I wanted to let you all know that I am offering one-to-one surf coaching and video analysis for developing and intermediate surfers in the Newquay area.
Learning on the right kit is crucial to success
Most people have an enjoyable introduction to surfing in a group lesson on a foam surfboard. These lessons are great for catching that first ride and giving people the confidence to have a go themselves later on in their own time (between the black and white lifeguard flags).
However, as any surfer who has ‘made the journey’ will tell you, the learning curve soon flattens out and some big questions are asked:
1. How do I get past the white water?
2. What’s the best way to duck dive?
3. How do I go along the wave face and not straight down?
4. How do I start to make turns?
5. Why do I struggle to catch waves??
6. What is a floater / snap / cutback / reo and how on earth do I do them?
You on your next holiday?
People can get stuck in the ‘developing’ phase for months, but with the correct guidance, coaching and feedback, it is possible to blast through this frustrating stage and get right on track to really enjoying the freedom of surfing waves the way you want to.
There is one big secret to duck diving, and that’s sinking the TAIL first. Trust me it works!
If you, or someone you know, would like to book a lesson with me you can bring your own gear or use some of the excellent kit that I have here. I have boards for people looking to progress up from foamies, and also for people looking to get into riding shorter boards as they come down from mini-mals (if this jargon doesn’t make sense, just take it that I have the boards for the job:) )
Mini mals and ‘big boy’ surfboards, video analysis and coaching support material accelerate the learning process during my coaching sessions
I use professional video analysis software so that we can go over your session whilst supping on a hot chocolate. Video coaching is widely considered to be one of the most powerful tools in a coach’s armory for getting their clients onto the next level.
Learn what parts of the wave you need to hit to throw buckets
One-to-one lessons get you away from the crowds, you learn at your own pace and work out what it is YOU want to learn with me. My courses are relaxed and informal but structured and you should expect a rich and intensive learning experience.
The Gay Bay, The Nay-Bay, Poofter’s Patch, these are just some of the terms of affection people-who-surf call the Newquay Bay, in fact my great mate Smiler, after I asked him if he wanted to surf there, replied ‘I’d rather slam my c*** repeatedly in the car door’.
If this is considered ghey, then there some people will be re-thinking a few values…
Primarily, ‘The Bay’ refers to the stretch between Towan Beach and Great Western. From there onwards you arrive at Tolcarne which at high tide can produce its infamous wedge, popular with body boarders, and the next beach after that is Lusty Glaze which can produce some genuinely good waves on its day.
Beautiful rugged scenery of Porth Headland
So it’s mostly Towan and Great Western that draw the platitudes and it’s really because of one reason: it’s the longest and most consistent close-out in Cornwall. If the tide-line is below the foot of the headland at Great Western, the wave is about 300m long, but it breaks end to end all at once, so it’s not great for surfing unless you want to work on your falling technique.
Dodge thy neighbour at all costs, for it will be you paddling out next time, praying for similar clemency. It’s crowded, just accept it
But to be fair, you can squeak into the odd close-out barrel and sometimes even link two or more turns together. And it is a sheltered spot: offshore and clean looking in south westerly winds, and a less punishing experience than Fistral when it gets over four foot, which is why people who are learning to surf really pack the place out most days of the week, all through the year.
Every now and then you can get a little lip love in
The crowds though aren’t an issue, aside from the risk of a flying surfboard from the odd dope who hasn’t grasped that throwing your board aside and swimming under a three foot wave whilst someone is paddling out behind you isn’t just rude, it’s downright dangerous. Generally, in fact overwhelmingly, the atmosphere in the Bay is of people just having a good time as they have a crack at surfing in their own little way. I’ve never seen any flare-ups or hassle; for that would be like fighting over the last packet of frozen shaped fish in Tower Road Spar, beneath most of our dignity I would hope. We’re not talking sailfish here.
How’s that for an wave park? Better than going to crumbling old Dubai where they arrest you for snogging your missus on the beach. We can skinny dip in Newquay if we like!
I’m not ashamed to say I find myself surfing The Bay fairly regularly; it’s a three minute dash from the house with a board under my arm, the waves shoal in quite tightly so you get plenty of them without waiting around, and if you’re quick, the steepness of those close-outs does allow for some lip smacking fun. And then there is the occasional golden hour when the tide shifts and some mysterious bank or other starts working and you get a flurry of rather sporting rides.
Like corduroy me bewtie! And not the sort you’ll find in Jack Wills.
The Newquay Bay is also a very sociable place to surf. Because of its locality, ‘transfer’ times don’t impact on your day much so I like to surf there when friends from out of town come to visit. A quick blast about in The Bay for an hour or so, no worries about hassles, loadsa waves (or take-offs at least) then back up the hill, shower off and we’re in the pub feeling a rosy glow from a pint of Cornish ale!
Look, the council even install telescopes so you can assess the quality before you go in!
I don’t believe in the maxim that a bad day in the surf is better than a good day at work (I mean really, a bad day in the surf can result in death, a good day at work can result in a pay rise and office romance), but I do believe that if you want to surf, standing at the shore of Towan Beach, board under your arm, contemplating those incessant close-outs is better than wanting to surf and being stuck in Milton Keynes.
Off da lip; well sorta, best I could do under the circumstances. Thanks to Lexxo at IKSURF Mag for the shots of me surfing in this post.
Since I read about Thurso in a surf mag some 15 years ago, I’ve really wanted to go up there. Yes it’s in the country where I live but even if I flew to Inverness and rented a car, it would still take me longer to get there than it would to Morocco. As it was I drove and it took about a hundred years to finally arrive in town. I met up with George Noble, a friend who surfs and kites and rips at both and rather handily knows the area very well.
Behold! After a million hours on the A9, you have arrived not in civilisation, but Thurso.
Driving into Thurso, the town was just as I pictured it. It’s actually pretty nice in a remote kind of way. George later asked me as we were sat out in the water at Thurso if it was like I thought it would be; well the scenery was just as the hundreds of photos I’ve seen had described it, but I really wasn’t prepared for the quality of the wave. I don’t think you ever can be. We got it pretty small but at that size it throws out a lovely barrel and all you have to do is take off, stand there and get a tube. The water is also rather shallow when it’s small and I took a good hiding on the granite reef. It’s not sharp though, and it’s covered in kelp.
Little liquid caverns for all.
Earlier on that day we surfed a beach out to the west in Sutherland called Torrisdale. It looked very similar to Crantock Beach, just a heck of a lot bigger. There was a river flowing out on the right hand side, the sand was soft, the wave was punchy and the beach was bookended by lush green headlands with granite outcrops poking through. Very strange that two beaches that couldn’t get much further away from each other should look so similar (apart from the peat washing out into the sea at Torrisdale). Stranger still when you consider that Scotland was in fact part of the huge land mass that formed the American continent and by complete chance floated its way over to England on the tectonic drift and planted itself there. This is why as soon as you drive into Scotland the scenery changes in a drastic way. What does that say about Cornwall then? Was Cornwall also part of a different continent and somehow found itself tacked onto England? The geography is certainly different enough.
An empty beach break in Sutherland. This one’s called Torrisdale.
Torrisdale turned out to be another cracking spot to surf. I had given no thought to what the beaches would be like up in Sutherland but on arrival they were empty, pristine, and the backdrops were stunning. We saw a few people in the ‘car parks’ (really just widened farmer’s tracks near the beach) and George seemed to know them all. When you drive around Scotland you realise it is a big country, with a small surfing community.
I’d been avoiding the small fishing village of Taghazoute on Morocco’s Atlantic coast for the best part of ten years. This was a little bit of a shame because I do love a good surf trip and the coastline around the village has some of the best waves you’ll find within three hour’s striking distance of the UK.
Aloe Vera for your close encounters of the reef kind
I had my reasons though. During my first visit here, my friends and I were fitted up for a drugs bust, roadblocked, had rabid dogs die in our apartment in the night, harassed, cajouled, embroiled in arguments about the second Iraq Invasion, and finally went on the run to fall into the clutches of an absinthe drinking fisherman / philosopher. Actually, he was a good person.
Jacko loads the sticks onto the caddy
This time around, things were more relaxed. During our stay we met a university surf club from the North East of England shepherding fifty members around the place (not my idea of responsible or sustainable surf tourism but between them they caught less waves per sesh than the usual lone wolf travelling surfer), middle aged women on yoga and surf retreat packages, scores of beginner and intermediate surfers looking to sharpen their pop-up on some friendly beachies, the usual stormtrooper-serious-surfers from all over Europe, and of course the odd stressed out local who amongst all this just wanted to get some waves on the weekend!
The shaded side street that ran down to our apartment
The main town was more relaxed than it was years ago; the air of desperation and thievery blown away on a new understanding that if you treat someone pretty well on the first day of the trip, you’re likely to make a buck a day from them. And considering that the person making this ‘buck a day’ will be spending their day standing in a dusty patch of wasteland by the sea, with no shade, guarding your car from glue-sniffers for as long as you wish to surf, well I for one couldn’t wait to pay up.
Doctor Rob taking it easy at a roadside cafe
The impression I got was that now we were able to see the locals as they were, before the ‘gold rush’ of visiting surfers from the north. In the early days I guess there were easy pickings to be made from bag snatches, rip offs, extortion, stitch ups and police bribes. Today, The King has decreed that the police must show clemency to tourists by not flagging them down at road blocks, because tourists bring money and The King knows this and doesn’t want to putthem off.
Local fishermen watching a football match between some local kids.
How did we manage to get off the beaten track and find the Black Hawk Down vibe then? It wasn’t hard, a town about forty minutes drive north of the main surf spots was exactly the same as it was a decade before. The place was bustling with men in robe, goats tied down to mini-van roofs, wailing mosques and buzzy two-stroke motorbikes. It’s here that the trade winds start, and they were wafting the smell of sizzling tajines, stewed goat and slow cooked chick-pea stews right up our noses. We sat down at an eatery that I remembered from nine years ago. Like before, we were welcomed by the owner and settled down in our board shorts, fake Ray-Bans and t-shirts next to men in Jaleb clothing. They were surely more less interested in us than we were them, or maybe just more dignified in the company of strangers?
We went surfing!
The surf was as I remembered it – really good, but after four days at the same spot a weird fatigue set in and you would find yourself turning down clean 3ft surf in the interest of going back to base and reading a book. Bizarre I know, that doesn’t even happen at home. Perfect as the wave is, you surf it once, you’ve surfed it a hundred times. It doesn’t really change. It’s also not the sort of wave that allows for explosive moves so you run out of stuff to do since it doesn’t offer that much of a barrel section. Soon enough, the racking winds, desert dust, and whole lot of nothing in the surrounding environment starts to get to you and you find yourself craving a sunlounger, Fanta and a wi-fi connection.
This North African country is an interesting study in tourism. It’s the one place I’ve visited out of about thirty in the last decade that has improved its relationship with its tourists without changing the wild, country look of the town (not that they’ve had any money to). It seems that the locals have driven out the bad seeds – even the sunglass sellers are pretty low impact – and instead of being harassed as you walk down the street you can now stop and chat to people. It’s relaxed a lot.
It’s not entirely without its smackdowns though
One thing still worries me though, and that’s the plight of dogs. One morning, one of the endearing strays was trying to hide under our breakfast table. He would have been left alone but for the fact he couldn’t stop yelping. I looked under the table and saw he was bearing his teeth. Thinking this could be rabies, I drove him out with a few splashes of water, what else were we going to do? It’s not like there was a vet’s on the corner. Anyway, the dog returned and tried to hide under another table. Same thing – yelps, teeth bared, worried guests. Turns out that to control the spread of wild dogs, arsenic pellets are sprinkled on the beach. This dog had supposedly eaten one and knew his number was up, trying to find a safe place to lie down where he thought (pitifully) he might sleep it off.
The smartphone has rendered the old internet cafe obsolete.
Cat lovers shouldn’t fret though, for once upon a time Mohammed found a cat sleeping on his tunic and rather than wake it, cut the sleeve off of it so he could wear the rest of it. Ever since that was written, the cat has enjoyed a charmed existence of being fed treats from the plate because ‘he only comes to you when he is hungry’. Amazing – because cats would never presume to defraud people of their cooked food!
I can say that I’ve made peace with Taghazoute and it is firmly back on my radar. Maybe it’s been the same all along and I’ve just grown up a bit, become a more robust traveller. Perhaps we’ve both changed a bit for the better. Whatever, it’s one of the best places I’ve visited for stepping outside of your comfort zone but returning to your hotel for some good food and drinks each night.
We’ve had some bleddy good surf down here lately. In fact this winter has been turning out better than even last year’s, whence I set upon my ‘surf every day’ challenge.
I'm on top, Bennet is underneath. The battle is underway!
The last couple of days I’ve been surfing with my great mate Will Bennet, whilst his lovely missus Celine Collaud (of course also my great mate) kindly took some shots of us. Celine has an ability to capture the absolute apex of a turn; you make the turn in the water, replay how you think it looked in your head, wonder if Celine caught it and then learn later that of course she did, and exactly at the right moment. This profound understanding of sports probably comes from her being a European kitesurfing champion.
Off the lip at Watergate,me.
Anyway, we were having a fantastic time, catching waves, living for the swell and wondering what the next day will bring. And if it goes onshore naturally we don’t care since we fund our very existences on this earth through kitesurfing! Afterwards over an apres surf Skinner’s Surfing Lager talk sort of drifted towards money and careers and responsibility.
The board room or the bored room?
It would be fair to say that our little crew, like many others around the world, have put a lot of things on hold (or never even started them) so we could instead devote time and energy into surfing and kitesurfing for purely recreational purposes. I mean, it takes a fair bit of discipline to suit up and paddle out into chunky surf when the air temp is hovering around freezing point, or to live in a constant state of awareness of tides, winds and swell.
Would that focus be better diverted into keeping track of financial markets? Would that tenacity serve us better climbing hand over hand up a corporate ladder? I would never write off anyone who works hard in an office and can only make it to the sea once a month, and also I think people choose the lifestyle that suits them. But when do you start feathering the nest?
Slave to the lip grind
Surfing (when I say surfing I mean surfing, kitesurfing, bodysurfing, SUP, all of it) does keep you lean and mean and largely without injury. It creates deep bonds with friends as you share wild adventures and flirt with danger. Together you see some of the most beautiful scenery and are alive in the most intense weather systems. And best of all you get to feel those amazing waves under your feet…you don’t even need to replay them in your mind, you just feel a natural sense of well being.
Reversal - going right this time, top turn comparison.
It’s a great life we’ve chosen but you don’t get paid for playing. Sure someone could be sponsored but I’m not, never will be. Only a tiny percentile are so talented that a company would pay them a salary just to surf. So I’m asking you dear reader, what you reckon to all this? Is it time to cut back on the beach and scale up (make that start!) on the pension plan? Is it selfish to put so much value on chasing something that can really only benefit yourself? Is it naive to think that by seeking natural, healthy experiences you are somehow contributing to a better balance in the universe? I’d like to hear your thoughts, please sound off below.
Yeeeeeah (quite nasal delivery) so crept down to Fistral around 4pm for another bang-around in the sea after refuelling with the products documented in the post below and a sachet of Turbo Whizz Fizz. Tubo Whizz Fizz? Oh yeah it’s a sort of vitamin infused powder what you mix with water when you want to press on that bit further. Anyway it got me out of the house after the depleting session at Watergate for a nice little time at Fistral.
The video is below; I trimmed (most) of the fat off from the session. A very nice little surf it was, and for most of the time I had North Fistral all to myself. Hmm, what does that actually mean? Well, earlier at Watergate, the whole length of the beach was packed with surfers. Every set wave that came through had about four or five people going for it. Watergate is about 2 miles long so you can imagine the crowds. Thing is though, Watergate is a bit ‘out of the way’ and Fistral is right in town which is why everyone goes to Watergate when it’s 3ft, offshore and sunny – to escape the crowds you see. So guess what happened? Aye, Watergate was rammed and Fistral was empty. It happens all the time, all summer long. It’s been like that for years. We call it Lanzarote syndrome. Never been to Lanzarote? You should go, it’s pretty empty right now.
…and Fistral Beach was cranking! If anything, it was pretty close to being maxed out. A 3.5m swell rolling in from the west at 15 seconds was piling into the beach without interruption and Fistral beach faces west, so was catching the lion’s share of what was on offer today. The wind was south east and about 15knots, a bit more at times.
This one was steep, was lucky to make the drop
Jacko and I paddled out after checking a couple of places down the coast and decided that Fistral looked best. The Cribbar was breaking, Zorba’s reef was breaking and the paddle out was nothing short of totally exhausting, you would be scratching your way out, thinking you were in a handy rip, but you were also being pulled along the beach and into the path of the guillotining closeout sandbar. Once out the back, Jacko had been moved 50 odd meters to the left and me the same distance to the right.
Decided not to jump in here!
With his new 6’10 Matt Adams serious wave board, Jacko wasn’t hanging around and I saw him take a very late frothy one. I clawed into a booming closeout, and not fancying the paddle out again, nipped down to the south end of the beach to jump in off the rocks at the Pentire Headland. I had to try three different potential jump of spots before I found one that looked safe enough.
A big slopey mid tide wall
Once I’d got back out there, the tide had shifted in and things were getting a bit full. At low tide its was a case of taking clobberings in heavy waves but at least you knew you’d get blasted back to the beach. Now, the beach was getting narrower and the rips and rock hazards were intensifying. I decided to get a safety wave in so paddled over to the middle of the beach and took a ride that started as a left and then reformed into quite a nice right hander.
This one started off as a left...
So that was my 21st surf in 21 days. I’m gonna make a little slideshow of this project, as inspired by a mate of mine, Tony Plant. Before that though, I’ll be hitting the surf a few more times as the week ahead looks good for surfing and maybe kiting too. I don’t want to jinx it, but it may be possible to surf every single day in February!
There were all sorts of text flying about last night and Facebook profiles being updated as everyone was wondering where to head to for the biggest, most perfect swell that we’ve seen in a long time. Here are some numbers to give you an idea of what was going on: 4.7m swell from the West at 16 seconds, 20knots wind from the South East. Considering that most beaches on the North Coast of Cornwall face either North, West, or North West, things couldn’t get much better for surfing. The only problem was finding somewhere sheltered enough to make such a big swell rideable…
One of the few pointbreaks in Cornwall, doing its thing!
Vans set off for various spots, the coastline was scoured and the communications were still flying. Milson and I headed straight to a spot that previous experience suggested should be absolutely classic, or death on a stick. As we crested the huge rise and looked down upon the bay and the swell lines marching in from the horizon, we couldn’t believe our luck to find there were only about four others in!
Getting off the starting blocks with the first turn
We had a quiver of 5 boards with us and as you’d expect, a fair amount of indecision as to what to take – the sets were topping out at around 8ft on the Hawaiian scale, so basically pretty bloody massive. In the end, Milson took the 7’6 gun and I took my trusty 6’5 surfboard with the GoPro mount. We spoke to a few others that had turned up and were leaving the water, and they were on fairly standard boards.
Going for a cutback here
A few more souls paddled out ahead of us and soon there was a jovial little crew in the water, chit-chatting with nervous energy. There were loads of waves to go around and I think the extra size tends to bring the best out in people. Despite the looming walls of water, the take off was fairly makeable with just enough of a flick in the wave lip to lift the tail of the board to get you into it.
On one of my longer waves
The wave had all the power you’d ever want for shortboarding and was thundering through giving 20 seconds rides out to anyone who wanted them. Some sections were incredibly hollow but the only pits I pulled into resulted in an absolute clobbering; I was glad of having built up a bit of surf fitness over the last couple of months.
Running through into the inside section, still well overhead
It must have been just a couple of waves in when I realised that I was having the best surf I’ve ever had in Cornwall, and possibly one of the best I’ve ever had anywhere. The wave had class to match anywhere on its day, well, is that so surprising when you consider the swell that was hammering over this granite bottomed point break?
Lining up for another hit on a long wall
A lot of open face to play about on the wave
Keeping an eye on that lip!
Moody skies today, always seems to be that way at this place
Dark rocks, dark water, it's an eerie place...
Looking down the line again
Certainly the best waves I’ve ever ridden in Cornwall, there was so much push as you made the drop, it really got the adrenaline pumping. I think everyone being in a great mood out there really helped too, in fact, this isn’t a place I’d really want to surf alone, it’s a very eerie and frankly menacing place. Nothing about it is simple – the paddle out, the horendous rip you have to fight as you get washed in over rocks on the way back – it’s all pretty hardcore.
I don’t realy mind what happens now for the rest of the winter, this was certainly the session that I’ve been hoping for ever since I came back from Hawaii!
But that’s not a bad return I reckon! Here is a video I made today with the GoPro at faithful Towan Beach in Newquay. Amongs the usual close outs there was the odd wave peeling off in front of the Island, the sun was out, you could even feel it, so really there was no better place to be today than down on the beach.
What’s quite interesting about filming your session is that you can total up exactly how long you are stood on the board for. In this case, the yield was two minutes per hour spent in the water. I would guess that to be an average for me, and though it doesn’t sound like much, well, I suppose it isn’t much, but people queue up for longer than one hour and pay good money for rides at Alton Towers that don’t last as long.
The surfing on show here is typically blue collar, if you’re expecting fancy high performance surfing then I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. But I had fun and that’s the main thing, and I’m on for 21 sessions in 21 days if I keep this up till Sunday. A couple of friends have asked me if I’m feeling a bit ragged after surfing every day like this but that’s never even been a consideration, I’m feeling fitter than ever and can’t wait to get back in tomorrow – especially now that I’ve upgraded the software in my GoPro so it can take photos every single second, this is a major breakthrough!
Right, cheers all and I hope you enjoy this sunny little video from Newquay. I didn’t put any music over it as I thought the sounds of the waves were quite nice!
Day three of my surf trip at home experiment. The premise is simple, go surfing every day for a week regardless of how good, bad, cold, grey, sunny, or otherwise things are looking and see if you have that ‘post surf trip’ stoke at the end of the week. Today’s sesh was about 4ft, overcast, not much wind, and we were suited up before sunrise.
Scottish Craig about to leap off the rocks at South Fistral
Today, all sorts of new elements came into play. Firstly, I was joined by Scottish Craig. Scottish Craig has been living here for donkey’s years, so is in fact a ‘local’. This was good for the purposes of my experiment as it meant that I would have to be extra careful not to drop in on Scottish Craig, him being a local and all that. A little side story here – Craig’s winter wetsuit is so warm that he is often heard telling people that it’s too hot and he has to let water in through the neck to cool down. Trouble is, Craig’s super-suit was locked up at Watergate Bay surf school so this morning, Craig leapt off the rocks at South Fistral and intro the sea wearing his summer weight wetsuit and proceeded to surf for 90 minutes.
Duck diving at South Fistral
Next, it was very overcast. Temperature wise, it was a lot warmer than it looks in these photos. Water was still pretty clear as you can see on the duck diving photo too. In terms of crowds, there was just the local, Craig, the local’s mate, Paul, and the visitor, I. This was quite something as the surf was the best it’s been all week, about 4ft, consistent, and without wind.
Getting a few of these in lately, the surf trip is paying off
So far my holiday at home has revealed a land of left handers to me, so the backhand top turn is getting a bit more practise than usual. As my friend Will Bennet says though, ‘A backhand top turn is similar to a forehand bottom turn. Practise one, practise t’other.’
A short right hander before bailing ahead of the rocks
Conclusion: a good day’s surf today, would certainly have been worth a decent road trip. The early morning start was a bonus, just three guys out including me, and the locals were so friendly. Good fun jumping off the rocks to get into the surf, mixing it up a bit. Three days on the same break now though, tomorrow looks as if either the kite will come out or I’ll be trying a different beach, and am loving all this paddle fitness.