Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to put on a wetsuit...

There was one instruction when we were putting on our wetsuits. "…The zip goes at the back…" in the words of Aleksander the meerkat "simple". Yet John managed to get this wrong and put the zip at the front! Brilliant!! Now this was not the first part of the weekend but in case you read no further I wanted to make sure you read this!

Now the beginning!

This was the surfing weekend in Harlyn Bay – a beautiful part of north Cornwall near Padstow. The surfing was booked for 2pm on the Saturday but being men we travelled down on the Friday night to have a few beers and make more of a weekend of it. The journey down was long, slow and ultimately dark! The combination of roadworks, Friday night traffic and John's inability to do anything too quick (!) saw the journey take a good 4and a half hours. We were staying at the Harlyn Inn which was a combination of a pub, nightclub, restaurant, b&b, hotel and holiday let, there was also an omnipresent surf shop and board hire shop. It has a perfect location literally 200m from the beach itself.

Friday night and the plan was to go for a run then head to Padstow for food and beers. The run was a new experience. It was dark and early evening, there was no street lighting or light pollution at all. There was light from the moon and the occasional car passing that illuminated the road ahead. We managed just over 4miles at a slow pace which was fine and only really a case of whetting the appetite for a few beers! By the time we got back from the run the restaurant at the Harlyn Inn had closed and we were stranded with no food – a taxi ride to Padstow to collect Chinese takeaway (with a quick pint) where the cab driver then informed us that everyone would be at the Harlyn Inn as that was the night spot of the area meant a cab ride back almost immediately. £15 in taxi for £10 of food!!

Back at the Harlyn Inn we ate the food, I say ate, I mean I ate my dinner fairly quickly and John pushed his around the plate. If I were a betting man I would have put money on him having a magical or possessed meal as no matter how much he ate the volume never diminished. Captain Slow if you will! Once we had eaten we went back through to the bar which was transformed. When we arrived it had the atmosphere of a youth club, there well all sorts there from kids playing pool and dads drinking beer. In the time we had taken to eat it was full of party people in fancy dress leaving me feeling incredibly old! There was a band playing – I cannot remember what they were called but the lead singer was called Billy and was from Australia (Woolngong I think he said). Very cool band! Their sound was a very bass driven dance sort of music with the singer semi-singing/semi-rapping over the top. Difficult to pin it down really – but they really had the place rocking!

From Harlyn Bay - 31st October 2009

Being cool and happening fella's we were in the thick of it throwing shapes with the kids and showing them how it's done. Actually that's not specifically true, we were in the corner playing the quiz machine!

From Harlyn Bay - 31st October 2009

Afterall it did have a version of track and field on it which was possibly the only thing older than us in the bar! So the place is rocking, people and beer everywhere and we are answering questions on sport and the like! If it were an orgy we would have been the ones handing out breath mints!

The Harlyn Inn shuts at midnight and is the last place in the area to shut. After the doors close the punters basically mill about in the car park - it is impossible to get a taxi, so they take their chances with local law enforcement or set off on a long walk home.

At this point with a few beers to the good John and I thought it would be a great idea to go on somewhere. Newquay is the closest party town and was some 12miles away. At one point John, having texted, phoned and facebooked everyone he could find or think of and me (having hassled everyone with a car to give us a lift to no avail) suggest that we could run it! Now 12miles is quite a distance, but when you don't know the way and you're a few sheets to the wind this is not the best plan ever! We eventually abandoned the idea (well it pretty much abandoned us) and headed to our room. In hindsight this was the best situation!! Had we made it to Newquay it could have gotten very messy, not to mention the amount of trips to the cashpoint we would have had to make!

Saturday was a slow start to the day – not exactly hungover but not exactly feeling great. A quick audit of John's iPhone showed he'd made something like 3,000 calls the previous evening trying to get a taxi. Breakfast was a strange experience served in the restaurant behind the bar where last nights shenanigans took place. It was pretty much full of the same people who had been going for it the previous night. Everyone was just a little slower and pretty much wearing sunglasses! A decent enough full English breakfast later and we had the morning to kill.

Over breakfast John realised that the voucher – which was the experience voucher covering the trip – was safely in Leamington Spa a couple hundred miles away! He checked the car and true enough he'd left it behind!! Now this is John who is frankly a Project Manager by name and by nature. Lists and spreadsheets for everything - documents backed up in triplicate and whatever information you need just two clicks away! He forgot something and in his defence he said he never made a list of what he needed to pack for the weekend! Brilliant - the one time he wings it it doesn't work!

A plan hatched to get the cash to cover it and sort it with the owner afterwards! From breakfast we strolled down to the beach, it was dark when we had arrived so we'd not seen it to this point, and it was a beautiful sight.

From Harlyn Bay - 31st October 2009

The tide was out and there were surfers in the water, the sun was shining and while it wasn't exactly warm it was not cold at all. We took a stroll down to the sea and then up to the rocks to the view over the bay.

From Harlyn Bay - 31st October 2009

The rest of the morning was spent in Padstow with papers and cappuccino, Padstow in the summer is bedlam but out of season was a much more relaxed atmosphere.

From Harlyn Bay - 31st October 2009

We headed back to the bay to get there for 1:30'ish. Andy our instructor met us at the hut on the sand and we got kitted out – this is actually where John put his wetsuit on backwards!! Brilliant - makes me smile even now!! We then had a safety briefing and were out in the water in the trim position practicing that. This was the first time either of us had surfed although John has windsurfed before and what an experience it was. There were a load of surfers in the water and with the tide coming in there were some pretty big waves – well they were big to me!! Having sorted the trim position we were out of the water and seeing how to stand up – this was frankly easy but once in the water was entirely different! The next 90minutes were spent paddling out to deep enough water, getting on the board, catching a wave, up tot trim position then standing then falling almost immediately! I think I managed maybe 3 or 4 runs where I would say that I was actually surfing! It was absolutely the best fun though and one of those situations where you find yourself laughing for no reason just because it's great! Every time I fell I'd come up to the surface and be laughing….it was just simple, pure and brilliant fun!

Towards the end of the session I started to feel a bit sea-sick – probably a bit of the previous night kicking in so bailed a few minutes before the end for my own health really. It was brilliant though and next year is something I would definitely look to do again and take the kids too.

A quick change (well, John – oh you geddit now) and we headed to Padstow for fish and chips at Rick Steins fish and chip shop for dinner before the long drive home.

From Harlyn Bay - 31st October 2009

It was a long drive home, as we left Padstow the GPS was showing 170'odd miles to Cheltenham. We then had a discussion about how that was still 30miles short of the run that Dean Karnazes does and describes at the end of his Ultramarathon Man book. Staring at a 4hr drive was hard enough - considering it as a run was just beyond our comprehension. Incredible when you think of distance in those terms, truly remarkable.

It was a brilliant couple of days away, great to let of some steam and have a few beers and great fun with the surfing. A very memorable couple of days!