That might sound like a crazy statement to make, but when there is a wind chill factor of -5°C, getting in the sea is a blessed relief.
A chill North Easterly wind had been rattling the window panes of the bedroom throughout the night, and an extra blanket and the dog had failed to keep the chill out. After almost 6 days in daylight starved, artificial environments of exhibition centres, I was desperate to remind myself that I did have a life outside work. I wanted to surf, but having abused my liver in a systematic manner over the previous week, I found getting out of bed more strenuous than usual. My husband’s natural instinct upon waking up at the weekend is to go surfing. Impervious to my protestations that we would freeze, he proceeded to pack up the car, leaving me to make my own mind up as to whether I wanted to brave the elements.
I managed to strike a deal. Instead of clothes, I got out of bed and got dressed in 5mm of rubber. Not as exciting as it might sound. As I pulled on my split toe neoprene booties, I thought what a far cry this was from my new soft leather knee high boots I had been parading round in over the past week. My neighbour did a double take as I left the house and wished him a good morning.
As we pulled into the car park, I fully dressed in my winter wetsuit, it seemed others had had the same idea (unsurprisingly, as we were in Newquay). My husband cursed as the cold wind snatched at his towel as he got undressed on the tarmac. I wasn’t smug for long. As blood vessels constricted to keep me warm, my hands transformed into claws, useless for carrying my heavy long board down an ice covered beach. It was a strange feeling walking down the beach, the sand cracking under foot where frozen. Stalactites of icicles hung from the cliffs. It sounds totally crazy, but I knew from a similar outing last year, when we trudged through snow on the beach, that a couple things would make it well worth all the suffering.
For those of you that don’t know, getting in the sea when the air is below freezing is blissful. In Cornwall the sea in January is about 7°C. Compared to the air, the sea is significantly warmer. Body parts slowly defrost, and being submerged is an exhilarating experience, before any waves have been ridden! And of course, the whole purpose for braving the elements in the first place are the clean, groomed, wedgy waves of a winter swell and an empty line up. I got the added satisfaction being the only girl surfing at Watergate Bay that morning.
Equally, many of you out there brave far more Northerly latitudes than Cornwall, and will laugh at my feebleness. I can’t complain though. I was driven home after a 2 hour session, sopping wet, still in my wetsuit perched on a board bag and towel. I also had the luxury of getting changed under a hot shower. I really don’t have any excuses to avoid surfing in January!