A Beach Encounter

I was on the Breakwater Beach at Bude, in Cornwall, England. I was walking towards the sea, which was at half tide and coming in, and using an ancient part of a rock formation just to the left of The Whale’s Back as a path.

At this point this had the effect of being an almost flat bedrock base on which to walk. The weather was fine with some cotton wool type cloud and lots of blue between. There was a very stiff breeze coming from the sea.

Some twenty yards ahead there was a sheer drop of a few feet to a lower part of the beach, which I knew consisted of sand and small reefs going out to sea. At roughly half tide the waves were smashing up against this sudden barrier, reversing and then fighting with waves still coming in. Foam was occasionally being blown up into the air in clumps and disintegrating against the rocky ground around and behind me. I stood there for some time, some distance from the sea, so as to keep dry, and without moving, surveying the turmoil ahead.

A small clump of foam rose up from the beach just ahead, from the part of the scene that was out of view, immediately beyond the sudden drop in the rock, and from amongst the waves. It climbed steeply for a few feet and then, apparently caught by the strong wind, started rushing towards me. Already, it’s flight intrigued because it had seemed to be able to resist the strong wind whilst it gained altitude.

I stood my ground, reasoning that the wind would take the foam round me. It was about the size, and colour of an old, wet tennis ball. When I realised it wasn’t going to avoid me, there was no time to duck! It hit me firmly on my left shoulder, with about the right impact for the tennis ball it resembled, which itself was a surprise. Startled, I turned round to see what happened to it, with the possibility of retrieving it. After hitting me, it went straight up for a few feet, then disappeared at a rate of knots away behind me, climbing as it went, until it disappeared from sight.

Clearly, this thing was not foam, or it would have disintegrated when it hit me. Equally clearly it was not a tennis ball, the impact would have used up just about all the energy it possessed. It would have dropped to the ground behind me, possibly after an initial deflection upwards. Well, it certainly did the initial part, but then seemed to regain control, and fly away.

Yes, fly away, because that is what it did. So what was it?

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