Thou Shalt Have a Fish and Thou Shalt Have a Fin...

Thou shalt fill your boots when the swell comes in!

The tail-end of the weekend (that my surfing 'came of age'?):

A truly rocking weekend! On Saturday I had the session of my life: overhead waves at Combesgate, lumpy, some pretty clean and enough to make me pretty nervous. Normally on a day like this I'd maybe get one good ride but this Saturday I got loads. Some bottom turns out on the flats and then back up on waves big enough to make me slightly fearful for the whole ride!

Here's the thing - the last few weeks I've been concentrating on Yoga stretches and Pilates and stuff and this weekend it payed off big time as my popping up has got noticably smoother and easier. Improve your surfing on dry land, my middle-aged friends, with a few 'physical jerks'. Neil Clifton also gave me this tip one day: do press-ups every time you go for a piss. That's a good one too, though sometimes difficult to follow (when in the pub, for example).

Then came Monday's dawny...

Jools at Gulf Stream had suggested I try out a 6ft Speed Dialler of theirs (I thought 6ft would be too small but he said to give it a go). On Sunday I popped into the shop and Skelly handed it over.

Monday 6.15am I threw off the warm comfort of bed and lurched into the bathroom. Wetsuit on, water, banana, board, wax, towel.

As I drove down to Combesgate I felt like an idiot. What if the sun didn't come up? What if there were no waves? I drove round Woolacombe once to get the car's heater's pumping and get me warmed up. Sat in the car looking at the blackness, vague lines hinted at waves and a slight blueness coming to the sky in the East.

Out, wax-up, I jogged zig-zagging across the sand to the water and did some stretches. As I walked in I could see the beautiful waves that awaited me: 2-4ft, occasional head-high, clean as a whistle. I looked at the little Quad Fish "this is perfect for you and me little buddy," I said aloud. Christ I hope I can surf this.

The fish paddled nicely, felt small as it sank under the water when I sat on it. It was curiously hard for me to duck-dive as I've got used to pushing my 7ft board with my foot. At 6ft this board's too short for that and needs a knee or some other technique that I'll have to work out. Anyway, I found my spot and waited. I paddled for one wave - the board felt ready to go more easily than I thought it would be - but I missed the wave anyway. And the next. The third wave peaked just right and the fish leapt at the chance.

Pure, electric, unadulterated stoke! Liquid treasure. Unbelievable. I haven't felt quite this feeling since my first green wave. Good-grief: the board flew along the deliciously clean wave as if floating on a layer of butter! It was like a magic carpet. This isn't surfing - this is floating! Flying! I was immediately way past the shoulder, I turned toward the beach and then powered into a bottom turn that had a really firm, smooth, powerful feel. Those feelings, that ride, will live on and on. As I paddled out I thanked Jools for shaping this lovely thing. This fishy is certainly more than a little dishy! When the swell comes in...

There were more rides, more bottom turns, more kookishly missed waves and tumbling pop-ups. But this, this is the experience you want from surfing. Speed, glide, power and control. This little board has so much more beauty (or is it character?) than my 7ft thruster. It feels 'stiffer' in the turn but the glide - aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!  The ride just tasted better.

When you get your first green wave it's a joy, but beginning to surf like this, after the persistence and effort it takes, is a joy with ever increasing richness.


  1. Things are looking up!

    The fact that you can surf on such a short board is fantastic proof of progress.

    Now how about an expedition to a reef break?

  2. Yep - very happy on that fish (except that I might have to buy one now)! Not quite ready for a reef break I don't think. Took a pounding at Puts today but got out & caught a couple in some pretty big waves. Looks like Friday's surf might be fun!


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