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Winter Surfing

October 30, 2015 No Comments

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Cornwall is the unofficial home of UK surfing. Since Australian lifeguards brought their boards to Fistral, in the sixties, the county has become synonymous with waves, campervans, and beach culture.

And little wonder. All but surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with hot summers and an abundance of beautiful surf spots – offering everything from peeling point breaks to barrel-throwing slabs – Cornwall is perfectly suited to the sport. Consequently, the industry has carved out quite a niche here; equipment and hire shops, surf schools, shapers, and international competitions thrive during the summer months welcoming the hordes of up-country surfers, eager to dive into the beautiful Cornish waters.

The thing is, summer surf in the UK is actually pretty poor. Long flat spells are interspersed, intermittently, by lacklustre lines and only the very occasional good, strong swell. Unsurprising then that most committed surfers look forward to autumn and winter.

While the water gets significantly colder and the weather can be decidedly bleak, the intrepid off-season surfer is rewarded with more consistent waves and more sparsely populated line-ups. In the darker months, it’s not uncommon to have lesser known surf spots all to yourself. Of course, it’s true what they say about safety in numbers – it’s not advisable to surf quiet spots if you are unfamiliar with the rocks, tides, and currents. That stuff is tres dangereux to beginners.

It’s also important to bear in mind that the gear which served you well through tepid summer months will likely be inadequate for the colder part of the year – unless, of course, you were over-prepared for summer. Crucially, you will need a winter suit, with 4-5mm of neoprene on the torso. And, when winter proper hits, and the air temperature is lower than that of the sea, you’ll also be grateful for gloves, boots, and a hood.

Amateur surfers may also be forgiven for overlooking wax grade. The optimum board wax will remain tacky in the water and, since the water temperature changes significantly, so too must your chosen wax. UK winters require ‘cold water’ wax which is unsuitable for summer use due to its low melting point. Likewise ‘cool water’ summer wax might be hard to apply and not tacky enough in winter.

There may be a certain degree of testing your mettle against the conditions, but it’s worth it. Your nose may run, but in the snugness of your winter wetsuit, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the waves and the space and variety you get from October onwards. It’s one of our favourite reasons to be in Cornwall all year round.

Why we surf

April 27, 2015 No Comments

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Surfing is an absurd idea really. You strap yourself to a board and throw yourself into the water, fight against the waves as they push back, impeding your access to the ocean, all in the name of taming one in an effort to find yourself back where you started. The average time of the ride? Six seconds.

And before that there’s the constant monitoring of the surf reports, chasing the right conditions up and down the coast, the measly one foot waves, the cold and choppy waters and the struggle into what is essentially a neoprene onesie. There’s also the waiting: the time sat in the water waiting for the perfect set. But there’s something that keeps us going back for more. Some go as far as to call it an addiction.

So why do we do it?

We’re not sadists. Riding a wave is like the Perfect Storm. A simultaneous occurrence of events that provide an opportunity to become One with Nature while experiencing the magical feeling of flying we imagined as kids along with the sense of achievement that we crave as adults. Total fulfilment on all levels; hence the addiction.

You are literally riding the Earth’s energy in its raw natural form. The molecules of water that make up each wave have travelled across the ocean and you can feel that energy beneath your feet as you piggy back its last step towards the land.

There are a number of stages to catching a wave. First there’s hope: as in I hope that I’m paddling hard enough to even catch this wave. Next comes disbelief: from ‘I’ve caught it!’ to ‘yes, I’m standing!’ Then comes the ecstasy: it’s like floating on air and those 6 seconds elongate, become minutes before you slow and the moment’s gone. You can even have fun with the wave, gliding along it, twisting the board in the water, changing direction.

Eventually it dies though and you begin to sink back into the water. And it’s time to do it all again.

I’m not the best surfer out there. There are times when I just haven’t got the strength to push myself up and stand on the board. It tests your fitness and improves your strength and agility in a way that the gym with its strip lights, blaring dance music and smell of sweaty feet simply can’t. It’s gloriously exhausting.

Surfing can also be contemplative. Sitting out back, waiting for the next set as the sun begins to set is as far from the worries of modern life as you can get. You are physically separate from the land, your own little island. It puts it all into perspective, draining away any of the days negative energy.

There’s no greater feeling than surfing and that feeling of being part of the ocean, really riding on top of the world. Surfing’s freedom, adventure and creativity rolled into one. It is thrillingly surreal. There is weightlessness that exists as you are moving quickly but are standing right on top of the water. The power of the wave pushing your board combined with movement across, up and down the face as you gain speed is the thrilling aspect. Yet you are right in the middle of nature – feeling the air, hearing the break of the wave as water sprays around you and perhaps the sound of a seagull. That’s the surreal part, something you don’t normally experience in a lot of other outdoor sports.