Roger Cox: Scottish winter surfing is no picnic

These may sound like the words of a raving masochist to any non-surfing readers out there, which I guess is probably most of you, but surfing in Scotland in the middle of winter has its advantages.

The waves are bigger, the crowds are smaller and the sealife that gets washed up on the beach tends to look more alien than it ever does in the summer, presumably because the freaks of the deep like to hide out in hard-to-reach places and can only be dislodged by serious storms. That said, even the most hardcore surfers would agree that winter here can occasionally be a wee bit on the harsh side.

Wetsuits these days are great at keeping you warm, even on the most finger-nippingly frigid of days, but they still don’t stop your face from burning with cold every time you duck dive under a wave. And, of course, you can’t wear rubber indefinitely. At some point you’re going to have to peel off that nice warm second skin and hop around half-naked in a deserted car park, chasing after your clothes as they are blown hither and yon by the wind while trying not to lacerate the soles of your feet on all those tiny pebbles that CUT LIKE KNIVES.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I’ll be honest: there have been plenty of days this winter when, even though the surf forecast has been good, I’ve opted for an extra couple of hours in bed rather than the inevitable al fresco wrestling match with my rubber tracksuit. But now I think I may have stumbled upon the solution to my midwinter (in landlubber terms February isn’t midwinter, but in surfing terms it is) funk: a remote-controlled surfer. That’s right – a little plastic surf dude attached to a little propeller-driven surfboard which can be controlled with a couple of thumbsticks from the (relative) warmth and comfort of the beach.

When I first heard about these toys I thought they must be a hoax, but no, they’re real, and they can be yours for less than 60 quid on eBay. In fact, as I write this my cursor is hovering over the “buy” button for an RC surfer from Germany – a blonde, suitably Teutonic-looking fraulein in a black and red wetsuit. Apparently she’s all mine for just £58.11, plus about half as much again in postage and packaging.

But the question is: would a dalliance with an RC surfer just be a bit of harmless fun, or could it turn out to be the beginning of the end of my surfing life? I’ve seen video footage of these things in action and, frankly, they surf about a thousand times better than I ever will. Once I’ve figured out how to make my little surfer girl launch monster airs like a pro, would it feel like too much of a comedown to go surfing myself? Could I handle being comprehensively outperformed on a regular basis by an inanimate lump of plastic? Or would I eventually admit defeat, hang up my little rubber booties and become a shed-dwelling Neanderthal, surviving on a diet of rainwater and cat food while obsessively trying to construct the ultimate RC surfer?

My biggest fear is that I might actually come to enjoy RC surfing more than surfing itself. A typical surf session for me these days, in my less-than-optimal physical condition, involves roughly 50 per cent paddling, 49 per cent waiting around for the right wave and perhaps, if I’m lucky, one per cent surfing. But with an RC surfer those numbers would be transformed to 50 per cent zooming out through the surf and 50 per cent zooming back in again. No boredom, no slog, no effort, just fun fun fun. And an RC surfer can always go surfing, whether the waves are six inches or ten feet. Superior in almost every way.

At times of existential crisis such as these, I often seek inspiration from the writings of Mahatma Gandhi. OK, that’s a lie, but Gandhi did once say: “Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory”. Or, at least, that’s what Google says he said. And he’s got a point: there’s no real satisfaction to be gained in accomplishing something easy. It’s the soul food equivalent of empty calories. So I’m going to finish writing this sentence, then I’m going to close down eBay, and we will never speak of this again. There. Gone.