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Sun, Sea & Sound... Boardmasters Festival 2015 (Part 1)

It’s a feeling that hundreds of thousands get each year as they make the journey to the surf capital of the UK; awe at the stunning views, disbelief that such a place exists in the UK.

This is Newquay, where Boardmasters Surf & Music festival takes place. It’s a long journey from most of the major cities of the UK (as is anywhere in Cornwall), but once you reach Watergate Bay the sight of the festival tents and fairground set against the rugged coast makes it already feel worthwhile.

The surf competitions start from Wednesday, and both Wednesday and Thursday evening see Fistral Beach host the Jack Rocks the Beach sessions. For those only wishing (or able) to see the ‘festival proper’, however, the action starts on Friday.

With the dazzlingly beautiful weather, there is really only one option for a Friday morning-the £5 return shuttle bus into Newquay town. The first of two stops is at a Wetherspoons: those who were at Thursday’s afterparty (headlined by Bronx Cheer) are easily spotted, their faces long above their full English breakfast and refillable instant coffee. God bless the staff at that Wetherspoons - the queues were long, the food orders many and the mess abysmal, but somehow they were still cheerful in the face of 11am mayhem.

Carb-, protein- and coffee-loaded, it’s a 15 minute walk to Fistral Beach (passing more pasty shops than I’ve ever seen before in my life, and some very enthusiastic Relentless drink sellers). Even early in the day, the atmosphere is buzzing; how could it not be with the sun blazing, clear skies and more of that perfect scenery.

Boardmasters festival is split into two sites. The ‘Music’ festival (and campsites) is located on top of a hill at Watergate Bay, whereas the ‘Surf’ festival is situated at Fistral Beach here there are the bars and restaurants that are permanent fixtures of the site, as well as a marquee featuring a bar and a stage/DJ especially for the festival. There’s an area of the beach reserved for those who want to learn to surf-the rest is used for the competition. The sand is a free for all, and with the weather as it was, it was important to grab a spot early (even more so if you wanted to get a prime viewing spot on a bar balcony).

After soaking up some sun and enjoying a bit of the surfing (despite the waves being on the smaller side), we headed back to the festival. Some confusion as to where the bus stop was, along with the heavy traffic into town preventing any buses arriving for a while, meant it was a close call getting back in time for Circa Waves. Thankfully, however, we made it in time to catch the indie-rockers put on a great show with bags of energy. Although the sound is a little on the disappointing side, the crowd is larger than expected and very enthusiastic.

Wandering around the site, we stumbled upon Rory Butler playing The View. A faultless voice and beautiful songs had me wishing his set was far longer. It was then decided to head to the Keg & Pasty for some comedy. A makeshift pub/barn set on the edge of the cliff, this was the last place I would have expected to walk in and find people throwing themselves into each other in what loosely resembled a moshpit. But that’s exactly what I found, as The Defs finished their set with Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name Of’.

Back to the main stage for the art rock magic of Everything Everything. Well deserving of the sunset slot, the performance of their new material was spot on, the crowd getting a dance warm up for Faithless. There’s just time to dash into the packed-out unleashed tent for Blonde (live). The lights, sound and size of the tent make this stage perfect for its purpose, and the Bristolians deliver to a bouncing crowd.

It’s getting darker and smoke pours onto the stage, soon accompanied by lights to signal the arrival of Faithless. 'God Is A DJ' sent a message loud and clear that Faithless were there to do business, and the crowd responded in kind, the energy at a consistent high for the entirety of the hour and fifteen minute set. The singalongs were big, the bass bigger, and my ears were ringing hours into the night.

Click for part 2.

To find out more about Boardmasters click here.

To visit the Boardmasters Facebook page click here.

Words & pictures by Emily Kyne