A strong swell, and a reasonably strong on-shore wind - to surf or not to surf, that was the question for us as developing surfers. The answer came to to us in the form of 56-year-old RNLI beach lifeguard Steve Stritch, and as you can see from our short clip of him surfing, he said “Yes, yes, yes. Come on in, the water’s lovely!”
So we did, it was, and afterwards we got the chance to tell Steve that he had inspired us to take the plunge, and to ask him a bit about himself.
Not originally from Cornwall but from Wrexham, in North Wales, Steve has been in Cornwall full-time for 10 years, having moved there for the surfing.
He has been surfing for 50 years, since ’66, starting on a Bickers board in Newquay. It was so heavy he used to have to get help from his Dad to carry it. In those days surfers were so rare that if you saw a surfboard strapped to a car roof you’d stop it and have a chat, about conditions etc. As we all know, the sport has increased massively since then. Surf spots are busiest in the summer so he surfs all year round to make sure he gets some less crowded waves - although he does sometimes get lucky in the summer on days like this. When not working he surfs with friends whom he has been surfing with for many years and he says that he is not by any means the oldest. More material for Silver Grey Sports Club, perhaps?
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. Like most people involved in adventurous activities, he has suffered injury. In his case it was his left leg, which was badly broken - now he has a steel rod in it, from ankle to knee. Having been told at the time that he might never walk again, 10 weeks after the injury he was back in the water on his board. That was 12 years ago, and the only reminder of it is that his injured leg left leg is bigger than the right, following lots of rehab.
Does he do any other fitness work, we asked? No, just the time he spends in the sea. And it does work. The RNLI demands monthly time trials comprising a timed 400m swim, a 25m underwater swim, a timed sprint swim and a timed 200m run. If he didn’t make the time, then his time with the RNLI would be up. So he regularly trains with the lifeguards in Bude, and is proud to be currently the 2nd fastest swimmer in the Bude RNLI team!
Photo © Clive Symm
Other sports he is involved in are 5-a-side football, water polo (which he also coaches) and golf - he keeps active. He also skateboards, but just down the road from home to check the surf - no more half-pipes, he says!
As well as coaching water polo he has also become involved in surf coaching, weekly with groups of youngsters, encouraging them to take up surfing and to do it safely. He is also coaching longboard surfers, at a more advanced level, and one of his students is now Girls’ U-18 longboard champion. She recently took part in a WQS event, the Boardmasters in Newquay, in which she came 8th.
As for the future, he will surf until he can no longer do it, and then he’ll find another sea-water sport. He’ll continue to lifeguard until he doesn’t feel that he can keep people safe. The first time he looks at the sea and thinks “hmm, maybe…” he’ll pass on the baton. For now he is happy doing what he does - and while he is the 2nd fastest swimmer of the Bude RNLI, why should he change anything?
As for inspiring others to get in the water - we’ll vouch for that.