A couple of weekends back, I got the first feeling of anticipation and nerves surrounding my trip. I decided to pack a car, head south to Cornwall and visit old friends whilst getting a chance to eye up a bit of the route and meet one of my supporters; Mutant Grip Surf Wax. Gale force onshore winds ensued, and the weekend rapidly descended into more of a social than a surfing strike mission. Blown out beach breaks on the north coast, with strong wintry offshores on the south blowing the sheltered bays and coves around Falmouth completely flat.
I met with Joe and Mags on Sunday. In their idyllic base in Perranporth, they welcomed me into their home and over a warming cup of tea proceeded to passionately involve me in their self-grown business. Mutant Grip are a sustainable business, making eco-friendly surf wax from beeswax and pine resin with no chemical additives. The product is completely natural, so when it breaks down in our oceans does not inject foreign and unsustainable additives and chemicals into the water. Keeping our oceans clean and sustainable is a message at the heart of what my trip, and their business tries to communicate and practice.
The beeswax is locally sourced, and by locally, I mean it comes from the hives in their back garden! It doesn’t get more local than that, whilst sustaining one of the most important animals in any ecosystem. The pine resin is a little trickier. Much like harvesting rubber, it works by tapping the trees and collecting the resin that effuses out. It can however, only be done so when temperatures are above approximately 30 Degrees Celsius, allowing the viscosity of the resin to reduce sufficiently to flow out of the trees. This is not possible in the UK, so Joe and Mags have developed a relationship and partnership with a source of resin over in Spain, in the knowledge that the resin is not chemically treated before arriving in Cornwall to form the finished product.
The guys will be supplying my wax for the journey, and have also kindly given me a smart looking Tee to keep my back warm throughout my walk! It is inspiring to see how these businesses can not only succeed and grow, but also continue to strive to make the surf industry more sustainable and environmentally friendly; a message that is fundamental if we are to continue to enjoy clean ocean waves.
Leaving with my hands full and a sense of vigor and excitement, Joe and I had discussed a sheltered northeast facing bay just up the coast which may be working in the strong westerly winds still pounding the coast. It was worth a look. After wasting 20 minutes looking for a parking spot, and with the sun rapidly dropping in the sky behind the thickest of cloudsets, I peered round the corner of the closed up seafront shops to see a few lines pushing in. It was nothing special; about head high, mostly closing out and I began to get the inevitable anticipation of the impending cold as I hurriedly suited up in the stiffening westerly.
It was a proper winter session in the UK. For about two hours I was beaten up by wind, rain and sea. Every time you paddled for a set the wind blew spray up the face until it forced your eyes shut, dropping into every wave blind. I love cold water surfing when it’s like this. It not a groomed, clean, predictable wave where the focus is on how you surf. It is a challenge, pitting yourself against whatever the weather and sea throw at you and, as I surfed into darkness the fading light sent an impeding sense of the wild across the line up. It was oddly quiet; noise from the town masked by the sounds of nature at its raw best. I felt exposed, nervous even, and as I caught my final wave I’d all but forgotten that I was in fact surfing in front of the largest town in the region. As I climbed the steps back to the car, casually meeting eyes with tourists speed walking with coffees hunkering down under umbrellas and coats, it felt like a sense of achievement to have been exposed in a battle with nature like that. I had by no means won, but then I guess I never meant to.