Summit to Sea - Surfing Microadventure
Every four years we get a whole extra day to get out there and be adventurous, and this year it even fell on a Saturday! To celebrate this momentous alignment we teamed up with adventure legend Dave Cornthwaite and the YesTribe to create our ‘Leap into Adventure’ competition to help someone take on their very own microadventure on February 29th. The winner would receive a dryrobe adventure pack and £250 to support them on their expedition into the great outdoors.
We had some incredible ideas come flooding in and it was really tough for Dave to choose a winner, but in the end he selected Craig Nicolas' entry - a mountain ascent of the highest mountain in Wales, followed by a trip to the coast for a surf.
The plan was a sunrise ascent of Snowdon with friends, before hopping in a van, warming up with a coffee and making a beeline for the west coast of Wales to catch some waves with the Irish Sea as their horizon, and mountains as their backdrop.
We caught up with Craig after his microadventure to find out how it went...
Hiking up a mountain then climbing down and heading to the sea for a surf is a pretty unique adventure! What inspired you to choose this as your ‘Leap into Adventure’ entry?
We climbed Ben Nevis in January, so when I saw the competition I knew I wanted to do another UK mountain-based adventure. However, I also knew that my ‘Leap into Adventure’ had to contain one of my passions: spending time in the sea. I decided to try and combine the two very different activities into one day, which was a bit optimistic given the recent barrage of storms.
What kind of planning and preparation did you put in ahead of the micro-adventure and what was your itinerary for the day?
There wasn’t much in the way of long term planning – I think if we had tried to fully plan the trip it would have been stressful given that climbing a mountain and surfing require their own weather conditions to make each viable. We were very much relying on luck as the date was set for the 29th Feb.
On the week of the adventure, the weather forecast was pretty bad with a number of severe weather warnings, so we decided against sleeping in the van and opted to grab a bed in the YHA at the start of the Snowdon hike.
To help try and find a surfable spot in the severe weather, I reached out to the Yes Tribe on Facebook and they were really helpful in recommending some sheltered spots that might not require an RNLI rescue.
The prize included some adventure mentorship from Dave Cornthwaite. What key pieces of advice did he offer you?
The mentorship with Dave was really useful, we discussed the adventure and more specifically my worry that the weather was going to sabotage our chances and I would have to go back to dryrobe with my tail between my legs and no adventure story for them. Dave gave a number of pointers on adapting the adventure if it wasn’t going to plan and highlighted the fact that adversity is also a big part of the story, so all we had to do was try our best and see what happened along the way. We also compared dryrobes, I think the camo is the clear winner.
What kit did you take with you?
There was a fair bit of kit; winter hiking/mountaineering and surfing aren’t the best past times if you want to travel light.
For the mountain, we took layers - lots of layers! Having been up Ben Nevis in January, we knew what the mountains could throw at us, so on top of clothes, we took an emergency shelter and filled the dryrobe Chilly’s bottle with hot coffee - it kept the coffee surprisingly hot! I also wanted to try and get a photo in the dryrobe on the summit, I didn’t think it would fit in my bag but was massively surprised when it squashed down so small in the dryrobe travel bag and I was able to throw it in my backpack.
For the surfing, it was a full winter wetsuit get-up with hood, gloves and boots. The dryrobe was a lifesaver for getting changed in the car park and chasing my clothes down the road when they blew away in the wind. The Chilly’s bottle came in handy again after the surf and kept the coffee steaming during the 5-hour drive home.
It’s fair to say the weather wasn’t ideal! How did you cope with Storm Jorge?
It’s fair to say the storm certainly added to the adventure. We had originally planned to summit Snowdon at sunrise, but after getting numerous severe weather warnings and speaking to various people in the hostel, we decided to delay until first light due to the snow and wind that was expected and just try and see how far we could get. We were incredibly lucky that we hit a break in the weather towards the summit, but whilst the clouds parted the wind was gusting at 50-70mph, so we had to hit the floor a few times.
The biggest storm impact was on the surfing. As we drove from beach to beach, it was looking increasingly unlikely we would be able to safely get in the water, but we stuck at it and managed to find a spot.
Did everything go to plan?
The day was out of whack from the start when we delayed our hike for a few hours and waited for the first light of the day to appear. This and the conditions on the mountain meant we didn’t get back down until a lot later than planned.
Additionally, the first few beaches we got to were completely unsurfable, but this added to the adventure and also forced us to make friends with the locals and pop into the local surf shop to ask for some advice. It wouldn’t be fun if it was easy :)
What was your highlight of the adventure?
Having a steaming hot coffee on the top of Snowdon whilst wrapped up in the dryrobe, and the moment we pulled into the car park and saw a wave that was surfable.
After your experience what advice would you offer to anyone attempting to take on their own microadventure?
Don’t overthink it, get out there and give it a go. If I hadn’t committed to doing the trip for dryrobe, I probably would have cancelled given the weather forecast, but actually the adversity and the added challenge meant we got to experience the raw beauty of nature, and it made it so much sweeter when we managed to summit and surf in the most unlikely of conditions.
Check more of Craig’s photos from the adventure on his blog
You don’t have to wait for leap day to come around again to go on your own microadventure, if you’re looking for some inspiration here are a few of the other ‘Leap into Adventure’ competition entries that we loved...
“I would love to paddleboard to some of the inaccessible coves and beaches on the Pembrokeshire coast to clean them. I currently run regular beach cleans with my 14 year old daughter and have done for almost 10 years. We try to do as many beach cleans as we can but some of the more remote beaches are hard to access from land. We will try to remove as much rubbish as possible (some by water, some by pulling it up the cliffs) we will then use as much of the rubbish to create products and art at local festivals to create awareness of what using single-use plastic is doing to the world.”
“I would love to try stand up paddleboarding so my plan is to have some lessons! I’m not quite sure how it will work with being blind, but there’s only one way to find out! If it goes well, it would be really cool to do a lap of Brownsea island. It would be awesome to learn a new skill. As a deafblind person, I like to show everybody that even with a disability, you can still have cool adventures. With a little help, anything is possible!
I make videos with my friend Lauren, and these are one way we aim to show just what blind people can do: tshirttwins.co.uk”
“As this is my 21st year of being alive I would love to swim in 21 different bodies of water in a day from Devon to Cornwall. All being wild swimming locations or in the sea. With any leftover money from the adventure fund I would like to purchase Moon cups to help out the homeless in and around the Exeter area with period poverty. Not only would this improve their life/hygiene dramatically, it means less non-biodegradable products end up in our oceans. A bonus for all.
After 2019 knocked my confidence it would be nice to do something for myself and to do something that I will remember forever. It may not seem huge to many but I love being in and around water and I feel that forcing myself to do all 21 dips/swims would help me get back to being who I love. Sometimes nature is all you need and any encouragement is welcome because sometimes an idea never becomes a reality when self-doubt and enthusiasm gets in the way.”
Need some more inspiration? Check out Dave Cornthwaite’s top five tips for planning a microadventure here.