Paul, 69, takes on The Wiggenhall Wave near King’s Lynn

Paul Barnett, 69, tackled the Wiggenhall Wave in his surf kayak.

Paul Barnett, 69, tackled the Wiggenhall Wave in his surf kayak. - Credit: Archant

Fifty years ago, he surfed the Severn Bore – the country's best known surge wave – sparking a passion that took him back there time and time again. This weekend, Paul Barnett, successfully took on the Wiggenhall Wave, west Norfolk's own version of the phenomenon.

Paul Barnett riding the Wiggenhall Wave at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene, near King's Lynn.

Paul Barnett riding the Wiggenhall Wave at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene, near King's Lynn. - Credit: Archant

But as Paul Barnett grew older, he stopped returning to Gloucestershire to take on the powerful tidal bore and turned to other kayaking competitions instead.

Now, however, just ahead of his 70th birthday, Mr Barnett travelled to Norfolk to tackle our own version of the phenomenon: the lesser known – and somewhat gentler – but no less spectacular Wiggenhall Wave, on the River Great Ouse.

In his kayak, he caught the wave as it passed through Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen and surfed it for around 170m. The seal often seen on that stretch of the river even joined him for part of the way.

'It was an incredible feeling,' he said. 'I'm itching to come back and have another go.'


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Mr Barnett travelled from the Tendring peninsular, in Essex, with his wife, Teeny, to ride the wave on Friday evening.

The surge occurs when the incoming tide pushes up the narrow channel and is most prominent during spring tides.

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Mr Barnett, who has previously competed internationally in surf kayaking, said: 'Before surfing the wave, you can see it in the distance – a thin line of water ahead.

'There's also a distinctive smell and you can feel a breeze in the air; it's something I always sense. I started paddling as the wave came closer, and lent forwards as I caught it. I simply used the paddle then to guide me.'

Kevin Holland, a renewable energy entrepreneur from Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, said: 'It was great to see Paul ride a wave which is such a popular local feature for our area.'

Have you ever surfed the Wiggenhall Wave? Email louise.hepburn@archant.co.uk

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