London Tube: if you can't surf, pretend you do by playing a mobile surf video game | Illustration: SurferToday

The injury was a ruptured eardrum, doomed by a hard smack of cold Atlantic seawater.

It wasn't a particularly punchy day by any means; it was just the ocean reminding me of my fragility.

The doctor said, "No surfing for two months." I was devastated. Surfing had been my life; it had priority over almost everything.

When I wasn't surfing, I was talking, watching, and thinking about it.

Morning, midday, and evening sessions filled my days - good surf automatically overwrote previous plans.

It's safe to say surfing has had me under its spell since day one, captivating me for the last three years.

The injury came around at the best time, as Cornwall was about to move into its peak summer.

It made my decision to go off to London for an internship, replacing crowded beaches with crowded streets.

London: River Thames is always good place for mind-surfing | Photo: Padolsey/Creative Commons

London Calling

The city was something I had been dreading for months prior.

How was I going to survive with no sea and no waves, a polar opposite to my sleepy Cornish university town?

I would be switching out reading swell charts in an attempt to decipher the underground map, both a meaningless shamble of color to those unfamiliar.

After trying to immerse myself in the city's distractions, none would even get remotely close to the satisfaction of surfing, which was distant now in landlocked London.

The temptations of retail therapy, the desire to try all the "edgy" coffee shops, and the rinsed tourist attractions never hit that spot of a clean carve on a five-foot face.

I'd find myself staring aimlessly at the muddy wake of the Thames tour boats hitting the river bank, mind surfing, and imagining I was three centimeters tall.

Shutting out the city's commotion by trying to find some form of tranquillity through surfing an imaginary wave.

Each visualization of perfect peelers rolling along with no one out was a testament to my desperate determination to stay connected.

Instead of using rips to speed up the commute out to the lineup, I would be powering through the left-hand side of the escalators, making my way out quicker than those just standing.

Every journey would begin with me nestled amidst a sea of black suits, a brief resemblance of a crowded lineup on an early Monday morning, except the neoprene was traded for cotton.

Everyone was united by the common goal of avoiding eye contact, swaying in perfect unison as the carriage flowed along the tracks.

I had swapped battling for the perfect peak for competing for a seat.

After I came to terms with the fact I was going to be out of the water for a while, I decided not to check the forecast in order to minimize being ingested by the mighty surf fear of missing out (FOMO).

I managed to hold off for a few days before the muscle memory swung into action, and I was mindlessly scrolling down the lengthy list of Cornish breaks.

To my devastation, they were all championing the "Fair to Good" proudly in green, once a celebrated sight.

London Underground: the only tube you can catch in this landlocked world capital | Photo: Yosse-Traore/Creative Commons

Underground Surfing

In a desperate attempt to escape the disappointment, I tapped away at my phone screen and stumbled on a Surfline article promoting "surfing's best-ever video game."

Once downloaded, "True Surf" quickly became my portal of escape back to the world of surfing and allowed me to envision all of this through my phone.

As the central line carved along the tracks, I was simultaneously carving the face of an eight-footer at Bells.

There I was, only days prior, thinking the only tubes I could catch in London were the District and Circle.

I've never been one for mobile games, but during the mundane commute, any surf-related dopamine was greatly appreciated, and that's exactly what "True Surf" gave me.

The realism in the ways the different spots broke was scarily accurate - from the surfable mountain that is Nazaré to the perfect rights of Jeffreys Bay, it was an engaging simulation to see.

The ever-changing real-life conditions in the game kept me interested, constantly wanting to explore the world's waves despite being so far from them.

The game's daily challenges kept me entertained - getting 25-second barrels at Skeleton Bay never seemed to bore me.

Competing against friends online in the current WSL events helped me stay connected to the community and what was going on in the world of surfing.

Even if I wasn't out with my friends, the level of competitiveness sure felt like it. Building up my quiver in the game felt essential.

Just like in real life, you need the right board for the right day; saving up all my in-game currency for a specific board felt all too real.

This constant longing to be out in the sea during my time out made my mind a blank canvas to illustrate both past and future dream rides.

After two months out of the water, copious amounts of antibiotics, and a skin graft, I got the all-clear to get back out in the lineup.

Expectations were low, and my confidence was flat, solely based on not wanting a repeat injury.

My mind was flooding with doubts about my balance, fitness, and ability to read the ocean.

I anticipated the session's outcome, but excitement still consumed me, like it always had.


Words by Kaspar Wickens-Shaw | Creative Advertising Manager and Surfer

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