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What makes a good surf?

By August 16, 2015 Escape, Surf more, Thoughts

What makes a good surf

I have just come back from an amazing week in Cornwall. Probably the best holiday I have ever had thanks to a combination of heaps of surfing, exploring new places, awesome eateries and some great weather!

I have never been able to surf so much in a week before. Usually we book a week and have these great ideas about how we will surf every day, and then the wave gods laugh at us and either present us with a sea of calm or shit onshore conditions and howling winds.

This time, they must have taken pity on us and decided we deserved a break. Four surfs in a row later and my arms are like noodles, my dodgy shoulder is sore, I’m knackered but my god I feel totally stoked!

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Pure stoke

By July 12, 2015 Escape
Processed with VSCOcam

An awesome surf at Saunton!

Two months away from surfing may not sound like a lot, yet in that relatively short space of time so much had happened that took my focus away from it. My husband had an operation, my mindset slid into a negative space, there were jobs to do on the house, the daily grind and then, when we did have a free weekend to get to the coast typically the surf went flat.

Long lost love

My feelings toward surfing became ambivalent for a while. I tried to kid myself that I wasn’t really that bothered about it anymore but deep down, I loved it more than ever. I spent my weeks pining after it…staring doe-eyed at the surf cams and various Instagram feeds of surfers that I follow – people who live by the coast and have surfing on tap. It made me feel worse.

I had also piled pressure on myself – to nail the pop-up, be surf fit, feel some kind of acceptance by the coastal surf dwellers and generally not look like some dumb kook. The pressure built to a point where I had lost my way and forgotten that it was supposed to be fun and not some time pressured competition.

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On being a mermaid

By June 22, 2015 Escape
Channelling my inner Ariel  - never imagined in a million years I would be able to do this!

Channelling my inner Ariel – never imagined in a million years I would be able to do this!

I can honestly say that I never really harboured secret dreams of being a mermaid. Growing up I watched the movie Splash a few times and I remember being intrigued by the Cornish folk tale about the mermaid of Zennor (I actually thought she was real!), but as someone who hasn’t even seen Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid‘, and who isn’t a natural, confident water woman, you wouldn’t exactly describe me as one of neptune’s wannabes.

But when I found out about a course in Newquay run by Freedive UK that gives people the chance to channel their inner Ariel (or Madison), I was intrigued – just how can you swim so effortlessly underwater wearing a mermaid tail without breathing apparatus?

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Meeting Andrew Cotton

By June 9, 2015 Escape, Surfer stories

Meeting big wave legend Andrew Cotton at the Saltrock BBQ in Tongwynlais

Croyde, New Year’s Day 2015.

I’m walking through the village when I see a familiar face outside Redwood surf shop. It’s the face of a surfer whose story I have been following with huge interest – a North Devon local who once had a dream to ride some of the biggest waves in the world. A guy whose face appeared in the media for his world record breaking wave attempt, and on the big screen at the Billabong XXL big wave awards in 2014.

It’s someone that I’m surprised I haven’t seen in person sooner, especially with the amount of time we have spent in his neck of the woods during the past two years.

It’s British big wave legend Andrew Cotton.

I want to speak to him and find out what motivates him to charge giant waves. But he’s deep in conversation, enjoying a coffee, and I’m just a kook who gets scared in waves over 2ft. I hesitate, hang back and then chicken out. I kick myself for the rest of the day, and the next day, and the next.

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Kelly says surf…

By April 5, 2015 Escape, Surf more, Thoughts
The day I surfed Harlyn - the best surf of the week.

The day I surfed Harlyn – the best surf of the week.

11 time world champion surfer Kelly Slater once said that to improve at surfing, you have to surf no matter what the conditions. So last week, during my trip to Cornwall, when the surf gods decided to throw a curve ball, I decided to test Mr Slater’s theory.

It’s typical isn’t it? We had booked a week’s trip to Cornwall and in my mind, I was going to surf everyday, check out some new spots and hopefully progress a teeny bit throughout our stay. But we were greeted by rain, wintry temperatures, howling winds and a pretty dismal surf forecast that offered no hope of the onshore mush letting up until near the end of our stay.

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Day trippin’

By March 18, 2015 Escape
Day trip to Saunton

Day trip to Saunton

Despite living 195 miles away from my favourite surf spot, its totally possible to make it there and back in a day. It’s an early start, a lot of driving and tiring, but so worth it and ideal for taking advantage of ideal conditions at the last minute.

So last week, when the North Devon surf forecast showed 3-4ft and light offshore winds for Saturday, it was the perfect opportunity for a spontaneous day trip!

After a 3 and a half hour journey (which included the essential McDonalds surf trip breakfast!), we arrived in Braunton for a pre-surf mooch in the shops. Ever since I had a go on @fredrickparkes longboard last year, and particularly with Corinne Evans’ recent advice about getting one to help with my pop-up, I wanted to get some advice.

First stop was Surfed Out which has a reputation for providing honest and excellent advice. Owner Glen, a longboarder himself advised me, for my height and weight, to try a performance longboard – not as wide as a typical log but still stable enough to catch anything, turn and trim. Lucky for me, Glen had a demo board – a 9′ Cross pintail beauty with single fin and side bites – which he let me borrow to have a go: ideal!

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The only pro surfer from Wolverhampton

By March 13, 2015 Escape, Surfer stories
Corinne Evans - probably the only pro surfer from Wolverhampton!

Corinne Evans – probably the only pro surfer from Wolverhampton!

Us landlocked surfgirls are not always disadvantaged due to our geography. There’s British pro Keshia Eyre who began life in Manchester, and up and coming surfer Jessie Tuckman (originally from Macclesfield) who quit city life to her pursue her dreams of breaking into the UK top ten.

Then there’s British surfer and model Corinne Evans who I was lucky enough to meet recently. Little did I know that Corinne and I would share a strong geographical connection. It turns out that she is from my hometown of Wolverhampton. What a small world! She even attended the same secondary school as me and my other half.

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Sweet spot

By February 24, 2015 Escape
Post surf in the Kingsurf shed - one of the best surfs I have ever had!

Post surf in the Kingsurf shed – one of the best surfs I have ever had!

One of the most frustrating things to happen to a landlocked surfer is planning a trip, weeks or even months in advance and then coming home empty handed – usually because it’s either flat or completely blown out which occurs quite often during the UK winter months.

Odds against

Last week, in the days leading up to our weekend surf trip to Cornwall, I watched the surf and weather reports like a hawk and was gutted to discover that the largest spring tide to hit the county in 20 years was fast approaching. Coupled with very strong onshore winds, it was looking unlikely that I would be able to surf.

My objective was try and pop-up. I have been working really hard on my upper body strength and I have been doing some surf specific plyometric exercises to help improve my muscle memory. I wasn’t fussy about green waves – I just needed some safe white water to practise.

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Just doing it in Cornwall

By January 11, 2015 Escape
Post-surf drinks at Praa Sands

Post-surf drinks at Praa Sands

After 2 great surfs in Devon, it was time to head to Cornwall to meet up with my landlocked surf friend Kelly, who had very kindly invited us to stay with her and her husband for the last night of their holiday. I was really looking forward to surfing with Kelly, and hooking up with Pete from Kingsurf to get some pointers on how to work on my pop-up and build my confidence.

The conditions were still very messy and with all the beaches on the north coast around Newquay being blown out, at Pete’s suggestion, we headed south to Praa Sands which I was stoked about. I love checking out new spots and finding out how and when they work best.

Paddle power

When we arrived, we weighed up whether to go in. The tide was high and there was no white water to practise in, just a shore dump, which inevitably meant getting out back. We had driven an hour to get to Praa, it was clean and a beautiful sunny day and ‘just do it’ mode kicked in. Without the safety of the white water it would force me to break out of my comfort zone.

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Just doing it in Devon

By January 7, 2015 Escape
My 2015 mantra!

My 2015 mantra!

My mantra for 2015 is shamefully stolen from Nike, but there’s something about their ‘just do it’ slogan that is just so positive, forceful and purposeful – it means business! I have literally got the t-shirt but putting the words into action by not making excuses or procrastinating over things in 2015 is my main focus.

With this in mind, on new year’s eve, me and my other half travelled to Croyde to see in the new year in style.

It was cold, we were tired after the journey and it was a dull day. The last thing we really wanted to do was chuck ourselves in the sea but with the conditions looking to get progressively messier throughout the week, I made the decision to ‘just do it’ and I’m so glad I did!

Just do it! Surfing at Putsborough on New Year's Eve

Just do it! Surfing at Putsborough on New Year’s Eve

 

Actions speak louder than words

We sought shelter at Putsborough, which we have only surfed at once before, and had a great session! The pop-up still eluded me but the core work I have been doing in the gym really paid off. I was turning and trimming across the wave and was amazed that the board was actually going where I wanted it to go. The key was to look where I was going (thanks Amy – that advice has stuck with me!) and almost throw my body round and use my arms to propel the movement. (I think secretly I was trying to mimic some of the girls on the ASP world tour – shame I haven’t been taking pop-up notes!).

My stamina has improved heaps thanks to all the cardio work I have been putting in and if it wasn’t for my weak arms, I could have lasted a lot longer. I had so much fun during the session and I was stoked with the progress!

I even bumped into an Instagram friend – I knew she was going to be in the Croyde area and recognised her instantly by her surfboard. I admit to hesitating before I approached her, but decided to ‘just do it’ and we had a lovely chat about surfing and our love of North Devon.

We ended 2014 on a high from the surfing, a lovely meal in the Blue Groove followed by a midnight walk on the beach.

Chickening out

Motivated by the previous day’s progress and feeling super positive on the first day of the year, we headed to Croyde beach to do a 2 minute beach clean – this is something I do on every surf trip and its my way of giving back when I am by the coast. We then headed into the village and who should be sitting outside Redwood Surf Shop? Local surf legend and Billabong XXL big wave award nominee Andrew Cotton! I had been wanting to meet for him for a while, say hi and tell him how awesome he is for riding giant waves.  But, instead of ‘just doing it’, I hesitated, and assumed he wouldn’t want to be harassed by some kook surfer. By the time I plucked up the courage, he was in his car and driving away. I kicked myself for the rest of the day. Gutted!

Putsborough collage2

Back on track

In the afternoon, we headed back to Putsborough for a new year’s day surf. It was messier than the previous day, much colder and I was knackered from a disturbed night’s sleep, but I knew I would regret not surfing. So, I suited up and headed in.

Glad again that I did! It wasnt quite as good as the previous day but the consistency was still there as was the turning and the trimming. We hadn’t been in long and it started to rain – neither of us had ever surfed in the rain before and it was a bit of a wish of ours. There was something so exhilarating and refreshing about it – totally surrounded by water.

I had a fantastic time in Devon and it was a brilliant way to spend the new year. It was only a very short stay but it wasn’t over – we still had an overnight stay in Cornwall to look forward to!

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