getting blown down the coast, fast. Once Ross was up on the wing he was actually handling the wild gusts pretty well. He managed to hit a few decent jumps and flybys close to me and I hoped to have nailed a few decent images.

Once back on the land I changed to my big lens as Ross winged down close to Culver Cliffs. These are giant white chalk cliffs at the end of Sandown Bay. His wing looked tiny dwarfed against this amazing back drop and with the white water it made the whole scene even more dramatic. I had no idea how he was able to manage these conditions so comfortably on the wing, but he seemed in control.

Once we were done with the first session Ross already had plans to head to Niton, a wild wave spot on the south of the Island. The launch here is rocky and the sea state quite treacherous. He wasted no time setting up his wing and headed out into the waves. Ross is a great surfer and has easily adapted his wave knowledge to wing foiling. Niton is a very tricky spot and the waves break close to the rocks but on the wing he was more than happy flying in and out of the break on a conveyer belt of endless waves. Niton is right at the bottom of the Isle of Wight and often has the best waves on a wind-driven storm, and once the tide starts flooding out, the waves clean up nicely for surfing, windsurfing and wing foiling.

Out on the point is a white lighthouse called St Catherine’s and it’s there to warn passing ships as it marks the bottom tip of the island. The spot is down the end of a bumpy lane and there are only a few parking spots which normally Ross takes up with his huge van! Ross stayed out for a few hours as he was having so much fun catching the waves and drawing different lines on the foil. The sun was shining all day and despite the howling wind and cold water temperatures it was a pretty decent spring day to end off the season before the summer kicked in.  

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