Riders on the Storm 2017.

Every now and then the weather is just too bad for surfing the usual breaks and you have to find a sheltered bay and just ride it out. Sometimes these storm days are the most fun.

With high winds, heavy rain, very unsettled weather and a big swell this weekend, surfing Rhossilli or Llangenith just wasn’t an option.

So we headed to Caswell Bay during a lull in the storm to surf the steep powerful waves coming in. It was short boards and bodyboards only, with fast suicide drops into these steep closing out waves.

I was joined by Sharon, Fin and our trusty waterproof Nikon S33 camera.

No Molly this time as dogs are still not allowed on Caswell Beach until the end of the month. For full details on the Swansea and Gower Summer dog bans click here.

It was a really wet afternoon, but rain doesn’t really matter when you are surfing, and we had plenty of sunny spells.

It was more a day for the bodyboard, but the short board drops were serious fun, even though most drops turned into wipeouts.

Fin was taking the bodyboard all the way to the shore in the powerful white water.

The storm force waves really teach young surfers about the power of the waves. It is great to see someone concentrating on the conditions and learning a lot.

I like to pass the baton down to the next generation of Wild West Wales Surfers.

I love that sharing of the enjoyment of just being in the sea and the infectious fun of surfing. The best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun.

These powerful waves were small but really good fun.

The waves were impressive in shape as the walls rose up.

We really enjoyed and it was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.

I never regret getting in the water no matter what the conditions. Hopefully I will get in a lot more as Surftember turns into October, DimExcuses.

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Finding Our Epic. End of Summer 2016.

Find Your Epic

Find your epic, was the challenge set out by Visit Wales this Summer. They asked people to photograph great things around Wales and post those photos with the hashtag #FindYourEpic.

#findyourepic

To increase awareness of this marketing campaign Visit Wales had a giant Epic Sign made and placed at breathtaking venues around Wales. Controversial maybe, but shouldn’t all social media campaigns encourage debate? Like Porthcawl’s #SelfieBench. The one thing you have to agree about this sign though is at its massive size, is certainly is epic. Here I have added Grant and Andrea for scale.

DimExcuses #FindYourEpic

Returning to Rhossili for more surfing with the Halpin-Jones clan, a two foot swell with a slight sideshore wind and blazing sun meant we were going to find our South Wales Epic with or without a giant sign.

find your epic surf at Rhossili Gower

The waves were pretty epic, and as always so was the Rhossili view.

Rhossili View

We had to get straight down to the beach and catch some waves.

findyourepic surf

My waterproof camera coming in really useful again.

Epic DimExcuses

Some really epic waves were to be had in the end of summer sun.

Surf DimExcuses

If you really want to find your epic, the view of Wormshead from the sun soaked, surf line up, has to be a contender.

Find Your Epic Wormshead

Exhausting work, this finding your epic.

DimExcuses Shattered

The endless supply of good waves to surf was taking its tole.

Epic

Line after line was rolling into Rhossili Bay. Forming classic Gower blue lines like corduroy.

Gower Blue Lines

You always have to get just one more last wave.

Surf Gower

But with the tide going out, that long walk back up the cliff was looming over us, and it was time to get back to the car park.

Low tide Rhossili

We had a prime spot in the bottom field, with our vans having an unblocked view of Wormshead.

DimExcuses VW

The whole crew wanted a #FindYourEpic selfie in front of the Epic Sign.

Epic DimExcuses Crew

Even Sharon and I had to get our picture by the sign, Molly will be gutted she missed this adventure.

Mark & Sharon, DimExcuses

The great thing about this time of year, is by the time you have finished surfing and had a bit of a chill out in the field, the sun starts to go down on the icon Wormshead. Being the furthest west point in Gower there is nothing between Wormshead and the sunset.

sunset at Wormshead

Truly epic.

Epic Wormshead

So we found our epic, now go and find yours, DimExcuses.

Riding More, Rhossili 20th & 21st August 2016. #RideMore

DimExcuses Surf Rhossili

August has been a great month for surfing. In my mission to just simply #RideMore I managed to get down Rhossili Bay, Gower on both Saturday and Sunday, 20th & 21st of August 2016.

Rhossili, Gower August 2016

The Saturday had a consistent swell, but it was slightly windy. Apart from the wind it was fun in the sun and definitely worth getting in the water. It must have been perfect conditions (10 mph onshore wind) for paragliding as there were loads of them in the air, launching off Rhossili Down. Look closely below, I don’t know how those paragliders don’t hit each other?

Paragliding Rhossili Gower August 2016

I was joined by regular DimExcuses surfer Darren Green, keen to get some use out of his new 7’6″ mini-mal.

DimExcusesSurf Rhossili

A busy summer day meant that the bottom field was open as a car park, which is my preferred base when surfing Rhossili. We had a few obligatory car park photographs before taking the long walk down to the beach below.

Mark Blackmore DimExcuses

We had a good two hours in the water and we were super stoked. So I was really pleased when I got a chance to return the next day with my girlfriend Sharon’s family to collectively surf Rhossili again. It was a great chance to continue teaching the kids to surf.

Teaching the kids to surf

The surf had dropped off slightly, but the wind had also dropped making perfect conditions for learning with perfect small waves coming into Rhossili Bay in straight blue lines.

Blue Lines Rhossili

And as always we were flanked by the impressive Wormshead.

Wormshead Rhossili Gower

Molly my French Bulldog cross joined us, taking charge from the camper van…

Molly at Wormshead

…and checking out the surf from the car park.

Bulldog Surf watch Rhossili Bay

Again we got our favorite basecamp spot in the lower car park because it has possibly the best view of Wormshead without actually walking out to the Coastguard Station.

Big Landmark, Small Bulldog, Rhossili August 2016

There are clear views to the North too, giving Molly a great view of Burry Holms and Pembrey beyond.

Gower Bulldog

Enough of the headland, we were soon down on the beach and in the water. Everyone was getting their share of waves.

Surfing Rhossili

Including me.

DimExcuses Surf

The great thing about surfing at Rhossili is the magnificent view of Rhossili Down rising up above the beach. This is the natural beauty that Gower is so well known for.

Surfing Rhossili #RideMore

It is probably best to look where you are going though and save the view for the walk back up afterwards.

Catching that wave

Molly insisted on getting in the mix, dragging her stick into the waves.

Rhossili Waves

All the time we were catching waves we were in the shadow of Wormshead.

DimEXcuses Surf Gower

Even when just chilling out back.

Chilling Out Back Wormshead

Weary from a long surf it was just a case of doing that punishing walk back up to the car park.

DimExcuses & Dog

A great weekend surfing, I am definitely riding more, and I hope to #RideMore as we go into Autumn, DimExcuses.

#RideMore 4, 5,& 6. Summer 2016.

DimExcuses Surf

It took a while but after making a resolution to just #RideMore (bikes, boards and waves) finally I am out nearly every day. Unfortunately this has meant the blog has suffered and not seen enough updates. So with no more delays here is what I have been doing. A late improvement in summer weather saw me surfing Sker Beach within Kenfig National Nature Reserve. It was the usual hard walk to the remote beach I regularly surf.

How to get to Sker Beach

No photos of the beach this time, but here are some shots of the Nature Reserve.

Kenfig Nature Reserve

Since getting our French Bulldog, Boston Terrier cross, Molly my mountainbike riding has suffered. Her little legs, as fast as they are, can’t keep up with a bike for long. So instead of riding I spend most of my time walking the Gower beaches with Molly. Here she is.

Frenchton Molly

But in August I was able to get out on the bike in Pembrey Country Park. Here is the fine steed.

DimExcusesRide

Molly was not impressed that she was being left out of the adventures.

Dim riding for Molly

Pembrey Country Park is great for a bike ride as it is relatively flat and perfectly positioned on the Millennium Coastal Path, a fantastic bike friendly section of the Wales Coastal Path. There is a viewpoint you can cycle up to and see all the way across to Gower, Rhossili Bay, and Wormshead.

View of Gower from Pembrey Park

Even though Molly didn’t come on the ride she was still as tired as us when we finished riding.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

With a surf and ride under my belt my #RideMore plan was finally starting to come together. Next I headed to Newgale, Pembrokeshire with my girlfriend Sharon’s family. I have surfed Newgale many times, but this time I was teaching the kids and had my waterproof camera with me. Helping the DimExcuses next generation get the bug for surfing.

DimExcuses Surf next gen

Newgale is a great place to learn to surf, with consistent ride-able waves breaking into a safe sandy bay. The best way to teach learners is to push them into waves and let then experience riding the wave all the way in lying down. This helps the learner truly understand what the exhilaration of riding  a wave feels like. To catch a wave you need to be travelling as fast or faster that that wave is moving when it gets to you. Learners often can’t get that speed and a little push can get them on the wave.

Learning to Surf

The kids were keen to learn, look at the concentration on his little face below.

DimExcuses Surf School

It wasn’t long before they were catching waves all on their own.

Surf Newgale

With the surfing stoke passed on to the next generation we sat down to watch a fabulous Pembrokeshire sunset over Newgale Bay.

Newgale Sunset

So two surfs, one ride and a whole load of fun at the end of summer. I also intend to #RideMore as we get into Autumn and my favorite month Surftember, DimExcuses.

#StormWatch. Riding the Storm, Oxwich, Gower 20th August 2016.

Surfing Oxwich Bay

This has been on our #StormWatch radar for over a week. A massive unseasonable storm heading for the UK. Winds over 40 mph, and a ground swell of 12 feet plus. Adding to that there was a high spring tide that threatened storm surge conditions. All of which meant that nearly every Gower break was death on a stick!

Is there surf in Oxwich Bay?

Warnings were in place, surfers were urging people to look out for each other on social media, and the seafront businesses were putting their sea defenses in place. Lessons have be learned from since 2014 when Caswell was decimated by a storm surge (high tide coinciding with a large storm). It is times like these when the only surfing choice is Oxwch Bay, Gower.

Oxwich Surf

You may ask does Oxwich Bay get surf? It is the most fickle beach. It is a sheltered bay that faces south east. That orientation is for rare for a Gower surf beach as most face west or south west. That south east orientation makes Wales’ prevailing south west wind an offshore wind, giving Oxwich tall, steep and hollow waves when it has surf.

Surfing Oxwich August 2016

The problem is that it virtually never ever gets waves. It is so sheltered there is sometimes not even a ripple, which makes it an ideal Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) destination.  There needs to be a 15 foot swell to get a 1 foot wave at Oxwich. This storm was hovering around 11 – 13 foot. The fantastic surf conditions website GowerLive was saying there was just a 0.5 foot wave at Oxwich. That was good enough for me to have a punt.

DimExcuses Surf Oxwich

The fierce offshore wind was pushing the wave faces up and it was more like a consistent 1 foot wave, fast, step and exciting to ride as it closed out hard and heavy. A very rewarding surf.  It was well worth going in. I snagged this hollow face below just as it closed out. My girlfriend Sharon taking this photo just at the right time.

Hollow wave at Oxwich

Now I am looking beyond this storm. The best surf is always after the storm. All the bays should be back to safe conditions with a good swell by Tuesday (23/08/16), so start planning your next session, DimExcuses.

#RideMore 2 & 3, Deeper into Kenfig National Nature Reserve.

Surf Kenfig

The plan back in January was simple, #RideMore this year. It isn’t going well. I have managed three surfs this year, all of which have been at Kenfig Sands. My first surf was #RideMore 1 at Sker Beach, you can read about that here.

To Sker beach

#RideMore 2 was also at Sker Beach which is at the southern end of Kenfig sands. Kenfig sands is a massive beach which runs along the coast of Kenfig National Nature Reserve. It is almost two miles long. Walking to Sker is a good mile too. Here is the beach in all its glory.

Sker Beach

It is a rocky beach but has consistent surf. It has similar surf to Rest Bay but doesn’t have the problem of crowds that Rest has.  Just like Rest Bay it is tide dependent and often gets too high on the rocks to surf at high tide.

Sker, Kenfig Sands

As you move up the beach from Sker, Kenfig Sands gets much less rocky. So for #RideMore 3 I headed further along the coast.

Kenfig Sands

Unfortunately that is a massive hike to undertake. You do get to take in the natural beauty of Kenfig National Nature Reserve as you walk. Moly is keen for me to say that it is orchid season and you can see a range of orchids at Kenfig. If you are lucky you may see a rare Fen Orchid. Here is a Southern Marsh Orchid Molly spotted further down the coast in Newton, Porthcawl.

Molly spots a Southern Marsh Orchid

Orchids aside, there is a haul road that runs along the coast from Sker Beach that can be used to access any point on Kenfig Sands, it all depends how far you want to walk. Kenfig is a massive sand dune ecosystem so dunes often block your view of the beach.

IMG_20160506_145323-01_wm

Luckily National Resources Wales has been doing some serious dune rejuvenation works in the area, digging through some of the larger dunes. This gives great points to access the beach. I went in here.

Kenfig Dunes

I caught it when the tide was too high, but it was surfable. It was steep like a French shore break. I would like to try and surf there several hours either side of high tide. The steepness of the beach at high tide meant that in about twenty metres you went from neck deep to ankle deep. Not good for your board, or body, seeing as I sprained my wrist in the shallows. An injury that has really set back my plan to #RideMore.

Kenfig DimExcuses

I am into three weeks of RICE (rest, ice, compression & elevation) and hope to be back in the water next weekend. In the meantime there is always orchid spotting.

Tongue Out Molly

The plan is to hike even further down the beach next time, DimExcuses.

#RideMore 1. First surf of the year, Sker beach 20th May 2016.

Surfing Kenfig

Shockingly I haven’t surfed this year before today!  A cold spring and just a busy life has kept me out of the sea. Back in January several us decided that we should try and surf, ride and snowboard as much as we can this year. Replacing the #Mentro21 challenge where I set out to surf 21 times last year, this year there is no target, just an attempt to #RideMore.

Kenfig NNR

So today I did get in the water at Sker beach, Kenfig, Bridgend. This involves a half hour walk in a wetsuit from Kenfig National Nature Reserve Centre to the beach. So I can’t take any photo at the beach. So you just get these few shots at the reserve centre.

Kenfig Dunes

The weather was cloudy and surf a messy 2 foot on a incoming high tide. The water is warming, but a winter suit, boots and gloves meant the surfing was a hard slog, especially if you are rusty from a winter off. I basically had an hour long kicking from the sea broken up by three good rides. Plenty to build on as I get into my quest to #RideMore. I had better get back out there quick, DimExcuses.

Stormwatch. After the wind drops the surf rises up. Langland / Caswell 2nd January 2016.

StormWatch Langland

Rain, rain and more rain as storm after storm hits the UK and temperatures refuse to drop to anyway near average temperatures for this time of year. Coupled with high winds the weather has not been good for getting out and about in South Wales.  As always I have been on the StormWatch, especially on the DimExcuses Christmas Coastal Walk earlier in the week when I saw Caswell Bay had yet again got a bit of a hammering. Nothing like when Caswell  was devastated in January 2014,  thankfully the storm protection measures put in since then seem to be holding up.

DimExcuses Surf Langland

But yesterday (the second day in January 2016) was a respite from the recent storm generated wind and rain. Spotting a good few hours of decent weather Sharon, Molly and I headed down to Rotherslade Bay, to walk around to Langland and Caswell Bay. You can follow our route on Strava here.  Before we had even left the car, we could see that the massive storm swell was still here, but now with no wind to spoil those big peaks and they were coming into Langland in beautiful massive straight lines.

StormWatch Caswell

Caswell Bay was no different with plenty of surfers in the water due to the above average temperatures. There was a 10 degree air temperature which matched the 10 degree water temperature. The sun even came out for a bit and with no wind it felt more like 13 or 14 degrees.  The beach at Caswell looked more like late autumn or early spring with families playing games and having BBQs. There were people in short sleeves, some in shorts, and even some bare foot walkers dipping their toes in.

Mild Winter on Gower 2016

It really is quite worrying. I recall Halloween 2008 when it was barely over 2 degrees for that last week in October and the Halloween night itself. Or there was the freezing winter of 2010 when it did not go over zero degrees on Christmas Day, and it wasn’t until March that we got temperatures even approaching 9 degrees. This winter we have only seen one frost and temperatures barely left double figures throughout December.

Storm Surf Langland Gower

By mid afternoon the word was out, GowerLive was posting some impressive video and surfers were coming down in droves. Langland was looking really busy with a full line up scrabbling for their go at the straight lines. A great afternoon and the 7km walk was just what was needed for Molly the French Bulldog who has been going stir crazy in this poor weather. With more storms forecast we will be continuing to keep up our StormWatch, watch this space, DimExcuses.

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.

StormWatch, Langland Bay Going Off, 7th November 2015

Langland Surf

The winter weather may not be here yet, but the winter swells certainly are. Molly and I were in full on StormWatch mode today heading to Langland Bay, Gower to see a full line up scramble for some seriously pumping surf on the rising tide.

Molly Langland

Molly was straight in the waves, she is such a surf bulldog.

Surf Bulldog

It was a day for short boards, fast and steep. With the winter temperatures still not here there were some summer wetsuits and bare feet in the crowded line up.

Surf Langland

The surf was really peaking with some tall faces testings all the short boarders.

High Tide Langland

We had a great view on the high tide.

Surfer Langland Gower

Some surfers were really charging the heavy swell.

Surf Gower

The waves on their own were worth watching, fantastic curling faces.

Autumn Surf Gower

This autumn in Gower has been fantastic.

Warm Autumn Surf

It is not cold at all yet with air temperatures never leaving double figures.

Surfing Waves Langland Gower

Molly was watching all the riders, and casting a wise experienced eye over the crashing shore break.

Gower French Bulldog Molly

Even though it was a scramble, if you were the right place you could get a cracking ride. Plenty of wave face to carve.

DimExcuses Langland

…but then you had to get back out again.

DimExcuses Surf

Molly needs to get her paws in the water and face in the waves when she is on StormWatch.

DimExcusesSurf Bulldog

What a great afternoon of pumping surf at Langland Bay, Gower. This autumn is really shaping up into a year to remember. With winter just around the corner you can be assured that Molly and I are back on StormWatch, out and about checking on all those Gower winter waves for you, DimExcuses.