Sunday, 26 February 2012

Winter Surfing

It is well known that the best swells and the best waves occur during the Autumn and Winter seasons in the UK; the waves hitting the beaches of North Devon are no exception. The temperature of the sea starts to drop at the end of October from 14 - 15 degrees down to as low as 6 degrees during a cold Winter. This year November and December were thankfully relatively mild and therefore the water was still 10 degrees in January. After a cold start to February it has felt more like proper Winter surfing for the last few weeks as the sea is a few degrees cooler. To have a good and comfortable Winter surfing experience it is essential to have the right gear. I wear a 5/4mm Xcel wetsuit which is really flexible so movement is not too restricted. I have a Winter thermal rash vest with a built in hood, and decent boots and gloves. Getting changed in the National Trust car park in Croyde can be a harsh experience if the air temperature is freezing, but once in your gear you soon warm up.
The beauty of Winter surfing is that the tourists have gone and consequently there are rarely more than 20 people in the sea at any given moment. Even on clean, sunny days; which is a real treat. Having lived, and surfed here regularly, for the last 4 years I know or recognise most of the local guys in the water. It proves to be quite a sociable experience when you paddle out back and exchange nods and a few words before taking your wave. If there is a wave on the beach then most of the local surfers know about it thanks to surf forecasts and webcams from Eyeball TV and Magic Seaweed. At the school gate in the morning, if there is a good wave, about 5 or 6 of us dads often plan where and when we will meet up and go in to catch the best of it. Many of our friends are keen surfers. Here's Ben after a good surf in Croyde a couple of weeks ago.. This year I think I have surfed more than ever during the Winter and have really enjoyed it. There have been some brilliant sessions, especially in January and February once the South Westerly gales of the early Winter had blown through. We have had about 4 sunny weekends with epic clean waves, including last weekend. Winter surfing can be ferocious, particularly at low tide in Croyde on a big day. The dumping faces of the breaking waves can drive you in to the sand banks, as I found out to my detriment a couple of weeks ago. I now have a strained knee ligament which means I will be out of the water for a few weeks, but hope to be back soon...

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