Monday, May 26, 2008

Barcelona surfing pictures

Following on from my last post, on my way home from work I took some pics of the waves, which were still pumping. Sorry for the low res, it was only my camera phone. (Clicky make biggy, so you can actually see some surfers...)

There is also a quick video, but I'm afraid the resolution is even worse. Gives you some idea though!

Barcelona surfing

This year so far has been pretty rubbish for waves in Barcelona. I had one excellent session back in February, and a couple of hairy blown-out sessions in March, but since then the sea has been flat flat flat. Very disappointing, especially considering last Autumn, when there was a rideable wave more often than not, and I was getting in three times a week.

So you can imagine how excited I was on the ride to work this morning, when my eyes alighted on perfect 3-4 ft groundswell and a very very light offshore wind. Result! Lunchtime couldn't come round quickly enough and, come 1.30, I was sprinting off back home on my bike, jumping into my wetsuit and paddling out by 1.50. Check out the photo above, grabbed from the coastal monitoring station webcam here in Barcelona. The second beach up from the bottom is where it's at - you can even see a nice wave peeling from the groyne.

I haven't really talked much about my local wave on this blog, so I might as well give you a quick description. Obviously, Mediterranean waves are not worth travelling from afar to surf, but they do exist, along with a healthy local surf scene. My local break is Bogatell beach, a five minute walk from my flat in Barcelona city, and on days like today...well, quite frankly it's a little bit gnarly. Context is everything of course, I'm sure Kelly Slater's description would be something along the lines of "a disappointingly short, yet reasonably fast wave which closes out too often*". Needless to say, Kelly Slater I am not, and so I think of it more as vertical drop from hell straight onto a churning sandbar in inch deep water. Basically the waves come from deep water and dump straight onto a shallow sandbar (or series of sandbars) which lie about 30-40 metres offshore. Slow, fat waves hit the sandbar and suddenly jack up to three times their height, sucking up vast quantities of water before chomping their jaws shut.

From a surfing persective it makes it all rather unnerving (for me) once it reaches 3 feet or so. Basically you have to paddle like crazy man to try and pick some speed from the slow approach of the wave, then time your pop** to split second perfection. Too early and the wave won't take you, too late and the jaw will open wide with you right at its very top, and your board pointing vertically downwards. Ouch. Get it right however, and you'll be up and riding in the split second before the jaws open - enough time to angle the board down the wave, pump a bit for speed if necessary, and then when the jaws open, slash down the face at a million miles an hour, heart beating at 10000bpm, and occasionally releasing an involuntary shriek of terror/joy. Within a couple of seconds though it's all over, the wave passes the sandbar into deeper water and either closes out or backs off again. If you're lucky you get something inbetween the two which is my cue to try and pull off a couple of turns. Most times I fail after one off-balance attempt - I'd like to say I'm a good surfer but the reality is that I am still a little bit shit (and probably always will be!).

Anyway today was typical good conditions at Bogatell, in an hour I had four good rides and about three ohmygodimgoingtodie wipeouts. The last one of which saw me stuck on the sandbar while a set of four of five big waves broke straight over my head, one after another. Enough is enough, I thought, after being tumbled for the umpteenth time. Homeward bound. And back to work to finish off my paper for SIGGRAPH. I will be back though!

* non-surfer's note 1: when a wave 'closes-out' it means that the whole length of the wave breaks at the same time. This is not so good for surfing, as it turns the whole wave into white water mush, and leaves no nice clean faces for turning on.
** non-surfer's note 2: the 'pop' is the bit where you push from a lying/paddling position and up into a standing position.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

BMC International Meet

Two years ago I attended the BMC international Meet at Plas-y-Brenin, and at the end of the week vowed that, wherever I was in the world, I would be back for the next one. Basically, you just get to go climbing for a whole week in North Wales with a variety of foreign visitors, with the goal of showing them what traditional (i.e. no fixed bolts) climbing is all about. Needless to say this is bloody good fun, as you make loads of friends and get to go climbing all week. It's great. The 'Summer' meets occur every two years, with Winter meets, which are equivalent but held in Scotland and focus on winter mountaineering, happening in the intervening years. Last week was the date for the Summer meet 2008, and as per the promise I made to myself, there I was again.

North Wales is a pretty unique climbing venue. While it lacks any truly big walls, it makes up for it in the sheer variation of climbing available. Within a 45 minute-drive radius from Llanberis you can climb on several different rock types, ranging from various volcanic rhyolites and tuffs, to dolerite, quartzite, limestone, gabbro, slate and (if you're a bit crazy) mudstone and shale. Each different rock type requires a different style of climbing, from steep overhanging limestone that is well-endowed with pockets and holds, to featureless slate slabs that require pulling and balancing on razor thin edges. Very few other places in the world have such a variation in such a small area.

The meets traditionally always luck out with the weather, and this one was no exception. Snowdonia was basking in 25 degree sunshine for almost the whole week, which essentially guaranteed the success of the event. There were 44 guests from 24 countries, and an equal number of British climbers to show them around. I climbed with a Belgian, a Pole, a Portuguese guy and Ferran (who I met at the last meet, and who I climb with a lot over hear in Catalunya). They were all great people and good fun to climb with. I was also particularly chuffed to onsight my first E5, Flashdance (see snap above), but a bit miffed to fall off the last move of the classic E4, Resurrection; though I'm glad I gave it a go, and managed to get to the top after giving my tired forearms a bit of a rest.

All in all it was a superb week and I am already looking forward to the next one in two years time...!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A year in Barcelona!

Last Saturday evening we attended our third barbeque in as many weeks, which leads me to conclude that the bbq season here in Catalunya is well and truly open! Here's a picture of Daniel 'Ferran AdriĆ ' Evans-Jones on his terrace, "lightly crisping" a couple of sausages :)

The opening of the bbq season has double significance as it marks the first year 'anniversary' of when we moved here - our first Saturday evening as Barcelona residents was spent on the very same terrace you see in the photo above, having a barbie and half-watching old 80s movies on a big wall-projector. Djanira and I were discussing that very evening with Kate (Dan's missus) last night - it's odd looking back and remember who we met, who we became good friends with, which people have stayed in Barcelona, which have left etc. I even mentioned it on this blog, in a post written a couple of days after we arrived. I'm glad I've been writing it, even if it's just for my benefit in reminiscing.

Anyway, the reason I'm writing about it now is that I won't actually be in Barcelona to celebrate the exact date that marks the end of our first year here, as I will be in Wales. Two years ago, I attended the BMC International Meet in North Wales, and had such a good time that I vowed I would go to the next one. Well, that time has now come and I'm taking a week off work to go climbing in the motherland and make new friends. I can't wait!