Mentro 21. No hero’s welcome, just a cold car park and small dog. Caswell, Gower November 2015.

DimExcuses Caswell

So I did it, completed my #Mentro21 challenge to surf 21 times this year. I was cutting it close though. We have been enjoying an unseasonably mild autumn, but this week saw a sudden change to the cold air that we should have been having. Overnight temperatures reaching freezing and not seeing anywhere near double figures in the day.

Low sun surf

The sea is still a forgiving twelve degrees Celsius. So mindful of that I still needed that twenty first surf and the water, weather is only going to get colder and the days shorter, I headed to Caswell Bay, Gower to finish the challenge.

Sharon and Molly

My girlfriend Sharon came along and took most of these photos, you can follow her on twitter @WarmSand1. Of course Molly our french bulldog was with us too, and she followed me straight into the sea with her friend here. The low autumn sun was spectacular but a real pain for photos and looking out to sea for waves.

Molly DimExcuses Caswell

The water really wasn’t that cold, it is the air that is now a problem. The bright sun helped but only brought the air to a whole seven degrees.

Caswell Gower

Molly was still quite happy in the water, having a bit of a paddle.

Molly Caswell

But she soon got pretty cold.

Molly Apres Surf

Heading back to the van for a rub down and a fleece blanket wrap.

Molly French Bulldog

I still had a few waves to catch.

DimExcuses Caswell

The last in the water.

Last One Out

So there it is the completion of my #Mentro21 project. No fanfare, no hero’s welcome, just me, Sharon, a small dog, a big van and a cold car park. At that is generally how it is surfing in Wales.  But it will soon be spring and we will be doing it all over again. I have come a long way from Mentro 1, way back in April. But then again the sea wasn’t that cold today, could I get in again this year? Cold water surfing, DimExcuses.

Mentro 20. Surfing All Saints Day, Rhossili Bay, Gower 1st November 2015.

Surfing All Saints Day

It is the 1st November already, All Saints Day, or as it used to be known All Hallows Day. Which is why it is preceded by All Hallows Eve, or as it is called now Halloween. Well it is here and El Nino has let Gower have some unseasonable sun and warm weather.

Rhossili Bay 1st November

With water temperatures still cool rather than cold I headed for Rhossili Bay, Gower and the first of the winter swells.

Misty Rhossili

As well as the unusual weather we also had an unusual south easterly wind, which means offshore winds and clean blue lines. Perfect accompaniment to that solid winter swell.

Surf Rhossili

I managed to join fellow Gower surfer and South Wales surf twitterer Paul (@b_bstephens on twitter). He was getting a lot of waves in the clean conditions. We were surfing on the falling tide and the wind was increasing as we lost the cover of Rhossili headland.

Low tide Rhossili Bay, Gower

The sun had brought the autumn tourists out and the car park was a lot busier than when I took a similar photo of my board in a previous autumn visit to Rhossili Bay, Gower.

Rhossili Bay Car Park

With the sun out and the air so warm for autumn some people were making the most of the Worms Head Hotel beer garden, and there were plenty of surfers to entertain them below.

Worms Head Hotel

The strange weather soon saw an eerie sea mist descend on the horizon. Unusual autumn conditions indeed.

Sea Mist Rhossili Gower

Great weather, great surf and the winter chill is still staying away. El Nino is growing on me.

Gower Surfing

So this was Mentro 20 in my #Mentro21 challenge to surf 21 times this year. Just one more surf to go, DimExcuses.

Mentro 19. Sunset Dreaming, Rhossili, Gower 11th October 2015

Wormshead Sunset

On Thursday I surfed Rhossili Bay as the sun started to set.  Three days later I was back there, slightly later in the day and with the days now a fraction shorter. The result of which was surfing even closer to the Autumn sunset. This was the 19th surf in my #Mentro21 project to surf 21 times this year.

Surf Colt Sunset

Surely the west facing Wormshead at Rhossili has to be one of the best views that you can frame with a sunset. This time I was joined by regular DimExcuses surfer Darren Green, joining me for some one foot glass with a slight breath of offshore wind.

Rhossili Glass

Two hands on the camera meant that some pre-surf selfies could be taken.

Darren Rhossili

Darren above and myself below.

DimExcuses Rhossili

We got an hour and a half in the water making the most of glassy sets that rolled into Rhossili Bay. Large gaps between sets made paddling out an ease.

Blue Lines Rhossili

The shortening Autumn evenings meant that we made our way out of the surf as the sun started to set, producing some fantastic photos after we had changed and packed up.

Rhossili Bay Sunset

We weren’t the only ones taking in the fading light and sunset dreaming.

Sunset Dreaming

A spectacular sunset, even better than last Thursday. Now though we are wearing winter suits and boots surely won’t be far behind. Tomorrow the first frost is forecast and it will be a return to coldwater surfing as I face my last two #Mentro21 surfs, DimExcuses.

 

Mentro 18. Autumn Warmth, Rhossili Bay, Gower 8th October 2015.

Mentro 18 Rhossili

Autumn is like one great big sunset on the year. Surftember moves into October as leaves brown and fall from the trees. It hasn’t been the best summer and even Surftember didn’t live up to its name. El Nino has ruined the party like a drunken ex-boyfriend crashing an engagement do.

Surf Rhossili

But today on Gower, October offered up some post storm swell and some Autumn sun. So I headed for my usual break, Rhossili Bay. The air is cooling but the high thermal inertia of the sea means it is still a summer 14 degrees C. Air and water almost becoming the same temperature. So I notched up my eighteenth (Mentro 18) surf in my #Mentro21 project to surf 21 times this year.

Mentro 18

Having the day off for my birthday, celebrating 42 years since I came kicking and screaming into this world, I decided to spend it kicking, paddling and screaming into some clean two foot sets in the October sun. I either saw a Portuguese Man-o-war type jellyfish or an inflated plastic bag pretending to be a Portuguese Man-o-war jellyfish. Either way I gave it a wide berth. I also got a scare from a large bass that decided to jump a couple of feet out of the water right next to me, as I sat on my board out back.

Clean Rhossili

There was not a breath of wind. A great change for a usually wind blown Gower.  These two had the best seat in the house to watch the waves.

Best Seat in the House Rhossili

The best thing about October surfing is that by late afternoon everything becomes a sunset.

Rhossili Sunset

I had the sea and pretty much the car park to myself, “after the boys of summer have gone” as Don Henly would say.

Gower Sunset

So the sun sets on Mentro 18, leaving three sessions to go to complete the #Mentro21 project, DimExcuses.

 

 

Mentro 17. Even an end has a start, Sker Beach 25th September 2015.

Keeper of the Dunes

You can spot a rubbish made for TV movie by it having two names. “Terror at 30,000 feet – Flight 364GY” or “A bridge too far – the Jessica Long story”. I made those two up, but what I wanted to highlight in a long winded way is that every #Mentro21 post has three names. First it’s mentro number showing how many times I have surfed this year for the Mentro 21 project. Coming from the Welsh word mentro (to venture), Mentro 21 is my effort to surf 21 times this year. Secondly it has an apt title, this time “Even an end has a start”, and finally what beach was surfed and when. This time it was Sker Beach, Bridgend.

Heading for Sker Beach

With five surfs to go for this project the end is in sight but things are changing. A calendar season person or an equinox season person, you have to agree we are now into autumn. Air temperatures are dropping (the sea is still warm) and days are shortening.

This end has a start, and it starts here, this is probably be the last time I will be able to surf from Kenfig National Nature Reserve after work. The last time walking barefoot through the dunes to surf in a summer suit. To get the last four surfs in is going to take weekend days and a return to a winter suit and wetsuit boots.

Keeping the Kenfig Dunes

Again, because of the long walk to the beach I can’t give you any photos from the beach but can give you these shots of the Kenfig reserve in the falling autumn sun, as it sets on the Keeper of the Dunes.

Famously modeled on our former Sustainable Development Officer Gemma McLean, I gave the Keeper a surfboard to look more like the Outdoor Pursuit loving Skokholm lass she is based on.

Starting a lot to look like Gemma

So it looks like shorter days, with October and November surfing guaranteed to complete the #Mentro21 challenge. Somethings should be simple, even an end has a start. Coldwater surfing for me, DimExcuses

Mentro 16. Challenges should be motivating. Rhossili, Gower 13th September 2015.

Mentro 16 Rhossili

What a difference a weekend makes. On Friday I was doubting if I would surf 21 times this year for my #Mentro21 project. Recovering from injury, facing cooling weather and shorter days, a flat start to Surftember was looking to scupper my plans. But a good swell came in on Thursday, and I was able to do the double, intimidating Sker Beach on Friday and a more mellow Rhossili on Sunday.

Unsung Hero

Today was great, some sun, offshore winds and a steady one foot swell. I was joined by Darren Green and Gareth Cook. It is always good to get out in the water with your mates. So two more surfs done, five to go, DimExcuses.

Mentro 15. Challenges should be challenging. Sker Beach 11th September, 2015.

Under the watchful eye of the Keeper of the Dunes

The start of Autumn was like the end of spring. I found myself making the same cloudy, barefoot, half hour walk in a full wetsuit to Sker Beach as I did last May. My plan to venture out into the surf 21 times this year (#Mentro21 Project) had looked so easily achievable, but three weeks injury and two weeks in Greece meant I was now seven surfs off my goal.

Add to this an unseasonal flat spell, shortening days and reducing temperatures, I look to be facing an uphill struggle. To make a dent in those seven surfs I planned to go to Sker Beach, Kenfig, Bridgend after work today. The little hints that the surf was good were there all day. Spot the surfers in these photos of the Kenfig Reserve who have been heading to the breakers all day.

Spot the Kenfig Surfer

It was the best I have ever seen , and ever surfed at Sker Beach (the furthest section of Kenfig Sands). The Nature Reserve’s own break was looking awesome. Great A-frame peaks and a steady offshore wind. The two foot swell was getting a lot of attention. I counted twenty surfers in the water on my way out. Unusal as often I have had the beach to myself.

So one of seven surfs down, six to go before the end of the year. Cold water surfing it is then, mentro allan, DimExcuses.

Mentro 14, Sker gets Scarey. Kenfig, Bridgend 17th July 2015.

Keeper of the Dunes

What a strange day, today was in this unusual July. The weather didn’t know what it was doing and the surf didn’t know what it was doing. Very unsettled and changeable. With a big swell and some onshore wind it wasn’t going to be nice surf anywhere so I went in at Sker Beach, the far end of Kenfig Sands within Kenfig National Nature Reserve. I wrote about #MyGreenSpace Kenfig Nature Reserve here. This was the fourteenth session in my #Mentro21 surf project.

Kenfig

This was the third Friday evening that I surfed Sker Beach, Kenfig on my own. This time there was not a soul there. Not a good sign as there is usually a couple of other surfers braving the half hour walk to get a wave on this massive uncrowded wild Beach.

Kenfig Nature Reserve Parking

No photos of the Beach again as you have to leave everything at Kenfig National Nature Reserve Centre before making the long sandy walk through the Dunes. On the plus side there is loads of free parking at the Centre and it is easy to find from Junction 37 of the M4.

Signpost to Sker Beach

The large oak Keeper of the Dunes will point you on your way to the Beach.

Kenfig Keeper

The surf was messy, windy and a good three foot. On your own that is big dark and scarey. The surf was as wild and raw as the the scarweather Sker beach is itself. It is a long hard walk to that beach, but if you get there you get a wide wild Bay pretty much to yourself. There might be one or two other surfers there, and one of them might be me, DimExcuses.

Mentro 13, like surfing in laverbread. Caswell, Gower July 2015.

Caswell Bay

I needed a good day surfing, last Saturday at Rhossili I had a poor session and needed to get back on the horse. With similar if not bigger surf and wind this weekend, I roped in Darren Green and we headed for Caswell Bay, Gower.

Darren Green

Caswell is the most accessible Beach on Gower. It has an car park just off the Beach, bus routes from Swansea City Centre and concrete surfaces almost to the top of the Beach. Toilets, cafe and shops means it caters for everyone, especially learner surfers with a consistent medium wave pushing into a safe sandy beach.

DimExcuses Caswell

It doesn’t offer epic surf that often but is pretty much assured of a good fun session all year round. We caught it two hours before low tide and loads of small jellyfish were everywhere. Those little scotch pancake looking ones with the four little pink squares inside (sorry I am no marine biologist). If you like scoping up four of those little guys on every paddle stroke, today’s surf would have been right up your street.

Like surfing laverbread

Also as the tide pushed everything into the smaller and smaller Bay as it was funneled by the rising tide, seaweed was everywhere, like surfing in laverbread (the Welsh delicacy, look it up or order a Welsh breakfast to try it).

Caswell Gower

But every Beach has its day and today was Caswell’s day. A consistent two foot swell pumped in, with a much needed gap between sets. This has to be in the top five times I have surfed Caswell, and I will put up with jellyfish and laverbread for that, DimExcuses.

Mentro 11 Kenfig Sands & Mentro 12 Rhossili. A tale of two beaches.

Kenfig NNR

Not really a tale more of a quick update. No #Mentro21 project updates for over a week, and then like buses two come at once. The #Mentro21 project to go surfing twenty one times this year is going really well, I am half way now.

Rhossili Head

Just like the week before last, I got a surf in at Sker Beach, Kenfig Sands (Mentro 9) on Friday night after work and then made it to Rhossili Bay, Gower (Mentro 10) on the Saturday. The long walk from Kenfig National Nature Reserve Centre to Sker Beach I have been doing on my own, bare foot and in my wetsuit. It takes half an hour and means I can’t take my camera for any beach shots. You will have to make do with Kenfig pool and its famous tree.

Kenfig Pool Tree

To find out more about Kenfig National Nature Reserve read the #MyGreenSpace post from a couple of weeks ago.

It was quite small at Sker Beach and overcast, but I got a few waves. It was interesting to see the pebble beds at low tide so that I now know where they are and can avoid them. Sker isn’t a totally sandy beach and walking over the peoples underwater can be tricky. But what a difference a day makes! The next day Rhossili was a bit on the big side with a horrible onshore wind messing everything up.

Rhossili Bay

The sun was out and it was the National Trust Big Beach Picnic so the carpark, headland and Beach were really busy. The Trust have been really making the most of Rhossili since buying the car park. The pinic looked like a great event and these four got the prime picnic spot!

National Trust Big Beach Picnic

A great day but not the best surf. Well at least I ‘mentro allan’, ventured out. Twelve surfs down, nine to go, DimExcuses.