Sunday, May 27, 2012

Joe Round Britain

Joe Leach is a straight up legend of a human being.  He is currently approaching the halfway point of a 2,500 mile marine litterpick whilst he attempts to break the record for the fastest solo unsupported circumnavigation of mainland Britain.  

Joe set off from Falmouth, Cornwall just before 7.30am on May 2nd and paddled around the Lizard Peninsula and Land's End on day one.  Any of you who are familiar with the Cornish coast will get an idea of just what a big challenge Joe has taken on and the sort of top-rate paddler that he is to be able to take on even just the first day of what is expected to be an eighty day marathon.  On day two he came out of the gates just as hard and made it from the far south-west of the county up to Polzeath, a distance of 45 nautical miles (50 "normal" miles) which is massive for a single hit.  

My housemate Matt stood on the wet sand at the water's edge in the dark and flashed his headtorch across the bay towards Stepper Point.  Way off in the distance, just outside the black shadow of the headland came a series of flashes in response.  Joe hauled up on the beach just after 10pm and dropped his daily catch of 3 pieces of marine litter into our bin then ate a mackerel the size of a small whale and a lot of brown rice and crashed out on our sofa for the night. The next morning he got up at 6am and carried on to Lundy Island.  

Approaching Lundy Island on Day 3.

And he's kept on pushing.  Every day he scoops three pieces of litter out of the seas around the British coast (pick-up 3) and paddles hard.  He's had favourable weather and not so favourable weather, and taken on some massive open water crossings to his home on the Isle of Man (40nm) and then on to the coast of Ireland.  Right now he's about to round Cape Wrath and turn East along the North coast of Scotland towards his theoretical half way point of John O'Groats.

Joe is updating his blog with progress reports and photos on an (almost) daily basis and tweeting from his kayak via his mobile phone which he's carrying in a waterproof case.  Follow how he's getting on here or find him on twitter @joearoundbritain.  

With camping spots like this Joe is fast collecting an amazing set of memories of places around the coast of our island that not many people will get to enjoy.

Joe is aiming to raise the modest sum of £1000 for Surfers Against Sewage.  You can donate here or through his website.  Not only is he taking on an unimaginable challenge for which donations will help to drive him on through the tough moments, but he's providing a service and personally removing around 240 pieces of litter from the sea.  Feel free to dig deep the best way you can, just as Joe's digging deep the best way he knows how.

View Joe Round Britain in a larger map

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Flat Spell Blues

The North Atlantic has been asleep for the past few weeks and it's starting to show.  Friends are going fishing and jogging when normally they'd be sitting on a surfboard enjoying the long summer evenings, people are twitchy and tempers are getting short.  Meanwhile, my friends in South Africa have been enjoying a really good run of swell (some evidence hereas autumn starts to morph into winter so, here for all of the European surfers (and for anybody else for that matter who's not got in the sea for the past few weeks for anything more then a "scratching the itch" fitness paddle) are a few images of some Southern Hemisphere winter waves ripe for a bit of mind-surfing.  I hope that this doesn't compound the frustration but helps you through the lean times by facilitating a bit of down-the-line day dreaming.  There're waves on the way, wherever you are.

The first two guys tip toeing their way across the bricks to the keyhole, probably with their hearts beating a bit faster than normal for a number of reasons. 

What alarm clocks were invented for.

This chalkboard hangs on the wall of Ubuntu guest house in Jeffreys Bay and the last time I paid a visit I figured I'd take a shot for memory's sake.  Wise words, and advice well worth taking.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Short Term Pain: Long Term Gain

 Matt's midwinter training regime in the Matt Cave.

 Look carefully and you can see bloody finger smears above each hand hold, as well as all of the rubber toe scuffs on the foot nuggets.

Summer evening sessions, with Si racking up for some "outdoors" climbing the following day. 

For years, at about this time of year, my Mum would repeat the same phrase to me in an effort to get me to knuckle down to some exam revision:  "Short term sacrifice: Long term gain".
This phrase has mutated in my head to a slightly catchier rhyme which gets bounced around our house a fair bit:

"Short Term Pain:  Long Term Gain"

It's also around this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when the evenings start to really stretch out and the sun (sometimes, like this evening) makes an appearance, allowing us all to get out and do what we'd rather be doing an awful lot more often.  So it's now that all of the training pays off.
Matt and Si built the bouldering wall into the back of the garage used to store all of the Cornish Rock Tors equipment so that they could train for climbing trips, particularly through the winter when rain and short days might otherwise hamper their vertical pursuits.  It's at a 20 degree overhang with a couple of different routes traversing it, going up and down, side to side with little bits of numbered masking tape peppering the plywood.  My other housemate Benny and I also started training on it, but Matt and Si had built it for themselves so for me it was a bit like learning to drive in an F1 car; lots of stalling and crashes but with perseverance comes skill, strength and some solid technique.  Between the lot of us, there's been a lot of howls and growling on the wall, blisters, callouses and some blood smears from brutalised and bandaged fingers.
All infinitely worth it when the sun comes out and you've got long sunny evenings to put all the training to good use and being back on the rock isn't half as tough as you expected it to be.

 Where all of the effort pays off; I don't know what this climb was called, but I labelled this image "The Towers of Pain".  Matt Wheadon reaching on up.

Easter time lunch stop under a crag called "Easter Island" in Cheddar Gorge with my housemate's Ben and Matt (who both run Cornish Rock Tors), and Matt's brother Sam eyeballing our next route in the background.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Universal Currency

Smiles:  Internationally accepted and recognised the world over, regardless of language barriers and the availability of a working ATM or Western Union branch.  The value of a smile will not fluctuate at the mercy of global economic scares or due to changes in the price of a barrel of oil.  You don't need to stash a smile in your socks or even consider wearing one of those highly questionable money belts, in fact they weigh nothing and take up no space in your bag.  Smile and at the very least you will get a smile back in return, and probably a great deal of goodwill and kindness to boot.  A smile won't buy you material trappings beyond your immediate needs, but they are solid currency for a more worthwhile experience.  Always pack a smile.
  • Top image:  Exchanging meticals for a bunch of bananas and a smile for a smile, Mozambique.
  • Middle image:  When shooting portraits of people in traditional dress, particularly if you can't speak the language, I find that a smile will often be of great help.  Asakusa Temple, Tokyo.
  • Bottom image:  Kids seem to have few opinions and preconceptions about other people and will usually react to a smile, a wave and a toot of the car horn with laughter and big friendly waves.  If I remember rightly these kids persuaded their Dad to do a lap of the block to come around for a second round.  Al Ashkharah, Oman.  Used previously to demonstrate the benefits of smiling in the Ten Tips To Take With You post.