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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Grays & Chadwell CC v Tower Ravens

Grays & Chadwell CC v Tower Ravens is my first match back after a couple of weeks (almost) in Cornwall surfing and playing cricket and having a holiday. Their website is I don't recall playing them before and have no ideas as to how good or bad they are? Hopefully the weather will hold out and we'll have a game. Having said that I've just gone through their website and had a look at their profiles, some of them - the first six or so listed players have been playing for this team for in excess of 15 years! Every single one of them is also listed as being a bowler with 60% of them bowling spin - only one though leg breaks. So this sounds interesting? None of them are kids either, to me looking at this from here it looks like we're about to be well and truly beat!

So - what have I been up to then you may be asking? I've been camping down at Landsend in Cornwall (the field in the centre of the ariel image here),-5.678537&spn=0.003056,0.006866&t=h&z=17 which if you pan out is located only a few hundred yards from one of the best surfing beaches in the country and where I spent 2 whole summers May through to Oct in 1986 and 1987 living just above the beach in a tent with a bunch of locals and Aussies and learnt to surf. The additional bonus is that the field where we camp (Empty in this image) is flat and rolled by cars driving around the site and perfect for a game of cricket and it turns out every year there's always a bunch of blokes and kids that are up for a game, so it's perfect - surfing and cricket, it couldn't get much better!

The cricket was really good as some of the kids there were club players and one was even a colt at Leicester County, but there was always at one point at least 3 kids that could really bat and bowl well - one in particular was amazingly adept at bowling and batting and he was only 9, but so unbelievably competitive and ruthless. With all these kids around both my lads went from strength to strength and now little Joe who's just turned 7 is bowling Leg breaks! Something I can only dream about doing and he can bowl googlies! One night playing he took 9 wickets over an hour and half!

My surfing was a bit up and down. Normally I train before-hand to be fit enough to face the waves and the massive paddle out sessions. For some reason prior to going the enthusiasm for surfing wasn't really there, so this year I took it easy in the lead up to the holiday. On about day 2 or 3 the wind swung round Easterly over night as I'd predicted and there was a fair swell running - 5-6 foot - absolutely perfect. In anticipation of the coming together of all the neccesary factors I couldn't sleep so was awake as the wind suddenly stopped blowing from the wrong direction at about 2am. I woke up again at about 3am and there was total silence with the exception of a slight breeze blowing offshore which then renders the sound of the surf obsolete - Surfs Up! My alarm went off at 03.30hrs and it was still dark. I allowed my self another 15 minutes and then got up grappling around in the dark getting some tea and breakfast together. On the horizon there was a faint glow of dawn in the east as I slowly eat my breakfast (Sugar Puffs in water - I couldn't find any milk) stalling for more light.

By 04.45hrs I was in the water. It was quiet and serene with traces of mist over the Ocean. No-one else around - just a massive Ocean with fair sized waves and me out of shape. I paddled out relatively easily the 1/4 mile beyond the breaking waves and rested "Out the back" and got my breath back. I'd opted for my 5'10" thruster which for an old bloke of 48 years is an unusual option as it requires agility, strength, stamina and skill to get a board so small moving well. In the hour that followed when I was then joined by 6 others who all obviously thought that they were hardcore getting up so early, I took 3 waves and got all of them wrong, so once all the younger much fitter dudes were in the water I got out and went back to bed. Over the next few days I contemplated throwing the surfing towel in, having done it since 1979. Over the following days I bumped into other mates from back in the day - Janus Howard, Chris Roynan, Mike "Tup" Newman and Julian Barnett. Some who had jacked it all in and some that only ever did every now and then these days. These are some of the people who back in the day I had increadible amounts of respect for as surfers, people that lived the life - some of them lifeguards working the beaches in the summer here in the UK and then surfing exotic loactaions all round the world in the winter - their blood tasted of salt, their lives were so wrapped up in surfing it was what they lived for and now here they were 10 years younger than me and they'd in some cases given up the cause. It was weird.

In the days to follow I used the "Old boy fallback" my longer board. People who can't surf or are fat and not fit use longboards or old blokes. Yeah I got waves - anyone can on a long board - I mean I can do headstands on mine - it's that easy! But once I get up the surfer in me wants to throw the board up the face of the wave off the bottom turn and get the maximum power out of the wave to execute the first big slashing turn off the lip and you can't on a long board. It's not me. This made me feel worse, it felt like my days were numbered as a surfer and maybe this year was the last as a surfer? I didn't surf at all over the next few days, didn't do surf checks, didn't look at the Ocean. I set my clock a couple of times early just in case the spark was there, but all this bad Karma mean that I turned the clock off and went back to sleep. All day long poser surf Dudes charged back and forth across the campsite looking like they meant business and no doubt some of them did, but I was never aware of anyone else doing the hardcore surf thing at 3.45 am, as for them it's about image, about being seen to be a surfer, it's not an inside thing - it's facile and all about the image.

When all was lost on the first day of the rains "day 11" into the holiday we visited our inlaws who were doing the same thing further up the coast at Gwithian Towans -,-5.406175&spn=0.006098,0.013733&t=h&z=16 I took both boards to let my Neice and son Ben have a go in what is always a safer kind of wave at this beach. In the rain we all marched across the dunes down to the ocean and spent almost 2 hours before we were forced back by Weaver Fish. But in the 2 hours I first rode the "Old Dad Longboard" and got a load of straight-line waves, but in doing so realised the potential of the wave here. The waves were small - 2 foot, but a good shape with a nice face and I remembered a day in 1987 at Sennen where I had a really good session in a similar size and shaped wave at the peak of my surfing prowess. Should I try? I swapped boards with Ben and went for one of these small waves, I caught it, planed down the face, felt the thrust of the wave as it picked me up and leapt to my feet and it all came back to me, I shifted my weight fractionally, the board trimmed, I roller coastered the board maximising the power of the wave, I could see a section that was going to fall in front of me, I unweighted and forced the board up to the lip and compressed momentarily and then dug the rail in as it came back down the face to bottom turn getting the speed to beat the section and did it. I can still surf and furthermore I can still surf shortboards! I'm still a surfer!

My son Ben did really well too. He was paddling around with real confidence once I'd shown him how to position his body centrally on the board. It's critical that you're in a certain position on the board and it's critical to about 2-3" otherwise you're too far forward or backward and you're wasting your time. Ben got this in a matter of seconds which is really good. He also took to sitting astride the surfboard "Out the back", which again is something a lot of people struggle with. Let's hope next year he's into it a lot more and gets to the point where he can stand up maybe?

Although I did okay on my shortboard I would still like to get something a lot bigger maybe 6'3" with a round nose as these are easier to take off with? I'll see what happens next year.
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