A Very British Surf Life – Dream v Reality

After all of these months of not writing , something unexpected has inspired me. Not the wild, vastness of a sweeping Rhossili Bay on a stormy day , nor the majesty of towering cliffs of Pembrokeshire. Nah, it was some daft meme on facebook.

This my dears, is the reality that faces the average British surfer who has a job and sometimes has to use precious potential surf time to do other things. This is not what I anticipated when relocating to the coast to surf. With winter reducing potential time in the water even further, this meme is my life!

I nicked this from The Surf Box

To all of the landlocked surfers, please stop torturing yourselves thinking you are missing out and that the whole UK surfing population are always surfing while you slowly suffocate in inland cities, they are not I promise you. Please stop torturing yourselves imagining all the waves you will never surf that you believe others are. Those waves were last week while we we working, maybe in a few days time if the wind swings around, maybe next week if magic seaweed is wrong or maybe in summer if the cow jumps over the moon .

In reality we have lives and jobs and especially in winter the opportunity for surf often comes down to just 2 days reducing the probability of catching it on a decent day. Ahh a decent day, now there’s another thing.

Last spring, just after Easter we had a 5 week flat spell . This Autumn and winter we have had storm after storm after storm and while some spots might light up in certain stormy conditions, the ones that do are for the kamikaze, crazy good, surfers not for your average joe like me .

The wind and tides are often right but, only in the evenings after dark. On weekday mornings the webcam often reveals a glassy 3 footer shimmering in the sun as I sit here trapped at work having my soul sucked out of me. I’ve often had 4 weekends of no waves or terrible conditions and on the 5th I go away for a weekend in an attempt to have a life other than sitting around waiting for waves and the conditions clean up and the wind goes offshore just as I’m driving across the border into England.

The truth is living by the coast is not the guarantee of regular, decent surf that as a frustrated Landlocked surfer I had imagined it would be. Don’t get me wrong, being here is fabulous especially on those magical days when it all comes together, being in the right location then really comes in to it’s own. But, now that I know the reality, looking back to when I was Landlocked, it was never as bad as I made it out to be and perhaps I sulked a bit too much back then over what I imagined I was missing out on.

Landlocked, weekend warrior, living by the coast, beginner, world champion, summer only surfers or the twice a year surf tripper. We are all the same. We are all missing out on waves, the waves that live in our imaginations . That’s what the lure of surfing is, it underpins our addiction and fuels our desire to get to the coast . The unwavering belief that the best wave of your life is still out there and it is, it really is.

Links:

The Surfbox. http://thesurfbox.net/

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I Moved to Wales

Four weeks ago today I was waiting in a ridiculously long queue at passport control at East Midlands airport,  fresh off the plane with a glowing tan. I  had  been to Surfstar Morocco then met two of my oldest mates for a week in Fuerteventura.  I had a ball until the last few days when the shadow of what I was about to do descended.

Coming home from holiday this time was to be like no previous  home coming  as I was returning to a place I had never lived before. While I was on holiday, when I thought of home the picture was blank but, home was Wales now and it was confusing.  I had one last night in Leicester at my best mate’s house then I’d be off. New job, new town, new house. That night fear and doubt punched me in the gut, I was winded and I cried myself to sleep, quietly of course so he didn’t think I was bonkers.

I got up on Sunday morning and cried my leg off before I’d even got out of bed, I slipped out of the house to visit my girl BFF then came back to face the inevitable.  We had a last, silent cup of tea and it was time. I loaded the car silently. What was I doing, why was I upsetting the balance, why was I risking so much? I was terrified and devastated. I mumbled a weird goodbye of  very few words to my best mate, I couldn’t articulate anything resembling a proper sentence or even look at him,   I closed the door behind me.

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Heart in my mouth and  tears streaming down my face I got into the car whereupon I forgot how to breath ,  my lungs were crushed. After 15 minutes I managed to calm myself and started the car. This was supposed to be my big adventure, my dream was  to live by the sea and I was doing it  so,  why was I finding it so hard to drive away? It felt like mourning and that’s exactly what it was, mourning the life I was leaving, fear of leaving the security of my normal and fear that things would never be the same again , that friendships might drift and I’d end up dying alone in Wales  but, at least I’d be by the sea right?

I’ve now been here for four weeks, I stopped crying a few miles into my journey, unpacked, explored, spent time with Welsh pals and started my new job.   This is what I’ve discovered since I arrived.

I cannot walk, run or cycle up hills. On my first week an old man with a walking stick almost overtook me just walking up my street from the shop.

Swansea rubbish collection is so complicated that nobody understands it. I thought I’d got a handle on it until the binmen refused to take my bags because I’d done some unfathomable wrong. I’m now hoarding rubbish and don’t know what to do with it. I might drive it to Liverpool with me at Christmas! Sorry mum

Complicated Rubbish

Gower animals are hardcore. Driving across the common in the darkest of dark on Gower  I had to stop for sheep, cows and horses. These little furry bad asses are not like English ones who go to a little shed at night, oh no.  Gower animals wait in the dark and cold  until your are driving along a lonely road, a lonely road a bit like a horror film lonely road.  They then jump into your path and laugh at you while you sit nervously  in the dark waiting for them to move.  I love them.

Welsh people are the friendliest folk I’ve ever encountered from shop workers to strangers in the park, everyone is up for a chin wag. Other drivers smile at you and let you out and people don’t seem to be as impatient and in a rush as I’m used to. I like it. Although I’m spending a lot of time alone which is to be expected at this point in my move,  the friends I made here over the last few years are amazing and the new folk I’ve met couldn’t be more welcoming.

The reality of living by the sea it seems,  is that you don’t surf as much as you think you will. We wait, patiently through flat spells and despair at work when swell hits on a weekday and it’s dark outside before you have even finished. Then, when swell comes on a weekend it’s too big. I am however, finally getting in tomorrow with my new board.

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I was just wrapping up this post and was writing  about how I desperately miss my best friend, I had a little tear rereading the top of this post remembering the day I left Leicester and the absolute weirdest thing happened. I was interrupted writing by a whatsapp from a number I half recognised.  It was a very dear, old friend I’ve not spoken to for ten years, he lives abroad, our numbers changed over time and he doesn’t do social media.  We have searched for each other over the years to get in touch but with no luck. Today he found an old sim in a box and found my number . I’ve had a lovely hour catching up and plan to visit soon.  So, on a last note  of things I’ve discovered since moving,  I guess the most important thing is that time and distance don’t mean a thing when it comes to people we love. It’s going to be ok here.

Lessons From Nature

 

A mountain or fell, like the sea, reveals all. It demands  your strengths and magnifies your weaknesses both physical and of the mind. Nature does not care how much your gortex, hyper thin jacket which transforms into a tent cost or how much you paid for that Nineplus long board or all singing all dancing wetsuit.  Nature does not care if you talk the talk, she is only interested in if you can walk the walk. Believe me, during my weekend in the Lake District, I certainly walked.

On day one I was tricked into going up Fairfield Horseshoe by a whiley wayed mountain goat . As a local fell runner,  these peaks are mere hills to him, to me they might aswell have been Everest.

The Coffin Route? Was I about to die?When I first saw what we were about to do doubt kicked in immediately. Walk Lakes website declares,

Do not underestimate 
the seriousness of 
this walk

In total it was a four hour ascent.  I struggled in parts, especially the steep start.  I threw a hissy fit and hurled abuse at The Goat and Long Legs . ( read about my surf strops here) I also laughed a lot, made it to the top with a huge sense of achievement, enjoyed spectacular views, saw some cool ninja sheep and slid down some of the two hour decent on my arse which was fantastic fun.

A Collection of Photos of my friends backs as i try to keep up

Afterwards,  when we were in the pub sinking a few pints I felt exhausted and exhilarated. The Guinness tasted like the finest liquid to ever pass my lips. I had worked for  it, I’d got up the highest peak I have ever been up under my own steam. After meeting up with the Friday night arrivals, a belly full of food and beer and neat rum back at the hostel somehow I managed to get up and walk another 14 miles the next day. I had no idea I enjoyed walking so much.

Climbing the peaks of The Lake District showed me a few things about myself in exactly the same way that surfing does, mother nature and her incessant lessons eh? Firstly,  it showed me that my weakness is not in my body but, in my head. My weakness is self-doubt. It also showed me that I am stronger and fitter than I think but, I still have a way to go.

I spent most of the day looking at two backs in the distance and I found it really disheartening at times but, I have to remember that three  years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do a quarter of this height.

Perhaps most importantly this trip showed me that I need to start seeing myself as I am now. I’ve been what I’d consider an active person for just a few years.  I was everyone’s  fat, daft, drinking buddy who couldn’t really do much in the way of activities for most of my late 20’s and 30’s. It’s time to stop saying I can’t do things and realise I am actually walking the walk, albeit not as steadily, quickly or skillfully as the others but, I’m bloody doing it.

I  came home from this trip with a similar feeling I get after a surf trip. I felt the best kind of tired, a bit grubby, slightly hung over and very satisfied.  I also felt a comforting amity with the group of old and new friends that I’d shared the weekend with.

I highly recommend that you get yourself up a mountain this spring and walk the walk. Get a blister, throw a strop, sit down and refuse to move if you must. But, also breath in the fresh air, take in a spectacular view, enjoy overcoming something you thought you couldn’t do and come down  just a little different to when you went up.

Some Useful Links for Getting Out and About

Join the National Trust for free entry and parking to heaps of cool places around the Uk

2016 is Wales’ year of Adventure explore the vast mountains and coastline and find #yourepic

Join YHA for budget friendly accommodation in spectacular locations around the Uk

Visit trekking Great Britain for inspiration  on walks, hikes and climbs

If it all seems a bit much read Wild by Chery Strayed from the comfort of your sofa

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/