Our Prime Minister Mr Johnson, had deemed us fit to extend our exercise and eased the lockdown. Guidelines for going in the ocean were relaxed although they were ever written in stone, but many surfers took the advice and stayed out. Personally, it was the most frustrating time of my surfing life, some of this spilled over into social media for which I apologise. Even through injury and illness the ocean didn't beckon me this much. When I was injured I couldn't see the ocean, I was stuck at home, laid up on the sofa with broken foot, and went 16 weeks without stepping foot on the sand.
During lockdown and being furloughed we were watching the waves everyday whilst walking the dog, observing the perfect sand banks greeting what seemed like an endless run of perfectly timed swell, combining to produce perfect waves, day after day, and mostly going unridden.
I spent much of this time mind surfing and it became a normal routine that every morning I would avoid beating myself up, or justifying my decision not to surf, and actually as frustrating as it was, I was happy with the decision I made. It's ironic that those perfect days that are often reserved for when I'm at work, and spend the day equally frustrated knowing that when the end of the working day comes, there is no point rushing back home as the tides are now wrong, and when the weekends arrive, the swell disappears or the wind changes, the south coast has no swell, and as annoying as this is, well, thankfully Bikes fill this gap. For information, Visualisation is a powerful tool when you can't do something through injury or in this case a self imposed break.
Those who surfed during this time had a whale of a time, and sometimes part of me does wish I had just gone surfing and joined them, but socially distanced in the water. But I did what I thought was right for me, as having pneumonia three times, meant staying away from people was my best solution.
But last week I could resist no more. I packed my kit, literally ran across three fields and down the valley, and surfed for what seemed like hours, my shoulders are still protesting! It was like going back into the Blue Gym. A few friends welcomed me back into the fold, the line up was polite and orderly, etiquette seemed to have returned but I knew this would not last, that is a phenomenon long forgotten in the surfing world. The carrying capacity for the oceans waves at many beaches is well and truly reached a point of over spill, the limited resources of a set of waves is far outnumbered by the frothing amount of surfers battling to have their slice. However, on this particular day, thankfully this was not the case for this debut session. Two days later I wish I could say the same. Two days later, it was carnage, and unruly mess, and a scene of wilful misunderstanding of a code of conduct, I am determined not to witness again. But among the debris, the fall out, the destruction, I still managed to snag a few beauties as a small group of us found our rhythm on a perfect little bank, leaving the masses to chase the set waves, the bigger waves, the waves that many seem to think are better, I believe the correct term is 'Sheep'. There's another blog here, so maybe I'll write about this next time. My dissertation was on the Carrying Capacity within Tourism, Leisure and Recreation, so I might treat my only reader to an educational post.
Anyway, back to the positivity. On this day the waves were perfect, the fun was 100%, the stoke levels were super high and my board seemed to be doing what I asked. I was also super excited to finally test out the fin my friend John Eldridge had sent me months ago and had not even been placed in my board. Designed to work with Mid Length boards (see my previous post 'Size Matters' back in October 2019) this was a 10' fin that just looks like the second dorsal fin of a Yellow Fin Tuna. Fin design is another realm, and another blog post, and when you try a variety of fins you get to feel how they work, and what is right for your style of surfing and the board your riding. The level of flex is important depending on how you surf, and the design will determine how much you can push a fin in turns and exit from that turn. To put it briefly, this fin on this board pictured below, is a match made in heaven. On a single fin board, you need so much trust in the fin, and after a couple of waves I knew I could push the board over onto its rail, harder than before. This fin, made my first surf back, something to remember.
I felt refreshed, my 'Mid Life' board, married to it's new 'Soup Dragon Surf Co. 10" Fin', the lack of crowds, the smiling faces, the weather, the perfect waves the fact that it was Tuesday morning and I wasn't at work (still seems a little weird and selfish), the fact that actually, time out of the water can be great medicine for your surfing mojo, and I can safely say that this is now fully restored. Maybe 8 weeks of lockdown, after a cold, dark and wet winter was just what my inner self needed. I wonder what everyone else thinks after they reflect on their return to the ocean or doing what they love.
Surfing is respite, and my friend Nick Caddick wrote his Doctorate on how surfing helps mental well-being; my good friend, prolific travel writer, explorer and 'super surfer' Sam Bleakley has recently published his second book on Surfing and Mindfulness; the young cafe worker clearly stated to Keanu Reeves (Jonny Utah) in the film with the worst surfing continuity, 'Point Break', "surfing's the source man, it will change your life". But the global brand Billabong probably summed it up at the height of their success years ago with the slogan.......
"Only a Surfer knows the Feeling"