A Very British Surf Life – Dream v Reality

After all of these months of not writing , something unexpected has inspired me. Not the wild, vastness of a sweeping Rhossili Bay on a stormy day , nor the majesty of towering cliffs of Pembrokeshire. Nah, it was some daft meme on facebook.

This my dears, is the reality that faces the average British surfer who has a job and sometimes has to use precious potential surf time to do other things. This is not what I anticipated when relocating to the coast to surf. With winter reducing potential time in the water even further, this meme is my life!

I nicked this from The Surf Box

To all of the landlocked surfers, please stop torturing yourselves thinking you are missing out and that the whole UK surfing population are always surfing while you slowly suffocate in inland cities, they are not I promise you. Please stop torturing yourselves imagining all the waves you will never surf that you believe others are. Those waves were last week while we we working, maybe in a few days time if the wind swings around, maybe next week if magic seaweed is wrong or maybe in summer if the cow jumps over the moon .

In reality we have lives and jobs and especially in winter the opportunity for surf often comes down to just 2 days reducing the probability of catching it on a decent day. Ahh a decent day, now there’s another thing.

Last spring, just after Easter we had a 5 week flat spell . This Autumn and winter we have had storm after storm after storm and while some spots might light up in certain stormy conditions, the ones that do are for the kamikaze, crazy good, surfers not for your average joe like me .

The wind and tides are often right but, only in the evenings after dark. On weekday mornings the webcam often reveals a glassy 3 footer shimmering in the sun as I sit here trapped at work having my soul sucked out of me. I’ve often had 4 weekends of no waves or terrible conditions and on the 5th I go away for a weekend in an attempt to have a life other than sitting around waiting for waves and the conditions clean up and the wind goes offshore just as I’m driving across the border into England.

The truth is living by the coast is not the guarantee of regular, decent surf that as a frustrated Landlocked surfer I had imagined it would be. Don’t get me wrong, being here is fabulous especially on those magical days when it all comes together, being in the right location then really comes in to it’s own. But, now that I know the reality, looking back to when I was Landlocked, it was never as bad as I made it out to be and perhaps I sulked a bit too much back then over what I imagined I was missing out on.

Landlocked, weekend warrior, living by the coast, beginner, world champion, summer only surfers or the twice a year surf tripper. We are all the same. We are all missing out on waves, the waves that live in our imaginations . That’s what the lure of surfing is, it underpins our addiction and fuels our desire to get to the coast . The unwavering belief that the best wave of your life is still out there and it is, it really is.

Links:

The Surfbox. http://thesurfbox.net/

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The End of the Endless Summer Part 1

2016-08-03-14-38-40Since I returned from my Endless Summer , or rather  six week surf adventure in Wales, I have found it difficult to write anything. How do I put into words the seemingly endless weeks of unplugging from normal life and living in a tent, in a field, next to the gorgeous Rhossili Bay, surfing up to three times a day and watching countless sunest?

How do I explain the simple pleasures and slower pace of life I experienced which when written down seem completely trivial and insignificant to other people?  How do I write about the feeling of walking on grass in bare feet every day, about not looking in a mirror and how that made me feel a sense of freedom I’d never had, about sitting quietly outside my tent starring at the night sky with no noise in my head, about the smell of bbq’s and                                                    haze from the smoky fires in the sunset?

How do I write about how I felt at home in a place I’ve never lived, about surfing at sunset alone, with the red sky on fire (see cover photo), about the quiet letting go of nonsense and noise from my normal life, about becoming less wasteful and more resourceful, about how days felt like weeks as I got up with the sun, slept with the darkness and made the most of the in between?  How do I write about the strong,  amazing, women I spent time with , who lit the path for me like the stars that they are, about the revolving door of rather handsome neighbours I had who each taught me something about myself?

I drove away from Gower at the end of summer with tears streaming down my face .  I could barely mumble a goodbye to Welsh Surf Bird for the lump in my throat. It felt like my heart was trying to escape out of my throat and stay there in Llangennith,  like a dog who doesn’t want to leave the park.  I was scared of losing how I felt that summer but, with four hours drive home I had plenty of time to think about how I was going to deal with this.

I stopped off an hour into my journey in Abergavenny to say goodbye to Ozzi, another of the Welsh birds and when I pulled away from her house I knew a decision had been made without me realising.  It wouldn’t be easy and could take a while to orchestrate properly. Although the thought of leaving my friends and the familiarity of 23 years in my adopted home city scared me, looking back at the number of visitors I had over my six weeks away, I knew that distance would be no obstacle to those very long and strong friendships. Surf Bloke had been up and down like  a yo-yo from Lancashire all summer and my surf brainwashing had finally taken a hold of Long Legs who had visited twice and bought himself a wetsuit .

There was nothing I could do but, move there as soon as I could, somehow.

Surf Tour – Cornwall Done

CAPTAIN’S LOG

in the officeI’m sitting outside writting this , it’s 8pm and the sky is pink in the distance , hinting at the last of the sunset. It’s also my last night in Cornwall as I continue my surf adventure North, to The Gower in Wales tomorrow and then onto Pembrokshire, Wales on Saturday.

TWO days have passed with no sign of human life……

It’s been a mixed bag this week where I’ve felt at times quite lonely and isolated, then really happy in my own company in equal measure.  Interspersed with seeing friends a few days I have spent most of this week on my todd.  The week started off great as I picked up a friend who’d flown in from Dublin for a few nights. Much debauchery at the infamous Retorrick Mill was had , that’s a story in it’s own right that to be frank may never be told or quite remembered. I blew my budget for the whole week in one night, my bank statement certainly jogged my memeory on that front.
Due to the high winds there was no surfing but, we’d had fun  and we know, you can’t always get lucky with waves. That’s ok, for two days.  As soon as I dropped her off at the airport that’s when Storm Katie decided I needed some girly company and she more than outstayed her welcome . You can read about my hellish night here.
All By Myself
Storm night was followed by long days and longer nights alone, listening to torrential rain beat the roof of my caravan. I live alone so am used to occupying myself but, what do you do all day in a caravan with no TV and no tasks or chores to fill the time?  I started  wondering,  what the hell am I doing here? Do I actaully have any friends?  Will I die alone? Where did it all go wrong? This  is when I questioned whether I could do this for six weeks in summer and in a tent.

A CHINK OF LIGHT IN A STORMY SKY

Miraculously when all seemed lost and I was going to give in and go home on Tuesday afternoon, the weather turned, the wind dropped a bit, the sun came out, the sky was blue (in patches), I surfed, Kernow Surfgirl dropped by the beach and it all changed.  I’ve surfed today and yesterday and the day before.  I spent wednesday with Kernow Surfgirl  and we had a great surf and some laughs. Then, today I met a nice man at the beach, a surfer,  how unfortunate I’m leaving tomorrow. Who knows he could have been the Silver Surfer. It’s amazing what a turn in the weather can do.

So, coming to the end of the Cornwall leg of the surf tour, having driven the beautiful coast road home from Newquay as the sun started sinking and satisfied after surfing,   I am certainly sad to be leaving this stunning place, it’s got a hold of me and I feel like I’ve always been here . More importantly though,  I’ve answered many questions and raised more about if this is the place I’ll spend my surfing summer and that was the reason I came on this trip.
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 I packed the car with a stupid sad face tonight but, I’ve absolutely nothing to complain about, the sun has not set on this trip as the tour continues.  Bring on Wales, tomorrow’s first Welsh stop is the Gower where I’ll be  calling in on a beautiful soul and Surf Seniorita who I haven’t seen since last summer. I think I might need a chaperone as she also has a little devil in her and I’m in possession of wine, hey ho here goes.

Why Being a Landlocked Surfer is Not So Bad

It’s been a pretty epic week for UK surfers on the west coast from Penzance to Padstow, Harlyn to Hell’s Mouth and as usual, I missed it.  A combination of being 3 hours from the nearest break and being broke after holiday meant all I could do was watch on the webcams. I’m also still a bit broken from Morocco so it’s probably best that I stay in dry dock.

The Silver Surfer's House

The Silver Surfer’s House

There are a so many down sides to being a landlocked surfer but, instead of whingeing about it I started to think about the plus sides. Of course, I’d rather be living in a beach house right in front of my favourite break with the Silver Surfer but, I have to put a positive spin on my landlocked reality. Please, just humour me this is part of my therapy.

the benefits of being a landlocked surfer

You will ride anything. Someone once said to me that the best time of your surfing life is when you are beginner as the better you get the worse the waves get. I get this, the better you get at surfing  the less  likely you are to get in onshore chop but, as a Landlocked,  rubbish surfer progress is much slower and so this phase of getting in for anything and loving it  lasts longer.

Generally, property is cheaper inland in comparison to near  surf spots. My cosy attic in the East Midlands is cheap as chips and on the salary I’m currently on with only working 39 weeks a year,  keeping living costs low is paramount.

Every surf is a holiday because you have to travel and stay over night.  You take every wave you can grab and surf until the very last moment you can because you know next week when you are home you would give anything for one more wave, just one more……

You will discover the beauty of this amazing country. I’ve surfed in North and South Wales,Morning Fistral Devon, Cornwall,  North Yorkshire and Dorset and there’s 100’s of miles of coast I’ve yet to see let alone Scotland and Ireland yet to discover.  If I had a break on my doorstep perhaps I wouldn’t have explored the Uk coast so much.

You go to huge efforts to surf , which proves this isn’t just another fad so your mum, partner, boss, mates from the pub can piss off.

Transport links are really  good. I have 3 international airports under an hour away. This makes Portugal, France and Northern Spain viable for short breaks. Being centrally located also means it’s equal distance to the East and West coasts of the UK.

The Only Mermaid in the Village

 You are the special one. You are the only salty soul at work, at the gym, out of your friends or in your family and no matter how crap you are at surfing you’re always going to be the best one around you. For someone who is as crap as me this is a fantastic illusion even if it’s not true.

You will meet a lot of new people.  In an effort to connect with other surfers I joined a number of online communities and as a result  I’ve  met some wonderful folk in person who I might never have reached otherwise. This is especially true of connections I have made through  Surf Senioritas  and this blog. I’m building a little network of surf buddies all over the place.

Excitement.  The anticipation of a surf  never grows old and for the Landlocked surfer this anticipation has many manifestations. There’s the booking time off work, the countdown,  lists, planning, researching accomodation, reading about spots and  then the nervous checking of the surf report in the run up to S day.    Quite simply,  anticipation is the sweetest part of longing.

Holiday Blues , First Day Back from a Surftrip

I arrived back in the UK less than 24 hours ago after another fabulous surf trip to Surf Star Morocco.  I’m never  prepared for the shock of the first day at home. I’m so flat today I’m only a  few moments away from sobbing my heart out and I feel like I’ll never get over it.  I took  my  first walk to the shop earlier. Down the cold grey streets, walking past the  grey houses and  the grey people it hit me,  this is my grey life.
As I sorted through my bag and grains of sand fell on the kitchen floor I thought about  the warm colours  of Morocco, the deep reds and earthy oranges of the houses which  glow in the sunset when I look out towards Taghazout.  The splashes of  bright  blue of the fishing boats and  the jalabas and head scarves of the camel guides. I remember  the unknown smells and sounds, the fires that filled the village with a smoky haze, the mosque’s call to prayer , the orchestra of dogs barking in the distance and  the inky blanket of stars at night.
Of course a  trip to Morocco always means surf, fun and some massive, massive laughs. But,  it almost always has some sort of transformative effect on people  and this trip was no different. Having been through what can only be described as ,  the trauma of being a beginner surfer I had the joy of having two friends along for the ride going through it for the first time. While Surf Bloke went off to do ‘grown up’ surfing, we named ourselves Team Circus on account of our ridiculousness on the beach.  It was an absolute pleasure  to watch the highs and lows, the epic battle of body and mind  and finally the reward when they both got to stand up and ride a wave. What a beautiful moment on the last day when the entire beach and the line up erupted into cheers every time someone got a wave, after all,  we’d all been through the battle together.
The peacefulness and total detachment from normal life that people always feel at Surf Star gives you head space to think about the things your brain is normally too busy for. At one point I forgot what the inside of my house looked like.  Many people during our week said they had thought about the things they want out of life or want to achieve  and were  motivated  to make some changes back at home, surfing will do that to you. It gives you a motivation to go out and grab life by the balls  outside of the water too.
So, with heavy,  thankful hearts, tired limbs, a collection of bruises,  a serious ibuprofen addiction and a head full of happy memories all we can do is accept a return to  normality tomorrow, start work on the grand plans we have come back with  and plan the next trip. Thanks to the wonderful team at Surf Star Morocco once again  xx

Surfabella Surftrip is On

moroccon adventure

If you read my post entitled Tired of Solo Surftrips a few weeks ago you will know that I convinced my friend who I call  Long Legs to come on a surfing holiday to Morcocco, despite being a non surfer. Hoo-rahhh.  Long Legs is also Surfabella’s, Art Director, and Chief Designer, more to come on what he’s tinkering with later in the year.  He also  makes a smashing cup of tea in our meetings. We love tea.

 

Also coming is Surf Bloke, my ever  patient surf buddy and Surfabella’s  Tech Guru.  I normally beat him up when I’m in a Surf Sulk so,  for protection from my sulks he’s bringing  his non surf friend along too.

So, as all three of us are away we are on shutdown here at Surfabella. Apart from posting a few snaps,   our out of office is on. The Yorkshire Tea bags and suncream are packed, lets go!

Bonjour Surfstar Morocco, Au Revoir cold, wet UK

Team Surfabella xx

Surfabella_logo

How to be Single, A Mermaid’s Tale

It’s St Valentine’s Day on Sunday, as if you didn’t know.  I’m single so I don’t  generally  partake in this day.  Although, if somebody felt the need  to buy me presents that’s fine, I’ll partake in accepting them.

However, there is a film being released this weekend called How To Be Single, so perhaps there is something to partake in  . The film follows the lives of a group of single folk in New York,

somewhere between the teasing texts and one-night 
stands, what they have in common is the need to learn  how to be single in a world filled with ever-evolving definitions of love

I  wonder if it will buck the trend and conclude that these New York singles can be happy as they are  or if the writers will have them all paired off by the end.   Although, why they had to make a film called How To Be Single  when they could have just asked me I don’t know.

I’m exceptionally skilled at being single and quite happy with my status. I’m so comfortably single I don’t even look for potential matches.  In fact,  I do ridiculous things that would have most chaps slowly backing away on tip toe. I’m so oblivious to romance that  I never even consider anyone I meet for a  potential  tryst. I know you are impressed by how fantastic I am at being single . ‘How does she do it?’,  I hear you ask in admiration.

HOW TO BE SINGLE ACCORDING TO SURFABELLA

Have mostly blokes as mates and always go on holiday, to parties and to the pub with  bloke mates.

Unless you are away surfing don’t go out except to work, the gym or food shopping.  Socialise at friend’s houses and if you do go out, don’t talk to anyone other than who you are with. Make sure that if you have lots of dresses and lady like shoes that make you feel all girly do not wear them. Basically, dress like a 15 year old boy, with boobs. Read more about this here.

rsz_1474553_10153507048310316_528338097_nIf you are approached by a potential mate make sure you actually call him ‘mate’ ten times in the first minute of conversation. In the company of such a man point out all the girls you think he might fancy, make sure all of them are super-hot and make you look like widow twanky. In addition,  regularly point out all of your flaws repeatedly and with particular attention to your beard, moustache, giant arse and personality defects.

Completely ignore any indication of flirtation from a man.  If you think there is flirtation panic, call him mate again  and retreat  to your bloke mates immediately.

Spend hours  setting up a profile on a dating site, browse the wares but, don’t pay the joining fee and never log into your account again, ever.

Finally and crucially, Surf. If your first thought at the idea of a boyfriend or girlfriend  is that they could  interfere with your surf plans or stop you taking off for the weekend and that date expenses will deplete your surf trip fund then carry on doing all of the above, stick a picture of  Ryan Gosling on your surfboard and continue to be a  mermaid.

See, being single is so easy,  they really should have consulted me on this film.

 In a world filled with ever evolving definitions of love, celebrate what you love . It doesn’t have to be a partner, other half, husband or wife or even a human  to be valid . Here’s to loving  your mates , your dog, surfing, adventure, fun, drinking rum, the smell of neoprene, campfires, running,  mountains, clear night skies, music, waves, singing,  laughing,  having the bed all to yourself and never having to hold a fart in.

Ode to Autumn

there’s nothing mellow about this season

The passage of time from one year to the next is clearly marked for me since working in a University.  The shock of the arrival of Autumn and the start of another academic year never lessens. How did we get here?  I still feel like I’m waiting for summer.  Autumn  also  brings with it a fresh crop of baby faced students who look increasingly younger as I get a little older, a little grayer and a little thicker around the waist. Although, some things have changed for the better,  this year I am a little less trapped, a little less landlocked and a little more free on account of my new 39 week a year contract at work.

I’ve always loved Autumn, it makes me wistful and want to write pretentious and melancholic  shit about the colours and long shadows . Perhaps I read too much Keats and smoked too much  as a student . When I was eight or nine , I wasn’t smoking weed but I won a poetry competition with this genius ditty about Autumn, the last two lines are inspired!
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I haven’t had much time for writing this Autumn , it’s a busy time where 7 day working weeks are not unusual.  Surfabella has been on the back burner somewhat and  it’s another  3 weeks until my next day off,  I’m also trying to fit in half marathon training. Amazingly though,   my running has taken on a new, unexpected  lease of life with the onset of the darker nights and the purchase of this baby.
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 Me and Long Legs have been training in the darkest places of Leicester wearing head torches.  We’ve run by and through  canals, parks, woods, nature reserves and river sides. Apart from (me, not he)  being freaked out by statues and rats and tree branches touching my head it’s been awesome and I’ve definately trained more since these torch lit  runs started.   Hopefully on the day of the half marathon I’ll still be able to perform in daylight and haven’t become a nocturnal runner.
My Life Right Now

My Life Right Now

Unfortunately because of all this madness  I’m missing out on the Autumn swells, sunset surfs,  quiet beaches and the stolen days of sunshine that so many of my fellow surfers are enjoying but, it’s all for the greater good, my own endless summer .

Surfabella will be back to business as usual soon.

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

A Blind Date in Cornwall

I have a blind date in Cornwall tomorrow! eeek! Ok, I don’t have a date as such, I haven’t been set up with a foxy silver surfer. It’s not really blind either, oh and it’s not a date. Ok, tomorrow I’m going on a surf trip with a friend I have never met in real life. This trip should have taken place 3 weeks ago but, had to be changed at the last minute. This has really worked in our favour as it was flat as a pancake  and this weekend is looking decidely not flat, hoo-ra!

Fistral this week

Fistral this week

Aussie Surf Chick and I have been chatting online for quite a long time now, we ‘met’ because she sent me a lovely message about one of my posts here on Surfabella. I supposed we know as much about each other as two new friends if not more, perhaps you give more away tapping away on a keyboard.

At one point, because she has no pictures of herself on Facebook (total opposite to show off here) I did accuse Aussie Surf Chick of being Steph Gilmore. Steph had come off the world tour injured, Aussie Surf Chick is Aussie and blond and a surfer. Was she a champion surfer in disguise, befriending me for a project? Aaaahh or a documentary about how the world champ can turn a fat 40 year old kook into a brilliant surfer?

I now know that Aussie Surf Chick is in fact not Steph. Nevertheless, we have a lot in common, not least that we are both Landlocked and do not get to surf very often. This has all changed for both of us now that I’m finally driving. So tomorrow at 5am I’m loading up the Baked Bean and headed on a 5 hour drive first, to Taunton to collect her from the London train and then onto Newquay for 4 days of surfing, eating nice food, checking out The Wave Project’s Summer Surf Challenge on Fistral, chatting, trying not to buy everything in the surf shops, maybe watching some of the longboarding comp at Cranntock, relaxing and whatever else comes our way.

  I’m really quite worried about loading the boards on the roof rack for the first time, I’ve tied boards down before but, the paranoia is still there doing it myslef for the first time! Worst case scenario is, I bottle out of loading them up for the last bit of the M5,  Malcom (my board)  stays in  the front seat which is where he will be for the first leg of the journey and Aussie Surf Chick squeezes into the back seat behind me until we hit the A30. We are so used to conversing without seeing each other’s faces anyway that it won’t be unusual for us!

To some people it might be a bit odd, holidaying and sharing a room with a stranger but, I have never thought this way. I’m also finding that within the surf community, particularly amongst the birds  it’s pretty common. People go on solo trips all the time, at surf camps you end up sharing rooms with strangers, people meet up with each other via Facebook groups and organised events. If you have a passion for something and your regular mates don’t, you have to put yourself out there, and that often means going  alone until you build up some connections. Even today I’ve had messages from surf girls I have never met suggesting we meet up or go for a surf in Newquay.

There’s a warm welcome waiting for us in Cornwall even though we are strangers in town and it’s not just the amazing temperatures forecast for early next week. Now we just need to get there and I need to not scream about the boards all the way down the M5 from Taunton or Aussie Surf Chick just might run in the other direction!

See you in the water x

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

 twitter

wordpress blog

facebook

A Wetsuit’s Guide to Being an Idiot

The daily anticipation,  looking out of the window every few minutes, waiting,
and hoping is quickly followed by disappointment when it doesn’t arrive. You renew you hope for the next day and anticipation begins again.  You are in a cycle of excitement and pain that can last days, sometimes weeks.  Then, one day when you have almost given up a package arrives, you rip it open and breathe in the unmistakable smell of fresh, unworn, brand new neoprene. You hold it up against yourself, smell it again, feel the seals, open the zip, close the zip. Yes your new wetsuit has finally arrived!
Roxy Tough Break Wetsuit

Roxy Tough Break Wetsuit

I bought this little beauty from Roxy USA as they didn’t have my size left in the UK. It’s the first time I have been able to fit into a Roxy wetsuit and I’m stoked, I never thought I would see the day. I’m still waiting for it and it’s torture. What is it about a new wetsuit?  I might not even use it for months but, I need it now.  I just can’t wait to get it, smell it, feel it and try it on. One thing I will not be doing though is trying it on at work. I will never try a wetsuit on at work every again.

My Wetsuit Thinks I am an Idiot

Last year I stupidly bought my first winter wetsuit online without trying on that brand first to see if it would fit but, I was an over eager, landlocked kook with no restraint or sense. I only waited 4 days for it to arrive. As soon as lunch time hit I ran across the corridor to the disabled loo to try it on, I couldn’t wait. I’d never worn a  5mm  before so expected it to be a bit harder to get on than my summer suits and it had the added complication of a rashy stitched inside.
I pulled the legs on, it felt nice and toasty. I pulled it over my waist and bum and put the rashy over my head, oohh even more toasty, I had started sweating but, I carried on. It was normal to be that hot right?   As I got my arms in I felt like it was starting to constrict and rolls of sweat were now dripping off the end of my nose. The rashy was somehow twisted and it felt like the wetsuit was creating a vacum with me inside. Panic set in as I got hotter and hotter. I tried pulling one arm out and then the other, it didn’t work. I was starting to question if this was a wetsuit or some sort of S&M onsie for people who like to be compressed. I grappled with it for about 20 minutes, my wrists were sore and my shoulders red raw. I knew there were no colleagues left in the building to help me, I had to get it off quick for fear of passing out!
images
I opened the toilet door, I could see the scissors on my desk, I had no option I was going to cut my new wetsuit off! Sweating, bright red and heart pounding, I hot footed it across the corridor. I grabbed the scissors and ran back without being spotted by any students. I inserted the scissors and made the first cut, I’d be out in a minute but, the plastic handle snapped! Shiiitttt, I got hotter and the gimp suit got a little tighter! ok, ok what now? I work in art, there’s a scalpel in the drawer yes! I creeped out again grabbed the scalpel, ran back and cut the shit out of that rashy. As i did it I could feel my heart rate calming and panic fading as the whole upper part of the wetsuit loosened. I managed to get it off but my skin was bright red and  the wetsuit was soaked.  This whole debacle lasted about 40 minutes and unless you have been stuck in a winter wetsuit while it sucks the life out of you in a disabled loo with the radiator on full and a rising body temperature  you can never know the fear.

Tips for wetsuit safety if you are an idiot

Never buy a wetsuit with attached bits if you have a tendency to get tangled up generally
Never try a wetsuit on in the office toilet
Always have an assistant close to hand who is prepared to assist
Just stop being an idiot
wetsuit
My latest winter wetsuit purchase, I am pleased to say, is perfect. I got a Body Glove Vibe. It’s the same as one I wore and tested out from a hire shop on a surf trip. I tried it on first time at home not at work.  I jumped about in it  I’ll continue to wait patiently for the new Roxy  wetsuit to come and try not to be an idiot when it gets here!

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!!