Whilst I am aware this is extremely premature as my son is only 2 weeks old, I found this online today…
For those that read my earlier post referring to a secret spot with a fabled right hander, here is a picture of Tim surfing it last winter. It only works on a certain tide when the swell is coming from west to north westerly direction, and it needs to be a big swell! This was the biggest I’ve seen it. Unfortunately it is not as secret as it once was. Only 3 or 4 years ago we surfed it with a maximum of 8 or so people. This weekend there was probably nearly 40 people out.
The eagerly awaited swell has hit early and the contest organisers have made the call to start the competition. The air is cool and fresh, but the sea mist is now melting away. The growing crowd on the beach has started to peel off layers of clothing, all eyes transfixed on the water. Although a gentle breeze can now be felt, the waves are glassy, as yet unruffled by the wind.
The second heat is underway. Jadson Andre has caught the first barrel, a long tube ride scoring 7.5. The cosmopolitan crowd, comprised of a collection of all surfing nations, cheers.
When not watching the surf, a big screen replays the last waves caught and the organisation of the Quiksilver Pro France really stands out. We have spent the last few days travelling up and down the beach, witnessing the contest area unfolding. From the multiple camera towers, contestant areas, stages and a huge skate ramp being constructed in the Place Des Landais, it is apparent that this is one of the biggest ASP spectacles. Most importantly, the surf has turned on!
It is the now the third heat of the day. The Quiksilver buoy marking the outer reaches of the contest area disappears, a sign that a set of waves is on it’s way. Tiago Pires takes off on a bomb, but doesn’t make it. Mick Fanning, the defending champion answers by taking off on the second set wave. He threads through a tube and then carves his way right to the beach to the applause of the crowd.
The tide is starting to push towards high, and the breeze is stronger now. The offshore direction of the wind is holding up the wave faces, and Brett Simpson tail slides across one for a 7.33, putting him in the lead. With 90 seconds to go, Mick Fanning slips skilfully into a barreling wave and disappears from view as he is enveloped inside. He bursts out through the curtain of the wave, and the crowd erupts. Mick scores a 9.37 to win the heat.
Due to the amount of water moving around, and the impending high tide the forth heat is restarted. The water running back from the beach makes the waves fat and hard to catch. Owen Wright breaks the stand off between competitors and conditions taking off on an ample wave. It breaks too quickly, closing out around him. Owen catches another wave arcing out of a deep bottom turn and pulling a huge floater across the lip. Dane Reynolds answers, but does not secure a good score despite completing a big turn.
The sky is now cloudless and the temperature is climbing steadily. The set waves are scarce and the clock counts down. A final exchange takes place between Owen and Dane. Dane pulls a frontside air reverse in the closing seconds for an 8.33. Not quite enough to win but a dignified finish to a slow heat.
Heat 6, Kelly Slater’s heat has just started. The crowd have repositioned themselves, ready to pounce as soon he leaves the water. Kelly gets a reasonable right hander, nothing special and is scored accordingly. Notably, the majority of spectators here are better versed in the idiosyncrasies of the judging criteria than the crowd in Hawaii at the Pipeline Masters last year. Hopefully this means Kelly will get scored fairly, if not more critically than in the other events we have witnessed this year. Perhaps it is because he is in front of a European crowd rather than an all American audience?
Kelly is undoubtedly surfing the best in this heat, although the high tide is providing the worst conditions of the day so far.
Freddy P Jr pulls a frontside air, the most exciting manoeuvre of the heat for a score of 6.83, although Kelly wins by one point. As the air horn sounds, a huge set of waves rumbles through unridden. The crowds mob Kelly.
I have just returned from a night out to the inaugural British Surf Film Festival in Newquay. The new WTW Lighthouse Cinema hosted the event and my friend Karl Mackie was one of the organisers.
There has been a buzz surrounding the event over the past few months. Newquay has a large population of surfers of all ages who have made the sacrifice of low wages for a better standard of living, and the ability to surf as often as possible. It is really exciting to have an event that has been directly targeted this community.
The new Lighthouse Cinema opened this spring, and has already dipped its toe into the water with a few surf films. It screened Rio Breaks, a documentary about two best friends from the favelas and their life in the slums and surfing at Arpoador Beach, in Rio de Janeiro. It also held a Surfers for Cetaceans event where we saw Dave Rastovich’s movie Minds in The Water followed by talks by the surfers, directors and producers of the film.
The Lighthouse was a great venue for the film festival with its large atrium and multi screens. A band played, canapés were served and drinks were available from the bar. A red carpet was laid for Bethany Hamilton, the inspiration for the film Soul Surfer, which was premiered at the event. There was a good turnout from Newquay’s finest, dressed in their glad rags.
Although Bethany Hamilton’s story is inspirational, Soul Surfer (a Disney production) was not for me. I did however see two other films tonight.
Thirty Thousand – a beautifully shot surf travel movie by Richard and Andrew James. The premise of the documentary is two brothers who undertake a trip from Casablanca to Cape Town surfing the west coast of Africa as they go. This was eloquently narrated and unpretentious. The mellow, retro style surfing of the James twins was a joy to behold.
Last Paradise – an unintentionally funny documentary about the pioneers of extreme sports in New Zealand in the 60’s and 70’s. The stars of this movie, included AJ Hackett the founder of bungee jumping (who looked as if he’d done one too many), truly had a screw loose. I left with a longing to emigrate and live within spitting distance of Manu Bay, Raglan.
The British Surf Film Festival continues tomorrow, when a film competition will also be held with a screening of the entrant’s submissions. A great event, I hope this becomes an annual occasion!
Drought! I hear the fellow Cornwall dwellers cry, as another mizzly June afternoon draws to a close. Drought! Our water butts are full and our jackets are steaming on the radiators.
Whilst the rest of the country laments their empty reservoirs, we are suffering a dearth of decent surf.
How cruel to tantalise us with a spring of sun, swell and favourable wind directions. How delighted we were, perhaps a promise of springs to come?
No, we have been misled by the weather gods, delivered a June with the grubby finger prints of climate change all over its dank afternoons. My previous praise for our modest, Cornish paradise is now retracted.
This is dangerous territory. A bank account cleansed by extended bank holidays and family weddings may take further strain. Fingers are getting trigger happy as they stroll with the mouse over pages of foreign shores. Ferries to France? A flight to Spain? A fantasy of warmer water and cleaner waves could be swiftly gratified within a few clicks.
Or do we hold firm. Stiff upper lips, grin and bear it. Excel at surfing a swirling grey and white mushy mess, whipped up by a westerly wind.
At least it’s not flat some say, take up kiting say the rest.
I tried to sneak by on a sweet little left hander and I paid the price.
I have managed to crack the rail on my beloved longboard so it has to go to Dr Paul Fluin at Diplock Phoenix on Saturday. It looks like there will be a perfect little longboard wave this weekend too.
Karma for being greedy and dropping in.
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!
I have spent the afternoon partaking in the latest leisure activity in the Newquay area, flowriding.
For those of you not familiar with the concept of flowriding, water is pumped at high pressure over an angled trampoline like membrane which creates a stationary ‘wave’. Then using a board not dissimilar to a large skateboard without wheels, you ride the thin sheet of water that shoots up the surface of the membrane.
Our instructor informed us that he had never tried any other board sports until he tried flowridng. As he carved his way round the Flowrider, throwing spray over us as he turned, it was hard to believe.
My experience of board sports up until this point has been surfing, (and a few half-hearted attempts on an SUP or stand up paddle board), so I can only judge its likeness to surfing.
Apart from the fact that you are using a board to ride on water, this is where the similarity to surfing ends. Unlike surfing, flowriding has a rapid learning curve which will see you on your feet on the first session, and moving around on the surface of the wave by the second.
This does not mean that it is easy. The key to your ride being longer than one second is to master the subtle heel to toe transition, whilst standing on a moving surface. However, a big part of the enjoyment of this afternoon’s session is seeing one’s friends being fired at speed to the top of the Flowrider when they lose their balance. The wipeouts, which look more severe than they actually are, can be equally hilarious. The special membrane of the Flowrider absorbs the majority of the impact of the fall.
Like surfing, this is one of those activities that can be extremely rewarding when you feel like you are improving and equally, incredibly frustrating when you fall on your arse time and time again. This does add to its compulsion, as you are constantly determined to do better on your next attempt.
After my second session of wobbling around, and learning to fall in a spectacular fashion, I am already looking forward to my next session.
So even if you have never tried surfing, or in fact any other kind of board sport, get yourself to your nearest Flowrider.
There are around 4 in the UK with many more in Europe and around the world. For those based in the South West I have added a link to the Retallack Resort and Spa, the home of the Loop Flowrider.
Autumn is well and truly here. Whilst my work colleagues were lamenting that we were not experiencing the Indian summer that they were expecting, the surf community in Cornwall jumped into action.
Last weekend, the isobars on the weather reports hinted that something special was coming our way. The surf forecasting websites, with their new long-range abilities had more stars than Sunset Boulevard. Sure enough, as the week unfolded and the winds dropped, we all flocked to our favourite spots.
Clinging to the railings in the car park at Watergate Bay, I watched the lines march in, and hesitated. The tide at was lower than I had expected, and the sets were head height and breaking fast. I looked around and realised girls with boards of all shapes and sizes were heading for the sea. After a summer of surfing white, windy slop, this was what I had been waiting for, it was no time to wimp out!
I paddled out to the line up, my heart pounding. Soon enough it was clear that I was more comfortable than I expected. I sat in the line up alongside several guys who looked slightly nerve wracked, and I realised that I wasn’t afraid at all. My confidence boosted, and some fine right-handers under my belt, I was smiling at the world. A friendly nod from a sponsored female long boarder, and a great ride back to the beach, I was stoked and smug.
So why is this weekend bothering me? Hurricane Igor is hitting the coast, and the conversation in the canteen is on a singular subject; where to go. South coast spots, not so secret point breaks, windy well-known breaks?
I have almost resigned myself to sitting in the car, watching forlornly whilst listening to Radio One. Why I am I so unsure? I have surf anxiety. Can I recreate the good surf I had this week, or am I nervous because I will be out of my comfort zone?
The reality is, until I am there tomorrow, I will not know. I have waited all year for the Autumn swells, and as always the biggest challenge is inside my head.