This review was always going to be a little different. I am used to tagging along on group days, hiding in the shadows, reading the subtleties of the situation, group dynamics, interaction and engagement, enjoyment and frustration - I use all of it for my reviews. This time, I was centre of attention - the Stag. Never before and never again will the first hour of any session involve running around a deceptively busy area of Pembrokeshire’s most stunning coastline, in a fluorescent green mankini!
We were going Coasteering, with Adventure Beyond. Now, I’ve done Canyoning before, Coasteerings inland cousin, but I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I’d jumped off of rocks (or tombstoning as it’s now called) as a kid in Cornwall. I thought it would be much the same, a little tame, particularly in todays climate of Health & Safety over-protectionism madness. Well, I was to be proved wrong in that it was one of the most challenging, exciting and adrenaline fuelled things I’ve done.
“it was one of the most challenging, exciting and adrenaline fuelled things I’ve done”
Meeting the instructors on location at Abereiddy, near St Davids. the sky was a magnificent blue, the sea was transparent and shimmering, just inviting us in and the surrounding area wouldn’t have been out of place in The Lord of the Rings.
All equipment was provided by the school, you only need to bring a pair of old trainers and some shorts to wear over the top of your wetsuit. Life jacket, helmet, mankini (optional). Done. Sign your life away, safety briefing and we’re off.
Like a deranged episode of baywatch, running, jumping, forward rolling our way down the beach (I’m told that it’s to help you warm up, I can’t help feeling it was to make us look (more) stupid).
The initial climb over the slate cliffs gave a taste of what was to come - slippery when wet and barnacles like glass paper, good for your footing, bad for your hands!
If you’ve ever seen the film Blue Juice (1995), there’s a part where Sean Pertwee chucks his surfboard over the cliff and then follows it, that’s where we were (fortunately we didn’t do that particular reenactment & the instructor waited until afterwards to tell us that the stuntman who did the jump compressed some vertebrae and now is a little vertically challenged).
”It’s amazing that this actually exists in the UK. “
The most stunning sight of clear blue water in the lagoon was enough to make your mouth water. It’s amazing that this actually exists in the UK. The dramatic mixture of natural and man-made rock formations added to the anticipation. A quick blast of a swim across the lagoon, and a couple of small test jumps - to test and assess technique and confidence for later - and we were onto the running slab.
This involves a 20ft gravity fed run down a large slate slab (no turning back - 100% commitment required) and leap into the waters below. Totally exhilarating.
Making our way out of the lagoon through a channel in the rocks, an ominous site was looming large on the horizon. The speed at which it engulfed us was incredible and the environment around us took on a completely different persona. The mist, no fog, that took hold gave just enough visibility to proceed - but the rugged coastline and rising waters became mysterious and eerie.
With visibility seriously diminished, our cameraman disappeared to take photos of sheep, sheep poo & then himself after discovering the auto timer on the camera!
“The rugged coastline and rising waters became mysterious and eerie.”
We, however, pushed on around the headland, incorporating basic climbing & scrambling skills and enjoying the natural features of the landscape. One of which was lovingly referred to as the “toilet”. A naturally formed channel in the rocks, carved out over thousands of years being pummelled by the moving tides is our destination. Chuck in a dozen stag party goers and you’ve got the most bizarre primordial soup you wouldn’t want to eat. Then let mother nature do the rest. As the tide rises, you get pulled up into the channel, over the rocks - as it retreats, you literally get flushed out down the natural water chute into a pile of fellow coasteerers at the bottom.
A few more jumps - up to 50ft off of the cliffs in some places and we start to make our way back to the lagoon for the grand finale.
It is important to mention at this point that the main element of this activity is teamwork. It starts with the instructor, no doubt, but he is one man. He knows the area, the technique and skills required and can help you through but the most important aspect for safety and enjoyment, is to help each other traverse, get over, under, across and through the myriad of obstacles that you face.
Teamwork, however, goes out of the window, when your best man refuses to do the high jumps because he’s afraid of heights. Ensue usual banter.
So to end, back in the lagoon, we had a few lower level jumps - standing and running starts - of 20-30ft, building up to the monster that lay before us. Standing over it for just a few minutes, it was time to take the plunge - a full 60ft of vertical drop in front of the gathering audience of hen parties, army cadets and general well-wishers (well wishing you make a tit of yourself!)
We did it (well, some of us - Gav!). You felt you were falling a good few seconds longer than was natural. It was difficult to stay totally upright the whole way before SPLASH! Touchdown. Re-entry. It was over. Round of applause, a few whoop whoops and we were off to watch the rugby in the pub. What an awesome way to get rid of a hangover.