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November, 2014

No words

By November 22, 2014 Thoughts

I sat on a train the other day, tears streaming down my face as I watched this, my heart aching for the sea.

It happens everytime I watch it. Two minutes of raw emotion that capture the highs, lows, beauty and energy of surfing, overlaid by a haunting cover of Bowie’s ‘Absolute Beginners.’

They say only a surfer knows the feeling….

 

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SUP in the city

By November 18, 2014 Escape
Standup paddleboarding

How standup paddleboarding looks to those who live by the coast…

Stand up paddleboarding is something I wanted to try over the summer when the surf was flat, but with no willing companion, I didn’t fancy heading out on my own. Hubby wasn’t crazy on the idea – he said “It’s just not the same as surfing.”

True, but when you are landlocked, you will do just about anything to get a fix, so on Sunday, me, hubby and my landlocked surf friend met up at Edgbaston Watersports in Birmingham for a half day SUP course.

Edgbaston Reservoir

…and the reality for landlocked folk! Edgbaston Reservoir on a murky November morning

Stark contrast

It was about as far from the idyllic view of SUP as you can get. Instead of salt water, blue skies and miles of open ocean, Edgbaston Reservoir is 2 miles from the city centre with a semi urban backdrop and a 2.2km expanse of grey water. It was a typical cold, November day, but I was up for a new challenge!

After getting suited up, it was time to say hi to my board for the day – a 12ft barge which was about 4 inches thick. Great stuff! Nice and floaty, as I didn’t fancy falling into the murky reservoir. Another plus point for the board – it had a handle so I was able to carry it! My short arms are a bit of hinderance when carrying my mal!

Into the unknown

Before entering the water, we had some pointers on how to hold the paddle, how to manoeuvre, our stance on the board, and how to get onto the board by firstly getting to our knees (preferably without falling in). Our group of 5 tentatively waded in and after some initial hesitation, we were up on our feet, and cruising along!

Then it was time to get more adventurous. Keith the instructor showed us how to turn and that was when the first of our group tested the temperature of the water! I felt sorry for this guy by the end as I lost count of how many times he fell in, but he took it in good spirit and didn’t appear to be put off.

We also had a go at speed paddling, shifting our feet into surfing stance (cue more swan dives into the reservoir), what to do if we were ever on the open sea and the winds change or we get caught in a rip current.

I managed to keep my balance, as did my friend as we made it round the 2.2km expanse of water without taking a plunge – girl power! My ‘steering’ went a bit awry at one point as I sailed into some trees but overall, I think I did ok and my balance skills really did me proud.

Landlocked SUPers

Landlocked SUPers…stoked and hooked!

Stoked!

I have to say that I had a grin on my face during the whole 2 hours and really surprised by how stoked I was! Ok so it wasn’t the sea, and I wasn’t riding waves on my surfboard, but it was so great to be on the water, just cruising along…and only 17 miles from home!

What surprised me even more was how much hubby had enjoyed it. From SUP cynic to total convert! So at the end of the course, when the instructor told us about the Inland SUP club and invited us to join, he was totally up for it! They have a club day every Sunday, and do regular events including a forthcoming Santa SUP ending at the pub!

I can see it being a more regular activity now – on flat days by the coast and as a great way to get a landlocked fix!

Huge thank you to Kelly for suggesting and organising this – if it wasn’t for her, we may never have tried it. Here’s to many more SUP days and possibly another water sport hobby to focus on during our landlocked weekends!

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Kook’s guide to buying a wetsuit

By November 14, 2014 Surf more

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now, when my landlocked surf friend originally asked me for some tips on buying her first wetsuit. I never got round to it, but after my husband made yet another expensive mistake with a wetsuit recently, he kindly offered to share his experiences to help save others from burning a massive hole in their wallet.

So, as guest blogger and in his own words….Landlocked surfguy:

Buying a wetsuit should be simple...it seemed so simple

Wetsuit selfie...the suit fits great but the go faster stripes did nothing for my surf ability!

Wetsuit selfie…the suit fits great but the go faster stripes did nothing for my surf ability!

I should know, I’ve bought lots of them. And that’s the problem, I didn’t need to. I live 200 miles away from the sea and surf a handful of times a year. In reality, I should have a summer and winter suit, which with lack of use, should last me about 5 years before falling apart.

However, I’m an idiot when it comes to buying wetsuits. I don’t mind admitting it now, because I’ve done it so many times (and have the credit card bill to prove it) that I feel well within my ‘kookish’ rights to provide some heartfelt advice. So here goes…

Definitely medium

In my opinion, Summer suits aren’t the problem. I have an O’Neill 4/3 Superfreak which leaks a little where the glue hasn’t quite done its job, and a funky coloured 3/2 Billabong which is comfortable and makes me feel like I know what I’m doing (I’ve coined this the ‘Slater Syndrome’). Both are great in the warmer months, but I NEED to surf all year round to stay sane, so I bought my first winter suit.

I was a little caught up with how it looked (trying to make up for my lack of surfing prowess maybe!) and of cause, I was a medium. The stats on the label said I was a medium. My O’Neill was a medium and I felt like a medium, so surely I was a medium. So without a second thought I spend £300 on a top of the range C-Skins winter suit (in a medium) – ACE!

Well actually not so ace. It flushed like no one’s business and therefore the fancy £300 thermal quick dry technology with ‘oxygen bubbles and super stretch intelligent massaging neoprene was rendered utterly useless. So I Ebay’d it for half the price after one wear and bought an O’Neill Mutant…… in a medium.

Second time lucky…?

I got it from a well-known online shop. It arrived promptly and I slipped it on. Wow! This was it! Problem solved! Soooo comfortable and this one was an even better fit on paper than the C-Skins. Medium, most definitely. Flush round the neck and wrists and it felt more like my 3/2 suit!

So, half term arrives and we head to Croyde. Bring it on – warm comfortable and epic surfing at Saunton was on my (deluded) mind. We paddle out. A medium size wave hits me and goes straight up the arms and down the side of the suit. Um, something not right – if this was the dead of winter I would be in trouble. Déjà vu moment …. so I Ebay’d it for half the price after one wear!

After much shivering and an occasional rude word I concluded that I know absolutely nothing about wetsuits and headed to Second Skin in Braunton for a little advice on the errors of my way.

One size does not fit all

Funny thing (and in hind sight not so surprising) is that actually I am not a medium at all – I’m a small tall. Turns out that comfortable in shop does not = comfort in the water. As wetsuits absorb water, they stretch. I am no expert though I have heard the value 10% banded about. So in the water, a suit which was comfortable and just right in the shop turns into a clown suit, which in freezing conditions is a bit of an issue.

I have ended up trying on so many brands, from Xcel to Billabong, C-skins to O’ Neill. I’ve considered Nineplus and Snugg, Alder and Ripcurl. All have different shapes and feel. You really need to experiment to find the one which is just right for you.

As it happens, Xcel is right for me and I now have a super snug, perfectly fitting suit, ready to tackle the Winter months.

The bottom line

I have ended up spending a large amount of money on getting a suit that fits me for the depths of winter. The money I wasted is actually enough for another board (I try not to think about that too much ), but its in the past. I really would hate others to make the same mistake as me so I have concluded that the following rules should be followed to avoid winter tears…

  • It should be almost too tight on dry land
  • You are not a medium just because you know you are a medium….
  • Buy from a local shop, not an online store and listen to the advice. They are the experts and they know best…period! They will also check that the suit fits as it should
  • Choose a manufacturer whose fit works for you…not cos it works for your mate or because Kelly Slater wears that brand
  • You get what you pay for… don’t scrimp on a winter suit. You can get away with it in summer, but in the darker months you will wish you had been a little more exuberant with the wallet
  • Not that I bought one, but if nothing seems to fit right, Snugg will make you a custom suit that fits just right
  • Go faster stripes don’t improve your surfing

At the end of the day surfing is all about having fun, whatever your level of ability. Come the winter it may be a little bit harder to make a 400 mile round trip, but with a cosy suit, it’s most definitely worth the effort

 

 

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Plateau

By November 5, 2014 Uncategorized
Dawn patrol - some nice lines at Saunton on day one

Dawn patrol – some nice lines at Saunton on day one

Last week I spent 5 days in North Devon. It had been 6 weeks since my last surf so I was looking forward to an intensive few days of surfing.

Studying the tide times in advance, and taking the local ‘Eyeball’ surf report into account, we got up early each day to catch the mid to high pushing tide at our favoured break of Saunton. Here’s how it went:

Surf session one

Waxing the boards for session one

Waxing the boards for session one

We left the caravan at dark ‘o’ clock and watched the sunrise as we waxed our boards. We were amongst the first few in the sea and were greeted with about 3ft waves, fairly strong cross onshore winds which made things a bit messy. I missed the first couple of waves and thought I was in for a howler but I found my rhythm and got some nice long rides. The sets were coming through consistently and there wasn’t much time in between waves.

A slight rip made me nervous, and although the waves were allegedly only 3ft, they seemed a lot bigger. I chickened out of trying for green waves and practised in the white water.

As the tiredness crept in (due to lack of sleep and lack of stamina), I noticed that I got slower and slower at getting to my feet.

Surf session two

Session two - time to try the new wetsuit, more about that soon!

Session two – time to try the new wetsuit, more about that soon!

2ft and fairly clean. I got a little more confidence back so went for the green waves. I caught a couple but because I’m still using my knees to get to my feet, which slows me down, it also causes a moment of almost ‘what do I do now oh my god I’m going to wipeout’ panic and so I freeze on my knees. The result is actually quite funny watching it back on my action cam. There’s a look of ‘oh shit’ on my face before going under.

Generally, a better surf than the previous day as I felt a bit more confident. Stand up ratio is 8/10 today but I look slow at getting to my feet and my paddling still needs a lot of work despite the fact that I now raise my chest off the board. Still tired due to a disturbed night and my lack of surf fitness (which I’m working on and will take time) really shows.

Surf session three

Post surf, session three. Was knackered at this point but still smiling!

Post surf, session three. Was knackered at this point but still smiling!

Early doors again and three surfs in a row is really catching up with me. I’m knackered! 1ft, clean and fun today and this is the best session out of the three and sods law, I decided not to bother with my action cam. My stand up feels a little bit quicker and its a 9/10 ratio but its still on my knees. It’s got to be a real habit now and maybe I’m using the lack of upper body strength as an excuse. It’s easy to get to my feet using knees and I guess I measure a successful session as to the number of waves I’m up on my feet and riding them all the way to the shore line.

What’s going on?

I had a great time during this trip but when I think about how I felt when I was riding those waves, and looking back on the footage since, I didn’t get that amazing feeling of stoke like I used to – the adrenalin rush at the thrill of catching the wave and the amazing pure bliss feeling.

I came to the conclusion that perhaps I have reached a bit of a plateau and that I need to challenge and push myself to the next level. To do this though, I have a few things I need to do:

  • Give myself credit. I put way too much pressure on myself to be a half decent surfer and don’t look back at just how far I have come this last year, despite injury and personal set backs. My stand up ratio has dramatically improved, my balance is better and although I still feel slow at getting to my feet, eye witnesses tell me that it is much quicker than it was before. I also have to bear in mind my surf instructor’s words back in August at how far I had come despite being landlocked. It’s an achievement I don’t give myself enough credit for.
  • Keep up the fitness. My stamina levels are still really low and if I want to make the most out of a session, I need to do all that I can in between surf trips
  • Keep motivated. Living miles away from the coast is hard, and I have questioned if all the fitness is worth it for the amount of times I surf in a year. I need to keep in my mind how knackered I feel after just an hour in the sea, and remember that shortboard that I would love to be able to ride and prove a few people wrong
  • Keep the faith. Stop thinking that I’m too old/past it/landlocked/should have done it years ago. I CAN and I WILL do this!
  • Work on my confidence. I hold myself back in the sea. I am still wary of it and the recent tragedy in Mawgan Porth really affected me. Maybe its time for another lesson to help build up my confidence and look at ways at which I can take my surfing to the next level.

I have got my third session with my trainer tonight. It’s cold and its dark, and I’d rather stay in and watch a surf movie. But watching Kelly Slater surf isn’t going to help me to improve.

Time for another kick up the ass!

 

The limits push back

By November 3, 2014 Surf more, Thoughts
The RNLI save lives at sea every day

The RNLI save lives at sea every day

The night before we travelled down to Devon for our latest surf trip, I found out about a terrible tragedy involving three surfers in Cornwall. When I discovered it had happened at Mawgan Porth, one of my favourite surf spots, and the place where 4 years ago I learnt to surf, I was shocked and mortified.

Seven people in total, 4 children and 3 adults got stuck in a rip current. The four children were saved, but despite the efforts of the coastguard and emergency services, the adults lost their lives.

I don’t understand why this happened. Surely it could have been avoided? If the surf conditions weren’t great (the surf was big on the day), why did they enter the water? What happened to their surfboards and why doesn’t the beach have lifeguards until at least the end of the October half term holidays like many other UK beaches?

These are all questions that have been asked by so many – the answers to which will hopefully be answered through a review into what exactly happened.

Know your limits!

The tragedy really played on my mind during the night and throughout the journey down to Devon. I felt nervous about getting in the water. I have felt the power of a rip, even in ankle deep water, and it’s frighteningly strong.

It’s one of the reasons why I’m improving my fitness. I know what to do if I get caught in a rip, but I want the confidence of knowing that I have the strength to get back to the beach.

But I’m also not going to stop doing what I love and letting fear hold me back. It’s about getting a balance between a ‘healthy’ fear (being prepared) and being over cautious. Knowing my limits whilst having fun and enjoying what I do.

I would stress on anyone to please check the surf (and the weather) before getting in. If you’re not sure, ask someone – a lifeguard, a local, someone who knows what they are talking about. And if you have never surfed before, have a lesson instead of just trying to fathom it out for yourself. You will not only learn to surf, but find out about the sea and the particular break where you are surfing – hazards such as rips, the tides etc.

It could literally save your life.

Stay safe everyone…

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