Gower Surf Skills Weekend, April 2023

Last weekend we had a great turnout of fourteen for a surf skills trip on the Gower in South Wales. Previous attempts to organise a surf skills trip had been postponed because of poor conditions – too calm the first two times on the South coast, and then too rough on the Gower in the autumn. This time, however, the weather worked out and we had a successful trip. 

Liza arranged accommodation for us in the Eastern Slade Barn, and we converged there on Friday night, having picked up boats, equipment and passengers at the arches. On arrival Yossi prepared an amazing vegetarian focaccia for everyone, accompanied by Gilly’s fantastic foraged salad. 

Yossi’s Famous Focaccia

On Saturday we drove to Caswell Bay to meet the local coaches – Chris, Kay and Paul from Vale Paddle Sports. It was just past full tide, and Chris confirmed the swell of 30-60cm would be good for learning to surf. We unloaded the boats and Chris talked us through surfing in to shore – waiting perpendicular to the waves and when a wave comes, paddle very fast (“PLF”) trying to stay perpendicular. If the boat starts to turn, it’s almost impossible to keep on track, and the boat turns parallel to the wave but by low-bracing in the incoming wave one can stay upright and “Bongo slide” in to the shore. 

Bongo Bandit #1
Bongo Bandit #2

We practised this, taking it in turns to surf in to the beach and paddle out again, with Kay helping to retrieve those of us who capsized, and Chris and Paul giving pointers and demonstrations from their kayaks. At times we had to share the beach with groups of surfers or swimmers, but the retreating tide gave more space. 

Rock Hopping

As the surf was diminishing, after retrieving our lunch from the cars, Chris suggested we paddle out to Pwlldu (pronounced “puffty”) headland for which we split into two groups, rock-hopping below the cliffs. We sheltered from the wind at the edge of the beach as we ate our lunch, and were joined by Alex and Olwen who’d been kayaking in the tide race further East. After lunch we split into three groups, each led by CKC members. One group returned to our start point, and the other two first paddled across the bay and around the headland to Langland Bay where we were able to practise some more surfing. 

Finally we paddled back to Caswell Bay and as it was now low tide, we had a long portage up the beach, helped by kayak trolleys. We were done by 4pm and had time to return to the bunk house for a shower before going to the Ship Inn at Port Eynon for dinner and drinks, followed by a discussion of forecasts and plans for the next day.

Rhossili Beach

The next morning we had time to have an excellent full cooked breakfast and finalised a plan to practice our skills on the west-facing Rhossili beach. We packed up and left the bunk house, driving to Hill End car park  where we portaged our boats through the dunes to find a wide beach with plenty of surfers enjoying the substantial surf.

As we assembled near the water’s edge, the surf seemed quite intimidating. The more experienced members explained how to paddle out through larger waves – getting as much speed as possible, holding the paddle pointing into the wave to cut through it, and keeping your face protected in case the wave does catch the paddle. Rich managed to get through the waves, but for the rest of us the surf was too high and after a couple of capsizes the rest of us paddled  South through the shallows to where the waves were smaller. There we had fun trying to get out through the breakers and then surf back in without tipping over. After an hour or so we paddled and portaged back to the cars and headed home, exhausted but happy to have had a great weekend of paddling and learning.

Thanks to Liza for planning and organizing the trip and to everyone else for making the trip work out – from car-sharing and transporting boats to cooking. 

All the Bongo Bandits

You can watch a short video of the CKC South Wales Surf Weekend here:

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