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There was a guy we knew who paddled out one day at our local in Devon sometime around Easter a few years back and said something like, ‘Hey! How was your winter?’ Just like that. Except, seeing as he’d been away in Oz, he said ‘win-ah’. Among us, it became a catch phrase for a wanky question for two reasons. Firstly, it is tricky summing up what, in that part of the world, is more than a quarter of a year of dedicated surfriding in a sentence, and secondly, that he didn’t really care, he simply wanted us to ask him about his. Fortunately, I have since moved on emotionally, and been able to put the episode behind us, but still take exception to the question.

But, now that you ask, well, this winter, I did not go to Hawaii. For the first time in a few years, the couple of months away was subbed for a stay at home, surf France in a 5mil and chop logs for the fire affair. Unlike the nor’ east wind, I, of course, am not bitter. For the cold snap wasn’t too bad down here in Aquitaine. The snow fell mostly on the mountains, where it is useful, and the rubber just gets better every year, doesn’t it?

Some can get a bit holy about the whole surfing in winter thing. It makes you gnarly, ‘real’, etc. I mean, I used to think it made me kind of core-ish, but then I chanced upon a swimming club in Norway in a town called  Å (just Å, that’s its name) of elderly women who jump in the fjord every day of the year in one piece swimming cossies and breast stroke out to a buoy and back. Norway. Cossies. Every day. Yep.

This issue recounts some European surfers’ winter exploits, ones who went away, ones who stayed at home. Portuguese Germans who went on holiday to Scotland in December, Caribbean island dwellers who flew to France to surf a rippy left in booties, Macronesian opportunists, and of course, best of all Aritz, who got barrelled in two countries in one day several times, just because he could. We did a feature interview with one Frenchman who prefers his winters to be late season and Hawaiian, and talked to a Cornishman who, despite a rep for Irish frontiersmanship, admitted he tends to wait for swells at said Irish reefs in the balmy surrounds of Fuerteventura.

Meanwhile, I get the impression Hawaii struggled on without me, and got through it all just about OK.

Today, winter seems like it’s on its way out. Days are noticeably longer, sunshine noticeably prouder. Can I throw in that it’s actually 6ft and offshore here today?

Hitchens didn’t surf, but if he did, I think he’d have been a winter surfer. Winter is very rarely over-rated. Talking about manfully surviving it is under-rated. Almost as under-rated as spring.

- peeewee