Monday, November 26, 2012

Fun Is Free: Skimming Stones

To hell with computer games and smartphone apps: there aren't many better ways to keep a kid occupied than skimming stones.  I used to spend such a long time when I was little on the beach at Port Isaac hunting out good flat stones to skim.  Probably more time than I actually spent hurling them across the surface of the harbour and trying to get them to skip over the little waves.  I don't know what my PB ever was, but seven seems to spring to mind for good average throw using the slate pebbles that I'd pick up in Port Isaac.  
Turns out that there's a bit of a science to it though and the BBC even produced an infographic with detailed instructions for "successful skimming" when American Russell Byars broke the world record with 51 bounces.  An angle of incidence of 10-20 degrees is apparently key for those of you who aren't interested enough to click through to the BBC, but hopefully you'll remember that next time you're walking on a pebbly patch of beach or river bank and you spot a good skimming stone.  

I'd almost forgotten about how much fun skimming stones is until this summer when I walked down to the pub in Port Gaverne one evening to see this father and son moment happening on the shoreline.  It made me smile and ever since, when I'm out walking, I'll often pause to pick up a nice, flat, palm sized stone and slip it into my pocket ready to see how many bounces I can get when I come across a calm patch of water later on.  It's a good excuse for achieving a moment of distraction, if nothing else.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Swimming in the Sea

Swimming in the sea is one of life's great pleasures.  I've banged on about the joys of bodysurfing and the benefits of negative ions on here before (No Surfboard?  No Problem, and Negative Ions = Positive Humans), but bear with me.  I was fortunate enough to hitch a ride down to Hossegor back in September and, as usual, I stuck a handplane and swim fins in my bag.  

We pulled into Hossegor late in the day, with about an hour of light left. By the time we'd sorted the keys for our accomodation and parked the car, it was already starting to get dark.  No time to unpack boardbags, screw in fins and rummage around for a leash; wetsuit on, handplane and fins out and in we got.  Half an hour of getting properly whomped in the shorebreak at La Graviere was plenty to wash off the feeling of having been sat in a car for almost twelve hours, and a good introduction to the new swell starting to fill in.

Now let's be clear, when given a choice, I choose to surf.  Bodysurfing is just another way that I enjoy the ocean, and the fact that it's not my main aquatic focus was bought sharply into focus the following morning when I discovered that there was a bodysurfing contest taking place right where we'd been swimming around the evening before.  Some of France's best torpedo-men were swimming themselves into the heaving shorebreak, throwing themselves headfirst over the ledge in a suicidal search for judges points.  The waves were un-surfable here; overhead and with thick lips, detonating into little more than waist deep water.  These guys were revelling in it though.    

Every evening for the next two weeks, having spent the day surfing and driving the coast searching for good sandbanks, we'd get back and jump in at La Grav for a bodysurf.  Not with the intention of filling our wetsuits with sand ready for the following day, but to actually swim in the sea, engaging every limb and immersing ourselves fully in the Atlantic rather than floating on it.  An aquatic cool-down.

 The bodysurfer on the right, under the lip, is rolling down the face before trying to get barrelled.  Skills.

 The judges truck, with a rare make-able left in the background.

All images and the short movie by Mat Arney.
Handplane featured is the "Hand Baggage" model produced by Otter Surfboards.  Check them out here.

As usual, please take care when bodysurfing.  Be aware of your limitations and protect your head and neck.  Getting drilled head-first into the sand in shallow water can have awful consequences so exercise caution.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sea + Surfer + Sky = Surf Photo(?)

I sometimes worry that surf photos can be a little bit boring.  Straight to the point in a pretty one dimensional sort of way, far too often a surf photo is just a surfer on a blue wave with a blue sky behind them.  Sometimes the sea is a bit bluer or a bit greener.  Sometimes the sky is more grey or it has some clouds in it maybe.  
White surfboard.  Black wetsuit.  You know what I mean?

But it's difficult to capture something different when, at the end of the day, it is a surf photo after all.  The focus has to be the wave and the person riding it.  There's not a whole lot of scope for creative lighting, props, or a second chance at a wave or a shot.  Foreground, background and a creative angle is all that most of us ever get to work with.  But the extra bit of the equation is an important one to keep your eyes peeled for.

Beach umbrella, sand, supertubos and some lucky guy snaking his way through a lefthand sand-bottom barrel.
Peniche, Portugal.  October 2012.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gettin' All Good And Gatsby

My friend Gideon agreed to paddle out in a top hat and tails with a walking cane clenched in his teeth for part of this photo shoot.  No mean feat, considering he had to surf a traditional heavy single fin without a leash.  
This is Gideon getting all Gatsby, and doing a damn good job of it.  

Images from this series were recently featured in the latest edition of "Kook" surfing newspaper, a brilliant pink publication put together by Dan Crockett for no good reason other than to share and spread some of the special moments from "the other side" of surfing.  You can get a copy here.