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.
So what do you do? Especially if you are landlocked and can’t surf the good stuff at the drop of a hat. Do you:
1) Get in anyway, accept that you can’t work on the things you really want to (like turning and trimming green waves in my case) but use it to practise your pop up in the white water and just have a bit of fun. It could be counter-productive though and demoralising if you don’t catch anything or have a bad session.
2) Accept that the conditions are crap, keep an eye on the forecast and trust, as it promises, that the winds will drop off towards the end of the week. Stay indoors with a hot chocolate, enjoy Cornwall anyway and if conditions don’t improve, look ahead to clean offshore days when your surf sessions will be more rewarding and effective.
It was always going to be option 1 for me, hands down. Any chance to get in the sea I will take. I have also experienced the opposite problem, when its flat and there are literally no waves to surf at all – onshore mush is much more preferable!
It was a frustrating week of constantly monitoring the forecast, wave hunting, trying to find sheltered spots (which sometimes didn’t stand up at all) but in total, I managed four sessions. They didn’t come close in terms of performance as that day trip to Saunton a couple of weeks ago, and my pop-up went out of the window, but I took a lot of positives from them:
- I surfed at Harlyn – a spot which has previously let us down (as we turned up at the wrong stage of the tide) but this time gave me some lovely long rides on the best day of the week
- I rode my minimal and my longboard and was pleasantly surprised that despite the conditions, I was still able to stand up on my mal. I honestly thought that after the ease of getting to my feet on a longboard, I would struggle coming back down in board size
- I got some good feedback on my surfing from Scuba at Kingsurf. He said my technique is good, my stance is good and once I’m up and riding I really cruise along with ease. I just need to work on my confidence and get to my feet quicker
- I met Scuba’s challenge of getting to my feet within 2 seconds. Woohoo!
- I surfed at Watergate Bay – I had been wanting to return there for a while after a very bad session a couple of years ago. This time was much more successful!
- I got some decent long rides despite the sloppy conditions
So, whilst I wouldn’t say that it necessarily improved my surfing, I had heaps of fun and was totally stoked after each session! It also made me realise how desperately I love surfing – being prepared to surf in complete mush and going out on a day when it was freezing cold and really windy. On that same day, even my other half couldn’t be persuaded to join me. Instead, he stayed on the shore line and took some pictures of my session with Scuba.
As we left Cornwall to head home, the sun came out, the temperature rose and the surf forecast promised a drop in the wind and change of direction to offshore later that day. But as I later found out, and should have realised from the false promises of the forecast throughout the holiday, the surf gods didn’t deliver until the following day. And when they did, they went a little too far the other way. With a period of high pressure sitting over the Atlantic, it looks set for 0-1 foot (verging flat) for the next few days, possibly a week.
The moral of this tale is listen to Kelly Slater. Get in while you can and as often as you can, because if you wait for the perfect conditions, especially in the temperamental UK, you could be waiting a while!