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Extreme

Coasteering with the Guys

Myself and Denzil Guy, I'm using the Aqua Pac 90 ltr Upano Duffel Bag. 

Making the long walk down to Dancing Ledge, Via the a bridal path and through a farm, you have to walk down an incredibly steep section of land which drops down towards the quarry. 


Getting kitted up on the lowest ledge, broke me into a sweat just doing this, could'nt wait to get in the water and cool off. 


 Ben Schofield

Ben Schofield

Floating around at the bottom of a jump, this was a warm up jump from the ledge in front of me to help the guys understand the correct the jumping technique before throwing them off the larger jump. 


So, there's a jump, a really high jump... Here's me walking out, and walking around to head up to the high jump which shouldn't be done without absolute commitment and knowledge of the landing zone. 


So this is the jump, around 60 feet high, you have to jump out and over a ledge clearing a sunken rock that is under the surface of the water about the size of a car. This jump is only accessible when there is a spring high tide to give you that extra depth of water to jump into. 

From this height, you don't normally want to wear a BA as the force of the impact into the water can rip your BA off your body, which nearly happened on this occasion. 

As I hit the water, the force of water ripped my BA up and into my face, smashing me in the nose, My first thought was I had broken my nose but upon checking it, it was OK. 

 

 

Coffee and Carves

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Coffee and Carves with Roots Longboards

Specialising in unique, custom, handcrafted longboards, their fresh designs are created from a selection of beautiful woods including solid Oak, Baltic Birch and Canadian Maple. The "running gear" for each complete has been carefully selected to deliver the essence of longboarding to their customers. 'Ride and Glide'.

It was the first day of brilliant blue sky that we had seen since before Christmas, so the guys from Roots had arranged to head down South, to Boscombe and I would meet them there. I'd spoken to the guys a few times through Facebook, but I had not yet met them in person so was feeling a little apprehensive about meeting up with them. Don't know why, because as soon as I saw them I felt completely comfortable and at home. I'm generally pretty laid back and easy going, so meeting new people isn't really a problem once I pass the initial greeting. Just be confident and smile. Hyped to get riding!

On the drive over to Boscombe, I wasn't sure whether the roads would have dried up from the night before. The only hope was that the rising sun would dry out all the south-east facing roads and hills that weren't covered by trees and building's. 

Dean Bullion, shaper and designer from Roots arrived early and got himself acquainted with the local coffee from Urban Reef that is situated right on the promenade with incredible views of the beach and the sea, while waiting for myself and Martin Dix to arrive. 

As I arrived and walked down to the sea front, I was greeted by Martin Dix ( Co-Owner and shaper), Dean Bullion (shaper and designer), and their good friend and rider James Eveleigh. 

The plan for the day was to try out two new Pin-Tail Longboards that Martin and Dean had been building the night before and the result was astonishing, Martin was up until the early hours of the morning tweaking and testing the boards on his local hill outside his house. 

We headed for the famous Boscombe pier, lit up by the sunshine and made our way to the end of the walkway and set up base for a couple of hours. We made the most use of the empty pier to test out the new boards to their maximum potential, carving in and out of the seated areas that were totally empty. I don't personally ride flexible, loose, pintail boards as I'm more of into my stiff freeride and downhill boards, but much to my amazement the pin tail felt fantastic underfoot. 

We were also met by local guy Andy White, Andy has grown up surfing and skateboarding around these areas too, owning YDNA skate shop in Southbourne, then recently creating Chariots of the Sun, bespoke vintage looking wetsuits which are really incredible. Check them out: at http://chariotsofthesun.bigcartel.com/homepage

There was a father and his little boy at the end of the pier, the little boy kept looking at the skateboards, so I jumped off and started to show it off to the little guy and then Pops put the little guy on it and instantly, a smile beamed across his face as we pushed him around. Afterwards, Dad thanked us for letting him push his son on the longboard. It feels so good when you can help someone to get on a longboard and to experience it for the first time - potentially that could be one more longboarder when he gets older. 

The two new pintail boards were set up with Revenge 180's and Randall 150's. They'll be sold with Paris 180's, Randall or Paris 150's with an option to reduce the price with Vault 150's or 180's. 

Wheels were 68mm Road Riders and on the other 75mm  'Buttery' Avillas. They suspect they will be releasing them 3dm's I guess for that absolutely buttery flow! It had a beautiful dark wood finish to it, this wasn't intentional but didn't want to leave the boards plain looking, so applied this beautiful dark colour tint to the wood to finish it off for the demo and it looked gorgeous. 

The ride was smooth, buttery and a joy to be on, straight away I felt comfortable. Finding the best foot placement didn't take long and was quickly carving and pumping around the pier. The Revenge trucks gave an awesome response kick back to the carve, however it wasn't  so fierce that it would throw you off. The flex of the board was spot on, even for myself who is touching (ahem) 14 stone. The board had enough flex without bottoming out; they have built in 1/2 inch concave into the board which was perfect to lock your feet into place. 

They also brought some other boards with them that were truly awesome. The 34 inch Roots cruiser (Penny Killer), The Knot (with twin kicks), you find more about these boards by visiting their website

After the pier session, we headed up to Urban beach for some lunch. As it's out of season down here the local cafe/bars were shut to our annoyance, so we rocked up to Urban Beach to grab a light bite and a drink. Proper man chips, chunky as hell!!

The plan for the afternoon was to take the cars and boards and head over to Slade's farm skate park. If you don't know it, then Slade's is an old park, built back in the 70's, has a good snake run concrete bowl, various rails, and added fun boxes, very old school, its a bit rough around the edges but hey, thats why we love it. 

However, when we arrived there it was still pretty moist with a couple of large puddles still in the snake run, so we headed over to another area. The Velodrome. It is what it is, a cycle velodrome for racing, but we got ourselves on there in the hope that the sun had dried it out, disappointingly, we only had corner to play on and have a pump about on. So we headed back to the pier to catch the sunset on the pier. 

Arriving back to the pier, after parking the cars up, the pier was shut! this was so annoying as the pier offers excellent lighting running the length of the pier and with the added sunset it would of been insanely good to capture the boards in action. So we made the most of what we had and skated along the promenade, cruising, pumping and carving our way along, the sun started to set in front of us so we stopped for another coffee at Urban Reef where it gave us time to reflect on the day and talk about events and the boards that we had just spent the whole day with, whilst capturing some awesome sunset pictures as it disappeared behind the pier and the Purbecks. 

To end the day we headed back up to the cars, where we had ignored a perfectly smooth, low gradient road which we could carve and pump about on which gave us a sweet view over-looking the pier and along the coastline. Here, we shared around the boards, getting low, performing some low manoeuvre turns and cornering in and out of the car park. As it got dark, the chill of the night reminded us that it was only January, compared to earlier in the day where we had been riding around in just T-shirts, you could of thought it was Spring and been anywhere in the world. 

Overall, if you''re looking for a quality deck which is great value for money and better than a Penny board which you want to use for commuting, carving, cruising, playing in the bowls then check out these boards. They have some big plans for this year and will be all over at events and running some of their own, creating some new shapes and you may even see a drop through and a top mount downhill deck. Keep an eye out, these guys are here to stay for the long run and being British, show them your support. 

Ride n Gide. 

Ben Schofield. 

 

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Flight of the Manta Ray at Bodu Hithi Thila, Maldives

We took a trip across the North Male Atoll to see the spectacularly graceful and hypnotic sight of Manta Rays, who come to the area at this time of year to be cleaned. I pulled this video together, as photo stills fail to capture the fluid motion of their effortless travel through the water.

Canyoning and DH Biking in Geneva

My friend James is one extreme son of a gun. And so it was very fitting that his stag do would incorporate some very fun and adrenalin pumping activities. It was also worth noting that Geneva and Annecy are beautiful in the sunshine.

Snowboarding in the Alps - Chamonix

I've not posted anything for a couple of weeks as I was just lucky enough to spend New Year in the Alps with some very good friends. There was plenty of snow all week and my boarding skills came along well, so a little pat on the back for me, I think.

For New Year, we spent a few days in an apartment in Chamonix. I'm glad we did, as for one, the resorts were bound to have the best snow around due to their altitude and for two, I'd never been to Chamonix and always wanted to experience the Aalpine hustle and bustle. However, it wasn't all rosey. The apartment, which was more box than penthouse, was incredibly expensive, cramped (considering it was supposed to sleep 5, we were lucky their ended up only three of us) and surrounded by loud mouthed and obnoxious Italians. My friend Jim and I were stood outside the apartment, when one Italian guy threw a bottle from his apartment balcony over our heads towards the bins outside, narrowly missing us. Needless to say, a few loud words followed.

After spending an hour or so in a bar, listening to some absolutely battered English guys talking crap really, really loudly, we decided to head back and just drink, be merry and see the new year in our apartment. We went out just after the stroke of midnight for something to eat, and spent about an hour watching idiotic Italians wearing white leather slip-on shoes slipping on the treacherous icey roads. Hilarious.

The boarding was great, as we spent New Years day at Grand Montets and the day after in the powder fields of Brevent.

My friends took me to visit their new house build, in the hills around Fillinges in France and only about 25 minutes from the Portes du Soleil resorts of Les Gets, Morzine and Avoriaz. The view was stunning and I was so jealous, but to be honest, building out there is a now brainer. The French seem to really support this new build idea, by offering such amazing mortgage packages and low interest rates, while the local council also contributes to things like connecting services to the land. Fantastic.

We went to see Avatar in English (fortunately) and in 3D, in the Pathe cinema in Geneva. WOW! What a movie, what an experience. I mean experience as in 3D, you literally feel a part of the movie, like you are walking through the forests and giant trees, like you are flying crazy helicopters or riding a winged creature through the floating mountains. I sat there with my jaw open for nearly 3 hours, only moving to dodge the odd flying object which you thought was going to hit you as it was launched from the screen towards you. I recommend this film strongly to anyone, not necessarily for the story, but for the overall experience and the fact that when you walk out of the cinema, you feel like you've earned a rest. And don't be cheap, watch it in 3D.

For the rest of the week, we boarded at Les Gets (Mont Chery side) which was absolutely deserted but also offered some glorious fresh powder; Avoriaz, which was a little bit of a mogul and ice fest, but did include some interesting off-piste tree runs and the hilarious site of one of friends ending up face down, 3ft down in snow under a tall tree after losing it on a tight bend. She had to be freed by one of use unstrapping her bindings and pulling her out. I dread to think what would have happened if there wasn't someone behind. The final days boarding was at La Clusaz, a new resort to us. This was a great day, with fantastic views and some quiet, tree lined pistes. It was a little bit icey, but not unpleasant and you could get some real speed up on the fast piste runs.

A few things wound me up this week. One, the new craze of snowboarders being overly obvious about their consumption of cannabis on the mountain, like loudly talking about it and smoking huge reefers in the lift queue. Does my head in.

I also frustrated myself by singlehandedly cocking up what should have been some quality helmet cam footage, but managing to either miss it by not putting on the button lock on the VIO POV control box, or not cleaning the misted up camera lens. Otherwise, the camera is awesome. User error was rife.

There were the usual crazy ski suits, some real classics.  

I met some amazing people while I was out there, including a cool downhill mountainbiker from Sweden who speaks a billion languages, a dutch couple with their amazing house and adorable 4 month old boxer puppy, and a cool american couple from the bay area who are studying law and were close friends of my friends in France.

An now I'm back and focussing on developing the Fidgetsick website for our impending relaunch, but it was awesome to meet some great people with the same kind of passion and interests as me, in being adventurous and leading a really varied and enjoyable life.

Skydiving with The Red Devils at Netheravon, Wiltshire

Massive day today, as I let myself plummet towards the ground from over 13,000 feet in a 50 second freefall before deploying the chute and enjoying a stomach turning 5 minute canopy ride back to the landing zone. The drop zone was Netheravon in Wiltshire, run by the Parachute Regiments Red Devils Team, and it was easily one of the most inspiring, exciting and adrenalin fuelled things I have ever done. It was so surreal, from the exit of the plane, the spiralling freefall, the sting of the clouds on my face as they pass at 120mph, the jolt of the parachute being deployed or the twists and turns of the canopy aerobatics being displayed by my tandem instructor, Billy.


A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. More amazing, the man who was celebrating his 92nd birthday, by jumping with his son, and having the permanent grin of a 17 year old who just popped his cherry.

Casual Coasteering with my bro at Durdle Door

Ben and I headed down to Durdle Door, near Lulworth Cove in Dorset - an iconic landmark on the Jurassic coastline, for a spot of coasteering and to test out the Boxit waterproof mobile phone case and the Aquapac DSLR waterproof cover.

Lot's of fun.

Microlighting with Swallow Aviation, Salisbury

Turning up towards the address I had for the airfield we were looking out for the tell-tale signs – a glimpse of a control tower, a wind sock, a small fleet of planes glistening in the glorious sunshine, a foreboding sense of realisation began to sink in. On approach, I recall some jokes about the strip of grass mown into the crops of the adjacent field to the farm road we were driving up being our runway. The slack-jawed silence became all telling as we rose up to the brow of the hill to find anything but what we expected. As the eye followed the natural line of grass strip and found focus on the gleaming aircraft proudly sitting as if basking in sunshine and admiring itself. To the north, a couple of cars. North west, an old caravan that had seen better days. Gulp. What had I got myself into this time...

Apprehensively I parked up next to the cars (seemed logical, but certainly not a formality) and went to find to my instructor, Paul. There really weren't any options other than to head for the caravan. Cleaning the rust of the old stove in the caravan, we made our acquaintances and I explained more about Fidgetstick/ and what we were trying to achieve. Foolishly, I also inquired as to the whereabouts of the “microlight” that we would be flying in today, as the little aeroplane sitting outside was all well and good, but this was to be a microlighting review. I did my best to gloss over and not convey any surprise over the apparent lack of facilities.

It was explained that I had fallen foul of a common misconception of the uninitiated, in that a microlight is essentially an aircraft that weighs less than 450kg. They come in many guises – from the flex-wing “hanglider and a basket” style craft that I had envisaged to this “little aeroplane” fixed wing aircraft that we were to experience today.

Not to beat around the bush, we were soon strolling towards the microlight and strapping in. Taking off from the airfield at Deptford, just off the main A303 in between Salisbury and Warminster, the airfield abuts the military restricted airspace over the Salisbury Plains. Keeping out of harms way of shrapnel and heavy artillery fire were to be a priority. It's always reassuring when someone asks you “how strong's your stomach?”, you just know what's coming next!

Hard bank to the right just after take off and climbing followed by sharp left and falling quickly. A few more quick changes of direction and I fail to recall the exact moves – by this time I was desperately trying to keep a grip on my camera. A few minutes of showboating and aerobatics and we set a course for the iconic Stonehenge monument. Crossing the Plains in a microlight is a beautiful and enchanting experience, enjoyed by very few. The bright yellow rape seed and sun shimmering off the surface of the lakes made it very difficult to take in anything but the view.

Paul explained, in between a number of bumps and changes in elevation caused by thermal pockets and windy gusts, that their facilities hadn't always been so basic and that this is somewhat of a rebuilding phase. He elaborated that they used to have multiple aircraft that were tethered to and sheltered by a hangar structure. One day, they arrived at Deptford ready for a days flying, following what must have been a particularly wind torn night. They found that the hangar and all three craft had been swept out of their night time resting and into the trees lining the north end of the runway. Everything was written off in what must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

Since that time there have been ongoing challenges with local residents, other airfields and local authorities in trying to redevelop the site to make the facilities much better suited to the people who want to learn and experience flying microlights.

We approached Stonehenge and couldn't help but marvel at the site of hundreds of people, on a scorching hot weekend, marching around and gawping at a big pile of rocks in a field! That said, the sight from the air was indeed spectacular.

We made our way back to land and Paul, who by now I had come to appreciate as an utterly eccentric, extremely competent and totally passionate aviation enthusiast, felt that we could sneak up on the waiting crowds (my wife and two of his students). The plan was to follow the line of the valley from the north of the airfield and down to the west, essentially flying below the level of the cars parked by the runway, hidden by the valley and the surrounding trees. Paul had told me earlier how on a thermal day (and this was one of those) the thermal pockets could cause a craft to drop many feet in the air, and since we were flying so close to the ground, I was a little twitchy.

When close enough, Paul gunned the engines and the aim was to try and get to the onlookers before the sound from our engine did, and as we soared across in a Top-Gun style impromptu and unsolicited fly-by, we were more than a little smug. We drew the line at flying upside down over them just to give them the finger aka Maverick! Gliding gracefully round using little power we landed safely on the grass and brought our short but very sweet adventure to an end.

I hope that Paul and the loyal members of Swallow Aviation can get the approvals they require to give them just the basic facilities they need to provide a service on the ground like they provide in the air and one that would only serve to enhance the enthusiasm, passion, expertise and experience that they so clearly possess. A thoroughly delightful group of people, a buzz of excitement and a nice suntan from sitting in a field soaking up the rays and chatting about flying for the next couple of hours.

A strange experience, as initial hesitation was overcome by the enjoyment of the ride, never once feeling that safety had ever been compromised.

A taster flight with Swallow Aviation costs £25.00 for 15 minutes, up to £99.00 for 1 hour. I recommend at least 30 minutes to get the most out of it. To achieve your NPPL Microlight license, you'll need about £2,500.00 and time to devote to learning – a minimum of 25 hours flying time is required in addition to the ground study. Swallow Aviation provide courses for all of this.

Kitesurfing with Surface 2 Air Sports, Poole

Bank holiday weekend and I'd barely slept. Waking up on a Saturday morning like a 6 year old at Christmas eagerly anticipating a pile of presents at the foot of the tree, I had that little knot of excitement starting to build in the pit of my stomach. No, I wasn't going for a job interview and no, I there were no presents. And no tree.

I'd wanted to try out kite surfing for yonks, having lived in and around the Poole/Bournemouth coastline since I was 5, I remain only too aware about how cool I could have been if I had picked up a kite, added a board and taken to the sea a lot earlier in my life. I always felt, apart from the obvious proximity benefits, that the sport would be quite inaccessible. By that, I mean, there were a lot of excuses and preconceptions that I believed were good enough reasons not to do it.

Cost. It's true that it is not a cheap sport (though what is these days?), and a full kite surfing rig can set you back about £1500.00. Obviously, you can get cheaper and you can get 2nd hand, but always get advice and find the right kite/s for you, your environment and your ability. As a general rule, always spend the money on the kite. Don't buy anything older than 2007, as advances in technology since then are enormous. And always spend the money on the kite. Did I already say that? Well it's worth emphasising.

I always thought that the sport was a bit intimidating. I genuinely had this idea that the solitary surfer attitude would be perpetuated here and that a disdain for newcomers on their turf would be frowned upon. As I'm not one for conflict, this was one anxiety to overcome when taking to the sport.

So, not to be deterred and manning-up to the task, I enrolled on a two-day course with Surface 2 Air Sports (S2AS) of Ashley Cross in Poole, Dorset. S2AS actually has 3 bases in total; Camber Sands in Kent and Brighton completing the line up. We arrived at the store to sign our lives away and meet Simon, our instructor for the course. Among the group were a lively couple from Winchester, who had decided that kite surfing was going to be their next adventure together, as well as a shop customer who had purchased a full rig from S2AS and came along for some help from Simon to get acquainted with his new kit. This is a great service that the store offers to customers and underlines their after-sales support strategy.

The shop is about 5 minutes drive to our first location of the day; Baiter Park. Situated close to the main Quay & Poole town centre, parking can be tricky especially during holidays so give yourself plenty of time and make sure you've got some spare change. The park itself is renowned for kiting in the area and is used by many of the local schools for this stage of the instruction process as well ask power kiters and kite landboarders in general.

Starting, as you would expect, from the beginning, we were given a little theory – wind, safety, kite anatomy, that sort of thing. Nothing too scientific, nothing too boring – when you're chomping at the bit to start flying the last thing you need is the instructor spouting rhyme and verse from the health and safety manual at you as you probably wouldn't be listening anyway!

A short demonstration and soon given the keys to our own 2.4m flexifoil 2-line kite. The design of this particular kite is ideally suited to land-based flying. The problem is that, if flown on the water, it fills up in an instant after crashing and makes it nearly impossible to relaunch. Another interesting fact, in terms of performance, relates to the kites two-layer construction. Our 2.4m flexifoil training kite is the equivalent to a 5m single skin inflatable kite.

As the wind picked up during the morning, as did our proficiency with the kite. We moved on fairly quickly to a 7m Nobilus Leading Edge Inflatable (LEI) kite, more commonly used for kite surfing These kites were straight out of the bag & fresh for the new season. S2AS certainly don't make you learn on any old tat – this was shiny and new, which is just my favourite thing.

The briefing and setup instructions were a little more in depth for these kites, in particular the process for readying the kite – no-crossed lines, correct level of inflation etc. and understanding how to detach yourself quickly should you find yourself stuck on another kite, a passing car or an aeroplane! There is a very logical, straightforward and crucially important process to follow when getting your kite ready. Rush it it, get it wrong and you'll pay for it later. You will notice that even the most experienced kite surfers are on the beach doing exactly the same thing that you are being shown to do. Remember, one knot in just one of your lines weakens it's tensile strength by about 80% - and a snapped line out at sea is the last thing that you or the coastguard will need.

The afternoon session took place at Sandbanks in Poole, which again, is a hugely popular location for kite surfing & windsurfing due to the vast, shallow area in which you can learn. If you know the area, you can park for free by finding the right spots, otherwise bring plenty of nuggets with you, especially during the summer season.

Donning our wet suits, harness, buoyancy aids and helmets, the order of the afternoon was body-dragging. This involves using the kite to essentially pull your limp torso through the water, back towards the beach. It's amazing how quickly you get a feel for the kite, where the power comes from and how to harness it's energy into movement. It's really quite an exhilarating feeling, the spray in your face as your body glides powerfully through the breaking surf.

Unfortunately, the second day of the course didn't live up to the promise of the first. With confidence levels starting out high, hoping to progress quickly onto the boards and the aspirations to be crowned fully-fledged kite surfers by the end of the weekend were dashed when the wind simply forgot to blow.

We tried for a couple of hours, bless us, but a mixture of frustration in trying to just keep the kite flying and then introducing the board (something else to think about), it was all proving too much. A unanimous decision from the group brought a halt to proceedings, made easier with the introduction of a beer and bowl of chilli con carne in the local Sandacres pub.

Such is the commendable attitude to customer satisfaction from the S2AS guys, they offered to write-off Sunday and give the group their 2nd day all over again. To me, that's the kind of thing I hope I'll find when out reviewing. Genuine, honest goodwill to customers. At the end of the day, they will benefit, as those happy experience day customers come back to the shop to buy their first full kit. And guess where they'll go to upgrade a few years later? It's just good business, practiced in the best way.

And my preconceptions? Well, I was wrong, obviously. When you begin to understand the dependencies kite surfers have on one another – help with launching, keeping an eye on their kit left on the beach, raising the profile of the sport, you understand quickly that this is predominantly a sport made up of helpful, selfless and friendly individuals all with a common purpose – harnessing the power of nature for their own enjoyment. And that is a place I'd like to belong.

A two-day course with S2AS costs £195.00, or £99.00 per single day. There are special offers available (at the time of writing, the two-day course was discounted to £149.00) so it's well worth checking the website. If you're considering buying the kit, Jason in the Poole store is the oracle when it comes to prescribing the best setup for you, and as the store stocks all brands, you're going to get an unbiased opinion. We recommend popping in for a chat and a coffee – just make sure he's there first and not out testing the next best thing on the market!    

Coasteering with Adventure Beyond, St David's Head, Pembrokeshire

This review was always going to be a little different. I am used to tagging along on group days, hiding in the shadows, reading the subtleties of the situation, group dynamics, interaction and engagement, enjoyment and frustration - I use all of it for my reviews.  This time, I was centre of attention - the Stag. Never before and never again will the first hour of any session involve running around a deceptively busy area of Pembrokeshire’s most stunning coastline, in a fluorescent green mankini!

We were going Coasteering, with Adventure Beyond. Now, I’ve done Canyoning before, Coasteerings inland cousin, but I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I’d jumped off of rocks (or tombstoning as it’s now called) as a kid in Cornwall. I thought it would be much the same, a little tame, particularly in todays climate of Health & Safety over-protectionism madness. Well, I was to be proved wrong in that it was one of the most challenging, exciting and adrenaline fuelled things I’ve done. 

“it was one of the most challenging, exciting and adrenaline fuelled things I’ve done”

Meeting the instructors on location at Abereiddy, near St Davids. the sky was a magnificent blue, the sea was transparent and shimmering, just inviting us in and the surrounding area wouldn’t have been out of place in The Lord of the Rings.

All equipment was provided by the school, you only need to bring a pair of old trainers and some shorts to wear over the top of your wetsuit. Life jacket, helmet, mankini (optional). Done. Sign your life away, safety briefing and we’re off.

Like a deranged episode of baywatch, running, jumping, forward rolling our way down the beach (I’m told that it’s to help you warm up, I can’t help feeling it was to make us look (more) stupid).

The initial climb over the slate cliffs gave a taste of what was to come - slippery when wet and barnacles like glass paper, good for your footing, bad for your hands! 

If you’ve ever seen the film Blue Juice (1995), there’s a part where Sean Pertwee chucks his surfboard over the cliff and then follows it, that’s where we were (fortunately we didn’t do that particular reenactment & the instructor waited until afterwards to tell us that the stuntman who did the jump compressed some vertebrae and now is a little vertically challenged).

”It’s amazing that this actually exists in the UK. “

The most stunning sight of clear blue water in the lagoon was enough to make your mouth water. It’s amazing that this actually exists in the UK. The dramatic mixture of natural and man-made rock formations added to the anticipation. A quick blast of a swim across the lagoon, and a couple of small test jumps - to test and assess technique and confidence for later - and we were onto the running slab.

This involves a 20ft gravity fed run down a large slate slab (no turning back - 100% commitment required) and leap into the waters below. Totally exhilarating.

Making our way out of the lagoon through a channel in the rocks, an ominous site was looming large on the horizon. The speed at which it engulfed us was incredible and the environment around us took on a completely different persona. The mist, no fog, that took hold gave just enough visibility to proceed - but the rugged coastline and rising waters became mysterious and eerie. 

With visibility seriously diminished, our cameraman disappeared to take photos of sheep, sheep poo & then himself after discovering the auto timer on the camera!

“The rugged coastline and rising waters became mysterious and eerie.”

We, however, pushed on around the headland, incorporating basic climbing & scrambling skills and enjoying the natural features of the landscape. One of which was lovingly referred to as the “toilet”. A naturally formed channel in the rocks, carved out over thousands of years being pummelled by the moving tides is our destination. Chuck in a dozen stag party goers and you’ve got the most bizarre primordial soup you wouldn’t want to eat. Then let mother nature do the rest. As the tide rises, you get pulled up into the channel, over the rocks - as it retreats, you literally get flushed out down the natural water chute into a pile of fellow coasteerers at the bottom.

A few more jumps - up to 50ft off of the cliffs in some places and we start to make our way back to the lagoon for the grand finale. 

It is important to mention at this point that the main element of this activity is teamwork. It starts with the instructor, no doubt, but he is one man. He knows the area, the technique and skills required and can help you through but the most important aspect for safety and enjoyment, is to help each other traverse,  get over, under, across and through the myriad of obstacles that you face. 

Teamwork, however, goes out of the window, when your best man refuses to do the high jumps because he’s afraid of heights. Ensue usual banter.

So to end, back in the lagoon, we had a few lower level jumps - standing and running starts - of 20-30ft, building up to the monster that lay before us. Standing over it for just a few minutes, it was time to take the plunge - a full 60ft of vertical drop in front of the gathering audience of hen parties, army cadets and general well-wishers (well wishing you make a tit of yourself!)

We did it (well, some of us - Gav!). You felt you were falling a good few seconds longer than was natural. It was difficult to stay totally upright the whole way before SPLASH! Touchdown. Re-entry. It was over. Round of applause, a few whoop whoops and we were off to watch the rugby in the pub. What an awesome way to get rid of a hangover.

Wakeboarding with SkiFunJamie, Ellingham Lake, Ringwood

In 2007, "Jamie" Bloemsma was crowned Dutch National Slalom Waterski Champion. In 2009, Jamie can be found during the summer months offering his advice and instruction via his Ski and Wakeboard school at Ellingham Waterski Park, nr Ringwood, Hampshire.

“There is a real sense of community about the centre and the club.”

SkiFunJamie offers waterskiing, wakeboarding, trick skiing, kneeboarding, barefoot skiing and jump skiing lessons and tuition to anyone who wants to learn. This really is inclusive in the widest sense, evidenced by the myriad of disabled participants whose stories are told across the walls of the club house. Jamie believes that everyone is capable and that it is his job to ensure that everyone pushes themselves to both improve and enjoy these thrilling activities.

The facilities at Ellingham are good. The club house, whilst a little rustic and in need of a little improvement, is functional characterful. They have two hi-spec competition standard boats, a container full of hire equipment, and a man-made lake that offers the only full slalom waterski course for 80 miles. The setting is idillic and peaceful, where you can enjoy a BBQ on the viranda whilst watching the activities on the lake. There is a real sense of community about the centre and the club. From the member donated furniture in the clubhouse and the donated equipment in the childrens play area to the committe that looks after the club and it's 125 strong member base. We met Jo, one of the comittee members, who showed us round and gave us the low-down on how the club ran, how the the 4 slot system works (1 slot in every four during club sessions is for non-club members) and the challenges that a club like this faces.

After a whistlestop tour, Jo dons her wetsuit and before you know it, is flying up and down the lake on a slalom mono-ski, giant rooster tails streaming out behind her. Once finished, she was quickly into dry clothes and back at the computer running whatever administrative errands were required to keep the club ticking over.

Funding is clearly a challenge, but fortunately not every aspect of the clubs financial burden rests on its member base. The lottery funded a recently constructed new slipway and jetty, crucial for the the launching of watercraft and enabling safe access to and from the lake.

We took part in a beginner wakeboard lesson with SkiFunJamie. Neither of us had ever wakeboarded or waterski'd or frankly, done anything involving beyond hauled along by a powerboat, not since banana boating as a kid anyway. This really was going to test Jamie's instructor skills, as well as our nerve. Equipped in neoprene, life vest and with a wakeboard and bindings hired from the school, we were ready to rock and roll.

“Just stay relaxed, bend your kness and let the boat, the board and the water to the work.”

I would be lying if I said we weren't a little apprehensive. We didn't want to look like fools, being dragged around in the water like some Police Academy movie. We are also a little competitive, so I'm sure, was secretly hoping the other would look at least a degree more stupid.

After a short safety briefing, it was time for a pep talk and some words of wisdom from Jamie. The latter delivering easily the most succinct but effective advice I have had when taking part in a new activity for the first time. "Twist your hip." That's it? Nothing else? Surely I've got to leverage my upper body strength, manage my weight transition, control my edges... Nope. Just stay relaxed, bend your knees and let the boat, the board and the water to the work. A twist of the hip at the right moment will see you righted and moving steadily with the boat. And it did. Wow. The static, rigid bar used for first timers was a cinch, all thanks to this little gem of advice.

“Timed correctly, you relieve the pressure, increase stability and are moving with the boat with the biggest, cheesiest grin on your face imaginable.”

Never fear, the relative ease of the static bar is soon replaced by the intimidating sight of a rope being dropped off of the back of the boat. Joining the rope, bobbing like an apple at the back of the boat, this was now a whole different ball game.

As the boat moves away, the pressure builds against the board & begins to lift you out of the water. In comparison to the bar, the forces exherted onto your upper body are huge and a little surprising. Little did I remember, first time round, that I held the key to managing this effectively. "Twist the hip". Timed incorrectly and leave it too late you feel like you are carrying the full load of the boat and it's many horses in your numbing, cold hands. Needless to say, you will let go. Timed correctly, you relieve the pressure, increase stability and are moving with the boat with the biggest, cheesiest grin on your face imaginable.

For anyone who has snowboarded before, as I had, you really get to feel how you can use your edges to control your position, direction and speed on the board. We began to traverse the wake of the boat, negotiating the changes in height of the wake and using the arc of the rope to move from side to side. We managed a few runs of the lake before coming to a stop by the jetty, chuffed to bits and totally exhilarated.

We made pretty good progress & under instruction we were moving at a pace dictated by us but alsoenhanced through Jamie's understanding of the sport, our capabilities and our potential. The session lasted 15 minutes, in which we got half a dozen runs on the lake. The cost of this is a shade over £20.00, which whilst not cheap is great value for the education, the equipment and the utter thrill of the ride.

Jamie gives lesson between 9am and 1pm weekdays, and is also available in afternoons and at weekends fitting around the club sessions which take priority during these times.