It’s touch and go all week as to whether we leave on Thursday night or Friday. I get the call from Wigs after lunch. He’s got enough energy to drive tonight rather than waiting ’til Friday but I’ll need to load up the van – something he normally does.
On the Road
I think it through logically, pile everything we need into the hallway and like a game of Tetris, work out how to fit it together in a confined space which is now also our home for the weekend. We’re stocked with food and kit and it’s a clear drive to the coast, arriving at Hill End 15 minutes before the 9pm closing time. We park up, level off with the chocks, pop up the roof and lay our heads down.
In the morning we’re blessed with sunshine and views of the rugged landscape. Wigs gets our surf gear out of the van while I make breakfast. It hasn’t been that warm this year so I put my full winter get-up on and use super soft, cold water wax on my board for grip.
Surfing at Llangennith
It’s not too windy, but the waves are choppy, close together and lacking power. Trying to paddle out feels like a treadmill of white water torture going nowhere fast. Patience is the key. I try to punch through, get pushed back, watch the waves and wait, figuring out the puzzle. It’s a solid beach break without any peaks but I manage to find a rip where there’s a dip. I take a few deep breaths to power up and then in the blink of an eye there it is – like a miracle, the sea goes flat but I don’t know for how long. I windmill my arms not allowing myself to stop for a rest. Stopping at the wrong place could put me right in the dumping ground of the bigger waves and they’re about 6-7 feet today. It’s still flat and I reach a lineup of 4 of surfers but I need to get further. They’re waiting to catch waves at their power point. I need to get out back so I can rest my jellied arms. It’s a meditative experience, relaxing my body, letting the blood come back into my muscles, scanning the horizon and focussing on the water.
After a while I’m ready to catch a few and see one rolling in with a decent height and shape. I spin my board on it’s tail to face the shore and dig my arms into the water to build momentum. It’s right behind me and I paddle faster and harder. I feel myself rise up about to be pushed forward but the wave passes underneath me and off into the distance like a bus that didn’t stop to pick me up. I roar like a peeved lion cub and have to go through this many more times before admitting that today I’m going to have to catch them closer the shore just before they break.
After a session time of 30 minutes I get one and it’s a beauty! Looking straight down from the top, its a big drop to the bottom, so I angle my board for a more gradual descent, spring to my feet and stay crouched until I find my balance. I can feel the wave trying to get out from underneath me, so I push my weight down hard on my front foot to keep ahead of it. I build up enough speed to start carving up and down the face for a lovely long ride with a reward that delivers an adrenalin shot, joy and peace all at the same time. Of all the things I’ve tried, this actually makes me feel high, like I’ve lifted into another dimension, flying weightlessly through the air.
It’s time to get off but I’m enjoying it too much and keep going even after the wave has broken. That was a mistake but I don’t know if I’ll catch another one so I get as much out of it as I can. Now that I’m tired, it’s almost impossible to get back out, but then the sea goes flat a second time and I manage to drag myself and my board to catch a second wave which is just as good as the first. The effort of getting that ride finishes me off. I keep going all the way into the shallows, lay back down on my board and cruise right in to the sand. 2 waves in 1 hour is a low count, but they sure were invigorating.
I smile all the way back to the van and a couple of old ladies greet me on the boardwalk, “Is it fresh out there?”
“Oooh yes!” I reply.
Walking in Brechfa
I’ll tell you about the amazing scenery along the hiking and mountain bike trails in Brechfa in my next post.