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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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.

A Warm Welcome in Wales

20160401_144149-1[1]Eight hours after leaving Mawgan Porth in Cornwall I finally pulled into Gower and the warm welcome of my friend and her fella with offerings of red wine, comfort and doritos.  The journey there had been arduous but, once the hills of Wales loomed up in the distance  I felt an immediate sense of relief and a sort of homecoming.

 At last I saw the final  sign to Llangennith which  led me to my friend’s house and  into  a tight hug  that said, ‘we’ve got you,’ . A night of wine, eating, catching up  and possibly the most comfy bed I’ve ever slept in passed all too quickly and I woke to a typical wet Welsh  morning and the final drive over to Pembrokeshire.

I’ve now been in Pembrokeshire for 5 days and quite frankly I do not want to leave Wales.  There has been surfing, coasteering, spectacular coastline, campfires and coastal running. We have seen porpoise playing in the bay, rainbows, ancient rocks, smugglers caves and  beautiful sunsets giving way to clear, clear night skies.
I spent last night sitting  around the campfire with friends old and new,  under a blanket of stars. We could have been ancient people, we are doing what people have done for thousands of years, seeking out a tribe and finding a sense of home and Wales is certainly providing both.

For an exhilirating but, very doable experience  Coasteering in Pembrokshire check out http://jumpbroscoasteering.co.uk/

 

 

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.

Surfing into The Wild (sort of)

 To Deepest Darkest Wales,  Alone

All these months I have been focussed on raising some funds,  passing my driving test and buying a car so I could surf whenever I want and  my imagination has been creating images akin to an advert for Roxy or Magners cider. As soon as I was able to get to the surf everything would be perfect. The picture in my head was of bronzed, beautiful people (oh yes, I’m one of them) basking in the post surf, golden glow of sunset. There are campfires at the beach in the evening  and bbq’s , laughter, chatter and a guitar, of course there is always a guitar. Oh what joy it was going to be and what a massive, beautiful, cliché!

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Then as soon as I got the car last week the reality suddenly hit. I’m surfing on the Gower in Wales on the next bank holiday at the end of May and there is no supporting cast, there are no people to meet at the campsite or fairly lights around the bell tent, it’s highly likely to be raining, I’m white and pasty, I’ll more than likely be cold all weekend and I’m going to be doing this completely on my own.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

I’m scared of surfing on my own at places I don’t know, and I’m so shit at it anyway I doubt I’ll get chatting to anyone in the water as they will all be out the back, far from this idiot. On top of that,  I’ve got my  new board that I won’t even be able to stand up on. What if I get hit on the head by my board? I’ll be fish food!

I have never lit a BBQ myself, there’s always someone to do that when I go away with my inland, mountain goat friends. What if I starve? What if I’m driven by hunger to eat raw sausages and I get sick and die in my tent ?

More importantly, I’m not sure I can put my tent up on my own. What if I can’t do it and it leaks or blows away while I’m surfing, I’ll die of cold and exposure!

What about the nights? I’ve been on surf trips ‘on my own’ before but, I wasn’t really alone. This isn’t surf camp where you are in a happy surf gang all day and meet a never ending rotation people or even a friendly hostel. This is properly on your own. The worst bit is not having someone to laugh with about the wipe outs and to talk shit and drink red wine with until bed time. What do you do, go to bed when you’ve had your tea? It’s a long day from 8am until sleep time for 3 days. What if I get to day 2 and I’m bored or lonely? What if I get scared at night camping. There are wild beasts in Wales you know. What the hell am I doing?

Well, I guess I have to start somewhere and this is where it all begins, I’m the new kid on the block. Finding surf friends does not happen overnight. There are Surf Senioritas in the area so hopefully I’ll meet some of them and that will stop me being eaten by a pack of wild dogs and nobody knowing until they find my gnawed bones and a pile of hair in my tent! I’m going to get a BBQ/pit fire lesson from one of the chaps at home, what better excuse for a meat fest. I’ll forget the roof rack and stick Malcom in passenger seat, ( maybe I’ll print out Ryan Goslings face and glue it to Malcom, he can be my friend) and I’ll be putting my tent up in the living room to check I can do it without help.

 

Maybe I’ll hate every minute of the first trip, maybe I’ll love it. Who knows? It’s an adventure, sometimes it’s going to work out, sometimes it isn’t. If I channel Cheryl from the book Wild I’m sure I’ll get through it. She didn’t know what she was doing at first either.

IMG_1399What’s this? It’s not really in the wilds of Wales? There’s a café selling bacon butties on the campsite? Pubs in the village close by? It’s a really popular campsite with surfers and it’s always busy? ST the surf chick lives in a cottage just up the road in case I’m really in the shit? I could join an organised lesson if I really wanted to? Oh and it’s a no dog campsite so I won’t get eaten by a pack of dogs? So, this drama could be for no reason? Fab, maybe it’s going to be great after all.

If anyone is at Hill End during the next bank holiday, look out for me. Orange car, looks like a baked bean and a red and black tent, I’m small and round and will be crying while eating a raw sausage with my arm round a surfboard with Ryan Gosling’s face on it!