Surf/Travel/Inspiring Film Recommendation: A Woman’s Guide to the World by Apolla Echino

Regular readers of surfabella.com will know that I have barely written a word since the start of summer when I went on my 6 week solo adventure living in a tent next to the beach in South Wales, UK

I wrote a lot while I was away but, for some reason those words remain as hastily scrawled ink in a note book and I haven’t felt the urge to change that.  Those six weeks were too big, too significant, too much to write about in a blog post so perhaps they will remain ink in a book. Instead I’ve been reading other people’s writing and digging about for some good films.

Surfing the South Island of New Zealand – Winter

Today I watched a short film recommended by a friend called A Woman’s Guide to The World. It’s a document of one woman’s solo surf trip around the South Island of New Zealand. Film maker and surfer Apolla Echino  by her own admission, is not an amazing surfer but, she is an adventure seeker and a girl we’d definitely like to share a wave and  vino  with.  The description of this film on her facebook says

With her great curiosity as an adventurer, Apolla is driven to inspire more women to be bold and follow their dreams.With the viewer as her close companion, she will show how by leaving the comforts of home and relationships, and by venturing off the beaten path, you can find your voice, shape your world view, and ultimately, transform your life.

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 She is one of us, she is freezing her ass off, she is pouring hot water on her boots to keep warm, running out of gas in her van, sometimes getting scared surfing alone, she is struggling to carry her long board down big sand dunes, getting frustrated in a line up full of blokes and she is pushing herself beyond what she thought she could do. I love this girl, she is  me, you and every woman  you know who strikes out to do something outside of her comfort zone, to go despite hesitation and who paddles out despite failure because there will always be another wave.

Please, just put aside just 40 minutes today to watch this beautiful film, this one is worth your time and needs to be seen by more people. I loved it so much it inspired me to post something on Sufabella after quite a long spell of silence.  Surfer, non surfer, man, woman, creature, it matters not. Just watch it. Keep up with Apolla’s adventures through facebook here.

Thanks xx

I’m filming this trip to inspire other women to be the subject of their own adventure story’

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Run 530 Leicester

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I’ve never been a speedy runner, I’ve never found running easy and I spend most of my time while running looking at people’s backs in the distance but, I plod on. I try to ignore my frustration at being so slow and  rejoyce the fact that a few years ago I couldn’t  plod anywhere. Lately though,   I’ve been in a deep running rut and my interest in the activity as a whole has been minimal.
I ran an extremely difficult half marathon a month ago, it took me 3 hours, I was 4th from last and I hated it. I hadn’t been motivated to train and I didn’t run once in the last 16 days leading up to the event. I wasn’t fit for a 5k never mind a half marathon and  I started to think, what’s the point in it, I’m rubbish at running anyway. Since then,   I’ve had several difficult ,uncomfortable short runs that my heart hasn’t  been in. I haven’t finished a run feeling great for I don’t know how long. So, with little reward of late I started giving little effort, hence my rut.
When I signed up to a 5.3km running event called Run 530 which started at 5.30am, I imagined running through my home town bathed in the golden light of sunrise. I had thoughts of  birds singing, the first sounds of the city waking up as shops opened and the first buses crawled out of town on a glorious summer morning. Run 530 originated in Italy and is hosted by Perfect Motionhere in the UK.  Looking at the 530 gallery I was seduced by sunrise pictures of happy Italian runners in Venice, Modena and Rome. I did not get that!
Run 530 UK Leicester
This morning, my alarm went of at 4.15 am, it was raining. I left my house at 4.45am, it was raining. I walked to the meeting point in Victoria Park Leicester, it was raining. There’s a pattern forming here. How wonderfully British the weather decided to be.  On the walk from the car I started making preemptive excuses for my impending, poor performance and talking about being the last over the line.  To my surprise, and delight as I wan’t feeling very motivated,  my super fast runner friend said she’d go my pace to help me.
At the start line we were greeted by lots of smiling faces, most in disbelief that they had managed to get out of bed before 5 am for this event. Everyone at a 530 run wears a tour t shirt which can be collected before the event and  were coincidentally in Leicester blue this year, a possible connection with Ranieri being Italian and the LCFC premiership win perhaps?
Instantly, it was clear that the atmosphere was friendly, inclusive and non competitive. There were no race numbers, no times, no start gun and no pacers. There were cheers and laughs at the start line mostly relating to the weather and time of day and lots of chatter all the way round.
The 5.3k route took us past Leicester landmarks such as New Walk (down was much nicer than up), the clock tower, Leicester Cathedral and the Highcross. The rain didn’t matter one bit and despite going a bit quicker than I would if I was on my own I started enjoying it, an unusual occurrence lately.
The route was well staffed by  marshals and a photographer on a bike who kept popping up in different locations, clear signage meant nobody went off track and when we made it up New Walk there was a lady waiting to give us our lush medals followed by drinks, fruit bowls and a pink goodie bag – hoorah! The goodie bag may have been a bit girly, one man said he was going to wear his fake eye lashes to work that morning but, for me it was a nice change from a healthy chew bar tasting of soil.
I finished with a big grin on my face for the first time in a while.  I put a bit of extra effort in (mainly thanks to my girl coach for staying with me and the novelty of the event)  and got a lot out of this run. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong lately, I guess to get the runner’s reward,  you have to actually try and something about today’s event got me to try again. I feel motivated to get back to it now.
I really enjoyed this event, it felt like we were co conspirators in a secret club nobody knew about because the city was mostly asleep, I imagine some people were lying in  bed with windows open wondering what the noise was as 160 pairs of feet padded through the silence of town at 5.30am.
I really hope Run 530 returns next year. Participants are encouraged to run or walk the route so it’s definitely an event for anyone of any experience and ability.  Leave your ego at home, this event is all about community, people and fun. Perhaps it’s just a post 530 high but,  I’m now thinking of becoming a Run 530 tourist and doing them in Italy next year. I can see it now, ‘Report From the Road with Surfabella, On Tour in Italy’,  wonder if there’s a job going that fits that description?

Its not too late to join in the final Run530 UK event in Derby on 15th July sign up here
If you are thinking about starting running or have just started read my post on being a beginner here

Coasteering in Pembrokeshire with Jump Bros

The sense of danger must not disappear: The way is certainly both short and steep, However gradual it looks from here; Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

(you don’t really have to but, I like this verse)

 

Anything to do with getting in the sea and I’m there so I jumped (pun intended) at the opportunity to go Coasteering with Jump Bros in Pembrokeshire during my latest trip to Wales where  I discovered that Coasteering is so much more than just climbing up stuff then jumping off into the sea.

We booked to go with Jump Bros who are based near Tenby on a perfect, hot, sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. With a little trepidation regarding the heights, some nerves and excitement we set off to meet Andy and Ollie, our guides.

coasteer

These two local chaps have a plethora of experience and qualifications between them and an easy going camaraderie that you can sense could switch in a split second should a situation arise. You can tell these guys love their jobs and seeing guests have a great time.

After possibly the sweatiest walk of my life, ( I was wearing a 5 mm wetsuit, buoyancy aid and helmet) one by one like baby ducks we plopped into the cool water and followed Ollie, with Andy coming in  behind us.

Adrenalin kicks in for the first few minutes as you adjust to the enormity of your surroundings. It’s somewhat intimidating floating in the sea surrounded by these colossal, ancient rock faces, unsure of the hidden depths below and taken up and down by the  rise and fall of the sea as it breaths.

Maybe it was just me but, I felt a bit shaky and nervous, perhaps it’s the old demon,  ‘I Can’t’. I’m not great with heights, I think I’m crap at climbing and scrambling and often think I’m the weakest link in most activities so I tend to decide I can’t do things before really trying. Ollie and Andy are masters at spotting this in people and Ollie’s next move was genius and evil in equal measure.

Continuing to follow Ollie’s encouraging voice like a good little duckling, I scrambled out for my first climb up to Pirates Plank. I was first, how did that happen, how did he do that?

I looked down, the jump from here wasn’t high but, it was in to a small cave. I’d already made my mind up, no, just no. Ollie looked me in the eye and said (with a serious face, a hint of a smile and a very calming voice) do you trust me, well, of course I did so, I jumped.

 

 

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A split second of fear followed by  a leap and a moment of nothingness  and I was rewarded with a refreshing shock as I hit the cold water then pinged up to the surface like a cork with a massive grin on my face and my heart absolutely pounding. I’d done it and so I’d found my confidence for the rest of our salty escapade.

The Glamour

The Glamour

One by one each of us made the first jump, got our confidence then continued to have an absolute blast with Ollie and Andy. It was as if we needed that first exit, climb and jump out of the way to loosen things up and start having the real fun.

We made our way around the coast climbing, traversing and scrambling out of the water and jumping back in off various ledges and sea stacks, admiring the view from the water as the gentle current took us around. To see the incredible Pembrokeshire coastline with its sea cliffs and strange looking Dali-esque caves from sea level is quite an experience.

coast

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The beauty of this activity is that really anyone can do it, it’s not the reserve of super fit dare devil’s or groups of young lads. Anyone over 8 can do it. Our guides made sure there were always a few options so nobody felt pressured to climb up or jump off anything that was out of their comfort zone and we all felt safe and supported all of the time.

I I absolutely loved Coasteering and it did a lot for my confidence, I think doing something you’re a bit scared of actually makes you feel safer because you did it and none of the crazy bad things you imagined happened . I’ll definitely look up Jump Bros again over summer when they are also planning on running snorkeling trips.

Useful Links

Jump Bros website 

Jump Bros facebook 

Visit Pembrokeshire  website

Visit Wales website

 

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

 

A Warm Welcome in Wales

20160401_144149-1[1]Eight hours after leaving Mawgan Porth in Cornwall I finally pulled into Gower and the warm welcome of my friend and her fella with offerings of red wine, comfort and doritos.  The journey there had been arduous but, once the hills of Wales loomed up in the distance  I felt an immediate sense of relief and a sort of homecoming.

 At last I saw the final  sign to Llangennith which  led me to my friend’s house and  into  a tight hug  that said, ‘we’ve got you,’ . A night of wine, eating, catching up  and possibly the most comfy bed I’ve ever slept in passed all too quickly and I woke to a typical wet Welsh  morning and the final drive over to Pembrokeshire.

I’ve now been in Pembrokeshire for 5 days and quite frankly I do not want to leave Wales.  There has been surfing, coasteering, spectacular coastline, campfires and coastal running. We have seen porpoise playing in the bay, rainbows, ancient rocks, smugglers caves and  beautiful sunsets giving way to clear, clear night skies.
I spent last night sitting  around the campfire with friends old and new,  under a blanket of stars. We could have been ancient people, we are doing what people have done for thousands of years, seeking out a tribe and finding a sense of home and Wales is certainly providing both.

For an exhilirating but, very doable experience  Coasteering in Pembrokshire check out http://jumpbroscoasteering.co.uk/

 

 

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 ………

Why Being a Landlocked Surfer is Not So Bad

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

The Silver Surfer's House

The Silver Surfer’s House

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

the benefits of being a landlocked surfer

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Only Mermaid in the Village

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

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

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

Holiday Blues , First Day Back from a Surftrip

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

Alfred & Joan and the Mysterious Travel Trunk

Rummaging in junk shops on Saturdays while hung over is a common pastime for me .

I’ve found a lot of junk and a few treasures over the years but, today I found something more. Amongst all of the old wardrobes, odd chairs, teapots with no lids, piles of dusty books and random golf clubs I saw two travel trunks . Proper,  old fashioned, steamer travel trunks, the type you’d imagine Pilleas Fogg or gentleman explorers with swirly mustaches and Panama hats to have hauled around the world . Whether or not these trunks have seen Blackpool or Buenos Aries,  Clacton on  Sea or Cairo  I’ll never know.

$_57

 Team Surfabella’s artistic guru, otherwise know as  Long Legs has been looking for a trunk for a while so as soon as I saw these ones I called him to haul his ass up to the junk shop and take a look. As I stood guard over the them to avoid a gazump  I looked inside. Sifting  through old cd’s and empty photo frames, a few plates and some knives  I wondered where the trunks had been, who owned them, where they lived, what were their lives like, how was it that their personal belongings had ended up in a junk shop. The banality of the items gave me a bit of a pang, objects not of great value but, from normal life.  A plate,  maybe used for Christmas dinner, an empty photo frame that might once have held a loved one in a photograph.  At the very bottom of these remnants,  I found an envelope marked birth certificates and a postcard from ‘mother’. I’d made a unexpected connection with the owners. I felt a bit weird holding the envelope,  finding out their names would give the trunk a story. Maybe Long Legs didn’t want a story with his purchase. I was unable to resist. Alfred and Joan were born 1914 and 16 respectively.
I put the envelope back where I found it as Long Legs arrived and I quickly told him what I’d found and how sad I thought it was, why had their birth certificates been thrown away? Didn’t they have any family? Blah,  blah , blah, blah….. Quite used to my nonsense he was not greatly moved by my sentimental  ramblings or intrigued like I was but, bought one of the trunks nonetheless.   Emptying the contents out of it  for the sale to be made , the shop oike  dropped the envelope on the floor and stood on  it with his big, fat,  dirty trainers. It made me so sad, these were people who lived a life, they meant something to someone and now some stranger was just standing on their stuff.  Long Legs, (now seeing where I was coming from)  and I did some looks and pulled a few funny faces between us when we saw his  foot on the envelope so  he asked if we could have it. We decided I’d have the birth certificates and he’d take the trunk . This somehow seemed right.  Someone had to remember them so why not me, even though I hadn’t met them.
And if you die before I die, I'll carve your name out of the sky. I'll fall asleep with your memory and dream of where you lie
In my head Alfred and Joan had a great life, they were childhood sweethearts who had met at school.  They never had children but, they had a full and fun life. They had many friends and were renowned for throwing a good party. Joan liked a G & T or two. They  travelled in a time when travel was less common, they did a grand tour of Europe and took the Trans Siberian Express, they rode camels in the desert  and trekked across Patagonia. They were inseperable and in their later years, when their bodies were weary and their memories less sharp they would look at the travel trunk and remember the adventures they had together. Or maybe they just used them to move house, who knows? It really doesn’t matter, nor does it matter why their lives ended up on a junk shop floor.  I’ll keep Alfred and Joan’s  birth certificates and postcard on my book shelf, inside a rough guide to Morocco.  I hate the thought of them being  discarded  and  being forgotten as if they had never been here.
It’s a nice thought to imagine that even after I’m gone someone else who didn’t know them will remember them. One day someone is going to go through my belongings. They will  come across Alfred and Joan’s envelope , read their names aloud  and wonder who they were to me.

Soundtrack to Alfred & Joan

I

Surf Mamma by Wilma Johnson Review and Interview

9781849535915

You do not have to be a surfer, a would be surfer or mama to enjoy this book. But, be warned, if you have a dream on the back burner and think, I can’t or I’m too old or what about the kids, reading this book might mean you just have to go for it!

I don’t have kids, I have never lived in Ireland or France, I have never been married, I’m not an artist and I’m still at the stage of surfing that Wilma Johnson was on about page 50 of her brilliant book Surf Mama.

Why then do I hear my own voice in Wilma’s story? Our lives couldn’t be more different.  The effort, effect, emotions, frustrations, and eventual rewards of learning to surf are just the same though. Perhaps more importantly is the impact surfing had on her life outside of the surf, the places it takes her, the people she meets, the direction she takes, the friends, the laughs, the beers, the stories.

I nod and laugh when her words seem so familiar it’s almost like she has taken them from my own mind with some sort of voodoo thought hoover and emptied the bag onto paper!

wilma art

In a moment I might be under the wave swallowing seawater and small jellyfish, but right now I am an ancient princess of Hawaii, I am a bikini model, I am a goddess before the crest of a monster billow.”

Haha! This is exactly me when I’m on a 0ft wave on my 9ft monster board!

There are many books telling  people’s surf story out there but, this one is different. It’s really well written for a start. Surf Mama is more than a book about a woman surfing. It’s a wonderfully written account of a witty and adventurous spirit who takes life by the balls and does things her own way. Along the way there’s travel, adventure, frustration, disappointments, a little romance, a lot of fun and a few beers on the beach.

Wilma is a successful artist and throughout the book  Wilma mentions  a work in progress. The fact that this body  of work exists and is now complete brings the book to life even more for me, you can see The Seven Surf Mamas here . I looked at them while I was reading the book and it added a huge, bold, splash of colour to the scenes I had imagined.

I absolutely adored this book, I read it on a solo surf trip to Morocco and lots of other people there had read it to .  I decided I had to tell Wilma how much I loved it so I did on twitter. Much to my surprise and delight she replied and we had a brief exchange regarding donkeys and camels.  I thought I’d push my luck and ask her to answer a few questions,  here’s what she had to say.

I loved the book, it’s the first surf related book that I have identified with, and all the surf chicks I know who have read it felt the same. Why do you think it strikes such a chord with people?

wilma smilePart of the reason I wrote the book was that I got sick of the stereotype of surf chick as Californian bikini model–it’s about going out there, getting a wave, having a laugh, having a beer, not about being a bloody cheerleader….I think women identify with that, and it’s not just about surf, I’m saying whatever you want to do, go for it!

 How’s your surfing coming along? Ready for Pipeline yet? 

I’m really pleased with what I’ve achieved, in the beginning I thought if I could just stay standing for ten seconds, my work would be done! But Pipeline will have to wait because I got a frozen shoulder –                                                                    very painful and I’m in dry dock right now….

 While you were learning, back in the days of being scared of 1 meter waves, what was the best piece of advice to you were given to help you push through and progress?

 Enjoy the Wipeout…. It’s always going to happen and if you’re scared of it you’ll never relax. Don’t worry about looking silly – part of the fun of surfing is learning to fall over again. Have to say we sit in the bar and laugh at the wipeouts in Guethary……

 The Seven Surf Mamas series is fab and obviously connected to your surfing. Did your work change as your surfing progressed?

 My work has always been autobiographical, and when I started the series I couldn’t stand up. I felt like I couldn’t finish the first painting until I could, so I think in a way the painting inspired me to surf better!

When the book ended I wanted to continue hearing your story, I felt like hopping across the channel to come and have a beer with you to find out what you were up to. Obviously I didn’t as we are complete strangers and that would be stalkerish. Any plans for a follow up in the pipeline? (excuse the pun)

 Well, due to the frozen shoulder, my world tour ending with me winning the Pipeline Masters is on hold, but I am writing a new book … and if you’re ever down this way, do stop by for a beer!

There you go, you heard it here first! (possibly if you don’t read Wilma’s blog)  Wilma Johnson is working on a new book. For those of us who have read Surf Mama a giant hoo-rah and those that haven’t, get to it!

Wilma comes across as the kind of lady I could be friends with. She’d be your get drunk by accident and have an adventure with friend.  Me and Landlocked are off to the WSL (ASP) women’s tour stop in France in October so we might just stop by for that beer and take my other BFF Steph along too!

 

You can buy Surf Mama  for Kindle for just 99p for a limited time HERE
or
 HERE in good old fashioned paperback

Keep up with Wilma’s adventure via the following  links

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Magical Morocco Surftrip

 Getting There

387821_112750995508342_964498276_nUnfortunately my much anticipated trip was temporarily cancelled due to some serious floods in the Agadir region but,  was reinstated a few days later as Surfstar Morocco had managed to get operational.  So,  with a few hours notice I booked a flight from Manchester to have a quick 4 night trip and  I found myself at Agadir airport where I was picked up by Bahs one of the surf instructors.

 The drive through Agadir really brought home that I had crossed into a different continent; the look, the atmosphere, the what seems like chaotic roads and driving that works perfectly well somehow, the buildings, the dress of the people, the fleeting sound of people’s voices as we speed past, the odd goat at the side of the road, roadside stalls, smells wafting from cafes into the van window. It’s a feeling I love and haven’t felt for a while. Like much of North Africa it’s a little shall we say, different to what Europeans are used to. For many including me this, along with the warmth and hospitality of the people is what is so charming and appealing about Morocco.

 The House

We pulled off the coast road and up a winding hill to the SurfStar house to be enthusiastically greeted like old friends by Lucie, Pip and Laura and to be told that as it was only 1pm they were going to get us fed, settled into our rooms and get us shipped off to the beach for a quick surf asap. So far so brilliant!

 I was overwhelmed as Laura gave us the welcome tour at just how gorgeous the Surfstar house is, especially the first time I walked into the covered rooftop lounge/eating area. I love fairly lights so this was an easy win for me. The view from the outdoor roof terrace, the enchanting sounds of Morocco in the background as the sun dips into the sea. My room was equally lovely and I was spoilt by having it all to myself. Although, the whole house is so spacious I imagine even during busier times it never feels horribly full.

 I had the almost full package (everything apart from yoga) which included meals, surf, room and airport transfers. The food was fantastic. I feel a bit bad that I don’t remember the names of the chefs, they are all local, the food is delicious and they are always smiling.  Breakfast of yummy local bread, jam, fruit, cereal and sometimes eggs was a great start to the day and the coffee was divine.  Lunch was brought to the beach and evenings were 3 courses, soups, salad, chicken and lamb tagines, cous cous, chocloate mousse, all really good post surf healthy home cooked food. One night a week it’s the kitchen’s night off so we headed out for pizza in Taghazout, 2 miles away by taxi.

 The Surfing

The surfing itself consists of a prompt 9.30am departure and setting up a full on camp on arrival at the surf spot with little umbrellas and cooler boxes full of food. There’s friendly beach dogs playing and running around looking for a fuss or for you to throw stones for them to fetch, there’s camels that you can ride, herds of little goats (but they are disappointingly  not in trees)  and a zillion cats hanging around the fishing shacks.  At Devil’s rock you can get a great cafe au lait for a euro in the little beach cafe a few steps from the surf. This really is a full day of surfing, arriving at the surf spot around 9.45am and leaving around 4.30pm.  The morning consists of a proper lesson and after lunch is followed by free surfing in the afternoons. The guys are on hand on the beach making sure everyone is ok but leave you to get on and practice. I had teachers Barak, Bahs and Khaleed and Boba the photographer was always there with a word of encouragement too. I definitely progressed during my 4 days and only wished I could have had longer. I’m someone who needs a few days to build their confidence back up again after a break from surfing so I felt like I was just getting into the swing of things and it was time to leave.

It was nice to see Lucie, Laura and Pip take advantage of a quiet week and join us for a surf too.  I got very attached to my big green board that we named ‘the hulk’ and to my fellow surf buddies, two awesome guys from Germany and an American bloke who called me ‘the hulk’ . The waves were a bit dodgy the first two days on account of the storms that had just passed but, after that they were some of the cleanest conditions I’d surfed in. So much so that my dodgy shoulder behaved itself as I wasn’t in a paddle battle with the ocean to get back out on my giant board.

On my last day I felt quite emotional leaving, I’d only been there 4 days but I felt a real bond. I also felt refreshed and stoked from the surf. As a 40 year old very wobbly improver travelling alone I had been worried about whether a surf camp was for me, would I fit in and would I find common ground with people, would I be the oldie left in the corner? I had nothing to worry about. If you want to go to bed at 8.30pm go, I won the prize for first to bed every night and was very proud of my status! And of course the comedy of surfing crosses cultures, languages and ages. There’s so much potential for making a buffoon of yourself while surfing that doing it together instantly creates a bond and limitless material for banter at dinner time.

 As my flight was at 8pm they let me stay surfing until the last minute at 4pm. I came back to the house to grab my stuff and say bye to Lucie, Pip and Laura. On coming down the stairs for the last time I stopped purposefully at a certain point to take in a deep breath and commit how I felt to memory. You see, there’s a smell when you walk into the ground floor of Surfstar Morocco, just as you pass the stairs down to the basement. It’s a smell that almost knocks you off your feet. Forevermore when I get hit with the smell of neoprene I’ll always remember walking down the beautiful tiled stairwell getting ready for the days surfing just about to start and how happy, relaxed, welcome and at home I felt.

Tamraght offers access to all of the same surf as it’s famous neighbour Taghazout but, it’s quieter, cleaner and less busy.  I’m afraid I can’t comment on the yoga as it wasn’t scheduled for the week I was there but, it is available and information is on the website.  If like me you have avoided surf houses because of some of the shenanigans going on and poor accommodation then fear not! Surfstar is a million miles away from this. I’m planning to go back again with my bloke surf mate and cannot wait to see the place in full swing with more people gathered around the dinner table and more people to have a laugh with, it’s certainly going to be different to my first visit but, I’m excited all the same.

Surfstar has a relaxing and inclusive feel and there is an established, brilliant team that work hard to nurture this. They seem to genuinely care about each other and the guests and have a passion for surfing, hospitality and people. Lucie and Mo have created a warm family environment and once you arrive you are in the Surfstar family and you will be going back!

 Further Inofrmation

Click here for SurfStar website

Booking enquiry here be sure to mention Surfabella or Clare UK in the ‘how did you find us’ box

 For flights  check skyscanner for all countires and airlines flying to Agadir

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!!