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
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
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
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!