Sunday, 14 August 2016

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Mermaid

Recently New Look did this whole range of products that read, "Mermaid hair, don't care", and if I was one of those people who get sucked in by that sort of thing, I'd have bought the lot- because that is me. In fact with regard to my hair, when I told a friend I was growing it and he asked how long, I responded with, "Mermaid length". He was none the wiser. 

The Emerald River, Triglav NP, Slovenia

It'll come to no surprise to you, particularly if you know me, that I'm a water baby. I've spent my entire life swimming, like I'm pretty sure I could swim before I could walk. I love the water. I'm so obsessed with water and swimming that I spent my 26th birthday travelling all the way to London so I could swim in the London 2012 Olympic swimming pool at Elizabeth Park as soon as it opened to the public. I spent years as a teenager swimming in the completely clear blue seas in the North of Fuerteventura. My dream as a kid had always been to learn to surf on Flag Beach when I eventually lived on the island-- that was my dream life, really. It didn't exactly work out like that, and even although I spent 4 years living on the island, I never learnt to do anything more than body board. 


I think that's partly because I didn't know I was outdoorsy until pretty recently. Two summer's ago, before I started dedicating my summer's to Glastonbury Festival, I was travelling through eastern Europe and had the most amazing day in Triglav National Park, Slovenia. That day pretty much changed my world; reading that post back I can't believe I was ever that lazy! We hiked up mountains, chased waterfalls, and white water rafted. Nothing I have ever done has compared to that day in my whole life. 

Both times I've been white water rafting have been some of the best days of my life; even after all the other things I've learnt, it's by far my favourite. In Slovenia that summer, we rafted along the River Soca (the Emerald River) going along Grade 3 rapids-- which is beginner level. The water was freezing, and we had a couple of practices and swim stops before hitting the tough rapids. One of our tour guides came with us, and spent almost no time paddling, and was just using his oar to splash the rest of us in the face with icy cold water. The tougher rapids were the nice deep ones where they send you in backwards and tell you to surf so the freezing cold water hits you in the face! It definitely wakes you up! 

Our awesome crews, I'm the tiny one stood next to the boat on the right

I've been once since then, pretty recently. A trip we talked about last summer as friends, ended up being a first date! After months of us never having enough time to go we eventually went in February. To Snowdonia, Wales. White-water rafting. It was freezing!! He'd never done it before, and as we pulled up to the activity centre we were doing it at, the look of sheer terror on his face is one I'll never forget. I should describe him to you, he's kind of the exact opposite of me to look at. He's incredibly tall, almost two foot taller than I am, and fairly broad- I mean, he's no beanpole. So he automatically looks quite tough, so seeing him terrified was definitely not something I ever expected to see. I think he was also horrified when he realised that I'd been rafting before, and he had not. On this session we had 4 mile long runs down the same patch of river, each time the instructor put in more and more obstacles than before. So we had a soft run where we just got used to paddling, and then he'd dunk us more and more into the water- they did this thing where the front of the raft got dunked and the 2 people in front got drowned somewhat. Luckily I got out of that, on account of my friend & I having such a huge height difference that we thought the raft might capsize, plus I was suffering from the flu and probably shouldn't have been rafting anyway. And, that having been a first date (we're not seeing each other anymore, it's very sad), has made me raise the bar for any future boyfriends, because they're gonna have to top white water rafting (sorry, lads). 

In fact, it was based on the idea of that trip that I decided last summer to kayak. In the ocean. I did a teensy google search that lead to me booking a kayaking trip from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door. The company were so accommodating- in short I have no friends that want to do anything with me, ever- and I managed to kayak a 2 man kayak alone. They told me they'd swap someone in if I got tired. I didn't, I held my own pretty well all the way around. I mean, I wanted to die afterwards, but it was awesome. They tell you all about how Durdle Door is in fact a Dragon, too, and I love that story. 

I think it was all the way back in Slovenia that I decided I wanted to learn to SUP. Stand Up Paddleboarding is still a pretty new thing, and not many people do it. I was swimming in Lake Bled with some of the other people on my tour, and some of the crew, when we saw them elegantly glide past us on the lake. I decided to learn in Lyme Regis this summer, because a surf shop has popped up (be still my beating heart) and I just had to go and try. We were using these wicked boards that inflate! You read that right, inflatable paddleboards. So you can deflate them and fold them down and carry them around easy as you like, you pay for the privilege, mind, it works out cheaper for me to continuously hire one than ever buy one. It's a great idea, tho'.

Now, let me tell you something about standing on a board. Getting up into that position, is anything but elegant, we were very much unlike how those bastards looked on Lake Bled.  Anyway, so we're using these inflatable boards and we're in the sea, pretty far out. All you can feel beneath you is your feet gripping like all hell to the board, and your knees shaking uncontrollably, and so you grip your paddle like mad, like that's going to stop you falling in. Basically when you paddleboard, your body is the sail, so the higher you are the faster you go, if you're struggling at life you spend a lot of time on your knees. However, it turned out that John and I were both naturals, and so once we'd mastered paddleboarding we did an impromptu yoga session. On the boards, out at sea. Still didn't fall off, told you, I'm a natural.

Afterwards, once I'd been laid on the beach reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for a while, my phone buzzed. I was trying to ignore the thing (I have no data at the moment because my Network Providers are... a word I should never type on this blog) but opened it anyway. Nothing important, it was just a Groupon alert... about windsurfing lessons in Exmouth. You know how sport releases all these endorphin's, and you're like, "Yeah I can paddleboard, I can do anything!" that was pretty much how I felt at the moment. 

So I clicked, "buy". 

Fast forward to three weeks later. Today. When I got up on this morning, I literally paced up and down my kitchen thinking, "You stupid girl, what on earth made you think you'd be able to windsurf? Windsurfing, is fuck ton harder than paddleboarding. You are never going to be able stand up, never mind actually move". Nevertheless, I donned my swimmers, packed a bag, and drove towards Exmouth. Exmouth, actually, is a beautiful looking town which I am determined to go back and explore again soon. Dogs are allowed on part of the beach so life is fabulous. I arrived to my 3hr windsurfing lesson to find there were to be 6 of us in my class. And I was the only girl. Izzy (I hope I'm spelling your name right) reassured me that I would be absolutely fine, and I was learning in one of the best spots in the UK to learn to windsurf. The River Exe's estuary is only waist deep (well, to normal sized people), and the water super calm, so as long as there's wind, it's a pretty good place to start. 

The River Exe's mouth, the estuary where I learnt to windsurf

Izzy taught us the positions on the simulator, and we were meant to have a go, but decided that we'd just go in the water. One by one we tried to get up, and I surprised myself by getting up first time. Then I needed to turn around, and I couldn't remember how, and quickly fell in. We had three hours to learn to stand, and to turn. Those leg wobbles you get paddleboarding, they definitely applying to windsurfing! Once you're comfortable with your positions and turning, and the fact that if you've got the mast low enough and your body in the right place you aren't going to fall in, you zip through the sea! It was amazing, I couldn't believe how quickly I picked it up- towards the end I was so cocky that I was looking for crabs, mussels, fish, and jellyfish- there were loads, and that was enough to stop you wanting to fall in. 

I did fall in again tho', twice. The first person I met there, Adrian, told me, "I got this voucher as a gift you know? I think my wife is trying to kill me". He, was not good at windsurfing, he tried and tried to get up, but he just fell in. A lot. At one point he was coming towards me, and I knew it was going to happen, and I just couldn't get out of the way in time- I need to turn my sail, and he just... no. Anyway we fell in, and it was pretty damn deep, and I was laughing my head off. He'd been up longer at that point than he had all day, and now he was back in the water again. When you've got a full wettie on you appreciate the dip, but Adrian, not so much. I tried to get back on, but I was laughing too hard to concentrate on where the sail was, and PLOP! Back in the drink I went! I can't wait to go back and try to get better.

Exmouth Beach

All that time on the water, and in it. It's no wonder that all I want in life is to be a mermaid; after all salt water cures everything be it tears, sweat or the ocean!

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