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Tag Archives: surf
Finally the surf is back, in time for my birthday week! It looked good, but it wasn’t…
I will have been surfing the Nog for 20 years this summer…shame I’m still utterly rubbish! But that’s always how I feel at this time of year, when it’s so, so cold and the banks have been trashed by the winter sand-scouring action and the rips are arm-creakingly strong. Soon, soon, it’ll get better, and crappy surfers like me will have a bit more of a chance to catch something that’s not closing out or breaking into six inches of water.
Glorious sunshine came through a few times and there were about 12 diving birds putting on a show. I think they were gannets, though I couldn’t see any of that orange/beige they usually have on their heads. Whatever, they were stunning, splonking into the water to emerge empty-beaked as far as I could see, a quick shake of the head and soaring up again. Very, very skillful.
Last Wave by Paul Hayden
This is another stunning piece of Aussie surf fiction. If the Californians started surf lit off with Dogs of Winter etc., it’s the Aussies who have impressed me in recent years. Along with The Life, The Lost Boys and Breath it’s another tale of surfing that is unapologetically surfy. There’s no explanation of terms or fumbling through learning to surf — surf culture is part of the lives of all the characters; it’s a given that surfing has its place in the scheme of things, albeit still a counter-cultural place.
This is a coming of age tale where the ocean is the one constant, the thing that’s always there and unites the two main characters as friends. It provides beauty, challenge, a place in the social order, therapy — just everything they need.
It’s a true reflection of the Aussie surf culture as I remember it, with the slang, the laid-back beach crowd vibe, the exuberance and youthfulness of the surfies. The most natural thing in the world for them is an obsession with wave-riding, which I remember finding so refreshing when I got down to the Sunshine Coast and beyond.
Excellent dialogue; really realistic almost-communication from the teenagers. And great descriptions of surf too; it’s all Aussie surf slang but it doesn’t sound over the top.
I don’t want to put any plot-spoilers in as anyone with a love of surfing, the ocean or Aussie beach culture should have a read. So I’ll just say that Owl goes through a lot of shit — the kind of shit that come to us all, like death, serious illness, relationship difficulties and re-evaluations of family, friends and his own life. And in true coming-of-age style, he pops out the other end a change surfie. Honest, deeply-felt and expressed in language that suits the character and situations so well, this is the kind of surfing that reflects the area and the culture in a just-so way. I really, really hope I can capture just a fragment of something similar in my own surf writing. Very glad I took a chance on this — I thought it might be another YA teen-romance book where the surf is nothing but a backdrop. Couldn’t have been more wrong.
Themes that resonated with me (because of my own novel’s preoccupations) were the descriptions of how and why surfing matters, and what it gives you: ‘The surf always fixes something. You get out there and you get wet, water breaks, you push into it, you stream over it, you forget every other thing.’ (page 31).
Surfies are considered bums, losers and dropouts, not good enough for Hayley and Drewe’s father. Owl’s mother feels the same: ‘My old lady’s not keen on the surf, never has been. Tennis is the game. […] I can’t imagine the embarrassment she’s suffered. Well no, I can — she’s told me. “Does your son play, Delia?” “Well, no —“ Oh the horror, oh the ignominy. “He, he…arrgghh…he surfs.”’ (page 54).
And Hayley’s dad again: ‘The old man had a real thing about the surf culture. He was really down on it. He didn’t like the hair, he didn’t like the ratbag scruffy look, he didn’t like the attitude. He didn’t like the drugs and all the other shit he knew was going around — he was really ugly on the whole lot of it. And because he’d surrendered a son to it, I think it made him even less inclined to lose a daughter to it. He didn’t want his daughter associating with that element. […] a pack of surfie mongrels’ (page 91-92).
I’ve been reading and re-reading all the surf fiction I can find (not much above 20 books) for my PhD, in order to see what themes recur and how my own novel echoes them. The texts are all remarkably similar in many ways, and, like surf films, contest coverage, websites, photography and even surf mags (which I don’t read much any more!), they all make me want to surf.
I haven’t wanted to surf much recently. The autumn semester was a crazy scramble at uni and there wasn’t all that much surf around for someone with little free time and zero transport. My excuses are personal to me; they could be different for someone else, but in essence they amount to the same thing — a decision made to drop surfing’s importance down to ‘If I’ve got time’.
Getting out of the habit of surfing was easier than fretting over what, at the time, I just couldn’t have, but surfing is so fundamental to my life (and has been for 20 years) that I am kind of ashamed of myself for letting it get pushed away. I never anything stop me before.
Wanting to surf is an understated way of putting it, and any surfer will know what I mean. You don’t just ‘want to surf’; it’s a hunger, a constant nag, a yearning to put belly to board and start dipping your hands in the water, the anticipation of a session that could be great, could be a stinker, will always teach you something. Surf culture’s creations only exacerbate this need, as does checking the forecast and talking surf with friends. It’s much easier to ignore all that stuff and dampen down the ache for waves, the desperation.
But that feels like a betrayal of my love for surfing and all the time I’ve given it. So I’m making a conscious effort to check the surf, read those books anew, write more surfy stuff and (hopefully this weekend) get in the water! I have to keep that desire going so that I don’t get too far away from surfing, which in the end takes me too far away from myself.
Ahhhh spring! I’ve been loving winter, after the hectic time I had last semester with no time to surf (or do anything but teach, really!). Winter’s so quiet, still and cold; I can go for a five mile run and hardly see anyone, walk on the beach on my own in the mornings, bundle up and visit Fynnon Fair or Cranogwen’s grave without seeing a soul.
But it’s also nice to see these little heads peeking out. Daffodil time soon, then all those other flowers and plants whose names I vow to learn properly this year.
There has been some surf but due to work, more work oh and a recent concussion (ice slippage) I haven’t been in. Not feeling all that enthusiastic to be honest, but I’m sure the next small, clean, sweet swell will change that. Bring it on.
An absolutely terrible surf today. While running I checked out the rolling swell — groundswell?! Really!? It looked about 2-3ft and while lumpy and not really lining up, it did have some clean, green faces.
I suited up as quickly as possible and headed down, but the wind had fucked it. In the space of an hour it went from decent to awful. The rip was hideous and I pulled something in my neck trying to get away from it; very sore now. The wind was a cross-shore howler and the peaks were a grey mess. So, so disappointing — this has been the worst summer I remember, after the worst winter I remember, and autumn (which I always so look forward to) is shaping up to be pants as well.
I am so hungry for some good waves, but with no car and no money I can’t even go down the road, let alone abroad! I have to stay off Facebook as my need to howl at people who have escaped to wave-rich places is so strong it’s scary.
Pass the ibuprofen…
The lack of surf in Crannog since I scrapped my car has been extreme…sod’s law. I’m desperate for summer suits and endless warm days with waves, even small ones. I swear there was more swell last summer than all this winter! So I have done a few wave dances and prayers on the sand, and painted my toes to show what I want Silly I know, but it might work?!
So of course I had to get in, even though it was really too windy. By the time I got out, I was thinking yes, I will give up for a couple of months now, this is no longer any fun! I caught sod all, just paddled against the rip and ducked icy grey water. The only thing going for it was that I wasn’t cold, and I can feel my fitness it better.
When I got out I could see that it wasn’t just me being crap, the waves were pretty blown out. Ho hum! At least I tried! A couple of months and things will ease up.
Been ill for a couple of days, nothing bad but with dizzy spells and super tired — I couldn’t read or write, argh! My head was not my own. I felt like like one of those dull, negative people who have little curiosity in life, who are always whingeing, always ill, never get off their backsides. (I know a few people who think life owes them something. It doesn’t; you have to put in to get out, then wow, watch out.)
Then I woke up this morning as the moon began to wane, and my head was clear again, just like that. So I went for a run in the sunshine and saw…waves, oh!
The storms razed the banks, then the last week of calm weather has seen a lot of the sand return. There’s a pool where the bank usually forms, and the waves are breaking further out. I didn’t catch anything at all, then it went flat and I gave up.
Around this time of year my surfing ability plummets totally, which is depressing, but it’s a beautiful day. And as I write there’s a wookpecker on the bird feeder — rare sight. I hope he’s not hungry because the boys have coppiced his favourite tree.
Back to my studies, and today I want to do loads of Welsh, because I was too dizzy to go to class on Tuesday. I have craving for cynghannedd…
I haven’t been surfing for weeks now. I can’t watch any online or I get irritated, and I’m so envious of those who are currently in warm, wavy places. It’s snowy here… The sea was as flat as I’ve ever seen it in winter yesterday, a half-foot peeler today. Not very happy.
To get surf fit I’ve been swimming and doing a bit of yoga, and to get my fix of the coast I’ve been walking the dogs as usual, but also running…ugh. I’ve hated it since school, as I suppose many people do. I had a big ginger screamer of a PE teacher who’d send us on sadistic cross-country runs and pop up shouting at the hardest points. The other PE teacher was a blonde the boys drooled over who could out-distance any of us and had a penchant for stretching her perfect legs in front of everyone. Shudder.
Running around here is a whole different matter, and if it gets results (i.e. fitting back into the pink Snugg wetty) then I’m all for it, even today when it was absolutely raw.
It’s all thanks to a book called Run Fat Bitch Run which my mother bought me (yes, charming) which demystifies and talks straight about running. None of that blocks of numbers (3 x 300m at 3/10, 4 x 200m at 7/10 etc.) and buying £100 shoes crap, just get out there and move your ass. It reads like my sister talks (blunt, no bullshit) and so far, it works. I’m not supposed to yap about it until I’m a few months in, but I’m a convert.