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A curved cliff envelops the beach like a pair of protective wings.

Out to sea, trawlers chug along. The waves are dotted by surfers, undeterred by a smooth swell, their wetsuits shining black, their boards a grainy white.


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Whether dancing at all-night raves, surfing impossible waves or exploring crystal-filled caves, Jacob attacked life full throttle. Jacob grew up just outside Penzance and, although he travelled the world, he only felt truly at home in the town and the beaches that surround it. It was a quintessential Cornish childhood. Days were spent running around the countryside or bathing at the beach. Children were tanned or pink from days in the sun, or bundled up in Quiksilver coats against the murky mist that often smothered the land. She worked hard, consistently scored top marks and was a champion at netball, hockey and cross country.

Jacob was the youngest of four children, the baby brother to Grace, Laura and Joe. But he was closest to Grace, three years his senior. The headaches had begun in the summer of while Grace was on a gap year working at children's camps in France. Grace underwent radiotherapy at the Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, her family camping nearby throughout. After her death, Grace's ashes were stored in the airing cupboard, her "favourite place in the house". Eleven years later, following the death of her grandmother, arrangements were finally being made to scatter their ashes together.

After her death, Grace's ashes were kept in the airing cupboard, her "favourite place in the house". Jacob was 17 when Grace died and her death had a devastating impact on him. It changed his view of life. He believed her energy transferred into him. This inspired him to "throw everything to the wind and give it a try," his girlfriend Rachel says.

He would usually be armed with a camera during each daredevil escapade and was prepared to do anything to get the best shots. Jacob pushed himself to greater extremes. He taught himself to hold his breath for long periods so he could explore the depths.

He would also surf over rocks or towards cliffs.

Into the Whirlpool

The danger of it all was part of the draw. After he and his friends surfed a storm in Newlyn in , numerous national newspapers splashed with this photograph showing Jacob moments before he was struck by a huge wave. A regular stunt was to throw himself from tall buildings into the water below, such as the three-storey Abbey Warehouse in Penzance harbour. Zain Ishmael was one of those who came to his aid, forming a four-man human chain with his friends to pull a jubilant Jacob to safety.

Most of his pictures featured the sea. His shot of a fishing boat returning to port in a large swell won a competition to appear on posters on the London Underground. Jacob's shot of his friend Seb surfing near a supertanker in Sumatra was the winning image in a travel photography contest run by The Guardian. As well as being a stunning photograph it also epitomised his ethos - the shoot had been "extremely dangerous", according to Jacob.

Waves bouncing off the great hulk of the hull were wildly unpredictable and just below the surface there were great twists of metal waiting to skewer the unfortunate. Another photograph Jacob entered for the same competition won a photograph of the month prize for August. A selfie of him and his friends partying in a small Cornish pub, its magic-of-the-moment unbridled joy and energy was typical of his style.

It was all kind of one big experiment. The money he earned was quickly spent on new photography gadgets. Prizes, such as a new television, were typically given away to friends. One contest saw him win a pair of custom design Nike trainers which he called the Yak , Yak being one of the various nicknames he was known by. One of these was close to his home.


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It seemed to offer the perfect combination of excitement and visual art. Water would be stored in a pool at high tide and, once the tide had retreated, released back into the harbour to wash away the sand. But once every spring tide the sea would come back in faster than the water could pass through the tunnel. Ignoring the warning signs placed around the sluice, he would swim with the whirlpool and film it. Jacob posted the videos on YouTube where they were watched millions of times, making him hundreds of pounds.

Artist David Raine, who had collaborated with Jacob in the past, was in his living room when he saw his friend running towards the house. Jacob had already shot a lot of footage but while the whirlpool was there he wanted to make the most of it. David ran across to the other end of the quay where the tunnel the whirlpool funneled into flowed into a pool.

There was a grill in the ground through which he could see the water churning through the tunnel below. But there was no sign of Jacob. He asked David to pass him a GoPro camera attached to a short pole. Jacob wanted to get one last shot below the surface. When she got home her house was full of people.

What’s at the bottom of a whirlpool?

It would remain so for days, a stream of mourners washing through. Jacob's funeral was a major event. The church could not accommodate all of the people who wished to attend. His coffin was painted with a wave motif and his body was dressed in his hole-riddled pants, shorts and favourite hat. Afterwards, about 40 of his friends did what they thought Jacob would have wanted them to; they went skinny dipping in Penzance's open-air, sea-filled pool The Jubilee.

At the top sits a statue of the Buddha. Buried beneath are the sunflowers from Grace's bedroom window and the dreadlocks which adorned Jacob's head. Five years after he died, surfers bound for the nearby beaches and coves still honk their horns as they drive past. A year after Jacob's death, the sluicing system in Hayle harbour was altered. It meant the whirlpool which had fascinated and ultimately killed Jacob vanished forever.

What are whirlpools?

Most agree if Jacob had survived the whirlpool it would not have changed his approach to life, though. The Death and Life of Jacob Cockle. Jacob Cockle lived in the sea. The water was his natural element; he learned to swim as he learned to walk. He loved surfing it and filming it. He was carving a career photographing it. But Jacob also lived on the edge. In his teens, his beloved sister died. Already a daredevil, he began taking more risks.

The Whirlpool – House of Anansi Press

Aged 28, he was on the cusp of achieving his dreams - but he stayed in the water for one last shot. Jacob Cockle died in the sea. The Beach. On a fine day, Gwynver could pass for paradise. Though it has a plot, The Whirlpool has a prose poem density. Jane Urquhart 's work is notable for its focus on passionate and dreamy characters haunted by lively imaginations. Urquhart lost her partner, Paul Keele, in a car accident in when she was only twenty-four.


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