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Barrel On The Dordogne Courtesy Fabrice Colas And Phillipe Garrigues (c) Playgrounds in Paradise
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(c) Playgrounds in Paradise
A barreling bore as it rounds the bend at Rea in the filmin of the late seventies surf film...
Playgrounds in Paradise

The Severn Bore first received international recognition in 1978, when it appeared in the American surf film Playgrounds in Paradise. Featuring alongside legendary locations like Hawaii and South Africa, it was left up to British surf champion Bruce Palmer to conquer this most unusual of waves along a stretch of river south of Gloucester, near the village of Rea. Here are a few stills from the film, along with some narrative quotes.
'Gloucester, England, is not your usual surf spot, but then it's a highly unusual wave that rolls up the nearby Severn river. It's a tidal wave, and spectators come from all around to wait in the chilly English countryside to look at the strange spectacle...'

'The power of this incoming tide is not to be underestimated. Steel drums tumble around like tin cans as the bore sweeps in at about twelve miles an hour, scouring the river's banks, ripping out shrubs and small trees, and occasionally sweeping away a stray animal...'

'Bruce Palmer, former British Surf Champion, is here to ride a tidal wave on this average winter morning, if he can just manage to get through his four layers of clothes first! With the air barely above freezing, the water will be comparatively warm at four degrees centigrade...'

'First, you'll hear a hissing in the distance slowly getting louder, until finally it turns the last corner coming straight at you. Remember, there is only one wave. There is no second chance...'

'Fortunately, Bruce is a soup riding specialist and he handles the take off as if he's been doing it all his life. Riding a freshwater tidal wave, the Severn Bore, Bruce is thrilled!..'

'The Bristol Channel has the largest tides in the world, outside the Bay of Fundy, and even though this has only been a portion of the wave, it has already been the longest ride ever captured on film...'

'If you catch it at the right place, and your lucky, you can ride the wave for several miles. So, you might as well relax. Now he's still got another fourteen minutes to go!...'

All stills and narrative copyright Playgrounds in Paradise, 1978.
Former British Surf Champion, Bruce Palmer.
Bruce and his shortie enter the river.
Paddling for the take off.
Cutting back to race for the bank.
Cruisin' past the camera.
Fourteen minutes later, the ride is over.