Most days I get up early and the first thing I do is look out of the window to see which way the wind is blowing. That's important you see, the wind makes all the difference I've discovered. Then I go downstairs quietly, trying not to wake Pat and turn on the computer my grandson set up for me last year. That's another thing, I would never have dreamt about getting a computer, but all the people in the car park were talking about 'webcams' and 'online forecasts', and I wanted to find out a bit more. So, I usually make a pot of tea and log onto Magic Seaweed - what a funny name that is - to plan where exactly I'll be heading for in the Berlingo that day.
It all started a few summers ago just after I retired from my job as a primary school headteacher. I was walking the dog at the beach and I was watching a chap trotting across the sand with his surfboard. What struck me about him was that he was such an ordinary looking middle-aged man - grey haired, bit overweight - yet he looked so energised as he splashed into the sea, and he also looked joyful somehow, there was a happy shine to him. It was then that I decided to try and find the old plywood belly board we used to play on with the children when they were younger. I knew it was still in the garage somewhere.
Well, that was only the beginning I can tell you. I soon realised I needed a wetsuit if I wanted to stay in for longer and it wasn't long before I got bored with the belly board and got myself a boogie board. I can't begin to describe the thrill of whooshing across those waves! It was wonderful. For a whole year I'd go to the beach in the afternoons with my boogie board and catch wave after wave. I told all my friends at the social club, hoping some of them would join me, but they just shook their heads laughing, saying I'd always been a bit of a wild one. I didn't mind going on my own though, and to be perfectly honest, I think I preferred it that way - this was something I wanted to master by myself.
Which of-course led to me getting a proper surfboard of my own. I was quite nervous when I went into the surfshop, but the young man was very helpful and I came home with a beautiful pale green 9ft board. I soon discovered it's not as easy as it looks - wrestling that thing out through the breakers can really be a task some days. And on more than one occasion I gave up, so relentless were the waves I couldn't even get out past the white water. I certainly felt the aches and pains on those days, but at least it helped me to sleep, I hadn't felt so exhausted in years. But it was all worth it when I did eventually make it out and managed to catch my first unbroken wave.
Oh, it does make me smile seeing all the young ones turning up in their little cars, four or five of them all crammed in with boards piled up on the roof. Boys and girls together, stripping off in broad daylight - not in the least bit shy or self conscious, I envy them really. Even though no-one takes a blind bit of notice I tend to hide myself in the back of the Berlingo while I'm getting changed, it's a bit warmer too - that's my excuse. I had a lovely time today, the sun was out and the water was smooth. I caught a really nice wave and a girl on a longboard gave me a big cheer as I rode past her. I must say that did put a big smile on my face. I really love doing this now - going surfing, imagine that? Anyway I'd better get going, I told Pat I'd make him Shepherds Pie for tea, that's his favourite.
Ben Aipa, South Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
6 hours ago