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The mad Englishman and the Black Shadow
In July of 1955, locals in the southwest of England were somewhat bemused to see a large, burly figure unloading a sixteen-foot plank from the side of a dangerous-looking motorcycle, on the banks of the River Severn. Home to one of the largest tidal bores in the world, the Severn is England’s longest river, and flowed fast here, in the narrows. To the onlookers’ consternation, the man appeared to be preparing to enter the swift-moving current.
They protested. The man merely laughed. Then he went surfing.
John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Mad Jack Churchill, thus found himself adding yet another footnote to a life that defied reason: He became the first person to surf the Severn tidal bore. He rode the waves for roughly a mile and a half, then walked back to his motorcycle, which was, at the time, the fastest road-going vehicle on the planet. (Of course it was.)