Sunday, October 31, 2010


It's over. Officially. Done for another year.
It's a bitter-sweet weekend here in the UK and France. Yeah you get an extra hour in bed but the clocks going back by an hour signals the end of British Summer Time and the reality hits in that winter is on its way, despite the fact that it's been pretty darn autumnal here for the past month odd at least.
So just take a few moments to cast your memory back over the summer that's just been on the north side, or if you're the other side of the equator, maybe just envision the good times to come.
I took these photos in early September in and around the fishing town come artists community of St Ives. No it ain't an "app", they're the real deal shot on a thirty odd year old Kodak 127 camera on out of date cartridge film. The camera's getting temperamental in its old age, missing exposures when I wind it on and periodically the shutter won't release. Having taken it in to be repaired the advice I got was just to give it a good whack whenever it won't play ball, and sure enough that seems to solve most of its problems.
They look like my memories of summer in Cornwall when I was really young.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Explore Your Own Backyard: Instalments 1&2

Coming off the back of the good reception that "Patience" recieved, and on a similar theme, I thought I might roll out the first of a couple of mini-series that I've wanted to kick off for a while. Here's the first two instalments of the new "Explore Your Own Backyard" series:

Whilst I love nothing more than new places and faces, I'm as guilty as the next man of suspecting that the grass is always greener some place else. Not always so. It's easy to overlook your neighbourhood for providing you with the environment, ways and means to get your kicks, and when you realise that fact and make the most of where you are right now rather than pining for someplace else, you get a lot more enjoyment, a lot more often.

Part 1:

This is Pete. He runs his familys dairy farm in Westland on the South Island of New Zealand and works flat out. I worked for Pete one Spring time a few years back. Being a dairy farmer is rewarding but damned hard, especially during calving when we spent weeks working 14 hour plus days in the cold and rain milking, delivering calves and doing all the other hard graft required to keep the farm going - "A whole lot of death and mayhem" was how he described the calving season.
The farm stands under the shadow of the Southern Alps, and the Franz Josef glacier is a 15 minute drive away, we were on the edge of the nearest village. One of Petes oldest friends had been one of the original guides on the glacier, but despite this and his lifelong proximity, Pete had never been more than about 20 metres onto the ice. Until now. Myself and the other guy working on the farm wanted to climb the glacier, and Pete figured that if we got up super early and got the bare minimum of farm chores done by day break, we could all go up with his friend. So we did, kitted up in a rag-tag array of old crampons and ice axes, we spent a day up there, first on and last off looking down at the identically dressed tour groups tramping the well cut steps far below. We got to cut our own steps and searched for giant quartz crystals.
When your backyard is one of the most accessible Glacier National Parks on the planet, it's well worth exploring.

Part 2:

I must've looked at this cave and patch of cliff a thousand times whist sat out in the line-up surfing, but not being a proper climber I never really appreciated it. That is until I moved in with Matt, who IS a proper climber. At low tide you can walk out around the base of the low cliffs and over the reef, to patches of secluded beach in the mouth of the caves, and we carried around a crash mat, climbing shoes and a bag of chalk to try and suss some bouldering routes. Here's a shot of Matt with a vicious heel-hook, just about to haul himself up and over the lip of the cave onto a patch of rock that is "merely vertical" rather than massively inverted.
The whole coastline around here is like this, if you've got a climbers eye and can spot the routes. Lucky for Matt he runs powerboat Sea Safari tours so every day at work whilst pointing out dolphins and seabirds to tourists, he gets to explore our backyard looking for climbing routes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Stiff upper lip old chap"

"Keep calm and carry on"
Somebody's selling an awful lot of tea towels and tin mugs with this war time slogan on it, going for the quintissentially British "stiff upper lip" angle on retro design. It got me thinking though about what a good piece of advice it is. Take a deep breath, count to ten and make a new plan.
Missed a connection? Didn't get the job or contract your plans were pivoting on? Luggage lost in transit? There's a million different ways that it can hit the fan at home, work or on the road, but very few of these things are insumountable. So just keep calm, and carry on.
This is an image of my old friend and neighbour Jim, looking quinissentially British, taking a slurp out of said tin mug after harvest.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lightning Bolt

"No two surfboards of that period looked alike. This was a function of unique design theories but also of the fact that during the transition from longboards to short, no one knew what surfboards were supposed to look like or what worked best. Everything was in a state of transition, and there was no established norm...
...I suppose in a generous mood one could call the colour coral, but one might also have described it as baby-shit brown. Back then I never gave much thought to a surfboard's lifespan, especially at the Pipeline. I figured if I dodn't grow to like this colour, the board probably wouldn't last long anyway...
...I got orders for the same shape as the Coral Cruiser, some of them from very good surfers whom I admired, and I gained quite a bit of confidence in my surfboard shaping. The following summer Jack Shipley, the head salesperson at Surf Line Hawai'i, and I joined together to open a shop of our own just down the street. We called the new shop Lightning Bolt Surf Company. The brand and insignia would go on to become recognized by surfers everywhere. Eventually it would grow into an internaltional licensing company, the first of its kind in the surf world.
The Coral Cruiser would stay intact and at one point, I painted a small blue lightning bolt on her deck. Eventually, she would become relegated to the back of the pile, replaced by shiny new bright coloured Lightning Bolt boards. She sadly sank into obscurity, left under a house somewhere and forgotten. When I did think of her and all she had done for me, it was too late. She was gone. But I'll never forget the magic, the excitement and the many glorious moments when she was the best that ever was."
Gerry Lopez, one of the surf worlds most iconic figures, paraphrased from his short story "The Coral Cruiser" found in his incredible biography "Surf Is Where You Find It".
Known as Mr Pipeline, Lopez was the undisputed King of the worlds most famous wave throughout the late 60's and early 70's, founder of one of the most famous surfboard brands ever, Indonesian pioneer, big wave surfer, elder statesman for the sport and he now resides in Oregon where he spends his days snowboarding and shaping surfboards still. He's got a lot of stories to tell, which he does with massive understatement and humility.
Text copyright Gerry Lopez and Patagonia Books.
Top image by myself, a Lightning Bolt that I was shown as part of a wide and amazing collection of vintage surfboards in California.
Bottom image of Gerry doing what he became famous for at Pipeline I think by Steve Wilkins, circa 1970.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Boring? Not at all.

How many surf spots are there where you can catch the same wave three times or more, and rack up minutes of ride time?

The tidal bore wave that periodically rolls up the River Severn, through the countryside on the English and Welsh border, definitely provides one of the more charming facets on the periphery of the surfing world. Often garnering more attention from the mainstream media than the surf media, the Severn bore is also at the centre of continual conflicting environmental arguments regarding the decades old proposal to build a £20bn barrage across the estuary to provide a renewable source of energy. With legal requirements for 15% of the UK’s electricity needs to be met by renewable sources by 2020, a barrage would account for a healthy 15% of this.
But this is counterbalanced by the resultant flooding of protected wetlands and bird habitats, the enormous time scale required to neutralise the projects carbon footprint (some eighty years), issues concerning salmon spawning on the river, the silting up of the river and the cost of sediment wear on the turbines.

The movement of the tide and its bore wave up and down the estuary and river has been described as “Gloucestershire breathing in and out”. A barrage would draw an end to this.
A friend once described his bore surfing experience to me as “a small chubby wave, sheep poo and real ale”…I was intrigued so decided to go see for myself, driving three hours inland against all my natural instincts - to go surfing.

Roughly once a month, for a few days at a time either side of the spring high tides, cars stop on bridges and spectators line the river banks to watch a motley crew of surfers and the odd kayaker slide down the muddy, slimy river bank into the water to await the surge of the tide. One wave every twelve hours, or near enough – sometimes there are two or three waves making up the head of the tide, but whichever way you look at it, if you miss it you’ve got to wait a long time for the next chance. Probably one of the rare occasions that you’ll get apprehensive as a waist high line of whitewater approaches. The wave itself exhibits different characteristics on different stretches of the river, sometimes just a rolling whitewater wave and sometimes throwing up shoulders and sections to turn off where it hits shallow stone ledges or sand banks, much as waves do in the ocean.

In fact, the novelty value is probably part of the appeal. Length of ride can be several miles, the record being eleven miles on a single wave - ridden by Steve King, the local bore maestro who’s missed only a handful of tides in the past thirty-odd years. It’s no high performance wave, granted, but it’s a charming and mildly eccentric weekend of surfing a long way removed from the regular scene back on the beaches. Everybody’s friendly and pleased to see each other, keen to share stories, a pint and a wave. When there’s only one every twelve hours, party waves become de-rigour and it’s all about distance covered and the width of smiles shared.

The next tides of sufficient height to produce a bore wave are next weekend, with a 9.8m high tide on the morning of Friday October 8th and a 9.9m high tide on the morning of Saturday the 9th. Why not get yourself to Gloucestershire and go surf something a bit different?

Images from the top down are:

Mick Jardine and Matt Boon waiting for the bore to arrive in knee deep water at Newnham.

Mick on wave number one of the day, warming up ready to give it a go on a shortboard further upstream.

Silty, slimey feet from river bank scrambles.

Getting there...

Trying to find the river down country lanes and farmers fields.

The one that got away...Matt has a head cam on here and the plan was for both of us to capture a shot of Mick blasting his fins through the roof at this secret stone ledge. The longboarder enjoying the empty shoulder here jostled him out of position though which is pretty crucial on a tiny 6'1" in a freshwater river. Oh well, maybe next month hey.