Gower Gold April 2019

Confessions of an English Opium Eater nee Surf Addict

For me, there’s definitely a link between being unable to surf and writing. I started this blog five years ago when I was a frustrated, landlocked wannabe surfer. Unable to surf or travel to the sea, I had a major shoulder injury and was off my face on pain killers. There’s a theme here because although I live by the sea now, I find myself in dry dock again, off it on pain killers and sick and I’m tapping away on my keyboard for the first time in months. I’ve also written three bits this morning for another project I’m working on. I reckon I must be channelling Shelly or Keats, only able to write on opiates. For authenticity I should really be writing a masterpiece in Italy but, a little blog post in Swansea will do for today.

This year has felt like a bit of a disaster on the surf front, I can count the number of decent surfs I’ve had on one hand. January 3rd was a good one, 31st January too. More often than not I’ve been injured, ill, in shite waves, broken my board or lost my fin. I’m not sure if it’s age related, I’m nearly 45 and my body might just be rebelling against me or if the surf gods are trying to keep me out of the sea for now. I know I should be grateful, people I know have it much worse, I am after all just having a rough patch with my health, temporarily in dry dock. It’s just the only reason I moved was to surf more, it’s my opiate and I’m not getting my fix. I also have an acute awareness of time passing and that every day I don’t surf is one day closer to the day that I hang up my wetsuit for the last time. This will happen; it’s going to happen to us all. Yes, I know that’s bloody dramatic and ridiculous but, look how quick the last five years have gone.

It’s certainly not all misery and lament, I’m just having withdrawals from surfing. There has been some good happenings too. We’ve had a few golden evening here on Gower and had our first evening beach fire, summer is definitely in the air.

Back in January after a few years in white water as an occasional surfer my buddy Long Legs (read how I brainwashed him into surfing here) got his first proper belter from out the back and he went right for the first time coming face to face with the wave. On top of that it was a magical day in Newquay when the whole town got snowed in, we had to abandon our car in town after sliding down the hill so we walked back to our apartemt and decided to go surfing. There was a kind of unearthly silence that comes with snow, the absence of traffic and people and we walked down to Fistral making the first footprints in fresh snow. It was an unforgettable session.

I also had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Ellie Wainwright at the February Surf Senioritas meet up. Photographer Ellie was taking some shots for an article she had written for Surfgirl. Ellie is a lush lady and her work speaks for itself, she’s definitely one to watch. Take a look at her website here. Anyway, the magazine was published and they used some of the pictures with me in. Now as we know, I’m not exactly Surf Girl’s desired demographic . I’m too old, fat and cynical but, it will be lovely when I’m an old lady to look at that magazine to remind myself who I was.

Finally, after 5 years , loads of ‘ it will do for now’ boards and frankly annoying poor Lee in the Custard Point shop to death, I got my first new board. A unique, hand shaped 8ft magic log fresh from the workshop and into my hands in April. I’ve not really been able to test ride her with my recent setbacks but, the little I’ve been on her, ‘The Kumquat’ ( see the colour) has all the promise of being the best board I’v ever had, I can feel it. I’ve now got 3 weeks to recover fully for the Surfsistas longboard weekend and I’m resting and taking care of myself as much as possible before then. I’m hoping I’ll be able to really put The Kumquat to the test and report back on the board and the Surfsistas longboard course in the same post. Right then, I’m off for a back treatment with my Chiro, I’m seeing my Dr again about my rattling chest in the moring and very much hoping I can get my next salt water fix soon. Otherwise I may, in the mad persuit of my blue opium be driven to do something daft like move to Cornwall.

NB: refering to myself as a surfer is in no way claiming to be any good . I happily confess to having basic skills and being a dick in the water

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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.

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 ………

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.

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

Tired of Solo Surf Trips? How to brainwash your mates into coming surfing with you

UPDATE:   Today is a momentous day in the brainwashing process of my non surfing best mate. I’m about to pick up his first proper surfboard! It started slowly and recently the brainwashing produced a result. The purchase of a hood, boots and gloves and a lush winter surf at New Year was closely followed by a ‘ I’m hankering for a wave’,  and today the process is complete! Congratulations Long Legs, like Kelly Slater said, surfing is like the mafia, once your’e in you’re in. Welcome.

Read my original post below about how it all started.

Finally, I have done it. I convinced a non-surfer friend into coming on a surf trip in an attempt to make them into a surfer. Not a weekend in the UK, oh no. My non surf friend, who also had no inclination to visit Africa, is coming on a one week trip to Surfstar Morocco. Hehe, I’m good at this.

So why is this a triumph? Well, I don’t have any surf friends living anywhere near me, the nearest being a 3 hour drive away meaning there’s little opportunity for impulsive one night trips over to Wooly or Scarborough. To address this, like Dr.Frankenstein I’ve been trying to actually  make a surf friend, hopefully the outcome will be that at  least one of my mates will  occasionally say, ‘yes I’m in’ when I decide to drive the 3 hours to the sea for one night rather than me actually creating a monster.

Of course, I can go away alone and I’m not too bad at meeting new people, I’ve done this and I’ve loved it. Sometimes though, you just want an old pal to come along on a trip. You know where you are, your friendship has a familiar rhythm, you can have a full conversation including jokes with punchlines with just a funny look and no words, you know there’s someone there who will whoop your wave when necessary even if they didn’t see it, and vitally, they know what to order for you at the bar while you take ages over your post surf shower. More than anything though, is that you just want to share the wondrous thing that has taken over your life with your friend so they can experience even a little of that feeling themselves.

So, you see why I’m stoked that I convinced Long Legs into coming to Morocco. A whole week there with me, Surf Bloke and the SurfStar Morocco crew and he’s sure to want to surf again, meaning the possibility of an ocassional  surf buddy living just around the corner.  For anyone in the same position, trying to convert a friend this is how I did it.

HOW TO ‘MAKE’ A SURF BUDDY FROM A NON SURFER IN 7 SNEAKY STEPS

Subliminal Messages. Two years of mentioning the words surf, sea and waves at least ten times an hour every time we meet even though we are not talking about surfing.

Gentle Suggestion,  England is so cold, did you know it’s 25 degrees today in Morocco? You really should get some winter sun you look tired and pale.

Great Expectations. The waves are perfect for learning and the teaching is fantastic you’ll be up on the first day (all true)

Tactical Gift Giving: Happy Christmas, here you go, have a rash vest.

Feigning Nonchalance.  ‘I haven’t booked my flight yet’   Me, nonchalantly and audibly, ‘whatever’.  Inside screaming, book the fucking flight now, I need to convert you.

Boobs: There will be loads of hot girls there in bikinis and yes they will need help with their sun cream. I’m ashamed of this, sorry in advance to all of the surf chicks in the world, I know this is a very low move.

Blatant Lying.  No, we won’t be surfing from dawn until dusk for 7 days and not see any of the culture and no you won’t get bruised ribs again.

While writing this post,  now that it’s all booked and paid for  I asked Long Legs for his version of what I said  when I was trying to sell a surf holiday to him and  this is the exact response I got .

‘It’s hot all year with more tagines than one man could possibly eat.  The water is like glass, not like Fuerte or Wales (the other 2 times he tried there were pretty rough conditions) so you’ll be up on the first day. The man brings you coffee on the beach. You can buy a rug for 50p and yet a bag of spice costs £50 (a reference to Surf Bloke who famously came back from Agadir with said bag of spices) Eldorado can be found up on the hill, there are goats in trees’

This made me laugh and realise that I’ve not really been sneaky  or strategic at all. I didn’t need to be.  I just told the truth about how fantastic Morocco is. Apart from not being able to guarantee glassy waves, the rest is true.  It would be nice if once in a while after this trip we do a surf weekend here or there but, if he gets really good, better than me during this week there’s going to be big trouble and we all know what happens when I sulk .

If you haven’t read my post Surf, Sulk and the Hulk click here to read it.

How to Recover From a Debauched Christmas

STICK A FORK IN ME, I’M DONE

Its official, the festivities are over. We are hurtling into January at warp speed and into the new frontier of 2016, darkness reigns across the galaxy as we return to work, broken and bewildered. Ok,  I went to see Star Wars on Saturday, no more references I promise. It was meant to be a quiet, sedate and relaxed end to a few boozy days away with some pals. New Year’s Eve hangovers had just begun to retreat and we were all feeling decidedly better.

It started so well but,  somehow, after the film I drank my body weight in red wine, ate a whole pig and a kilo of cheese, smoked fags, stayed up after 5am, performed a self-choreographed modern dance in the kitchen set against the backdrop of 90’s gangster rap (although I was not the only one) and physically wrestled people to stop them from going to bed, again. This has been happening since mid-December.

So, the upshot of having lived like Henry VIII for almost three weeks, (apart from the wives, rolling heads, opulent lifestyle and that I’m not a King or indeed a man) is that I feel like I’ll never be able to run again and I’ll live in giant pyjamas for the rest of my days, get gout and only respond to the name Jabba.

Alternatively, I get off my ass, get moving and stop moaning because the longer I moan about it the less I’m doing and the more likelihood there is of slipping into old habits.

I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way so here is what I’m doing to move on from a debauched Christmas towards feeling more sprightly and getting into the swing of being active again. It’s all very obvious and simple but, sometimes we need reminding that we really are only a few steps away from feeling great again.

Acceptance

Be kind to yourself, what’s done is done, don’t beat yourself up. So, you stuffed your cake hole and didn’t make it out for a run or even a walk and can’t fasten your work trousers, regret won’t change that or make your trousers looser. Remember, your newly shaped belly was cultivated with love, what a comforting thought. Drinking, eating and being merry with your favourite people are the reasons for your food baby and you had a great time, just accept it and move on.

Set a Goal

 What is your goal? Is it just to deflate a little and get your energy back? To take up a new activity? Setting realisitc a goal, even a small one is a great way to get you back into the swing of things. Without a goal how will you motivate yourself? I need to be Surf fit for Morocco in 8 weeks so there’s mine right there. My goal of being able to surf my brains out every day and not get tired or injured is a really positive one. Note that my goal is not guilt driven or a punishment and it’s not so narrow that I can’t have a lazy weekend or a takeaway.

Make a plan and stick to it

How will you reach your goal? Make a simple, realistic plan and stick to it. Make sure your plan  has flexibility so you can enjoy the unexpected things that may crop up, like a night out or cancelling a run because you are tired. Just do it, don’t create obstacles or make excuses. It’s your decision to follow your plan or not, the time will pass anyway.

Today was my first day back in the office after finishing on 18th December, during my time off I travelled 800 miles around the UK, eating, drinking, surfing and being a dick head here, there and everywhere. I enjoyed every minute of it, clearly seen in  my puffy ‘Elvis in the fat years’ face . I had to goto  to work in ‘lounge pants’ today as I genuinely cannot fasten any work clothes. I imagine a lot of people were sneakily unfastening the the top button of their trousers and feeling uncomfortable today too! Lets not wallow, instead get outdoors, run, walk, bike,  do something new, break a sweat doing whatever.  You are only a few steps away from feeling great again .

One Week, 783 Miles of Motorway for Waves

….Two surf trips , One hell of a great time

In the last week or so I have driven 783 miles for surfing. I feel like I don’t want to see the inside of the car for a little while.

Road tripping

Road tripping

My blind date in Cornwall came and went in a flash of sunshine, chatter, surf and blue sky. Before I knew it I was dropping Aussie Surf Chick off at Taunton station,  back at work, and 180 miles from the nearest surf almost as if the trip had never happened.

The night I got back after an excruciating 7.5 hour drive on the hottest day of the year I got into bed, deposited sand from various parts of my body into the clean sheets and drifted off to sleep. As I sank into the mattress I felt  a not unpleasant ache in my shoulders as my brain, still believing me to be on the water, gently rocked back and forth in my head like a bobbing boat.  As usual the Landlocked blues kicked in the moment I woke up for work the next day. This time, it wasn’t to last too long though.

A few days after arriving back from Cornwall, with washing still hanging all over the house because of the rain,   food shopping still not done and sleep still not caught up on Landlocked Surf Girl suggested a day trip to Devon.

An unused leash has many uses

Alternative use for a leash

So, on   Sunday morning at 11am after a 200 mile drive (thankfully not me driving)  we pulled into Braunton and into torrential rain, thunder and sheets of lightening. On the journey down I wondered if this was what life would be like now I can drive. Two surf trips in one week is normal to those who live by the coast and they would be reading this thinking so what.  To someone who lives so far away from the coast and sometimes goes 4 months without a surf and who recently couldn’t get anywhere without masses of planning  and mainly relying on  public transport,  this was a momentous week!

The tale of both of my trips is way too long for a post and shall stay instead in my head, suffice to say they consisted of waves, sun, fun, food, laughs, hanging out with friends old and new, a few bruises and many discoveries and ideas for future trips . I surfed 4 breaks I hadn’t been to before and I tried 5 boards ( including my Malcom)  over both trips. This has now led to an unhealthy obsession with a particular board I’m going to have to buy! Well, Malcom does get lonely, he needs a friend. If anyone wants to buy it for me for my birthday that would be great!

Apart from a hand/head/foot tan and a car full of sand this is what I took from my trips:

When driving to Cornwall from the Midlands add 3 hours to the sat nav, the sat nav does not know about Cornish time or tractors!

Surf spots change so quickly, if it looks good now get in don’t have a little rest because in 2 hours it will be flat or a mess. Equally if it looks shit right now that doesn’t mean it will look shit in an hour

The Beached Lamb Cafe do the best breakfasts and have the loveliest staff and they even list ‘sprinkes of sunshine’ as ingredients in their menu

Devon is not too far for a day trip

A gopro is not for posers, far from it.  It makes you look like a massive manatee and catches all your mad faces but, it’s great fun to look at afterwards

I feel really at home in Newquay and could totally see myself down there for 6 weeks next summer

Sunsets on a west coast beach are awesome, always watch the sunset, never turn down a chance to watch a great sunset

So, that was ‘2 trips week’ . Next up is my 3rd, so it must be annual now, Birthday trip to South Wales only two weeks today!

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