Summer

DSCF0110This photo was taken in late March after a short but superlative session at high tide Croyde. It was a muscular swell.

Things could not be more different at the moment. There has not been quality surf for a good while. I have been swimming the width of this bay in the evenings trying to rehab my back.Not much more to add.

The South West Rocks

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Apparently there was some other music festival on this weekend. Somewhere in neighbouring Somerset, it probably won’t last they never do. Too muddy and of no interest to the serious rocker ,you see.

Meanwhile in sunny Cornwall we attended the Kaiser Chiefs sessions at the Eden Project. The headliners were hugely impressive with their brand of in front of the beat driving rock. My daughter and friend Eva had a fabulous experience near the front finally getting to see a proper all out rock band. They were n’t so keen on the spumes of beer that landed on them frequently, but hey that is festival life and they have started to get acquainted with it. And festival it truly was even though in a mini format. Other highlights included Tom Tom Club (pictured tiny Tina Weymouth or gold fish woman as we now know her), Deep Valley (two Californian drum and guitar rock chicks) and the truly talented Cosmo Jarvis and band.

The previous weekend was spent at it has to be said windy and sometimes wet Oceanfest. Further down the bill there were some Laurel Canyon period influenced bands who bought a West Coast sensibility to the occasion. If you like this stuff (and I do) watch out for Cardiff’s Zervas and Pepper , Woolacombe’s own Peter Bruntnall and Canyon Ryde. The kids enjoyed headliners Bastille.

Two fab weekends spent in the best company of good mate Mark and his lovely daughter Eva.

I think Somerset just had some old guys playing…

Snugg As A Bug

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My winter wetsuit strewn over our garden wall basks in the evening gloom. It’s rapidly dwindling  shape memory harking back to waves , sandy surfaces and gorse lined footpaths from yesteryear. The black neoprene is slowly giving up the fight against the incessant solar rays and encrustation by brine. Each time it is tugged on the rubber gives a  little less and the blue lining tears more. The inevitable day will come when my thumb or toe penetrates the suit as it is pulled on and renders it ineffective against the winter elements. Custom made for me by Snugg this wettie has lasted five winters and still keeps the cold at bay.

The day will not come this season though. I shall exchange it for my summer steamer the next time I venture into the water.This old friend has seen through another winter.

Reasons to be Cheerful

  • I do not have to go to work until next Thursday
  • My wife, Angie, has landed some hugely deserved consultancy work
  • The surf is going to pump until Wednesday
  • The Annual Bells Beach competition will kick off in good surf. Let’s hope for some surfing like last years final. My money is on  Michael Bourez to go all the way.
  • British summer time starts next week…light nights at last
  • I’m going to the pub with my mate tonight
  • We know a song about this do n’t we?

Lost in Kernow

132Experienced surfers know which local breaks  work under specific conditions. This weekend’s  combination of medium sized swell and easterly winds made this particularly easy for the savvy senior surfer. As I pointed out in the previous post these conditions were “just what the doctor ordered”.

I woke early on Saturday and checked the webcams. Seeing there was  plenty of swell at Croyde I headed for the point. As the car descended down the road to the bay a portent of the weekend ahead hove into view. The lines of swell seemed seemed a little smaller than I had anticipated. I Ignored the omen.Five minutes later I found myself starring out at the point whilst trying to shelter from a persistent cutting wind. There was no swell. Every few minutes a wind burnished foot high peak broke and quickly closed out on the the reef.

What to do? Head for the comfort of Croyde or Downend Point? Nah I felt compelled to seek perfect isolation. Turning tail I drove towards the border. The place I was headed for would be empty and magnify the small swell. “Pretty in Pink” would be a given a chance to prove herself in the mixture of reef and beach beneath the cliffs of this special cove.The car drew up to the edge of the cliff but I had already caught a glimpse of the ocean. Powerful lines of swell pushed into the cove , each sharp line punctuated by a heavy spray from the strong offshore winds. In the twenty minutes it had taken me to find my way through the lanes the world had spun and rearranged itself !I trod around the beach , taking some truly appalling photos , successfully missing the mixture of dappled sunlight and spray against the stratified rocks.  I had found a solitary spot with overhead waves and off shore winds. The trouble was they were largely unsurfable. The swell was too powerful , most of them unceremoniously closing out.

Around about this time a surfer of 35 years experience would have carefully evaluated the conditions and the errors of judgement made by 9.30am that morning. He could have concluded that he should have waited for the tide for a few hours and taken advantage of the conditions closer to home experienced by Fisher Viking (click here for an excellent blog and photos)  and a good number of others no doubt. Not this surfer though, he had other ideas.

Stanbury Mouth is a spot I have never surfed. Not many do. It’s probably something to do with the mile long walk down a very soggy trail, and the clamber down the waterfall onto the beach or the far more arduous return journey. Ignoring the two surfers who peered down the valley and then left (they must have been surfers, only surfers peer in that way) I slid and staggered my way to the secluded beach. I surfed or more accurately paddled out against the lines of white water and then fought the swirling rip that sucked me uncomfortably close to the rocks of the point for 45 minutes and then capitulated a broken and frustrated man.Very strong winds hamper a man carrying a surfboard whilst wearing slick soled wetsuit boots along a cliff path. The beauty of the double bays and extraordinarily high cliffs and the latent surf potential started to slip from my mind and was replaced by  a nagging question.

“Why the f##k am I doing this?”

I cogitated whilst I warmed up driving home. “How did such a promising morning disappear”?  I put it down to ,  experience…which is considerable as I have already said.

Later in the day, I eschewed the powerfully breaking peaks at high tide Croyde for the  softer  charms of Saunton. Whilst a pod of competing longboarders dealt well with the conditions the shortboarders who had the bad judgement to paddle out spent their time fighting the combination of the very strong offshore winds  and famously corpulent walls. Few who surfed boards under 8 feet long rode any waves of consequence. One last look at Croyde before driving home confirmed the afternoon too had been frittered away.

A new morning dawned with more grey skies and biting off shore winds. Using my 35 years of collected wiles and nouse I joined a throng of surfers and enjoyed the low tide three foot peaks and hollow walls on offer at Croyde. If you can n’t beat them , join them.

Painting by Glyn Macey

Pretty in Pink?

DSCF0086The interweb’s forecasters are shrieking about the one day swell expected on Saturday. A medium sized affair fanned by moderate  off shore easterly winds is just what the doctor ordered. Low tide at 9.00am brings to mind a whole array of spots that could light up. I’m hoping that my favoured point break will attract some of this vaunted swell. Given that the tide is low at this relatively early hour I may just get to share the spot with only a few others. “So what’s the problem” I hear you say dear reader?

Well there is n’t one….except there is. The thing is this point break lends itself to a variety of craft. It is a slopey thing that peels at an even rate with the occasional walled section and even more occasionally a hollow inside near the rocks. A conventional short board works well here on the good days but I much prefer to surf it on fish shaped boards. The squirty lateral speed from my quads or 2 1/2 fin is downright addictive. Why hit the lip when you can float and climb over any crumbly section that the wave throws at you? “So what’s the problem” I hear you repeat in that exasperated way you have. Remember my description of the end section of the wave made a mention of rocks. Well there you have it..or not quite…it would be better if I explain.

The wave breaks over and in front of a wave cut platform. The platform is uneven and riven by deep gullies and ridges iced with barnacles. There are a couple of keyhole entry and exit points but both involve duck dives into extremely shallow water after the mouth of the gullies have been navigated. I do not wish to exaggerate these hazards or overstate the risk of entry. I have surfed the spot for more than 10 years and never injured myself in any way at at all. Even on the bigger days the force of the surges up the main gully has not intimidated me in the least.It is not a scary break.

“So what’s the problem” I hear you scream volubly with eyes bulging. Well let me see, it’s this. This spot with it’s uneven and encrusted gullies has been responsible for damaging more boards than I can account for. Crushed rails, snapped  fins, shattered noses, pierced bottom hulls and de-laminated decks. The cost has been high. In the manner of one that learns from repeatedly banging one’s head against a sharp object , I modified my behaviour over the years. These days I only take my old boards there. The ones that have had their day and are beyond renovation. The two things they have in common are they are yellow (because surfboards should be yellow) and they are dinged beyond redemption. The one I am most fond of is my 6 foot Gulf Stream quad. Not an instant hit when it was new. The curved speed dialer fins did not work for me but like the proverbial swan shedding it’s feathers, the quality of the board shone out  when the fins were replaced for a more conventional set. It has given me more fun since  than a block of foam covered in resin has a right to do.

I pensioned it off this time last year with a replacement I have called  ‘Pretty in Pink‘ for obvious reasons. Exactly the same as my original sled in all  details excepting two aspects . Colour and thickness. Now the colour does account for some glances I get when I walk down to the waters edge at Croyde for a multitude of reasons. I will not dive down that particular rabbit hole here (praise be:Ed) but it is a sure thing that this characteristic does not effect it’s performance in the slightest. The increased girth though has certainly had an unwelcome effect on some of the properties of this board. Putting it on rail at the bottom , mid face or lip of a wave is down right difficult. The extra floatation intended to ease me into old age has not paid a dividend.

The quandary I now find myself in is do I introduce ‘Pretty in Pink’ to the gullies and hasten the Darwinian forces that the gullies exact on surfboards? Or do I nurse this curvy but charmless dowager into unloved senility?The yellow quad still flies.

Seven hundred words to not decide what board to surf on. I must seek a life.