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.

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Run 530 Leicester

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I’ve never been a speedy runner, I’ve never found running easy and I spend most of my time while running looking at people’s backs in the distance but, I plod on. I try to ignore my frustration at being so slow and  rejoyce the fact that a few years ago I couldn’t  plod anywhere. Lately though,   I’ve been in a deep running rut and my interest in the activity as a whole has been minimal.
I ran an extremely difficult half marathon a month ago, it took me 3 hours, I was 4th from last and I hated it. I hadn’t been motivated to train and I didn’t run once in the last 16 days leading up to the event. I wasn’t fit for a 5k never mind a half marathon and  I started to think, what’s the point in it, I’m rubbish at running anyway. Since then,   I’ve had several difficult ,uncomfortable short runs that my heart hasn’t  been in. I haven’t finished a run feeling great for I don’t know how long. So, with little reward of late I started giving little effort, hence my rut.
When I signed up to a 5.3km running event called Run 530 which started at 5.30am, I imagined running through my home town bathed in the golden light of sunrise. I had thoughts of  birds singing, the first sounds of the city waking up as shops opened and the first buses crawled out of town on a glorious summer morning. Run 530 originated in Italy and is hosted by Perfect Motionhere in the UK.  Looking at the 530 gallery I was seduced by sunrise pictures of happy Italian runners in Venice, Modena and Rome. I did not get that!
Run 530 UK Leicester
This morning, my alarm went of at 4.15 am, it was raining. I left my house at 4.45am, it was raining. I walked to the meeting point in Victoria Park Leicester, it was raining. There’s a pattern forming here. How wonderfully British the weather decided to be.  On the walk from the car I started making preemptive excuses for my impending, poor performance and talking about being the last over the line.  To my surprise, and delight as I wan’t feeling very motivated,  my super fast runner friend said she’d go my pace to help me.
At the start line we were greeted by lots of smiling faces, most in disbelief that they had managed to get out of bed before 5 am for this event. Everyone at a 530 run wears a tour t shirt which can be collected before the event and  were coincidentally in Leicester blue this year, a possible connection with Ranieri being Italian and the LCFC premiership win perhaps?
Instantly, it was clear that the atmosphere was friendly, inclusive and non competitive. There were no race numbers, no times, no start gun and no pacers. There were cheers and laughs at the start line mostly relating to the weather and time of day and lots of chatter all the way round.
The 5.3k route took us past Leicester landmarks such as New Walk (down was much nicer than up), the clock tower, Leicester Cathedral and the Highcross. The rain didn’t matter one bit and despite going a bit quicker than I would if I was on my own I started enjoying it, an unusual occurrence lately.
The route was well staffed by  marshals and a photographer on a bike who kept popping up in different locations, clear signage meant nobody went off track and when we made it up New Walk there was a lady waiting to give us our lush medals followed by drinks, fruit bowls and a pink goodie bag – hoorah! The goodie bag may have been a bit girly, one man said he was going to wear his fake eye lashes to work that morning but, for me it was a nice change from a healthy chew bar tasting of soil.
I finished with a big grin on my face for the first time in a while.  I put a bit of extra effort in (mainly thanks to my girl coach for staying with me and the novelty of the event)  and got a lot out of this run. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong lately, I guess to get the runner’s reward,  you have to actually try and something about today’s event got me to try again. I feel motivated to get back to it now.
I really enjoyed this event, it felt like we were co conspirators in a secret club nobody knew about because the city was mostly asleep, I imagine some people were lying in  bed with windows open wondering what the noise was as 160 pairs of feet padded through the silence of town at 5.30am.
I really hope Run 530 returns next year. Participants are encouraged to run or walk the route so it’s definitely an event for anyone of any experience and ability.  Leave your ego at home, this event is all about community, people and fun. Perhaps it’s just a post 530 high but,  I’m now thinking of becoming a Run 530 tourist and doing them in Italy next year. I can see it now, ‘Report From the Road with Surfabella, On Tour in Italy’,  wonder if there’s a job going that fits that description?

Its not too late to join in the final Run530 UK event in Derby on 15th July sign up here
If you are thinking about starting running or have just started read my post on being a beginner here

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.

Yoga for an Absolute Beginner

yoga is not for me or i’m not for yoga?

So many people have suggested I take up yoga to compliment my  surfing. From yoga teachers, which isn’t really surprising, to surf instructors, friends, seasoned yogis, new yoga converts and pretty much every article I read about surf fitness includes a yoga for surfing video or guide of some sort.

You can read about Kernow Surf Girl’s recent adventures in hot yoga for surfing  here .

Despite taking up numerous activities I’ve managed to avoid yoga . Why? Well, I’ve been a bit scared of it to be honest. Seeing the lithe, slim, beauties coming out of yoga classes at surfcamps is  intimidating. They look like they  would have no problem getting into position, that holding their tiny body weight on one finger would be a piece of cake (or maybe not hence the lithe)  I can’t even  sit cross legged because my right knee won’t go down .  I’ve always thought yoga just wasn’t for me and I’ve ended up seeking out  bonkers, boisrous things like insanity and circuits.

The feeling  that I’m not an ideal  candidate for yoga is in part  down to  the way I’ve interpreted it, as the domain of the affluent, honey haired, yummy mummies and the Gwyneth Paltrows of this world  where as I am more Rebel Wilson .

I’ve told myself that I have enough things I’m  struggling to master without adding another one. I have visions of falling on my face and sweating like a beast in my first class , of being laughed at by the beautiful people who don’t have a hair out of place, then me  sulking and never going back. So, the idea of yoga has been put in a box, sealed and hidden at the back of a cupboard.

phot credit http://www.fremontfair.com/blog/uncategorized/yoga-talk/

However, my love surfing is greater than my fear of  inadequacy and I need to improve and get out of the beginner stage I’ve been stuck in for two years.   So, much to my delight and fear in equal measure,  a friend who also happens to be a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Wellness Consultantt, co director of Santosa Wellness and all round goddess of peace  and calm, suggested she could help me get started. Why on earth I hadn’t discussed this with her before I don’t know.

 TOMORROW I’LL BE AN ABSOLUTE BEGINNER YOGI

Tomorrow I’ll meet her to get my bespoke yoga practice, we’ll go through it all together so I can be sure I’m doing things right ready for practicing at home, I can ask questions and she can catch me when I fall. She’s made me feel confident and comfortable that yoga is for anyone and I feel pretty excited. Report on my progress to come.

 

A Momentary Lapse in Fitness ( that lasted a year)

the beginning of the quest

I appear to have had a lapse in my quest for improved fitness and weight loss. I haven’t just missed a few classes  and eaten a cake. This lapse has been a year long, my motivation has been AWOL despite the fact that I’ve been surfing more than ever. The quest began in February 2013 and I made some significant changes up until June 2014.

  • lost 60-65 lb (fluctuated)
  • dropped 3-4 dress sizes (same)
  • quit smoking after 24 years
  • took up running and fitness classes
  • ran a half marathon 4 months after my first ever run
  • started to love my self a little more

The quest,  as I appear to be calling it, was borne out of an obsession with surfing after I had a lesson on holiday. I loved it but, knew I’d never be able to stand on that board with the body I had. At 17 stone with a bmi of 41 and an age of inactivity behind me, I waged war on my old habits and set about making some positive changes. I was strict with my regime but, had to be. My old habits had a loud voice that would try to tempt me back but,  I would not be distracted. As my body and mind improved the elusive ‘getting up’ on my board got closer and closer and I was more focussed than ever.

Every ache, stitch, pain, struggle to breath, bead of sweat and mad face pulled was for surfing and eventually the hard work paid off. After 21 x 4 hour lessons I was up. I was standing on my board. My motivation grew as I shrunk. I was  slimmer than I’d been in 15 years and fitter and stronger than I’d been in my life. Outside of the water I was happy, proud, confident, focussed and felt so sparkly on the inside it felt like it was bursting out of me.  The only thing I needed  was to be  fit, strong  and on track for surfing. It’s this very thing that may have been my downfall.

losing my way

They say pride comes before a fall and just as things couldn’t get any better,  I had an accident that put me out of all activity and in dry dock for  for 12 weeks.  I was in  a sling for 6 weeks and off work for 5. I couldn’t even dress myself or brush my hair such was the pain in my shoulder and neck. Home alone all day bored, in pain, feeling sorry for myself, not able to even stick to healthy foods as I couldn’t prepare anything, an army of white bread toast and crisps knocked at the door, I had to let them in.  I was hungry.

 Eventually my injury healed enough to slowly get back into activities but, it didn’t come easy. Iv’e tried, I have. I would convinced myself I was back on track for a few days or a week here and there but, it never lasted. I did managed a half marathon although it was more about stubbornness to finish than the training I had put in because I barely trained. I’ve never got back to the level of commitment I had before. I could stand on my board so I felt working hard to get stronger wasn’t as important and I blamed my dodgy shoulder for everything.

Time was separated in to before shoulder-gate and after. Where there was newly gained  lean muscle there is pudgy,  soft,  squidgyness once again. Where there was no question about going to body pump or pilates there are excuses. ‘I’ll start next week’ has been hanging  heavy in the air every weekend along with the stale smell of the cigarettes I nick of friends after a few drinks. There’s a faint echo of I can’t or I’m not good enough in the distance.

Lubricated by a few glasses of wine on Friday, I was talking about hating myself for letting it go AGAIN with my friend Long Legs. (hate is  such a horrible word to use about oneself)  I said something along the lines of ‘why have I let this happen, I’ve put weight on, I’ve lost my exercise mojo, I worked my ass off ahhh I’m a failure ‘, I whined. ‘ Cut yourself some slack kid’, said Long Legs and then something along the lines of, ‘ look how far you have come, all these changes are not easy and you did them all in one go, stop beating yourself up, you can’t always be perfect’. I sort of half heartedly agreed, hoofed down the last of my bottle of wine and went home.

back on the right path

The next day  the simplicity and sense in what Long Legs had said dawned on me . I guess sometimes it takes another voice that’s louder than the doubtful one  in your head to tell you that you are doing ok.   I can’t be ‘on it’ all of the time, it’s not possible to do so and have a life, things get in the way, you can’t always get a run in after work, sometimes you want a pint instead of the gym, sometimes you have a break which is out of your control. My quest was so much the centre of everything I did that when I was forced to stop I couldn’t handle it and that had affected my ability to bounce back. I’d been sabotaging myself because I felt like I was failing after not getting back in the swing of things after my injury.  Before it was all and now it was nothing, either manically up and muscular  or miserably down with a muffin top.

I realise I need to find balance, a middle ground where I’m making progress on my quest but, I’m not going to throw it all away and wallow if I hit a bump in the road or have a few mad weekends. A break in fitness and a weight gain is not a failure  it’s an expected part of my life that will occur from time to time.

I have decided that I haven’t come this far to not finish the job. How I deal with this lapse is a measure of the person I have become. So, I’m going to  regroup and go back into battle with a new strategy with balance as my focus, just like on my board balance really is the key.

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

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!

 

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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An Unexpected Journey

An unexpected Half Marathon

20141026_124434I did a half marathon on Sunday!  As regular readers will know, I  withdrew from this race a few weeks ago due to fitness issues and self doubt but, after a  4 day solo surf trip to Newquay getting back to what’s important, namely surfing, I had a change of heart.  On my trip I met some geniunely  inspiring and lovely Surf Senioritas who I hope to spend more time with in the future. Thankyou Mellow Waves and  The Days I for the marathon 3 hour power chat and the hot chocolate. Connecting with these girls in person was great, we have such familiar joys and trials with our surfing despite being at differing levels.  I felt I’d met them before.  I had a great surf with some new friends and  I also  booked a trip to Morocco one rainy afternoon at Matt’s Surf Lodge . This  all injected me with some much needed positivity and suddenly I had motivation again, I was in  the gym, running at lunch times, feeling good and I made a decision to attempt the race with just four days to go. This is how I found myself at the start line of the half marathon on Sunday morning!

DSC_4521On the day I really wasn’t sure I’d make it, I was running 10 miles farther than I had for months but,  I got my head down and got on with it, my goal was just to finish in one piece even if I had to run/walk most of it.  I mind surfed most of way around especially after mile 8 to distract myself from knee pain and muscles like  burning stones. I surfed waves I’ll never see with skills I’ll never have in a lovely wetsuit of my own invention, all the while trying to zone out from what I was actually doing .  I did it, I got this medal and t shirt and somehow finished just 36 seconds behind last years time despite not training. What a great boost to get me going on my training for my upcoming surf trip.

New Goals

So, on to the next goal. Morocco, in 6 weeks. I’m going to Surfstar for a week and I’m super excited. But, after a summer of excusable inactivity I really need to shed some of the weight I gained and get some strength built up again in order to get the most out of my surf trip. I’m not a weight obsessive but, I keep it in check.  Just  2 years ago I weighed about 17 stone, I worked hard and patiently to get 4 and a half stone off through lifestyle changes rather than a fad diet and I still have a way to go.  To put 10lb on really scared me.  How easily I could be  headed back to morbid obesity! My new size, health and well being still feels pretty new to me and not quite set in stone yet. I felt like I needed a bit of a kick start to get things moving again.

OK, here it is. My before and after from my original weight loss. This was when I hit my lightest, strongest and fittest a few weeks before my injury

 Here are  before and after photos from my original weight loss. This was when I hit my strongest and fittest a few weeks before my injury in May, to get to this same point for Morocco is a realistic goal.

So, what’s this got to do with this picture of Guniea Pigs? Throughout my weight loss journey I used a funny weight comparison list to put my losses into perspective. Healthy, life long weight loss is not about big loss numbers but, the small numbers consistently adding up. This list made me laugh and helped me see how far I had come.  My current goal is to drop  12lb, an average Guinea pig weighs 1lb therefore…………………..meet my next goal!

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Struggling to Get Back in the Game After Injury

As  motivation to return to running and activity after an injury,  I booked a place on a half marathon with around 10 weeks to get ready. Pre injury I was smashing it, I’d recently quit smoking and was probably the strongest I had ever been physically and mentally. I thought coming back after an enforced break would be a doddle and just a matter of building myself up again and that my race entry would help.

 Haha! How wrong I was. What nobody tells you is that returning after injury is harder than being a beginner. As a beginner it’s all about firsts, the first time you can manage 10 minutes non-stop, the first mile, the first 30 minutes, the first time you go out in the dark and rain in winter when you really don’t want to. It’s all new. Everything is an achievement compared to before. Motivation is high, achievements and milestones are reached regularly and so we have the upward spiral, the pinnacle of which is Wooooo yeah! I can do anything!!

Then Boom! you have a skateboarding  accident and you have to sit still and recouperate. What happens when you return to exercise after a break? Well, for me it was self-doubt, lack of motivation, feeling like giving up, thinking it’s pointless, it goes on!  What used to be easy became difficult and that is quite a shock, you are constantly comparing yourself now with the stronger, fitter more successful you of pre injury. Despite your inner voice saying that its ok, you’ll get back to normal you still feel like a failure and like you will never be as good again.  These feelings are not just limited to your active life, they spill into all areas.

 Having friends really progressing with their running is also difficult and something people probably wouldn’t want to admit to or talk about but, I admit it. It’s made me feel pissed off and it’s hard to reconcile being pleased for them like any normal friend would be with feeling left behind and rubbish. I’d just like a bit of TLC,  tea and a hug maybe. I’d just really like to  go for a leisurely run for fun on a Sunday, chat all the way around and then have a bacon butty. I know that’s selfish but, that’s what I’d do if someone was struggling. Being envious of other’s success then makes me feel like a bad person which then adds to my negative feelings which then demotivates me more and so we have the vicious circle. The epicentre of this vicious circle is this internal dialogue, ” I’ve lost my mojo, I don’t care about the half marathon, I hate running and I’m just going to become morbidly obese again because that’s easier and at least I get to eat white bread and cheese! Oh and I’m going to die alone and get eaten by Alsatians”.

I know I can run, I know I can commit, I know I can do a half marathon, I know I can stick to a plan so why am I just not getting anywhere? Why am I sinking? Why am I ready to throw it all away? Why am I letting this happen? 18 months of hard work and determination and overcoming huge hurdles. And then it hit me. I had set myself the wrong goal. A stupid, unrealistic  goal of running 13.2 miles non-stop after weeks and weeks of inactivity and gluttony was like setting myself up for failure before I had even put my running shoes on. I have tried for well over a month and I’ve struggled, it’s as much mental as it is physical and is not directly the injury that’s the problem it’s just the weakness in the rest of my body.  I haven’t even lifted a weight or built up the strength in my injured shoulder yet, I haven’t been to a Pilates class and rebuilt some core strength or to a circuits class for some stamina.  The more I thought about this the more I realised that running was only part of a well-balanced mixture of activities I had been doing to improve my fitness for surfing.

So, yesterday I officially declared to my public,  ( well to my friends on Facebook) that I would be withdrawing from the Half Marathon and over the last 24 hours I have felt a lift in the dark mood I have been engulfed by. I had a lovely chat with fellow blogger  http://landlockedsurfgirl.com/ who has the same injury as me and I felt less alone. It’s not just me who is finding a return to fitness difficult, I’m not a massive failure! I have booked a few gym classes and I’m looking forward to catching up with the girls I used to exercise with every week. I will not stop running but, I will run for the love of it. I want to run over fields in the rain and get covered in mud then go for a cuppa in a country pub afterwards, I want to nip out for a quick half hour in the evenings and smell wet leaves and breath in the crisp Autumn air. I’m going to go to the half marathon on my bike and cheer my friends on all along the route, I’ll supply them with cheering, tangfastics and hugs. I’m really proud of them for all the improvements they made this year and maybe my time will come again some other time. Right now in order to pull myself out of the doldrums I  have to go back to the beginning and remember what motivated me in the first place, there is only one answer. Surfing of course.

 So, as a little treat to myself to celebrate not doing the half marathon I booked a ticket for the London Surf Film Festival http://www.londonsurffilmfestival.com/ to see Stephanie in the Water and Steph Gilmore will be there, the actual real Steph! I’m hoping for some inspiration and a little reminder of what motivates me, I think Steph might be the woman for the job and I always enjoy visiting London! I’m then jumping a plane to Newquay on Sunday for a 3 day surf trip. I’m going alone, I think this will be good for me. It will be the first time I have ever surfed alone and I don’t think it couldn’t have come at a better time. What better way is there to get my equilibrium back than sitting on my board, just me and the sea and the autumn sunset.

Sunset Surf El Cotillo

Sunset Surf El Cotillo

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!!