Apologies to Eddie Aikau for the dreadful pun, but when I called Andy from airhead first thing Sunday morning, the first thing he said was "its on". That does not sound that remarkable until you consider that outside it was blowing a blizzard. Global warming had firmly taken a hold last week in the UK with everyone in t-shirts, and when I woke up at 6.00am on Sunday, it looked dry and bright. As I was logging onto the PC to check out what time we were all meeting a very gray cloud appeared on the horizon and the snow started falling. I have never seen so much snow in such a short time especially on the South Coast of the UK
I was thinking that I might give this event a miss as I was abit worried about getting over to Rustington in one piece, but throwing caution to the wind I put the paddle and wet suit in the car and headed on over, passing about 3 ambulances that were attending accidents as cars skidded off the road.
When I arrived at the beach the first person I bumped into was Bill from Jimmy Lewis, who was laughing at the madness of it all. I took afew shots of Pete Shiplee and the other brave souls out on the water then thought, why not ? and got my wetsuit on. The next task was finding a board, they were rapidly disappearing from view under the falling snow. Its the first time in my life that I have had to clear the snow off any kind of surf board before I could ride it, you couldn't help but smile.
It was actually a lot of fun out on the water, really silent in a weird way as the snow seemed to soften sound. I tried out the latest boards from Oxbow, Southpoint, Jimmy Lewis and Starboard. All very different in their own way. I did spend quite a long time falling into the water as I was trying to find the balance points on the various different boards, and it was much warmer underwater than standing on the board, but I was very glad I bought my wetsuit hood.
At some point we decided to have a paddle race round one of the markers at the end of a groyne, which was fun for the people on sub 10ft boards, luckily I was on a starboard 11' 2'' and it seems to glide really well.
The guy that won on the Southpoint board did not have gloves or booties on. Now that is hardcore. He had snow on his feet that was not melting, so they must have been very cold.
The Starboard and Jimmy Lewis boards were the ones I was most impressed with, especially the new Jimmy Lewis 10'6", as I used to have the 11' and the 10'6'' looks like a miniature version . It was a shame that there were no waves as I would have loved to get the starboard fish into the surf, at 9'6'' it is surprisingly stable. It certain feels like it would be a great board in the waves.
After a snowball fight (paddles make excellent launchers for snow balls - and stand up paddle boarders make excellent targets), and after a snowman was taken out for a ride on a SUP board, I decided that it was time to come in. The guys from Airhead really looked after everyone with warm ups of tea and flapjacks (thanks pobbles).
In my mind I kept thinking about all those board reviews you read about in Hawaii, with the palm trees gently swaying in the breeze and everybody in shorts and slaps. I came to the conclusion that the UK is a very different scene, but in the same way it still united a bunch of people who love the sea and love stand up paddle surfing, and will get out there what ever it takes.