Elusion of Illusive Swell
Expectations and the lead up to a new swell: disappointing? Often it is. We all make sure we have the day off work, or that we can get into the office late, having just snuck off somewhere, remote and rarely frequented. You’ve organised a time and a place to meet your fellow keenos. Chasing the swell, checking the surf forecast every couple of hours, to make sure the promise of a 12-second period and light off-shores aren’t a technical blip.
You’ve stocked the car with a potassium over-load of bananas, misshapen, wooly socks, and a flask of tea you try and force down, even though it is definitely too hot, as even the tiniest hit of caffeine might help you concentrate on the roads a bit better. Driving towards a misty dawn patrol, squinting through the hazy light. The passenger scrolling through their phone, updating the surf forecast again and again. You’re at the beach, the tide is too high, and flat as a bloody pancake anyway. Even if there is a wave, it definitely doesn’t match the perfection you were mind-surfing the hell out of last night – Indo comes to Blighty – whilst trying to find some sought after sleep. The best place you can find shows claustrophobic signs that hype that has spread from North to South coast. Just about everyone else in the county had the same idea as you.
A surprise swell hit one evening, surprising me as I drove over the hill on the way back from work. Was about a head and a half. Balls!! – I only had my longboard in the car. The car park was full of frothers, huddled around open Transporter doors, towel-clad and jabbering with anticipation to the other half-naked man next to them. Or sitting in the backs of pick-ups, waiting for the one killer set, that screams: “Hurry up, get in!” I had to drive past another beach to get home to pick up my shortboard. It’s a little bay, sculpted long and deep, back from the exposed headland. In peak summer, the lifeguards don’t even have a space for surfing; it’s usually just spongers and bathers trying to catch the 6 inch ripples. Not today.
Standing on the wall by the bus stop, in the mizzle, peering from as high as I could. Trying to work out whether what I was seeing was a mirage or material. 2 to 3 foot, mechanical left-handers, the bay alien to the winds that messed up its less-sheltered neighbour. Turned out to be more than ideal conditions to practice cross-stepping, and trying later take-offs. Watching a sweaty, wheezy bunch of fitness class attendees on the beach, paddling around to keep warm. It’s those days when you’re out on your own, at a beach that is rarely surfable, where you have the best sessions. If only there was just one other person person there to agree with you that “yeah, it was pretty epic actually”.
This sort of makes you ask yourself why you still look at the infamously dodgy surf forecast, where 7 days ahead of time it promises the best surf you’ve seen all season, yet you believe it, ignoring the niggling feeling that the last couple of weeks it’s tricked you with the same old lies. The hype that spreads like wildfire is always so tangible. But the day you’ve been waiting for has now passed, and what’s become of this unbeatable combination of swell-direction, wind and period?…
We shouldn’t covet these swells to much – it fuels a soggy spirit and that belly-sinking feeling. What is unexpected gives me the best surfs. So I could stay home, eat too many jaffa cakes and watch back-to-back episodes of “Come Dine With Me”. My wetsuit is a bit damn, and the wind doesn’t look that great. No, get off your arse, it’s just surfing with some mates, no presumptions. And if its not that good, I’m doing a bit of exercise anyway. Mate’s van pulls up on the cliff edge -double-whammy – the surf is pumping. Let’s not rely too heavily on the technology that sometimes contradicts its purpose. The surf forecast is there to help us. It gives us something to get frothing on, yet, unapologetically, takes it from under our noses.
If you only wait for when it looks like it’s going to be macking, you’ll probably be let down by lack of delivery. Or you’ll be forced to battle with the world and his wife, catching less than usual, most likely getting out and wondering why you bother surfing altogether. Then that anticipated swell goes, and what are you left with? The waiting game. Again. Whilst everyone else is snuggled up inside, getting fat and watching repeats, inspire yourself when it’s flat or windy or pissing it down with rain. If you’re frothing for 2 and a half foot wind chop (but an empty sea), an eager mindset will do you the world of good. You’ll take yourself less seriously and Mother Nature might just reward you for your persistence every now and again.