The Canarian SUP Debacle
Heading back to Fuerteventura after a couple of years’ break was always going to be a challenge as shortly after my last visit life started to unravel. A combination of stress, some healthier life choices (after many years of not to so healthy life choices), a seriously ill parent and moving house lead to massive panic attack at the side of the road which resulted in ongoing anxiety, an irregular heartbeat and a bout of depression. From being a gregarious, confident brand owner to becoming an unrecognisable timid little boy certainly wasn’t part of my life plan but it was largely out of my control.
Beta blockers, an online CBT course, giving up my beloved caffeine, fags, trying various supplements and dietary changes were all tried but nothing really seemed to work. It was a frustrating time which impacted on my work and personal life massively! Those who know me will tell you the last couple of years have been a nightmare with me only being able to drive on the motorway unaccompanied over the last 8 months. Consequently the prospect of travelling alone, having to drive in a foreign country (on the wrong side) and challenge myself in some larger surf was an exercise in testing my resolve just as much as testing out one of our new boards and hopefully getting some usable content. One thing I have learned as part of my recovery is the importance of sleep, if I don’t get enough I’m bloody useless so I was pleased to get a decent quota ahead of my flight out. The check in process was less fun with Jet2 trying to charge me another £50 for being 3kg over my hand luggage allowance (not mentioned when you book) so I had to ram stuff into my already well stuffed board bag and sacrifice taking an extra pair of jeans, my water housing for the proper camera and a change of footwear. Invariably the zip on the board bag broke but thankfully my other half was there to help me painstakingly get it to line up again, tooth by tooth!
This could have brought about a meltdown in itself but a couple of minutes of chill time before heading for security and I was golden. Despite feeling a little anxious about the flight itself I was sat next to a talker which is always a bonus on a long flight, less scope for ruminating although this time I was fully tooled up with Netflix and a few movies on my laptop which I’d have never even thought about a few years ago! Turns out I didn’t need them but I was glad I took a sandwich and a Ribena to keep my energy levels up once I got over there and had to think about the hard driving bit.
The drive up to Lajares was actually quite a pleasant experience. All sorts of memories came rushing back from when I used to live out there over a couple of winters back in 2012/13 when Bouke from Witchcraft was shaping for us. I was actually quite excited to catch up with my old mates in Lajares and invariably go for a couple of cervezas in Canela Cafe, it would be rude not to! The sun on my face and that semi-cheese euro pop you get on the radio over there meant that the 45 minute drive soon passed and it wasn’t long before I rocked up at my mate Dave’s to see where I’d be staying for the week. I’d brought him a pool cover over in exchange for free digs which he’d affectionately called ‘the meth lab’, an RV that had been left on the island when someone had to leave in a hurry. I wondered if it had actually been part of a crime scene as it was ‘full breaking bad’ style but Dave assured me he’d only murdered a couple of prostitutes a while back so it was good to go! More functional than my usual 5* but this was a cheap surf trip and what I didn’t spend on digs I could spend on food and post-surf beers right?!
Despite arriving early enough to technically hit up a sunset session on the North Shore, the forecast had changed with 5′ at 15 secs which is massive closeout conditions for most of spots. So instead I made for the bar, where my old pals were waiting to take the piss out of me and trying to temp me to stay out as Wednesday is the new Saturday in Lajares apparently?! I played along until about midnight but I wanted to surf low tide Rocky Point so I made my excuses and was off to ‘the meth lab’ to drink a load of water, ram some cheese and ham in my face then crash so I was set for the morning. The good thing about the Fuerteventura is that if you don’t wake up dehydrated with your tongue stuck to your eye ball then the heat forces you to get up anyway. After a pointless decaf and the most random breakfast goods ever, I unpacked the Hybrid and Surf Pro Paddle, got the moody GoPro and various mounts ready and I set off for Corallejo to meet my old pal Stephen Gibson who’d come out of SUP retirement especially for me. We also met up with a new pal Gareth from SUP Cardiff who was a mutual friend of my mate Dave. So after finally remembering how to get to Rocky Point it was wax on, suits on, feet stabbed and finally onto the water and paddling up to the outer reef that was throwing up double head bombs. Nothing like an chilled first session to get your good eye back in! Busy is an understatement but such is RP when the rest of the spots are closed out! The wind was also up just to add an extra dimension making standing up on a semi-sinker a challenge in itself. After a relatively short session of multiple set waves on the head, 30 ‘almost snapped leash moments’ and some coughing and spluttering we decided to head into the bay where there was a little 2′ dribbler to play on which proved better than expected, so much so we lost track of time and had been out there about three and a half hours! Gibbo had family duties so he did off and both Gareth and I were in need of some water and sustenance so we called it and went our separate ways. The Hybrid had performed well at both ends of the swell-size spectrum so I was itching to get out in some cleaner large surf and see where its limit was!
I was hopeful that the wind might drop and the swell might be dropping on the North Shore so headed to ‘ever-reliable’ Majanicho for a look mid afternoon but it was still massive with close out monsters as far as the eye could see, needless to say it was a bust. Another night of cervezas and excellent food in Lajares coupled with some lively banter seemed like the perfect tonic for my tired limbs although I was in bed for midnight again, keen to meet Gibbo on the North Shore and check out a few less busy spots. Stoke level was high in the morning when I headed down to the North track, keen to check out Calani which had proved gold the last time I visited the island with Ollie and Simon but the tides were wrong with some uninviting rocks poking out of the wave face so it was back to Rocky Point so another attempt as getting some content. This time the hand mount was selected and I changed up the floaty back for another which made seeing if the camera was on much easier. Sadly my old eyes hadn’t seen the two slits in the replacement housing back and it was
only when we got out there Gibbo noticed the lens was steaming up, shortly followed by the whole housing being full of water. This was fast turning into The Canarian SUP Debacle on the content-front despite our best efforts. Invariably RP was on fire with both of us got some amazing multiple turn rides, popping off the shoulder and paddling back out to the take off. The surf must have been solid head and half on the set and the Hybrid was unphased, slicing through the wind chop with easy and redirecting off the top like a smaller surf SUP. A killer session but ‘no proof’ Neptune was clearly smiting me for my many previous sins. If you’ve ever been to Fuerte you’ll know that there aren’t that many places to shoot from the shore unless you have a 600 lens which I don’t so it was all going to be down to my mate Ben and his drone. A plan was hatched for the following day, to meet Ben and Gibbo early and try and get some content gold before the swell started pumping again. Despite my early rising Ben was ‘uncontactable’ and Gibbo bailed as he was recovering after a few too many Tropicals. As it turned out it was windy enough for rock and ride windsurfing so it would have been sub prime on the water at best.
We finally got out on Sunday (even with Ben in tow) but the wind was back so we tried to paddle up to ‘the box’ for less crowded action but the wind was even worse up there and by the time we’d minced and fell off plenty before deciding to go back to a less windy Majanicho with more obstacles to weave in and out of Ben had caned two batteries and had shot off to the pub. Gibbo had taken his smaller board and was struggling in the chop so I just caught some waves by myself until last light. It was actually a magical session, with some great waves as the wind finally eased. As I paddled back to shore I reflected on the whole concept of content and how self-promo and vanity often spoil what would have otherwise been a great session. As I hobbled across the rocks I noticed an improvised rock-hopping wheelchair but didn’t think much about it. As I packed up and slung the board on the roof I noticed a guy getting out of the water being helped into the aforesaid contraption. I was humbled to see it was the goat boater I’d be sharing some not inconsequential waves with for the last hour and a half. Right then it put everything into perspective for me, my challenges are small compared to this guy. Needless to say I went over and spoke to him and told him what an inspiration he was and to keep ripping. Happily I bumped into him in the Canella later that night and bought him a pint with a view to meeting up for another surf the following day before the wind kicked in. Sadly we missed each other but it didn’t stop me having a paddle with Gareth from SUP Cardiff who gave the Hybrid a whirl and seems amped on our kit which might be good news for our Welsh fans looking to demo kit over the next few months.
As you’ve probably gathered my prodigal son-style return to Fuerte was a bit of a bust this time not only in terms of the content but also with the prevailing conditions. I was actually speaking to a talented local Italian paddle surfer about my week and he said Fuerte is so mixed these days, months that are normally bankers had been absolute rubbish and other months you’d write off had produced the goods. I asked him whether he thought it was climate change as our own seasons back home are all over the place with mild winters and 17 sec periods in the North Sea. He seemed to agree that weather is getting more unpredictable wherever your live. He went on to say that he has every toy under the sun so he can get out on most days either SUPing, surfing, windsurfing or foiling. Sadly Jet2’s baggage allowance didn’t allow for taking the kitchen sink although I might think about taking a sail next time I venture out to ‘the rock’. More positively I conquered some of my fears, topped up my vit D levels, caught up with some legends and made some new pals too so all in all a great trip with a little lay over in Barcelona to do some sightseeing on the way home which was fantastic! Not quite The Canarian SUP Debacle the title might suggest but I’ll certainly look to travel with similarly motivated content whores in the future, haha.
If you’ve not been to the Canaries before it’s certainly worth a look for those with paddle surfing aspirations. You need to have the basics in place but there are spots for all levels, you can hire kit if you don’t want to chance taking your own and the food and beer is cheap enough. If you’d feel more comfortable with someone supervising and giving you a few pointers in a relaxed atmosphere while you get some practice in I’ll actually be putting on a couple of small group paddle surfing trips in 2020. First destination will be SW Portugal in April with another trip planned for Autumn/Winter location as yet tbc. Get in touch to find out more.