Summer Sessions

I have spent a lot of time at a lot of beaches this summer. Lots of kiting time, hanging out with friends old and new. Summer is not over yet but I figured I would do a bit of a photo dump from the last few months given it is raining. It has been far from the long hot summer we all hope for, but it has been pretty windy and if willing to do some miles, there has been plenty of opportunity to spend time in the water learning new tricks and testing gear.

Learning something new – Foiling diary

After a good amount of time off the water after damaging my ankle at Blackrock Sands it has been nice to get out kiting again. It is pretty fustrating not being able to be active in the way I am used to. Instead of channeling the energy into something else constructive I just ended up binge watching TV.

After a great session at Brean (photo above) en route to Exmouth for the EDGE Race Cup I got to watch a load of people ride foilboards all weekend. After a load of chat and the show put on by some of the world’s finest foil riders I knew I needed to cough up and get one for summer. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I am the proud owner of a Sroka Foilboard. Let the foil diaries commence!

beah bbq

First up I nerded out on tutorials online. Sroka have a couple good videos. Liquid Force have a good video series too. Once you have the theory though – its time to work on the practical side.

Day one – left work early to beat the traffic – spent two and a half hours doing a drive which normally takes an hour and twenty. I was excited. The board still needed setting up which obviously took way more time than anticipated and the tide was all the way in and the wind was lighter than expected. Once built, it was time to head into the water.

General handling of the foil in the water is a nightmare. Body dragging is tricky. It takes some effort to get out to deep enough water, and once there, a combination of strong current in the same direction as the wind is blowing (cross shore) means I am losing ground pretty fast. The wind is super light and keeping the kite in the sky requires effort. Not idea learning conditions. After struggling for an hour, hitting my feet and legs on the foil several times and a few short runs, I realise it is time for an emergency return to shore.

Its not graceful – but I manage to get a random bystander to grab my kite on the sea wall as I body drag/swim in. I clamber over the rocks and up the sea wall making sure my new foil comes to no harm. Not the start to my foiling career I had hoped for.

Day two – this time the wind is stronger and slightly offshore. Again a struggle to get to water deep enough, however once out I start to get the hang of things. Lining the foil up to get on it is tricky as it wont stay still, but I get some good long runs in and fly upwind. Now getting downwind is an issue – I have to body drag downwind. I added a few more bruises and cuts to my legs and feet. This is how I hoped my first day had went. The learning curve is steeper than I expected.

Day three – After yesterday’s success I am keen to get out again. The wind is much stronger and there is some wind swell. After opting for a 13m kite the last two times, this time I go for my 7m. This was going to be quite different. Getting out went pretty well all things considered. I am getting the hang of the foil in the water and manage to avoid any new cuts and bruises. Getting on the foil is tricky with the waves but I managed to cruise around and ride a good distance in each direction despite the water conditions and the small kite.

The big issue with waves if when you do fall off, the foil rides the wave all the way back to shore, so a fair bit of time is wasted recovering it and getting back out to deep water. I am starting to ride with a bit more speed and can feel the foil lifting at times.

I am now feeling confident with riding back and forth with the board in the water. Next time I will be looking to build my speed and start getting the board out of the water and on the foil. As I spend less time in the water body dragging and fighting the board it should become less tiring too.

After many hours on the water a bbq is just what I needed.

Sroka Foilboard

Black Rock Sands

Black Rock has been on my hit list for years. Miles of hard pack sand and flat water in the lagoons and estuary. You can drive on the beach so all your gear is nice and close by. The drive there is truly spectacular with big mountains, forests, waterfalls and big rock faces. The access road to the beach is pretty easily missed so it took a while to find that (no phone data #firstworldproblems) but once on the beach you can see it is worth the drive. I assume the name came from the dark rock faces that surround the beach.

The sun was shining, the wind was blowing and there were new kites to test!

I had more hours in the water than I have for a long time! It was fun to ride the new Ozone EDGE V8 and just go boosting. A nice change from the surfboard riding I have been doing for the last year mostly. Unfortunately I did hurt my ankle and by the time I got off the water it was pretty swollen and painful.

Despite plenty of ice and rest and ibuprofen the ankle was not up to much on Sunday, so a leisurely morning checking out Hells Mouth and Abersoch was had. We headed back to Black Rock Sands where I was photographer for the day.

Will be headed back up that way – highly recommended!

Snow season is over!

Having just returned from Snowboard Spring Break (aka one of the best weeks of the year – every year) it is bittersweet. A good time was had but at the same time it marks the end of snow season. The trip went pretty much the same way it always does (if it aint broke…)

  • Last minute planning guaranteeing the weirdest accommodation possible
  • A really long drive
  • The comforting familiarity of the resort and amazing mountain views
  • Checking into the accommodation which is always weirder than you even imagined but you laugh about it (when the going gets weird – the weird turn pro)
  • The smoke filled dingy bar which provides good times, incredibly gassy beer and endless jaeger
  • The epic 35 minute drive up the glacier road lined with sheer drops, where there are always rock falls and hairpin corner after hairpin corner.
  • Slushy pistes lined with hits which you can happily ride for days
  • More schnitzel lunches than I care to admit (everyday)
  • Late nights with copious amounts of beer followed by early mornings
  • A very long drive home

I wouldn’t change it.

Snowboard test is underway #neversummer #snowboardspringbreak #1516 #snowboarding

A photo posted by Tom Beaton (@thomasbeaton) on

Lunch spot with a view #snowboardspringbreak #neversummer #snowboarding #kaunertal #austria

A photo posted by Tom Beaton (@thomasbeaton) on

Splitboarding with The Rider Social

After hooking up for a few days every January for the last few years I finally managed to take part in a whole splitboard week. The timing was just right – the week after winter deadlines – just when you want a holiday and opportunity to relax and clear your mind. I was a little worried about my fitness in the run up to this as the combination of winter festivities followed by trade shows and a busy selling period make it hard to get into great shape. I have been getting on a turbo trainer a bit though.

Having spent some time recently at altitude and on a snowboard was a great help. The first day on the hill was good to get used to the heavier board set up and heavier backpack. The alps had warmed up a lot too. All good though and it was enjoyable getting out riding again. A little refresher on avalanche training, some nice spring snow, a little hike and all in all a great first day.

Monday we rode solid boards and explored some new areas in the PDS I have not seen before. A bit of bootpacking to access some fun bits. A bit of bushwhacking where the snow has disappeared but we found some good sections. I got to try a set of NOW bindings which were very impressive – really responsive.

2015-03-17 11.30.14

Tuesday was back on the splits and getting into some longer walks. We scored some great views (see above) and nice runs like this:

Tuesday being St Patricks we headed out for a couple beers and that went as well as it always does.

Wednesday was day off – so after a very slow start, and thanks to a pick up from Rich we went for something completely different – a day of park and pipe and cruising pistes. A nice change – certainly not my forte but fun eitherway. Nice to meet up with friends living in the PDS area. Not the “rest” we maybe should have had.

Thursday was a big day. We started riding round Chatel waiting for the snow to soften a bit and did some technical bits (horrible icey traverse) and a little bootpacking (see below).

2015-03-19 10.44.13

In the afternoon our high mountain guide Paulo guided us down the back of Avoriaz to the Lac de Mines d’Or. The last section was pretty technical riding with narrow tracks of snow often with not enough room to scrub speed. Pretty fun to navigate. After a lunch stop we started splitting. The pace set by the guide seemed painfully slow to start but actually it worked out really well and allowed us to walk for hours without feeling too tired.

My lack of skiing ability was very obvious whenever we had to go down little slopes as we navigated the final section to the Refuge de Bostan where we stayed overnight. The guardian of the refuge prepared fondue which tasted amazing (maybe due to how hungry I was) and as I had hoped served up some local digestifs afterwards.

I set the gopro up for a little sunset timelapse from the balcony.

Friday morning we set off early to reach the Tete de Bostan. Some icey sections were very tricky to climb but after a few hours on splits we reached the ridge and from this point started bootpacking the final section. The view back down the valley from the ridge:

2015-03-20 10.30.44

By half eleven we reached the summit! The tradional team photos were taken:

A photo posted by @darkrock on

We chose to wait on the summit and enjoy the view whilst the snow softened. Then we had to navigate the descent which had a mixture of nice spring snow and much more technical sections. Lunch never tasted so good after that. Fun times – can’t wait to do more!

Thanks for Paul and Fi at The Rider Social for making it happen. If you are looking to give splitboarding a go give them a call!

Ozone Snow Kite Masters 2015

Last week was so good! We did the long drive in good time and managed to avoid any major hiccups or delays and the weather only got tricky right at the end. We arrived in time for breakfast Tuesday morning and within minutes familiar faces started showing up. The visibility was not amazing and the wind was strong but we were excited so went out for our first snowkite session. Bernina Pass is an amazing snowkite spot. I knew I had to come back as soon as we left last year!
The session didnt go on for too long – a couple of hours or so. The 6m Access was great! The 9m Frenzy was fun too. Not sleeping and the harsh conditions were taking their toll. That afternoon the group grew as those who flied in arrived.

Wednesday was meeting day for me so no riding. A shame considering it was bluebird with a nice breeze blowing in the best direction. Life is unfortunately not all about play. The meeting was good and productive which takes the edge off the fact we missed a great day.

Thursday was another beautiful day – we headed down to Silvaplana for the first day of racing. The wind was light making it more of a sun bathing day however we got to test some kites and chat which was fun. Early afternoon a little thermal breeze built up and we got to cruise around the frozen lake and do some little jumps.

Dinner was getting busier every night! Still pretty tired I headed out for a few beers that evening and some intense table football but left before the full contact musical chairs.

Friday we woke up to bad visibility, fresh snow and little wind so decided it was a snowboarding day at Diavolezza. The lift pass price was steep thanks to the recent change in currency valuations but the resort near empty and the snow excellent. We split into a couple groups so those of us who wanted to go find some fresh tracks could. A great day. Video below:

Saturday was day two of racing and back down to Silvaplana. Yet another glorious day of chatting whilst waiting for wind and half wishing we had gone snowboarding. The wind came a little later this time but the racers were ready and made the most of it. It was pretty epic watching racing from the start line – something I had never done before. Once racing was over I joined the rest of the crew for a quick session.

Prize giving after dinner went down well – some of the best prizes I have seen in a while including everything from Ozone goodies to snowboards and with cash prizes too. There were some very happy people that night. I won Jeremy Jones ultimate splitboard backpack which I was very happy with. Should come in handy very soon!

Sunday was quieter with alot of people leaving. Weather was not up to much but after we heard there was wind down in Silvaplana we headed back down there. It was probably the best session I had in the end and we got some cool shots! Was really enjoying the new Frenzy. We headed back early afternoon as half the group had to leave.

Typically we woke up Monday to a load of fresh snow – ideal when you are about to drive over a couple of mountain passes. We packed – said our goodbyes and set off on a pretty intense first two hours. The snowtyres and ABS were working overtime. I was seconds away from pulling over and getting the chains out a few times but we managed to keep trucking.

After that is was the same old cruise back wishing we were still in the mountains.