Guest Blogger #9: Josh Aggars
Josh is the first of my guest bloggers to offer to write a blog post for my blog. That gave me pause because, well, it went counter to my perfect little paradigm of approaching others to write something for me. I wanted to say "no". In fact, I guess I did initially. What I said to Josh was, in essence, I don't know you and the site to which you've directed me gives me no sense of who you are. Josh would not be deterred. He stayed present by leaving comments on the blog, thus allowing me to get to know him. Then, he sent me his post. And, well, I love it!! Now I know who Josh is. Now I know who Dan is. This surf trip of theirs was one for the books.
When I'm preparing for a surf trip I always visualise the journey, the waves and the rides. I look ahead to the good that will come from being away from routine and regular life. And yet, for all that, things never seem to pan out the way you expect.
Sometimes you set off full of high spirits with your crew expecting great conditions and a great road trip only to encounter burst tires, a gasket change and flat waves when you get to your destination. Other times you can leave in a stinking mood, heavy with the stress of modern life and no money and return the saviour of humanity with your positive outlook after a week featuring the best waves of your life.
Well I want to tell you the story of one of my favourite surf trips of all time. It didn't involve exotic locations or 12 foot waves, turquoise barrels or beautiful coral. Instead it consisted of random events, unplanned brilliance and life affirming memories that will last until the end of days.
I was finishing work one gorgeous summer evening when I took a call from my friend Dan. To call him laid back is to do a disservice to beds. The guy is beyond description and I'm not going to waste your time trying. It's enough to say he's the biggest bum this side of the pond and I love him for it.
He wanted to know if I fancied heading off for the weekend down to Devon. For Dan to pick up the phone is one thing but for him to propose anything is a once in a generation kind of event. Knowing this window would close out if I didn't move I said yes and that I'd be round in an hour. He protested that it was only Thursday and that we both had to work the next day but I blew this off as a "to hell with it" moment and got to his in record time.
Without a plan of where we were going and with the light already fading we headed in the rough direction of Devon (I didn't have a map and Dan doesn't get out much so we were winging it a fair bit). After two hours of back roads and unknown progress we decided we might need to stop and camp out.
There was little chance of finding a camp site and even less a chance of being admitted had we found one so we pulled into a farmer's field, backed up along the hedge row and broke out the beers, weed and Dan's eclectic mix tape featuring the Byrds, EPMD, Strauss and RATM to name but a few. We put the seats back, opened the sun roof and gazed at the stars before crashing out at some point. I do remember that during the night I finally understood the saying "don't pee on the electric fence" but little else.
Taunton and an unplanned addition
The next morning we groggily got back on the road when Dan took a call from a Uni mate who happened to live vaguely in the direction of Devon. I say vaguely as it's west in the same way Alaska is west of Atlanta when on route to San Diego!
Letting fate be our guide we found our way to Taunton, Somerset, via a number of U-turns, laps of roundabouts (circular things in roads in England so you can change direction) and a few mounting of curbs. So far so not much surfing but I'm coming to that.
So we eventually arrived at said Uni friends farm house (his name is Ben, say hi Ben, "Hi Ben," you all mutter) to find a couple of vintage Bilbo surfboards in the drive. They were the most beautiful things I'd seen in days (did I mention I'd been stuck in a car with Dan?) and got me stoked in an instant.
Ben said they were his Dad's and that we were free to take one with us for the weekend. I was gobsmacked and beyond grateful so we could hardly turn down the invitation to stay the night to attend the local cider festival with him and his old man.
So near and yet so far
Suffice it to say we had a great night with the locals dancing around like loons and belly laughing til it hurt. I won't bore you with the details but come the morning sore heads and nausea prevailed and I was starting to wonder if we were ever going to even make it to the sea. Ben was all over the place and Dan was nowhere to be seen. Great!
So it was with some relief that a few minutes after eating a full English (breakfast in the UK consisting of grease, fat, meat, more grease and a side portion of artery blockage) Dan appeared over the hedge row bouncing along on the side of a tractor! Clearly fathers in Taunton are more forgiving of their daughters' bed fellows than those at home I thought.
After a bit of story swapping and back slapping we finally hit the road and were on our way to the sea in the most cramped car since man invented the internal combustion engine. We headed to Croyde Bay on the North Devon coast, a beautiful place with an excellent right and left beach break.
It was as crowded as sin but we hadn't come this far to give up and with a gorgeous clear blue sky and the sun beating down (a precious occurrence even in UK summers) we took our boards and headed down to the beach.
As we paddled out I started to feel the full effects of that breakfast as it merged with the previous night's cider and started to play the conga on my colon. So you can imagine how nice and refreshing it felt to finally duck dive time and again on my way out to the lineup.
I don't remember how long we stayed out or how many times I promised myself just one more but I can honestly say that day in the water was like a dream. The atmosphere in the lineup was great, the camaraderie between the three of us like nothing else and the waves, well, let's just say they were nothing short of Nirvana for me.
The swell was good with a nice Easterly helping generate some fast and hollow barrels. I was serene and stoked in equal measure as I pulled off some sick moves (or so I recall now). Ben's Dad's board was a beast to ride and we all took turns. Dan seemed to get the best out of it (the boy does have talent if nothing else) and would have been the focus of any camera had we had one.
I've got to say that day in the water was God like genius. Just thinking back on it now raises a beaming smile. We camped out overnight nearby and returned the next morning to a pretty flat sea so felt doubly blessed by our luck the day before. We got in and paddled around but there was nothing really working.
It was with some sadness then that we later dropped Ben back at his place and thanked his Dad graciously for the loan of his board. We made our way home on a slow drive in the still beaming sunshine stopping off in one more farmer's field for a final smoke in the swaying long grass.
I'll always remember that weekend and that feeling of freedom, comedy and good times. I've had many great surf trips away since, many in some exotic locations, but nothing has ever quite matched that one for the sense of sheer bliss that I recall. And the sad part is I've never seen Ben since.
Josh writes about beach life, surfing, travel and more. His passion for surfing takes him to amazing places around the World and comes through in his regular articles as he explores all aspects of the sport. He's known to have the largest collection of flip flops anywhere in the Western hemisphere and never leaves home without at least two pairs of regular and one pair of animal flip flops. If you would like to read more from Josh check out his blog at www.flipflopscity.com/blog/