Surf Kayaking – Porthcawl – 12th February 2011
I was supposed to be going to Scotland this weekend (and last) for some ski-touring in the Cairngorms. The weather forecast looked pretty poor and its a long way to drive from Hereford to sit and watch it rain so decided to bail out. Fortunately the forecast on Magic Seaweed looked good so I thought it was time for the first surf of the year and the chance to play with my new Go Pro HD Helmet Hero camera. It’s a small camcorder that you can fit to a head/chest harness or to a helmet or to a surf-board or boat and comes with a waterproof shell. I’ve had it a couple of weeks and been dying to give it a go. I’ll post a full review when I’ve had a few goes with it and I can do it justice.
I was heading for Rest Bay a couple of miles NW of Porthcawl on the South Wales coast near Port Talbot. I tried it out last year and it’s a really nice spot with some great waves (although the water is a bit murky). There is a limestone pavement right on the beach and extremely sharp rocks they are too. The tide comes in right up to the rocks making surfing an edgy business at high tide. When I got there the tide was indeed full in and there was a surf competition in full flow. Combined with the fact the waves looked huge and scary I decided to give the main beach at Porthcawl a try.
Porthcawl main beach
Porthcawl main beach
A good decision. The waves were much more manageable, big enough to give some sport without being so big they would capsize me or make it tough to get past the breaking waves. Despite it being near the town the beach was quiet with only a few other surfers out and no-one else on a kayak. It was a lovely sunny afternoon so it was time to get kitted up and hit the waves
I have to admit I was a little nervous using the new camcorder for the first time. Is it as waterproof as the makers claim? Will I lose it in the waves? How big a clown do I look with a small camera stuck on top of my helmet. Shouldn’t have worried. The camera is indeed 100% waterproof and the adhesive that sticks the fittings to helmet is bomb-proof. Had a great time catching some lovely clean waves and playing with the camera. The water is pretty cold this time of year but apart from numb feet I was never cold, not even sitting on the beach taking a well earned rest. After the grim weather of late it was great to get back into the outdoors on such a lovely spring day. I’ve got the surfing bug bad again now so I’ll be watching the forecasts with keen eyes. J, D and L thought it would be too cold to come with me but they would have been fine and there were quite a few families enjoying this fine day.
When I got home I was well pleased with my film-making efforts. Apart from positioning the camera pointing a bit too high the results are great and the HD picture amazing on my TV. It will need some practice to get the angles right and using the alternative fixing methods (on the front of the boat, chest harness) but I’m really looking forward to capturing my efforts. I hoping to try and do some clever stuff with the video clips, putting soundtracks on etc but in the meantime I’ve posted a short clip up on YouTube:
I’ll put up some more footage in the next few weeks as I earn my video editing spurs
Skiing – Val Thorens – 14th to 18th January 2011
I love my skiing but lack of holiday time and my devotion to my family (in case J, D and L read this) means I can’t really take a whole week. However thanks to Quesy-Jet, and with a commitment to endless hours of driving and loss of sleep you can fly out on a Friday night get 4 days skiing in and fly back on Tuesday night. Oh and of course you need some generous mates to go for the whole week so you can sleep on their apartment sofa bed! (thanks to UF and GM)
So, it was a late January, Friday afternoon drive to Luton and a flight to Geneva accompanied by Mad Malcs (MM). Joined Uncle Fester (UF) and Geordie Munro (GM) in a well-hidden hotel in Moutiers. I’m sure they appreciated being woken up at 11:30pm. MM lost the toss and got the floor! Up in the resort and on the slopes just after 9 the next day to find almost no new snow and orange squash rather than champage powder. It was also amazingly warm even at 2500m and we all regretted the extra layers of clothing and in UF and GM’s case their new helmets. There is nothing in my head worth damaging so I stay helmet-free
MM, UF, GM basking in the sunshine
Whilst the off-piste was cruddy and rubbly and not worth the trouble, the on piste skiing, at least high up was great in place and horrendously icy or bare in others. On previous trips we’ve always had fresh snow but not this trip. However it was great just to be out in the sunshine and on skis.
UF & GM on David Duchovny run above Les Menuires
Always got to find time for a vin-chaud or a chocolate-chaud during a hard days skiing
GM, UF, MM basking in the sunshine
And when I say a hard days skiing – we are truly a sad bunch. Always trying to maximise the amount of skiing in a day (worked out by sitting down at the end of the day and adding up all the lift ascents, we even wrote a spreadsheet to work it out once – as I said – sad!), anything less than 11,000m is considered unworthy. MM managed over 12k a couple of trips back but we never got close to that this time. I felt we were held up constant whingeing by GM about his legs and by UF (or Captain Slow as he’s known on the slopes) trundling down. My tendency to ski way faster than my ability should dictate clocks my metres up although at least I’ve eliminated the kamikaze, cartwheel falls of my early days. MM is, well, just mad
Whilst we never heard the pitter-patter of tiny snowflakes the weather was superb. Got some glorious late shots of the moon and setting sun. I’m never happier than on skis, looking at the panorama of snow-capped peaks under a clear blue sky – makes you feel good to be alive – or some b******s like that!
Sunset over Cime de Caron and La Masse
Moon over Trois Vallees 1 Lift
Mont Blanc from top of Bouquetins lift
We also like to play about with video footage although pretty amatuerishly with handheld cameras. However it does capture some classic moments like the following You Tube clip – GM taking a video of yours truly, who spent so much of his visual effort on making sure he was in shot and looking good that he forgot to ski. Bad publicity is better than no publicity I suppose
GM has also tried his hand at video editing so here’s his entry for the “Best Winter Sports Short Film” Oscar:
The flat in Val Thorens was pretty good by French ski accommodation standards. Mind you when you get to our age, after a “hard days skiing” (see above) it’s all we can do to sit down, moan and groan about the bits that hurt, eat and sleep so no need for that much space. No Apres-Ski for us. As GM once put it “I’ve happened”
So all in all me and MM got 4 full days skiing in before heading back to Geneva, Luton and home in Hereford by 1:30am – thanks QuesyJet for keeping to the flight schedule for a change and to our rather low-key yet friendly and efficient car hire firm. It is mad, but it’s well worth it. Roll on Winter 2012!
Well, having felt inspired to write a blog for over two years now I’ve finally done it!
My mate ED (short for Evil Doctor – a somewhat bizarre nickname from our now distant University years) has been writing an excellent blog for a few years now and I’ve decided to give it go. His blog Beating the Bounds is in my links section if you want to pop over and take a look. Whilst I don’t think I can match his literary prowess or photographic ability, I’ve always wanted to share my experiences of the outdoors, inspire others, and provide the sort of information resource and ideas for this sort that I’m always trawling the web for.
I’m hoping to post regularly about exploits walking, skiing and kayaking and about the numerous day-trips and holidays we take with the family and include some photos to whet the appetite and hope at least some people may find it interesting. I might go back in time and post some stuf I’ve done over the last year so I can practice this blogging stuff and give an idea what I’d like to do. I’ll post a load of photos (my Flickr Feed is on the left) and some video – I’ve just bought myself a new HD HeadCam that’s waterproof so watch out for some ski and kayak action!
Happy reading to one and all!!