bugle_1I hope you have all enjoyed a little bit of Rob in your lives on a daily basis, but I’m afraid that this is the last post of these adventures.

After a year on the road you may ask what has this time away taught me?

Most surprising of all was that my eyes turn blue after prolonged exposure to bright sunlight. Go figure!

Going around the world in search of beaches has reconfirmed a long held belief that waist high waves can be far more fun than charging double overhead monsters, especially if surfing with friends.

worldI have spent time in each of the continents and have learned that surf culture is much the same wherever the waves are.

A smile has got me a great deal further than aggression in the water almost everywhere in the world, and it has given me so many wonderful new friends.

airlinesAirlines don’t like surfers very much, and this particular wave rider is not too fond of them either.

Internet and telephone technology has developed so much that this trip simply would not have been possible even ten years ago. However it still has a very long way to go before we live in a digital planet.

It would be boring if there was no adventure left though, and I think I will probably look back most fondly on the journey driving down the west coast of the Americas in my Volkswagen. It was all the more challenging taking it on in a language not my own, but so much more satisfying because I managed to do it all by myself.

life-clockFor a long while I have believed that time is our most precious commodity. It is worth far more than gold, and because life is not a dress rehearsal you must make the most of whatever is available to you.

I like to think that I have squeezed as much as possible into this journey so will always look back fondly on this adventure. I know it has been the time of my life and wouldn’t change any of it including the things that have driven me to insanity at times.

Sunset Surf

What next, you may ask?

I suspect it will be a long time before I spend the night with crustaceans in my bedroom again or I surf in shorts, but it wont take long until the next swell is on the horizon, even if the water will most likely be cold and I will have to wear a thick wetsuit to cope with it.

There is usually plenty of swell at this time of year, so does anyone want to go surfing?

m4s0n501
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thank-youJust before I wrap everything up I must thank a few people for their help.

Firstly to Neil & Pete at KTS Publishing Direct without whom this blog simply wouldn’t have taken place, and who have been on the sharp end of my moaning about technical woes throughout my adventures. Always patient and willing to listen.

Next I must thank those who invited me into their homes and gave me shelter. Accommodation was by far my biggest expense so any opportunity for a free bed was always welcome. Thank you so much Dom, Lisa and Steve, Kevin, H.M. Government through Sarah and Phil, Roddy and Sarah, Adam and Rossana, Kathleen and Charlotte, Emma and Richard, Rick and Lou, Adam and Helen, Justin and Vicky, and finally to Clem and Hannah.

Travel-AgencyOn my way around the planet I called in on so many other old friends who were excellent company both in and out of the water. Too many to list here but you know who you are, and all were a welcome respite to life spent largely on my own. In a similar vein I must also say hi to all the new friends I made.

I must not forget to thank both Nia at Orme Travel and Kim at The Surf Travel Company, who helped me to keep my trip in the road and squeeze as much as I could into the last twelve months. Both have become good friends and regularly offered salient advice.

Websites readersIt may sound odd, but I must also thank all of you who have been reading about my adventures. There have been nearly 70,000 visits to the website through the year and knowing that so many people had taken an interest regularly encouraged me to go out and find something interesting to do before writing about it.

Finally to an uncalculable number I must be grateful for the kindness of strangers that was shown to me. Almost every day people would help me out despite language barriers and without looking to be rewarded. It frequently turned my frown upside down.

 

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Stormy Hells MouthI had hoped to wrap up the number of beaches I surfed during this adventure on a round number of 150 breaks, the last of which was supposed to be a triumphant return to the break where it all started for me in North Wales.

However the weather has been so foul since I have returned to the UK that all I could have expected to find there was a view like you see here. The surf in the UK, and North Wales in particular, is so fickle you can never guarantee clean waves. It has been an early reminder of why I decided to head off on my quest to find great breaks worldwide.

California 149My original aim was only eighty breaks and I have managed to surf 149 different beaches on my travels. However if you consider the number of breaks I have surfed more than once (e.g. Steamer Lane, Telescopes, The Pass, Weligama) I have probably doubled my target in terms of surf sessions.

Perhaps I should I have tried my hand at one of the breaks detailed in this article to bring up the 150? Then again giving them a miss was probably wise!

Tropical Perfection 2Sadly it looks like I will have to wait for the artificial waves being planned for North Wales to be completed in 2015 before I get to enjoy local surf that breaks with the sort of mechanical perfection that I have seen over tropical reefs.

Sadly I realise that the chances of hot ladies in thong bikinis hanging around the site of a former aluminium factory in Dolgellau will probably be quite slim.

Board Damage 2I couldn’t have gone surfing on the board I brought back with me, even if I had wanted to. I took it out of its board bag for the first time the other day and discovered that the nose looks like it has been beaten with a cricket bat.

(The less I say about cricket at this stage is probably wise, due to the appalling efforts of the Poms in the latest ashes series!)

It won’t take me too long to repair after all the practise I have had over the last year. The only issue will be getting enough sunlight to make the ultra violet resin cure. It is ironic given that I had to work so hard to find shade for such work at other times during my adventures.

mickfanningIn a final comment about surfing I should congratulate another Australian, Mick Fanning, for becoming the world champion again after doing so well in the Pipe Masters on Oahu in Hawaii, and the other rounds worldwide.

I should also congratulate Kelly Slater for winning the contest there. It is hard to believe that it is only twelve months since I was watching him score perfect tens in the awesome surf there last year. (You can see the best of the action by following this link.)

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Scratching For The HorizonHaving been back in the UK for a few weeks now I keep getting asked the same questions so thought I would answer them here:

Biggest Waves? That I was in the water with – Santa Catalina in Panama which is pictured here. That I saw surfed – Tea’hupoo in French Polynesia, which was probably more scary even watching it from the boats. I was in the boat behind the camera filming this footage, so you can see why!

Dolphin 2My Best Surf Session? Ha’apiti on Mo’orea. I knew it then and I know it now. Surfing will never get better than that.

Where were the friendliest people? I was very lucky that during the whole of my trip I only encountered one moron in the water.

Most people that I met were brilliant, but I would have to say that Fijians and Indonesians seemed happiest.

Is-there-a-speed-limitCraziest Drivers? Insanity seemed to be common in Guatemalan and Sri Lankan bus drivers, Vietnamese scooter riders, Nicaraguan car drivers and arguably myself in camper-vans because I kept getting speeding tickets

Where I would most like to visit again? The beaches of California, but during the summer next time to enjoy it all in the sunshine.

Mrs PearsonPrettiest Girls? The ladies of Peru and Colombia seemed to be stunning by default, but I will always remember a young lady I was surfing with on the North Shore of Oahu who was just perfect.

Best Wildlife? Australia had the most brushes with nature but for variation the islands of Indonesia were unbeatable

Most Impressive Surfing? Watching the pros at the top of their game at the 2012 Pipe Masters, although the surfing I witnessed at G-Land was also off the charts.

Sea-TurtleFavourite Animal? I want to say dolphins because I surfed with so many over the year, but they were so hard to get on camera. As a result I will opt for turtles which I saw on my first and last sessions of the trip and during many more in between.

If there are any other questions you would like answered please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Colourful preschool numbersHaving completed the journey I have been looking at what it took to get me from North Wales to North Wales via a beach or two.

This is a summary of some of the numbers involved:

 

 

  • 36 Plane Flights – most of which came with the opportunity to pay through the nose to practise my ding repair skills.
  • 3 Corrupt Policemen – all of whom got diddly squat from me
  • 60 Countries – visited, seen or time spent with the nationals
  • 3 Suspiciously large grey fish sighted adjacent to me in the water. I don’t want to know about what I didn’t see
  • 15 Cars driven – With the Little Green Surf Machine being my favourite.
  • 4 Mopeds treated to my personal brand of abuse
  • 9 Surfboards ridden – one of which is probably still making a baggage handler in Santiago, Chile a very happy man
  • 29 Boats – which ferried me, my surf boards and my vehicles to breaks worldwide
  • A large number of Hotels and Hostels – including a handful of questionable patronage
  • 2 Campervans
  • 12 Telephone Numbers
  • 32 Trains
  • 1 Tuk-Tuk
  • 5 Trams – in San Francisco and Hong Kong
  • 3 Oceans surfed
  • Countless new friends
  • 19 Buses – of which I don’t think one seat was designed with me in mind
  • Cost? I will admit I spent more than a pound and less than a billion, but won’t offer more than that.
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Llandudno Sign.jpgI stuck around with my sister long enough to enjoy her birthday, but needed to push once again so that my trip could truthfully claim to be one that went all the way around the world.

Growing up this illuminated sign on the road into Llandudno always told me there were just a few more corners left before I would be home. It might not be as famous as the sign for Hollywood, but it was a real delight to see it shining like a beacon in the night as I got close again.

How could you not be thrilled to be home when you get to enjoy views like these every day after arriving?

P1060103Getting home I had a great time with my family and wasted hours chasing Hugo, who you see here, around the house.

I was in a celebratory mood for completing my circuit and making it home largely in one piece, despite all the challenges and dangers I had experienced. It only felt right that I took everybody out to dinner as a consequence, and we enjoyed a fantastic evening.

I did it. Wooo-Hooo!

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IKBrunelChainsI had a great time in London but didn’t want to stick around there for too long. This was mostly because I wanted to catch up with my family, whom I haven’t seen in the flesh for over a year. Skype is great, but technology can’t replace a loving hug just yet.

First it was necessary to collect my surfboard from left luggage at Paddington station and then take a First Great Western train ride west towards Gloucester.

The guard on the train did his best to ruin my day by demanding a ticket for my surfboard, so it would seem that airlines are not the only transport option that seek to fleece surfers. I am sure that Isombard Kingdom Brunel would be horrified to hear that the railway he built was unable to cope with an additional 10kg.

SarahHowever prolonged verbal sparring and a refusal to remove the surfboard once it was on the train saw me eventually side step this fee, although this was probably because I was placing the train’s punctuality at risk.

I was still in too good a mood to let this get to me but am already wondering how much petty nonsense I will take before reverting to the regular pre trip sense of humour failures.

After an hour on the train enjoying the British countryside passing by outside the window I was soon in Gloucester getting the hug I wanted from my sister.

Souvenirs 3Not only has my sister been monitoring my mail and helping me sort out any administrative issues while I have been away, she has also kindly accepted all the parcels I have sent home.

I was a bit surprised myself when I saw how large the pile of boxes was that were filled with my souvenirs from all points around the planet.

International Coat 3I was also reunited with my globe trotting coat, which I had not seen since Auckland in New Zealand some six months previously.

It was a welcome sight because I have arrived in the middle of the British winter and a warm coat is certainly needed at this time of year.

The bag full of board shorts and vests that I was carrying from Asia and Africa would not be much help in this regard.

You can see that Sarah’s dog Scooby was keen to get involved in the unwrapping of boxes and help me unpack my bags on the chance of a snack or two being uncovered during the process. His patient-ish wait did not reap the rewards he was clearly looking for.

Trusty Chariot 4I was also reunited with my trusty surf wagon once in Gloucester. Sarah has been taking it for a spin every once in a while for me, and also made sure all the necessary paperwork was maintained, so I’m hoping it won’t be too jealous about all the other vehicles I have been taking to the beach while I have been away.

For the first time in over a year I will not be carrying my whole world on my back. My vertebrae cannot thank it enough!

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teethI paid a visit to my old stomping ground to catch up with loads of friends. Worryingly this also allowed a visit to my dentist, who upon arrival I discover I have not seen for eighteen months.

It is rarely a pleasant experience, but I was relieved to be given a clean bill of health. It would appear that the questionable diet I have been getting by on for much of the last year has not had a detrimental effect. My cheesy grin is safe for now!

WP_20131202_005Honor Oak Mansions that you see here was my home for twelve years prior to beaches worldwide. I had a great evening with all my former neighbours and an old school friend.

There has been a mini exodus from the block since I left, but I discovered that nothing has really changed while I have been away. It did feel a bit weird though not going back there at the end of the evening in East Dulwich, and knowing that somebody else was living in the flat that was my home for so long.

Back To WorkWhilst in London I also caught up with some of my family and a group of my surfing buddies who were keen to hear about my exploits at breaks around the world.

Being the United Kingdom all the above entailed drinking plenty of alcohol, and I am not sure what my liver has done over the last year to deserve such punishment.

Even an unexpected but welcome opportunity to join an employment networking event ended up in the pub and it soon felt like I had never been away. Although getting clean shaven and wearing a suit for the first time since the British Ball in Guatemala was a bit of a shock to the system. I had grown quite fond of my hairy face and was sorry to see it go.

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thamespathI have had a lovely weekend in the Twickenham area of London, despite watching another agonisingly close loss to Australia by the Welsh rugby team. Twickenham is actually home of England rugby so I am trying hard not to upset the locals who probably don’t realise that they have the enemy within their midst.

It all feels very normal and I am trying to get my head around being back in the UK. Travails in the tropics feel like they might just have been a dream as Richard, Hannah and I take their dog Buddy for a delightful walk along the banks of the River Thames.

the-white-swanThe difference in temperature between here and wherever I have been for most of the last year is taking a bit of getting used to.

However forty years experience of the british weather means it wont take long, and a stop for a few drinks at the White Swan at the end of our stroll warms me up as quick as you might expect.

bitterIt is as quintessentially an English a pub as one might hope to find.

It has been far too long since I enjoyed a few decent pints of bitter chatting with friends.

Now this really feels like a welcome home!

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In no particular order:

  1. Being able to drink water straight out of the tap.
  2. Smoked back bacon.
  3. Getting to surf my home breaks.
  4. Seeing my family.
  5. Pints of bitter.
  6. British bread.
  7. Spending time with my friends.
  8. No animals that bite or sting that are worse than a wasp.
  9. Having a full quiver of surfboards to choose from.
  10. An abundance of Marmite.
  11. Not sharing any residences (or my bed for that matter) with any insects.

On the downside it could be a tad warmer!

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