The weekend just passed was filled with surf, a little bit of sunshine (mainly fog) and friends a plenty. We started by kicking off the Friday evening with a fun surf under the grey skies at Watergate. The following evening, the waves were supposedly smaller so I swapped the 5"6 I had been trying the previous night and took out my 6"10 mini mal at Penhale. The sea fret rolled over onto the north coast, covering the beach in a thick layer of fog.
It felt ominous walking down the dunes over Penhale, barely able to see the surf. Once in there, I forgot all about the fog and paddled into every wave I could. I felt as though I was on a roll; wave upon wave lining up. Even the bigger sets failed to faze me; where usually, all too frequently I freak out and panic, exclaim that it's too big, that I can't handle it, but instead, I just ploughed on. Yeah I had a few wipeouts, but I was in such an ecstatic state of mind I didn't really care. I was loving every second of it.
It was the same the next morning; 5 of us paddled out. The sun had made an appearance and had broken through the thick seal of fog. The surf was similar in size to the previous night. The lefts lining up perfectly. I caught most waves I paddled for. It was all clear in my mind. I wasn't thinking about much else apart from the wave, where they were breaking, which one I wanted next. Everything felt good. Some super fun waves all round, everyone catching their fair share, a couple of party waves shared with friends, some epic wipeouts, and just generally a great time in the water with amazing people.
We spent the day chilling back up in the dunes, enjoying a couple hours of sunshine, drinks and all the best food with friends before the thick fog settled over us once again. There was a unanimous decision to head back out for another surf, so we suited up into soggy cold wetsuits, all cringing and wincing together.
By the time we made it to the top of the dunes, the beach was barely visible, let alone the waves. At the shoreline it was difficult to make out the surf. The sea and fog merged together seamlessly, making it difficult to decipher where the next wave was coming from. I paddled out back on the 5"6 with just a few duck dives, feeling content at the relatively easy paddle out. We all sat out there, nestled in a blanket of fog. It felt eerie, looking behind to find the shore was no longer visible. The only way we could tell which way the land lay, was where the waves were breaking. The water turned a rich green with the fog adding to the murkiness.
It was a culmination of things, but I soon discovered this surf wasn’t going to go my way. The tide was a bit too low, and the waves were powerfully dumping onto a heavy sandbar. Most were closeouts with the occasional one lining up. I soon found myself in the midst of a meltdown; trying to catch waves, paddling deeper and deeper, closer to shore. I paddled for one and pulled back as soon as I saw the wave curling over, closing into itself, spewing out sand. If I'd gone for that one, I would've been munched. But why does it even matter? It’s not pummelling me into jagged reef, and just a few hours earlier that morning I had been pulling into anything and everything. There were closeouts I pulled into that morning, sending me over the falls with limbs flailing. Then why was I suddenly so scared of going over?
Looking back now with the glory that is hindsight, it was a combination of factors; the fog, an eerie feel to it all, and most likely was the fact my arms were not too dissimilar to boiled noodles after a long surf on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, which probably didn't help matters. I was struggling, and soon after a larger set caught me out; I was too deep and right in the heavy closeout section. No duck dive was going to save me from this mess. I attempted anyway but the set had other intentions, I was ripped off my board and pummelled into the sandbar. I came up, gasping, only to find another one right in front of me. It had me, and I was getting absolutely worked. I still had my board attached so grabbed it, pulled it in and rode my way to shore, all the while getting a bit more worked by the shore break along the way.
I stood on the shoreline, a shaking mess, standing there staring at the demon of a sandbar, wondering what the hell had happened. I had been surfing this very spot just this morning, and the night before and had an amazing couple of surfs right here. What the hell was going on? I stood and watched a little longer, trying to shake off the beating I'd just taken. I picked up my board and began to wade my way back out, ready to take it on. I paddled out in the exact same spot as earlier, I failed time and time again to get out. I didn't get it. Why couldn't I just get out there. Heavy wave after heavy wave. It was relentless, and I just couldn't get out. Duck dive after duck dive, my arms weren't getting me anywhere quickly. I was laughing, but so frustrated at the incomprehension of it all.
As Ems rightly pointed out “Mother nature likes to come along and remind you exactly who’s boss every now and again, doesn’t she?” It made me laugh, she hit the nail on the head. I had been beating myself up so much about being so weak and useless in that surf, but that completely summed it up. Although we have all the best intentions every time we head out for a surf, there are so many factors involved; our own ability, our strength, our tenacity but at the end of the day, if you can’t handle what our beloved Mother Nature is throwing at you, I think it’s time to let her take the win just once in a while. She’s always there, maybe to give you a little warning, and remind you who's boss. I’d had a great few surfs that morning and the days prior, so I shouldn't have gotten too disheartened by it all.
The following day’s surfs didn’t go so well for me either. This time, I think ol’ mother nature was trying to let me have a go, but I was stuck in the wrong frame of mind; a defeatist "Ah, I can't do it, it's too steep, it's too quick, I won't make it” sort of attitude.
I believed it, and my body followed in its footsteps. My muscles were rigid with a fear I had engrained within myself. No one else had done this, it was all me, it was all in my mind. I knew I was being irrational, the size or steepness of the wave was no bigger or steeper than what I had been surfing the other day, if anything it was smaller. It was all down to that previous surf, it had knocked my confidence, or rather I had knocked my own confidence and I began to tell myself I couldn't do it. I left that surf feeling deflated and frustrated once again. I talked it over and over in my head, embarrassed that I had allowed myself to get so upset.
I processed and processed and I'm still processing now as I write this. It's helped me come to the conclusion that no two surfs are ever really the same. There are so many factors involved. You're not always going to have your 'best' surf. It changes all the time; the conditions, your own ability. There are so many various elements involved every time you head out for a surf, you just have to be prepared, think about the pros and cons of every surf, but most important of all, you just have to enjoy it.
We are so lucky to be able to do what we do as surfers. We have this ability to cruise along these beautifully crafted walls of water, and we shouldn’t take advantage of that. It is a gift, a very precious gift, and this is what I’m telling myself now as I write this; so the next time I feel this frustration and fear, I try and embrace it, and not let the fear ruin my surf.
This fear, that I feel all too often when I’m in the water, is in one way, a good thing. But I shouldn’t allow it to override my enjoyment of my surf. The fear is there to make you more aware, to keep your guard and be wary of your surroundings, but the love and sheer enjoyment of surfing is what you should be focusing on in the water. Let the fear be there, but don't let it rule.
The weekend just passed was full of highs and lows. I'm now writing this revelling in the memories of an amazing weekend spent with friends; hiding out amongst the dunes on the North coast of Cornwall; laughing, drinking, eating, surfing. I am physically drained from the six or seven surfs had over the course of just a few days and I had to write it all down. The mix of emotions surfing seems to conjure reminds me how much I'm learning about myself and the others I love and care about. The more I surf, the more I love every part of this lifestyle that comes with it. The more powerless and useless it makes me feel, the more I want to work harder to succeed, to persevere and improve at this difficult yet incredibly rewarding sport.
Experiences like these make me question myself; why do I surf? Why do I put myself through this frustration and mix of emotions? What is it exactly that keeps me coming back for more?
Writing this has my thoughts spiralling; there are so many reasons why I surf, but I've never been asked why exactly. That was, until this weekend when I questioned myself why I do it. I've never really taken the time to ask anyone else why, exactly, do they surf too. You just accept it because you know the feeling, you know we're all as addicted as each other. But there are different reasons for everyone, I'm pretty sure of it, so I’m going to share my own thoughts and views on this in another post as soon as I can.
I believe every person who surfs, or every person who is connected to the ocean in some form or other, can think of various reasons why they are so intrinsically involved with the ocean. I want to hear of the lessons they have learnt along their surfing or ocean inspired journeys too. I’m excited to delve into my own thoughts on this, and hopefully into the thoughts of the people I love and love to surf with too.
*All water surf photos shot by