Gower Gold April 2019

Confessions of an English Opium Eater nee Surf Addict

For me, there’s definitely a link between being unable to surf and writing. I started this blog five years ago when I was a frustrated, landlocked wannabe surfer. Unable to surf or travel to the sea, I had a major shoulder injury and was off my face on pain killers. There’s a theme here because although I live by the sea now, I find myself in dry dock again, off it on pain killers and sick and I’m tapping away on my keyboard for the first time in months. I’ve also written three bits this morning for another project I’m working on. I reckon I must be channelling Shelly or Keats, only able to write on opiates. For authenticity I should really be writing a masterpiece in Italy but, a little blog post in Swansea will do for today.

This year has felt like a bit of a disaster on the surf front, I can count the number of decent surfs I’ve had on one hand. January 3rd was a good one, 31st January too. More often than not I’ve been injured, ill, in shite waves, broken my board or lost my fin. I’m not sure if it’s age related, I’m nearly 45 and my body might just be rebelling against me or if the surf gods are trying to keep me out of the sea for now. I know I should be grateful, people I know have it much worse, I am after all just having a rough patch with my health, temporarily in dry dock. It’s just the only reason I moved was to surf more, it’s my opiate and I’m not getting my fix. I also have an acute awareness of time passing and that every day I don’t surf is one day closer to the day that I hang up my wetsuit for the last time. This will happen; it’s going to happen to us all. Yes, I know that’s bloody dramatic and ridiculous but, look how quick the last five years have gone.

It’s certainly not all misery and lament, I’m just having withdrawals from surfing. There has been some good happenings too. We’ve had a few golden evening here on Gower and had our first evening beach fire, summer is definitely in the air.

Back in January after a few years in white water as an occasional surfer my buddy Long Legs (read how I brainwashed him into surfing here) got his first proper belter from out the back and he went right for the first time coming face to face with the wave. On top of that it was a magical day in Newquay when the whole town got snowed in, we had to abandon our car in town after sliding down the hill so we walked back to our apartemt and decided to go surfing. There was a kind of unearthly silence that comes with snow, the absence of traffic and people and we walked down to Fistral making the first footprints in fresh snow. It was an unforgettable session.

I also had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Ellie Wainwright at the February Surf Senioritas meet up. Photographer Ellie was taking some shots for an article she had written for Surfgirl. Ellie is a lush lady and her work speaks for itself, she’s definitely one to watch. Take a look at her website here. Anyway, the magazine was published and they used some of the pictures with me in. Now as we know, I’m not exactly Surf Girl’s desired demographic . I’m too old, fat and cynical but, it will be lovely when I’m an old lady to look at that magazine to remind myself who I was.

Finally, after 5 years , loads of ‘ it will do for now’ boards and frankly annoying poor Lee in the Custard Point shop to death, I got my first new board. A unique, hand shaped 8ft magic log fresh from the workshop and into my hands in April. I’ve not really been able to test ride her with my recent setbacks but, the little I’ve been on her, ‘The Kumquat’ ( see the colour) has all the promise of being the best board I’v ever had, I can feel it. I’ve now got 3 weeks to recover fully for the Surfsistas longboard weekend and I’m resting and taking care of myself as much as possible before then. I’m hoping I’ll be able to really put The Kumquat to the test and report back on the board and the Surfsistas longboard course in the same post. Right then, I’m off for a back treatment with my Chiro, I’m seeing my Dr again about my rattling chest in the moring and very much hoping I can get my next salt water fix soon. Otherwise I may, in the mad persuit of my blue opium be driven to do something daft like move to Cornwall.

NB: refering to myself as a surfer is in no way claiming to be any good . I happily confess to having basic skills and being a dick in the water

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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.

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.

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

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

One Week, 783 Miles of Motorway for Waves

….Two surf trips , One hell of a great time

In the last week or so I have driven 783 miles for surfing. I feel like I don’t want to see the inside of the car for a little while.

Road tripping

Road tripping

My blind date in Cornwall came and went in a flash of sunshine, chatter, surf and blue sky. Before I knew it I was dropping Aussie Surf Chick off at Taunton station,  back at work, and 180 miles from the nearest surf almost as if the trip had never happened.

The night I got back after an excruciating 7.5 hour drive on the hottest day of the year I got into bed, deposited sand from various parts of my body into the clean sheets and drifted off to sleep. As I sank into the mattress I felt  a not unpleasant ache in my shoulders as my brain, still believing me to be on the water, gently rocked back and forth in my head like a bobbing boat.  As usual the Landlocked blues kicked in the moment I woke up for work the next day. This time, it wasn’t to last too long though.

A few days after arriving back from Cornwall, with washing still hanging all over the house because of the rain,   food shopping still not done and sleep still not caught up on Landlocked Surf Girl suggested a day trip to Devon.

An unused leash has many uses

Alternative use for a leash

So, on   Sunday morning at 11am after a 200 mile drive (thankfully not me driving)  we pulled into Braunton and into torrential rain, thunder and sheets of lightening. On the journey down I wondered if this was what life would be like now I can drive. Two surf trips in one week is normal to those who live by the coast and they would be reading this thinking so what.  To someone who lives so far away from the coast and sometimes goes 4 months without a surf and who recently couldn’t get anywhere without masses of planning  and mainly relying on  public transport,  this was a momentous week!

The tale of both of my trips is way too long for a post and shall stay instead in my head, suffice to say they consisted of waves, sun, fun, food, laughs, hanging out with friends old and new, a few bruises and many discoveries and ideas for future trips . I surfed 4 breaks I hadn’t been to before and I tried 5 boards ( including my Malcom)  over both trips. This has now led to an unhealthy obsession with a particular board I’m going to have to buy! Well, Malcom does get lonely, he needs a friend. If anyone wants to buy it for me for my birthday that would be great!

Apart from a hand/head/foot tan and a car full of sand this is what I took from my trips:

When driving to Cornwall from the Midlands add 3 hours to the sat nav, the sat nav does not know about Cornish time or tractors!

Surf spots change so quickly, if it looks good now get in don’t have a little rest because in 2 hours it will be flat or a mess. Equally if it looks shit right now that doesn’t mean it will look shit in an hour

The Beached Lamb Cafe do the best breakfasts and have the loveliest staff and they even list ‘sprinkes of sunshine’ as ingredients in their menu

Devon is not too far for a day trip

A gopro is not for posers, far from it.  It makes you look like a massive manatee and catches all your mad faces but, it’s great fun to look at afterwards

I feel really at home in Newquay and could totally see myself down there for 6 weeks next summer

Sunsets on a west coast beach are awesome, always watch the sunset, never turn down a chance to watch a great sunset

So, that was ‘2 trips week’ . Next up is my 3rd, so it must be annual now, Birthday trip to South Wales only two weeks today!

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