8 Weeks After Moving to Wales, Relocation Crash

I have now been living in my new home of Wales for 8 weeks. January is a slow and dull month at the best of times and last week was not the best of times. I’ve just experienced what I think was a  post relocation crash, triggered by a tough week that had me dramatically weeping while walking through the park with a flat tyre on my bike on the way home from work and looking at jobs and flats back in Leicester at one point. I’m sure most people who relocate get this feeling at some point.

Settling into my new role at work has been a struggle as I’ve come into a department with a lot of shall we say, issues. My crazy landlord has made it impossible for me to stay in my flat so I’m  now looking to move again meaning my sense of home is once again disrupted. I feel more at home in the car park of my favourite beach, mind you I think a lot of folk spend more time there than in their own homes.

My social life is pretty limited,  by that I mean I have one proper friend, others are the people I see in the sea or in the car park.  The sparks of potential  friendships are there, they are just little lights in the dark right now. Apart from a few hours on a weekend I’m alone the rest of the time and I got really fed up of it this week. I’m usually pretty good in my own company but, perhaps it’s never gone on for this length of time.  Friends from home  just assume I’m living the life, surfing with dolphins through sea spray rainbows but, I’m mostly home under a blanket watching youtube videos of cats in boxes. This weekend I spent about 5 hours with Welsh Surf Bird and we had a great morning but, it’s now Sunday night and I’ve not spoken a word to anyone since. I’m sure it’s  pretty normal at this point in moving to a new town on your own but, bloody hell it’s hard going sometimes. I learnt this weekend though that it doesn’t take much to turn it around.

Yesterday I picked Welsh Surf Bird up early and we  surfed a new break for me, there were some delightful little waves perfect for my longboard. We stuffed our faces with cake and hot chocolate next to the fire afterwards and I chewed her ear off with two weeks worth of stored up chatter. Lush.

Gower Sunrise

While we were in the water, looking back at Caswell and out towards the sun peeking around the headland I looked over at Welsh Surf Bird and, alluding to my situation she confirmed exactly what I was thinking, ‘this is why you’re here, don’t let anyone spoil it’ .  My tough week, my dramatic weeping, the urge to get in the car and drive straight back to Leicester, it all washed  away and became nothing I couldn’t handle.  I drove home singing along to 21 pilots full blast with a big fat smile on my face. The sea is such a cleanser. This morning I got up early for round two, this time to surf alone, and now I feel restored to my normal optimistic self, ready take on a tough week and deal with it differently.

Anyone who has relocated will tell you that it’s not easy, there are huge highs at the beginning then crashes when you think you have a handle on your new situation and realise actually, you haven’t. Luckily for me, I have the sea and  it washes everything away as soon as you step in with your board under your arm and feel the energy of a wave under your feet. The sea is like a factory reset for people, we are restored to what we should be, what we could be and all of the unnecessary crap is removed.

The poor  sea though, everyone dumping their angst and problems in there. I like to imagine that all the negative that is washed away from us by the sea  is tossed around, recycled and thrown back at us as something marvelous, as waves. Like a ginormous recycling plant the sea is taking something we don’t need and turning it into something beautiful. So every time there’s a wobble at work I’ll be like yep that’s going to turn into a wave, landlord being a creep again yeah another wave,  feeling a bit homesick and missing the best mate, that’s another 10 waves. It’s rather a nice thought and one I’m going to use this coming week. Maybe you should try it to.

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I Moved to Wales

Four weeks ago today I was waiting in a ridiculously long queue at passport control at East Midlands airport,  fresh off the plane with a glowing tan. I  had  been to Surfstar Morocco then met two of my oldest mates for a week in Fuerteventura.  I had a ball until the last few days when the shadow of what I was about to do descended.

Coming home from holiday this time was to be like no previous  home coming  as I was returning to a place I had never lived before. While I was on holiday, when I thought of home the picture was blank but, home was Wales now and it was confusing.  I had one last night in Leicester at my best mate’s house then I’d be off. New job, new town, new house. That night fear and doubt punched me in the gut, I was winded and I cried myself to sleep, quietly of course so he didn’t think I was bonkers.

I got up on Sunday morning and cried my leg off before I’d even got out of bed, I slipped out of the house to visit my girl BFF then came back to face the inevitable.  We had a last, silent cup of tea and it was time. I loaded the car silently. What was I doing, why was I upsetting the balance, why was I risking so much? I was terrified and devastated. I mumbled a weird goodbye of  very few words to my best mate, I couldn’t articulate anything resembling a proper sentence or even look at him,   I closed the door behind me.

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Heart in my mouth and  tears streaming down my face I got into the car whereupon I forgot how to breath ,  my lungs were crushed. After 15 minutes I managed to calm myself and started the car. This was supposed to be my big adventure, my dream was  to live by the sea and I was doing it  so,  why was I finding it so hard to drive away? It felt like mourning and that’s exactly what it was, mourning the life I was leaving, fear of leaving the security of my normal and fear that things would never be the same again , that friendships might drift and I’d end up dying alone in Wales  but, at least I’d be by the sea right?

I’ve now been here for four weeks, I stopped crying a few miles into my journey, unpacked, explored, spent time with Welsh pals and started my new job.   This is what I’ve discovered since I arrived.

I cannot walk, run or cycle up hills. On my first week an old man with a walking stick almost overtook me just walking up my street from the shop.

Swansea rubbish collection is so complicated that nobody understands it. I thought I’d got a handle on it until the binmen refused to take my bags because I’d done some unfathomable wrong. I’m now hoarding rubbish and don’t know what to do with it. I might drive it to Liverpool with me at Christmas! Sorry mum

Complicated Rubbish

Gower animals are hardcore. Driving across the common in the darkest of dark on Gower  I had to stop for sheep, cows and horses. These little furry bad asses are not like English ones who go to a little shed at night, oh no.  Gower animals wait in the dark and cold  until your are driving along a lonely road, a lonely road a bit like a horror film lonely road.  They then jump into your path and laugh at you while you sit nervously  in the dark waiting for them to move.  I love them.

Welsh people are the friendliest folk I’ve ever encountered from shop workers to strangers in the park, everyone is up for a chin wag. Other drivers smile at you and let you out and people don’t seem to be as impatient and in a rush as I’m used to. I like it. Although I’m spending a lot of time alone which is to be expected at this point in my move,  the friends I made here over the last few years are amazing and the new folk I’ve met couldn’t be more welcoming.

The reality of living by the sea it seems,  is that you don’t surf as much as you think you will. We wait, patiently through flat spells and despair at work when swell hits on a weekday and it’s dark outside before you have even finished. Then, when swell comes on a weekend it’s too big. I am however, finally getting in tomorrow with my new board.

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I was just wrapping up this post and was writing  about how I desperately miss my best friend, I had a little tear rereading the top of this post remembering the day I left Leicester and the absolute weirdest thing happened. I was interrupted writing by a whatsapp from a number I half recognised.  It was a very dear, old friend I’ve not spoken to for ten years, he lives abroad, our numbers changed over time and he doesn’t do social media.  We have searched for each other over the years to get in touch but with no luck. Today he found an old sim in a box and found my number . I’ve had a lovely hour catching up and plan to visit soon.  So, on a last note  of things I’ve discovered since moving,  I guess the most important thing is that time and distance don’t mean a thing when it comes to people we love. It’s going to be ok here.

The End of the Endless Summer Part 1

2016-08-03-14-38-40Since I returned from my Endless Summer , or rather  six week surf adventure in Wales, I have found it difficult to write anything. How do I put into words the seemingly endless weeks of unplugging from normal life and living in a tent, in a field, next to the gorgeous Rhossili Bay, surfing up to three times a day and watching countless sunest?

How do I explain the simple pleasures and slower pace of life I experienced which when written down seem completely trivial and insignificant to other people?  How do I write about the feeling of walking on grass in bare feet every day, about not looking in a mirror and how that made me feel a sense of freedom I’d never had, about sitting quietly outside my tent starring at the night sky with no noise in my head, about the smell of bbq’s and                                                    haze from the smoky fires in the sunset?

How do I write about how I felt at home in a place I’ve never lived, about surfing at sunset alone, with the red sky on fire (see cover photo), about the quiet letting go of nonsense and noise from my normal life, about becoming less wasteful and more resourceful, about how days felt like weeks as I got up with the sun, slept with the darkness and made the most of the in between?  How do I write about the strong,  amazing, women I spent time with , who lit the path for me like the stars that they are, about the revolving door of rather handsome neighbours I had who each taught me something about myself?

I drove away from Gower at the end of summer with tears streaming down my face .  I could barely mumble a goodbye to Welsh Surf Bird for the lump in my throat. It felt like my heart was trying to escape out of my throat and stay there in Llangennith,  like a dog who doesn’t want to leave the park.  I was scared of losing how I felt that summer but, with four hours drive home I had plenty of time to think about how I was going to deal with this.

I stopped off an hour into my journey in Abergavenny to say goodbye to Ozzi, another of the Welsh birds and when I pulled away from her house I knew a decision had been made without me realising.  It wouldn’t be easy and could take a while to orchestrate properly. Although the thought of leaving my friends and the familiarity of 23 years in my adopted home city scared me, looking back at the number of visitors I had over my six weeks away, I knew that distance would be no obstacle to those very long and strong friendships. Surf Bloke had been up and down like  a yo-yo from Lancashire all summer and my surf brainwashing had finally taken a hold of Long Legs who had visited twice and bought himself a wetsuit .

There was nothing I could do but, move there as soon as I could, somehow.

Come to Morocco November 2016

SURFSTAR MOROCCO

3rd to  10TH  or 5th to 12th November 2016 depending on which flights you prefer

IS SURFSTAR FOR YOU?

Have you ever fancied learning to surf? Are you looking for a new experience on holiday? Do you practice yoga at home or want to give it  a try for the first time?

Are you already surfing but, want to progress?  Are you stuck in the white water or afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone?

Are you a solo traveler who enjoys the independence of being alone but the companionship of a group when you want it? Are you a group of friends looking to do something amazing together?

Yes?

Come on my next trip to Surfstar Morocco 

Check out their website here and Facebook page here and excellent trip advisor here 

what to expect on a surfstar trip

Click HERE for a recent video made by the Surfstar team

Surfstar Morocco is a beautiful surf/yoga camp (house) in  Tamraght , about 30 minutes North of Agadir and two miles south of Taghazout. Surfstar is run bu Lucie and Momo and along with members of their family and other Moroccan staff they run a very, very, special place. You will make new friends, you will feel at home and you will very likely want to go back as soon as you leave.

Yoga

Yoga takes place twice a day at 7.30 am and again in the evening after surfing and before diner. Yoga takes place on the private roof terrace with a view to the sea one side and the mountains the other side. Mats are provided. Yoga is for all abilities.

 

 

 

surf_symbolSurfing is for everyone, from first timers to people who have done it before and want to improve.  People are in groups according to their ability. We will go to different spots depending on the tides and conditions that day so you will get to see a few different places. We start the morning session leaving the house at 9.30am and once at the beach get suited up and have a fun warm up all together followed by a proper lesson in small groups with fully qualified and experienced instructors. After lunch which is also provided, it’s time to get back in the sea if you want and  practice surfing, play, have fun or just read a book and relax or even call it a day and head back to the house.  Surf instructors stay at the beach until the last person is out of the sea  at around 3.30pm so you are always safe in the water.

 

food-symbol-clipart-1The Food  food is included in the price apart from evening meal on Friday as it’s the chefs day off. The food is gorgeous. Breakfast is fruit, yogurt, cereals, fresh bread, jam and honey. Lunch is  make it yourself salads and sandwiches. In the morning you help yourself and label your pack up. The evening meal is always 3 courses and is restaurant quality, the tagines are amazing. Special dietary requirements are not an issue just let Surfstar know in advance. You also receive a large bottle of water every morning on the way out to surf so you don’t have to worry about finding a shop.

 

219dbbeefef0dcd45c869f58442ebc5bRooms all are slightly different and sleep 2, 3 or 4 . There are no bunk beds. There is a bathroom and kitchen shared between two rooms. Though there may be chatter and laughter on the roof at night it will not disturb those wanting to sleep early or chill out. Most people are happily exhausted anyway so a late night is around 11pm .

Cost and how to book

€470 per person per week surf package ,  you can then add yoga at 10€ per session with the 6th and 12th sessions free (pay as you go)  deposit 94 euro non-refundable with the balance due on arrival

€570 per person for the surf and yoga package 12 yoga Sessions included  deposit 114 euro non-refundable with the balance on arrival

Both of these packages include

  •  pick up and drop off at Agadir airport
  • all meals apart from Friday night
  • wetsuit and board rental
  • 6 days of surf lessons in the morning and supervised surf practice in the afternoons
  • transport to and from the beach
  • optional surf analysis with the surf instructors in the evening
  • accommodation in a beautiful Moroccan house in a shared room *

Bookings need to be secured with a deposit asap as places do fill up quickly and to guarantee rooms together

*you can ask about a private room when you send a booking enquiry

You will  need travel insurance, Morocco is covered under Europe for most travel insurance policies so check with your insurance provider.

To Secure Your Booking

Please email surfabella@gmail.com in the first instance to check availability. Once I have confirmed there are still spaces you will need to pay a 10% deposit to secure the booking.

 

You will need to book your own flights and make your way to and from the airport in the UK. Cheap flights are from LGW to Agadir with Easy Jet

If you make a booking please join the FACEBOOK group so we can possibly look at sharing transport to the airport and meeting up. There are already 4 ladies booked who have never surfed before and me.

 

 

 

Surf Tour – Cornwall Done

CAPTAIN’S LOG

in the officeI’m sitting outside writting this , it’s 8pm and the sky is pink in the distance , hinting at the last of the sunset. It’s also my last night in Cornwall as I continue my surf adventure North, to The Gower in Wales tomorrow and then onto Pembrokshire, Wales on Saturday.

TWO days have passed with no sign of human life……

It’s been a mixed bag this week where I’ve felt at times quite lonely and isolated, then really happy in my own company in equal measure.  Interspersed with seeing friends a few days I have spent most of this week on my todd.  The week started off great as I picked up a friend who’d flown in from Dublin for a few nights. Much debauchery at the infamous Retorrick Mill was had , that’s a story in it’s own right that to be frank may never be told or quite remembered. I blew my budget for the whole week in one night, my bank statement certainly jogged my memeory on that front.
Due to the high winds there was no surfing but, we’d had fun  and we know, you can’t always get lucky with waves. That’s ok, for two days.  As soon as I dropped her off at the airport that’s when Storm Katie decided I needed some girly company and she more than outstayed her welcome . You can read about my hellish night here.
All By Myself
Storm night was followed by long days and longer nights alone, listening to torrential rain beat the roof of my caravan. I live alone so am used to occupying myself but, what do you do all day in a caravan with no TV and no tasks or chores to fill the time?  I started  wondering,  what the hell am I doing here? Do I actaully have any friends?  Will I die alone? Where did it all go wrong? This  is when I questioned whether I could do this for six weeks in summer and in a tent.

A CHINK OF LIGHT IN A STORMY SKY

Miraculously when all seemed lost and I was going to give in and go home on Tuesday afternoon, the weather turned, the wind dropped a bit, the sun came out, the sky was blue (in patches), I surfed, Kernow Surfgirl dropped by the beach and it all changed.  I’ve surfed today and yesterday and the day before.  I spent wednesday with Kernow Surfgirl  and we had a great surf and some laughs. Then, today I met a nice man at the beach, a surfer,  how unfortunate I’m leaving tomorrow. Who knows he could have been the Silver Surfer. It’s amazing what a turn in the weather can do.

So, coming to the end of the Cornwall leg of the surf tour, having driven the beautiful coast road home from Newquay as the sun started sinking and satisfied after surfing,   I am certainly sad to be leaving this stunning place, it’s got a hold of me and I feel like I’ve always been here . More importantly though,  I’ve answered many questions and raised more about if this is the place I’ll spend my surfing summer and that was the reason I came on this trip.
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 I packed the car with a stupid sad face tonight but, I’ve absolutely nothing to complain about, the sun has not set on this trip as the tour continues.  Bring on Wales, tomorrow’s first Welsh stop is the Gower where I’ll be  calling in on a beautiful soul and Surf Seniorita who I haven’t seen since last summer. I think I might need a chaperone as she also has a little devil in her and I’m in possession of wine, hey ho here goes.

Storm Katie in a Caravan Alone in Cornwall with a Spider

me no likeI’m currently being battered by Storm Katie on the Cornish coast. I’m  cowering inside a caravan and my friend went home today so I’m scared and alone with my wild imagination, great combination.

I’ve never experienced a storm like this, I mean heart pounding stuff, not my usual exaggerations. I’m half expecting to be a news story in the morning. The caravan is shaking as if it were about to take off like the house in the Wizard of Oz and the noise, sounds like a train coming full speed towards me.

 Adding to this a massive spider has taken up residence in the corner and keeps moving in my eyeline.  I suppose we have in common that neither of us are enjoying this storm so perhaps we are on the same team for tonight and at least it’s some company.
There’s never a phone signal here, there’s only one other caravan occupied and the 5 chalets are right down the hill, out of sight and  too far for their lights to provide a little comfort. It’s pitch black when I look out. I’ve tried getting attention on Facebook with alarming status’ so I can at least interact with a humans but, the rest of the world apart from one or two are asleep so it’s me, Storm Katie and the spider, who I’ve named Toto  for the night.
Spider 'friend' Toto
 So far and I’ve no idea how we haven’t lost the wifi or the power but, I have an emergency bag of essentials I made up including a head torch, candles, car key, waterproofs and welly boots and I’m about to go and get the half bottle of red wine left over from last night. How am I going to cope alone in a tent for 6 weeks in summer if a storm while I’m in a caravan has scared me this much? Oh heck.
Right then , hopefully morning will come soon and without incident, see you on the other side.   Come on Toto, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home ………

Why Being a Landlocked Surfer is Not So Bad

It’s been a pretty epic week for UK surfers on the west coast from Penzance to Padstow, Harlyn to Hell’s Mouth and as usual, I missed it.  A combination of being 3 hours from the nearest break and being broke after holiday meant all I could do was watch on the webcams. I’m also still a bit broken from Morocco so it’s probably best that I stay in dry dock.

The Silver Surfer's House

The Silver Surfer’s House

There are a so many down sides to being a landlocked surfer but, instead of whingeing about it I started to think about the plus sides. Of course, I’d rather be living in a beach house right in front of my favourite break with the Silver Surfer but, I have to put a positive spin on my landlocked reality. Please, just humour me this is part of my therapy.

the benefits of being a landlocked surfer

You will ride anything. Someone once said to me that the best time of your surfing life is when you are beginner as the better you get the worse the waves get. I get this, the better you get at surfing  the less  likely you are to get in onshore chop but, as a Landlocked,  rubbish surfer progress is much slower and so this phase of getting in for anything and loving it  lasts longer.

Generally, property is cheaper inland in comparison to near  surf spots. My cosy attic in the East Midlands is cheap as chips and on the salary I’m currently on with only working 39 weeks a year,  keeping living costs low is paramount.

Every surf is a holiday because you have to travel and stay over night.  You take every wave you can grab and surf until the very last moment you can because you know next week when you are home you would give anything for one more wave, just one more……

You will discover the beauty of this amazing country. I’ve surfed in North and South Wales,Morning Fistral Devon, Cornwall,  North Yorkshire and Dorset and there’s 100’s of miles of coast I’ve yet to see let alone Scotland and Ireland yet to discover.  If I had a break on my doorstep perhaps I wouldn’t have explored the Uk coast so much.

You go to huge efforts to surf , which proves this isn’t just another fad so your mum, partner, boss, mates from the pub can piss off.

Transport links are really  good. I have 3 international airports under an hour away. This makes Portugal, France and Northern Spain viable for short breaks. Being centrally located also means it’s equal distance to the East and West coasts of the UK.

The Only Mermaid in the Village

 You are the special one. You are the only salty soul at work, at the gym, out of your friends or in your family and no matter how crap you are at surfing you’re always going to be the best one around you. For someone who is as crap as me this is a fantastic illusion even if it’s not true.

You will meet a lot of new people.  In an effort to connect with other surfers I joined a number of online communities and as a result  I’ve  met some wonderful folk in person who I might never have reached otherwise. This is especially true of connections I have made through  Surf Senioritas  and this blog. I’m building a little network of surf buddies all over the place.

Excitement.  The anticipation of a surf  never grows old and for the Landlocked surfer this anticipation has many manifestations. There’s the booking time off work, the countdown,  lists, planning, researching accomodation, reading about spots and  then the nervous checking of the surf report in the run up to S day.    Quite simply,  anticipation is the sweetest part of longing.

Holiday Blues , First Day Back from a Surftrip

I arrived back in the UK less than 24 hours ago after another fabulous surf trip to Surf Star Morocco.  I’m never  prepared for the shock of the first day at home. I’m so flat today I’m only a  few moments away from sobbing my heart out and I feel like I’ll never get over it.  I took  my  first walk to the shop earlier. Down the cold grey streets, walking past the  grey houses and  the grey people it hit me,  this is my grey life.
As I sorted through my bag and grains of sand fell on the kitchen floor I thought about  the warm colours  of Morocco, the deep reds and earthy oranges of the houses which  glow in the sunset when I look out towards Taghazout.  The splashes of  bright  blue of the fishing boats and  the jalabas and head scarves of the camel guides. I remember  the unknown smells and sounds, the fires that filled the village with a smoky haze, the mosque’s call to prayer , the orchestra of dogs barking in the distance and  the inky blanket of stars at night.
Of course a  trip to Morocco always means surf, fun and some massive, massive laughs. But,  it almost always has some sort of transformative effect on people  and this trip was no different. Having been through what can only be described as ,  the trauma of being a beginner surfer I had the joy of having two friends along for the ride going through it for the first time. While Surf Bloke went off to do ‘grown up’ surfing, we named ourselves Team Circus on account of our ridiculousness on the beach.  It was an absolute pleasure  to watch the highs and lows, the epic battle of body and mind  and finally the reward when they both got to stand up and ride a wave. What a beautiful moment on the last day when the entire beach and the line up erupted into cheers every time someone got a wave, after all,  we’d all been through the battle together.
The peacefulness and total detachment from normal life that people always feel at Surf Star gives you head space to think about the things your brain is normally too busy for. At one point I forgot what the inside of my house looked like.  Many people during our week said they had thought about the things they want out of life or want to achieve  and were  motivated  to make some changes back at home, surfing will do that to you. It gives you a motivation to go out and grab life by the balls  outside of the water too.
So, with heavy,  thankful hearts, tired limbs, a collection of bruises,  a serious ibuprofen addiction and a head full of happy memories all we can do is accept a return to  normality tomorrow, start work on the grand plans we have come back with  and plan the next trip. Thanks to the wonderful team at Surf Star Morocco once again  xx

Surfabella Surftrip is On

moroccon adventure

If you read my post entitled Tired of Solo Surftrips a few weeks ago you will know that I convinced my friend who I call  Long Legs to come on a surfing holiday to Morcocco, despite being a non surfer. Hoo-rahhh.  Long Legs is also Surfabella’s, Art Director, and Chief Designer, more to come on what he’s tinkering with later in the year.  He also  makes a smashing cup of tea in our meetings. We love tea.

 

Also coming is Surf Bloke, my ever  patient surf buddy and Surfabella’s  Tech Guru.  I normally beat him up when I’m in a Surf Sulk so,  for protection from my sulks he’s bringing  his non surf friend along too.

So, as all three of us are away we are on shutdown here at Surfabella. Apart from posting a few snaps,   our out of office is on. The Yorkshire Tea bags and suncream are packed, lets go!

Bonjour Surfstar Morocco, Au Revoir cold, wet UK

Team Surfabella xx

Surfabella_logo

Tired of Solo Surf Trips? How to brainwash your mates into coming surfing with you

UPDATE:   Today is a momentous day in the brainwashing process of my non surfing best mate. I’m about to pick up his first proper surfboard! It started slowly and recently the brainwashing produced a result. The purchase of a hood, boots and gloves and a lush winter surf at New Year was closely followed by a ‘ I’m hankering for a wave’,  and today the process is complete! Congratulations Long Legs, like Kelly Slater said, surfing is like the mafia, once your’e in you’re in. Welcome.

Read my original post below about how it all started.

Finally, I have done it. I convinced a non-surfer friend into coming on a surf trip in an attempt to make them into a surfer. Not a weekend in the UK, oh no. My non surf friend, who also had no inclination to visit Africa, is coming on a one week trip to Surfstar Morocco. Hehe, I’m good at this.

So why is this a triumph? Well, I don’t have any surf friends living anywhere near me, the nearest being a 3 hour drive away meaning there’s little opportunity for impulsive one night trips over to Wooly or Scarborough. To address this, like Dr.Frankenstein I’ve been trying to actually  make a surf friend, hopefully the outcome will be that at  least one of my mates will  occasionally say, ‘yes I’m in’ when I decide to drive the 3 hours to the sea for one night rather than me actually creating a monster.

Of course, I can go away alone and I’m not too bad at meeting new people, I’ve done this and I’ve loved it. Sometimes though, you just want an old pal to come along on a trip. You know where you are, your friendship has a familiar rhythm, you can have a full conversation including jokes with punchlines with just a funny look and no words, you know there’s someone there who will whoop your wave when necessary even if they didn’t see it, and vitally, they know what to order for you at the bar while you take ages over your post surf shower. More than anything though, is that you just want to share the wondrous thing that has taken over your life with your friend so they can experience even a little of that feeling themselves.

So, you see why I’m stoked that I convinced Long Legs into coming to Morocco. A whole week there with me, Surf Bloke and the SurfStar Morocco crew and he’s sure to want to surf again, meaning the possibility of an ocassional  surf buddy living just around the corner.  For anyone in the same position, trying to convert a friend this is how I did it.

HOW TO ‘MAKE’ A SURF BUDDY FROM A NON SURFER IN 7 SNEAKY STEPS

Subliminal Messages. Two years of mentioning the words surf, sea and waves at least ten times an hour every time we meet even though we are not talking about surfing.

Gentle Suggestion,  England is so cold, did you know it’s 25 degrees today in Morocco? You really should get some winter sun you look tired and pale.

Great Expectations. The waves are perfect for learning and the teaching is fantastic you’ll be up on the first day (all true)

Tactical Gift Giving: Happy Christmas, here you go, have a rash vest.

Feigning Nonchalance.  ‘I haven’t booked my flight yet’   Me, nonchalantly and audibly, ‘whatever’.  Inside screaming, book the fucking flight now, I need to convert you.

Boobs: There will be loads of hot girls there in bikinis and yes they will need help with their sun cream. I’m ashamed of this, sorry in advance to all of the surf chicks in the world, I know this is a very low move.

Blatant Lying.  No, we won’t be surfing from dawn until dusk for 7 days and not see any of the culture and no you won’t get bruised ribs again.

While writing this post,  now that it’s all booked and paid for  I asked Long Legs for his version of what I said  when I was trying to sell a surf holiday to him and  this is the exact response I got .

‘It’s hot all year with more tagines than one man could possibly eat.  The water is like glass, not like Fuerte or Wales (the other 2 times he tried there were pretty rough conditions) so you’ll be up on the first day. The man brings you coffee on the beach. You can buy a rug for 50p and yet a bag of spice costs £50 (a reference to Surf Bloke who famously came back from Agadir with said bag of spices) Eldorado can be found up on the hill, there are goats in trees’

This made me laugh and realise that I’ve not really been sneaky  or strategic at all. I didn’t need to be.  I just told the truth about how fantastic Morocco is. Apart from not being able to guarantee glassy waves, the rest is true.  It would be nice if once in a while after this trip we do a surf weekend here or there but, if he gets really good, better than me during this week there’s going to be big trouble and we all know what happens when I sulk .

If you haven’t read my post Surf, Sulk and the Hulk click here to read it.

Cold Water Surf Tour with Jessie Tuckman

I first came into contact with competitive surfer Jessie Tuckman a year or so ago when she commented on one of my very first Surfabella posts. I was chuffed that a proper and awesome surfer that I had no personal connection to had read my blog, at the time I thought it was just my mum and my mates reading it out of loyalty.

Hailing from the non surf capital of the UK , Manchester,  Jessie took to surfing a little later than most girls on the competition scene and shot through the rankings pretty darn quickly. I do a terrible injustice to her story by cutting it short but, you can read a recent Guardian article about her journey from Manchester  to Newquay and from office to beach here.

Life on the competition  trail isn’t easy and there’s a distinct lack of  lucrative sponsorship contracts for our UK girls. The reality is , it’s bloody hard work and  surfing the cold and oft brown waters of the UK  isn’t exactly the sun soaked dream the big sponsors want to sell. Jessie does have the support of some awesome local sponsors but,  in between training, surfing, competing, coaching and working has to raise additional  funds herself.

Jessie’s latest project aside from the zillion other things she has on the go is to embark on  a Cold Water Mini Tour and she has a crowd funder set up to this end . I caught up with Jessie just after Boardmasters to find out a little more about the tour.

Hello. How was Boardmasters

Boardmasters was fantastic! I have enjoyed the surf. It started off a solid overhead and clean day 1, I competed in a mushy 3-4ft and then we had a few small days. But the sun was out and that made it great for mulling around in the shopping area and watching the skaters on the half-pipe. The final day had good surf too. Peony Knight won with some impressive surfing.

 You seem to have a crazy, busy life. With a job, training, surfing, coaching and everything else what’s a typical Jessie day when you are not on the road?

I’m up at 5am, normally have breakfast and do some stretching then off to work. I clean the Stable, which is a pizza and cider specialist on Fistral Beach. (convenient location) They are one of my main sponsors too. Once I finish I’m normally straight in the sea for a morning of surf. I feel the most awake and energised in the morning. Then time to eat lunch and answer emails, contact companies that might want to hire me for work or discuss sponsorship and interviews. Surf number 2 after than and then the gym for a surf specific workout.

So, what can you tell us about  the Jessie Tuckman Cold Water Mini tour?
 It’s still secret right now but it is going to be exploration of a coastline in the British Isles that is not covered as much as Cornwall and Devon by the surf mags. It is a beautiful, cold location. I will be meeting up with some female surfers on the way who will share their local knowledge with me. That’s all I can say at the moment but if readers would like to follow me at www.facebook.com/jessietuckmansurfer there will be updates closer to the time and I will also post a daily photo from the trip…so maybe they will be able to guess where I am? who knows! anyway It will definitely be exciting.
Get Involved
 
Tell us more about the Crowdfunder?
My  sponsors help with some of the contest costs and coaching but,  when I add it all up it still isn’t all covered. I use my personal wages to cover most of the rest. Although for this trip I just can’t afford it without a fund raiser. I’ve set up a Crowdfunder to help  fund this  Exploration of Cold water British Surf , specifically funds are needed for fuel and photography fees.
Win a Snugg made to measure wetsuit

Click HERE to enter via Jessie’s Crowdfunder

Pledges of £10+ will be entered into a raffle,  the main prize is a Snugg Wetsuit voucher of £300. (it  covers a summer suit but can be used towards a winter one if preferred) It’s super cool as its made to measure and there are so many cool colours to make it really radical. I’ve also got runner up prizes so far of a hoodie, some sunglasses and a sticker pack.
I really appreciate all the help that surf supporters can give. Even if they don’t win they are really helping me on my quest for wave exploration, exposure of british women in sport and keeping it all close to home.
Thanks Jessie and good luck with the tour. I hope I can catch up with you somewhere along the way. x

AWOL – Gone Surfing, Stopped Writing

Sufabella has been neglected

ws021

There I’ve admitted it. Apart from finally becoming surfabella.com and some design gubbins going on behind the scenes, I have not put pen to paper for 3 weeks. For the last year my writing has been centred around the strive to surf more as a landlocked, non-driver with a full time job. However, I’ve addressed some of these obstacles and a new life where I can surf more is starting to take over. The bottom line is , I have less time for writing .

Some awesome things have been happening , a recent trip to Llangennith was superb even if the waves were not brilliant every day. I had a really good reconnect with my surf bloke bff who I rarely see, we had big laughs in the sea which we recently haven’t as  he’s out back being all good and I’m sobbing with frustration  in the white water like a giant baby.

We met the awesome and amazing Carys and Sarah from Surf Señoritas. We had a fun little surf with them and I paddled out back for the first time since my injury last year, we had a mojito party in the sand dunes,  I bought a new board and I’ve been invited as a guest to Salt Rock’s Croyde View Festival this weekend. These are all things I’d normally write about. I’ve been scribbling words in a book when I can but, this has been reduced to bullet points and now I’m here writing about not having enough time to write rather than writing about surfing.

The end of invention or just a lull?

My worry is this , is it really lack of time that has stopped me posting or have I killed my inspiration? Do I need something to lament in order to be inspired to write? Am I like a rock band who write an amazing first album they can never quite match because the struggles and heartbreak they wrote so passionately about before success are over?

I know that I won’t document every surf trip I ever go on or detail every little surf related incident as these events are becoming more of the norm for me. I’ve even stopped taking 600 photos of me with my board, my board on the sand, me on my board, my board next to another board etc. come on, we have all done it.

I sound like I’m complaining don’t I? Starts blog to moan about not surfing, uses blog as a sounding board to help direct life to surf more, surfs more, moans about not writing. I wouldn’t swap it all for the world though. I guess this is just a lull in writing, I’m a bit busy and  tired and my focus has now shifted from trying to make things happen to being on the cusp of actually doing it, of having a surfing life.

It’s not all standing still at surfabella.com either. The new look site will be live soon, the artwork is almost done (thanks to The man with long legs who from now on I’ll just call JT)  and there’s other exciting things bubbling under the surface.

As September looms with the promise of warm Autumn swells, so does the possibility of massive adventures during my 13 weeks of freedom in the coming year. For now, I have to keep putting in the seven day weeks in my two jobs,  see friends and family in between, surf when I can and be grateful that I’m busy and exhausted for such a great reason . I’ve been busy living the life I was writing about trying to get.

Perhaps writing is much like surfing, you spend most of the time waiting for waves and when the swell comes you had better be ready! Maybe I should just learn to enjoy the lulls x

Surfabella The First Year

Happy Birthday to Me

It’s the first birthday of Surfabella today. A year ago today I hit publish on my first post then ran away and hid in a cupboard because I was a bit shy about sharing my words.

 Surfabella started as a way for me to channel my longing  (stropping and sulking)  for the sea and to surf into something constructive rather than just continuing to alienate every human and some animals around me by boring them to death with surf talk. It has become so much more.

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect  – Anais Nin 

So, I find myself looking back at the year I turned 40 and a year of Surfabella. Sharing my writing for the first time was pretty daunting but, I have learnt a lot about myself from the jumble of letters that fell onto the page and by being so honest with my pen. The act of writing it all down seems to have carved the path ahead for me so I can see which direction I’m headed in.

Looking Back

The year was not without its ups and downs and some major upheaval but, who wants to know about those? My shoulder healed, I ran a half marathon I didn’t think I’d be able to do so shortly after my injury. I met fellow blogger LLSG who has become a true friend and great surf buddy. Along my travels I have met and built up a little network of friends and  lady surfers  all over the place, specials thanks to Surf Senioritas for this. A year of firsts, I visited Morocco, Cornwall and Devon for the first time and surfed Scarborough and North Wales.   I had my first winter surf at Christmas and saw the snow on mount Snowdon from my board in the sea which was  magical!

I finally learnt to drive and bought a car. I just made my first long trip to Cornwall on my own and the grownups or police didn’t stop me. I met my surf idol Steph Gilmore and my music idol Mike Patton of Faith No More. I interviewed Surf Mama,  Wilma Johnson and was invited for a surf with Jessie Tuckman ( thanks Jessie, and no thanks to the stupid A30 traffic that made me miss it)

I lost a bit of fitness, gained some back, lost a bit of confidence, gained some back and my surfing deteriorated then improved. I almost moved to Bournemouth, then didn’t.   I continued to try and change my landlocked situation so I could get to the coast more and I finally found a way.  As of September I will only work 39 weeks a year, for ever. I have an Endless Summer for ever!

 Putting all the me, me, me aside for a change though, the absolute best thing to come from  Surfabella has been the messages I have received from people who said they have been inspired to do something after reading one of my posts.  People have said they can identify with the honest and not so glamorous truth of learning to surf or just trying something new a little later in life and of not being perfect or gorgeous or brilliant at everything.

If one person reads something I write and nods or smiles as they recognise a piece of themselves in my words, if just one person says I can do this where normally they’d say I can’t , that’s more than I ever imagined when I tentatively wrote my first words here last year. For that and for the 4828 readers in 61 countries I am truly grateful.

Looking Forward

 So, while celebrating this great year Surfabella is looking to the future and some exciting changes are on the horizon. Regular readers will know my friend,   ‘the man with long legs’,  who also happens to be the talented artist behind my logo. From here on in I’ll call him JT.

He’s currently in a darkened studio in deepest, darkest Leicestershire ( no, it isn’t locked from the outside)  working away on the new look for a revamped Surfabella which is coming soon.  We are also working together developing some products which we will be launching later in the year. You might say we are now officially working in a tiny team, we celebrated this last Friday by drinking way too much beer, red wine and bourbon.  I’m stoked to officially welcome my biggest supporter, encouragement, friend and pointer out of typos to Surfabella. Here he is being myserious, he’s a bit on the shy side as opposed to moi who is an incurable show off.

Introducing  JT the newest member of Team Surfabella

Introducing JT the newest member of Team Surfabella

On the surfing front I’ll be embarking on my first year of having the time and means to get to the coast more often. So, keep reading to find out where this adventure will go next, I’ll be blogging about what I get up to and hopefully meeting some of you along the way . Me and Surf Bloke BFF are off to Morocco again in November and I’m hoping to see a lot more of the UK coast.  Will I ever get out of the white water? Will I meet a handsome silver surfer? Will the Baked Bean stall on more hills in Cornwall causing traffic jams? I’m really excited to find out, stick with me .

                                                                   Thanks again for reading xx

A Blind Date in Cornwall

I have a blind date in Cornwall tomorrow! eeek! Ok, I don’t have a date as such, I haven’t been set up with a foxy silver surfer. It’s not really blind either, oh and it’s not a date. Ok, tomorrow I’m going on a surf trip with a friend I have never met in real life. This trip should have taken place 3 weeks ago but, had to be changed at the last minute. This has really worked in our favour as it was flat as a pancake  and this weekend is looking decidely not flat, hoo-ra!

Fistral this week

Fistral this week

Aussie Surf Chick and I have been chatting online for quite a long time now, we ‘met’ because she sent me a lovely message about one of my posts here on Surfabella. I supposed we know as much about each other as two new friends if not more, perhaps you give more away tapping away on a keyboard.

At one point, because she has no pictures of herself on Facebook (total opposite to show off here) I did accuse Aussie Surf Chick of being Steph Gilmore. Steph had come off the world tour injured, Aussie Surf Chick is Aussie and blond and a surfer. Was she a champion surfer in disguise, befriending me for a project? Aaaahh or a documentary about how the world champ can turn a fat 40 year old kook into a brilliant surfer?

I now know that Aussie Surf Chick is in fact not Steph. Nevertheless, we have a lot in common, not least that we are both Landlocked and do not get to surf very often. This has all changed for both of us now that I’m finally driving. So tomorrow at 5am I’m loading up the Baked Bean and headed on a 5 hour drive first, to Taunton to collect her from the London train and then onto Newquay for 4 days of surfing, eating nice food, checking out The Wave Project’s Summer Surf Challenge on Fistral, chatting, trying not to buy everything in the surf shops, maybe watching some of the longboarding comp at Cranntock, relaxing and whatever else comes our way.

  I’m really quite worried about loading the boards on the roof rack for the first time, I’ve tied boards down before but, the paranoia is still there doing it myslef for the first time! Worst case scenario is, I bottle out of loading them up for the last bit of the M5,  Malcom (my board)  stays in  the front seat which is where he will be for the first leg of the journey and Aussie Surf Chick squeezes into the back seat behind me until we hit the A30. We are so used to conversing without seeing each other’s faces anyway that it won’t be unusual for us!

To some people it might be a bit odd, holidaying and sharing a room with a stranger but, I have never thought this way. I’m also finding that within the surf community, particularly amongst the birds  it’s pretty common. People go on solo trips all the time, at surf camps you end up sharing rooms with strangers, people meet up with each other via Facebook groups and organised events. If you have a passion for something and your regular mates don’t, you have to put yourself out there, and that often means going  alone until you build up some connections. Even today I’ve had messages from surf girls I have never met suggesting we meet up or go for a surf in Newquay.

There’s a warm welcome waiting for us in Cornwall even though we are strangers in town and it’s not just the amazing temperatures forecast for early next week. Now we just need to get there and I need to not scream about the boards all the way down the M5 from Taunton or Aussie Surf Chick just might run in the other direction!

See you in the water x

In Search of My Endless Summer Part 2

This daft face every day please

This daft face every day please

Following on from Part 1

After my first experience of  surfing I was adamant this was not a midlife crisis, a phase, a fad, a fling or a fleeting interest.

I know that some friends thought it was, especially when I joined a gym and stopped drinking on school nights after my first surf trip. This was out of character, completely and  I know I have a tendency to get over excited about  new things but, I knew surfing was different.

Aside from the weight and fitness issues I had, which needed attention, I started to rethink what I was doing back at home. How  could I change things in order to channel more time into surfing? Of course, holidays and surf trips are not real life but, I’d met so many people who were making surfing a priority and having the time of their lives so why not me. I wanted that daft post surf smile on my face and sand in my belly button on a daily basis!

In pursuit of some sort of surf life,  I have had untold ideas about how to make this happen. Below  are the ones that made the shortlist, the ones  I invested hours and hours of time into researching, planning, doing business plans, making contacts and even travelling for.

My first surf lesson was in Corallejo, Fuerteventura in 2013 and I took rather a lot of trips there that year. So much so that I started to really feel at home there and I feel a strong connection to the place to this day. I became sure that my future as yet unknown surfing life lay there, somewhere, waiting to be stumbled upon and here my first plan was born.

 Clare’s Chubby Chargers (this was always just a working title)

Hosting older ladies  surf trips in Fuerteventura. My usp was me, approaching 40, having been significantly overweight prior to starting surfing, not being  sporty in any way and still struggling. I was the best advert for my own idea, so I thought. There wasn’t much on the surf market aimed at women like me. I wanted to share my surf epiphany and new lease of life with other women and to inspire them. I also hoped it would mean I’d get free surf trips! The idea faded as I only get 4 weeks leave a year and I realised that  hosting a week or two of a surf trip would actually limit my own surf time. A great idea if only I had more leave. I still have all the costings and business plan somewhere perhaps in the future this is something I could look at again but, at this point it wasn’t meant to be.

Casa Surfabella

Off the back of realising Chubby Chargers wouldn’t significantly change my life style the next idea was to rent a villa, initially for 1 year and open it as  a surf house in Fuerte. It was to be done with one of my best mates from Uni, both of us had worked in hospitality management for years so this would suit our skills. The surf house was to be called Casa Surfabella, now the name of this blog. We looked at some villas and came up with a concept and a vision of how it would operate. We did some sums and had a robust business plan.  The stumbling block this time, the start-up money we’d need, we were both broke, living wage to wage and neither of us wanted to get into significant debt.  This idea is not dead in the water and may be something to revisit.


English Teacher

In between these 2 plans came the teaching English plan which was something I’d often thought about over the years and seemed quite straight forward. I already have a degree but, not a teaching certificate. Two years in a row 2013 and 14 I applied for a CELTA , twice I got a place on the course and twice I had my application for 16 half days of study leave over a year declined by my work. I couldn’t afford to do an intense course over four weeks or have the time off for it so,  that was the end of that, for now.

Move to Bournemouth and Work at Monkey World

Next up came a chance to move to Bournemouth with Casa Surfabella Uni mate who has a flat down there.  This seemed a no brainer!  Get a job, move and live near the sea. Again, being of meagre means influenced the plan,   I had to have work to go to and couldn’t just take off.

I knew Bournemouth wasn’t exactly the best surf spot in the UK but, it could  at least put me in reach of the sea every day and not too far from decent surf. This was when I realised I had to be driving before the move otherwise it would be torture to know I was so close but, couldn’t get there. Me and the dude went down to BM for a weekend, got drunk, looked at the flat, walked on the beaches, saw people surfing , adventured along the coast, drove past Monkey World and stopped at Stone Henge on the way home. I decided I could see myself living there and set about applying for jobs and trying to come up with a date to aim for.

I remembered seeing the Monkey World sign and quickly became obsessed with working at Monkey World, I applied for a job there.  Soon a letter arrived with the Monkey World logo on, I’d got an interview at bloody Monkey World. I had it all planned out, work at Monkey World, surf and live in Bournemouth. I never did make it to my Monkey World interview because  the next plan introduced itself. It’s  probably a good job really because I  often have uncontrollable laughter about monkeys that becomes very unfunny for others after about 10 minutes. There doesn’t even need to be a monkey within ten miles of me for this to happen,  and yes I did just say Monkey World as many times as you think!

monkey world

Work the Festivals

Before I could take Monkey World any further a letter arrived followed by a quick day trip to Salisbury for an interview and a job offer. Suddenly everything had changed. Here was the opportunity to work our asses off in summer for 18 weeks (they said), work 90 hours a week (they said) and we’d be begging for a day off (they said) have the winter off and come back in time for the next season (I thought) and so the idea of The Perfect Year was born.

I planned my Perfect Year, starting in September I would visit the European WSL tour stops, I even booked a hotel in Hossegar for the Roxy pro and made plans with Landlocked Surf Girl  . After that I’d go to Canaries and Morocco for the European Autumn before heading out to Central and South America after Christmas for the rest of the year. I planned to spend some time in Cost Rica and get a sloth as a pet. At last I felt a massive sense of freedom and relief, like I could breath, a weight had been lifted off my chest. This was it.

As I made plans, wrote lists and looked at dates I could finish work to start the events season I got an email detailing the work schedule for the summer and my heart sank. There were huge 20 day long gaps with no events, they’d told massive porkies! With this schedule I wouldn’t even break even and no way would I be able to have a perfect year. After speaking to the porky tellers I reluctantly had to accept that this was not my route and I got into bed for 2 days and hid from my distinctly non sandy belly buttoned, landlocked existence.

Look Right under My Nose

After about a week of succumbing to feeling really miserable about my plans falling to pieces and fear of never being able to sample a life of surfing a really simple idea came to me from out of nowhere, I was just going to ask my boss about a 4 month sabbatical so I could at least salvage some of the perfect year. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

 As I found myself typing the email I realised this was not the solution I was looking for. What would happen after the four months? I know people will think why you don’t just go, jack it all in and deal with things as they happen. I’m not in the right position to do that for many reasons. The last time I took off with no plan or money I was only 25. That is not what I want now. Things change, needs change and what we are comfortable with changes. I was looking for a way of having long term security and freedom not a short lived high and I knew there was a way. So,  I deleted some of the email I had composed and  on 25th March I typed to my boss……

I’d like to talk to you about a permanent possible change to my working hours can we make a time to meet?

In the meantime, because I knew whatever happened I had to get mobile,  I started driving lessons.  I  gave myself a 5 week goal to get my test passed. On 27th April I passed my test and 5 days later collected my car, The Baked Bean. Somehow, things were starting to look like they were about to fall into place!

Finally, last Friday I received this letter…………………………..

dmu letter

 So there we have it, freedom and security. After all the trying this and trying that I found my Endless Summer right under my nose and it really will be endless as I have this freedom every year.  I get to keep my little flat and my life here.  I never really wanted to leave I just wanted more time to surf. I get to stay working in a pretty cool job but, I’ll have 13 weeks a year to do whatever the hell I want! I might even be able to revisit some of those other plans I made. Maybe you will see the Chubby Chargers on a beach in Fuerte staying at Casa Surfabella next summer, who knows?

In pursuit of whatever it is I’m trying to do, as I’m still not sure what it is exactly apart from surf more , I have finally carved a path to the beach. I still have no idea what I’m going to do when I get there but, as long as I have my board, some waves and a belly button full of sand then I’ll know I’m on the right track.

In Search of My Endless Summer part 1

Do you believe in the idea of love at first sight, that you can fall in love in a day? The first day, I knew. Even though I hadn’t known exactly what I was looking for, that day I knew I had found it and that I’d found a great passion. I could no longer sing along to U2’s I Still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking For and actually mean it. I could no longer cry eat  cakes (yes it is a thing) when I had pmt lamenting over my life having no meaning.

I knew that I’d found a love that would consume me, that would make me a better person, take me to new places, give me focus and stop me feeling restless. I knew this love was going to change my life, at the time I had no concept of how but, I knew. OK, ok enough with the silly dramatics. I just bloody loved surfing from day one and I wanted to do it all the time.

 From the first day I caught a wave on my belly I knew I had to find a way to make this surfing malarkey a bigger part of my life. From  21 lessons of  not standing, (that is rectified now) to 2 years and 4 months of pining for the sea, frequently weeping loudly due to being landlocked and not being able to drive, this need had become greater and somewhat more urgent than ever.

A few surf trips a year were just not enough to scratch the itch.  My approaching 40th birthday also made me realise that I had to act now, time moves so fast. I had to try and dedicate more of my time to pursue my dream of surfing now and not wait another five or ten years. The question was what would I do, how could I do it and where would it be?  In the quest for my own Endless Summer, with very limited funds but, an unlimited supply of  ideas and enthusiasm, I set about trying to carve a path for myself to the beach .

Part 2 here 

Surf Mamma by Wilma Johnson Review and Interview

9781849535915

You do not have to be a surfer, a would be surfer or mama to enjoy this book. But, be warned, if you have a dream on the back burner and think, I can’t or I’m too old or what about the kids, reading this book might mean you just have to go for it!

I don’t have kids, I have never lived in Ireland or France, I have never been married, I’m not an artist and I’m still at the stage of surfing that Wilma Johnson was on about page 50 of her brilliant book Surf Mama.

Why then do I hear my own voice in Wilma’s story? Our lives couldn’t be more different.  The effort, effect, emotions, frustrations, and eventual rewards of learning to surf are just the same though. Perhaps more importantly is the impact surfing had on her life outside of the surf, the places it takes her, the people she meets, the direction she takes, the friends, the laughs, the beers, the stories.

I nod and laugh when her words seem so familiar it’s almost like she has taken them from my own mind with some sort of voodoo thought hoover and emptied the bag onto paper!

wilma art

In a moment I might be under the wave swallowing seawater and small jellyfish, but right now I am an ancient princess of Hawaii, I am a bikini model, I am a goddess before the crest of a monster billow.”

Haha! This is exactly me when I’m on a 0ft wave on my 9ft monster board!

There are many books telling  people’s surf story out there but, this one is different. It’s really well written for a start. Surf Mama is more than a book about a woman surfing. It’s a wonderfully written account of a witty and adventurous spirit who takes life by the balls and does things her own way. Along the way there’s travel, adventure, frustration, disappointments, a little romance, a lot of fun and a few beers on the beach.

Wilma is a successful artist and throughout the book  Wilma mentions  a work in progress. The fact that this body  of work exists and is now complete brings the book to life even more for me, you can see The Seven Surf Mamas here . I looked at them while I was reading the book and it added a huge, bold, splash of colour to the scenes I had imagined.

I absolutely adored this book, I read it on a solo surf trip to Morocco and lots of other people there had read it to .  I decided I had to tell Wilma how much I loved it so I did on twitter. Much to my surprise and delight she replied and we had a brief exchange regarding donkeys and camels.  I thought I’d push my luck and ask her to answer a few questions,  here’s what she had to say.

I loved the book, it’s the first surf related book that I have identified with, and all the surf chicks I know who have read it felt the same. Why do you think it strikes such a chord with people?

wilma smilePart of the reason I wrote the book was that I got sick of the stereotype of surf chick as Californian bikini model–it’s about going out there, getting a wave, having a laugh, having a beer, not about being a bloody cheerleader….I think women identify with that, and it’s not just about surf, I’m saying whatever you want to do, go for it!

 How’s your surfing coming along? Ready for Pipeline yet? 

I’m really pleased with what I’ve achieved, in the beginning I thought if I could just stay standing for ten seconds, my work would be done! But Pipeline will have to wait because I got a frozen shoulder –                                                                    very painful and I’m in dry dock right now….

 While you were learning, back in the days of being scared of 1 meter waves, what was the best piece of advice to you were given to help you push through and progress?

 Enjoy the Wipeout…. It’s always going to happen and if you’re scared of it you’ll never relax. Don’t worry about looking silly – part of the fun of surfing is learning to fall over again. Have to say we sit in the bar and laugh at the wipeouts in Guethary……

 The Seven Surf Mamas series is fab and obviously connected to your surfing. Did your work change as your surfing progressed?

 My work has always been autobiographical, and when I started the series I couldn’t stand up. I felt like I couldn’t finish the first painting until I could, so I think in a way the painting inspired me to surf better!

When the book ended I wanted to continue hearing your story, I felt like hopping across the channel to come and have a beer with you to find out what you were up to. Obviously I didn’t as we are complete strangers and that would be stalkerish. Any plans for a follow up in the pipeline? (excuse the pun)

 Well, due to the frozen shoulder, my world tour ending with me winning the Pipeline Masters is on hold, but I am writing a new book … and if you’re ever down this way, do stop by for a beer!

There you go, you heard it here first! (possibly if you don’t read Wilma’s blog)  Wilma Johnson is working on a new book. For those of us who have read Surf Mama a giant hoo-rah and those that haven’t, get to it!

Wilma comes across as the kind of lady I could be friends with. She’d be your get drunk by accident and have an adventure with friend.  Me and Landlocked are off to the WSL (ASP) women’s tour stop in France in October so we might just stop by for that beer and take my other BFF Steph along too!

 

You can buy Surf Mama  for Kindle for just 99p for a limited time HERE
or
 HERE in good old fashioned paperback

Keep up with Wilma’s adventure via the following  links

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Magical Morocco Surftrip

 Getting There

387821_112750995508342_964498276_nUnfortunately my much anticipated trip was temporarily cancelled due to some serious floods in the Agadir region but,  was reinstated a few days later as Surfstar Morocco had managed to get operational.  So,  with a few hours notice I booked a flight from Manchester to have a quick 4 night trip and  I found myself at Agadir airport where I was picked up by Bahs one of the surf instructors.

 The drive through Agadir really brought home that I had crossed into a different continent; the look, the atmosphere, the what seems like chaotic roads and driving that works perfectly well somehow, the buildings, the dress of the people, the fleeting sound of people’s voices as we speed past, the odd goat at the side of the road, roadside stalls, smells wafting from cafes into the van window. It’s a feeling I love and haven’t felt for a while. Like much of North Africa it’s a little shall we say, different to what Europeans are used to. For many including me this, along with the warmth and hospitality of the people is what is so charming and appealing about Morocco.

 The House

We pulled off the coast road and up a winding hill to the SurfStar house to be enthusiastically greeted like old friends by Lucie, Pip and Laura and to be told that as it was only 1pm they were going to get us fed, settled into our rooms and get us shipped off to the beach for a quick surf asap. So far so brilliant!

 I was overwhelmed as Laura gave us the welcome tour at just how gorgeous the Surfstar house is, especially the first time I walked into the covered rooftop lounge/eating area. I love fairly lights so this was an easy win for me. The view from the outdoor roof terrace, the enchanting sounds of Morocco in the background as the sun dips into the sea. My room was equally lovely and I was spoilt by having it all to myself. Although, the whole house is so spacious I imagine even during busier times it never feels horribly full.

 I had the almost full package (everything apart from yoga) which included meals, surf, room and airport transfers. The food was fantastic. I feel a bit bad that I don’t remember the names of the chefs, they are all local, the food is delicious and they are always smiling.  Breakfast of yummy local bread, jam, fruit, cereal and sometimes eggs was a great start to the day and the coffee was divine.  Lunch was brought to the beach and evenings were 3 courses, soups, salad, chicken and lamb tagines, cous cous, chocloate mousse, all really good post surf healthy home cooked food. One night a week it’s the kitchen’s night off so we headed out for pizza in Taghazout, 2 miles away by taxi.

 The Surfing

The surfing itself consists of a prompt 9.30am departure and setting up a full on camp on arrival at the surf spot with little umbrellas and cooler boxes full of food. There’s friendly beach dogs playing and running around looking for a fuss or for you to throw stones for them to fetch, there’s camels that you can ride, herds of little goats (but they are disappointingly  not in trees)  and a zillion cats hanging around the fishing shacks.  At Devil’s rock you can get a great cafe au lait for a euro in the little beach cafe a few steps from the surf. This really is a full day of surfing, arriving at the surf spot around 9.45am and leaving around 4.30pm.  The morning consists of a proper lesson and after lunch is followed by free surfing in the afternoons. The guys are on hand on the beach making sure everyone is ok but leave you to get on and practice. I had teachers Barak, Bahs and Khaleed and Boba the photographer was always there with a word of encouragement too. I definitely progressed during my 4 days and only wished I could have had longer. I’m someone who needs a few days to build their confidence back up again after a break from surfing so I felt like I was just getting into the swing of things and it was time to leave.

It was nice to see Lucie, Laura and Pip take advantage of a quiet week and join us for a surf too.  I got very attached to my big green board that we named ‘the hulk’ and to my fellow surf buddies, two awesome guys from Germany and an American bloke who called me ‘the hulk’ . The waves were a bit dodgy the first two days on account of the storms that had just passed but, after that they were some of the cleanest conditions I’d surfed in. So much so that my dodgy shoulder behaved itself as I wasn’t in a paddle battle with the ocean to get back out on my giant board.

On my last day I felt quite emotional leaving, I’d only been there 4 days but I felt a real bond. I also felt refreshed and stoked from the surf. As a 40 year old very wobbly improver travelling alone I had been worried about whether a surf camp was for me, would I fit in and would I find common ground with people, would I be the oldie left in the corner? I had nothing to worry about. If you want to go to bed at 8.30pm go, I won the prize for first to bed every night and was very proud of my status! And of course the comedy of surfing crosses cultures, languages and ages. There’s so much potential for making a buffoon of yourself while surfing that doing it together instantly creates a bond and limitless material for banter at dinner time.

 As my flight was at 8pm they let me stay surfing until the last minute at 4pm. I came back to the house to grab my stuff and say bye to Lucie, Pip and Laura. On coming down the stairs for the last time I stopped purposefully at a certain point to take in a deep breath and commit how I felt to memory. You see, there’s a smell when you walk into the ground floor of Surfstar Morocco, just as you pass the stairs down to the basement. It’s a smell that almost knocks you off your feet. Forevermore when I get hit with the smell of neoprene I’ll always remember walking down the beautiful tiled stairwell getting ready for the days surfing just about to start and how happy, relaxed, welcome and at home I felt.

Tamraght offers access to all of the same surf as it’s famous neighbour Taghazout but, it’s quieter, cleaner and less busy.  I’m afraid I can’t comment on the yoga as it wasn’t scheduled for the week I was there but, it is available and information is on the website.  If like me you have avoided surf houses because of some of the shenanigans going on and poor accommodation then fear not! Surfstar is a million miles away from this. I’m planning to go back again with my bloke surf mate and cannot wait to see the place in full swing with more people gathered around the dinner table and more people to have a laugh with, it’s certainly going to be different to my first visit but, I’m excited all the same.

Surfstar has a relaxing and inclusive feel and there is an established, brilliant team that work hard to nurture this. They seem to genuinely care about each other and the guests and have a passion for surfing, hospitality and people. Lucie and Mo have created a warm family environment and once you arrive you are in the Surfstar family and you will be going back!

 Further Inofrmation

Click here for SurfStar website

Booking enquiry here be sure to mention Surfabella or Clare UK in the ‘how did you find us’ box

 For flights  check skyscanner for all countires and airlines flying to Agadir

Plus Size Surf Model for a Day

This year there’s been a lot of heated discussion within the online surf community about the representation of female surfers by their  sponsors and in the media. Coco and her naked surf, Anastasia’s twerking and as always Alana and well what can you say, she is always guaranteed to divide opinion.

The girls have been criticised for doing steamy photo shoots and the negative influence this could have on young surf girls and  many see this objectification of female surfers as undermining their talent as actual surfers. Why aren’t they shown ripping in the water?  Others say leave them to it and stop judging as it allows them to continue surfing.

All  I know is that I cannot relate to this created image at all . I’m older, rounder and struggling to progress as I can’t surf as often as I’d like. I’m excluded by most brands due to their sizing which to me is madness, I’m not even that big, I’m a UK size 16 and there must be 1000’s of women like me who have money to spend.

Luckily I’m older now and with the confidence that comes with maturity(41)  this exclusion does not affect me so much as it  makes me grumpy when I’m shopping for board shorts. I don’t blame the girls themselves, they have to conform to the surf girl template if they want sponsorship that allows them to surf professionally. So , I wondered how they felt about doing it and then I started thinking imagine if I did.  The thought of it made me really laugh to myself and well, that’s where it started.

BALANCING ACT 1The suprise shot of the 4 my happy face is all I see

 I employed my mate as chief (and only) photographer, and we headed down to Fistral on a sunny morning last week during our holiday there.  Of course we had no hair and makeup or styling but, for a laugh we set about mirroring some of the shots of the beautiful, famous surf girls. I thought this was purely a comedy project with maybe a little message to women about body confidence and that it would produce some Benny Hill type giggles . I was surprised to find that it was a little more meaningful than I imagined it to be.

ALANA CLASSICIt was so cold I forgot to do my hand on the back of my head and refused to go back in without a wetsuit! Clearly I’m a chunky monkey next to our girl!

 I’m clearly a bigger girl, I have lost a fair bit of timber since I started surfing 18 months ago in an effort to get fit and strong and to improve my performance and I still have some way to go. I’m about as far away from the gorgeous blond surf girl image you can get. I thought I’d feel insecure about sharing these pictures but, to my suprise it’s been quite the opposite and this is a huge breakthorugh for me and my confidence.

I look at the first one, ‘Balancing Act’ and all I see is a snapshot of happiness. There’s a memory of an amazingly,  fun,  surf session we had right after this picture was taken and how much laughing we did in the water that day. It’s a reminder  how utterly content I was being by the sea, spending time with my best girl friend.  I don’t look at my chunky little legs or folds on my wobbly tummy. I look at my face and the light in my eyes, I’m so happy here and I feel beautiful. I’m at the beach and about to do the thing I love the most in the world and it’s written all over my face. I have never in my life seen that in myself until I saw this photograph.

I realised that I absolutely love these pictures. I’m not embarrassed about my body even though I’m far from perfect. I’m too consumed by  surfing to care. I’m strong, I’m healthy and I’m fit. I can lift heavy weights, run 13.2 miles nonstop and surf a long session without having spaghetti arms for the next 48 hours. I’m proud of me.  This is the body that lets me surf  and run and do the things that make me happy  so I blooming well should look after it and love it.

SNOG THE BOARDThis one was quite embarassing to do, I felt a right plonker

 If surf brands aiming at female consumers want a blurb to attract  female customers it should be something like this;  no matter your size or shape get out there and live your life, move more, strive to improve your health and wellbeing, do stuff, scream with excitement, swallow seawater and eat sand and laugh until it hurts. Be kind, encouraging and supportive to other girls and women and help each other , watch the sun go down, watch the sun come up, be outside as much as possible, stop wasting time trying to be perfect and start spending time creating perfect moments.  Maybe a  little cheesy but, so true!

MERMAIDhaha! More over  friendly seal than mermaid!!