Putsborough Mission & Thermos Flasks

This was Puts a week or so back – just before the big snows came through. I’d never surfed here before despite the fact it is a decent option when the wind is hammering through with a bit of south in it which seems to have been unerringly often in spells this Autumn/Winter.

Even though I had a trip to Munich the next day for which I hadn’t yet packed (typical of me) a mate suggested there might be a few fun ones coming through at high tide and it could be worth squeezing a surf in so I got myself down there for first thing in the morning. As it happens he was right, there were a few fun ones to be had but the session will mostly be remembered not for the waves but for the piping hot water I poured down my back after the session giving myself an absolute neck scolding of the highest level in an attempt to warm myself up…!

Recounting the story makes me sound like a complete and total buffoon and perhaps I am; let me explain; I’d read that the air temps were likely to be down at zero or close to it for this wintery dawn time session and heavy snow was on the horizon. When I woke, in the total darkness of a winter morning, it was fricking cold as forecast – I remembered I had a thermos flask and thought what a mighty good idea it would be to fill it with hot water to enable a nice warm shower after a cold surf! Great plan. It was also a great plan to not make a luke warm brew from the hot tap but the boiling juice from a kettle, applying the logic that my thermos isn’t so good and loses a fair bit of heat over a couple of hours. Fast forward to getting out of my freezing suit after a few waist to chest high waves with only a handful of others out and the first dustings of snow are beginning to fall – cue the thermos… I throw a tester of kettle water onto the leg of my wetsuit and my reasonably numb hands… “Ummm… doesn’t feel too hot”… so I go for an overhead pour down the back of the suit… Big mistake!! After a small delay I can feel the water’s too bloody hot and the back of my neck goes from cold to feeling like it’s on fire over the next half hour… Never again! So lesson learned – if you are going to use a thermos of hot water just make sure it’s luke warm – leave that kettle alone.

Luckily the burn didn’t prevent me making it to Munich although I did have to sit on the plane with a bandage hanging out of the top of my TShirt…. My friends were telling people it was because I was a leper – I didn’t mind too much, it provided us with a little bit more personal space on the plane.

Road to Waves

This was the view that greeted me yesterday morning just after sunrise and it was enough to light up the dormant stoke inside of me despite the 1c ambient temperature and very light but biting NE wind.

I’m no fan of big cold waves if I’m honest and my experience of them usually leads to a session being summarised by long periods of paddling, small periods of trying to avoid clean up sets, slightly smaller spells of near drowning and a generally pretty low wave count so during a week of overhead clean swell I’ve generally been pretty happy to knuckle down and get some work done with a view to catching it when it faded to a manageable level.

So I had my eyes fixed on Sunday, 4ft @ 12 second period and just a touch of NE wind to give some texture, I was hoping for waist to chest high right hand walls at Saunton on my current stick of choice – an Ectic Concepts Mini Simmons – and that’s pretty much what I got. If I’m being picky the sets weren’t as consistent as I would have liked and not all of them opened up in that long wally Saunton way but I’d be splitting hairs and since as the sun came out to remind you it still exists in mid-winter it would be rude to do that.

Saunton Winter Swell

In truth this session would have been on the good side of mediocre if it hadn’t been for a right hander that came through late doors. I’d been in for just shy of two hours, arms starting to feel a bit noodley weighed down by saturated winter neoprene and wind starting to pick up a little…. One last wave I thought. And then as if the Atlantic knew what I’d been thinking a wedgey peak came bumbling towards me, I swivelled and gunned my arms as fast as I could noticing it start to wall up to my right, this is it. Dropping in at an angle I raced the first section rising to the top of the wave, then arcing down feeling the grip of the keel fins as the next section walled up in front of me at speed, I raced the rest of the wave in trim all the way into the shallows. This is what it’s all about……

Surf at Saunton, North Devon