Train, plane, surfboard.. that's the plan !

We all experienced it. You want to surf, but the closest body of water is miles away. Let alone that this body of water is on top of a wave-creating bedrock, reef or sandbank that has all weather conditions working in its favor:

“One of the greatest things about the sport of surfing is that you need only three things: your body, a surf-board, and a wave.” - Naima Green

I am writing this for all kindred surf spirits out there that have grown up without a local spot to surf. Your doodles most likely look like mine:

doodle of a wave

There are only two things left you can do. You either go to the club of waves website and practice doodling ‬‬or you get yourself onto a train, plane and surfboard.

… You got it right …

picture of a train some crappy looking beachbreak

You have reached your destination ! ? ... [to be continued]

How to get to the surf ?

Surfing is a very personal experience...

“The cardinal rule of safe surfing is that one should never surf alone.” – William Finnegan, Playing Docs Games: The New Yorker 1992

You also feel the irony in that? Well, much as William states in his article himself, it’s that if you follow this rule to heart, you will miss opportunities of surf. Now we all know there is nothing as sad as a surf opportunity missed.

To be honest, I didn't always follow the rule myself. Who would really? You finally arrive at your destination, the waves are cooking right in front of you and you just want to rush in!

some awesome looking beachbreak

(Un)fortunately there can be a little voice in your head called self-preservation that can come up with multiple reasons why rushing in might not be the smartest idea in the world: unforeseen currents, rip tides, hidden reef or rocks, crocodiles (true story) and not to act all dramatic: tides that flatten the waves, changing winds that screws up your session, too many surfers or locals… the list goes on.

One should just investigate the conditions a bit more. Then again, you don’t want to spend your entire trip sitting on the beach, analyzing the surf while the next season - the next session really - the surf might look completely different out there already.

So get yourself to a surf hostel, find some surfers who are at the same level as you are and surf together to get to know the place while someone's got your back. Is your surf-level non-existent? Even better! Get yourself signed up for some surf lessons. You're in for a treat when someone can take you to a spot where you actually have a chance of catching some waves and get stoked about every little wave along the way. No idea what I am talking about?

Go out there and try for yourself. ; )

Reflection on an interview: Surfing South-Africa

TTRide: Did you have any previous surfing experience before your surfing trip with Ticket To Ride?

Dries: I surfed occasionally in Portugal, but I never really learned to go out back by myself. So I can say the answer is no, considering how much there is to learn. Before the trip, I never even started to touch the tip of the iceberg, let alone reveal the huge mountain underneath the surface that is surfing in its entirety.

Reflection: Surfing, being one of the more difficult sports to learn because there is no easy access to great waves all the time, is very much worth the practice. Like many say, surfing isn’t a sport, but a lifestyle. To surf is to learn what it is all about, inside the ocean and out.

surf experience = non-existent

TTRide: With regards to fitness, did you train before the trip to get yourself surf fit? Did TTRide give you and fitness advice?

Dries: I did go swimming and running. However, I believe I wasn't using the best approach. The trip leaders showed me how to improve my training schedule and it showed off in the surf. I am still following the same schedule every day if I don’t make it to the surf.

Reflection: This reminds me of a situation that I once experienced with one of my Portuguese instructors. We were on a beach and he asked the group of guys he was teaching: “Are you fit?” The group of fit, muscular chaps replied in choir: “Yes! Very!” Having a twinkle in his eyes, my instructor threw a wink at me and smiled like a little kid laughing up his sleeve. After the surf session ended, the guys were on the beach grasping for air. Looking amused, the instructor punched my shoulder. It was one of the most insightful lessons I would always remember.. Surfing doesn’t require a fitness you can pick up in a gym. It requires practice and commitment in the waves and water.

practice and commitment

TTRide: How was your first week learning the basics with the group? Was it an easy sport to pick up?

Dries: I think we all learned a lot in the first two weeks. Everybody happy and stoked about the early progress. Then probably all of us realised later in the trip that we'd stumble upon a learning roadblock with a steep curve to progress through. As our road-song always taught us though: you just gotta “keep your head up and your heart strong”. So we'd push through to the next level and the increased and shared joy was all the bigger afterwards. Well, let’s just say that’s why I surf.

Reflection: Pushing it to the next level sometimes requires lots of patience, though it is well worth the hassle. One of the great things about surfing; there is always more to learn! Whether it is about oneself, about the waves, about your technique or even life itself. In the meanwhile, never forget to keep enjoying. Remember what you are doing it for in the first place…

a very stoked Dries

TTRide: What was your favourite stop and trip and why?

Dries: That’s hard to tell. South Africa and Mozambique are so different. Let’s put it this way, I don’t think my trip would’ve been whole if I skipped on Mozambique.
My favourite stop.. Ehm, impossible to say really. Coffee bay, being stuck in the jungle and having that beautiful pearl of a beach waiting for some of the most beautiful/exciting surf sessions in my life! No, that was the point in Tofino!? Potentially it was that sunrise and sunset on the waves of Kitchen Windows at J-bay! Definitely the most memorable wave was with my buddy Aaron in Durban. Can I just answer the entire trip? How can you compare stoke? :p

Reflection: As a friend of mine once taught me.. Surfing is beautiful to boot. In what other sport could you just sit at the side of the playing field and watch it change in awe? I never saw a tennis player looking in admiration to his court.

my friend Troy overlooking the surf

TTRide: How would you sum up your TTRide experience?

Dries: One sentence: “Those were the best waves of my life!!” I think it changed my life. Surfing is a big part in my life, but I never had the opportunity to pursue it, living in a small town far away from the coast. Now my dream became my reality. I am able to put in those turns when I want; I can make the paddle out back easily and enjoy the fact that I’m now fit for it. I have new friends for life and memories that I will cherish my entire life. TTRide made me find myself. I feel better in my skin and I will never forget this trip made it so!

Reflection: Surfing is life.

Dries riding a glassy wave

A tribute post to Andy Irons

“I try changing my surfing, which is the absolute worst thing you can do.
Everyone surfs their own way. If I try to surf like someone else I look like a dork.” – Andy Irons

In loving memory of Andy Irons

This is one of those life lessons that perfectly translates to your life outside of surfing. Certainly when you have experienced it yourself during surfing.

For me, the moment when I tried to change my surfing is when someone told me: "Hey, man! You look like you could be a regular surfer." So obviously my mind goes wondering if I might be one of those surfers that has the potential to go both ways. The result: I get to the beach with my board, I strap the leash on the wrong side of my ankle and I give it a go. This resulted in me setting myself back for what was months worth of practice. I just couldn't do it. On top of that, it messed so much with my head that I started jumping up with the wrong foot forward. If there's a surfing position in between regular and goofy, it's planting your both feet in the middle of the board and face-planting your head on the nose of your board.

“If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein (also tribute to this guy.)

I am goofy and proud of it!

Surfing the Shamrocks

Surfing the Shamrocks

It's Monday morning 5am. I'm getting up to catch a bus to Garretstown. The one spot I researched to have some waves and a surfschool that could hook me up with a surfboard & wetsuit to fit the conditions: It's October in Ireland and I thought it'd be a good time to put another country on the list of places I have surfed...

Little did I know that nobody wants to surf in Ireland in October. Apparently all surf rentals are closed. Hope remained though and I was riding that bus in hopes of catching a break.

The busdrive was magical. The bus driver stopped at random places to let people on and off. At some point he stopped and ran to get an icecream. I mean, why not right? When we arrived at the stop, I figured I ask this kind soul how I can get to the surf rental... His response I'll never forget:

"You want to go surf right now? Well, you could try to walk to the place you're looking to rent a surfboard from, but it'll most likely be closed. You need to walk straight for half an hour... then you need to take a right. If you miss the right, you're basically lost."

It was at this stage I started losing hope. I figured my endeavors were futile and I perhaps should give up on my surf expedition... I think the driver saw the confusion in my eyese when he was passing along his directions and so he came up with something even better.

"Sit tight, I'm gonna have a little break now... but you're more than welcome to stay on the bus and I'll try to give the guys a call later. I don't have their number, but someone might just jump on the bus and have advice."

Can you believe it? Here I was, pretty much lost in Ireland and this driver offers his company during his break time to figure this one out with me. He says he surfs a little once in a while himself and he knows there might be other spots too. A little while later, people start jumping on the bus and the driver's break is over. He starts litteraly questioning every single person who jumped on the bus if they surf and/or if they know the number of the surf rental I wanted to go to. With success! A girl had the number, and a phone call later we have the owner on the line. He mentions that the store is closed, but if I came from that far for a surf sesh, he was gonna do everything in his power to get me in the water!

This is where the bus driver offers to drive me all the way back to where I started. When we got back, the driver gave me directions to a surf store where there's another guy who'll give me further directions. The bus driver stops me on the way out after I thanked him for all his help and asked what I owed him for the bus ride back...

"You know what? Show me your ticket... Hmm, I see, it's not stamped. Just go back to the bus station and tell the clerck you made a mistake on your ticket purchase and he'll give you your money back!"

I couldn't believe it. Here I was, thinking I made a massive mistake getting on this 5am bus to go surf with little to no chances of actually catching a wave and I meet these amazing guides who just send me along the way... always getting a little closer to my goal. All I needed was a little patience and trust that it will all work out.

We arrive at the store and I explain my story so far to the lady at the counter. She laughs and tells me to sit tight. The owner of the store will drop by and will need to drive his girl to school. He'll take you along for the ride and drop you off at his surf spot. He'll lend you the gear you need and his wife will drop by after your session to pick you up and drop you off at the bus station to go back home!

My Ride: The Red Van

I'm just awestruck. These people went out of their way to help me get into the water. When we arrive at the surf spot, the store owner wishess me a good session and informs me his wife will meet me in 2 hours. I'm all alone now. I'm thinking what did I get myself into? I've never surfed this spot and one of the rules is to never surf alone. I check the conditions and it seems brutal. I got a winter wetsuit, gloves, booties and a hood to protect me from the cold. I check how to get in the water. I trust the guy claiming it's safe. I go in and I have one of the roughest surf sessions I had in my life.

All Set: gloves, boots, hoodie

I'm basically struggling to catch a wave and I felt there was this rip that was just not safe. After a few tries, I decide I call it quits and get out. I'm surounded by a flock of birds swarming around in the evening sun. It has been a long day. The session was rough but satisfying. At this point, two other surfers came out and they jump in the water. The rip I was afraid of was actually a perfect little rip that helped them out and pushed them into the perfect spot. It was amazing to look at. If I had more energy left, I would've joined, but I was grateful for the lesson. It's always better to be with other surfers or at least know the spot. I'm happy with my feet in the sand and ready for a good night rest, content I could cross surfing in Ireland off the list.

Surf in Ireland Flock of Birds

This is where my ride came in. The store owner's wife dropped me off in town and told me I best wait in the only bar in town no to get cold. The bus stop was just right outside. The day was not done with me yet and the night only just began.

Pub Guiness

I go in and I see 4 senior men at the bar stools. Figuring it would be nicer to sit at the bar rather than at a table on my own, I take a seat a few seats away from them and order a Guiness. Of course these locals knew what was going on... A stranger on an odd night in their bar? We need to invite this guy over to join us! This is were I met Gerard and the guys. Gerard was a pheasant hunter and we bonded quickly as I informed him about my grandfather being called Gerard. The guys quickly started buying me beers and Gerard told me about his grandson my age. At some point, he runs outside and he proudly presents the bounty of the day.

Gerard the Pheasant Hunter

I'm having such a good time, I realize I have to get going not to miss my bus. A few moments later... Gerard stepped out. He looks at me with what I can only describe as lots of emotions in his eyes. He walks to me, wordless... and shakes my hand. When I realized he put a FIFTHY euro bill in my hand and looked up to ask why? He just shook his head, nodded and walked back into the bar.

I can only explain it to myself until today that he thought I was a tired lonely traveler, who could use the money more than he did and he probably hoped that one day, when his grandson was out there in a position like my own... his kindness he showed to me would be passed onto his grandson by another. To this day, I will always remember Gerard and will treasure his sentiment to pay it forward when I'm old and a kid could use a miracle, or in my case, just a kind soul who just made his day unbelievable.

"May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours that stay with you all the year long." – Irish Blessing