Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Favourite Stretch

I thought I'd share one of my favourite stretches with you this week.  I think a lot of us take flexibility for granted, and it's only when you've let it slip that you realise how good you had it.  When I spent my days surf coaching I'd always start each session with a thorough warm-up for the group of, more often than not, rather un-flexible clients.  Through the summer season I'd do this roughly three times per day and surf as well, so by the time October rolled around and I ran off to Indonesia I was pretty paddle fit and flexible.  This winter I spent a fair bit of time out of the water for various reasons, and I'm definitely noticing the effects of losing a degree of my flexibility.  Even just doing a few stretches for ten minutes each day can keep your general level of flexibility high, and in the long run do your overall fitness a world of good.  It's particularly important in the middle of winter, pre-surf or climb, to make sure that your cold muscles are warmed up so that you don't damage them, just as Benny is demonstrating above.  It doesn't matter if the waves are going off, take 5 minutes minimum to warm up to make sure that you have a good surf and don't prone your second wave in to the beach with a pulled muscle.

The gluteus maximus is the massive muscle that basically makes up your bum.  It runs from the top of your bum down and around the top of your leg to attach somewhere around the outside of your knee.
That's a lot of muscle to stretch.  To do so, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.  Put one foot on the other thigh then reach through and grasp behind that thigh with both hands and pull back so that your remaining foot lifts off the floor.  You can use your elbow to push the knee of the leg being stretched flat and get a bit more out of the stretch.  Hold this position and breath into it; you can kind of move the stretch around and you'll feel different areas of tightness being slowly worked out.  Then swap and do the other leg.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Get 'em Started Young

Just imagine if, from the very moment that you could put one foot in front of the other and call it walking rather than falling over, you had been getting in the sea.  And if your Dad and all of his friends surfed and some of them were pretty well renowned surf coaches?  The odds would be fairly good that you'd grow up feeling comfortable in waves I suppose, to say the least.  

Theo, you'd better let us all get some waves in a few years time...

DISCLAIMER:  If any of you are concerned for young Theo's well being, I'll put your mind at ease.  He was laughing and having the best time when this image was taken, and Mum and Dad were stood just out of shot.  From what I hear, since this occasion he now asks to fly to the sea rather than walk.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


    verb /ikˈsplôr/ 
    explored, past participle; explored, past tense; explores, 3rd person singular present; exploring, present participle

    1. Travel in or through (an unfamiliar country or area) in order to learn about or familiarize oneself with it
      • - the best way to explore Iceland's northwest
      • explore the world of science and technology

    2. Search for resources such as mineral deposits
      • - the company explored for oil

    3. Inquire into or discuss (a subject or issue) in detail
      • - he sets out to explore fundamental questions

    4. Examine or evaluate (an option or possibility)
      • - you continue to explore new ways to generate income

We had to rent the car.  There was plenty of swell about but it was at a funny angle and seemed to be marching straight past all of the spots within a walk or hitch-hike of where we were staying.  There were also massive tides to contend with and on our first evening (and best surf of the trip) a giant harvest moon rose above the mountains at sunset, a sure sign that there'd be a lot of water moving around over the next few days.

So we drove.  We drove north up the coast and we drove south down the coast, bearing west off the main road down every lane and goat track that we could find looking for waves.  We had a map and some whispered advice and hunches to go on, and it was a far better bet than sitting around at base camp drinking mint tea, watching and waiting.  We didn't score any epic waves because every spot that we found to the north was suffering from the same unlucky combination of swell and tide that were ruling out our first choices, and further to the south on the northern fringes of the Sahara desert the  land-sea breeze whipped up by the powerful sun on sand was vicious.

It was by no means a fruitless couple of days though because for all of the unread pages left in our books we gained a hoard of priceless information.  Fishermen in little villages told us about the waves that keep their boats on the beach, we confirmed the locations of several hinted at secret spots and we bumped into a photographer who I'd met a year previously in Sri Lanka who drew us a mud-map to a really good and really hard to find right hander.  
Our michelin road map is now covered in scribbles about set-ups, directions and optimum swell direction, winds and tides for a multitude of surf breaks that don't appear in the guide books.  

All the result of a couple of days crammed in a hot hire care and a good old fashioned spirit of exploration, and a very good reason to go back next time a good swell appears on the horizon.

 "STOP", we presumed.

On the right day... 

Donkey in the Spring growth. 

Beached Blue Boats. 

A sure sign that you've driven to the edge of the desert, and probably the limit of your hire car's capabilities.

Desert panorama. 

"Bierut-by-the-sea" which looked like it could get all time, and sometimes does from what the local fishermen told us...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nature Tastes Delicious

"I love nature.  It tastes delicious."

This is one of my favourite quotes of the year so far.  It came from my housemate Matt in the middle of a dinner table debate about spurious supermarket meat and vegetarianism, and it sums up our household's eating habits fairly well.

Rabbit is dead cheap if you buy it from your local butcher, but it's even cheaper if you have a friend who has an air rifle (and license) and know a few farmers.  In fact, that way it's free plentiful because, well, they breed like rabbits don't they?  A few friends of mine lived off rabbit for a whole summer, just substituting it in for chicken in everyday recipes.  I found a dead easy recipe by Jamie Oliver where you stick the whole rabbit, a load of un-peeled veg and a bottle of beer into a casserole and slow cook it for 12 hours.  Then you put on a pair of rubber gloves and mush what comes out into a new pan, picking out the vegetable skin and rabbit bones.  It's called 12-hour rabbit bolognese, it doesn't even taste like rabbit and you ought to try it.

The same friend also stalks deer in season and so every now and then we get a supermarket carrier bag full of venison sausages and a roast dropped round.  Venison has been getting a lot of good press recently for having the highest protein and lowest cholesterol content of any major meat, as well as being completely free range and sustainable.  If you get a chance to get your hands on some venison then I'd thoroughly recommend it, and if you happen to be in West Australia be sure to check out the Margaret River Venison Farm.

A few years ago I made a lobster snare to take spear fishing with me, in the hope of wrestling a few big crustaceans out of the cracks in the rock.  No such luck just yet, but we have thrown a lobster pot over the side of the boat a few times so far this year, left it a few days and then hauled it in.  Pulling the pot up from the depths is like waiting to get a roll of film developed, waiting to see what comes out.  We've had a few edible crab, some spider crab, juvenile dogfish (a small shark that we threw back) and, deep joy, a few lobster.

But this is what we tend to pull in loads of around the Cornish coast this time of year.  Mackerel.  Loads of them, unless there're a lot of dolphins about in which case they eat them all first.  Fishing for sea bass and bream is a lot more rewarding...when you actually get a fish.  Drop a line with some mackerel feathers into the sea however, either off the rocks at mid tide or over the side of a boat and you'll struggle to reel your line in fast enough.  Gut, slash three or four times on either side, oil, salt, pepper and onto a hot bbq grill later that day or evening.  Fresh, filling and free.

What's the point of all of this?  Well wherever you live, be it in the middle of a city, amidst the fields and woods of the countryside or next to the sea, you can eat pretty well.  Vegetable patches, pots and planters, window boxes, organic vegetable box delivery services, a good local butcher, a decent fishmonger, a fishing rod...the list goes on.  You can eat really, really, well if you grow, catch, kill or buy what's in season (asparagus, radishes, broad beans, crab, mackerel and seabass right now in the uk), it might just take a bit of forethought, some planning, and in the case of skinning and gutting rabbits a poor sense of smell or a strong stomach.

Images from top to bottom:
  • Herbs and my annual "tallest sunflower" entries on the kitchen windowsill, a.k.a. "The garden of death".
  • One for the pot, Cornwall, Spring evening 2012.
  • The Polbilly lobster pot delivers dinner and a marine biology lesson.
  • Catch of the day on a Padstow fishing boat.
  • Dinner.
  • The simplest Summer dinner?