A Weekend 3000ft Above Sea Level

this is not a surf trip

I’m going on a road trip this weekend which requires a day off work, a drive of 370 miles and 3 nights away.  IT IS NOT A SURF TRIP. This is highly unusual and it’s strange not to be packing my board or hunting for tent pegs, not to be digging out misshapen chunks of board wax from the sandy bowels of the car or wondering if my wetsuit will fasten.

Ironically, I am going to a place which holds a huge body of water, it’s even named after water but, I can’t surf there. I’m off to the heady heights of the Lake District, Cumbria to meet up with 9 friends and a few dogs. I’ll be sampling my second YHA Hostel this month in Langdale which lies in the Lake District National Park .

Lakes Xmas 2012

Perhaps this whole surfing malarkey is settling down  a bit now. In the first flourish of obsession, (the last 3 years)  I wouldn’t even contemplate a 3 day trip that didn’t involve surfing, time off was too precious to spend inland and it would have been torturous. Not now though.

My trusty  old mate, Long Legs and I are car sharing and will be travelling in the super high performance 799cc  Baked Bean after we have ripped out the front seat and made a hole for his head in the roof. Believe me, it is this small.

In return for me chauffeuring us, Long Legs vehemently denies this but, he did agreed to carry me uphill in a tartan papoose like a giant baby when I get tired. Recently though he has seemed quite anti-papoose, I’ve no idea why.  I can rest my legs and be fed cakes and tea on the move, what’s not to love? I’m seriously going to get a punch for sharing this. He says the papoose  is not going to happen, I  however, live in hope.

I won’t think about how I could be surfing this weekend, it’s not all about the coast. There are adventures to be had elsewhere, doing different things and exploring these wondrous Islands I call home.  There’s hanging out with old friends, sitting in pubs with open fires and wet dogs, drinking tea from a flask at the top of a mountain after a tough climb, seeing beams of sunlight break through black clouds and lighting up the valleys,  putting a brave face and waterproofs on in the face of driving rain, walking up things and then back down them. Then there is the icing on the cake, carrying your best mate up a mountain in an adult papoose because you are a good egg.

funny jumper


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 ………

Yoga for an Absolute Beginner

yoga is not for me or i’m not for yoga?

So many people have suggested I take up yoga to compliment my  surfing. From yoga teachers, which isn’t really surprising, to surf instructors, friends, seasoned yogis, new yoga converts and pretty much every article I read about surf fitness includes a yoga for surfing video or guide of some sort.

You can read about Kernow Surf Girl’s recent adventures in hot yoga for surfing  here .

Despite taking up numerous activities I’ve managed to avoid yoga . Why? Well, I’ve been a bit scared of it to be honest. Seeing the lithe, slim, beauties coming out of yoga classes at surfcamps is  intimidating. They look like they  would have no problem getting into position, that holding their tiny body weight on one finger would be a piece of cake (or maybe not hence the lithe)  I can’t even  sit cross legged because my right knee won’t go down .  I’ve always thought yoga just wasn’t for me and I’ve ended up seeking out  bonkers, boisrous things like insanity and circuits.

The feeling  that I’m not an ideal  candidate for yoga is in part  down to  the way I’ve interpreted it, as the domain of the affluent, honey haired, yummy mummies and the Gwyneth Paltrows of this world  where as I am more Rebel Wilson .

I’ve told myself that I have enough things I’m  struggling to master without adding another one. I have visions of falling on my face and sweating like a beast in my first class , of being laughed at by the beautiful people who don’t have a hair out of place, then me  sulking and never going back. So, the idea of yoga has been put in a box, sealed and hidden at the back of a cupboard.

phot credit http://www.fremontfair.com/blog/uncategorized/yoga-talk/

However, my love surfing is greater than my fear of  inadequacy and I need to improve and get out of the beginner stage I’ve been stuck in for two years.   So, much to my delight and fear in equal measure,  a friend who also happens to be a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Wellness Consultantt, co director of Santosa Wellness and all round goddess of peace  and calm, suggested she could help me get started. Why on earth I hadn’t discussed this with her before I don’t know.


Tomorrow I’ll meet her to get my bespoke yoga practice, we’ll go through it all together so I can be sure I’m doing things right ready for practicing at home, I can ask questions and she can catch me when I fall. She’s made me feel confident and comfortable that yoga is for anyone and I feel pretty excited. Report on my progress to come.


New Year’s Resolutions Still Going Strong ?

resolution versus revolution

We made it through January hooorahh. Nights are getting a little lighter and even though it’s cold and windy and still clearly winter  it’s rather warming to think that  March is in touching distance, closely followed by spring.

Four weeks ago, pretty much everyone I know made a New Year’s Resolution around food, activity or booze. Most were  the result  of opulent living over Christmas.  So, four weeks in, how are people’s  resolutions going?

New Year’s resolution are usually  laced with the regret and guilt  of Christmas. Often, because we feel pretty rotten we want results fast and our expectations are really  high. A resolution by definition is a firm decision to do or not to do something. So, essentially it’s a strict rule. It’s an I will do this or I won’t do that. The problem for me is that the breaking of the rule or the resolution is a catastrophic failure, there’s little room for flexibility.

 I have not seen many people succeeding with their resolutions. All around me I’m hearing and reading, mostly from women , ‘ I’ve been good, I’ve been bad, I fell off the wagon, I’ll start again tomorrow, I ONLY lost half a pound what’s the point, I had a bad week, I need to refocus, start again on Monday’. I must admit, these are all words that have fallen out of my mouth, the type of words that do nothing apart from chip away at your motivation until there is none left.

 Don’t get me wrong I’m very goal driven and  a big advocate of having something to aim for as it helps motivation but, I like to try and set positive goals. See my post How to Recover from a Debauched Christmas. I can’t live with  rules so narrow that it’s inevitable I’ll  break them  and  beat myself up about it. I have been guilty of this in the past and learnt it does not get you anywhere apart from stuck where you are and miserable.

change of ideas

Stuff resolutions, I’m all about Revolution. By definition revolution  is a forcible overthrow in favour of a new system. A few years back when I first embarked on my own health and fitness  mission, which is still a work in progress,  I overthrew the bad habits I’d had for years, the negative thinking and guilt, the cycle of setting the goals too high and always failing .

Most importantly, I stopped believing in the myth that there is a quick fix for everything . There isn’t.  This myth  is fed to us by shows such as the biggest loser and myriad celebrity diets and fads which  only serve to make us normal people with limited time and money,  feel like we aren’t doing enough and we need to try harder.  So, we buy the book, join the slimming club, join the gym, buy the pills and  keep the diet industry’s tills stuffed.

So, I set myself a new type of goal. For the first time ever a goal that would be fun and make me happy. To get fit and lose some timber in order to have a fighting chance at learning to surf rather than to stop being a fat munter which was the kind of language I used before, how is that even  a goal? Well, it’s not, it’s a giant shit stick  and that’s why it never worked. The key to success was going to come from a revolution in my thinking and  it would all start in my head, not necessarily  with what was on the end of my fork.

My revolution  was quiet and not extreme in any way. I adopted a  lifestyle  in which moving more and eating right most of the time have become the new normal. I made changes so small they can be sustained, a weekend or even a week of drinking and eating whatever I want is ok. I don’t have strict rules so I can’t  break them and declare a catastophic  fail. I’m determined to no longer be driven by guilt. I get my motivation from the  positive effects my efforts  have on my well being and of course my ability to surf.


Interestingly the one place I have seen lots of  people succeeding and feeling great this month is in the running community. Particularly the runners page This Girl Can Running. The excitement, the positive language the girls are using, the celebration of even the smallest progress and the support and encouragement on that page is inspiring. Take a look here.  These ladies of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities  are feeling good about themselves and it shows. If you want some motivation go and read some of the threads.

Playing  the long game,  a more relaxed approach and not having unrealistic expectations has worked. Taking up activities that make me feel good has worked. Having positive motivation has worked. Wanting to stay in good health as I approach my middle years has worked. As it stands it averages out that I’ve lost half a pound a week for 30 months and  that’s awesome. Sometimes I don’t make any progress for weeks on end and I have also now experienced  that health and fitness aswell as my commitment to the revolution  goes in cycles and that’s ok.

As the short lived fads and resolutions of others fade into the past I will keep moving forward, slowly but, always moving, experiencing  small changes, celebrating small victories and enjoying a nice cake and a bottle of wine when I want one.

If this is what revolution looks like, Vive La Revolution , fill my glass!

Interested in taking up running but, don’t want to do it alone? That Outdoor Girl are booking people in for the April course now here if you are lucky enough to be near one of their classes

Want to Start Running?

You can do it. Really!

I’m not sure if I can call myself a runner, mainly because of the speed I move. I’m more in the style of lolloping Labrador than whippet but, moving is what it’s all about and that’s what I do and I like Labradors. Anyway run, jog, plod, canter, whatever you want to call it, in this post I’m calling it running.

I started running in June 2013, the day I signed up to a half marathon. Admittedly this was quite ambitious but I’m an all or nothing sort of girl. Luckily for me my best lady mate is an experienced runner and assured me I could do it so, I believed her and got on with it. That day I could not run for 20 seconds, a total beginner.

I decided to run for the charity Wave Project and I documented some of the trials and tribulations of 0 – 13.1 miles on my fundraising page. Amazingly, a number of people said they felt inspired to give running a try after seeing me do it and reading my ramblings here. I was a normal, unfit, smoker who was significantly overweight and at almost 40 years old had not run anywhere since school. I had recently tried surfing for the first time and wanted to get fit to enable me to start learning properly rather than just bobbing around lying down on my board like a giant manatee. I went from zero to half marathon in 4 months. I am proof that anyone can do it so I guess people can relate to that.

Lessons I learnt, some the hard way!

What I learnt on day one was that running does not come naturally to me. As time went on I discovered running is bloody hard, it is challenging, rewarding, relaxing and frustrating all at the same time. You will love it and hate it and you will push yourself to do more than you ever thought you could. Here is a little of what I learnt from other people and things I discovered myself that might make your first days a little easier or just reassure you that everyone goes through the same thing when starting out.

1. Running is not just putting one foot in front of the other fast

If you just go out on your own with no plan and having done no research about how to get started you will make the mistake a lot of people make and leg it like a demented emu, hate every second of it and declare yourself someone who tried running but, just can’t take to it. On my very first attempt I found I didn’t know how to breathe, I didn’t know what was the most comfortable pace for me and I went too fast then too slow.

Your confidence will grow with some guidance. Follow a sensible beginners training plan like couch to 5k or any of the Runners World training plans. Most beginners plans are a combo of walking and jogging you should find it challenging but, achievable. Eventually you will learn to listen to your body and respond to it during your runs and you will build up a strong foundation of fitness and more importantly confidence that you CAN do it.

the first few weeks can be tough but, very quickly it becomes a habit and I find I look forward to going for a run. That feeling of achievement when you’ve reached a personal goal is amazing and I’m constantly suprised by what my previously unfit body can do – Laura Lou

  1. It is not glamorous and you will wobble – get used to it

You will wobble, sweat, pull faces, have mad hair, a bright red face and look a mess and you might get snot on your shoulder (guilty). Good. That means you are working hard. If you feel a little self-conscious as you run past people in the street or see all of the passengers on a passing bus look at you, remind yourself of the fact that you are out there doing it, they are not so don’t worry about what you think people are thinking when they see you . You may get heckled by knob heads, I had a few incidents of men shouting insults about my weight out of car windows and once even some bloke on the opposite side of a canal I was running by. Do not be put off. Quite simply they are knob heads , you are Zeena Warrior Princess, end of.

The true glamour of running, sweaty, red and puffed out! Maybe a bit delirious too.

  1. Stop Looking at other people – dance to your own beat

At the very beginning you will feel like a slug dipped in treacle dragging yourself up a hill while trying to pull a HGV using a piece of elastic. You will be ok with this because at least you have started. That is until you start comparing yourself to other people. Stop it right now! It’s a huge error I made and still do make on a bad day.

Everyone encounters that super lean, super fit, sex kitten with buns of steel in the tight lycra who runs effortlessly past them like a gazelle. You jealously consider pushing her in a bush but, unfortunately she’s half a mile ahead of you now. Well, she was a beginner too. She knows exactly what you are going through. She remembers how bloody hard the first few months are and she is rooting for you. It’s highly likely she thought ‘good for her’ as she passed you. You don’t know what it took for her to get where she is. You are unique, you cannot compare yourself to anyone. Beginner or not, concentrate only on what you are doing.

No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch is a quote by Austyn Clark Fry. I have it printed off and on my wall. Everytime I think I can’t be bothered going out for a run I read it. – Jo

  1. Your progress will creep up on you suddenly

The hardest part of running is the early stages, it feels like a mountain to climb. How will you ever get to run for 10 minutes if you can’t even run for 1 ? Will you ever be able to control your breathing? Will you ever be able to do 5k? Yes you will, trust in the training plan, be consistent, eat well and look after yourself.

Each time you run your confidence will grow. You will have a moment about 6 weeks in where you realise how much progress you have made and you’ll probably cry like a baby because you are so shocked and proud of yourself. Enjoy the small victories, they add up to a massive achievement! You will look back on this time and realise that this may have been hard but, it was also the best time because those achievements and firsts were coming thick and fast.

Every bit of movement no matter how fast or slow is productive. You are worth the effort and the rewards will come. Take some positives home from every outing that are not just about your run, the surise,morning mist, reflections in the rain- Claire

  1. Figure out your why – very important

Why have you decided to take up running? What is your why? You are going to need a good why when you are having a tough day or are struggling to get motivated. For me it was because I wanted to get strong for surfing and to do that I had to lose weight and get fit. As a landlocked surfer I also needed a way to get an endorphin hit outdoors when I was unable to surf. Running answered all of these things.

If you are taking up running because you hate your fat belly or you can’t stand the sight of yourself in the mirror this is not a good reason to start or the right mind-set. Exercise should never be something we do because we are crap or fat or rubbish or because we hate our bodies and are not good enough. That is called punishment and we are all guilty of it. I exercise because Iove my body and the things it allows me to do and because I want to take care of me.

If your motivation for exercise is because you value your health, because you want to feel stronger, because to want to achieve something, raise money for a charity, run around more with your kids, be happier and more energetic or maybe you want to get fit and climb Mount Kilimanjaro you are much more likely to succeed. Running will be a positive addition to your life that will benefit you in other areas not a torture you have to endure because you ate a cake.

Find your why, brainwash yourself with it and visualise a healthier, fitter more energetic you. On a tough day I still visualise myself surfing inside an azure barrel, in tropical waters, looking like Venus crossed with Zena Warrior Princess, I know running is helping me get there and so I push on.

  1. It’s worth spending money on some quality kit

You don’t need to spend a fortune on pants/shorts/running tights and a top to start out, addiction to buying technical kit will come later. However, do get a good quality sports bra, that’s optional chaps! Decent socks are also a must, I wear hilly twin skins and love them.

Whatever you do get proper running shoes. Proper running shoes will keep you comfortable for extended periods of time, they will reduce the risk of injury and they will last.They also make you feel like a kangeroo for the first week which is fun. They may have been the most expensive trainers I have ever bought but, I swear it was the best money I have ever spent on a pair of shoes. If you think you are going to keep it up spend the money, it’s worth it. Go to a local, specialist running shop, talk to the staff, don’t be intimidated they love talking about running and shoes.

When I’m out runing and really struggling, when my head is saying I could just turn round and go home, I start to narrate my run using the voice of Morgan Freeman. This makes me laugh and stops me thinking about what I have to do, it’s also quite relaxing to hear his voice in my head and helps me get out of that moment – Surfabella

  1. Enlist the support of friends and family


Encouragement and support are really important to the beginner runner, it doesn’t matter if they are running with you or not. Just a pat on the back now and then and somebody to moan to or celebrate with is very important. However, it’s even better if you can get some mates to join you. Doing it together is so much more fun. My best mate started at the same time as me, a man with long legs. You won’t always be running the same pace so enjoy this time .

When we were beginners we kept each other on track, never backed out of a run we had arranged and often when one had a weak day the other would be stronger and we’d get through it together . Now we have found our own stride we can’t always train together as I just can’t keep up . When we do run together it’s a more of a social run or its a moral support run when one of us is recovering from injury or has been off the wagon and needs a little help.

  1. Warning! You will become addicted

Before you know it you will have completed your beginners running programme and you are regularly out there running more than you ever thought you could. Whether you continue as you are enjoying a few runs a week or decide to go for bigger distances, speed, races or charity runs it doesn’t matter. You are now a running addict and will turn into a demented banshee if you get injured or can’t run for a few weeks. You will have more running clothing in your wardrobe than normal clothing and bore everyone at work with boring stories about the boring run you plan to do tonight or the boring run you did last night! Welcome to the club. You’ve done it and proved to yourself that This Girl Can.

Still not sure you can do it?

While I was writing this post I thought about some of the people I know who run. Some helped me along when I was a beginner and some are new to running themselves. I asked them to give some words of advice for beginners, they are the quotes that appear throughout this post. These final, beautiful words sent to me by a friend who took up running around a year ago should have you convinced that anyone can do it including you!

Start small. Don’t aim for 10k on your first day. Take every run as it comes. Some days will be hard, some will be easier. Once you accept your limits, go beyond them, Push yourself to run the length of 2 extra lampposts on your next run. As you improve and as your distance gets longer, change your route. Go explore, see the beauty of the world and discover some place new. Don’t block out the “chore of running” with music. Open your ears to the sounds around you, get into your body’s rhythm instead of a musical one and let your mind wonder. And when you finally complete the great north run, and look back and think “a few month back I couldn’t run down the street without a break” you feel the greatest sense of pride you ever will. Oh! and enjoy every minute of it – Hannah

If you are at this page because you are after more surf specific info this is a great post from Landlocked Surf Girl which looks at where to begin to improve your surf fitness with some great suggestions and practical advice.

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!!