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By Jo Wyke
Owner of Melvich Hotel
Published: 17th February 2020

Isn’t It Swell

In 2019, Melvich Hotel teamed up with North Coast Watersports to create an exciting new surf and stay package full of adventure and great food in one of the best surfing locations in the country! We caught up with Jo from the Melvich Hotel to find out more…

When you live in a prime surf destination, your hotel is an overnight stop-off for ocean-going salty sea dogs, your very own husband lives in the water and your small child is already showing genetically inherited signs of the same board-based addictions, people tend to assume that you also partake. It would be odd otherwise, right?

Wrong. For almost thirteen years, since taking over the Melvich Hotel in 2007, it was my own personal rebellion. I was the Resistance. My love of the ocean, the beach here in Melvich, the power of salt water to blast the cobwebs away, knew no bounds, but actually surf? Nein danke. The majestic power of Mother Nature appeared to me to be far too all-powerful to be harnessed and frankly, I would rather *walk* on the beach than be pounded onto it by a double overhead flogging.

Enter stage left, North Coast Watersports. Thanks to the contagious force-of-nature enthusiasm emanating from Iona and her business partner, Finn, we joined up with North Coast Watersports during 2019 to put together some surf packages for prospective guests. We even invented our own fully-charged “Swell Weekends”, offering surf, adventure and truly excellent food in one wonderful weekend stay. Iona & Finn have been working hard at building up their local surf and watersports business since early 2019 and have leapt from success to success. They deserve it. I have rarely met another local business with such ambition, drive to succeed and all-encompassing love of what they do. They live and love surf. Sadly for me and my Resistance, it’s contagious.

Our first Swell Weekend took place in September last year and six wonderful, and very brave, beginners joined us for three days of surf, yoga, guided walks, local culture and AMAZING BBQ (huge mouth watering props to Jo Mackenzie at the Store Café Bettyhill for the most mind blowing spread I’ve eaten at any BBQ, anywhere, ever.) Credit too to the annual arrival of the autumn weather patterns, as we also witnessed the full majesty of the Winter Swell crashing into our north coast. Beautifully awe inspiring? Yes. Terrifying? A little. Thankfully, armed with immense local knowledge and not a little mileage to test conditions, Iona & Finn made sure our hardy beginners scored near-perfect conditions in sheltered spots – emerging victorious and, hopefully, both improved and enthused in their new watery passion. It was a fantastic weekend and one we enjoyed as much as our guests.

Inaugural September Swell 2019 attendees at Torrisdale.

Fast forward three months and it’s a cold December morning on Dunnet beach, where I’m being put through my pop-up paces on its beautiful sandy shore by a very professional and efficient Iona. I was prepared to be embarrassed by my lack of skill and prepared to consume vast quantities of salt water, but equally I was unprepared for how exhilarated I’d feel. That on a Baltic December morning, completely subsumed by sub-zero sea water and encased in 7mm of head to toe potential body-dysmorphia, I’d feel completely and utterly delighted. Charged, alive, excited, HAPPY. I was completely rubbish, let’s be honest, but I absolutely loved it. I am a 41 year old perpetually exhausted working parent with fitness-issues. I am not the target demo here, but my days, I loved it. A reflection of both Iona & Finn and their enthusiasm, and at the same time the allure and power of the sea – annoyingly, that thing my husband has been banging on about for the last 20 years.

So here’s the pitch. If I can do it, so can you. You will not regret it and might even enjoy it. We’ve got three more Swell weekends coming up in 2020 (click here for more details and dates) and if you are passing through on your NC500 journey or heading further north to Orkney, take a break, call NCW and give it a go. The ocean is an amazing place and we are so lucky to have it right here on our doorstep. We want to share it with you, so get in touch and it might even change your life (or at least your endorphin levels for an hour or so).

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