The End of Surfabella?

This time last year I was knocking out mildly amusing, vaguely interesting blog posts regularly. I’m not sure what’s happened in the last six months. It looks like as I surfed more and spent a lot of time at the coast the urge to write has dwindled. Finally  moving here two months ago, rather than fuelling a creative fire has done quite the opposite . There’s nothing. You’d imagine I’d have stories about the build up to moving, funny tales about my new city, new friends and adventures but, there’s nothing. Nada, niente, niks, nic, nichts.  I’ve even resorted to repeating words in different languages to make up my word count.

Longing for the sea was my muse and now I’m here my writing mojo has just got up and walked out of the door, flipping the bird at me on the way out. I shouldn’t do it, but I do compare myself to the other blogs I follow and wonder am I doing this all wrong?  Other bloggers are pumping out these lists posts, 20 ways to improve your surfing, 5 surf camps you must visit, 6 tips for buying a wetsuit. This list writing seems to be popular, everyone is liking and sharing them and I have wondered if it could help me to do some list posts to get things rolling again but, it’s just not me, I have tried but, it just doesn’t fit with my subject matter.

Is it even important that I write blog posts? Why do I even have a blog? I think it’s just important to me that I write regularly because I love it, because I like sharing it with other people and well, not writing is like a musician not playing their instrument. Saying that a musician would still get enjoyment from playing a guitar alone, where nobody can hear so there’s definitely some element of showing off in my motivation to write on Surfabella.

book-ipad-wallpaper-flying-letters

For some help and inspiration, I typed ‘writers block’ into google and guess what? Writers Block: 27 ways to crush it forever, 41 tips to overcome writers block, 7 ways to beat writers block, 10 types of writers block. More lists. Is this even writing? Maybe I’m just not moving with the times.

Looking back at all of the posts I have written, I realise I’m telling a story, my story. I’m not trying to be a cool kid, writing lists for likes, I just want to write in my own voice.

Perhaps a blog isn’t the right arena for the type of writing I want to do.  I already have a story being included in the next edition of the book, Legacy of Stoke which is a real honour. Is this where I should be concentrating my efforts?

So, is this the end of Surfabella Blog? I’m not sure. Unless inspiration suddenly makes an appearance and I’m genuinely excited about posting then yes, maybe. Don’t give up on me just yet though, this could simply  be a momentary lapse of reason, a slight change of direction as in what I want to a write, maybe a book, maybe short stories.  Or it could be a giant sulk at having come back to work after a marvellous 10 days off.

Muchos Amore

Surfabella x

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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.

Storm Katie in a Caravan Alone in Cornwall with a Spider

me no likeI’m currently being battered by Storm Katie on the Cornish coast. I’m  cowering inside a caravan and my friend went home today so I’m scared and alone with my wild imagination, great combination.

I’ve never experienced a storm like this, I mean heart pounding stuff, not my usual exaggerations. I’m half expecting to be a news story in the morning. The caravan is shaking as if it were about to take off like the house in the Wizard of Oz and the noise, sounds like a train coming full speed towards me.

 Adding to this a massive spider has taken up residence in the corner and keeps moving in my eyeline.  I suppose we have in common that neither of us are enjoying this storm so perhaps we are on the same team for tonight and at least it’s some company.
There’s never a phone signal here, there’s only one other caravan occupied and the 5 chalets are right down the hill, out of sight and  too far for their lights to provide a little comfort. It’s pitch black when I look out. I’ve tried getting attention on Facebook with alarming status’ so I can at least interact with a humans but, the rest of the world apart from one or two are asleep so it’s me, Storm Katie and the spider, who I’ve named Toto  for the night.
Spider 'friend' Toto
 So far and I’ve no idea how we haven’t lost the wifi or the power but, I have an emergency bag of essentials I made up including a head torch, candles, car key, waterproofs and welly boots and I’m about to go and get the half bottle of red wine left over from last night. How am I going to cope alone in a tent for 6 weeks in summer if a storm while I’m in a caravan has scared me this much? Oh heck.
Right then , hopefully morning will come soon and without incident, see you on the other side.   Come on Toto, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home ………

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

In Search of My Endless Summer Part 2

This daft face every day please

This daft face every day please

Following on from Part 1

After my first experience of  surfing I was adamant this was not a midlife crisis, a phase, a fad, a fling or a fleeting interest.

I know that some friends thought it was, especially when I joined a gym and stopped drinking on school nights after my first surf trip. This was out of character, completely and  I know I have a tendency to get over excited about  new things but, I knew surfing was different.

Aside from the weight and fitness issues I had, which needed attention, I started to rethink what I was doing back at home. How  could I change things in order to channel more time into surfing? Of course, holidays and surf trips are not real life but, I’d met so many people who were making surfing a priority and having the time of their lives so why not me. I wanted that daft post surf smile on my face and sand in my belly button on a daily basis!

In pursuit of some sort of surf life,  I have had untold ideas about how to make this happen. Below  are the ones that made the shortlist, the ones  I invested hours and hours of time into researching, planning, doing business plans, making contacts and even travelling for.

My first surf lesson was in Corallejo, Fuerteventura in 2013 and I took rather a lot of trips there that year. So much so that I started to really feel at home there and I feel a strong connection to the place to this day. I became sure that my future as yet unknown surfing life lay there, somewhere, waiting to be stumbled upon and here my first plan was born.

 Clare’s Chubby Chargers (this was always just a working title)

Hosting older ladies  surf trips in Fuerteventura. My usp was me, approaching 40, having been significantly overweight prior to starting surfing, not being  sporty in any way and still struggling. I was the best advert for my own idea, so I thought. There wasn’t much on the surf market aimed at women like me. I wanted to share my surf epiphany and new lease of life with other women and to inspire them. I also hoped it would mean I’d get free surf trips! The idea faded as I only get 4 weeks leave a year and I realised that  hosting a week or two of a surf trip would actually limit my own surf time. A great idea if only I had more leave. I still have all the costings and business plan somewhere perhaps in the future this is something I could look at again but, at this point it wasn’t meant to be.

Casa Surfabella

Off the back of realising Chubby Chargers wouldn’t significantly change my life style the next idea was to rent a villa, initially for 1 year and open it as  a surf house in Fuerte. It was to be done with one of my best mates from Uni, both of us had worked in hospitality management for years so this would suit our skills. The surf house was to be called Casa Surfabella, now the name of this blog. We looked at some villas and came up with a concept and a vision of how it would operate. We did some sums and had a robust business plan.  The stumbling block this time, the start-up money we’d need, we were both broke, living wage to wage and neither of us wanted to get into significant debt.  This idea is not dead in the water and may be something to revisit.


English Teacher

In between these 2 plans came the teaching English plan which was something I’d often thought about over the years and seemed quite straight forward. I already have a degree but, not a teaching certificate. Two years in a row 2013 and 14 I applied for a CELTA , twice I got a place on the course and twice I had my application for 16 half days of study leave over a year declined by my work. I couldn’t afford to do an intense course over four weeks or have the time off for it so,  that was the end of that, for now.

Move to Bournemouth and Work at Monkey World

Next up came a chance to move to Bournemouth with Casa Surfabella Uni mate who has a flat down there.  This seemed a no brainer!  Get a job, move and live near the sea. Again, being of meagre means influenced the plan,   I had to have work to go to and couldn’t just take off.

I knew Bournemouth wasn’t exactly the best surf spot in the UK but, it could  at least put me in reach of the sea every day and not too far from decent surf. This was when I realised I had to be driving before the move otherwise it would be torture to know I was so close but, couldn’t get there. Me and the dude went down to BM for a weekend, got drunk, looked at the flat, walked on the beaches, saw people surfing , adventured along the coast, drove past Monkey World and stopped at Stone Henge on the way home. I decided I could see myself living there and set about applying for jobs and trying to come up with a date to aim for.

I remembered seeing the Monkey World sign and quickly became obsessed with working at Monkey World, I applied for a job there.  Soon a letter arrived with the Monkey World logo on, I’d got an interview at bloody Monkey World. I had it all planned out, work at Monkey World, surf and live in Bournemouth. I never did make it to my Monkey World interview because  the next plan introduced itself. It’s  probably a good job really because I  often have uncontrollable laughter about monkeys that becomes very unfunny for others after about 10 minutes. There doesn’t even need to be a monkey within ten miles of me for this to happen,  and yes I did just say Monkey World as many times as you think!

monkey world

Work the Festivals

Before I could take Monkey World any further a letter arrived followed by a quick day trip to Salisbury for an interview and a job offer. Suddenly everything had changed. Here was the opportunity to work our asses off in summer for 18 weeks (they said), work 90 hours a week (they said) and we’d be begging for a day off (they said) have the winter off and come back in time for the next season (I thought) and so the idea of The Perfect Year was born.

I planned my Perfect Year, starting in September I would visit the European WSL tour stops, I even booked a hotel in Hossegar for the Roxy pro and made plans with Landlocked Surf Girl  . After that I’d go to Canaries and Morocco for the European Autumn before heading out to Central and South America after Christmas for the rest of the year. I planned to spend some time in Cost Rica and get a sloth as a pet. At last I felt a massive sense of freedom and relief, like I could breath, a weight had been lifted off my chest. This was it.

As I made plans, wrote lists and looked at dates I could finish work to start the events season I got an email detailing the work schedule for the summer and my heart sank. There were huge 20 day long gaps with no events, they’d told massive porkies! With this schedule I wouldn’t even break even and no way would I be able to have a perfect year. After speaking to the porky tellers I reluctantly had to accept that this was not my route and I got into bed for 2 days and hid from my distinctly non sandy belly buttoned, landlocked existence.

Look Right under My Nose

After about a week of succumbing to feeling really miserable about my plans falling to pieces and fear of never being able to sample a life of surfing a really simple idea came to me from out of nowhere, I was just going to ask my boss about a 4 month sabbatical so I could at least salvage some of the perfect year. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

 As I found myself typing the email I realised this was not the solution I was looking for. What would happen after the four months? I know people will think why you don’t just go, jack it all in and deal with things as they happen. I’m not in the right position to do that for many reasons. The last time I took off with no plan or money I was only 25. That is not what I want now. Things change, needs change and what we are comfortable with changes. I was looking for a way of having long term security and freedom not a short lived high and I knew there was a way. So,  I deleted some of the email I had composed and  on 25th March I typed to my boss……

I’d like to talk to you about a permanent possible change to my working hours can we make a time to meet?

In the meantime, because I knew whatever happened I had to get mobile,  I started driving lessons.  I  gave myself a 5 week goal to get my test passed. On 27th April I passed my test and 5 days later collected my car, The Baked Bean. Somehow, things were starting to look like they were about to fall into place!

Finally, last Friday I received this letter…………………………..

dmu letter

 So there we have it, freedom and security. After all the trying this and trying that I found my Endless Summer right under my nose and it really will be endless as I have this freedom every year.  I get to keep my little flat and my life here.  I never really wanted to leave I just wanted more time to surf. I get to stay working in a pretty cool job but, I’ll have 13 weeks a year to do whatever the hell I want! I might even be able to revisit some of those other plans I made. Maybe you will see the Chubby Chargers on a beach in Fuerte staying at Casa Surfabella next summer, who knows?

In pursuit of whatever it is I’m trying to do, as I’m still not sure what it is exactly apart from surf more , I have finally carved a path to the beach. I still have no idea what I’m going to do when I get there but, as long as I have my board, some waves and a belly button full of sand then I’ll know I’m on the right track.

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 who 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 the image that is constantly presented to me of what a woman who surfs looks like . 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.

What I do dislike is some girl’s surf magazines publishing articles about bigger girls and women  being ‘brave’ and embarcing their size when the women they are celebrating are a size 12. Telling a young girl that wearing a bikini as a size 12 is brave or that it’s breaking the mould is just bloody wrong.  I’m not daft, I understand how it all works and  I don’t blame the pro surf girls themselves, they have to conform to the surf girl template if they want sponsorship that allows them to surf professionally.  I wondered though, 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 breakthrough for me and my confidence.

I look at the first one, 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 or think about how I wouldn’t be able to buy any cute shorts in the surf shops because I’m too big for them or about how every wetsuit I have has to be shortened because the makers think a size uk 18 woman is also 5’8 ft tall.  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!!

My First Trip to Newquay Cornwall

Utopia or Dystopia

Newquay Fistral

 

I’m off to Newquay in a few days. A pilgrimage to the surfing capital of the UK and a chance to check out if flying from the midlands and avoiding the 5 hour drive makes it a viable option for future short surf trips. However, I have a small worry. I have created 2 Newquays in my head. I’m excited by the idyllic picture I have and somewhat worried about the other, darker picture. With no idea which one I’m going to encounter I just hope I can find a tiny piece of the ideal.

In Dystopian Newquay there are  A level results parties, Magaluf reunions and stag and hen do’s all in our surf house. There’s loud, screaming,  drunk girls and lads with an inflatable sheep in the beer  garden with knickers on their heads and shitty dance music being played in the bar. With visions like this in mind and to minimise the threat of being chucked up on and kept awake by people who could very easily be my children even if I had birthed them in my mid twenties, we have booked to go after the schools and colleges go back. This should also help us avoid feeling approximately 653 years old. We have a private room with a private bathroom and we will lock ourselves in from da youth and barricade the door if we have to!

Utopian Newquay is chilled out and laid back. Glassy, mellow, late summer waves with friendly locals and gentle sunshine are the backdrop to a revival of the soul which only the sea can bring. There’s hot surf blokes over the age of 30 everywhere to perv at ….ahemm I mean admire respectfully through sunglasses while pretending to read or something. There are hammocks in the beer garden of the surf lodge and Morcheba’s The Sea is playing. There’s cute little shops selling handmade wares, surf shops full of lovely things I don’t need and there’s fish and chips and watching the sunset on the cliff after a glorious surf session. There is no ‘you should have been here yesterday’ because it’s perfect!

*Neither of these Newquays are based on reality, fact or experience

Whatever Newquay brings I can’t wait to get surfing again and to give my best girl friend her first surf experience. I’m hoping to catch up with the guys from The Wave Project who I ran a half marathon for last year and see my name on their van. We also have a fun little photography project which I’ll be posting here when I get back and of course a very sensible travel report on whether I found my Utopia or whether I ended up drunk and upside down in a flower bed with my knickers on my head!!