By Jay Vilarrubi-Smith
You’ve got one hour, the clock’s ticking and the manager’s watching.
Surfing in Britain with a full-time job isn’t easy at the best of times, but particularly now the clocks have gone back and it’s dark after work.
It means potentially missing an epic run of swell, whilst hoping it sticks around until your next day off.
However, there is one other option open to some of us; getting in during your lunch-break.
Now for those whom this isn’t possible, surfing during a lunch-break is a far off fantasy. Spending an hour in a hot staff-room, awkwardly trying not to speak to anyone, as you eat your home-made sandwich can be tough. The idea that you could jump in the sea is too good to imagine.
Yet the reality of lunch-break surfing is not always as glamourous as those mind wandering imaginations suggest.
Here is a scenario played out which outlines some potential flaws.
Arriving to work with your surfboard and wetsuit is quite a statement. It lets everyone know that you’re not here to f*ck about. Now this time of year it’s not always easy to see how the surf looks on webcam, so some level of guess work needs to be implemented.
Therefore the surf could be absolutely massive and by brining your board in you’ve already suggested to everyone that you’re going in. When it comes to 1pm and all eyes are on you, you either have to channel your inner Laird Hamilton and potentially die, or come up with some crack pot excuse which won’t fool anyone.
On the flip side of course there could be no waves whatsoever. You have to unknowingly receive the sniggers of those who know there are no waves, and then arrive at work and pretend like you knew this would happen. Mumbling something along the lines of: “I brought this because after work I’m going somewhere which means something which is why I need my board.” Not fooling anyone kook.
As we all know, lunch-breaks generally have to be taken within a certain window. As we have also come to learn, Mother Nature gives no shits about what time suits you best. Therefore it’s quite possible that after you’ve confidently strode in with your surfboard and impressed your colleagues, the quality of surf can rapidly deteriorate depending on wind and tide changes, so that the perfect waves you arrived to have since disappeared. Still got to go in buddy.
You Only Have an Hour
An hour’s a long time right? We’ve all had sessions which lasted an hour and felt like we’ve surfed a long time. Yet it isn’t quite as simple as that. A lunch-break surf is similar to a military operation (kind of) in that a strict schedule must be drawn up and vehemently adhered to.
First you have to clock out, get in your wetsuit, and add that last bit of wax which will make all the difference. All the while keeping your uniform tidy and in easy reach when you get back. Factor in the time taken to run to the sea shore and we’re talking roughly 10 minutes.
Hopefully you haven’t been that idiot that brought their board in when the waves are 6ft and you should be able to paddle out fairly quickly. Working back from the time in which you need to clock in, you can establish that to run back up the beach, get dried off, changed back into your clothes and to have eaten and drunk the necessary amount, is going to probably take about 15 minutes. This leaves you with just over 30 minutes in the sea.
The Surf Itself
Depending on which beach you work closest to, it’s more than likely that there will be a fair crowd of other surfers in; those bastards who get to surf whenever they want.
Knowing you only have 30 minutes creates a certain level of hysteria which probably isn’t inducive to making good decisions. You’re either likely to panic and start paddling at anything that moves, or it turns you into a crazy person who sits for 20 minutes waiting for a good wave and pretending everything’s all right. If the first wave you catch isn’t very good then you can almost write off any chance that you’ll have a good session. If you are forced to watch everyone else catch good waves around you it’s likely to give you murderous thoughts.
There’s a chance that you’ll actually catch one or two good waves and do a couple of decent turns. But this situation is almost like being starving hungry and someone giving you a skittle. Sure it’s better than not having anything, but now you’re even hungrier for some food.
So you’re back. You haven’t murdered anyone and you’ve scoffed down your sausage roll and chocolate bar almost simultaneously in some weird combination. Your hairs’ all over the place, your face feels salty and you smell a bit like urine. You now have to compose yourself enough to get through the next four hours of your shift. In the hour or so after a surf, the body always becomes a bit tired but there’s no space for being sleepy, you’re at work. You also have to deal with the uncomfortable questions from your colleagues; “How was it?” “Did you get any good ones?” Time to tell a few white lies, they don’t need to know you barely stood up, nearly cried and came back in.
Now you’ve gone surfing a few times during your lunch-break, you have the pressure to continue to do so. Even if you’re a bit tired, you’re running a bit late in the morning or you’re wetsuit is still wet, your colleagues will be expecting you to go in. The worst thing to experience is that, “Oh, where’s your board today?” You’ve somehow fooled them that you’re a cool guy and you need to carry on with this. That means packing that soaking wet wetsuit into your backpack and getting on with it. You’re a lunch-break surfer now.
Of course these issues are trivial and the reality is that the ability to go surfing in your lunch-break is a very privileged position. Still, if you’re off to work in an office tomorrow, condole yourself that lunch-break surfing isn’t always as glamorous as your imagination suggests.