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October, 2014

Surf in the city

By October 25, 2014 Escape, Love

Today has been a great day in landlockedsville and has reminded me that city life doesn’t always totally suck. Of course the one key ingredient that could result in a brilliant day in the hustle and bustle of Birmingham, is surfing.

TVSC, a new independent online retailer of surf, skate and snow inspired clothing launched today and to celebrate, the guys involved screened a series of films dedicated to British board culture at the Electric Cinema. TVSC is the brainchild of Paul, president of the Birmingham Surf Club and as a few of the members were going along, I was looking forward to meeting them.

I invited my fellow landlocked surf friend whose wedding I went to recently. We hadn’t seen each other since the wedding so it was a great opportunity to catch up, grab some food and talk surf.

There were a series of short films before the two full length features. Two of the shorts particularly grabbed my attention including the beautifully captured ‘Edges of Sanity‘ by cold water company Finisterre. The haunting narrative added real depth to the surfing scenes which gave me goose bumps all over. Shot around British waters in the colder season, it was a perfect film to watch as we head into Winter. It showed a real sense of unity amongst the surfers, particularly in the closing scene as they join together after a day’s surfing, surrounded by food, shelter and warmth.

The other short which I loved was a British skateboarding film which focussed on old school street skating. As a big fan of Lance Mountain from the famous Bones Brigade, I love to watch this style of skateboarding and see how skaters use their urban surroundings to grind on stair rails and ollie over the simplest of things like bags or rubbish and concrete pillars.

The surprise of the day for me was an amazing snowboarding movie called Hallucinate. I had preconceptions of it being set in the Alps or a typical resort location but I was totally wrong. Filmed in urban surroundings, the snowboarders used just about everything to grind and rebound off. It was like watching a street skateboarding film but with layers of snow over everything. Amazing! I’m not doing it justice here so if you like all things ‘board’, hit the play button above!

The final film was Rip Curl’s ‘Live the Search Europe‘ by Lyndon Wake and Jayce Robinson. It charted their search for waves during the winter of 2103-14 and showed them scoring some monsters from the remote Outer Hebrides to Hoessegor in France. They also travelled to giant big wave spot Nazare in Portugal where they joined UK big wave rider Andrew Cotton on his quest to ride the biggest wave. It was a feast of epic waves and loads of barrels, interspersed with thoughts from the locals at each location. Beautifully filmed in true Rip Curl style!

Drinks after the screening gave me the chance to meet some of the guys from the surf club, including, wouldn’t you know it, someone who lives about a mile from where I live! It was great to trade surf stories, trip photos and chat about potential trips to new surf spots.

It was a great day and a fantastic start to a week’s annual leave, which continues with a little surf trip :)



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If Steph can do it….

By October 18, 2014 Surf more
Balance training homework - Steph Gilmore looking effortless, me looking less so. Note my proximity to the wall for safety!

Balance training homework – Steph Gilmore looking effortless, me looking less so. Note my proximity to the wall for safety!

At my first training session last week, Kathryn really put me through my paces….and that was just the start!

The idea was to find out what level my fitness was at, set my weights, get the technique sorted and generally, see what I could do. The cardio side wasn’t too much of a problem, helped by the recent swimming and spin classes, but the weights were a different story.

Spaghetti arms

My arms have never been particularly strong but coupled with 7 months with no weight training thanks to my shoulder injury, my arms have turned to mush. I was also pretty nervous about the weights as I didn’t want to set the shoulder off again but the good thing about working with someone who knows what they are doing, is that they know what not to do to risk re-injury.

I had never done any of the kind of weight training that Kathryn has devised for me. It felt so much better doing free weights rather than relying on machines (my arms hurt like hell the next day!). I’ve heard its way more effective so I’m hoping I will see a more noticeable difference over time. My routine looks a bit like this:

  • Lunge/bicep curls – 10 reps x 3 (hurts like hell!)
  • Squat drops – 10 reps x 3 (evil!)
  • Arnold arms – 15 reps x 2 (killer!)
  • Tricep pulldown – 10 reps x 3
  • Chest ceiling push (bench press) – 10 reps x 3
  • Jumping squats – 10 reps x 3 (leg burners!)

Not so balanced

Relieved after that lot that we were running short of time, and didn’t have chance to go through the core programme, I thought I was onto a winner when Kathryn announced that she was going to test my balance. This has always been my stronger point having done ballet when I was younger. It’s also one of the best bits about my surfing.

But when she pointed to a swiss ball and told me to get on it and balance, I just couldn’t do it. Hanging onto the wall to hoist myself onto the ball, I lasted about 2 seconds before I fell off sideways. I was gutted, I thought balance was my strong point and I was determined to prove that I didn’t totally suck.

So that’s been my homework for the past week, and initially I thought it was impossible. But then I saw Steph Gilmore doing it in her film ‘Stephanie in the Water.’ Steph and pro skateboarder (and legend) Tony Hawk have been my inspiration for the past week.  Whenever Tony was trying to learn a new trick on his skateboard, he said:

“If something’s been done it’s so much easier to learn it than if its never been done before. If someone else has made it, its possible that you can do it.”

Thanks to Steph and Tony, and some perseverance from me, I steadily managed 10 seconds, then 20, then 30. And on Wednesday, I got to 1 minute 10 seconds!!

Steph can do this for 2 hours at a time, so I have still got a fair way to go. But with Kathryn getting me onto the bosu ball and doing a lot of balance work over the next few weeks, I will be a seasoned pro before you know it 😉


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A motivational kick up the backside

By October 12, 2014 Surf more

Recently, I have been lacking fitness motivation and I don’t know why. Maybe its because I have had so much going on and things have been a bit crazy. Or because I haven’t surfed for a few weeks, or because I am landlocked…and is all that effort worth it when I surf infrequently?

Maybe it’s because it’s getting cold and dark and I just can’t be bothered to haul myself to the gym. But that’s the worst excuse out of all them – I have got a surf trip in a couple of weeks, I should be fired up!

Maybe I just need to accept that I’m having a blip, stop beating myself up and put that energy into doing something about it.

Pro surfer Lakey Peterson getting some pre-heat tips from coach MIke Parsons. She gets de-motivated from time to time...doesnt she?

Pro surfer Lakey Peterson getting some pre-heat tips from coach Mike Parsons. She gets de-motivated from time to time…doesnt she?

I owe myself

Over the past week I spoke to a couple of surfers who are also feeling de-motivated for different reasons, so I’m not alone which made me feel better. Out of those conversations I learned that even those who live by the coast get de-motivated to surf and keep fit, and that my recent shoulder injury was still playing on my mind despite getting the all-clear a few weeks ago, and undoubtedly one of the reasons for my lack of motivation.

Surfabella gave me two good pieces of advice – 1) set some realistic goals and 2) you never regret a workout but you do regret skipping one. It took me back to last year at the height of my surf fitness. I hated missing gym sessions and felt so much stronger and more energised. And with the recent sudden death of my dad, and my mum’s partner passing away last year after a long illness, the reason for getting fit is not just for the surfing. I owe it to myself to look after my body, be healthy and be as fit and active as long as I can.

Asking for help

I work best with input from others, and tend to get overwhelmed when I try and put together a fitness plan myself. I have scoured the internet for hours finding all sorts of surf specific activities and exercises, but when it comes to mapping it into my week, I end up filling 7 days which is just not realistic or sensible. Plus there’s my swimming lessons to consider and my regular spin class.

So I fixed up a consultation with one of the personal trainers at my local gym and was stoked to learn that she could do sport specific programmes. She listened and completely understood the lack of motivation, the need for a kick up the backside, and what I wanted to achieve. We talked about strength, stamina and balance, all the essential ingredients for surf fitness and was excited when she discussed some very surf specific exercises. She will be helping me build my strength slowly post-injury, as well as looking at nutrition, and what foods to eat pre and post surf.

The impossible dream

During the consultation, I told her about another reason why I wanted to get fit and it was something I had pushed to the back of my mind because I thought it was impossible. I want to get surf fit to surf better, but more specifically, I want to be able to ride a shortboard. I loved riding that longboard earlier this year and the idea of catching loads of waves easily is great, but I struggle to carry my minimal down to the beach…so why would I want to trade that for something even bigger? I have also watched so much of the ASP tour this year and fallen in love with that side of surfing – the athletic manoeuvres of the cutbacks and snaps. I’m not saying I have designs on being able to do stuff like that but to come down quite significantly in board size would be amazing!

Two people have told me that because I am landlocked, I will never be able to achieve this as I don’t have enough regular exposure to the sea. And when someone tells me that I can’t do something, I will do everything in my power to prove them wrong.

Making a start

As the trainer says, it’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be a long road…a marathon instead of a sprint. But if I can do this, and prove to those two people that they said ‘can’t’ to the wrong person, I will be majorly stoked!

I have made a start, and did my first session last week followed by a swimming lesson the next day. I’m aching and have never felt so sore following a gym session. But it’s a start, and that start has created the spark of motivation that I needed. I’m fired up and ready to go, and I will share my progress here over the coming weeks!


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Beyond Sight

By October 11, 2014 Love

Derek Rabelo is an amazing guy. He’s humble, loves people, has huge amounts of faith and is a great surfer.

Derek is also blind and has been since birth, but this hasn’t stopped from him from pursuing his dream of surfing the legendary Pipeline.

Life changing stories

When I found out that Derek was presenting his film ‘Beyond Sight’ which charts his journey at only four locations in the UK, I snapped up a pair of tickets straight away. I love surf documentaries, especially those which focus on an individual. I love to hear their stories, how they got into surfing and how, like me, surfing has changed their lives.

But it’s those stories, where individuals have triumphed over adversity, or achieved their goals regardless of setbacks and challenges in life that really grab my attention and Derek’s story was no exception.

Derek’s journey

The film begins with Derek’s birth, blindness and childhood growing up in Brazil and it’s an emotional rollercoaster from the start. From the heart wrenching confession of Derek’s mother, who almost had an abortion when falling pregnant with Derek, to seeing Derek standing on a surfboard for the first time, right through to the hilarious moments which show Derek’s sheer determination which include his insistence of riding a skateboard. He does it all – even tow-in surfing!

The Q&A session at the end of the film with Derek Rabelo

The Q&A session at the end of the film with Derek Rabelo

Meeting the legends

Through his journey, Derek meets, surfs with and gets advice and encouragement from some of the sport’s legends – Rob Macahdo, Laird Hamilton, Kelly Slater and even Eddie Rothman of Hawaii’s legendary Da Hui, a former surf gang who protested when contest surfers began forcing the locals out of their favourite surf breaks. Eddie even enforces the closure of Pipeline, to enable Derek to surf safely without the crowds. Derek also meets Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm to a shark when surfing at the age of 13. Like Derek, Bethany is very religious and put her faith in God to triumph over adversity.

Leap of faith

Faith is the overarching theme of the film and the clear message is that the best journeys in life are walked by faith and not by sight. Derek relies on his other senses to surf and when asked in the film how he knows when to duck dive and when to pop up, he replies that he hears and feels the ocean. But what really amazed me was when asked by a member of the audience at the end of the film to explain what he fears, he simply responded, “I don’t have a relationship with fear, I have a relationship with faith.”

It’s this belief that will undoubtedly carry Derek to his next mission where he is aiming even higher…to surf the notorious Jaws!

Good luck Derek! I will be watching your story with interest!


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