Sunday, January 31, 2010

How can you OWN a wave???

Can a person or organisation OWN a wave? It’s a tough question, and a pretty contentious issue in the world of surfing. Waves are simply energy moving through the medium of water. The water doesn’t travel, the wave energy does. So how can the culmination of kinetic energy suddenly become a possession once it reaches a certain physical location?
Some truly great waves are affected by this issue, and it’s something that, it could be argued, goes all the way back to the Sport of Kings in pre-contact Hawaii.
If it didn’t affect great waves of course, it wouldn’t be such a problem.
Cloudbreak, pictured above, is a perfect example. In the mid to late 1970’s two surf entrepreneurs made a deal with the Fijian tribe who own the island to develop a surf camp there. The tribe’s land rights extend over their fishing grounds which happen to be the coral reefs over which not just one, but two world class waves break. The island is now an exclusive surf resort accommodating up to 36 guests at a time and costing somewhere in the region of $300 per day. But you get Cloudbreak or Restaurants to yourself. In fact, the only time that other surfers can sneak a look in is to do as I did and get out to the island on a Saturday morning (changeover day) and pay to surf in the few hours between one set of guests leaving and a new load arriving - usually by helicopter.
For me it was worth it, but is it right?
In pre-contact Hawaii, certain breaks such as Sunset were the sole playgrounds of Royalty and off limits to commoners. In 1950’s and 1960’s California ranch owners made access to spots along vast stretches of coast available only to those with access to a boat under threat of prosecution for trespassing.
These days more often than not the reason for off-limits surf is down to National Defence.
In the UK, The Pole in Pembrokeshire and Broadbench in Kimmeridge, Dorset both fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence and access is strictly controlled, most recently to much public outcry at Kimmeridge.
If they’re firing, and the reef’s firing, you ain’t surfing.
And if you’ve ever travelled between LA and San Diego you’ll know that a large tract of land and 15 miles of prime pacific coastline on the infamous Camp Pendleton Marine Base is off limits to surfers – a recent Surfer’s Journal/marine R&R incursion excepting. The flip side of this though, is that apart from tank tracks on the beach this is probably the closest to an untouched piece of coastline in Southern California and the only thing preventing an LA/San Diego megatropolis. So perhaps not such a bad state of affairs after all in this case.
But it’s a valid issue and one that will only grow as the number of active surfer’s grows, particularly in surf travel Edens such as the Mentawais. Competition for waves and a demand to score perfect UNCROWDED surf when paying over the odds for your one surf trip per year will lead to more and more “exclusive” resorts fighting to keep their waves private and off limits to overland explorers on lower budgets or bro’s on their boat trips.
The thing is, wave “ownership” has been a sticking point for this long, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be solved any time soon. Catch ‘em while you can.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cool before cool was cool

Dug this one out of the family archives - that's my Grandad on the right, crouched down in a trenchcoat, wild cap (pre bike helmets) and a cig hanging from his lips (because they were good for your voice back then...) fixing his mates bike on the roadside sometime in the mid 1930's...a solid 15-20 years before Brando became an icon in The Wild Ones and James Dean created a counter-culture in Rebel Without A Cause.

The reason why I love this shot so much is because my Gran took it (sitting on the back of a bike was probably my Grandads idea of a good date) with a mark I Kodak box brownie, and that's the canvas case slung over his shoulder. That camera, case and all, is now sat on my shelf. I'm planning on pushing a roll of film through it sometime soon, so we'll see what comes out.

I guess at least if I haven't inherited Grandads easy cool or his vintage iron steed, there's a beautiful old camera in my hands waiting to capture a new reality 80 years on.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The beautiful mind of Mr Scott Bryant

Anyone who's ever met Scotty has a story about him, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. More often than not the ridiculous.

He's one of the most intensly creative humans I know though, not just through the noise he makes with his various music projects but in pretty much every aspect of his day to day existence; nobody else I know would have a glove stuck over the end of their rear windshield wiper so that when looking in the rear-view mirror it's waving at you.

I just re-read a short essay that he wrote a while ago about Love and Art. How they are inextricably linked, self perpetuating and how each one needs the other to exist and flourish. It's a pretty mind blowing and inspirational piece of writing and fills me with hope.
I'm not going to type it out here or quote it, but maybe just sit back and have a think about it:

Art=Love & Love=Art. Simple.

Every now and then I get him to hold still long enough to make a portrait of him, in this one all wrapped up in a Nepalese blanket/jacket hybrid...and shorts. Only Scott.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Surfing or Photography? The ultimate dilemma.

"So you love to surf. And you love taking photographs. Why don't you just take photos of surfing then?"
It's a phrase I've heard quite a lot. But there's more to it than that. Sitting on the beach shooting your mates enjoying the waves is one of the most frustrating things for a surfer, and normally the territory of the injured guy doing his friends a favour. I've sat out a few times with my camera, but normally I leave my camera gear on the beach or the boat and rattle off a few shots when I come in for sunscreen, water or another run up the point. That's probably why you'll see surprisingly few surf action shots here or on the website; more an overview of all the other things that come with drifting around looking for waves to ride. I'll do my best to post a shot of somebody ripping at regular intervals though.
Top: Unknown surfer, red board re-entry at Boomerangs, central NSW Australia.
Bottom: DVD, dropping his wallet at Burliegh Heads, QLD Australia.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This is how cold the sea feels in Cornwall at the moment although I know it ain't a patch on Scotland or the North East where big blocks of ice floating through the line-up isn't unusual. Surfing in that is proper commitment.....or just plain crazy.

But this photo also reminded me that the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit finished up a couple of weeks ago, and despite all the media buzz while it was happening, I didn't hear much about the outcomes so I just did some research.

No legally binding deal.
No long term global emissions cuts targets.
No timescale for when the political agreement can be turned into a legally-binding treaty.
Other agreements, such as dealing with deforestation, shelved until the next conference.

So will the glacier in this photo continue to recede? It looks like it. Nice one world leaders, we relied on you and you choked.
Which means that it's down to the rest of us to do our own little bit I guess - car share, buy local, insulate your roof space, participate in non-motorised sports, meat-free mondays, anything else you can think of, oh, and spreading the word.