Feb 22

Waves. Party. Repeat.

On the back of Storm Henry and the start of Storm Imogen, a cohort of student windsurfers from across the country headed to Rhosneigr, Anglesey for the second round of the Student Windsurfing Associations wave series. Although I have a deep respect for nature, the forecast for the weekend was off-the-chain, with logo high waves and 40-50 mph winds, and couldn’t be missed. I was buzzing on the drive over. I decided to hit the beach on the Friday to check out the conditions, which did not disappoint. I had the perfect chance to test my new 3.7 Severne Blade sail, which gave me huge confidence to go big in the waves out the back and get some awesome hang time… followed by a decent swim back to the beach after my gear.

After some wrestling with kit to de-rig in the wind I got on the way to Bangor to meet the hosts of the event. A much needed beer was had (out of the pouring rain thankfully) and slowly more people arrived. The Bangor lot did a fantastic job hosting us and the socials were great, next time I won’t windsurf so hard so I can party a bit harder. Friday night we hit the Greek for some chilled out drinks. Not too early a night was had and before I knew it we were up, bacon sarnies in hand and out the door to the beach.

FullSizeRender-3The wind wasn’t great Saturday morning. Whispers on the beach of people out on 5.7/5.3 sails but I rigged up my 5.0 with some hesitation about whether or not it would be enough to get going on. But more fool them, it was spot on. The wind was building and I had some great jumps and caught some nice waves throughout the morning. Puravida arrived at 11, along with some more wind that saw most of the group change down to 4.7/4.2 sails. I Jumped on my 4.2 for the first heat. Despite my confident sailing in the morning I was really nervous for the heat. I had my watch running the countdown and my heart was racing. Just carrying my kit to the beach made my arms pump up and the sail out wasn’t smooth. I fought hard on the way out, aiming not to spend the 10 minute heat just swimming. Sailing around I could only see 2 out of 3 of my competitors around so I put out a scoring wave and jump, hoping it was enough to get through the first heat of the single elimination. It wasn’t. The standard was high, which saw me out in the first round. I was gutted. The cross-onshore conditions at Rhosneigr were not my cup of tea. We’re spoilt on the Yorkshire coast with the good cross-offshore days (although rare) and so a few of us struggled on the top turn and were stacked on the bottom turn. Cue the excuses…

Watching the other guys sail soon picked me up though. Forward loops and back loops; people were pulling out all the stops. I know what I need to work towards and the judges were dishing out great advice. Everyone was learning all the time. That’s the great thing about windsurfing: you can always improve, its great personal development.12698235_10154055825102518_7212746014310816557_o-680x455

Next up was the double elimination. The format is a little more complicated but again, I didn’t get past the simple parts. This time I was up against stiff competition with just 3 of us in the heat, only one person goes through. I had some nice jumps but very poor wave rides. Not an improvement on the first heat. Still, I managed to score a wave and a jump, but I should have been on a 3.7, not a 4.2. I was too overpowered to open up on the wave and bear away for the jumps. Again, I was out. I grabbed some much needed grub and watched the others battle it out, even more angry than after the previous heat. My body was done though. I was tired. I derigged, got changed and warmed up the car. We headed for Bangor and got the drinking underway. Saturday night was great. We watched the rugby, started drinking, ate some great food and had a nice house party / quiet night in. It wasn’t long before I needed more sleep though.

After a biblical level of snoring from one of the Bangor alumni, I was up early and hungover. I slogged it to the beach at 9 am to check out the conditions and napped on the beach. It wasn’t long before I was too excited to sleep and got rigged up. 3.7 weather cross-onshore. I rigged up as the others arrived and went out for a sail. It was fun while it lasted and I even attempted a forward loop. The wind was swinging round onshore though and we lined up for the expression session. This is where the king or queen are crowned for the best wave ride and the best jump. I battled it out in the tough conditions with a few jumps and a wave or two but I crashed more than I sailed. I was a lot more relaxed for this. Somehow embracing the fact that I wasn’t going to be the best in the conditions calmed me down and made me focus on my own sailing and worry less about being on a timer. After a couple of forward loop attempts and some wobbly wave rides I ended the session absolutely shattered, but being dialled in amongst all the spray and breaking waves puts a massive grin on my face, even if it does beat me up a bit. At that point it was time to call it a day and pack up.

Congratulations to the top sailors that battled through the heats last weekend, it was awesome to see the talent that is coming through the SWA and other universities and I look forward to the series next year, my final year, and I’m gutted that I can’t make it to Cardiff. In the meantime, back to the Yorkshire coast for me, once another storm comes through.FullSizeRender-6

Photo credit: Jim @ Puravida Boardriders, Tom Pidden (Nottingham), Ben Page (SWA)