Falling (Out the Sky)

You know sometimes when you’re about to fall asleep, and suddenly you dream of falling, uncontrollably, for some time and its disorientating, it’s unnerving and it jolts you awake?

Have you ever enjoyed that feeling?

When we were gathered waiting on the ground before our skydive, I felt sick. The anticipation was eating away at me and I just wanted to shut myself in the bathroom. The instructor who gave us a safety briefing told us if we panicked and grabbed our instructor in the air, we could die. He told us if we didn’t lift our knees when told to do so before landing, we could break our legs.

Before I got in that plane, I felt restless, disorientated with fear, terrified. Nothing felt right.

Then- when I got in the plane, suddenly I focused. An eerily still kind of focus that sweeps over me sometimes, when I’m under a lot of pressure, when I’m truly terrified… and I love it, (actually I chase it), because in that moment, everything around me is rushing and loud and dangerous, adrenalin has grabbed me by the shoulders, and it’s shaking me, trying to rile me up… but I feel able to stare it in the face and let it know I don’t care and whatever the situation- I jump…

It’s the most liberating feeling ever.

The plane door opened, I knew the propellers were buzzing, and the instructors were shouting out orders, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I looked straight down, to a patchwork quilt of fields 15,000 feet below, and fell into the vacuum of sky before me.

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I hear that a lot of people enjoy the serene floating by parachute down to land, at the end, but my favourite part was the free fall. Where time means nothing and you hear nothing and you weigh nothing and you are just falling, the sky stinging in your eyes and your mouth and rattling your skin and you know if something fucks up you could die but you don’t care, because its the closest feeling to flying, and also the closest feeling to dying and thats when you feel most alive.

I would do it again in a (happily terrified) heartbeat.

Photos by HIBALDSTOW SKYDIVE official photographer.

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Wabi Sabi

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I don’t know who took this picture but I think it’s awesome. I love the character of second hand things.

I think these used surfboards look beautiful. Not everything has to be glossy and perfect and have finesse. Sometimes it’s ok to have edge instead.

It’s also ok to have flaws, flaws can be beautiful and the term Wabi sabi celebrates that.

You can waste a lot of time and lose out on a good thing, from chasing gloss. Perhaps, if you just let yourself believe it, you are rich enough with what you have already.

My first wave

Surf Diary Entry #4

surf snow

I learned a valuable lesson recently. It’s taken years but I’ve finally learned how to identify what my head wants, what my heart wants and what my gut wants, and how to use this assessment to best make my decisions. In my experience my head and heart almost always want different things…they say you should follow your heart but I’ve learned to trust my gut. When my heart flutters and tugs in one direction and my head sternly points to another, I sense what my gut chooses- some things will attract my heart which make my gut feel sick at the thought. Sometimes even if I am nervous about something, my gut will drag me to do it because it thinks it’s right, and this pays off.

This theory mostly applies for big life decisions, but all the small choices we make in life can have great consequences.

Surfing in the snow! My heart was excited by the adventure, my head said no, you will either get stuck on a broken down train or if you do manage to get there you will get hypothermia and die.

(Yes, I’m over anxious and I think too much!)

My gut said, go, you want to and Sophia wants to too, which means you are both crazy and this is a great thing- and thus an awesome friendship and the potential for many great future surfing adventures was born.

Sophia is an old friend I met at Uni. What’s strange is that we only met briefly, once, in the Uni library, but we got on famously during this fleeting meeting, which I recall ending in hysterical giggle fits! But I had just started at Uni and Sophia was about to graduate, so we didn’t get the chance to be friends.

Years later, browsing online, I tapped into the surfgirl culture, found that Sophia surfed too and we reconnected, planning via Facebook to meet up for a surf trip!

Sophia is a keen blogger and a talented writer, check her surf blog out here! http://realwomenhavecurvesandsurfboards.blogspot.co.uk/

So we live miles away from each other, me in Yorkshire, Soph in Birmingham, but we decided to meet by train in York and head to Saltburn from there. The day of our trip, we faced heavy snow but neither of us were deterred and miraculously, public transport prevailed, when my car probably wouldn’t have made it!

Soph told me she was wearing blue, I told her I was wearing purple and we found each other in the station, realised we had a million important things in common and I don’t think we stopped chatting all the way on the train!

The conditions for surfing were terrible, the waves were messy, and at points we had a blizzard of hail to contend with when paddling out, which felt like being pinched repeatedly in the face!

But despite this, our ambitious trip really paid off, it was just a really positive day, I really enjoyed myself and because of this, I kind of nailed it! I rode my first wave, all the way to shore! It was so exhilerating, I let myself fall into the water in a fit of giggles afterwards. Anyone else who knows this feeling, will understand!

I hugged that feeling all the way home, even up to falling asleep at night, I tried to relive that feeling of riding the wave, balancing, dreaming about it, hanging onto it.

I’ve since met surfers who admit to they do the same thing! Holding on to the last awesome wave, before they get chance to go back to the beach and get more! : )

A struggle with the sea!

Surfing Diary Entry #3

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I was keen to get back to the beach for a second time, but I was finding it hard to persuade anyone to brace winter surfing in the North Sea with me, so I set out on my own.

I didn’t have such a great time. I hadn’t eaten much in the morning and the conditions were horrible, I was blown all over the place and exhausted quickly. I didn’t even stand this time, I only managed to get up to my knees, and that’s a bad habit in surfing which you are supposed to avoid.

The guy at the surf hire told me I was all over the place, and tried to offer some friendly advice but I was just useless that day. I pushed myself too hard, with no results. It got dark, I got to my car and I felt utterly rundown. Probably due to a combination of adrenalin, over exercise and lack of food, I started having a freaky visual migraine with jazzy dancing shapes in the peripheral of my eyes.

Anyone else who knows what these are like will know how weird they are.

The drive home was pretty horrible.

The day didn’t put me off. It’s the times we don’t succeed that makes the times we do worth it. I wanted this to be fun but I didn’t want it to be easy. This just showed me that if I really wanted to do this, I was going to have to commit to it properly. I was going to have to focus, eat healthily, get fitter and find some regular surf buddies.

I believe it is this positive attitude that made my next visit to the beach an awesome one. 🙂

First time on a board

Surfing diary entry #2

Chris Burkard's shot

(Another awesome shot from Chris Burkard. http://www.burkardphoto.com

Definitely going to get my own images soon, but I also really wanted to show stuff from this guy, because his work really inspires me. He gave me consent to use his images.)

So, my first time! I met with a friend from school who I haven’t seen in about ten years and I am very grateful to him for showing me some surfing basics. After wrestling myself into a winter wetsuit, (first attempt backwards and inside out) boots, gloves and hood and bracing myself for entering the North sea, I definitely felt completely out of my depth and needed some tips.

What can I say about my first experience of surfing?

I would describe it as a fight.

A new and utterly refreshing one. The sea is such a powerful force and I enjoyed being at its mercy, in the same way I have enjoyed bungy jumping into a canyon or hiking up to the tops of mountains. Adventure is great for the soul and when you can do it, you should.

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(Me bungy jumping from Kawarau Bridge, New Zealand, the world’s first bungy jump, and the Nevis, Australasia’s highest, when I was 18.)

I felt incredibly small, plucked from my comfort zone and enveloped in the ocean. Every time I seemed to find my feet, a new wave would knock me down and I would eat sea. Much like life. Then after much graceless splashing about, I found a moment of tuned focus, I felt the wave come and I balanced on it, I stood up. I’d tamed the beast!

But then, I felt compelled to swing round and draw peace fingers and of course, I fell.

I was so fixed on enjoying myself on the board, that there was only one, short period when I felt my fear of the sea bubble up and make itself known, and given the circumstances, it was justified, as I had got caught in a rip and slightly carried away in the direction of nothing but sea and rocks!

At least I understand what a rip tide is now! Always learning!

For almost all of the drive home afterward, I felt euphoric.

I raced down the motorway, singing away to Florence and the Machine, floating on endorphins.

(Check out this article explaining the science of ‘ surf stoke,’ definitely worth a read!)

http://www.theinertia.com/environment/scientists-froth-on-surf-stoke/

Wake up and live

(A photo with my first DSLR three years ago, of geese at sunrise at Tralee Bay, Ireland, and the wise words of Mr Bob Marley!)

Can’t surf, or swim! But I’m going to try

Surfing diary Entry #1

I really feel like I need to get into my travel and adventure writing again right now and this section of my site could really do with updating with something current. ( 😉 )

Ok so I don’t know if escaping an hour away to the closest British shoreline when I can, quite constitutes as travel exactly, but it does involve a journey, more of a long-term, personal, learning one, and one which will hopefully involve travel at some point… and it is an adventure!

I am definitely feeling drawn to the sea right now, which is strange because I’m a poor swimmer, and because of this I am quite intimidated by the ocean!

But this is something I decided I wanted to overcome, and now I find myself utterly intrigued and infatuated with learning to surf. Actually, along with my photography, it’s something that has helped inspire me through a complicated time and I can’t stress how much I recommend it to anyone as a healing activity.

I’m not sure how the idea first came about really! Perhaps it has something to do with the chilling British winter, (where I have literally been chopping and burning old furniture to keep warm in my freezing Yorkshire home) causing me to yearn for beaches, summery activities and fall for that dreamy allure of the far and unknown.

But mostly my idea was born from a desire to tap into the zen surrounding the sport, which seems to stoke so many people and capture my curiosity as to why. Indulging in a nerdish impulse to look briefly into the science and psychology of the sport, I have read that the chemical euphoria induced by surfing is so powerful, that it has been successfully utilised to help people heal from trauma and depression in California.

The Wave Project, down in Cornwall, offers surfing as therapy to help improve the emotional health of young people, build confidence and increase positivity.

http://www.waveproject.co.uk

I’m definitely fascinated and want to experience this curious zen, balance and focus translating to me from the surf photographs, films and literature I have been indulging in.

This shot is a marvellous example, and one of many, which I find completely captivating, by the awesome surf photographer Chris Burkard.

http://www.burkardphoto.com/

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I hope to update regularly about my learning experience and get some photographs of my own out on the beach soon so if you are interested, watch this space!

“Amongst the Beasts of Yellowstone”

Here is a 500 word story I wrote for this week’s “Just Back” travel writing competition for the Telegraph. Wish me luck!

There is something so pure and enlightening about camping that enables you to get the full sense of a place. I felt like I was at the heart of Yellowstone, really breathing it in, wrapped amidst its ground and sky, with just canvas between us at night.
We were back to basics. The fire was our source, our warmth in the biting cold of the evening, our means of cooking food, and our entertainment. There’s something primitively magical about fire, which draws you in and engages you.

Huddled around it, my fellow travellers, Tim and Adam, were preparing their dinner for the night. “Cooking two beefy steaks…in bear country… Probably not the best idea we’ve ever had!” Adam chuckled.
I laughed nervously as the smell wafted up and dispelled into the dark vacuum of wilderness about us.
With such freedom in a place like this, comes a little fear.
I scanned my surroundings for the glow of eerie predator eyes.

Perhaps we were a little out of our depth here, three British nature lovers, accustomed to the gentle wildlife of Cumbria. It was a little bewildering adjusting to being in close quarters with the great beasts of North America.
Yellowstone humbled and bewitched me.

We rose at 4.30 in the morning to head to Lamar Valley, a hotspot for wildlife in the park. It was a serene drive, watching Yellowstone wake up, with all its beauty materialising around us in the first light.

Briefly we stopped and stepped out of the car to admire the sight of a bald eagle perched above a river…before scurrying back into our vehicle, in response to a closely approaching bison.
From the safety of the car, I watched the beast pass. Reminiscent of a minotaur, he had horns as long as my forearms extruding from his great, brutish head, which I suspected, on contact, would have the force to catapult one of us back to England!

Bison often stopped us in our tracks. We drove round a corner to find a mother and her newborn on the road. The delicate calf, with its quivering, gangly legs, was still trying to find its feet, following its mother with clumsy steps. It was hard to imagine it would grow into such a big, almost mythical beast, like its elders.

We moved on and the road entwined with forests, rivers and streams, until we reached the valley, where we stayed until nightfall. We were losing light, most of the wildlife had slinked out of our sight and we were preparing to return to camp, talking amongst ourselves. Suddenly Tim urged us to be quiet. There it was, the one time we heard it during our trip, perhaps the one time I will ever hear it in my life. In that moment, I froze, spellbound, by the hauntingly beautiful howls of Yellowstone’s wolves.