Over a decade ago, a certain Richard Gregory made an excellent little film about surfing in Brighton called Not California. The title was inspired by the answer he gave to a passer by who asked ‘What’s the surf like, mate?’ while he was trudging up the beach after a miserable winter dawn session at the West Pier.
This morning I was tempted to echo him when I was asked exactly the same question by a woman walking to work along the prom. I’d just spent an hour just after sunrise making the most of a long distance groundswell that had made it up the Channel. A mellow group of longboarders were taking their turn to pick off glassy little peelers, the dawn sun was shining through the crumbling West Pier and it was almost warm. I started to think that maybe this is what surfing in California really used to be like (perhaps without the 5mm wetsuit, boots, gloves and hood). So I answered the woman’s question by saying ‘Not Not California.’