How One of Scotland's Greatest Right-Hand Points Was Lost Forever

Tom Vaughan

by on

Updated 69d ago

A few weeks back, we ran a couple of images out of Scotland that showed the loss of one of the country's most flawless right-hand points – and now, the full story has come to light.

It's hard to think about the loss of any wave that'll make your jaw drop. But this was the very real scenario for Aberdeen's surf community, who said goodbye to the local favourite of Nigg Bay back in 2016, after a harbour was built across the bay, preventing any incoming swell to fill in.

A phone snap John took of the new harbour built across the bay, blocking any swell from filling in.

A phone snap John took of the new harbour built across the bay, blocking any swell from filling in.

© 2022 - John Dillon

Structural engineer John Dillon, took the before and after images and sent them into MSW Towers. John's lived up that way since 2014 but is originally from Bristol.

“I ended up buying a house maybe a mile away from Nigg bay so I could surf there regularly and in my mind I saw this harbour development as maybe five-to-10 years away.”

John grew up surfing the likes of Woolacombe and Putsborough, and was keen to get a feel for waves in the tip of the UK not long after moving there. “I was originally based in Glasgow and used to surf a lot at Pease Bay, it’s a pretty popular spot as it’s closer to Edinburgh. Work offered me a promotion which was in Aberdeen.”

The opportunity to move to the coast was a big attraction for John and it didn’t take him long to find his feet surfing Nigg and other spots in the area. “The beach was always more consistent but when Nigg was on we’d always surf there. Nigg breaks off a rocky outcrop and acted a bit like a point break. The other break that others would surf locally is Stonehaven which is probably the place I go to most at the minute.”

A very fun Scottish set-up.

A very fun Scottish set-up.

© 2022 - John Dillon

“I would say [Nigg] was one of the more popular spots, there was nothing too secret about it. There was a pretty regular crew there which all revolved around the one surf shop in Aberdeen called Granite Reef, much like many surf towns around the world. A lot of the community revolved around that shop run by Gordon Forbes.

"He shut down in 2017 which was about a year after we were no longer allowed to surf at Nigg which I’m sure must have had an impact on him in terms of frustration with the local area and the life and losing one of the better waves around here.”

Not only did the loss of Nigg affect those who surfed it on the regular, but it also impacted livelihoods like Gordon and the hub that was Granite Reef. Whilst this created animosity with the local surfers and Aberdeen Council, John describes a level of understanding from those who were informed on the bigger picture and economic landscape that surrounded Aberdeen at the time.

Draft Nigg Bay development framework.

Draft Nigg Bay development framework.

© 2022 - Aberdeen City Council

“There was a bit of an economic crash with the oil price and Aberdeen in this oil slump was struggling as it was the main industry. So when they were talking about this harbour they spoke about the creation of 11,000 jobs. I guess a lot of surfers here work in the industry so they understand both sides of the argument. I would also put myself in that category. I work on offshore platforms and I guess sometimes the needs of the many get in the way of the dozen or so surfers locally.

“Aberdeen looked to diversify and move away from oil and into renewals and wind turbines and things like that as a result of the oil slump. The new harbour was promoted on the basis that it could become a base to install wind turbines offshore and it could also decommission the existing oil rigs.

A drone shot of Nigg, not the best waves this day but surely better than anything it gets now.

A drone shot of Nigg, not the best waves this day but surely better than anything it gets now.

© 2022 - Aberdeen City Council

“When you go back and look at photos like that and think ‘wow’ that was world class on its day it makes you wonder could Aberdeen Council have done anything to protect it in some form. I half hoped we’d get an interesting wave breaking off the harbour wall which might have been a nice surprise.”

What I’m also aware of is the new technology in surfing of wave gardens. They’re due to start building one in Edinburgh this year. If something like that could have been put in place for Aberdeen as a way of saying: we’ll make up for the harbour by giving you a wave garden. Now most people surf the beach which isn’t the same, just a pretty heavy close out.”

John's perspective driving down towards Nigg, a sight for sore eyes in comparison to it's past.

John's perspective driving down towards Nigg, a sight for sore eyes in comparison to it's past.

© 2022 - John Dillon

So how was the actual wave? Imagine something fun, with a few different peaks, meaning it never got too crowded especially with the reasonably small surf community in the area. One day in 2016, fences were in place and security boats patrolled the area attempting to send any rebellious surfers on their way.

“They started patrolling it with small security boats that used to come up and speak to surfers. I had friends who were told to move on basically and we kind of stopped surfing there after that. I remember being at the shop and there was a poster up for a goodbye surf to Nigg, not sure if they actually got surf for it though.”

Nigg bay - Truly a sight to behold on it's day and only lives on through images from the past.

Nigg bay - Truly a sight to behold on it's day and only lives on through images from the past.

© 2022 - John Dillon

When asked what he had hoped to achieve by releasing these images now, his reasoning was melancholic but hopeful.

“The world’s moved on a bit since 2016 and I don’t know if there’s any more surfers can do to stop things like this happening. It would be nice to think we could.

“My hope was if I upload these shots then other people might do the same and remember how good this wave could actually get. And now it’s gone there’s no need to disguise it and worry about advertising it too much.

“Tell the guys locally to upload what they have so we can celebrate it.”