Sunday, September 25, 2011

Buy, Use, Discar......Reuse?

Back to base early, with less surfboard than I'd set out with. Mozambique 2011

A pretty weak image this week I'm afraid, sorry about that but it's there to illustrate a point not make your eyes smile.

It's a sad fact that most of us decorate our lives with a whole lot of crap that we don't really need, and then when we're done with it we store it away never to be used again or we throw it in the bin. What a waste. But there's an alternative:


Now I'm no saint when it comes to all this, but I'm trying my best. Luckily this photo of my sour "surf cut short" self does illustrate kind of well the point that I want to make.

REDUCE: First up, don't by what you don't need. Simple huh? But how many people buy stuff like clothes to follow fashion and then end up with more than they need? Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia has, in a beautifully inspired and completely crazy business move, instructed all of the sales staff in Patagonia stores to ask customers "Do you really need this?" He claims that their product is made to last so you don't need a brand new jacket every year. Anything that anybody makes costs the planet more life than it can give back. Doesn't matter how sustainable or "green" it is, it has a negative impact on the environment, so please reduce you impact.

REPAIR: 6'2" x 18 1/4 x 2 3/16ths Clayton shaped for Kelly Slater.
I found this board in the second hand racks of a surf shop in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa three years ago. The story goes that this board was shaped for Kelly Slater for the J-Bay contest by Clayton Nyanaber the ZA Quiksilver shaper. I doubt that Slater ever surfed it; I imagine he gets given a stack of shiny new sticks at every contest, picks them up and looks them all over then grabs his trusty Merrick and paddles out. The "Kelly" boards are then distributed to the local Quiky sponsored surfers and this one bloke had changed board sponsors so was having to sell off his entire quiver. It cost me £100 and is one of the best boards I've ever crabbed along a wave on. The first thing I had to do was peel all of the big red Quiksilver stickers off it so that when I ran down the beach with it people didn't expect me to rip. It's got a contest weight, super light, glass job on it for speed over strength and I swear every time I duck dived it I could feel my thumbs squidging the deck in so it was a snap waiting to happen, and snap it did in Mozambique in August this year. I don't snap a lot of boards; either I'm pretty light footed or, more likely, I'm not charging hard enough. Any clown can fall into a barrel but it's a lot harder weaving your way through and making it out, and my bin it:win it ratio isn't all that good. This board kicked the bucket on a really good swell but a pretty ordinary wave when I pulled up under the lip and as I tried to drive down and out of it the lip landed right on the nose, snapping my board half way between the nose and my front foot. When I came up the nose was still hanging on by a flap of fibreglass, but then the next wave landed on my head and I ended up proning in with just the back half of my board. Another surfer found the nose washing around the shore break later on and brought it back up for me.
Repaired snapped or creased boards are never the same again, particularly ones with light glass jobs; they flex differently, they carry a bit more weight around the repair but there's no way I'm putting this board in the bin: it's either getting repaired or I'm turning it into a chair or a cool looking shelf. The snap's close to the nose so won't affect the important part of the board and truth be told I probably won't notice the stiffness or extra weight.

The scene of the crime on the day before I went from two boards to one board and two bits in my boardbag. Mozambique, 2011.

REUSE: Howies "buy, use, discard" organic cotton tee shirt.
A friend gave me this tee shirt almost 10 years ago. It was the nicest tee shirt I owned and was top of the pile for a while, kind of my fancy going out tee shirt of choice despite getting a lot of grief from people with no sense of irony. After a while it slipped down the rankings and just became a standard go-to bit of clothing before ending up in the "Sunday stack" to wear for painting fences and doing odd jobs. Then it got the promotion to surf shirt when I lived in West Australia. A knot got tied in the back of it so that it wasn't all baggy when wet and wouldn't end up being pulled up over my face in an approximation of being water-boarded when getting rolled around underwater. This shirt was originally a really dark petrol blue, but now when it's dry the shoulders and back are a really pale lilac colour where it's just been punished by the sun and salt water over years of surf trips. The only bit that's close to the original colour is under the arms and whenever I see the faded shoulders I'm glad it wasn't my skin copping all that brutal UV. When it starts rotting and an arm falls off or something it'll end up in my workshop as a rag for wiping up glue or oiling picture frames. That or I'll hang it up on my wall as a trophy. I think I've made the most of this garment.

Good, surfable, boardshorts are rare like rocking horse poo. Finding out that your new pair of boardshorts chaffe or catch on your knees or are too tight or have a button that makes them damn uncomfortable to lie on a surfboard in is rubbish, especially if you've only taken two pairs on a trip with you because you're going to be spending a lot of time being uncomfortable. My old pair of boardies are starting to give up the ghost so I'm phasing in these new favourites and the nice thing about them is that they're recyleable under Patagonia's common threads programme so when I've worn them out, ripped them in half or decided that I don't like stripey shorts any more I can send them back to them (or drop them in store) and they'll recycle them into new fibres or fabric. They've also developed an ebay store to sell on unused or unwanted Patagonia items rather than have people leave them at the back of the cupboard because they don't surf/climb/go outdoors anymore.

Do the planet a favour please and take stock of all of your stuff then see if you can implement any of the 4R principles in any way now or in the future. The future will thank you for it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Train To Taghazoute and The Storyboard Go Live...

Gare du Nord - departure board possibilities...

It's been a busy week here; an article that I put together for Drift surf magazine has been published, to my despair hot on the heels of great articles featuring the photography of two of my favourite image makers Chris Burkard and Dane Peterson (talk about big shoes to fill), and The Storyboard exhibition opened in Polzeath, Cornwall.

The sights, sounds and smells of the souks, Marrakech.

First up, the article: Back in April my friend Kyle and I set off on the train aiming for Morocco, lugging our boardbags with us and hoping for the best. I had a couple of cameras with me and the trip became more than just a mission for waves, with a mountain climbed, some cities explored and a few arguments with Spanish railway officials along the way. We got good good waves, but that's not the point.
Drift have been as encouraging and supportive as ever and have put it out there for people to see so please click any of these jumps to see The Train To Taghazoute in full. I'd also like to push out a big thanks to the team at Finisterre for their encouragement and for keeping us warm when it was cold, and cool when it was hot.

Then on Friday night James Otter and I spent a lot longer than anticipated carefully hanging our Storyboard exhibition in the Tubestation in Polzeath, Cornwall. We finished up at midnight surrounded by pizza boxes and an assortment of tape measures and hanging wire but we're really pleased with the results. The Storyboard is being exhibited "open" alongside two finished surfboards and a set of twelve images documenting the process, all framed in timber from the same tree as the surfboard.

James starting to carefully shape the rails of The Storyboard.

The Storyboard is for sale (it will be fully finished and ready to surf, including in the package the entire set of framed images for a total of £2995), as are framed or mounted prints (£75 and £25) and signed and numbered handmade coffee table books (£25).
If you're interested in the board, prints or book then leave a comment on this post at the bottom with your contact details and I'll get in touch, or hit up James through his website.
The board really is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and we believe that the "one tree" lifecycle angle makes this an exhibition worth making a detour for. If you do get a chance to eyeball it any time over the next six weeks, please let me know what you thought.

I love it when a plan comes together.

6'10" Mini-Magic against the workshop wall.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Storyboard

I've been sitting on this project for a good while now, dying to shout about it, and now at long last I'm allowed to leak out a few images and let you in on it: For the past 9 months a friend and I have been working on a wooden surfboard project called 'The Storyboard' which goes live next Saturday, September 17th, and we're both really excited about it as what started out as a small seed of an idea has grown into a multi-faceted project incorporating an exhibition, a book and a magazine article.

The tools of his trade; James shaping the nose of The Storyboard.

James Otter designs and builds beautiful bespoke wooden skin and frame surfboards here in Cornwall, in a workshop on the most photogenic smallholding above Porthtowan beach.
We've documented the lifecycle of one of these surfboards, using timber from just a single Western Red Cedar tree, all the way from the woodland in Cornwall where the tree was felled, through the sawmill and then every single step of the making process. Ordinarily this style of wooden surfboard uses a variety of hardwoods wrapped around a plywood frame but due to the "one tree" principle James even made his own plywood from the same planks that were then used to make the rest of the board, going as far as producing the frames for the exhibition from the leftovers and offcuts.
The internal framework of the surfboard is being left exposed (displayed without the deck) to reveal a poem which has been engraved onto the plywood ribs that traces the lifecycle of the timber from tree to sea, from the moment it crashed to the ground to the moment it will splash in the waves.

It took many hours of painstaking craftsmanship to get to this skeletal stage.

The Storyboard will be displayed alongside a photographic exhibition that documents the entire build process, and accompanied by a small coffee table book, from September 17th through until the end of October at the Tubestation and Zeath Gallery in Polzeath, North Cornwall, UK.
You're all welcome to come along to the launch party on September 17th from 3pm for tea, cake and wooden surfboards, and then another event is planned to coincide with the Jesus Longboard Classic being held in Polzeath over the weekend of October 15th and 16th, where James will also have some demonstration boards available for people to paddle out for a wave on. Or just stop by anytime over the six weeks to get your eyes on it.
The Surfer's Path has an interview with James in the latest issue, which to my great surprise ran with one of my images.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Delphinus Delphis

A common dolphin leaping between Mouls Island and The Rumps, July 2011.

Commiserations on a bad summer this year if you're a Cornish fisherman; These guys (common dolphins) have been around in force the past few months cruising the North Cornish coast and chewing up all of the mackerel for miles around. At least that's the excuse I'm sticking with for striking out and coming home empty handed every time I've gone fishing...

Paired up, off Pentire Head. July 2011.

These images were taken on a trip with Cornish Sea Tours (my housemate Matt's rib sea-safari outfit, which is handy!), using an old olympus trip 35mm compact camera which is about 30 odd years old. Matt reckons that he can count on one hand the number of days that he hasn't seen dolphins since June this year, not a bad record!

If you find a stranded marine animal in South West Britain:
  • For live dolphins, porpoises or whales call BDMLR immediately on (01825) 765546
  • For all dead marine animals call Cornwall Wildlife Trust immediately on (0845) 2012626 - my friend Jo will probably answer the phone.
  • For live seals in difficulty call the National Seal Sanctuary immediately on (01326) 221361