North Devon – Croyde, Saunton and Castrol Oil?

Yesterday’s new swell picked up over night and was looking punchy at dawn. As the sun rose so did the winds. They were predominantly offshore but slightly from the South, which put an uneasy wonk on the water’s surface. The howling offshore made it pretty much impossible to get in to anything, but still, a good days surf.

The winter sun was out in force, making it blinding to even look at the water’s surface. (Thank god for his invention of polarized sunnies ūüôā Is amazing to see how many people were in the water, even for January in the UK. As sea temps drop you would think the lineup would have thinned out slightly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing compared to summer, but still, a good turn out for a chilly January day. Surfing has boomed and is booming, and will continue to do so.

Low-tide, Croyde A-Frame coupled with 1000 Knot winds.

As I was power walking down the beach (trying to stretch the ankle out) I came across a dirty circular character littering the Devonshire coastline. An oil drum! Of all things it’s hardly what you want rolling past you in the surf. The owner had also wrote his name on it – Castrol.¬† It makes you wonder where it came from, was it at one time full of oil? ( I hope not) Oil companies are irresponsible, as are the majority of people with money to burn. They participate in a bit of ‘window dressing’ – making their company seem like it’s concerned about the environment, and then go and litter the globes most precious resource; the sea. I don’t care whether it contained oil or not, it’s the simple fact of you don’t want to be seeing a Castrol¬†oil drum on a beach. Shame on Castrol.

Anyway this is how a UK beach should appear; clean and basked in morning sunshine.

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Surf Stories – Perfect waves and broken bones

Surfing is an adventure. Adventures generally entail up’s and down’s that all contribute in¬†making it a memorable occasion. As surfers, we travel and explore, throwing outselves¬†in to nature’s vast unknown. We all have stories; travelling hundreds of miles for 1ft¬†mush, getting lost and finding empty perfection, snapping your new stick on your first wave, the list is endless. I believe its important¬†for us to share these experiences. We sit and watch the world tour via our rapid internet connections, dreaming of the life on the ‘dream tour’. Yet this comes to us as an almost scripted format, we know where there going, we know who’s surfing, we know who’s likely to win, we know that we are about to witness the best surfing in the world. That’s why, as free-surfers we owe it to each other to share our own experiences. Sure we might not all be busting big airs and doing our dream job, but we all embrace surfing in to our life’s, allowing it to offer us stories that are dying to be told. Let’s do just that, lets show how the average surfer is worthy of an exciting tale. Here’s mine.

The charts were looking good. The previous East Coast swell was plagued by variable winds, making a potentially¬†brilliant swell nothing more than frustrating, stormy mush. Anyway, summer swells in North East England, whats up with that? I’m not complaining but these are generally rarer than a bloody steak. Wednesday, August 10th was looking to show optimum conditions with a dying swell that would begin to organise itself and be greeted with stiff offshore’s.

I began exploring the East coast potential during University, when my studies took me closer to this rugged, ‘Jurassic’ coastline. Now¬†back at my parents house for the¬†summer, my feet were itchy and I was eager to get back ‘oop North’ and hopefully score some serious water time.

Setting off at the crack of dawn, the tiny little car was juiced up and the gear and boards in tow. As any travelling surfer knows, after a long car journey I was sprinting¬†to the cliff top’s all excited and eager to asses the situation. I didn’t¬†want 8 foot, gruelling drainers, I wanted lovely medium-sized¬†waves offering long rides, whackable sections and countless rides. For the first time in a while mother-nature had listened to my thought’s – 3-5 ft, offshore, enough said.

East Coast summer swell ? – Photo by Vandal-Gab

As I sprinted back to the car, I could hardly contain my excitement. Non surfers will never understand this feeling, you become anxious yet content, irate¬†yet calm, annoyed that you’re not¬†in there NOW yet ecstatic that your going to be in there soon. Your heart beats that little bit faster and your thoughts and imagination run wild. Problems become irrelevant and you realize how nothing else matters.

Cayton¬†Bay features a super steep path leading down to a sand/rock beach. After a good session, the path defiantly¬†finished you off with surfer’s dreaming about lift’s and board caddy’s. Anyway I dived in and managed to make it out to a good position after taking a few on the head.

There were only 4 other wave riders in this particular spot, so I sat on the edge and waited my turn. The majority of waves were reeling off left, with the odd swinger coming in offering fast little rights. Being a natural footer, I bagged a nice sized right which offered a quick, close out barrel. I paddled back out and sat right on the peak, watching the guy’s get long rippable¬†lefts which were staying open thanks to the wind. A good 3-4¬†wave set was approaching on the horizon, the first couple were snagged by the guys sat slightly inside. I paddled for the approaching¬†wave – glassy and head high. As I bottom turned, I was greeted with a long, walling shoulder which allowed me to get 4-5 lovely, cruising turn’s on. As the wave hit the rip, if began to fade, so I opted to pull out the back. As I dropped down the back of the wave, my left foot left the board and my body began to fall in to the water. For some reason,my right foot¬†stayed put. Whether it was due to the fresh wax job or the added traction from the booties, it did not move. That was until the rest of my body was in the water and pushed my right ankle up and off the board. The pain wasnt¬†instant and I considered paddling back out. As I was about to do so it became more severe and I decided it was probably best to paddle back in. Thankfully my girlfriend was on the cliff top, so I frantically waved her down to assist. After a couple of wave back’s she understood that there was a problem. On reaching the beach my ankle felt like jelly and I could not connect it to the ground.

The Left’s on the day – Photo by Vandal-Gab

My next problem, was the gruelling cliff path that seems to run at about a 45 degree angle, for a good 5-10 minute of walking. This was going to be much longer in my case. Using my girlfriend as a crutch, I began hopping towards the car park. As fatigue set in, pain increased and the soothing cold water left my boots, I could manage less and less hops between resting intervals. After a good half hour, I reached the vehicle. The next dilemma, was the removal of the boot’s and wetsuit. A soaking wet, cold suit is difficult to remove at the best of times, let alone when the final exit point is the area that you can’t touch. After some assistance the sickening ordeal was over, and the tennis ball sized lump was freed from support. It instantly ballooned and grew and grew in size and abnormal shaping. Next stop, Hospital.

After a horrendous taxi ride, a few X-Rays and a long wait, I was informed¬†that I had fractured my right Fibula. The break was peculiar, (most likely¬†due to a previous ankle injury) and required surgery in the coming days. It was getting late and unable to drive, I had to get my car and equipment¬†over one hundred and fifty miles south somehow. After a pleading call to my dad, he agreed to jump on a train and meet us at the hospital. Next followed a 3 hour car journey in a cramped, little car with¬† my ankle feeling every bump and hole in the road. I couldn’t¬†help but think about the session that could have been. That second wave felt perfect, the crowds were thin and the North Sea had most defiantly turned on.

A week after the accident, my ankle¬†is now feeling¬†worse than ever. I will be crutch and cast bound for the next 6 weeks, with physiotherapy¬†after this period for tendon damage. The pain of the injury, does not come close to my state of ‘cold turkey’ that seems to have already set in. It is likely to be over 3 months before I will be entering the water confidently.

As a surfer, it’s easy to start ‘clucking’ a little when you are surf deprived. The feeling of being land-locked for the foreseeable¬†future is a depressing feeling. It over comes the actual pain of injury. On the bright side I am happy to see that there is no approaching swells. Although I can’t help to think about the up coming Hurricane season, when England see’s it’s coastline alight with long-awaited Atlantic swells.

Someone else scoring during the same session.

Image from Grumpy Old Surfer. Check out his site for lots of pics from the other day and other great days from around the UK.