Summer’s Swell

Towards the end of September the swell gods smiled upon me, the forecast was 3ft, no wind and sunny on my day off; a perfect excuse to chuck my board in the car and head through to Cayton Bay.

Despite the sun shining the traffic was relatively free flowing on the run through, and once at Cayton the carpark still had plenty of spaces.

After a couple of coffees I suited up and headed down to the sea. Usually I would do a scout of the town beaches too, but a friend I knew off the East Coast Bodyboard Club Facebook group was already in at Cayton so I trusted that he’d done a check and headed down to meet him.

Now as it was a weekend the beach was fairly busy, with lots of newbies in the water on foam boards, not the biggest of hassles, but a touch annoying when a lot of them were unaware of surf etiquette and were dropping in on most waves.

I paddled out and snagged a couple of small ones before noticing Lee and swimming over to say hi. It was good to have someone to talk to in the water again, and I tried to get some decent shots of him with my board mounted Go Pro:

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Unfortunately I was just shooting video so the quality of the stills isn’t as high as I would’ve liked, but it gave me some good practice for positioning to get the kind of shots that I like.

We had a fair few waves between us, and while it wasn’t big or perfect it was still good fun. There’s a lot worse things to do on a day off!

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Steph was also on hand to get some shots from the beach. Her photography skills improve everytime, I’m sure she’ll get a shot the mags before I do!

After the surf I spent a couple of hours wondering round Scarborough with Steph, eating fish and chips and doing generally touristy things that I never really do on a solo mission which made a really nice change.

All in all it was a swell day at the coast!

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!

Shooting Shorebreak

When I first started getting into photography some of the shots that inspired me most were those of empty waves breaking onto the shore. I’m not 100% what drew me to this type of shot but it has remained my favourite type of surf shot, and is something that I have been wanting to try for years.

The problem with this type of shot is that you generally need a good DSLR with a fast shutterspeed and a decent lens. On top of that you need a waterhousing for your camera. Now the camera and lens can add upto anywhere from £500 to £2000, then add on another £1000 or so for the waterhousing and you can probably gather why I haven’t been posting many shorebreak shots.

However, since the launch of the GoPro and it’s subsequent upgrades the price of shooting in the water has gone down. The quality of the GoPro isn’t quite the same as a DSLR but it is pretty damn good, and some surf mags have even run GoPro shots on their frontcovers so the quality isn’t far off.

Since I didn’t have a spare £3000 knocking about I got a GoPro Hero 4 Silver for Christmas and have been slowly getting to grips with it.  I made a DIY mount to make it easier to swim with and last week I finally got a chance to test it in the open ocean.

I’d gone to Scarborough with the hopes of catching a few waves but the reality was different from the surf forecast. Instead of just turning round and heading home I decided to just swim out with the GoPro and shoot some empty waves. I put the camera on burst mode and rattled off around 900 images. Some of them turned out ok;

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I’m really pleased with the results, they may not be as good as the photographers I look upto (Clark Little & Tedford Mahiko) but they aren’t a bad start. Hopefully I’ll get a few more chances to practice before the Autumn swells start hitting and some great waves will be lighting up the East Coast.

It’s Not Always Grim Up North

I’ve been a bit unmotivated on the surf front recently, only getting in the water once or twice since my trip to Morocco. Partly down to work, partly down to not having a wingman to surf with anymore I decided that as soon as I got the chance in the new year I would be on it. Only a few days in to January and I was loading my car up to chase a decent looking swell heading to Scarborough.

The journey is pretty much autopilot to me these days and was very uneventful, but the sun kept poking out and the wind didn’t seem too bad so all in all it was looking favorable. I pulled upto Cayton Bay first and walked to the headland, it looked to be about 3ft from the top but a bit messy and inconsistent, but still there was surf! I watched a few sets but decided to check the town beaches before committing.

South Bay was almost flat, maybe 1ft, 1.5ft max so I carried on round to North Bay where some nice shoulder high waves were breaking. The crowd was probably close to 30 people, a lot for January, but the waves were breaking in a few separate places allowing the crowd to spread. I rattled off a fair few shots before biting the bullet and getting suited up myself (whilst downing a coffee for warmth).

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The pictures show just how good the waves were, what they can’t show is just how cold it was. Paddling out took a fair bit of effort and once I’d made it past the breakers I had a few minutes to recover and have a look for the best place to catch a wave. I was only out for around 45mins – 1hr and probably caught 2 waves, I’d seriously over-estimated how warm my fin socks were (turns out 3mm just doesn’t cut it in Jan). However the waves I got were good, with a bit of power behind them, and it was nice to be out in the water again, even if it wasn’t for long.

By the next swell I should have my new Go Pro mounted to my board to give you a spongers eye view of some chocolate brown Scarborough surf.

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. 

Summer Surf

So the surf on the East side of the country has been absolutely pumping for most of summer, something that doesn’t happen all that often, even in deepest winter. Social media has been full of forecasts, predictions, status’s and most of all photographic evidence of all the sessions that have gone down, so here’s mine:

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Longboarder At South Bay.

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Shortboarder At North Bay.

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No-one Out. Not Scarborough.

These pics show the great diversity the North East has in surf, and they were all taken on the same day. Unfortunately, as much as I would’ve liked to stay in Scarborough most of the summer I’ve had to work, and my days off have usually coincided with the rare flat days. So when a chart was showing promise I was up at 5.30am and made the most of it. The end result; totally worth getting up for.

Two Swell Days

January has been a pretty great month for surf almost worldwide, hardly a day goes by without news of some form of big swell appearing on the usual social media outlets, with videos and pictures appearing hours after the swell has vanished.

Places such as Jaws, Mavericks, Belharra, Nazare and Mullaghmore have been featured in the mainstream media, Instagram and Twitter have gone mad with uploads, and the live webcast of the comp at Mavericks was the talk of all the mags websites. Basically there’s been a lot of quality surf to be had.

Personally it’s always a bit of a mission, combined with blind luck to get good surf. I work 5 days a week so for either of my days of to coincide with good swell is rare, however, so far this January the East Coast has been pumping pretty much every week with most days offering up some sort of wave, so I’ve been able to get in twice, scoring great waves both times!

The first session I scored was the 11th Jan, the forecast had been looking good all week and I intended to get there early to miss any crowds, but after a few beers the night before I overslept and didn’t get to Scarborough till about 1. A quick drive round showed that the tide was too high for North and South Bay, leaving Cayton as the only option.

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Not A Bad Option.

With it been the only place surfable the crowd was pretty big, around 40 people, meaning it was pretty much impossible to get a peak to yourself, still the waves were consistent and by sitting a bit shallower than the stand-ups I managed to pick off a few of the ones that had slipped them by. My thoughts on my new board were also confirmed, it’s fast! I could get a lot more speed down the line, letting me make sections that I’d not been able to before.

Unfortunately I’ve not got any shots of this session as I travelled solo, and I was keen to get in so didn’t really shoot any other surfers either, just this parting shot after a great session:

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Post Surf.

My next day off also coincided with some swell, and this time I had a photographer on board, Steph had the day off work too so we made the trip upto Scarborough.

When I’d been in December with Mike, we had seen some people surfing a break we didn’t know about, so after a bit of Google Maps detective work I think I’ve found it, so myself and Steph parked as close as we could and went for a walk to explore it. It’s a nice looking peak, breaking on a rock bottom, the waves looked good but there was no way I was surfing a new spot completely on my own, so we took some pics and headed off to North Bay.

I’m really lucky to have a girlfriend who doesn’t mind standing on the seafront in questionable weather conditions, camera in hand, whilst I go surf for an hour. She managed to get some great shots of me:

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Walking Down To The Beach.

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Shoulder High And Fun.

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Nice and Clean.

I had a great session, I caught a few really good waves and the water wasn’t too cold, it did sting a bit doing duckdives though.  There was probably only 10 or so people out, with 3 defined peaks meaning there were plenty of waves to go around, always a bonus.

Steph also managed to grab a few decent shots of the local surfers:

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Good Waves Were Had By All. 

Hopefully this run of good swell will continue and some of the more less known spots will come to life. Fingers crossed!