Over 90% of us have seen a massive increase in our living costs recently, as we reach the craziest inflation rates that the UK has seen for forty years. 44% are struggling to pay the bills and 15% are having to work extra hours or take on a second job just to make ends meet, according to the Office of National Statistics. With everything from gas and electric to food and fuel skyrocketing in price, people are fighting to keep their heads above water and being forced to reconsider their everyday habits. And, for many of us, surfing is sadly no exception.
It’s good to remember that if we’ve been living a life where we can regularly go surfing then we’re already privileged compared to so many others in our country. But, whoever we are and whatever we’re going through, all of this hardship and doom and gloom will no doubt affect the mental health of so many of us, so I think it’s important to talk about it openly…
Over the past few months I’ve been striking up cost of living crisis conversations and gathering stories from locals who share my regular surf spot on the north Cornish coast. As a county that’s already suffering from a crippling housing crisis and significantly lower-than-average wages, Cornwall is being hit especially hard. And my car park chats have highlighted that! But you know what, they’ve also shown that, whilst it’s a worrying and downright scary time, we are all in this together. There’s something comforting about that sense of unity, right?
Here’s what people had to say about how the cost of living crisis has impacted their lives and their surfing in Cornwall.
“Fuel and parking prices are the main things that are affecting me and my surfing right now. I’m lucky to live just five minutes away but the money that we put in the car to come for a surf and walk the dog at the beach still isn’t lasting anywhere near as long as it used to.
Also, food! I shop in Lidl but I’ve noticed that even there everything’s getting more expensive.
It seems like tourism in Cornwall has been used as another excuse for costs to go up. And they’ve gone now the summer’s over…but we’re still left paying £4 for a coffee.”
“For me, surfing isn’t just about having fun. It’s for my mental health as well. Normally if I’ve had a crap day or if I’m not feeling too great I’ll get in the van and go for a surf. But now, because I have to drive 20 miles to the beach, the fuel cost and general living costs means I can’t just go whenever I want. I have to pick and choose carefully.
I feel quite privileged though, because whilst I do have to spend more money on fuel to surf, I’m still able to prioritise that over pretty much anything else in my life. And I will always do that because I love surfing so much!
Also, a positive in all of this is that I do get to go with my friends more often now because we’ll try and plan lifts more, rather than just going for spontaneous surfs before or after work.”
“At the moment I’m living in a friend’s home. It’s a shed. And I have no idea where I’ll be or what’s going to happen next year because of the cost of living.
I use surfing and yoga to help me to relax though, and I try not to let it all worry me too much.
I think one simple solution to help people would be for the council or private car parks to provide cheaper car parking. People are going to struggle this winter and we know cold water is good for us all, so they should make it more accessible to everyone.”
“I work in a school and I think I’m seeing the biggest impact there. I run the kitchen and I’m having to be super watchful of budgets.
Overall I feel fortunate and cushioned compared to a lot of people though, because I have a small mortgage.
With surfing, I find that I’m having to make a lot more distance calculations to go lately. But my son is just getting into it so I’ve got a lot of enthusiasm to take him out and that’s offsetting my reticence to put fuel in the tank! We’ve been ride-sharing with friends too, which helps.”
“My partner and I are paramedics for the NHS in Cornwall, so we have fairly good jobs. But we can’t afford a house here. We’re living in a van at the moment but we’ve actually decided to take time off to go and work in New Zealand.
Living in the van means we don’t have too many energy bills. Even so, my thoughts on it are that everything seems to be about trying to find quick and new ways to get fossil fuels to produce more energy. But I think there should be more of a view on reducing the need for energy rather than trying to make more all the time. The government could incentivise people to use less – because we really shouldn’t be using this much energy anyway.
Tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t doing anything for all the people who can’t afford to live either. The MPs just don’t seem to be doing anything…or we have the wrong MPs representing us.”
“The cost of living crisis is affecting everything in my life, especially our business. The business is reliant on people coming to Cornwall and learning to surf and I’m worried that people aren’t going to be doing that. We’re in early days too, so we don’t have much money.
We’re also getting evicted soon, like a lot of people are right? Winter is an expensive time anyway so after wondering what to do for a while, I’ve just decided to leave! I’m going to Lombok. It’s going to be cheaper than living here! But when I come back in April it’s probably going to be the same situation with struggling to find somewhere to live and of course, that’s a worry too.”
“Anxious, stressed, unsettled…all words I’d use to describe how the cost of living crisis has made me feel! Especially not knowing when it’s going to end.
It definitely makes me a little more selective about surfing too. Lately I’ve been questioning whether I should or shouldn’t go because of the costs of driving to get here.”
“I live in a van full time and I use it as a psychotherapy unit, taking injured veterans surfing. The cost of living is having a big effect on this. I drive around Cornwall to these people who are suffering with their mental health and the fuel is costing me £200 a week, which is difficult.
Board costs have gone up too! The prizes are crazy. I’m having to sell some of my 1950s and ‘60s surfboards just to keep me on the road.”
“A lot of my family and friends can’t afford to live where we were born and grew up in St Merryn, which is difficult. Me and my partner have managed to buy a house but it’s taken us two emotionally-taxing years and we had to save a lot of money. We got gazumped three times and finally we got lucky with an amazing old couple who wanted to sell their house to locals.
I find it really sad that whole communities are getting lost and generations of families are being forced to move inland. There’s nothing wrong with being inland in Cornwall but being by the sea is a big part of our heritage. We’re coastal dwellers and I just think that it’s a crying shame that young generations of people that want to live and work here are being pushed out.
I think an important thing to change this would be for second home owners to pay council tax. I think it’s ridiculous that they don’t have to. And we need more affordable housing, without ridiculous waiting lists for the help-to-buy scheme.
The cost of living crisis means it’s going to be tough to get through this winter too. I’m fortunate to have been able to go to uni and that’s got me into a job where I earn ok money, but we’re still living pay cheque to pay cheque.”
Tips to survive the cost of living crisis (and keep surfing as much as possible!)
Do any of the stories above sound familiar? Whatever your background or financial situation, if the cost of living crisis is affecting your life or your ability to surf, there are some things you could do to try and navigate it. I’ve been trawling Money Saving Expert and various online resources to dig out some top tips. Here are several to get you started.
Share a ride
It might be an obvious one, but it’s worth remembering that sharing journeys to the beach with fellow surfers can save a hell of a lot in fuel costs. If none of your friends or family surf or you can’t find a convenient time for you all to lift-share, you could search Facebook groups to find other locals looking to do the same.
Get help with your energy bills
If you’re struggling to pay your bills, speak to your supplier as soon as possible. Many energy firms are actually offering grants, one-off payments and more affordable repayment plans. The government is also offering extra support this winter with grants available from £150 upwards, so make sure you’re making the most of it. Take a look here for more advice.
Be savvy with your meal prep
If you normally emerge from the surf completely ravenous and easily drop a tenner on snacks (guilty), try packing a post-surf meal. Cooking On a Bootstrap has tonnes of ideas for meals that work out at under £1 per person, especially if you make some swaps to cheaper own-brand products at the supermarket. Even better, do some batch cooking so you’re sorted for the whole week.
Make some thrifty lifestyle changes
From hanging out washing to air dry to switching off radiators in rooms you don’t use, consider the small changes you could make in your everyday home life. They could make a big impact over time.
Look for cheaper broadband
If you’re on an old contract you could be paying the bog-standard full price when cheaper deals might be available. Try searching on a comparison site and you might find you can save up to £200 a year.
And the same goes for insurance
Lots of us let our car insurance or phone insurance just renew automatically when we could be saving money on a cheaper deal. Switching is usually pretty quick and easy to do.
Get free advice on debt
If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation, don’t suffer in silence. There are many charities offering free, impartial advice including National Debt Line, Turn2Us and StepChange.
Sell your stuff
If you’ve been hanging on to a board that doesn’t seem to leave the shed these days, maybe now’s the time to sell it on for cash. Just think, you could be making a huge difference to someone who can’t afford a brand new board right now too. It’s a win-win.
Make a budget – and stick to it
Ultimately, in times like these, many of us need to cut down our general spending. There are loads of free banking and budgeting apps out there that can help you to track and manage what’s coming in and out of your account, often breaking down purchases into categories too. They could help you build better habits and a healthier bank balance.
Support your local surf shop
Ok, so this one is a little less about helping you personally and more about your local economy: do your best to shop with independent surf shops. Thousands of small businesses are going to be forced to close or struggle to stay afloat this year, so consider what you could buy with them instead of just shopping online. Everything from your winter wetsuit gear to your Sex Wax will make a difference.
Focus on your mental health
Finally, now’s the time to look after your mental health more than ever. Exercise, get outside in nature, surf if you can, and remember that it’s completely normal to feel anxious at this time. Talk to people you love about how you’re feeling. And if your symptoms begin to feel overwhelming and you’re struggling to cope, seek professional help from your GP or a therapist. Remember that you’re not in this alone.