CHASING THE FINAL WINTER SWELLS

Words by Secret Spot

on 10/06/2019 17:19:45

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It’s that time of year when the swells start tapering off up our end. Over the hump of winter, we slip furiously towards the abyss of summertime flatness. There are just a few bumps in the road which slow the throe; each one causing mass hysteria. Have you seen the chart? Oh man, I can’t stop looking. Hourly. Ok, sub-hourly. Is the swell still coming? Are the winds any better? It’s going to pump. That has to be one of the charms of being a north east surfer - the flat spells are arduous, but boy, do we know how to get hyped.


"Everywhere is average. I try to manage my deflation by occupying my mind with what’s to come, but I want to surf now. Now is now, not tomorrow. What good is tomorrow to me now? The profound thoughts of a surf-obsessed maniac."


All week I’m present in body but my mind wanders. I want to squeeze every juicy morsel of pleasure out of this swell. Friends and family may as well consider me as being in another country. Another world. Sorry, I’m busy. Yes, busy all weekend. The whole thing. I can’t commit to plans or I risk missing that magic moment. I know I should attempt to limit excitement, expectation and anticipation, as many of my wiser north east forefathers will remind me. But you can’t help the way you feel. Like a teenager with an irrational, all-consuming crush - no, true love - I’m blindsided. It’s on.


"3.30pm on Friday. The final bell sounds and mobs of elated children descend on the doors. Freedom. A frantic maths teacher stumbles down the corridor, coat barely on, over-loaded bags rendering the run more of a waddle. That lady is a fruit loop."


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The buoys suggest the swell has arrived. The wind is northerly and the tide high. There are a few spots to check, but the first day of swell here is often a let down. Too raw for exposed spots, not filled in to protected spots. Nevertheless, the search begins. And quickly ends. Everywhere is crap. I try to manage my deflation by occupying my mind with what’s to come, but I want to surf now. Now is now, not tomorrow. What good is tomorrow to me now? The profound thoughts of a surf-obsessed maniac.

Just incase my belly hadn’t already learnt its lesson, I treat it to one of the regions most notoriously polluted waves the following morning. The legend goes that you must drink a can of full fat coke immediately after surfing here. I’m not sure of the repercussions of going for diet or drinking from another vessel, but I won’t try my luck. The one time I didn’t obey the rule I ended up sleeping-on-the-bathroom-floor kind of ill. I blame this for my fledgling addiction to coke - somewhere in the dark depths of my mind I now justify it as healthy.

Anyway, the surf’s pretty good. I mean, it depends on your standards of good - but I'm happy. It’s super protected from the wind but the whole affair still feels raw and industrial. A seal lulls around just past the line up, looking exhausted from the heavy seas around the corner. A monumental ferry rolls in, along with a set which seems to fuse and bubble with the wake. I feel pressure to catch the wave I paddle out for. I’m not actually close enough for a collision, but angling my takeoff towards this beast is somewhat intimidating.


I don’t really remember any intricacies of the wave itself; I just stood in awe next to this vast, moving metal mountain. The boat dwellers had probably arrived after a stormy passing from Holland. I wonder if they expected to round the corner to see me gliding across the murky brown water. I suspect not, as folks gathered in the way they often do on boats when one person spots a dolphin; although they could have been gawking at that lethargic seal.

After low-tide, options are limited with that wind. Really, I ought to go home and do some work, be sensible, save myself for tomorrow. I stop at Halfords and enlist the help of two sales assistants, both trying to find me a screw which fits my fin plate. I need to replace the one I just lost along with my fin. The mission is touch and go, apparently longboard fin-plate thingys are very specific, but finally one of my helpers found a match. Elated, the only rational decision is to drive up north and look for another dribbly wave hidden around some corner. I’ll go home another day.

I am successful in my quest, but the real prize comes in the morning. 6-8 foot of groomed-enough swell rolling across our reefs. Surfing a new reef for the first time can be a little daunting; it’s rare to see another longboard here. I'm often told ‘it’s pretty hollow,’ with a knowing look which says ‘you may get a little bit messed up.’ Anyway, when I'm looking at pumping surf I’m totally overcome; my body pulls my wetsuit on and gets me to the waters edge. My mind catches up later, if at all. I have one of the best sessions I can recall. There’s steep bits and fat bits. Barrel sections and walls. Full on, out of control, pumping north sea glory on tap. And it’s totally longboard-able. After careful consideration I decide to forego the evening session to drink beer and attend an ABBA tribute act. Perhaps this is a decision I will regret, but my arms are empty and my standards now too high. Plus, the damage control with non-surfing friends will probably be appreciated. I’ll just get up for a dawnie tomorrow.

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Regret starts rearing its ugly head at about 8am, 5 miles out from the destination. The radio flickers on and off. The automatic breaking system goes, shortly followed by power steering. I’m now essentially crawling along in a prehistoric tank at 30mph, or at least I think its 30mph, after my speedometer stopped working. I will my poorly van to make it to the car park, so I can at least surf before dealing with its issues. The wind’s swung. Swell’s dropped. Magic moment passed. I amble back to the van, almost forgetting that I’m stuck 50 miles from home, on a bank holiday. The presence of a blown tyre brings me back to reality. Soon it becomes apparent that the engine won’t turn on. And, to make matters worse, I’ve just seen pictures posted by Gabe of a beautiful looking session from yesterday evening. My questionable decision making seems to have compounded; now I’m left to wallow in self-pity.

John the mechanic must have heard the pang of angst in my voice as I mused of my need for wheels. In less than 24 hours I get a call, my van is back on the road, owing to a sparkly new alternator. Immediately I scramble to the coast, determined to snag a few waves before dark. I head to a funky little wave. You could call it a novelty wave, if by novel you mean slightly unusual, often pants, occasionally magic.

I’d love to describe it to you, but that would risk giving it away. Today, conditions lean towards pants. But, there’s some funky wedges to enjoy, with no other surfers in sight. The characters who sit around here in their cars are arguably as novel as the wave. I suppose I add to that, pulling up in my little white van, passionately singing 90s pop. I make eye contact with the man parked next to me, he’s listening to questionable 90s rave music. I can’t really work him out, age or purpose. I’m not sure if I have purpose or uncontrollable impulses. I carry on. Balance is restored after a few waves; I relax. The swell draws to a close with the onset of onshore’s and a short period wind swell. Perhaps in a few days time we will be graced with another magic window. My van and I are ready to pounce.


Emily uses the awesome Patagonia Womens R4 Yulex wetsuit to stay toasty in the swell! - want to get involved? Buy your Yulex wetsuit and accessories here:

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Words by Emily Grimes // Images by Jonothon Slater & Brian Morgan