Widmouth Surfing with a Hood

To Hood or Not to Hood?

I had a real comedy session early last week, largely revolving around my indecision and the reason for my indecision (bad choices drive more indecision)… Knowing when to de-hood has normally been a fairly easy one for me, last few years it’s generally been the last surf in March or certainly the first in April. We’ve normally had a spell of warmer stuff by late March and the sea temp creeps up to a level where it’s a little ice creamy on the noggin as you duck dive but quite bearable. Then usually it’s a steady path to de-rubbering right up to June when you’re back in a nice thin 3/2 with no boots or gloves to weigh you down until the cold comes calling all too soon sometime in autumn.

However this year has been a bit of a different beast, the winter has been long(er than usual!) and really drawn out – prolonged by months of prevailing easterly wind which gave with one hand and took with the other. It gave us offshores making the most of the North Atlantic’s winter juice but took away any warmth the normally prevalent south westerlies provide keeping our shores just the right side of arctic for most of the winter, instead we were experiencing fun temperatures such as 1 and 4 degrees celcius in the middle of April.

So the hood has stayed on, continuing to encase my face in neoprene a little longer which brings me back to last week’s go out. I hit one of the Bude town beaches at first, it was sunny, the temperature had crept into double figures and I was thinking this could be the start of spring…. that hood can come off soon maybe? I hit the water in full gear (yeah the hood was on), it didn’t feel too cold but the waves were poor, shapeless sucky 2-3ft low tide closeouts crashing in 1ft of water. This is not fun. After 20 minutes or so of looking for an open face I retreated, still in full gear and drove to Widemouth in the hope of finding a bank that was working there.

This looks more promising, not great but there were definitely some walls on offer if you were in the right spot. I’d taken the hood off for the drive and the air was welcomingly mild. This is it. No hood. Ear plugs in, jogging to the shoreline, first no hood surf of the year – lovely stuff! It’s not too big so I shouldn’t have to worry about duck diving. Oh a set’s coming, duck, Ahhhhhhhhhwwwwwgghhhhhh!! The first one was quite bad, grabbing my head in a cold vice like grip but I thought I could shake it off. Two more duck dives followed before I was in the sanctuary of the outside although my head felt like an ice cube. I’d already messed about this session by switching spots but I knew if I didn’t get a wave in and get my hood my cold head would distract me for the rest of the sesh. So I caught the next wave in and feeling like a right bell-end retreated to the van for some head warming rubber. I ended up getting a few fun waves during the remainder of the then hooded session but nothing to crow about…. Certainly one of those outings where you’re thinking “This is a lot of bloody effort for a couple of cold ones (waves not beers)!”

Having said all this it’s been sunny and even hot at times for much of this week and there’s some swell on the way for the bank holiday weekend. I think it’s time to try no hood again…..

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