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.

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Do you get a bit sulky when you Surf?

cause and symptoms of surf sulk

Surf Sulk is an affliction which is usually a secret, sorry sufferers, I’m outing us. It generally affects the person in a group of friends or duo who is the least skillful surfer but, who tries really, really hard. The sufferer will usually have spent months watching their friends progress while they remain where they are.  Although called Surf Sulk , the affliction is more complexed than simple jealousy and sulking and is more about a build up of frustration with oneself coupled with the emotional exhaustion of always being the crap one who is struggling.

Surf Sulk can manifest in many ways for the sufferer, the mildest being a bit of sulking, a few faces and crying in the shower to the other end of the scale,  with a full on Hulk, smashing boards into pieces and stomping up the beach ( yes, this is a true story, though not mine and the board smasher will not be named here). Surf Sulk often causes a conflict in the sufferer who wants to be pleased for their friend but, also wants to punch them. Of course, the sufferer would never say this so smiles through gritted teeth whilst inwardly sulking.

 the curse of an expressive face

Surfing is an activity of such polarity. More often than not it can induce the most amazing  sense of well-being, calm and all round warm fuzzy glow but,  on the other hand it can turn you into a demonic two year old. I can only assume my nickname of ‘The Hulk’ at one surf camp wasn’t just because I had a green board that week. The hardest part about being a Surf Hulk is the struggle to contain it, to be a good person.  I wear my heart on my sleeve,  I always have.  Hiding the Hulk is difficult for me,  I  have a very expressive face that defies my instructions to behave and often gives away the evil thoughts in my mind.  Finally,  to top it all off  I have a  best surf mate who is doing really well. All the ingredients for a horror show right there.

Surf bloke BFF and I started out together as beginners,  it was all great fun for a while and then it seemed like suddenly I  didn’t  see Surf Bloke all session.  I started to get left on my lonesome in kiddies corner, struggling, trying to encourage myself , trying to enjoy just being in the water and not worry too much about not being very good.  But, I like surfing with people, with friends and having a laugh. I found myself not interacting with any other humans in the water as they were all what felt like two miles out to sea along with Surf Bloke,  having an amazing time surfing with dolphins through sea spray rainbows and riding sea horses.
Surf Bloke, while taking a break from surfing rainbows with dolphins, would  cruise by once in a while headed back to the beach,  effortlessly all like ‘ yeah bro I got so bored with these tiny, shit waves that I decided to teach myself to ride regular ‘ He’d then surf past me about 300 times both regular and goofy . I’d smile and wave  and go wow that’s brilliant but,  my face said ‘ they are not tiny, they are not shit,  fuck off with your stupid switchfoot, give Hulk hammer. AND SHUT UP’  and because I’m a childish idiot, I’d have an overwhelming urge to sabotage his board, turn it up towards the sun when he’s not looking or put a hole in his wetsuit so he gets cold and he really does feel the cold more than your average human .

managing your hulk

hulk

Being the Hulk and being in a Surf Sulk is not fun.  Not for me or for the person I surf with. I realised recently that ,   I could have soured an ocean full of milk with my miserable faces at times and I’ve probably ruined a few sessions on our surf trips by being so Hulk-like. I’ve also made surf bloke feel like I hate him at times which is the worst. The thing is, Surf Sulk is not about the other person or what they are doing, it’s really about me. I’m sulking with myself for not being as good as I want to be, I’m sulking because I’m frustrated with myself and in the past the limits my unfit body put upon me. I sulk because I’m missing out on all the fun with the big boys.   So, in order not to kill my friendship with Surf Bloke I had to put an end to the surf sulks once and for all and retire the Hulk.

On our last trip to Wales I was honest and said,  I know you are doing really well and I’m stoked for you  but I’m not , I feel left behind and frustrated, I feel like a right miserable, old,  cow but, it makes me annoyed . Surf Bloke  said he knew I was annoyed at myself (my face told him)  but, didn’t know how to handle it so he’d piss off out back for the whole day an avoid the sulk . He didn’t realise this made it worse and I hadn’t realised my sulk was powerful enough to repell a human that far out to sea. There and then around a campfire over a  rum and ginger beer or two,  like a pair of drunk pirates but, without eye patches, parrots, a pirate ship, or treasure we talked for a few hours and gained an understanding that we hadn’t had before.  We planned to spend more time having a laugh together in the water, try not to get so pissed off if things are not working (me),  paddle out together for the first few waves (him) and hang out a bit more during the session. Easy fixes. The next few days we had some great surfs together despite not having the best waves and there were more smiles in well, maybe ever. We seemed to enjoy each other’s company more too, this all bodes well for our upcoming trip to Morocco next week.

my promise to surf bloke bff

11024755_10155221853540551_8415057799964438574_nSurf bloke, I solemly promise to be a nicer person when we surf, I’m going to cheer and woop for you like it’s the WSL final and I’ll mean it , you’ll be so sick of it. I’m going to carry you up the beach on my shoulders every time you leave the water.  Just come and play in kids corner with me now and then and lets push each other off our boards and take stupid underwater photos.
There is only one person on my passport and that’s me, the Hulk is not getting on that plane with us.  I might still have a few little,  evil thoughts from time to time to make myself chuckle but, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.
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In Search of My Endless Summer part 1

Do you believe in the idea of love at first sight, that you can fall in love in a day? The first day, I knew. Even though I hadn’t known exactly what I was looking for, that day I knew I had found it and that I’d found a great passion. I could no longer sing along to U2’s I Still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking For and actually mean it. I could no longer cry eat  cakes (yes it is a thing) when I had pmt lamenting over my life having no meaning.

I knew that I’d found a love that would consume me, that would make me a better person, take me to new places, give me focus and stop me feeling restless. I knew this love was going to change my life, at the time I had no concept of how but, I knew. OK, ok enough with the silly dramatics. I just bloody loved surfing from day one and I wanted to do it all the time.

 From the first day I caught a wave on my belly I knew I had to find a way to make this surfing malarkey a bigger part of my life. From  21 lessons of  not standing, (that is rectified now) to 2 years and 4 months of pining for the sea, frequently weeping loudly due to being landlocked and not being able to drive, this need had become greater and somewhat more urgent than ever.

A few surf trips a year were just not enough to scratch the itch.  My approaching 40th birthday also made me realise that I had to act now, time moves so fast. I had to try and dedicate more of my time to pursue my dream of surfing now and not wait another five or ten years. The question was what would I do, how could I do it and where would it be?  In the quest for my own Endless Summer, with very limited funds but, an unlimited supply of  ideas and enthusiasm, I set about trying to carve a path for myself to the beach .

Part 2 here 

Learning to Drive

Learning to Drive

furte surf trip may 2013

So after approximately 600 years of saying I’ll do it, I finally passed my driving test a few days ago. Hoo-rah!

7 years ago I was offered a job with the caveat that I get my licence. It was a fabulous job and a permanent escape from hospitality management which had eaten up my soul for the previous 10 years. In pursuit of this escape I’d been temping in uninspiring  office jobs while applying for things I actually wanted to do.

This job was pefect for me and they thought I was the bee’s knees too.  They held the job offer open for me for 3 months. Typically it all went belly up. In short, I learnt to drive but, I had 3 driving tests cancelled on the days I was due to take them. I know what you are thinking, I have never heard anything like it either. The dream job was slipping through my fingers, by the third non test they thought I was bonkers and withdrew the offer. After this I ran out of money, a reason and the motivation to continue with the driving and carried on in my mundane, minimum wage temping jobs. I continued plotting my escape.

Fast forward 5 years with my work life and finances somewhat more settled I went to Fuerteventura on holiday. I took a surf lesson and became addicted. To say it turned my life upside down is an understatement. It’s influenced every decision I have made since that day.  However, with  just one mate to surf with who lives 150 miles away, surfing in the UK without a car has proved extremely difficult.  Thank goodness for  Flybe and their flights from Birmingham to Newquay.

I spent the next 2 years taking surf trips abroad and putting serious time into mind controlling driving, non surfing friends into taking trips to the coast here in the UK. I’ve spent weekends sulking about the surf report and watching webcams and waves I couldn’t get to. I obsessed over surf films, books, you tube videos, engaging in online surf chat, planning trips, pricing up flights, looking at boards and buying stupid wetsuits from e bay and even started Surfabella as an outlet for my lament.

If surfing was a man he would have taken out an injunction against me for stalking. I was sea sick, like a love sick teenager but, pining for the sea. Ahh the joys of being landlocked!

The only answer was driving! This time motivation was even higher than it was 7 years ago. I was sick of Malcom, the mini mal I bought a year ago sitting in the corner of the room looking at me like I betrayed him because I’ve never taken him to the sea. I was sick of reading all the plans being made on Surf Senioritas for meeting up with the girls and even worse seeing the photos afterwards and not being able to join in!

free-wallpaper-desktop-wallpaper-car-rougerouge

So, I started driving  lessons in Leicester  with my awesome instructor Dave on 16 March and passed my test 27th April. The lessons were brilliant and Dave’s teaching methods worked for me, even if we did bicker a little haha! If you are looking for a driving instructor in Leicester find Dave here . I picked him out of  a few  recommendations  because he was called Dave, I mean who doesn’t love a Dave? Now though, I’d recommend him not just for being called Dave but, he’s a really good instructor and he will help you get that pass.

Introducing The Baked Bean

I collected my car, The Baked Bean,  from my aunt up North yesterday.  In typical fashion,  I’m not doing things by halves and I drove it back from Liverpool to Leicester on my own and in torrential rain this morning. Some people were rubbing their chins and sucking in air saying, ‘oohhh I think that’s a bit much for your first time in a new car, ooooohhh  first time driving alone after you test, first time on the motorway and first time on a long journey’ . Isn’t this the reason I learnt to drive?

Aside from the sat nav, a good prior knowledge of my route and my phone fully charged the most important preparation was the surf/summer/beach related playlist I made, it’s  here if anyone is interested. There’s some cheese but, it’s cheese that reminds me of surf trips, camping at the coast and holidays with friends ergo, it’s good cheese. Who knew the best thing about driving is being able to sing as loud as you can and nobody hearing! It’s brilliant.

Having driven the 120 miles with no problems and loving every minute of it the next task was the, ‘fitting the surfboard in a tiny car challenge’.  The Baked Bean is very small, smaller than most small cars. In fact I’d say it’s just a fat smart car! Low and behold with just 2 inches to spare Malcom (7’6 mal) fitted comfortably in and will be accompanying me in the passenger seat on many surf trips in the future.

This little orange car is about to open up a whole new world of adventures for me. It is the key to the sea, the antidote to my surf sickness, its freedom. It’s an end to sulking at surf reports and a start to checking them on a Friday and leaving at 5am Saturday morning, being in the water before lunch!

Life is about to change dramatically. There’s just one final thing I’m now waiting on and if that goes to plan,  very soon I’ll have a lot more time for surfing. Fingers crossed.

Watch out, Surfabella and ‘The Baked Bean’ are coming to a break near you.

 

Surfabella

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

It’s My 40th Birthday

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

For dramatic effect play the music video below whilst reading

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

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

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

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