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

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Surf Mamma by Wilma Johnson Review and Interview

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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!

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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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London Surf Film Festival and Meeting Steph Gilmore

A post work rush on Thursday evening to get to London via feet, bike, bus, train and tube took me to the  opening night of the London Surf Film Festival and the UK premier of Stephanie in the Water.  Here is a little,  (voice of Del Boy Trotter) reportage of my evening.

I arrive at Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green just in time to join a long queue of something rather unusual, surfers in clothes, yes, surfers in clothes! Surfers in lots of clothes and coats, big dark coats and gloves and shoes and socks! It’s a cold, dark, wet night in London and we are a long way from the sea! I clutch my ticket in my fat, cold, little hand and queue with these heavily clothed people who are both strangers and so familiar.

 I head upstairs towards the theater and bar and I casually walk past Steph Gilmore, as you do.  People are just walking by, they haven’t even seen her so I decide to say hello as it’s only a matter of time before she’s going to be swamped. She offers me her hand and a massive, genuine, dazzling smile in greeting. She’s taller than I imagined and she’s got a very happy vibe about her, she seems to almost sparkle and she’s so, so pretty and natural in real life!  I babble some crap about almost being late. I’m surprised to find I’m a little star struck and tongue tied, stupidly I don’t even congratulate her on her performance on the tour so far. I babble some crap about being recovering from injury and I’m looking forward to the film as I’m in need of a kick up the arse and some inspiration to get back into training. She says she hopes it does the trick. We have a quick photo and it’s goodbye, the film is about to start. I’m a bit shaken in a good way, I can’t believe I just talked to the woman I have watched all year, in awe on the ASP tour, she’s a legend!  I can already feel a massive boost from meeting Steph and go into the theater and take my seat.

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Me and my mate Steph Gilmore

 There’s an Intro from the festival directors and a few laughs and then it’s show time. As the lights dim for the first short film by Luke Pilbeam I look around at the faces in the crowd lit up by the light from the screen and I feel like I’m part of something. I might be the only surfer ( is it ok to call myself that?)  in my everyday, local sphere but,  here everyone loves surfing.  I feel like part of a tribe, these are my people haha!

The short film Out of the Black and into the Blue is fantastic, beautiful photography, stirring music and insightful words that sum up a feeling most of us can’t articulate but, understand and constantly crave. It’s rousing and passionate and this is the first time I’ve seen any surf footage on the big screen, it was made for it. If you go to the LS/FF website all of the shorts are there.

 Next up is Stephanie in the Water but, I won’t go into too much detail and spoil it.   There’s some memorable moments and it’s inspiring, thought provoking , amusing and triumphant all in one.  It really shows Steph’s passion, determination and commitment and in some very funny moments her competitiveness provokes a lot of giggling from the audience! I think different people would get different things from this film but, as someone who is struggling to get back into fitness and feels a bit shitty it was the perfect tonic.  I took from it exactly what I needed and astonishingly I find that I can identify with Steph. I know, who’d have thought it? Me, identifying with 5 x ASP world champ but, I do simply as someone that loves surfing who is finding it difficult and is determined to work hard and get back into it. It does not matter that she’s a world champion and I’m still learning.

 The Q & A that follows proves again what a lovely, warm, witty, intelligent, down to earth girl Steph is.  This beautiful, strong, determined young woman should be the role model that young girls look to,  she’s now this old bird’s role model.  So,  it’s out with the croissants and in with a renewed focus on getting fit again. In my last post  I said I needed to get back to what motivated me in the first place and I’m almost there.  With the positivity and determination to get back on it that I took from the film and a 3 day surf trip to Newquay starting tomorrow,  things are getting back on track .  Stephanie in the Water is a reminder of how happy surfing makes me, those final scenes where Steph is free surfing, the smile on her face says it all,  it’s the very same  thing  that first motivated me. I think the kids call it stoke!

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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