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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Come to Morocco November 2016

SURFSTAR MOROCCO

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

IS SURFSTAR FOR YOU?

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

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

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

Yes?

Come on my next trip to Surfstar Morocco 

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

what to expect on a surfstar trip

Click HERE for a recent video made by the Surfstar team

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

Yoga

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

Cost and how to book

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

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

Both of these packages include

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

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

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

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

To Secure Your Booking

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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/

 

 

Magical Morocco Surftrip

 Getting There

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

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

 The House

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

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

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

 The Surfing

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Further Inofrmation

Click here for SurfStar website

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

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

It’s My 40th Birthday

Age is only important if you are a cheese or a wine

For dramatic effect play the music video below whilst reading

I woke up 40 years old a week ago today. 40? Yes, that’s 40. I can’t get my head around this. It’s half of 80 and twice 20. No, it doesn’t matter how I put it I don’t believe it. I looked in the mirror that morning and I still saw a young girl. My morning creaks and groans and my hangover told a different story which I chose to ignore.

After my run and watching the sunrise at Corralejo I came back to change and as I pulled on my pink vans, some board shorts and faith no more T shirt I did wonder, am I one of those old people trying to cling onto youth and looking really, really sad? Should I really have more hoodies in my wardrobe than actual tops and more trainers than real shoes? Should I be skating around in band t shirts and having girl crushes on rock singers? Should I be rocking up at surf school, old enough to be most of the other student’s mother? Well the answer is obvious isn’t it? Of course blimping well I should!

There is a silent, stealthy, subconscious fear of 40 that creeps up when you are not looking, I didn’t even realise I had it until about a week before and it disappeared the minute I became 40 when I woke up and everything was the same.  It wasn’t a fear of the aging itself, I have never had a banging body to lose and I have really enjoyed the growth in my self confidence as each year passes. It was more a melancholic reflection of my first 40 years, a half way review of everything negative I could possibly think of. What I didn’t do, why didn’t I, what ifs, time I wasted, opportunities I didn’t take, loves lost, stupid mistakes I made, allowing things that had passed to hold me back and whatever other dramatic laments you can think of.

On the day of my birthday I managed a short surf despite my shoulder injury and what it did was remind me of my why and renew my energy and determination to get fit again following this injury. I’m sure 20 year old me would have been shocked but proud of 40 year old me surfing on my birthday! I wish I had found this passion for surfing and running earlier in life but, it wasn’t meant to be. It feels that this is my time and I’m excited about entering my 40’s. I’m going to make the most of every opportunity I can because I know in the blink of an eye I’ll be celebrating 50, then 60. I want to look back over those decades and be counting the positives. If there’s one thing I have learnt in the past 18 months it’s to be an enthusiast for something that makes you delirious with happiness. If you find that you will always have a focus, a source of joy and a reason why. You will always find good company and you will always be young at heart.