Traffic jams, full car parks and a seemingly never-ending succession of nor'westerly fronts. Welcome, to summer by the sea. Residents can't complain about what the summer holidays bring to the south west though, apart from the rain. The busy-ness is good for business, after all. So how to make the most of this corner of the country, at the same time as everybody else? Surfing early, whilst most beach goers are enjoying a holiday lie-in, and then driving away from the beach past a queue of stationary cars heading the other way at 9am is one answer.
Savouring the scraps, is the other. And so it is that during these six weeks we often head to quiet and out-of-the-way spots that you have to walk in to, the far end of the beach, or the waves that aren't really waves. At the "main" beaches, if unable to arrive early and secure a parking spot, it's worth parking back from the coast or a cove over and enjoying the walk down the valley or over the coast path carrying just fins and a handplane to go for a "swim between the flags". At those lesser known spots that perhaps don't get good surf we'll settle for any sort of wave because we'll have it to ourselves or simply go swimming or snorkelling to get in the sea. If you're snatching time in the sea around work or on the weekend at this time of year then it's simply a case of seeking out these other opportunities, and they don't count as compromises when for most of the rest of the year there aren't any traffic jams, the car parks are empty, and the waves and weather are often much better. Summer: we say work with it, and stay surf-fit for September.
Peering through the half-light of dawn, filtered through the mist and spray hanging in the air, you see a speck fall in to a wave and suddenly betray the true size of the swell. With this perspective the wave now seems to be moving in slow motion, as though pushing through treacle, and the surfer drops, reaches the bottom, and sits back into a do-or-die backhand bottom turn. He holds his body position, frozen as everything else moves around him and whitewater explodes just feet away from the tail of his surfboard. This is the sustain; a somewhat counter-intuitive but totally critical element of manoeuvres on larger waves. Without holding both nerve and body positioning, it’s all too common to see surfers revert to twitchy small wave busy-ness and, in the case of bottom turns on bigger waves, unweight their inside rail in a doomed attempt to “hop to the top”. But the surfer that sits back and waits, quite literally in this situation, carries speed back up the wave face and arrives at the lip ready and prepared to make their next move. Before dropping down and doing it all over again.
Photo: Chris, mid-sustain riding The Riser at an undisclosed mid-winter spot.
We’ve never hung a Christmas wreath on the workshop doors here, but we thought that this year we ought to make an effort to get into the festive spirit a little more. Not being ones to buy things that we can make, and with the workshop running full steam ahead in preparation for our December workshop, we decided to use our offcuts to spread a little festive cheer. Fancy fashioning a similar decoration for your front door? Here’s how we did it:
Find a suitably sized piece of scrap plywood. Measure the shortest dimension and use that to measure and cut the scrap piece into a square (tip: you can use the leading edge of a traditional saw handle and the back of the blade as a tri-square).
Draw diagonal lines from corner to corner to find the centre point, and knock a panel pin part-way in. Tie a piece of string to the panel pin, with the other end tied to your pencil at the correct length to allow it to draw a circle around the panel pin that touches the edges of the square. Shorten the string, and repeat, so that you’ve drawn a ring.
Cut out the outside circle. Drill a hole on the inside line that is large enough to fit the blade of your coping saw blade through, and take your coping saw apart and reassemble it with the blade passing through the hole. Cut out the internal line, leaving you with a wooden ring.
Collect some wood shavings. This isn’t a problem for us here, but the easiest way to do it at home is to clamp a piece of solid timber in a vice or to the edge of your work bench and use a jack or block plane to make shavings – making an effort to keep them as curly as possible!
Cover one side of your plywood ring with PVA wood glue, and arrange your curly wood shavings (one at a time) around it, trying to orient them outwards from the centre.
Once you’ve got the first layer done, put some PVA glue in a pot and add a little water. Brush this over the wood shavings that make up your base layer, and arrange more shavings over the top, trying to fill in any gaps. Place a plastic bag over the wreath and put a piece of wood on top to weigh it all down a bit (the plastic bag will prevent the wood shavings from sticking to the piece of wood on top). Leave it to dry.
We made a “ribbon” using really thin slices of teak – the thin slices come off the bandsaw and can’t really be used for anything. We poured hot water from the kettle over the thin strips to soften them and bent them into two loops, holding them fast with a clamp until they dried enough to glue, before clamping again. We cut the “tails” using a Stanley blade (the teak is that thin) and then glued each layer together and clamped it until dry. This was screwed onto the wooden wreath ring.
* If you’re going to hang this outside then it’d be worth giving it as good a coat as you can manage of varnish (even dilute PVA will do), just to protect it from the wind and rain.
If your house has some serious Christmas crafting scheduled in over the next week or so, and you don’t fancy getting involved with the glitter and gold spray-paint, then a curly Christmas wreath will give you a good excuse to hide away for a few hours and emerge with your contribution to the seasonal decorations. Merry Christmas!