I DO a lot of surfing at night, mainly because I'm working all day. It means I don't get much sleep, but it's worth it.
The surf is actually best around sunset and sunrise when the winds are lighter. I sometimes sleep on the beach to catch it at the right moment. In this part of Wales high tide coincides with a full moon, which means you can see what you're doing. I stay in for two or three hours - as long as I can.
I try to surf every day all year round - it's a lifestyle, not a hobby. If we have a flat few days, my nerves start to go on edge. I started surfing back in 1966 and have been addicted ever since.
Though surfing is essentially a solitary activity it's good to share it, and there is usually someone game for a moonlit ride. Great experiences are frozen in my memory and one picture I can always recall is my friend Craig leaping over a wave in front of me, entirely silhouetted against the huge full moon. If I'm short of company, there's always Max, my dog. He loves surfing and either comes on the board with me or I push him out on his own.
Surfing for me is a mystical activity, almost like a kind of meditation. My mind is focused on something far away from everyday life. The feeling of oneness with the elements is enhanced at night. Because your vision is limited you have to rely on other senses to get in tune with the wave, read its power and estimate how long it will last.
At one local beach we surf over a reef and you'd certainly be in trouble there if you fell off, but I rarely think about danger. The only time I've come close to getting hurt was some years ago. It was just before sunrise in El Salvador; I got separated from my board by a strong wave and as I waded shorewards the sun came up and I saw a 10ft shark right in front of me. I threw myself over it, frantically splashing, running and falling, counting the seconds until I felt its teeth . . . fortunately it let me be, perhaps I frightened it off.
We get a lot of dolphins round here - they play in the waves just as we do. Last Sunday evening I was surfing with two dolphins - they stayed about six inches under me, turning their faces up, accelerating when I did and breaking the waves with sheer exuberance. Magical experiences like that frequently reappear in my dreams.
Before I started the centre I used to travel for half the year, following the surf around the world. I'd sleep wherever was nearest the ocean - from a bamboo hut in Bali to a beat-up camper van in the Americas. I've surfed off every continent except Antarctica. Whenever the waves were flat I'd go off after some local culture or history - so I got to see the world, too. There's a small but very distinct international surfing community and you'd meet people in, say, South Africa whom you last saw on a beach in Java.
You never meet an ex-surfer and I have no intention of giving up, even when I'm more ancient than I am now. I suppose one reason I never went for a wife and kids was that it might slow my surfing down. I've recently started going out with a woman who can surf and that's an exciting new departure - I won't have to leave her behind all the time.
When I've been surfing I'm not usually back before midnight. I'm still on a high and sometimes join a lock-in at a local pub. But I don't do anything like reading or watching television to wind down because I like to lie in bed and ride each wave again in my mind. I can still recall waves from 20 years ago - no two are ever the same. If I'm finding it hard to go off, I remember a magnificent 20-footer and start tubing (riding inside a rolling wave) down it. Time seems to stand still as tons of water revolve around me and I'm weightless in the eye of a storm . . . then everything is dark and I'm deep asleep.
I always wake up very early. The first thing I do when I get out of bed is open the window and look out to sea. If there's white water at the foot of the cliffs, I'm a happy man - surf's up]
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content