Wrestles with neoprene

A morning surf is always the best way to start a day. Always. Regardless of whether it’s a shitty surf or not. Today was no different.

The crazy fog, the messy 3-4ft surf and the onshore winds made me stop a second. Yeah, it’s October and it’s *supposed* to be a bit warm. But, I thought, it looks bloody cold and I’ll place bets on getting my hair wet. Winter wetsuit it is.

Now, for those of you who’ve never surfed before, wetsuits are mostly a dream. They allow us to surf in basically all latitudes at all times of year. Summer wetsuits are a little thinner and winter wetsuits, yeah, you got it, a little thicker. The transition between the two in autumn is always a little tricky though, as today reminded me.

Told you it was foggy
Told you it was foggy

Getting into a winter wetsuit is like stuffing your sleeping bag into its little sack when you were a kid. Remember that? An awesome sleepover all but finished, and you were faced with the task of expelling the majority of your energy squeezing the bag back into its stuff sack. Yeah, it’s a bit like that. And once you’re in it, don’t be so foolish to think you’ll be out back (beyond the white water, the prime wave catching spot) in a normal length of time. Paddling out in nearly a centimetre thick of neoprene is like paddling through treacle, just not as sweet. Then, once you’re finally situated in the correct place for wave catching glory, you can barely wrench yourself up to a seated position, let alone pop up to standing.

My surf today was one of those where the ocean teaches you a thing or two. Don’t get me wrong, I learn something every time I surf, even if it’s just a little reminder of a previous lesson, but this time I had my pencil and pad out and was scribbling furiously. I got a bit cocky, the water was warm (I had my winter suit on remember, of course it was warm. I was sweating like a Slimming World attendee in a cake shop) and there were just a smattering of folks out. No one was shouting or spitting or making stupid jokes. Awesome.

Hold on to your hats though folks, because, after a while, this crazy 5ft (probably) set came through and messed me senseless. With a longboard of 9’2″ in length, and me being a full 4ft shorter than it, it’s tricky to make it do what you want when you’ve got a 3ft high wall of white water coming towards you. Over and over again. So, that was how I nearly died, lovely readers.

Only messing. Although it was a bit awful and, as the tide was nearly up and I was washed nearly all the way back to shore, I counted my blessings and waltzed back to my wee little car without even a glimpse of riding a wave. It was lovely to be in the sea, regardless, but I didn’t catch was I was fishing for. Don’t get cocky, I scribbled in the inner notebooks of my mind.

But that’s not all, you funny lot, no, then there’s the getting out of the winter wetsuit that one must endure. Now, I realise there’s a law against flashing people in public, but sometimes I break that law. By accident, of course. I sometimes find myself rolling around on my back pulling here and there attempting to loosen the suction of the suit against my hands and feet. And, because my hands are still stuck, I’m writhing around with neoprene-like mittens pulling at more neoprene and falling over. People tend to drive by quite slowly at this point. And it always makes me wonder what Bethany Hamilton were to do if she were to surf alone in the North Sea in winter (she came out of a shark fight one arm down).

Of course, it eventually peels away, and leaves me more knackered than my ten wave hold down (I swear it was that many).
So, as you may now understand, there’s a whole new level of fitness required for the transition from summer suit to winter. I suppose that’s my work cut out for me. Until spring I suppose.

I’m now just looking forward to having the van as my surf wagon, before we move into it next year (thanks to the France trip!). Getting changed in there will be a cinch, probably. I can just see myself wrestling with neoprene whilst the kettle’s on. Bliss.

Over and out for now folks. FYI: it’s still warm enough for your summer suit.


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