Forgive me, Reader, it's been four weeks since my last immersion.
But yesterday I had by Brighton baptism, all the more welcome for being entirely unexpected. The morning was vile, with strong winds and heavy rains. By early afternoon, though, the wind had dropped and the sun had even made a brief appearance. I jogged down to the beach to go for a run, and was amazed to find reasonable surf - and only one surfer in.
So I jogged back, changed into my wetsuit, and grabbed a board. To my dismay, I discovered that my board of choice for Brighton, a 6'10'', turned out to have a small ding in the tail. Exactly why you always need at least two boards to hand. So instead I grabbed my 6'5'' - not ideal, as the weak waves need a board with more volume. But better than a wooden spoon (which would just sink under the weight).
I jogged back again, avoiding shoppers, prams and school-kids, and dived in.
It's only been four weeks (and an operation on my hand) since my last session, but it felt like months, and paddling was a real struggle - not helped by a very strong longshore rip. And it was a beautiful evening - still and clear, with the sun picking out the piers and silhouetting the flocks of birds that swirled around them like swarms of bees.
The waves weren't great - they were big, peaking just overhead, but losing all their height and energy almost immediately, so the rides were short and soft. But a ride's a ride! And a few of them were walling up quite nicely, so the basics were there.
For a while there were four of us out, my shortboard, a longboard, a stand-up paddleboard and a kayak. Basically a specimen from every form of surf life (in descending order of evolutionary status and cool).
My views on SUPs and Kayaks are robust and unrepeatable here. In summary, what's the point?! Fortunately, with a wide beach and unpredictable peaks, there was no reason to get too close.
After about an hour, the sun disappeared, the wind picked up and a few more surfers arrived. After coming off a wave quite close to shore, I decided to call it a day - and found myself swept halfway to Hove by the strong current. Just a few metres from the beach, it was like trying to cross a swift flowing river, drifting at about a metre a second.
I picked my painful way over the cold pebbles and dripped my way back through town, tired but exhilarated.
And this morning, my muscles are glowing with the happy ache of post-surf bliss.