Head Space

As the dust settles, the swell and wind die down for what is most likely another small lull in the exceptional winter season we have had here in the UK. Since November we have been pummelled, maybe tormented with a string of wild weather. The Met office quickly using up the baby name book as they look to christen every new storm that makes it's way through the Atlantic. The swell so consistently good that even the tamest beaches along many of our coasts have become prime wavesailing and surfing estate.

It's been a while now since storm Imogen. The residual swell and wind lead nicely into my half term. A February half term that I normally long to  be riding my snow board on the ski slopes. But not this one. Every day brought useable surf or wavesailing at any of my local beaches. From Avon we had long peeling rights to Kimmeridge where we had big, almost barrelling (occasionally) lefts. The surfers were having a great time. The normally shut car park at this time of the year during the week had opened on one particular Thursday. They had 1500 surfers pass through the day. It was that good and I didn't feel in anyway that I wanted to get away.

So I want to go back to the story of Imogen and the two weeks before. I had been fortunate to get out on most days. Usually on my Simmer 4.5 Black Tip and Below and my Simmer 85 flywave. 4.5 and flywave is the combination I love, perfect for the down the line, playful medium sized waves we have been getting. Excitedly I had been posting on Facebook. Thanks to the Avon Beach surfers group that Roger Bushnell started at Facebook, there is no end of pictures. If you are out, there is likely to be a camera or more pointing at you. So part of the reason of posting on Facebook I guess is too let other people know what you are doing..right, release that slightly narcissistic inner self and also of course to get a bit of exposure for sponsors. I also really like seeing what other people have been doing at other beaches.

However this brings me to the point of this post. Many of my colleagues at work see these posts particularly on a week day. They always ask howw do I get out on the water when many other teachers are drowning in a sea of marking, planning and admin, some make me try to feel a little guilty (it never works), others just take the 'good on you' approach - beating the system. The answer is simple. Organisation.

The plan starts a week ahead or at least when the first available trustworthy forecast for the next 5 days or so is released. I rely on www.bigsalty.com, not least because it is the spawn of one of my closest friends but I find it particularly reliable. It also shows swell, period and importantly tide times for the places I sail. Tides are almost as important deciding factor as wind when I have to priortise my windsurfing time.

Once I know the forecast, I look at the week ahead and go for the days that have the highest swell period. Not necessarily the windiest. I then choose the days that I can realistically get out on and then do everything to make it happen. I look for every way to condense my time, what evenings I will work and make sure I only do the most pressing things in any free periods that are needed for the department. Anything else I can 'wing', I am experienced enough now that I can deliver good lessons without too much planning so that is never usually a problem. When there is no wind and the weather is shit I am happy to work all hours to get the job done. The next thing I say is the exit strategy. If I have a free period last thing then that is not a problem, I will leave (sneak out) 5 minutes early. Only because, as anyone who does the school run will know, 1 minute either side of 3.15 makes a massive difference in terms of traffic on a school day. Then as long as I make it past the Christchurch roundabout I can get to Avon in 8 -10 minutes. Southbourne in 5. I always have my kit in the van.

If I can't leave early then I make sure  the class have tidied up the lab properly, that I haven't booked any detentions or meetings on the days I want to sail. I make sure the class are finished, good, packed away and ready to go on the dot. Then it is go, go, go. Ideally the van is parked near the exit. I have to get out, past the zebra crossings, nod to my colleagues on gate duty who probably wonder what the hell I am doing and get out of there.

This particular Storm Imogen was a bit like that. I had my year 10 class lined up like primary school children. Shirts tucked in, bags over shoulder. I told them what was going on, no point making a secret of it. Then it was out out out. Military. No questions, tomorrow lunchtime or next lesson was for questions. I knew Avon had been firing all day, as big as Avon gets but possibly too windy. Also if light would allow I might even get the best bit. The Spring tide was out, but when it turned everything should clean up nicely. I got there very early to the surprise of everyone (when I say everyone, I mean Gregg, Colin and the dog). A few of the local boys were out, but most were on the beach recovering. The waves were huge right out to sea. The Westerly had meant not much wind on the inside. So it was 3.5-4.0 weather out to sea, but bugger all wind on the inside. Not the sort of conditions you want when there is really only an hour of light left in the day and you are knackered from work.

I went for the 4.0. It was cold gusty and windy. Once out there was no point trying to come back in. Time didn't allow. This is when I realised my sail was rigged like a bag of shit. I hadn't put enough downhaul. God knows why. So I had to muscle it and make the most. I caught some pretty big waves and rode them not particularly with any style and none that got caught on camera as they were well out to sea. I would say they were as near to Mast High as a south coast calibration device allows.

But this is where the title of this blog post comes in. Despite all the planning and anticipation. What is really hard for us 'Mid Week' warriors is trying to get your head in the right state of mind. To throw yourself into a storm that most people were struggling to venture out of the front door into and expect to perform is the difficulty.

A day teaching biology, physics, chemistry from anything from A level to year 7 special educational needs, the demand of so many people. A head full of information, progress, levels, targets. What is really hard is changing that  mind set into: Aerials, selecting the right wave, loops, hitting the lip, going vertical, battling 70mph gusts, rigging properly, breathing, not cramping. Windsurfing is as much about frame of mind as anything else. Getting on the water is not easy, but with all this in mind it is worth it every single time. Whenever I am asked how I make time for windsurfing, surfing, family, it is always the old cliche that it comes down too. Work to Live and never anything else. If you can't, don't necessarily change what you do, but just the way you do it.

Pictures courtesy of Gregg Dunnett and Charles Willard. Riders myself (less stylish) and Ben Page (more stylish)