When it comes to Winter surfing, I have little or no interest, not any more. There, I've said it, it's out there.
I have always preferred the Summer for surfing, as well as everything else for that matter, but I know that I am more suited to surfing in warm(er) water. That said, I always felt duty bound to surf through the cold months, besides, that's when the best swells hit, isn't it? The first few Winters were fine, I think, for the stoke of surfing and just wanting to be in the sea doing what I love took the pain of the cold away, plus I was a youth and as such I probably didn't feel it. I certainly don't recall complaining too much, OK, that last statement might not be wholly true, I've always complained, about most things cold or otherwise!
But gradually, with each Winter I would find it just that little bit more difficult to go in, I would go through the motions, but in my heart I was beginning to resent the cold. Weighing up just how much I was actually enjoying myself when the rain and sleet came in sideways, and the water was cold, hard and foreboding. When simply paddling out meant battling through icy slabs of water. Sometimes there would be bright sunny days, which took the edge of the cold off, for a while at least, but then the sun would always go in, and the reality of the British winter would come back with such a vengeance.
The defining moment came about eight years ago, while standing in a muddy car park after surfing waves that were mediocre, at best. As I got changed in to my clothes, which had fallen on to the muddy floor, and the rain slammed down making me colder by the second, I looked at the situation from above, and thought what the hell am I doing, this isn't fun! And from that moment on I would say that I put things in to perspective and decided that Winter surfing wasn't for me, and if I am honest, it probably never was. But the sense of duty that I felt was long gone. This in itself felt liberating, and I mean that, because the pressure that I felt for the best part of twenty years was gone, as quickly as that. No longer would I feel that I had to endure the cold to uphold my claim of being a serious surfer, my weekends would be free to do other things, and surfing would be something that I did in the warmer months.
In the immediate after-glow of this decision and despite being comfortable with it myself, I tended to make my excuses for not going in, for fear of unmasking myself as being a summer surfer. But as time went on, and I was absent from the line up for several months, it no longer needed to be said.
Every now and then I get an pang of gilt for sitting the Winter out, but this is short lived when I see just how bleak the sea looks, and how cold and unwelcoming too. In fact, slate grey waves that are blown all shapes by the wind do very little for me, even the cleaner days fail to stir more than a little pang of excitement. They simply don't have the same appeal.
I know that a major factor in the making of this life changing decision was that I have been spoiled by experiences of warmer water. I have been lucky enough to travel, by no means extensively, but enough to make me realize that surfing in Britain is hard, to say the least. While surfing in sunnier climes is just so much more enjoyable. And for me, that was enough to confirm what I had suspected for a long time, I am just not all that keen on cold water surfing.
While I do not partake in the pursuit of freezing ones parts off in the name of riding waves anymore. I feel that I can take a back seat and leave it to those who enjoy it and do it so well, without so much as a moan or a grumble, at least not within earshot! Spring soon comes around, and then there are several months of surfing in relative comfort, it can get a little frustrating having to loosen up at the start of the season each year, but it all falls back in to place quickly enough, and the stoke comes flooding back and just when I am surfing well again, the cold comes back, and any hope of seeing the Winter through that I might have had, fades fast. I know that this will be true this year, as it has been for a number of year, but I am more than fine with that, and the fact that I am a fair weather surfer.
Photo credits: Chris Burkard