Friday, 5 March 2010
Close to Home, February 2009
The life of your average surfer is becoming a moral maze. We find ourselves at the crossroads of green issues and personal gratification. Most surfers I know are concerned about the health of the seas and beaches, and try to live environmentally conscious lives. Some are concerned about carbon footprints and the environmental impact of their boards and wetsuits.
But all surfers I know want to check the reef down the road, want to surf in tropical waters and own a new wetsuit to make the most of the short grey days of winter. Unfortunately these goals come into conflict with each other. Tough decisions must be made.
I am lucky enough to live next to the beach. The surf’s not always great but at least it is close enough to allow a quick session before work, even in winter. By living here I’ve made a decision that reduces my drive time to zero, despite it not being the best spot in the local area.
I try to resist the urge to drive around checking spots, more out of need to reduce my fuel bill than my carbon footprint. Once or twice a month I’ll fill a car with my friends and head to a nearby point or reef if I know it’s going to be good. I text my friends with the surf report to stop them driving to the beach if it’s going to be crappy. However, this may not be working too well as I am an optimistic kind of reporter.
Am I doing my bit for the world? Hardly, but I’m saving money and getting creative with my choice of surf spots. Have you ever wondered what sort of wave that little patch of reef round the corner from your local beach might make? Of course you have. But few of us have bothered going for a look when we know there’s good waves at the well known spots.
On a recent hefty January swell I hiked bleary eyed up the cliff path and found a rare slab producing heavy, hollow lefts in the misty morning light. The sun was just coming up and I only had nervous sheep for company as I pulled on my wetsuit. Being there by myself felt like a reward for the effort I’d put in; I’d made a mental note of the slab during a low tide summer stroll along the cliff, and then checked it religiously on every swell and high tide for a month. When the conditions came together I knew where to go.
As I paddled out between the double overhead sets they weren’t the only nervous ones. Waves broke hard and hollow along a shallow ledge of reef before ending yards in front of a low cliff. I was pushed into the line up by the strong rip on my neglected 6’8 pintail. Not really a board for Wales but needed that morning. The take off spot was next to a nasty boil but gave a nice ramp into the wave before it started to suck. I was 2 hours late for work.
The fact that I only got a few waves and spent most of the time wide eyed and frantically paddling out of the way is neither here nor there. The point is that with a little creative thinking and adventurous spirit, we can find what we’re looking for right around the corner. At home. Having the time and knowledge to know when and where to look is an advantage of being a regular (I don’t want to use the L-word!) at your spot.
It is too easy to drive around checking all the well known spots, too easy to book the cheap flight to somewhere with warm waves. It is harder, but more rewarding, to hike round the corner, book your holiday time for a solid at-home winter swell and to make the decision to reduce foreign travel. Although I abhor the use of Americanisms, I urge my fellow surfers to butter up their bosses and take a last minute “staycation” rather than check out flights to Indo or Morocco on lastminute.com. I’m not asking people to give up their search for challenging waves, because we have plenty of them right here in the UK. We just need to summon up the courage to look for them.