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Winter Surfs, New Board and advice from Alan Stokes

What a month February has been!!!

Mostly the waves have been too big for me, but I have to say… I really have got into winter surfing big style this year! Mainly helped by the new addition to my “quiver” (surfboard collection) and not to mention the buzz of cold water therapy.

Who’d have thought it? As I was very much a ‘fair weather’ surfer when I started out in this game. Costa Rica, Fuerteventura and Sri Lanka are more the sort of climate I like to surf, no wetsuits, tropical weather and waves with palm tree’s in the background. To me winter surfing in the UK, really wasn’t appealing by comparison.

Although with the right kit, a decent winter wetsuit, with all the ‘sexy’ (not) accessories - hood, gloves, boots and an awesome new board… well, then you feel invincible and nothing stops you!

So after all the fun I’ve been having this winter and lots of enquires about my new board, I thought I would share a little about my surfing journey and my new ADPT FORM Surfboard.

I have to say, it’s still early days but this board is changing my surfing and I feel a new sense of excitement about getting in the water these days, so much so that not even the snow, freezing weather or torrential rain have stopped me this winter!

Just for the record, I am not an expert on surfboards, I’m a Yoga Teacher who bloody loves surfing!!! However recently I have realised that people just want to hear about your experience on your board. Whether thats because they are looking for something similar, changing up their surfing, wanting to progress or just gain a little more understanding about the different types of boards out there… it is a minefield and can get a bit technical and overwhelming looking for a surfboard.

Joe and I often get asked by our guests on retreats and friends about surfboards, from beginners to intermediates. So hopefully this will be useful to some.

My new board, the ADPT from FORM Surfboards, was for me a big step… or so I thought? I knew I needed to drop down in size overall and particularly volume. For the record I am 5’ 3” and have been riding 6’8" to 7’6” most of the time. Lots of length and volume and having great fun, but I was starting to find the ride a little stiff and wanted more movement in the water. I was also looking for something that was going to allow me to progress but in a way that wouldn’t put me off and feel like I was starting all over again.

So with the help of Alan Stokes we created a custom board to fit all my requirements, something that was going push and challenge me, but versatile, so I could enjoy in a variety of conditions. My new ADPT is 6’1” and I have lost 17L in volume! Alan has been telling me the boards I was riding were too big for what I was trying to achieve and my size, but it still took a while for me to listen, which says a lot about me and my surfing journey too!

For those of you that don’t know Alan Stokes, he is a 3 x British Champion and Pro Surfer and he has been coaching me for some years now. I first surfed with Alan in Costa Rica 4 years ago and since then, Fuerteventura and the Cornish coast. So we have surfed a few waves together, in some great surf spots, where Alan certainly has pushed me past my comfort zone…

So why then haven't I taken Alan, a Pro Surfers advice before now, you ask?

Well I am a bit of a wimp, scared of big waves and I have always had a bit of a confidence issue with surfing and can get spooked easily.

I take time to warm up… and as it seems, “listen to good advice” too!

After describing my frustrations to Alan and how “I wanted a board to help me progress and with more movement”, we looked at a few options, but Alan felt the ADPT covered it all. However when he mentioned how much board he was suggesting to ‘chop off’ (…my technical term there!), I was like, “noooo way!” and “thats way too small for me and I won’t be able to surf that!”. Despite knowing he knew my surfing ability I was still quite hesitant to go this small, loosing length and volume all at the same time, but Alan’s words were:

“Based on analysing your technique, ability and listening to what you want to achieve with your surfing, how you wanted to ride a wave in a certain style, the ADPT just ticked all the right boxes, with its flat entry rocker and full ‘ish’ template. It's a very forgiving board that will give you a little helping hand and that just means your catching more waves and starting to progress quicker”

To prove this too me, Alan took me out for a session on his ADPT 5’10” and I think I actually laughed when he handed me this ‘tiny’ board. It felt so light under my arm and all I could think was “if I can make this work, no more achy arms before I have even entered the water and started paddling” (my boards were heavy!)

We arrived at one of Alans local beaches and the waves were a nice size but all I could think about was “this isn’t going to look graceful…”, but to my amazement (and probably Alan’s, even if he won’t admit that!) I caught my first wave and many after that and had such fun!

So he had proved me wrong and that was it… the purchase of my latest board happened.

We did have to compromise on the size (yes I am stubborn and still can’t listen to a Pro Surfer!) as I thought for this type of investment I still wanted something I could still use in a variety of conditions, so I went for 6’1” but Alans advice was…

“I was trying to get you on a 5'10 because I know your totally capable. Your surfboard if its a shortboard, so were not including mid lengths and longboards here, in general do no need to be too long other wise that nose starts to hinder your take off and turning ability. You want to aim around the same height as yourself. But I will add there is no one size fits all so a little experimentation goes along way”

It makes sense, sounds logic and I have learnt a lot from surfing with Alan from how to read the waves and conditions, to boards and in the water techniques and he is always so encouraging;

“From someone who started out quite fearful, you have progressed into a fearless charger!”

I love that! But still get the fear from time to time.

“Your surfing has come along way, your determined approach has seen you overcome some pretty big hurdles and now with your new board your maximising your wave count and starting to perfect forward drive and turning techniques”

…I am certainly determined, you got that one right Alan!

I purchased my ADPT FORM Surfboard from The Boardshop UK in November and it has been the best purchase I’ve ever made and has had the most dramatic change to both my confidence and surfing. Removing 17 litres and 7 inches in length, I realised very quickly that I had been riding the wrong boards for me. Too much board for the movement and style of surfing I was aspiring to and they were actually holding me back from progressing. However our nearest beach is Saunton Sands in North Devon, great for long boarding, so my old boards will still get lots of use, thats for sure!

I felt like a kid receiving their first bike… when it arrived and no doubt if you follow us on social, then you’ve seen the posts and stories and the reaction on my face when it was unveiled!!

My first solo ride was again something I was not expecting to go too smoothly, the conditions weren’t great and fairly wintery and choppy but I was so mesmerised by the “feeling” on this board, I didn’t care, I was just experiencing something very new and exciting and having so much fun… it was like taking off the 'stabilisers’.

I felt more connected with the waves, because there wasn’t so much board between me and the water. Yes it is a lot more hard work, even sitting on it, but I feel my whole body reacting and ‘feeling’ the wave…

Yes I was very lucky to have a Pro Surfers advice, who knew my surfing, but I have tried lots of boards too and I highly recommend testing boards (if you can) before you purchase them. Most local shapers and board shops have test boards for trial and as it is a large investment you want to get it right. There are so many types of boards suitable for all styes and you do want to get it right.

You need to consider where you will be surfing, as beaches and breaks differ and if you are not by the sea and not surfing often then stick with something that a good allrounder.

Just because I have gone smaller, it’s not just because of the size but the sort of style of surfing I enjoy. As you may be a long boarder and this is a different style of surfing and surfboard, so it is not just the board and length, but your style of surfing you should consider too.

Joe on the other hand is a long boarder and has a lovely “quiver” of boards which he will be telling you all about in an up and coming blog, talking about his GulfStream 9’4” and his FLOWSTIK FORM Surfboard …which I steal quite a lot!!

So watch this space for more on surfboards…

Check out the range FORM Surfboards here, they have an amazing range to suit all levels, styles and perfect for the UK waves:

“All of the boards in the FORM Surfboards range are very well suited for most waves in the UK. All of the boards are all designed and tested by me until we are happy with their performance before introducing any new models. The ADPT and FLOWSTIK family of boards have been extremely popular we literally can not keep them in stock which has been amazing and to hear about everyone's rides is just epic and that's why we do it!

Alan Stokes

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1 Comment

Joe O'Connor
Joe O'Connor
Feb 20, 2021

Love this 🤙🏻🌊💯

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