Sunday, January 30, 2011

Explore Your Own Backyard: Part 3

Up the coast, shot early one morning by Harry Knight.

Alex, on our regular am routine.

"How far d'ya reckon it is?" Down the coast.

Alex reaping the rewards of looking around the corner, shot by Nosara Shack.

Sunday arvo, down the coast.

For my friends at Surf Simply out on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, there really isn't much of a need to explore their back yard because their front yard is so damn good. The beach where they live and work is a long expanse of sand with numerous peaks along its length, more than enough to spread out all of the surfers there so that you can surf with just your friends. When I worked out there (Ru and Gem have employed a few of us for varying lengths of time over the years) Alex and I would get up when the howler monkeys started roaring in the dark every morning and ride down to the beach to get an early surf, then start work in wet boardshorts.
But every now and then we'd all get up a little earlier, throw down a coffee, water and banana (Ru's dawny routine of wake-up, hydrate, energy) and straddle the quad-bikes to go surf someplace where we'd not only be the first ones in the sea, but we'd be the only ones in the sea.
The best of the backyard breaks was a twenty minute quad ride away in the dry season (before the rivers became impassable due to rains). We'd unload the boards and carry them across the rope bridges then tentatively ease the bikes over the bridges, pulling back the cables to get the handlebars past. There are three rivers to cross and it's a hassle but there are heaps of crocs in the rivers. And it's worth it when you get to the beach; a remote turtle sanctuary with a board-buckling beachbreak to wake you up.
North or South, every now and then we'd climb aboard one of the quad-bikes and go looking; guaging the paddle to off-shore reefs or trying to figure the optimum swell direction for nearby coves. The crew currently out there are still doing it, exploring safe in the knowledge that their fall back option of surfing out front is still the sort of surf spot that we're all doodling in the margins of our notebooks.

Go take a look around that corner and see what you find.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wear More Wool

If it's winter and damned cold where you are, here's the solution:

Wear more wool.

It works for these guys (a flock of merinos, pre-shearing, on a sheep station I worked on in New Zealand), and I'm all for biomimicry. Design inspiration from nature. Look around you some and it'll all make sense.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Barrels Before Breakfast

Mick Jardine setting up on a solid one.

Ben Spicer, count down to lift-off.

Paddling back to the cove.

Exit strategy.

Ben Spicer and Mick Jardine. Walking and waterfalls.

The first number that I saw when I focussed on my alarm clock was a five. Eurghh. It's meant to be my day off and I'm waking up at work o-clock. At least my housemate Benny was dealing with the same issues in the bedroom next-door.

Dawn patrols are one thing on surf trips or in the summer months, but it's a completely different story when it's the depths of winter. Dark. Cold. Raining. The wind rattling the windows.

When we pulled up next to Mick's car it was still absolutely pitch black with no signs of the horizon turning grey for a while, but we talked each other into it and suited up in the howling wind for the slippery and sketchy walk across the fields and down the cliff. The recent heavy rainfall meant that the waterfall above the cove was in full flow, but at least the wind was offshore in this little nook - when it's onshore the waterfall gets blown backwards back up the cliff like an optical illusion.
With small neap tides and not a very "low" low water we didn't have long, but we were probably the only people to get good waves on yesterdays combination of swell, wind and tide. This cove is renowned for thumping powerful wedges with a high and tight barrel; a wave that wraps back in on itself and can either reward or punish. My housemate Benny has probably surfed here more than anybody else the past few years He has the joint dialled and yet for all the time and effort he's put in, she's a fickle mistress and one horrendous wipeout here a few years ago put him out of the water for six months with some serious physio required on his back.

We could barely see the feathering lips of the waves as we paddled out but it slowly started to get lighter and our eyes adjusted to the grey. A few good waves went down over the next hour and a half: Some decent barrels including a full stand-tall from Mick, and I saw the boys throw up plenty of spray. Benny and I had a bit of an "intimate" moment when he got pitched head first over the falls on a solid set wave which then beat me down as I tried to duck-dive it. I got rag-dolled underwater for ages then my leg hit something soft; then something hard. Benny and one of our surfboards. We surfaced in a tangle of limbs, leashes and surfboards about five metres from the base of the cliff with the rest of the set bearing down on us and had to paddle pretty hard to get out of the corner. Par for the course here.

As the tide filled in and the good set waves started to become fewer and farther between I paddled back across to the cove, got out and retrieved my camera bag then slid down a spur of cliff to try and get a good angle. It was still pretty dark with a heavy sky so awful conditions to be shooting at the upper limit of my telephoto lens and when I developed the film yesterday afternoon most of the shots were just blurs of grey and white where my shutter speed had been too slow for the speed of the waves. But a few came out ok, enough to post above.

I don't really care though.
We got barrelled before breakfast and that's all that really matters.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Soothing Songs of The Stone Siblings

Back in December Angus and Julia Stone, a stupidly talented brother-sister duo from Sydney's Northern Beaches returned to Cornwall to play another live show in Falmouth just a stones throw down the river from the sawmills studio near Fowey where they recorded the bulk of their last album Down The Way. Sorry, I didn't even realise I'd made that "stones throw" pun until I just re-read it. I'm leaving it in though, no shame.
It was probably one of the hardest gigs that I've ever tried to photograph - all low lighting, twinkling and backlit, exacerbated by the fact that I rocked up with friends and had a drink in the bar before going in rather than getting there early and waiting down the front with my cantankerous camera. When I did get in there, I was promptly surrounded by enormous box-headed rugby players so had to shoot these stood on my tip toes. I would've just hung at the back listening with my eyes closed though, they're that good live.
I'd urge you to do your ears a favour and go give them a listen. They're both so damn talented that they've also got solo and side-projects on the go too so with a bit of internet rummaging you should be able to turn up some real nice music.

And if you're into Julia Stone's sound then seek out Lisa Hannigan and her album "Sea Sew", she was the cellist and duet vocalist on Damien Rice's "O" album and has some really nice material.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

No Fun

Imagine this. I mean, apart from the "No Littering" rule, that's a list prohibiting some of the things that bring the most joy to my life, and I'd guess to many of yours too. I don't think these rules are applied these days - the sign hangs unemployed on the wall of the lifeguard station at the back of the main beach in Jeffreys Bay as a hangover and horrible reminder of the days of apartheid, and I surfed the reef at the end of the beach most days no doubt under the watchful eye of said "law enforcement" without being called out. We occasionally had fires on the beach, locals fished off the sand and we took the work dogs out for runs and a splash in the shorey on a daily basis, so there's more than one reason to be thankful for the changes that rightly took place fifteen odd years ago.
I just got back from a week away with a friend camping out the back of a rental car, surfing every day and watching fishermen on the rocks, with the odd attempt at lighting damp driftwood fires to drink a beer around and dry our wetsuits as the sun sank into the sea.
I say be grateful for the opportunity to indulge in these small joys. Just make sure you take your rubbish away with you when the day is done, as I'm sure you all do.

Here's to more of the above this coming year.

Also, as an aside, last weeks Boxing Day post has been re-published by the good folk at Drift surf mag, click the jump to get a load of the other good stuff that they push out there. Cheers.