Three factors. 1. A bad surfboard. It’s always boards that are too thin, too narrow and too curved. Too thick? You’ll get more waves. Too wide? At least it’s stable. No curve? You’ll rocket past the pack. Despite a delusion that has lasted into my thirties, I never will have the athleticism, desire or natural balance to surf like a professional and therefore cannot ride a board designed for one. It’s a dreadful reality to face. Even when I wrote that last sentence, with its admission of failure staring me in the face, it was just about enough to make me want to bench my sleds. Bottom line: an unforgiving surfboard erodes confidence. Surfing is hard enough when you’re at your peak let alone when you’re of feeble mind. If you get a reliable sled, stick with it. There’ll come times when you still think you can ride a pro board, of course. And when you do? Dark days, my friend.

2. A bad crowd. Sorry guys, but European crowds can be the worst. Worse even than the Hawaiians or Balinese who might bark, unprovoked, at you to go in, to f-off or to die on the spot. Why are the Euro crowds so bad? Because you can’t work out where you fit in the pecking order or what’s going to happen when a set comes. In Hawaii, Bali, minute portions of California and great parts of Australia, the best surfers get the best waves and no one rocks the boat. On the Continent’s summer beachies on the other hand, every beginner from Munich to Zurich stubbornly asserts his right to set waves. Got the best waves in the world, Hossegor? Not real good if there’s a dozen freaks falling out of the sky or that kook just paddled inside you after his last wave and he’s now screaming in one of his three gutteral tongues for you to beat it.

3. Alpha males. A man don’t wanna be a Beta, in surfing, life or in love. More talented surfers in abundance bring me down and shatter my sense of ID. I know, I know, it contradicts my previous point. I’m a mess!