musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

In Search of Waves… — July 31, 2019

In Search of Waves…

imageSome of my more loyal readers (and let’s face it with my posts getting scarcer and scarcer you would have to be pretty loyal right now; and that scarcity is a whole other story I may write one day) may remember that I enjoy a bit of body boarding…

If you don’t remember why not go back and revisit Surfing or Surfing….or not…. or even If the Suit Fits they all bear some testament to my love of riding the waves. On my belly…. I decided after Portugal to just give up on proper surfing for good, The relief is palpable. Body boarding…all the thrill…much less effort..

In search of waves last summer we went to Polzeath in Cornwall for our annual two week summer holiday. The house we rented was literally a short trot to the beach (admittedly across a car park) and then it was only a small hike up the beach to the waves. We had decided to buy full length wet suits of a decent quality and exorbitantly expensive Dry Robes (TM) which as it happened were unnecessary as Cornwall basked in unusually high temperatures for our entire staycation.

Once we realised you needed to get your boarding fix either very early or very late to avoid the hoards of surf schools and sightseers we had a high old time. The waves were mostly good.

Probably beacuse we didn’t get the Cornwall weather we expected and felt cheated by all that sun we decided to head back in October half term for another go. This time the weather was distinctly Cornwall. We used those Dry Robes (TM) in anger as well as neoprene hats, shoes and gloves. You may scoff but we body boarded in November. In the rain. And howling wind. The waves were ‘frisky’. It was quiet.  But nothing was open. All the cafes and tea shops and chippies had closed up for the year.

In a bid to combine sun & open amenities with not hitting your head on a surf board or taking out a toddler or two on every wave we decided to head back to the west coast of France this year.

We last did this in around 2011. We remembered excellent waves. Long empty beaches. But we have moved on a bit from static caravans. So husband found a house again a stroll from the beach. With a pool and jacuzzi. And a washing machine. We bought a roof box for all the wet suits, neoprene accoutrements and Dry Robes (TM) (the weather in West France can still be a bit hit and miss if memory served) and off we drove across the tunnel and seemingly all of France.

The house is spectacular. The beach beautiful. But not body boardable. We tried, looking a bit ridiculous in our wet suits amongst all the bikini clad French bathing in fairly calm waters, but really, no.

Luckily Rob, who had shown us around the house when we arrived, had mentioned a surfer beach, La Conches, just up the bay. He claimed it was a bit busy with surf schools (sigh) but worth the trip especially as it had life guards.

Yesterday with a surf report of 5-7 foot waves we tried our local beach one more time, gave up after having to walk over the rocks to the waves which were breaking at weird angles, got straight in the car sitting on towels and said Dry Robes (TM) and drove in sandy flip flops and wet wetsuits to La Conches which took all of 15 minutes. We banged the roof box on the car park barrier, got out and walked to the beach.

We were greeted by awesome waves of indeed epic proportions breaking in huge straight lines. The beach was deserted. As it was raining.

So off we went striding into the sea catching wave after wave and skimming the shore with our boards. Looking like we at least needed the wet suits.

We went back today in slightly tamer 3-4 foot waves. Which allowed Eldest to catch them just before they broke much to his delight, and Middlest to try his barrel rolls.

2 hours later we again sat on those towels and Dry Robes (TM) in the increasingly sandy car and drove back to our house and the outside shower. All exhilarated, tired and ready for our baguette, cold meats and cheese.

Why do I like it so much? I love the visceral effect of the sea. I love being so close to all that power. I love fighting my way back out through the breakers. I love the crash of the breaking wave, the gurgle as you ride the breakers and the rustle of the shingle under the board. I love the smell. I love the pull of all that energy propelling you up the beach. I love that time slips away unnoticed. I love seaweed tangled in my feet. I love the feel of sand in my toes. I love the triumph when you catch one just right and go from shoulder high water to inches of foam.

And you see here is the single best thing about body boarding. It is a physical activity that I enjoy and can actually do as well as my off spring. In every other area I lag behind, get tired before everyone else, feel like the lame duck. But with body boarding I out last them all. Except Youngest who could have stayed even longer. It is truly a whole family activity.

At one point during today’s session we all managed to catch the same wave riding it up to the shoreline in what , in my mind, was exquisite harmony. Perfect.

Body boarding is something that I can foresee carrying on with even after the kids have left and into my older years. I imagine myself at 60 or even older still riding those waves.

And then I struggle into or out of my wet suit slowly and often with help and reconsider…. I will have to develop an immunity to the cold. Or a layer of fat. And do away with one altogether. For I never want to give up that feeling of pure exhilaration.

 

 

 

Surfing…. — August 7, 2016

Surfing….

I have a long held desire to learn to surf. And by surf I mean on a board in the sea not on a computer on my sofa. Which I can already do.

I have always loved the sea. I have lived in many places in my life (at the last count 9 towns in the UK) and only one was in shouting distance of a beach. And the UK has lot of coast. For someone who loves the sea I seem to have a tendency to inhabit the interior of our island. Circumstances I suppose.

The only time I did live near the sea was when I was between the ages of 5 and 10 and for some reason we didn’t go that often. I think mainly because the walk from the car park to the sea was a long, soft sand trek that left us all exhausted. Although it was through one of the last remaining strongholds of the red squirrel. We must have gone sometimes because I have vague memories of dunes, those squirrels and lots of sand.

My paternal grandparents lived near the sea near Weston Super Mare and we did go to the beach there. My overriding recollections are of donkies and the three mile hike over the beach to the sea. The tide went out a very long way.

We also used to holiday on the south Devon coast every year. Our hotel was another quite long trek from the beach, along buddleia lined pathways which were covered in butterflies, past the Copper Mine where we spent many happy hours feeding machines with pennies and over the railway which skirted magnificently around red sandstone cliffs. I remember hours of bobbing up and down on waves with my bottom in a rubber ring. And I remember my dad’s wooden body board.

I like waves. I like the wild magnificence of the seas around the UK. I like cliffs and rock pools. Groynes encrusted with barnacles. And even seagulls. Although not the one that terrorised Eldest aged about three by knicking his sausage roll directly out of his hand.

The problem with the UK’s coast is that the sea is cold. As I get older I react more and more badly to the cold. I don’t venture in the sea in the UK that much anymore. I cannot imagine how I spent hours in merely a swimsuit in the Atlantic as a child. But I did. The North Sea is worse.

When the kids were still quite little we went on holiday for a couple of years to the Vendee in France. Our campsite was literally on the beach. We would get there early every day and come back at lunch time for a siesta and then go back for the afternoon. I did hours of body boarding.

The waves were immense and very rideable. It was the first time in my life I managed to catch a wave in shoulder deep water and ride it all the way to the shore until my knees were scraping the sand. Awesome. I could have spent even more hours doing it. But the kids were little and needed watching. I needed to time share that with my husband. And body board to the schedule of their desire for regular meals and naps and my attention.

And also the air temperature was unreliable. The second year we went the weather was not great. Too far north. We tried Biarritz for more likelihood of high temperatures but the waves there were far too big for us amateurs.

We then ended up at the Med. On a Greek island. Because we were sick of unreliable weather, self catering and caravans. Sunshine was guaranteed the views were stunning and the food delicious but we needed to leave our boards at home. The Med. Like a large lake.

We did a year in Cornwall. Again great body boarding. Ocean absolutely freezing.   Middlest and Edlest had a surfing lesson and managed to stand up within the hour. And that is when my desire to graduate from a body board to a surf board really took hold.

This year we have come to the south of Portugal where the Atlantic coast meets the Mediterranean coast. I had high hopes. The town we are near is apparently the surfing Mecca of Portugal. Unfortunately our hotel and its beach are on the ‘wrong’ coast.  Sheltered and perfect for families. Not quite what we were after but still lovely. And it is only a short drive to the right coast.

Yesterday we had an all day surfing lesson. We got picked up by a suitably fit, young, tanned and tattooed man who looked like he had been plucked straight off the beach. On the drive I discovered he had two children and his wife was pestering for a third. He wanted the benefit of my wisdom. Had it been hard? Should he consider it? Tricky conversation to have in the front of a mini van loaded with surf boards and over excited kids, not all of whom were mine.

We got to the beach. The car park was full of camper vans and beaten up Corsas loaded with spectacular numbers of surf boards and beautiful young people. We got into wet suits in the car park. Never an easy or dignified process especially when being gawped at by hosts of beautiful young people. And then we hauled all the boards and our kit to the beach. And wow what a beach, I could hardly wait to get in the sea.

First, though, we had to go through the warm up and instruction. We had to be those mad fools pretending to paddle and mount our boards on dry land.

And then in we got, the water warm, the waves beautiful.

I tried. I really did. For three hours. I managed to sort of get to my feet once. For about three seconds. Somewhere between step two (push up with your arms) and step three (get your back foot on the board, the one tethered complicatedly to the end of the deck) it all went wrong. I ended up on my knees toppling sideways. Knees had not featured in the instructions. But then I am neither strong enough nor supple enough to go from lying prone to both feet, whilst balancing on a wave. Apparently.

And tugging that board around is seriously hard work. Dragging it through the waves and realising that with each breaker you have lost all the ground you had just made. I tried lifting it out of the water which is my body board technique. Not so easy with a 6 foot piece of whatever they are made of which is attached to your foot. Density akin to lead.

In the end I gave up and just body boarded on the surf board and I managed to catch some brilliant waves all the way in. Which was cool but not really what I had hoped for. I am not sure what I had hoped for. The ability to transfer my body boarding skill to surfing I suppose. Clearly the two are not related. Well not for me.

All three of my kids took to it, typically, like ducks to water. And all of them were reliably standing up all day. Even my husband managed it a few times. Well done him.

Anyway I enjoyed the day. Not the part were we had to haul all the kit and boards back up to the van. But the rest of it. And I am glad I tried. The kids appreciated that I tried even though I am so ‘old’. And they remain convinced they saw me standing up. I think they must have me confused with another lady in the same surf school outfit. There were a lot of us out there….

Last night I nearly fell asleep in my pizza and was in bed by 8.30. Today I cannot move. All of me aches. From my neck downwards. I am bruised and battered. My left foot hurts from something.

So tomorrow, after a day spent flopping by the pool, we are off in search of a body board and a suitable beach. And I am going back to what I know. And love.

For it is a truth that 46 is too old to be a surfer chick. There is hope for Youngest though. Who did cut a dash in her wet suit standing up gracefully all the way to the shore. Blonde hair streaming. All rash vest and board shorts and brown, supple limbs.

You go girl.

 

 

Sea Legs — July 21, 2015

Sea Legs

image

Youngest

Today I did something I have never done before in my 45 years.

I dived off the side of a boat into the Aegean Sea. In fact I need not be that specific. I have never dived off a boat into any sea or even ocean before.

You may be imagining a quite glamorous scene as you visualise me diving athletically yet gracefully into the pleasantly warm azure waters of the Aegean sea off the beautiful coast of mainland Greece. I would hate to disabuse you of that vision. But the reality was probably not as glamorous as your imaginings.

I did have on a quite flattering bikini it is true, but also my bright pink rash vast. I was also trying to keep an eye on three kids flinging themselves haphazardly off various railings. And avoid other people’s children doing the same, and the Russian in budgie smugglers. My husband still has sea water streaming out of his nose whenever he bends down around three hours and lunch later. And I ate my pita and chicken souvlaki in a state of stickiness from the sea salt. But still, it was quite a rush.

There is one main reason why I have never ‘dove’ off a boat. And that is that I hate boats. Specifically I hate sea faring boats. I have, in fact, enjoyed a number of boat based inland holidays on canals, lakes and broads. But I don’t do the sea. Because I get very sea sick. Indeed.

This cruise came complementary with our holiday package. I was prepared to persuade my offspring and spouse onto the other option, the romantic 30 minute sunset cruise which never leaves the bay, but the lure of the three hour trip which, we discovered, included an hour of swimming off the boat was too much of a temptation for them. So I reluctantly agreed. To the relief of any couples heading out at 8.30pm tonight a deux.

I had been told by the holiday rep that the Aegean was often very calm. I think her exact words were mill pond.

That isn’t exactly how it turned out. It was actually quite rough. So I sat on the deck for the first hour or so concentrating on the horizon in a bid not to vomit. I succeeded. Luckily.

I don’t have many successful boat experiences. Once on a ferry from Dover to Calais with a very old friend I was sick eleven times. Count them, eleven.

My mother is the same. We always sit on the deck. In silence. Concentrating. Regardless of the weather. We took the train to Holland when I was twelve. We sat on the deck of the ferry that this entailed in the pissing down rain. Or it might have been spray it was difficult to tell. I was still sick. Copiously.

We can be travel sick anywhere. In fact we were both sick on a boat trip from Sorrento to Capri. It was rough though honest. And I have found that once one person ‘goes’ the floodgates tend to open. There was quite a queue for the solitary loo.

Luckily my fellow passengers this morning were stalwarts. There was one little boy who started to feel dodgy right at the end. I contemplated parting with my air sickness bag which is permanently in my hand luggage rucksack. Thankfully I didn’t need to as just as he turned green we got near enough to shore for the swell to subside. I find that having an appropriate vessel to be sick into goes a long way to making sure I do not actually vomit.

Reminder to self to stock up on those bags on our flight back to the UK in a few days. I am down to my last one courtesy of some Milton Keynes roundabouts and a Disney World roller coaster overdose.

Travel sickness is horrible. I get it not only on boats but also in the back seats of cars and on pendolino trains.

Historically trains have been a safe haven for me, I spent my childhood on them and they have conveniently positioned lavatories in extremis. Based on this fact and my refusal to ever go on a ferry again we decided about three years ago to go to Biarritz on the train.  Suffice to say the SNCF pendolinos were not great for my sickness. And they were so full with the French going on holiday that those lavs involved a clamber over many bodies and haphazardly piled luggage… I got out my bag on numerous occasions. Eldest’s Croque Monsieur was a particular crunch point.

So anyway I braved the boat for my kids. I wasn’t sick. And the thrill of diving into that sea made it all worth while. And their faces when they surfaced each time too.

Fabulous. There are worse things to risk vomiting into a bag for.

image    image

image

%d bloggers like this: