Take a look out the window. What do you see? Dull, grey, metallic clouds, rain, perhaps sleet, swirls of leaves, rubbish and a confused pigeon being blown around in a circle by the gale that’s been blowing for the last week straight?
If so you might be experiencing a curious meteorological phenomenon known as: winter.
This bizarre seasonal occurrence happens most years. Generally it’s identifiable as the portion of the year that’s grey and not quite as warm as the grey and warm bit of the year known as summer. It is generally a tad windier also.
Other sure signs of it being winter are:
• a lack of tourists at the beach,
• a five percent lessening in the amount of surfers in the water
• your 3mm wetsuit being mildly uncomfortable
• parking not being a problem
• old folk asking if it’s cold out there and insisting you wouldn’t catch them out there and that you aren’t right in the ‘ead.
In the last few years this status quo has shifted, winter has got its claws back, no longer does it hover in the low double digit ˚C for a few months before returning us to the warmth. It has been proper nasty, with snow, ice, 50 year storms, floods, travel woes and lots of other chaos type things that make the rolling news networks very happy.
Not so much the reporters that have to go out and stand in it all day to let you know the weather is still happening. You’d think we have never had a proper winter before. Half a day of snow and everyone runs around with their hands in the air like the world is about to end in a frozen water based apocalypse. The roads turn to ice rinks, the trains curse selling off the snow plough attachment they used to have in the old days and the airports, those bastions of high tech, grind to a halt. No one seems to have suggested adding some little skis on the bottom of the 747s so they can land on our woefully unheated runways or using them oh-so-hot and powerful jet engines as weapons-grade snow blowers. Things have got so bad we are now naming our winter storms also. We look forward to the looming storms this winter eagerly, Nigel, surely will be the worst of them.
If you can make it to the beach through the snow drifts, downed trees, wrong kind of leaves, floods and general winter carnage however then you may be granted with something special: waves. Bruce Brown and his Endless Summer buddies got it all arse about face.
Surfing is all about the Endless Winter. It is the time of year when real swell marches in to our coast (and let’s be honest, pretty much every other coast in the world), the little known deep shelter spots that slumber most of the year come to life and those mysto reefs, that you’ve heard about but never seen, get their one afternoon a decade shot at glory.
Conversely the open beaches become a veritable victory-at-sea scenario: endless walls of white water stretching to the horizon in an unpaddleable morass of spume. You’d have to be an ironman, a sadist or mad to even attempt paddling out at Watergate or similar in winter on a big swell.
Winter separates the men from the boys … Well, those that are actually in the country, and haven’t taken the soft option of going somewhere warm where they can flounce around in silky boardies, drink chai lattes, eat acai bowls and get one of those vitamin D boosting sun tans.
It’s a simple thing winter. You just need a good wetsuit and a sound attitude.
You’ll have noticed I managed to get near the end of this piece without mentioning piss. That’s right. The elephant in the room. The dark secret of winter surfing. Thing is times are changing. Once upon a time, before fluid welded seams and state of the art hooded 6mm suits, drinking a couple of pints of water before a sesh was essential to give you the oh-so-warming flood of urine-based warmth halfway through.
Because you knew by the end of the session a few good drubbings would have flushed you out. These days wetsuits are so good, so tech, so well fitting and sealed that pissing in your suit, whilst still infinitely pleasurable is actually a bit minging. The days of cold water flushes are gone. It’s toasty warm and that pish just works it way right around you so when you get changed your whole body honks of slash. Which ain’t cool.
The only solution is about as welcome as punching yourself in the face: actually pulling your wetty neck out and flushing yourself manually.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide. Just let it be known that the general public would find the concept of smearing themselves in their own urea and then going out into the world, well, a bit odd…
Winter surfing. Can’t beat it eh?!
Words & Photos By Sharpy