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We’re sitting in an arthritic VW staring out across the North Sea at six thirty in the morning. Magic Seaweed promised us a small swell, light winds and the chance for a cheeky long board session in the rare Yorkshire sunshine. But Magic Seaweed has let us down. The sea is a mill-pond, not even Big Steve – my 9’4″ boat of a board – could find a ripple big enough to ride. There’s bigger waves in the coffee cups we’re cradling. Ever optimists, however, we’re hoping for Poseidon to offer us something before we have to leave for work.

Image: carlconwaypainter

“I spy with my little eye something beginning with S”
“Sea. My turn. I spy with my little eye something beginning with FS”
“Flat sea…”

So we wait. And we wait. And we wait some more.

We’ve moaned a little. We’ve chewed on the cud of the previous week’s news. We’ve even tried listening to Radio 4 in the vain hope that something might distract us from the endless fathoms of still water before us, but now we’re at a loss. We’ve regressed to our only option: eye bloody spy. Well, what else is there to do?

[pullquote]We’ve regressed to our only option: eye bloody spy. Well, what else is there to do?[/pullquote]

It’s at times like this that a surfer’s creativity and ingenuity is put to the test. Fortunately, I’m lucky to have brought along “Brian’s Little Book Of Stuff To Do When There’s Nowt To Surf.” Now, Brian’s an old hand at waiting; he’s got qualifications in it. He can wait for hours on end, days, sometimes weeks. Of course, Brian’s retired so he’s got no job to go to, no appointments that have to be kept and he doesn’t have a wife or a partner or kids to worry about so he’s had the luxury of free time to develop his encyclopaedia of time wasting ideas. Some of them are well known, others are his own ideas and though I’ve often told him to make his little book more available to the wider world, he’s reluctant to share too many of his hard earned secrets. My own copy is an abridged version – some of his time wasting secrets will accompany him to the grave, But I feel honour bound to share what little he has given me.




First there’s your basics: eye spy, mini punch, alphabet lists, word tennis – the sort of games you can play on long car journeys with a pair of restless kids in the back. Next there’s you more advanced, yet still pretty tame, class of games: songs with specific words in them (Babycakes, If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake, Someone left my cake out in the rain…); rhyming departures and destinations (Cork to York, Syracuse to Toulouse…); evil sounding celebrity names (Calista Flockhart, Russell Crowe…); and not forgetting, groups of a specific number (seven dwarves, seven sins…).

Finally, however, there’s Brian’s own unique games which I present to you poor fellow wave gerbils in the hope that they may eek out the hours until the lord of the sea offers you enough of a swell to ride.


Quite a simple concept. Imagine you are holding your hand out in front of you at full arm’s stretch, thumb sticking up like you’re hitching a ride. Now take a gamble and suggest something you can see which, in terms of perspective, is not as big as your thumb. Your opponent can accept the point or challenge you to put up your thumb for a comparison. Score once for every smaller object but lose a point for every object that turns out to be bigger than your thumb. Ideal for people with massive thumbs.



Another simple idea but with endless possibilities. The aim is to get your toes on your nose whilst remaining in the car seat. Tip: don’t play this with Russian contortionists!


This takes a bit of planning. While your partner is away from the vehicle place a chick of cheese you have brought specifically for this reason, somewhere in the car or van. On their return, challenge them: “where’s the cheese?” If you’re feeling charitable you could tell them when they’re getting cold or warm bit I prefer the purity of the classic game with no help.


and my favourite…

Bring along as many clothes pegs as you can manage – regular players of the game often have several scores of them stashed away in the back of their vans. This is a challenge game. One player starts by pegging a part of their body – for example the earlobe. Their opponent must match the pegging by placing a peg on their own ear. Cue one of the most painful and childish games you can play whilst seated in a Yorkshire car park. The winner is the player with the most pegs in place – you lose if one snaps off.


Now, as we sit, staring out at the calm waters, our shoulders bruised by too many Mini viewings, our heads full of rhyming cities & famous lists of three, the cheese in pride of place on the dashboard and our faces, arms, stomach and ears pinched to distraction with pegs, it’s almost a shame when far off in the distance we see a swell rise up in a delicious bubble. It seems a shame to unhinge ourselves and put our toes on the floor, unpeg our puckered skin and grab the boards for a surf. But the great thing about surfing is, there will always be plenty of more time to waste and thanks to “Brian’s Little Book Of Stuff To Do When There’s Nowt To Surf.” we’ll be ready for it.

Matt Stradling May 2014

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