Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Stories of Scars

We've all got scars; even the most precious princesses have marks on their knees from falling over as kids, it's just that some of us carry a few more than others. And they all tell stories.

I was listening to one of the brilliant Dirtbag Diaries podcasts a few weeks back and it was all about scars. As I drove down the coast road to work with it playing through my earphones I started to take note of the backs of my hands and wrists - right in front of my eyes on the steering wheel: A long white line across the back of my right hand from a run-in with a grill (I once tried telling somebody that I got scratched by a tiger at the zoo), a thin slice down one finger from an Indonesian reef, three gnarled knuckles thanks to the bricks at Jeffreys Bay, the tip of a finger sliced around removing aluminium swarf from a lathe and countless chill-blain puckerings from surf coaching under a hot sun in a cold ocean. No particularly remarkable or unusual ones really, everybody'll have their own versions. Some people I know have scars that define them, with full-on stories to go with them that they're continually having to tell to curious new acquaintances.

I bring this up not because of any sort of machismo, I don't want to start a pissing contest comparing scars (I wouldn't do so well if I did). But I like the fact that they all have stories, and I love the constant reminder of how incredible our bodies are at repairing themselves.
Tattoos can be bought and I'm all for art on skin but most tattoos don't carry the same stories that scars do. You don't choose your scars or where they go but they're there for the duration all the same. In Indonesia the brown scars that surfers gain from brushes with the sharp coral reef and subsequent cleaning with iodine are nicknamed "Kerrang tattoos" after the Bahasa Indonesian for coral.

Cut deep enough and some serious repair is required. Blood clots and fibroblast sets to work, synthesising collagen fibres which cross link (rather than align as it does in the rest of our skin) and when the scab falls away after 3-4 weeks we have a fresh patch of skin. But not proper skin...just a patch up job which won't grow hair or sweat, and won't stretch to accomodate our growing bodies.

A reminder not to do that again because it hurt.

A battle badge.

Have a look at the backs of your hands, or your knees, elbows, anywhere. Take a look at some of those marks and recall how you got them. Some may have painful memories attached, but I'll bet that a few take you back to a good time or place and a pretty good story.

Top Image: Matt's a climber, and his knuckles have bore the consequences. Shot in Southern Spain, February 2011 on a climbing trip with his brother Sam Wheadon who's a pro-shutterbug.

Bottom Image: My shoes by me, but they don't look like this any more...years of walking barefoot, rock hopping and reef scrapes have resulted in some lasting marks but I wouldn't have it any other way.

If you're passing through Falmouth, Cornwall, over April then swing by the fantastic JAM records coffee shop and record store. Sip a latte, flick through the incredible music in the racks, and cast your eyes over all the photography that I've thrown up on their wall. It'll be up until the end of April.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Howls From The Pit

"I love working. I've got to work every day with my hands. Even if I am doing paperwork all day, I've got to go home and chop vegetables or something. It's really important to me."

Yvon Chouinard
Founder of Patagonia, environmental philanthropist and climbing legend

The Pit: Surfboards, Boats & Bikes.

I lose my pencil about ten times a day, and it nearly always turns up tucked behind my ear.

Inking in the spray job on The Phoenix; rising from the ashes of Scotty's longboard.

Welcome to The Pit.

Being productive with your time, whether the outcome's tangible or not, is pretty important.
When the Rawkus Racing boys moved their car and tools out of one of the garages underneath our house leaving nothing but a classic mechanics calendar, I wasted no time in filling one corner of the garage with tools and a workbench. Suddenly, all of the unfinished projects that I had burdening the lower end of my to-do list looked like they might actually get done.
Eight years ago my friend Scotty snapped his longboard and I promised to re-shape it into a new shortboard...eight years, twenty-odd home moves across four continents (only four moves for the board) and finally I managed to reunite foam, trestles and plane in the same place and get it done.
Over the course of multiple Sunday afternoons I've slowly crossed off all of those "little" jobs so this winter I thought I'd take on a singular big project. Being descended from boat builders on both sides of my family (my Dad's Dad built motor-torpedo boats during WWII and my Mum's family were the last wooden boat builders in Port Isaac, Cornwall) it seemed like the right thing to do to complete the circle, take a deep breath and build a boat.

"An Reun Govynnus" has progressed enough now (it actually looks like a boat rather than just a pile of wood and big receipts) that I don't mind taking the cover off it.
A 16' Hawaiian style outrigger sailing canoe built as far as possible using sustainable, reclaimed and recycled materials (FSC plywood, reclaimed hardwood school science desks and biofoam offcuts from a surfboard factory so far), the pieces are slowly coming together with the aim being to splash her in early summer...surfboards strapped across the outrigger arms ready for coastal surf exploration, camping and spearfishing trips.
My housemate's on the lifeboat crew so it'd better not sink.

I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In Hope...

I just walked out to the top of the headland that juts out into the sea where I live and watched the sun dip into the sea at the end of a gorgeous spring day.
I do this every now and then to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to do just this, but today I did it to have a bit of a quiet moment for the people of Japan, and thought about the terrifying footage that I watched on Friday lunchtime which is now burned onto my memory. There's ben a lot of seismic activity around the Pacific rim recently, but this is the first time that I've ever seen the devastation happening live, rather than just pictures of the aftermath.

I live on the coast, and I know waves, but I still can't fully process what I saw.

Here's hoping that the people of Japan and their rich and fascinating culture can make it through this horrendous massive natural disaster and come out the other side.

I shot these images few years ago in the Asakusa district of Tokyo, in the area around the Senso-ji Buddhist Temple.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Always Carry a Camera

Every now and then a scene just goes ahead and unfolds itself before your eyes as a reminder that it's well worth going to the trouble of hauling a camera around everywhere.
A knot of people in the distance that slowly spread out into this rainbow coloured procession of Bedu women, walking across the dunes fringing the Wahiba Sands to the edge of the Indian Ocean. Oman, 2010.

If you've hit a link in search of the Black Swan piece, scroll down some and enjoy.