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Back in the World…

9 Apr

As you may or may not have guessed from lack of blogs, or my tweets about sleep deprivation I have been away for a while. Not in the physical sense, but the person I previously knew as me has had a hiatus.

A new baby, motherhood and 10 months out of the water unsurprisingly turned my world inside out and upside far more than I expected. Despite those well meaning (but really annoying) people who warned me thus, I found out for myself.

However, I am slowly beginning to emerge from this chrysalis of new parenthood. I’ve surfed almost regularly since November when my son was 11 weeks old. I’m even managing a blog, and tomorrow I go back to work, just for a couple of days. I would have liked to say that during my maternity leave that I have transformed into some kind of superwoman, able to divide my time equally between family, work and leisure with ruthless efficiency. The reality is I will be poking my head back into my old life, a trail of soiled muslins and rice cakes in my wake. Despite this, I do not mind. As I write now, a tiny Kraken lies beside me, precious (and sometimes monstrous) a reminder of this strange journey I’ve been embarking on.

My son has provided me with the perfect reason not to be as selfish. I am grateful I can no longer recognise myself as the hedonistic beast I was in my twenties (I am still doing all nighters, but they are of a different kind). It is just not possibly to decide to go on a bender Sunday lunchtime and breast feed! I am (almost) happy with surfing less frequently, as I now have an excuse not to go in on those really, really cold but offshore days, as when the wind chill is minus two I would much rather cuddle up with my boys instead. The return to work will make me appreciate time at home more than ever. On the plus side going back to work means I get to drink tea whilst its still hot. I will even be able to have a wee without needing to stop a seven month old from trying to teeth on the toilet brush.

I am slowly returning to the world of the a life previously lived, and although I am looking forward to some components of my old life almost being back to normal, things will never quite be the same again. And for that, I am glad*.

*except at 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00 am in the morning.

My Boys on the beach…



On Countdown…

13 Aug

Day 2 of my official maternity leave, and whilst in this strange limbo I have started to think about surfing again. I’ve not been for a surf for nearly 6 months now, and I am beginning to wonder what my chances are of juggling a newborn, breast feeding and Autumn swells are. If I am to believe the horror stories from other parents, my chances are slim to none. Will I even want to go surfing?

My husband is keen for me to get back in the water. He has coped well with the hormonal highs and lows from his ever expanding and whining wife, but alas neither of us know the reality of what will happen to our lives in no less than two weeks (or maybe a month if I go overdue). Will we ever surf together again or will we always be trying to squeeze in sessions, swapping over baby duties with a pit stop turnaround in the rare windows of swell?

So, whilst on countdown to the start of one the biggest life changing events possible, is this the beginning of the end, or simply the start of a new way of life? I will have to wait and see…

Water Babies

31 Mar

Crystal Dzigas - photo by Anthony Walsh

The last few months I have been adjusting an exciting new stage in my life; pregnancy.  By adjusting, I mean not only coping with the radical changes to my body, tiredness, nausea and hello girls – what has happened to my boobs(!), but with the list of things I am not supposed to eat or drink or even do. The biggest question I had for my midwife was ‘can I surf?

Since my early twenties, when I first met my husband, surfing suddenly became the pivot around which my life revolved.  He had a big part to pay in that, determined to ensure it was important to me as it was to him, he spent the first summer we were together towing me out back and pushing me into unbroken my waves to make sure I got the buzz.  Well, it worked.  Our life decisions revolve around being near the surf, we chose our jobs for that reason, and bought a house as close to the sea as we could afford.  So the next big life decision that we both made, to start a family was one that I knew would be a challenge.

I had already done some research.  Four times World Champion Lisa Anderson competed whilst pregnant, and missed only the last event of the year back in 1993.  5 weeks after giving birth, she was back in the water and made the final, eventually winning the event. Chelsea Hedges, World Champion in 2005 surfed until she was 4 months pregnant, and had her first surf three weeks after giving birth.  However I am hardly Lisa Anderson or Chelsea Hedges. When the midwife said to me ‘as long have you been surfing for at least 6 months beforehand, you can continue surfing’, I was stoked.

The general advice is that pregnancy is not the right time to begin any new vigorous regimes if you are not used to them, but having surfed for the past 6 years, I knew I would be totally comfortable in the water.  Despite the first 12 weeks of pregnancy being the most risky period, for a surfer, they are also the time when your body has changed the least, without the tell tale pregnancy belly. Low impact exercises such as swimming are recommended, and in my mind, surfing is low impact (providing there isn’t a collision with another surfer or your own board).

I had been inspired by the story of Crystal Dzigas, the Roxy sponsored Hawaiian pro surfer who had surfed until she was nearly full term. By paddling on her knees on her longboard, and switching from her usual break of Ala Moana Bowls to Queens in Waikiki, she surfed until at least 7 months.  Her partner pro surfer Anthony Walsh was proud to point out his unborn son had already competed in a surf contest as Dzigas had won the Noosa Festival surfing event in March 2010 whilst pregnant ‘he’s only seven months old and he’s surfing already’.

Life works in mysterious ways, and whilst in an ideal world I would have timed my pregnancy to miss a British Winter of freezing surf and 5mm wetsuits, ready to be back in the water for Spring, my body had other plans.  I discovered I was pregnant in December, and as I was desperate to surf before my belly got too big, I knew I would have to make the most of cold surf.

I have surfed only a couple of times whilst pregnant, as I felt I had to be choosy and pick the right conditions, and now my bump is too big for me to comfortably paddle on my short board.  I have found it very hard not surfing the last few weeks with the sun out and pumping waves. The reality of trying to squeeze myself into a restrictive Winter suit was a wake up call. 

My husband is now trying to get used to having a non surfing wife (and has experienced some of the earache that most guys get that have a partner that doesn’t surf).  It will be worth it, as we are both happy and excited to be growing our very own water baby, one that has already had their first surf!

Karl Mackie – Surf Culture Exhibition Review

11 Dec

Karl Mackie, soul surfer and artist, held his first solo exhibition in Newquay at the weekend. Very much a product of his environment, and influenced by the renaissance in analogue photography, Karl showcased surf art combined with classic British seaside imagery.

The venue, Cafe Irie in Newquay, itself an embodiment of travel and surf culture within Newquay, was well suited to the subject presented.

The exhibits ranged from Lomography to a somewhat unconventional hand shaped surfboard. The purpose of which was to provide the artist with as much pleasure from the process of creating the board as from the function. Also featured was the Hand Plane Art Project. Karl started to produce wooden hand planes several years ago, whenever the swell meant it would be more fun planing (a form of body surfing) than surfing. A change of direction earlier this year lead Karl to turn them into art pieces. Karl sent his hand planes around the world to a number of artists and asked them to carve, paint, draw or tattoo whatever they wished onto the hand planes. The result is a collective work, each hand plane as unique as the individual artist, and reflecting a unified love and respect of the Sea. For example, Chris Del Moro, pro surfer and active member of Surfers for Cetaceans submitted a piece to highlight the wider responsibility of surfers as caretakers of the oceans. This is a project that has grown organically, and will hopefully continue to grow.

I have known Karl for many years as a work colleague, and understand the challenges of balancing subsistence in Cornwall with the need for personal fulfilment. I found the exhibition inspirational for the creativity Karl has demonstrated through making opportunities’ for himself.

Karl’s exhibition runs until the end of February 2012.

Does Surfing Discriminate?

30 Nov

Duel for the Jewel - 2010 Pipemasters

Tyler, Steph, Alana & Coco

When the ASP announced the women’s tour dates I thought, how could it go from a heat at Pipeline last year to no events in Hawaii 2011. Yes, Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright, Alana Blanchard and Coco Ho surfed competitively at Pipe last year. No, I am not talking about Blue Crush the movie, it actually happened.

This year, what are the women’s highlights? Steph posing naked for ESPN instead. I agree that if you’ve got it, flaunt it and I do think Alana looks super hot in her bikini bottoms, but I would much rather watch her surf.

There are barely any women’s surf videos, so I enjoy watching the girls compete. Watching the best female surfers in the world pushing their surfing to new heights is inspirational. It motivates me to go out and surf better, to challenge myself.

And what did a heat at Pipe cost the sponsors? 25 minutes and some prize money, and not a lot of prize money at that. The money put up is most likely less than a contribution to fund the listing of a range of surf branded beanie hats in the Argos catalogue.

The biggest disappointment is that the surf industry itself openly demonstrates considerable bias. This is easily illustrated by the attached chart, with women’s events having to find alternative supporters rather than industry sponsors.


The reason given that marketing budgets are being slashed during the recession, therefore women’s surfing has to take the hit is a poor excuse, and a short sighted one. An investment made now, however small grows into something much larger. It reassures a younger generation of women that their leisure pursuits are just as worthwhile, and they, of course will invest in equipment and clothing for a lifetime to perpetuate the industry.

Does surfing discriminate? Make your own mind up and let us hope the ASP Women’s World Tour will actually run for a full year in 2013.

Not So Secret Spot

20 Nov


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.

Read ‘Em and Weep – Reading the Charts

18 Nov
Magic Seaweed

Magic Seaweed Surf Forecast Newquay

Office bound surfers are often to be found trying to surreptitiously check the surf forecast throughout the week, anticipating their release when the clock strikes 5:00 pm. The problem with these short days and long nights means we can no longer sneak a quick dip before and after work. The onus falls squarely on the weekend now.

What is worse than a chart denoting no swell and flat conditions for a surfer like me? A chart a bit like the one shown on this post. Why you ask?

I have watched all week and seen the charts looking full of friendly 3-4 foot surf. I have seen the Tweets from the smug weekday surfers, and viewed the pictures posted by the oh so helpful surf magazines. ‘Look what you’re missing’ they scream. So now it is the weekend, and I along with the other weekend warriors are amped to get wet, and Saturdays forecast is for 7-11 foot swell.

Too big for me! Cold, overhead surf is not want I want for my play time. I am happy to accept that I am a wimp. My muscles have slowly been turning to jelly whilst sat at my desk munching cake all week. The challenge is now on to find somewhere where it will still be fun.

Cornish beach breaks do not generally hold large swells particularly well, although there are exceptions. Even the sheltered spots are likely to be heavy and rammed with others who have had the same thought process as me. I do have something up my sleeve, a semi secret spot. Somewhere between Newquay and Bude lies this very Cornish spot. If the tide is right and the swell gets in, long right handers will be mine, oh yes, they will be mine.