What does surfing mean to you?
For me surfing is a mix between a sport and a leisure activity, as well as an excellent excuse to spend time in the ocean. Looking at it as a sport I want to improve every time I surf and where I am at the moment this refers to manoeuvres. Each session I want to improve my surfing by attacking more critical sections of the wave and trying not to fall in the process. Improving is a slow and often frustrating process in the UK as I rarely get to surf good waves which makes practicing much more difficult. With skating you can hit the exact same section again and again until you land the trick whereas in surfing you can go a whole session and still only manage to attempt a certain manoeuvre just once as the opportunity is dictated by the wave. However when you do get to surf good waves it makes it even more special and you can improve more in one session that you sometimes can in a whole month of surfing poor waves. In terms of it being a leisure activity, it’s something I do for fun and regardless of performance it’s a very enjoyable activity. Messing around and surfing different types of boards when the waves of bad is always a good laugh. I also enjoy pushing myself in bigger and more dangerous conditions and this is where the adrenaline rush appeal comes from, similar to other extreme sports. I think the most special thing about surfing is being in the ocean environment. It’s very beautiful and ever changing which is unique compared to most other sports that are done in a consistent environment and this requires a very different mindset.
What are the therapeutic benefits of surfing?
I am fortunate enough to have not struggled with any significant injuries, accidents nor have I suffered any mental health issues and I would say surfing has perhaps contributed to this. Being in the ocean is very therapeutic alone and cold water therapy is also increasingly popular for helping with mental health so being able to combine this with a sport that you enjoy is certainly ideal. You always have to respect the ocean because it is much bigger and far more powerful than you, there is something about this that makes the sport particularly beneficial. I have volunteered for The Wave Project before which is a surfing charity that helps challenged children gain confidence and I’ve seen first hand how much being in the ocean helps them.
Another great thing about surfing is the community aspect of the sport. Being a surfer means you automatically have something in common with many other like minded people, this community is now even easier to access on the internet. This means you feel part of a larger community and for anyone that struggles with issues such as loneliness or isolation I’m sure this social aspect is very beneficial.
What makes cold water surfing special?
Cold water surfing is certainly special… if that’s the right word for it! With the correct kit it is very enjoyable, without the correct kit it is often miserable! Many times I’ve got out after a long winter session and it’s been a big struggle to even get my boots off because my hands are so numb. But nothing beats the feeling of warming up after a cold surf. Perhaps the best thing about the cold is that it thins out the crowd. Surfing is becoming increasingly popular which is leading to many breaks becoming overcrowded, therefore mid winter is the quietest time to surf. This is ideal because the best waves come during the winter months in the UK. Being in cold water also has lots of health benefits, it can boost the immune system, improve circulation, reduce inflammation, boost energy levels and improve metabolic function not to mention the benefits it has for your mental health.
When is your favourite time to surf?
My favourite time to surf without doubt is in the early morning, nothing beats watching a sunrise from the water. A summer evening session is my second favourite. During the UK winter it is much less of a challenge to get up before sunrise but in the summer this takes big commitment and a 4am alarm. Early surfs are again quieter so you also get to catch more waves. Another benefit is that the wind conditions are often much calmer in the morning which improves the quality of the waves.
Have you ever had any injuries from surfing?
I have been fortunate enough to never suffer a serious injury despite surfing for nearly 12 years. I’ve only ever twisted my ankle, suffered a black eye and a few scrapes and bruises from rocks or my board hitting me whilst wiping out. Being comfortable in the water and knowing what to do in a dangerous situation really helps reduce the risk of injury. I’ve witnessed a few bad injuries in the surf but most of these involve a collision between two surfers. Whenever people get into a particularly dangerous situation it is usually down to inexperience, it is very important to only paddle out if you are capable of handling the conditions. I do get very sore and stiff muscles the day after lots of surfing. When we get good waves in the UK I usually surf a lot in order to make the most of it. Stretching exercises are really useful to help loosen you up after long sessions. The Impact CBD Heating and Cooling balms are also super useful for supporting me, I apply them to my shoulders.