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The other side of fear

By June 17, 2017 Surf more
The other side of fear

5 weeks of Polzeath Ladies Surf Club has flown by and Tuesday’s session marked the end of the first phase. Looking back, I can see just how much I’ve achieved in a relatively short space of time.

5 weeks ago I couldn’t pop up properly. Years of bad habits meant I’d repeatedly gone to my knees and I wrote myself off as a lost cause. But thanks to a supportive environment, fantastic coaching and some perseverance, I’ve nailed it!

So on Tuesday I wanted to focus on the next step and another big hurdle – paddling out back. Now I’d corrected my pop-up, it was time to venture back into the lineup and have a go at taking off on unbroken waves. George had mentioned it a couple of weeks ago and I couldn’t wait.

Except when it came down to it, I was scared shitless. Which was weird, considering I’ve paddled out back numerous times before.

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The next level

By August 18, 2015 Escape, Surf more
Photo courtesy of Checkered Photography

Photo courtesy of Checkered Photography

I think it’s fair to say that I have reached my comfort zone when it comes to surfing. I can catch waves, get to my feet (although not by the correct method) and ride the white water til the cows come home. I have fun, which is what it’s all about but I want to take my surfing to the next level and to do that I need some help.

I also want a different perspective. I think it’s great to mix things up a bit and you can learn so much from different people. I was keen to get the input from a female surfer who understands the issues that women surfers have especially with confidence.

For me there was no better person to do this than British pro surfer Corinne Evans.

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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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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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Surfacing…

By June 3, 2014 Escape, Thoughts

DSC01898Last weekend I went surfing and I am still buzzing and stoked! It was the best surfing session and most fun I’d had since embarking on my surfing adventures.

Several factors contributed to this (in no particular order of preference :)

  • Great conditions for beginners – 1-2ft, mellow waves with a light offshore wind
  • Sunshine, blue skies and toasty temperatures
  • Fantastic company with new friends….and hubby of course!
  • Lovely campsite with brilliant facilities – its a secret spot though, so I wont be sharing details!
  • Opportunity to try out some different boards….one in particular I have fallen in love with!
  • Stand up ratio 95% coupled with the longest rides I have ever had. Woop woop!!

Im not sure if it was the conditions, or the fact that I wasn’t trying too hard and just relaxed into it, but  I really felt that something had clicked. Ok, so I hadn’t been to the gym in a few weeks which reflected in my shockingly bad paddling technique, but I was standing and riding some long, epic waves and having a total blast!

And after everything that had happened over the past few weeks, I reckoned I deserved it, and it did me the world of good. Catching up on Twitter earlier, I saw a tweet which read “There isn’t anything a little time on a board can’t fix.” Thanks to @shelbyleobold for those words of wisdom – how true they are!

But above all, the weekend gave me the opportunity to meet up, for the first time, with my Twitter friend and fellow landlocked surfer @fredrickparkes and his family. I had the privilege of surfing with them and celebrating Mrs Landlocked’s birthday – surfing…what a brilliant way to spend your day! We all shared the stoke, traded tips and even swapped boards. It gave me the chance to try a 9ft longboard…a flaming beauty which helped me to catch my best rides ever. With that extra float and stability, I was popping straight up in a fluid motion. I didn’t want to hand the board back! Mr Landlocked had often commented that “longboards rule” – I totally understand why!

In the car on the way home, I couldn’t stop grinning. It had been such an amazing weekend and I thought about what my Dad would have said if he could have seen me, riding those waves and having fun, which is what its all about. I get it now, in a way that I didn’t before last week. Dad was all for meeting people too – he was one of those people that wherever he went, he knew someone and loved making new friends. That part of his personality is very much with me and I am so grateful for the chance to meet up with @fredrickparkes and his family. All because of our shared passion for riding waves. We will be keeping in touch and hopefully, meeting up again in the not too distant future for another weekend of surfing stoke. Watch out though @fredrickparkes …..don’t leave your longboard unattended!

Things are looking up, and in the words of Bruce Springsteen..”there’s better days shining through.”

 

 

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Fun vs progression

By April 21, 2014 Escape, Thoughts

Video: Catching some waves at Saunton 

There is a saying amongst surfers that the best surfer is the one having the most fun. Last week in Croyde, despite a period of high pressure which meant some fairly flat surf, I had heaps of fun catching waves and getting some really cool rides. I don’t profess to be the best surfer in terms of ability, but as far as the fun factor goes, I reckon I’m now a worthy contender :)

At the beginning of the year, I resolved to get myself a GoPro or similar action camera so that I could film myself surfing. After I had bought it, I wondered if it was just a gimmick but having watched the footage back, it’s made me realise that it’s a really useful tool for checking my technique and, of course, to see how much fun Im having!

As I watch the 45 minutes worth of footage back (don’t worry, you guys have only got about 1 minutes worth!), I am seeing someone who has progressed loads since this time last year; I’m riding my own custom board, I’m catching waves , I’m standing up and I’m having fun. But, when I study my technique, I see how sloppy my arms are when I paddle, how long I take to get to my feet, how flat  sometimes my back is whilst in surfer stance and, the cardinal sin amongst proper surfers, using my knees to get to my feet. Frowned upon!

The fact is though, that if I want to progress out of the white water and into the amber nectar of green waves, I have got to ditch the knees approach and improve my paddling. When you are catching green waves, you have a lot less time to get to your feet (probably only a couple of seconds) and you need to increase speed to catch the wave. Watch any YouTube footage of pro surfers paddling for a wave and you will see a sudden burst of energy to get on the wave.

None of this a new revelation to me, yet I still insist on going to my knees. Why? Because I know that by doing so I can catch white water waves and get to my feet pretty much everytime now. I’m having fun and my current technique almost guarantees that and isn’t that what surfing should be about?

Yet I have a goal. My dream is to be able to come down in board size, duck dive, get out back, ride waves consistently, and be able to turn and pump for added speed. I also want to be confident in bigger surf.

To progress, Im going to have to take some steps backwards and start over with my technique. It probably means that my stand up ratio will plummet initially. I need to get out of the bad habits that I have developed and go back to the drawing board.

I have watched numerous YouTube videos on pop-up technique so now all I need to do is practise. The best place is obviously in the water but as Im landlocked, dry land will be a good place to start. Im working on the muscle memory principle – the more times you execute a motion the more muscle memory patterns you set. Practising on dry land though is not as forgiving as in the sea, and with my shoulder injury it’s not something Im going to be able to practise at the moment.

I need some help with a fitness programme that isn’t going to aggravate my shoulder further and get my surf fitness heading back in the right direction. Thanks to a plea for help on Twitter, I know just the guy who can help !

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Kirsty 1 – Crap surf session 0

By March 20, 2014 Escape, Surf more
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I had begun to think that  I was a useless kook who wouldn’t be able to stand up on a surfboard again. The past few sessions sucked and I was struggling to get to my feet. I was desperate for a repeat performance of those amazing sessions in Woolacombe and Mawgan Porth last summer when practically every wave I went for resulted in me standing and riding a wave all the way up to the shore.

So, when a friend announced he was off to Putsborough a couple of weeks ago and asked if we wanted to join him, I jumped at the chance. It was a great opportunity to pick myself up after the rubbish session I had at Saunton the week before.

The night before the road trip, my other half asked me what I was going to do differently and it really got me thinking. The reason I was getting nowhere was because I kept doing the same things wrong and wasn’t making any attempt to try anything different. I had been unable to practise my pop up or build my upper body strength since the Croyde trip in January this year because of a shoulder injury. So, it was time to resort to theory.

During the journey, armed with my favourite motivational fitness track on repeat, I scribbled a few notes. Firstly I thought about how I usually get to my feet and what I was potentially doing wrong. The list was quite long:

  • Starting off too far back on the board
  • Incorrect feet placement (too close together)
  • Going for waves where the power has already gone
  • Not leaving enough time to get set up on the board
  • Chest flat on the board when paddling
  • Feet not together on the board when paddling
  • Taking too long to get to my feet
  • Right knee (my back foot leg) dragging on the board when I push up into pop up position
Then, I thought about what I could do differently and tried to visualise me putting these steps into place:

  • Start further up the board making sure my feet are not hanging over the back of the tail
  • Raise chest off the board whilst paddling
  • Keep feet together when paddling
  • Don’t try and stand up straightaway – try getting into position and working on that for the first few waves
  • Give yourself more time to get set up on the board
  • Try to get your feet quicker
  • Ditch the knees for the whole session…..practise the army crawl technique

 

Ok, I admit that as soon as I got in the water, the whole ‘ditch the knees’ theory went out of the window. The first wave I went for I went into auto pilot mode and went to knees…but then in the next breath, I was on my feet!  I was so stoked that I figured that maybe going to knees wasn’t so bad…it was just the way I was going about it.

The rest of my strategy I put into practice and the result was an absolutely epic session! I don’t know if it was down to the strategising, the near perfect conditions, my lucky new wetsuit, the break or what but it was amazing! I think I only missed two waves overall and the rest, well, I was firmly planted on my feet, riding the waves all the way in and grinning from ear to ear. The stoke from that session lasted hours and days after!

It gave me a massive confidence boost and restored my faith. I’m not a useless kook and I know I can do this. It has given me a massive drive to continue on this crazy landlocked surfing journey.

Who knows where it will lead? J

 

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New year, new focus

By January 7, 2014 Thoughts
Winter surfing - am I brave enough?

Winter surfing – am I brave enough?

This time last year, surfing was definitely on my radar, but not to the same intensity as it is now. Looking back on what I achieved during 2013, it was far beyond what I imagined and it has only fuelled my desire to surf more and go from kook to accomplished surfer.

The New Year is a great time to set some new goals so in addition to setting some personal objectives, I have made a separate list specifically for surfing. It’s more of a list of what I want to achieve rather than resolutions. Here it is:

  • Be able to consistently stand up (not just a handful of times per session!)…then I will think about turning
  • Work on the pop up
  • Learn at least one thing about surfing everyday
  • Understand more about the conditions (tides, currents, winds and what effects these have on the surf)
  • Get a photo of me standing up riding a wave…the only one I have is 4 years old and rather grainy (it could be anyone!)
  • Get a GoPro or similar so I can record myself surfing
  • Get some more followers and expand the scope of the blog (to include interviews, case studies and multimedia elements

I’m hopeless in the winter. The dark nights and cold weather make me want to retreat into the comfort of my home, and with far fewer surf trips on the horizon, it’s easier to think, ‘oh I will leave all the exercise until nearer the spring when I will be surfing more.’ But that’s just not going to cut it.

I remember how exhausted I was after only half an hour during that first session last April….and I don’t want a repeat performance when I finally do get to the coast. To go all that way and be too knackered to continue after half an hour would be a huge waste of time and totally demotivating. It’s this thought, and the fact that I want to do everything possible during my landlocked days and weeks to make the first two items on my list more achievable.

It could be the difference between an average year of surfing, and an epic one!

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Breakthrough…

By August 5, 2013 Escape, Surf more
Stoked! Getting ready for our surf lesson with Pete from KingSurf

Stoked! Getting ready for our surf lesson with Pete from KingSurf

I have had in my mind for weeks now what I wanted to write in this blog post and so here it is…in all its glorious Technicolor truth….

I DID IT!!!!!! I stood up….not once, not twice, but about 12 times in total – I wasn’t counting in the end, but my other half was. And to top it all off, I was actually riding waves!!! I even managed to turn a couple of times, although purely accidentally!

Last week, me and the other half headed to Mawgan Porth where my surf journey began 3 years ago. The place where I had my first surfing lesson and now, after hard work and determination at the gym, I was treated to a private couple’s class with Pete the head coach at the brilliant Kingsurf.
Feeling tired after the journey from the Midlands, I summoned strength, determination and a resolve of ‘it didn’t matter if I stood or not’ and headed to the beach. Pete ran through the 3 techniques for standing up (straight pop-up, knees and army crawl) and having being told that going onto my knees didn’t matter, I decided to stick to that method for now.

After the first few attempts of trying to stand too quickly and raising my hands up in the air (instead of staying low and keeping the arms low), Pete pushed me onto a wave, I caught it and slowly but surely, stayed low and rode the wave in for about 20-30 metres. I was totally stoked and felt absolutely exhilarated. I was standing and recapturing that magical feeling that I had 3 years previously!!! I turned back to look at Pete and Ste (still standing) and shrieked with joy waving my arms in the air. I had done it!!

When it happened a second time, I thought, cool – wonder if I can beat my record of 3 times from the previous lesson? Imagine my amazement when it happened 4, 5 times, 6 times 7 times….!!! I started to believe that I could actually become a surfer. I cried with happiness and relief because I had done it.

So, what did I learn from the lesson? An incredible amount and I also realised that a lot of the things that I do when landlocked have made a tremendous difference. Here are my surfing mantras (well, they work for me

  • Make sure you have the leash on the right foot (I had it on the wrong foot – doh!). Why I thought I was a goofy foot I will never know – Im a regular foot (left foot forward on the board) which makes sense as my left leg was always my strongest when I was dancing
  • Stay low and don’t rush to stand up
  •  Once kneeling (if that’s your preferred method), use your fingertips to almost push up (and keep those arms low!!)
  •  Enjoy it!!! Even if you wipeout and swallow a gallon of sea water
  • Be patient and don’t put pressure on yourself to stand up
  • If you are going to surf regularly, get surf fit! I can’t emphasise this enough. The gym has made a huge difference to my stamina and I wasn’t even tired after the 2 hour lesson. 6 months ago, it was a different story
  •  If your balance isn’t great, use a bosu or indo ball, or, go skateboarding!
  • Practise your pop-up on dry land – ok, so this is not technically my mantra, but it has helped my other half loads and he was standing from pop up lots during the lesson. Tip – use a yoga mat and put a piece of masking tape down the centre to mimic the centre line on a surfboard (if you don’t have your own board). It’s something I will be trying once I have built up my upper body strength a bit more
  • Have a surf lesson, especially if, like me, you have been having limited or no success at standing up. The instructors can get you back on the right track and it can give you a massive confidence boost when you stand up! The guys at Kingsurf are amazing and I would recommend them every time!

 

So, I did it, I stood up. And if you read my blog regularly, you will know that I promised myself the amber nectar if I managed to stand up……my own surfboard!!

Find out more about that in my next blog post J

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It’s all about the balance

By July 9, 2013 Surf more
My star sign is Libra, represented by the zodiac totem of the scales. Apparently, Librans seek balance which is something that I will be looking to improve on during my quest to become a surfer!

When I was younger, I took ballet and modern dance classes and balance was something that I became very good at, but not having kept up with any activities in recent years that promote good balance, I decided to look at ways that I could improve and incorporate this into my fitness schedule whilst having a bit of fun at the same time!

Skateboarding

Getting the balance right – skateboarding fun!

When Jay suggested skateboarding, I thought it was a great idea. Surfing and skating go hand in hand with many similar movements and concepts between the two. A lot of surfers skate and use the board as a training aid to improve their surfing and have some fun when there’s no swell!

So, whilst in Croyde, I spent £15 on a board from a newsagent, figuring that I would see how I got on with it before doing my usual ‘throw loads of money at things straight away.’ Last week, I tested the board along with the rest of the Wolvo Surf Crew and although it’s not a speedy demon yet (some modification needed), I had a lot of fun and was surprised at how decent my balance was. Ok, so I’m not doing turns yet but I gave myself a pat on the back for not falling over and scraping my face on the concrete!

Watching the movie ‘Dogtown and Z Boys’ immediately after our session was really inspiring too and  great to see how surfing and skating come together. It got me fired up for the next skateboarding session! Definitely worth a watch for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

I’m also using the new addition at our gym – the Bosu Ball. It’s similar in concept to an Indo board and helps to promote balance and a stronger core. You can use the Bosu Ball to do your regular standing exercises and I’m using it to do squats and push ups initially but will be looking to build in some more exercises along the way.

Using the Bosu Ball to improve balance

Using the Bosu Ball to improve balance

There are some great videos on YouTube which show how the Bosu Ball (and Indo Board) can be used and how they can be incorporated into your surfing training. Check this guy out for some ideas.

I even came across someone using the Bosu ball to pop up and turn like on a surfboard. Maybe that’s something to try when the gym is a bit less busy!

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