travel

My gnarly surf experience

Years ago I wrote a list of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30! Seen as I have just turned 25 it hit me that I best start making my way through the 17 things left on the list. With an upcoming family holiday to Newgale approaching, with three surfers I knew I had to literally jump in the deep end and learn to surf.

Newgale beach is on the Pembrokeshire Coast and is one of the Welsh ‘Blue Flag’ beaches meaning is is extremely clean. The beach has a bank of pebbles that form a kind of sea defence, before you meet the sand then sea.  It’s a very popular place for windsurfers, canoeists and surfers (like us).  We stayed up at the top of a hill in the wonderful ‘Curlew Cottage’ that had stunning views over the bay. The highlight was definitely the hot hub that we retreated to most nights with a glass of wine… or two!

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For the first weekend we were joined by the misters good friend who was very keen to learn to surf.  As the first day was ‘flat’ we were keen to get out no matter what the following day, so it wasn’t a waste for his friend. White Sands was the place to be that day so I rented a ‘foamy’ board and a 5mm thick wetsuit. I was convinced I was going to be cold but the surfer dude at ‘Ma Simes Surf Hut‘ in St David’s reassured me that this was thick and as long as my core was warm I would be fine – needless to say he was right! I was very toasty! A big concern was getting in the actual wetsuit. This has been traumatic in the past and the mister was determined to get me in it as quickly and painlessly as possible so I wouldn’t have my first tantrum before even getting in the water. By the side of the car, he forced me into it, nipping my skin and lifting me into air multiple times until I was zipped in. Tantrum averted!
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I must admit I had been torturing myself with all the possible things that could go wrong! I may nose dive, the waves might sweep me away, I might get concussion, drown or even get my hair wet! The latter definitely happened haha! Although, my fellow surfer family thought it was ‘flat’ I thought I was walking into a tsunami. Luckily, my adrenaline kicked in and I unexpectedly just went for it. However, I then realised I didn’t actually know what I was meant to do. The waves were hitting me and with a surf board in hand I had no idea how to tackle the waves. The mister began to explain how you need to tilt the board and jump over in a seamless fashion so you don’t just keep going back to square one on the beach. This required some strength but I got the hang of it.

My goal of the day was to essentially body board and ride wave that way. However, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and managed to ride it on my knees. I would wait until the wave had crashed and turned white and foamy before jumping on and paddling (I realised my paddling is pretty weak) and wait to be lifted by the wave and ride it in. Its fascinating how something as small as having your feet off the board at the end, being too far forward, your legs not staying closed together can literally end up with you nose diving, surf board flying in the air and tumbling through the water. It happened a fair few times but it was enjoyable and a great rush! I was so pleased that the mister had the patience to talk me through every step, laugh at me when I fell off and inform me where I may have gone wrong! Two hours in unfortunately, pro surfer girl had mild concussion after pro surfer boyfriends board hit her on the head… This was a few hours in and felt like the right time to go back to the cottage and enjoy a cuppa and cake. It cures everything, apart from aching muscles!

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I was hooked and ready to give surfing another go, despite how much I ached. After a very early dog walk to check out the surf we went for it. This time just me and the mister. Day 2 actually had more fear for me. I knew what it felt like to swallow half of the sea water, tumble and fall and I knew it could happen again. This time we stayed on Newgale beach and it was very foamy which was good for me. However, there wasn’t much time in between waves so I did feel like I was getting a little bit battered. Nevertheless, I persisted with the goal of standing up. It was ambitious but I was so proud when I managed to get one leg in position and was half stood half knelt. Progress! However, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t ‘pop up’!

My final day of ‘learning to surf’ we took to Newgale Beach where it was rather choppy and not ideal for surfing. However, we were keen to get our hair wet seen as it was the last day of my board rental. I think I had built up a bit too much confidence and wasn’t paying as much attention as I had in previous days. I genuinely have no idea what I did to send my board flying in the air and me under the water. But I soon knew about it when the finns clipped my ear! In true Chloe Style, I thought my ear had been cut off! Luckily it hadn’t and I just felt a tad dizzy. I took some time out on the sand but it definitely knocked my confidence so I just ‘played’ in the shallow end till the mister came in.

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I realised that learning to surf doesn’t come naturally to me. However, I have had a good taster experience and I’m keen to give it another go! So although I didn’t successfully stand up, it was definitely a success for me.

We had the most relaxing week away in Newgale with the mister’s family, exploring nearby quaint towns like St Davids, Solva and Broad Haven, many games of Monopoly, retreats in the Hot Tub and beautiful meals. Well deserved break in beautiful Wales.

Go the Distance in your Country

Chloe

travel

Escape to the Country: Brecon Beacons

In the wake of the atrocity in Manchester last week, it seemed like the best thing to do was to escape to the countryside. As the mister lives in the vicinity of the terrorist attacks, it all of a sudden felt so close to home. Before I continue I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims and to the emergency services for sheer bravery in the face of danger. Sadly, I’m writing this blog as the news of yet another attack on our country has arose, this time at the London Bridge.  There are no words that anyone can say to take the sadness away or turn back time but I hope the stories of kindness, bravery and humanity from the majority of the United Kingdom will shed some light in the darkness we are currently faced with.

So we escaped to the country, another country in fact, South Wales in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Seen as the mister, is currently working on a placement in Caerleon (near Newport) I thought I would ‘go the distance’ four and a half hours to visit him on the bank holiday weekend. Of course I don’t travel light with a car full of camping gear for a 3 night stay at the Cwmdu campsite. Note: This campsite had great facilities, remarkable views and was a reasonable price! I was proud of our set up featuring the Outwell Carolina tent, matching carpet, electric hook up, table, deck chairs, gas stove, and a George Foreman grill for good measure. We had glorious sunshine and unbearable heat on our first evening while we made Chicken Kebabs overlooking the incredible views.

 

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We had planned to tackle Pen-y-fan Mountain which has the highest peak in South Wales. We parked up at Pont-ar-daf car park and set off in the bleak weather with the knowledge that it would ‘brighten up’ as 3 weather forecasts promised. Unfortunately this was not the case, the rain did not stop and the winds picked up. We saw people under-dressed for hiking turn round and head back as they realised it was not going to be a leisurely stroll – but we ploughed on. We intended to do the circular route or Corn Du then Pen-y-fan. We reached the peak of Corn-du then scrambled up  a rock face to the top of Pen-y-fan. I would love to say it was incredible views from the top but we couldn’t see a thing – just grey clouds.

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We headed off the side of the mountain after a brief photoshoot to prove we got there! We just wanted to get back and eat our pack up in dryness. It was slippy all the way down but we were just happy we were getting down until we hit a very steep UP! This wasn’t what we anticipated but we went with it and headed UP thinking it will be a little UP and down then we will be back. The moral of the story is never trust women (or just a Chloe) with directions. I was so wrong it was unbelievable. We ended up on the top of what we think was Craig Cwm Sere, with little to no path, following some kind of foot prints while the wind literally was sweeping us off our feet. For a good hour we didn’t see one person up there and we both began to panic in silence. We both were having crazy thoughts. The mister later told me he was thinking about what he would say to my Mother to explain why I hadn’t made it off the mountain, I was worrying about either or us getting injured and having to call out the air ambulance. We held each others hands, communicating by hand squeezes, helping each other across the terrain until we found a cross roads of walkers!

Walkers, hikers, ramblers – whatever you want to call them are honestly great people to chat too. The morale was great even though these people were in the same position as us. They went out with the hope that it would ‘brighten up’ and were soaked through to the core. They were happy to help and try and figure out where we were in relation to where we needed to be… we headed further down with the promise of civilisation. Finally off the mountain side we found ourselves on a farm track with a small shelter – this was the first time we had stopped on our walk and we demolished our emergency Jamaica Ginger Cake (a must have in any rucksack!). At this point, I realised how much I was aching, my knees felt swollen, we were wet through and beginning to get colder and colder as the adrenaline dissipated. The mister sparked up a conversation with a small group nearby – who like us were hoping to enjoy the bank holiday sun. While looking at their map, there advice was to head-back over the mountains as the only way back to our car park – I won’t repeat what the mister said but we decided against that. We told them we were going to head towards the village and get a taxi as they told us we were on the complete wrong side of the mountain.

We set off for the next part of the journey and thought someone in the town will get us back. It was if the group had heard my thoughts when the young lad ran after us and said ‘Can we offer you a lift back to your car?’ Usually people, in particular Brits are too polite/proud to accept help from a stranger but our immediate response was ‘Yes Please!’ We couldn’t have been more grateful for these walkers coming to our rescue and saving us that afternoon. Chris, his father and friend gave us and our dirty boots a lift well out of their way in their awesome VW van because in their words they would ‘hope someone else would do the same for them’. To go back to what I mentioned at the beginning, these kinds of stories genuinely restore your faith in humanity. The mass majority of people on this earth are here to do good, to care and to give-back. Unfortunately, the minority gets the lime light but I believe the light should be shining on these kind souls to drive out their darkness.

We ended our time in the Brecon Beacons exploring the four waterfalls near Ystradfellte on a 5.5 mile energetic walk. Good footwear is a must especially when walking across slippy rocks for the perfect picture – you might go with a thud! The last waterfall was definitely worth the wait as you can actually walk behind the waterfall. This place definitely deserves the ‘hidden gems’ title.

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I have often said there are so many beautiful places on our door steps to take advantage of and the Brecon Beacons is a place of true natural beauty. Another eventful and adventurous weekend away with the mister – making the most of every last second of the Bank Holiday weekend.

Go the distance in the Country!
Chloe