Eastbourne man drives 300 miles in lockdown to chase his dream: ‘All I can say is a big sorry’

A man from Eastbourne said he made a ‘massive misjudgment’ after driving 300 miles to go surfing despite current lockdown restrictions.

Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 3:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 4:51 pm

Jeff Scott drove from Eastbourne to Cornwall to ride the massive waves at Newquay’s Cribbar reef.

The reef, also known as the Widow Maker, is known for creating annual big waves which are popular with experienced surfers from around the world as waves can be in excess of 30 ft.

Jeff, along with around 600 other people, descended on the area on February 1.

Newquay beach, photo by Louise Robertson

Under current UK Covid-19 restrictions, you must not leave home or travel unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so or have a ‘reasonable excuse’, such as to shop for basic necessities, to provide care, to exercise, or to work.

Social media was full of comments from people angry at the rule-breaking but Jeff has spoken out following his actions.

Jeff said, “I don’t think that any one of us went there actively planning to break the law or thinking that we were breaking the law.

“But there is a good chance that if we shone a spotlight on every single case individually, then 95 per cent of us could potentially be opened up to further scrutiny.”

He said he saw photos of the waves on Sunday (January 31) and was told they were expected to be even bigger the next day.

Jeff said, “It looked like it had the potential to be the biggest wave the UK had ever had. And I guess that can make some of us, including me, lose our minds a little bit.”

He said government guidelines say business travel is allowed. Jeff owns a watersports business called JetSurf Waveriders.

He said, “I have new products that I have created to help the board to better ride big waves that needed to be tested. International travel isn’t practical at the moment, because of Covid and family commitments but this home British big wave gave a very rare opportunity for some big wave riding and possibly the only opportunity this year.”

Government guidelines also state overnight travel isn’t allowed so Jeff decided it could only be a day trip.

He said, “There doesn’t seem to be a difference between those travelling one mile or 1,000 miles. It would be a very long drive there and back in a day, but leaving at 4.30am and arriving back late in the evening meant it was possible.

“I have a small van with a range of approximately 600 miles and that would mean that I wouldn’t have to fill up in the West Country and could either make it all the way or most of the way back.”

Jeff said he took gloves, hand sanitiser, face coverings, a packed lunch and water.

He said, “I had good intentions to legally comply and was very careful with sanitization. I had a dream of riding the biggest wave the UK has ever seen and having a socially distanced break for a couple of hours from the miserable year that we are in whilst participating in my big wave sport.

“It wasn’t the biggest wave the UK had ever had like I had hoped it might be. I did take a beating on the water and have taken an even bigger beating on social media since.

“I can now see that I clearly made a massive misjudgment on chasing this particular dream on this day during the lockdown. Even if no harm is done it has upset many people and that’s not fair.

“Public comments have been so critical and some very nasty that it was clearly the wrong decision.

It’s been a terrible year for the whole world and I don’t want to encourage others to travel unnecessarily by my actions, I guess it is time to put the dreams on hold and hope that we can all start dreaming again one day in the future.

“All I can do now is say a big sorry and pay the penalty.

Cornwall Police is now dealing with the incident.