Surf trips are typified by the search, that quest for perfect waves. Professional nomads like Kepa Acero have made a career from it and brands put ‘the search’ at the forefront of their marketing.
But time is precious for us mere mortals and as we get older our search tends to wane as real life responsibilities try to wave block us. One or two short trips a year means the pressure is on because we all know that there’s only one thing worse than crap surf at home and that’s not scoring abroad.
With a combination of apprehension and excitement I booked my first trip of the year to Lanzarote. Apprehension because I’ve been on enough trips to know that great surf is by no means a guarantee.
Also I had mixed feelings about the Canary Islands. My first experience, a boys’ surf trip to Tenerife over ten years ago was overshadowed by crashing the rental car, getting my clothes nicked from the beach and more importantly a lack of swell. The second was a much better experience a couple of years ago in Fuerteventura, a less stressful time but the surf was one extreme to another, either tiny beach break or big pant shatting reef!
The week before leaving, my obsession with checking the swell and weather every five minutes meant that I didn’t pay full attention to some other minor details. In my dreamlike surf trance I managed to book the rental car for just ONE day (only realising on the plane after bragging about the deal I’d got to an elderly couple). Next I only made a note of the villa key code on my mobile but didn’t charge it and finally I didn’t pay for baggage so my wife couldn’t bring more than hand luggage (easily my most severe mistake).
A boys’ surf trip to Tenerife over ten years ago was overshadowed by crashing the rental car, getting my clothes nicked from the beach and a lack of swell.
I’d booked a villa on the sheltered north east coast of the island to appease my better half, a thirty minute car journey to the more consistent west coast wasn’t that much of a compromise. The idyllic Canarian fishing village where we stayed coincidentally, (nudge, wink) had a classy but fickle reef break right in front of it. But I’d learnt over the years not to expect too much from a surf trip, especially a fickle break in just a one week window.
The first three days the reef out front wasn’t working, it was small and messy but every now and then a wave peeled off the shallow rocks and shaped up along the line and gave a glimpse of what was lying dormant.
Meanwhile I spent these days driving over to the west coast and surfing the onshore beach slop at Famara. In the evenings we headed over to La Santa and watched in awe at the three kamikazes that’d conquered the howling onshore winds at the big messy right. They manipulated the overhead unpredictable walls of water with the grace and control that only hard-core locals or pro’s could get away with. The clean-up sets were unrelenting and I shuddered as they rolled through but the locals were happy. I found it Ironic that it wasn’t the ‘Only Local Canary’ sign that put me off getting in but simply the heavy wave they’re trying to keep for themselves, size always separates the men from the…well, me.
On the forth morning I followed the same routine as I woke up early put the kettle on and opened the curtains to survey the mornings conditions. The last wave of a set rolled in, offshore, glassy, peeling right and a longer left. Had I dreamt it, I waited for the next set and three more rolled through but something wasn’t’ right. The left was absolute perfection but it ran past two sets of rocks, and not the comfy looking kind. So I sat puzzled trying to work out how to surf this left without having to attempt utilising the dog eared E111 card I’d had in my wallet for the last ten years (apparently “that baby covers you anywhere”, a reckless mate told me once before encouraging me not to buy travel insurance)
My wife woke up and nonchalantly commented that it was nice that the reef was working, and then asked why I wasn’t in the water. I tried to explain but she didn’t understand my concerns of the pointy rocks and the lack of anyone in the water, particularly locals. She thought I was just scared and she was right.
The left was continually firing and the right was shorter but shoulder to head high nonetheless, perfection for an ageing, overweight, landlocked surfer. I’m not too proud to admit that after deliberating for what felt like an eternity, I was finally given the reassurance I needed by a grom. A four foot white haired kid tip toed elegantly over the rocks like a ballerina, making his way to the water before paddling out. I watched him score two hollow right handers before I suited up and followed him out buzzing with excitement but equally guilty about my cowardice. Like a shit Jeff Clark if you will, this wasn’t to be my Mavericks. But hey you’re never too old to learn from a grom I say, just don’t tell anyone.
A four foot white haired kid tip toed elegantly over the rocks like a ballerina.
For the next three days the break was pumping, small but perfectly shaped and hollow at sections. I surfed until I was too tired to paddle or the local bodyboarders crowded the peak. At which point I’d retreat all of the fifty metres to my terrace for a sandwich and cold Estrella del Sur to recharge until the bodyboarders thinned out. This was the dream surf trip for me, not actually having to search but scoring sick waves every day.
During that time I only took a couple of lefts which as a goofy footer was frustrating and especially as the left was longer but it walled up at its fastest and most critical point in front of the cosy rocks, particularly a big one shaped like a sharks tooth that jutted out ready to sink its jaggedyness into my arse. A local told me that it needed to be just a bit bigger to avoid the rocks by at least a metre, reassuring stuff I thought. I took the safer option and stuck to the shorter right.
It walled up at its most critical point in front of a big shark tooth shaped rock ready to sink its jaggedyness into my arse.
Lady Luck, karma, the planets aligning or the surf God’s pitying my poor surf starved soul whatever you wanna call it, plain and simple I had lucked out in Lanzarote. Even on the last day when my break went flat I managed to score fun waves at the reef in Famara.
I didn’t get a totally free pass though, I sliced my heel open on the rocks getting out and dinged my board, less majestic ballerina and more dancing bear. Maybe it’s because I’m getting on in my mid-thirties that in regards to surf trips I think I prefer the rock up and score for a week as opposed to the drive around going stir crazy for a month option. Alright I suppose Kepa and I will never agree on this but this dancing bear knows what he likes and its perfect waves a stone’s throw from his bed and fridge.
By Patrick Rowhan
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