Simply put: it’s been a mental winter. Relatively mild, super windy, extremely wet with endless days of swell, storm surge and full throttle saltwater action. I appreciate not everyone has ‘loved it’, but windsurfing conditions have been off the hook.
Froth bashing on a full power day
The build up
As a water baby I look to the down season with both dread and optimism. Forecasters simply can’t accurately predict conditions months ahead – we may see indicators but these can fizzle and amount to nothing.
Approaching autumn, the scare mongering media were shouting about the coldest winter ever. Casting my mind back, I can still feel Jack Frost’s grip from the season previous. How miserable it is when faced with weeks of cobalt grey, heavy dumps of snow and minus digits – I shudder at the thought.
The calm before the storm – pic Dave Libby
Some of us (fool) hardy types pushed through regardless – a few decent SUP and windy sessions did go down. Unless I’m bound for alpine runs with a snowboard under my arm I’m not, however, going to rejoice over weather like that.
October 2013 rolled in fast with what we’ll describe as a cold snap – although more blip than proper thermometer drop. At that point I believed the doom sayers , yet in just a few short days, things pepped up.
November heralded the arrival of multiple dart board low pressures bowling in. Endless processions of powerful storms battering all parts of the UK – coastal communities, in particular, took a hammering.
Normally I would’ve expected to chalk up a few West Country sojourns but not this season. When you wake every day to yet more rocking conditions, who needs to head off? ‘Never drive away from good surf’: a saying that applies to ALL ocean pastimes.
Early rises and quick fixes
For the past four plus months I’ve been a master of dawn raids and lunchtime splash ‘n’ dash missions. This isn’t to rub anyone’s face in it; more of a statement of fact. Working brine time around daily commitments has seen a permanently rigged sail in my van, a slightly damp wetty hanging from the rail and a refined ‘getting on the water’ technique.
In many instances it’s been just me and a few others making the pilgrimage to battle Mother Nature. For the most part this comes down to lack of kit and/or time.
Southerly has been the prevailing wind direction – sailors with Hayling windsurfing experience will appreciate how good this can be. (Get off the shingle, head upwind and you’ll discover fun jumping and side shore wave riding). Average sail size has been 3.7m and 40 knots the norm.
So yes, it’s been blowy, and yes, it’s been wavey. But it’s also been extremely mild – I’ve not had to layer up the neoprene once. Booties have been worn but they’ve only been the summer type, discarding them altogether on many occasions.
Unfortunately there’s been a widely publicised downside. As much as I enjoy a good blow, I appreciate weather beaten towns and villages, flooded homes and desecrated land has been the by product. Unprecedented rain fall and coastal erosion has caused its fair share of problems.
With Easter in sight extreme weather phenomenon has decreased. For the last few weeks we’ve had spring like conditions. There’s also been one or two swell only days thrown into the mix – time to bust out the SUP.
Hopefully those affected by floods will now be allowed time to resolve problems. The drying out process will indeed be time consuming, but hopefully we’ll get there.
Spring is here!
My advice for any aspiring storm rider is: get hold of small windsurfing gear, stash it away, and when nuclear winds puff through, you’ll be armed and ready. Now, here’s to a summer of SUP…