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Tag Archives: surf
I’ve had a week off the office job, and I’m using the time to finish the corrections on my PhD thesis, but it’s also time to have some fun! I’ve missed being in the sea, a lot, so I decided to have a beach day even though it’s not really quite warm enough. However, with some planning it’s do-able, especially as I live so close to the beach.
I put on some warm and comfy gear, including my new t-shirt and jacket from Australian surf brand ‘Afends‘. Loving this stuff! I haven’t owned a denim jacket since the 80s, and with jeans, crazy pattern t-shirt and my beach bag, I fluffed up my hair and felt like a teenager again!
I took myself, my books (Aussie too) and my dog over to Cilborth beach, built a little fire and pretended it’s summer already. No surf here just yet, but I have hopes for the rest of the weekend…
I do miss the sea. I see it every day, but I am missing it. I never get to go in it any more; there always seems to be something more pressing, more pressurising. And sure, it’s cold as well — I don’t want to get in, but I know that I do as well, and will feel so much better when I do. I’ll surf badly, rusty and out of sync with the ocean, and feel ashamed. But three days where I can do no more than glance in fading light, and I am antsy without it. Running brings me close only, not into. It looks so soft and light and playful, though I know it is cold and, this winter, killer. Anyway I must get back in; everything tells me so. And close, and sit, and watch. Before all the tourists come back, before the peace and scoured-cleanness is gone. The signposts are on my desktop because, I thought, I liked the blue, but they are reminding me of the choices I have already made and still abide by, when I remember to honour them. That all paths lead to the coast for me, to Lochtyn and surrounding beaches and beaches further afield; salt water anywhere. Also that my path is soon to change again, that I will not be stuck wishing for change forever — that the path is sometimes a long, long tiring one, like the walk to Cwmtudu, but beautiful. I feel like I would like to wander some, and be a little more rootless and a little more free.
Seriously, I should be a skinny minny the amount of exercise I do…Insanity this morning then a surf, and now it’s time to walk the hounds…
Small but clean enough, and it’s still warm so it’s got to be done. Looked nice, but it was super-frustrating as there are just no decent banks and it lines up, lines up, picks up, looks oooh lovely, then disappears under you only to break at the last moment in a surge of shorebreak closeout… Caught one or two but would have had a faceful of sand and no fins (on Pob’s board) if I’d gone for most of them. Difficult.
I sometimes wonder if the peanut gallery (in the Sianti and Pentre) are wondering why I am so shit and rarely actually ride a wave. I wonder the same myself…but then I remember catching so many waves at Le Sud that I forgot my tally, and wish I was in Sri Lanka or Costa Rica or somewhere. Disloyal to my lovely, rainbowy, seal sanctuary, grey watered, sunbeam-lit Crannog, I know, but there you are…I need good waves.
Before I went to Hossegor for this year’s Quik Pro France, I had a quick look on the internet, as you do, to see what info I could find about the surf and practical matters such as transfer times and where to eat. Didn’t find much, so I’ve written something myself and posted it on Matador, in the hope that it might help others who haven’t spent much time in the area. But I also wanted to do some more personal waffling on about the week that we spent there.
Ahhhh le French surf. Les Bourdaines very nearly drowned me last time I was in France, so I was nervous, but in the end the surf was either small and no problem (too small, in fact) or huge and no way. The one day I would have ummed and ahhed about going in, I was sick from surfing Le Sud near the harbour. Nice waves there, but crowded and yeah, dirty. The best surf I had was on the first day, when it was hot, sunny (boardies, ahh) and a couple of foot of good old French shorey beachy. Wish we’d had more of that! Didn’t have the chance to travel, though I did hit Bourdaines again, and I think we’d have found better surf if we did.
Not keen on crowds, and boy, was it crowded on the shoreline, with plenty of people happy to come late and try to stand in front of us. Nope! We were there 7.30 some mornings and saw some amazing surfing before most people were up. Rekindled my interest in the Tour, which was never that strong because I wrote all the reports without ever seeing a CT comp! The surfers are real professionals and work so hard. When the waves are as good as they were a couple of days this year, it’s so worth watching. Took a bagful of food, water, beer, suncream etc. and hunkered down for about three days.
So many people in vans, even a couple from Wales. Desperate to get another one for myself. It’s definitely the best way to do it.
Pro-hoes: I never could stand the running-after-pro-surfers shit, and I hate it even more when those in question barely knew who Kelly Slater was the week before. Please, please, be cool — they’re just people, and generally they’re pretty laid-back, so you look mental and silly. Sorry. If it’s someone you genuinely admire, go for it; I wish I’d seen Lisa Andersen, for example — I’d definitely have asked her for a photo.
I found my French coming back to me quite easily — I understood quite a lot, although I couldn’t really say much myself. I would make more effort to re-learn it next time; the Michael Thomas CDs were great, but I didn’t do more than a couple of hours.
Fashion: Chicks were wearing ‘Daisy Dukes bikinis on top’ and the boys, boardies and t’s. We’re an imaginitive lot, us surfers…haha. Lots of neon brights and loads of people, boys and girls, with lush chunky neon watches (I’m digging out the Roxy Deep again). Loads of gorgeous tattoos, and in all sorts of places. Quite a fan of the under-the-buttock, though maybe not for me at 36, and oh, I’d love one under a ring or on my wrist, but don’t dare — let’s see my next career step first! The big-bun hair of the UK is messy twists and little clipped bits in France; I prefer that. Flat cap peaks, which doesn’t suit me.
The only other thing to say is that I need to travel more, again…
Monday was pretty good here, but muggins was working. Freelancing is SO hard when it starts to pump but you’ve got a deadline!
Jumped in on Tuesday and had quite a few lovely little waves, but it was the company that made it special. I’ve been surfing here for 20 years now, and I always love to surf with the boys. Just a couple this time; one who I don’t know so well but he’s shit-hot, and the other who I’ve known as long as I’ve been surfing. It was awesome to hear of some pretty significant developments in their lives…all settling down, basically!
Then a girl paddled out! This never happens in Crannog, being as it’s the middle of nowhere. I think she was from Cornwall way; she looked like a Cornish maid. Surfed good, too. I always feel competitive with another girl in the water, ‘cos I see them so seldom. She had some lovely little peaks and good to see a smile on her face.
But the best company was, as it often is, the wildlife. A little silver fish throwing a fit on the ocean surface, just jumping out and skittering along. Then a seal appeared and we all pulled our feet up, just in case. A baby it was, with its mum looking on from further away. They’re at the curious age. I was looking out to sea when it popped up about three metres away from me and flapped a flipper at me. I have to say I did scream a bit; the seal had its eyes firmly on me and looked quite pleased at the reaction, the little sod. Satisfied, it swam off back towards New Quay. A beautiful silver and grey thing with those big round eyes. Full of mischief, this one.
Surf went dead the next day, despite hopeful buoy predictions. The worst summer I can ever remember here.
Still, off to FRANCE!!!! tomorrow. Small waves forecast for the first few days, then HUGE. Oh dear. Despite having done six weeks of Insanity, I still don’t think I’m ready for huge, not French style. It’s been way too long since I’ve seen anything challenging. Still, I cannot wait for a holiday — barring magazine trips, which were often more work than you’d actually believe, I’ve not been on a holiday since me and 6 girlies went to northern Portugal about eight years ago! Seriously — what happened to traveller me! Too much work and not enough SURF! All about to change…
I spent a couple of days in Cardiff this week, and nostalgically wandered around the shopping arcades to see what remains from my undergrad days. I also wanted to see what was cool at the moment, as, lovely though Llangrannog is, it and the nearby shopping ‘centres’ are not ‘down with the kids’.
City Surf is still there, although it’s in a different arcade. I don’t think it sold surf clothing for females when I was at uni, but then, there wasn’t much around. I distinctly remember my joy at being bought a green Headworx jumper which I wore to death. It didn’t fit; it wasn’t made for 17-year-old girls.
There was a nice thermo rashy in the window, the pretty flowers on it signalling that it was for females, but nothing else. Except wetsuits, which would have mollified me but for the prices. Jeeeeeesus.
I suppose they are short of space, but did no-one tell them that girls BUY STUFF? It’s what Roxy’s built on! I went into a huge surf/snow/skate place and a big street/skate place too and again there was bugger all for the ladies. Strange. Do they still think that girls don’t surf? They should check out the awesome South Wales Women’s Surf Development Squad for a start.
Disappointed, I went to Superdry, and spent my (father’s) money there…similarly exorbitant prices, but the quality’s excellent, as long as you steer clear of the, er, chavvy things (most of the t-shirts).
I doubt I will have this problem when I go to HOSSEGOR next week…oh, I cannot wait. Except that I’m very likely to get ground into the sand repeatedly, because this flat spell has been the worst I can remember for a fucking long time, and I’m not sure I can surf at all any more.
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.