1.. mun-mu “40 az‘
Novice Dan Bailey braves the waves in the Isle of Lewis, Scotland’s watersports capital, trying his hand at surfing and sea kayaking.
couldn’t fault his powers of observation. If
anyone deserved the tag. surely it was this pasty crew of desk-bound hacks? Our favourite upper body workout involves the lifting of pints: our collective surfing experience amounted to having once watched Paint Break. Local hero Derek Macleod was the real thing — tough. sun- bleached and overflowing with enthusiasm. Derek was our surf guru for the day, on hand to offer technical tips and the odd fruity insult — at which he seemed to excel. He was clearly also an accomplished surfer. I hoped his talents extended to rescuing drowning landlubbers.
‘ R ubber—armed jessies,‘ he taunted with a chuckle. l
We parked up near the Butt of Lewis on close-cropped turf
above turquoise seas and a deserted golden bay. The gentle swell was ideal for learners. After a brief technique lesson on dry sand. we battled the waves. For rubber-armed beginners this is less glamorous than the movies suggest. more like plain hard work. Lying face down on my board and paddling fecny seawards felt like trying to wrestle a slippery fish. while simultaneously being dashed in the face with cold salty foam. Reading the sea is the key, grins Derek. Power out through the waves until your shoulders have gone on strike and you‘ve reached the point where incoming rollers crest and curl. Bob around ineffectually. Now pick a wave that‘s about to start breaking. turn for shore and paddle like a maniac. Then when the sea’s momentum takes you, spring up into a low crouch and ride it out. Looking cool is an optional extra.
114 THE LIST 4—18 Mar 2004
Standing tip is the problem. Balancing on a piece of polystyrene that‘s being swept shoreward by several tons of wave proved trickier than Derek makes it look. Rising above a cautious kneel sent my board flying one way. and me the other. A casual onlooker wouldn‘t have noticed much progress. but to me these bungles eventually came to resemble the real thing. as I gained a wobbly crouch for the odd tantalising millisecond. only to plunge headlong again. With a thrashy guitar soundtrack in my head and several pints of water up my nose 1 was discovering a whole new addiction. However tired. i just had to stay in for that elusive perfect ride.
All afternoon our small group was alone on this stunning beach. begging the question why anyone would bother jostling for space in the crowded waters of Bali or Newquay. Here in the Hebrides so much is enjoyed by so few. The surf is some of Europe‘s best. and not even that cold. Snug in my foil-lined wetsuit. I hadn‘t so much as shivered.
Though we’d barely dried out from the first day. the next morning we signed up for some sea kayaking. entirely ignorant of what this involves. It turned out to loosely resemble its fresh water cousin. except that sea kayaks are much longer and thinner than river boats. and instead of being dashed into rocks by the force of some raging mountain torrent. the main concern is coping with the waves and currents of open water. We took to the sea at the head of Loch Roag. on a morning of squally showers. I feared a close
Open seas present the perfect alternative to the crowded waters of Bali or Newquay