Welsh WaveGarden

If you surf you’ve probably seen the pics and videos that have been doing the rounds over the last couple of months of the WaveGarden in Snowdonia. Teaser shots of the wave had been released whilst it was still under construction and upon it’s opening day the internet was saturated with images from the place showing a pretty decent looking wave.

Speaking to my friend Harry we decided we had to have a crack at it, sorted a day when were both free and pre-booked an hours session down there one evening.

We decided to do the advanced wave and it was a good job we did. Whilst the intermediate was more of a knee high peeling wave, the advanced was genuinely shoulder high, not exactly the world’s most technical wave, but it looked fun.

It took us a couple of hours to drive down from Sheffield and we got there early so that we could check the place out and shot off some pictures:

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Was A Bit Of A Walk To Get This Shot, But It Gives A Great View Of The WaveGarden.

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Close Up Of The Same Sponger.

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Different Angle, The Wave Holds A Nice Shape.

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Never Seen A Surfer With A Background Like This.

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Plenty Of Time On The Wave  For Maneuvers.

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Incredible Place To Surf.

We were due on the wave at 6 so we checked in at around 5. It’s a bit weird getting ready in changing rooms as opposed to a carpark but once we were ready we walked over to the briefing room. The staff were super friendly and explained the rules to us, took a couple of minutes, it’s not overly complicated. 3 people are in the advanced group and you take it in turns catching the wave. If you miss it or wipe out you go to the back of the queue!

Briefing over, we headed out into the pool…. waiting for my first wave was a very weird experience. The pool is flat and still, then you hear a small groan and the plow that generates the wave starts moving towards you and the wave just rises up out of nowhere! Very disconcerting at first but easy enough to get used to.

It’s probably more powerful than most of the beaches in the North East on anything but the most intense of swells, meaning each wave is nice and fast, as well as quite easy to catch. During my hour I caught all 12 waves that came my way and each one lasted between 15-20secs, better than I’ve had in Scarborough for a longtime!

I had my go-pro mounted on the board for the first few waves, but after a lifeguard told me the founder of go-pro had lost 2 cameras himself I left it on the shore as I fancied taking off later and pushing it a bit, highly likely to lead me to wipeout and lose my go-pro!

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One Of The Stills From The Go-Pro.

A little longer than an hour would’ve been nice, but we got out of the pool pretty satisfied. 12 waves in an hour is good going, especially when they all peel smoothly I will definitely be heading back, just not for awhile as at £45 an hour, plus a full tank of petrol for a trip, it ain’t cheap!

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East Coast Getaway

Both myself and Steph had a few days off towards the end of March but weren’t too sure what we wanted to do with them. Various ideas were floated, Norway looked like an option for awhile, as did various other European destinations. However, in a bid to save a bit of cash (big adventure in the pipeline for the end of the year) we decided to stay fairly local and rent a cottage.

A couple of hours looking online and ringing round later and I had one booked in the small village of Ebberston, close to Pickering, Whitby and Scarborough, a really great location for some walking and, if the weather was in my favour, some surfing.

The cottage I had found was lovely, in a really quiet area but had access to a swimming pool and jacuzzi, as well as having a great wood burning fire. It ticked all the boxes for me, I enjoy swimming and any chance to play with fire. Steph was equally happy, mostly about the swimming, she’s not as big of a firebug as me.

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Nice To Have A Fire On An Evening.

Our first full day started out quite overcast as we headed over to Pickering. It’s somewhere I have been a lot, but not since I was about 14/15 so it was good to have a wander round again. There are a couple of old second hand bookshops and it’s quite easy to lose a bit of time in those. With a few books bought we decided to move onto Goathland, famous as the setting for TV’s Heartbeat.

The weather wasn’t great on the way there, we stopped to eat some sandwiches overlooking the Hole Of Horcum but the rain meant we couldn’t really see all that much of it. As we parked up in Goathland the sun started to peek out, and it stayed relatively bright and warm for a couple of hours as we walked some of the trails along the old railway line.

The paths were really nice, taking you into the woods and dropping you down by small rivers, the highlight though was seeing some wild deer run by. They were super close, pretty much heading straight at us when they realised we were people and changed direction rapidly. About 15seconds after the near-deer crashing experience a dog bounded past after them, obviously the reason they were running.

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Taken Before The Stampede.

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Just Off The Beaten Track.

After spending most the afternoon walking we headed back to the cottage for a pre-dinner swim. It was a nice quiet evening spent watching films in front of the crackling fire, can’t complain at that.

An early start on Friday morning led us to Scarborough. Upon arrival the surf looked good but I decided to leave it a couple of hours before getting in to give the wind a chance to die down. We spent some time on the beach at South Bay before walking up into the town and doing a little shopping. I picked up some new fin socks to try and stop my feet freezing like they did the last time I paddled out.

By the time I got my wetsuit on the wind had died down a fair bit so it seems I made the right call. The waves were 2ft max, but still fun. Quite a few people were out but I still managed to get my fair share. It was my first time using the go pro too, so not having to do any duckdives or suffering any bad wipeouts was good for my confidence in it.

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I Had The Go Pro On Constant Video, This Is A Still Pulled From It.

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Steph Was On Hand With The DSLR To Get Some Shots From Another Angle.

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Really Like This Shot She Took.

After steady drive back and another pre-dinner swim we walked to the pub across the road from the cottage for dinner. It was a touch overpriced but really nice food so I can’t really complain there.

Saturday was our final day on the East Coast and we spent in Whitby with my parents and Steph’s mum (her Dad was working unfortunately). The sun was again out and we spent a few hours strolling up and down Whitby’s side streets before heading to a Fish & Chip restaurant by the pier for some food. The portion sizes were massive, my plaice was like 2 fish had been battered together. Safe to say I was full by the end of it.

All that was left to do was the steady drive home.

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Steam Train From Pickering.

Moroccan Adventures, Part 2: Taghazout

Following on from a few days exploring the hectic maze of Marrakech we hopped on a bus and headed towards the coast, destination Taghazout.

After a pretty uneventful coach journey and taxi transfer we arrived in the small fishing village of Taghazout, a place not on most tourists radar but somewhere that surfers will almost certainly be aware of.

We found our hostel fairly easily, The Ocean Surf House, and checked in. The view from our bedroom window was incredible, perfect for an early morning swell check as Hash Point was less than 100metres away. However that was pretty much the only plus point to the hostel. The rooms were grubby, but I have stayed in worse, the shower though was something else. It was a small cubicle that also housed a toilet, with poor drainage and no seal under the door you had to make your shower quick or you’d flood the stairs. I’ll not even get started on the smell. Suffice to say I would not stay there again or recommend it to anyone.

The main point of the beach portion of the trip though was to spend as much time in the sun and surf as possible, not stay in the room so it wasn’t the end of the world.

Taghazout has a couple of beaches, the main village one, and another about half a mile away called Panorama’s. We spent the majority of our time at Taghazout beach, only venturing to Panorama’s for a walk when the surf was flat as it didn’t pick up as much swell.

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Hash Point.

The days we spent there were all very similar, wake up, simple breakfast, head to the beach, surf, grab a spot of lunch, back to the beach, more surf, then a quick shower and out for dinner at a lovely local restaurant for a couple of hours before heading to bed and doing it all again the day after. This might sound boring to some, but after the madness of Marrakech, and of course work back home, it was just what both Steph and I needed.

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Surfing In Africa!

The wave at Taghazout/Hash Point wasn’t world class, but with no massive swell coming through places such as Anchor Point and Killers weren’t working, so I spent all my time pulling into fun ones and dodging the odd tourist who got in the way.

The first day was definitely bigger than the rest of the week, and whilst waiting for a set I got talking to one of the local guys who was super friendly and a great sponger too. I wasn’t expecting any hostility, but much like Hawaii, I wasn’t expecting the local guys to be friendly but they seemed pretty stoked to be sharing waves.

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One Of The Bigger Waves Of The Week.

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I Took This One On The Head.

There was never a day with no waves, and I even managed to persuade Steph to have a go, pushing her into waves that were quite a lot bigger than they first looked! We both enjoyed our time in this often overlooked beach town but we had to head on out to Tafraoute to explore the mountains and see another side to Morocco.

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There’s Also The Odd Fishing Boat To Avoid. 

California, Part 5: San Francisco

After spending another week in LA I decided I wanted to head north to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. It was pretty easy to get to the city, $55 got me a bus/train/bus combo ride there that took around 7hours. A quick taxi ride to later and I arrived at my hostel and fell straight into bed.

San Fran was a pretty cool city, it looked almost exactly as I imagined after seeing various movies set there with plenty of steep hills like in Bullit. It took me a few days to explore it properly, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, the beach and various districts of the city.

Looking down a San Fran street.

The Golden Gate Bridge.

Possibly my favourite part of San Fran, and a key reason for my visit, was Alcatraz. It’s a bit of an effort to get over to the island (you have to book tickets at least a day in advance usually) but completely worth it.

I went over on an overcast day and from the boat the place looked foreboding and menacing, that’s to someone who knew he was leaving in a few hours, it must of been a lot worse for the convicts. The weather took a turn for the worse, practically eliminating any chance of exploring the outdoor parts, leaving the famous cell house audio tour as the best option. I’m not usually a fan of wandering round listening to a pre-recorded spiel but this one was actually really good. The commentary is given by former guards and inmates, giving actually references to their live on Alcatraz, something a regular tour guide can’t do. It was well worth the $30 to visit Alcatraz, and I’d recommend the tour to anyone.

Alcatraz.

For the duration of my visit the weather was absolutely shite, limiting what could be done in the day (especially as I had no waterproofs or cold weather clothing). Fortunately there were loads of awesome people at the hostel so if the weather was really bad we’d just hang out there and the bar with free beer on a night in the basement meant you really didn’t need to leave. I had a few good nights there just drinking and hanging out, though by far the best was St. Paddy’s day:

From left to right: Me, Emma, Mathias, Jo, Simone, Christa, Kerry and Claire.

After about a week in San Fran I headed back to LA for a few days, met up with some friends from Santa Monica and just generally chilled out and got supplies for the Costa Rican adventure.