Sunday, February 24, 2013


I've had a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in my small but functional first-aid kit for years now, right at the top with an elastic band around the middle holding a bunch of cotton-buds alongside it.  It's been in there for so long, in fact, that the label's faded out so that only I know what it is.  Everything else in my first-aid kit comes and goes; sticking plasters and surgical tape gets used and replaced, whilst I soon ditched things like slings when I realised that they were bulky and that if I needed one then it would probably be enough of an emergency to warrant tearing up a t-shirt.  But the little bottle of hydrogen peroxide has seen a lot of use; nightly on some surf trips.  

It is a strong oxidiser, with a weak bond between one of the oxygen and hydrogen molecules which breaks to produce water and hydrogen (chemistry details here).  When diluted (the stuff you can buy from the pharmacist) it can be used to sterilise and clean skin abrasions, however as it turns out, whilst it cleans small surface wounds it can inhibit healing and cause scarring by killing newly formed skin cells.  That'd explain the state of my feet then.  When you've got reef cuts that might have little bits of living coral embedded in them though, it's just the ticket and more appealing than lime juice or the resultant brown scars of iodine.  Just don't forget the cotton buds, or you'll end up doing what I once witnessed an Aussie surfer doing, and cleaning your reef cuts with an old toothbrush.  Ouch.

My first introduction to the fizzing sting of cleaning cuts came when I kicked a rock walking across a Cornish beach (tough talk for stubbing my toe) and a friend told me he'd clean the sand out.  He dipped a cotton bud in a medicinal-looking bottle and applied it to my bleeding toe.  It fizzed white, I winced, and it felt as though my toe was being tattooed but it did the job.  A few weeks later I was packing my bag for Indonesia, and remembered the advice that I'd been given on cleaning the unavoidable reef cuts that I was about to enjoy.  But before too long, the nightly ritual of cleaning new cuts and keeping healing on track by removing the resultant dust and dirt of so much time spent barefoot became kind of enjoyable in a good-pain kind of way.  And I reckon I've got way less scars than I deserve having kept that old bottle close at hand after days spent trying my luck over shallow, sharp, reefs.

Image above by Mat Arney:
Sunset over the starboard rail of Partarma, Lombok, Indonesia, with my good friends the Williams twins Dyfrig and Cynrig (Cynrig sporting some brutal sunburn) and Ceri Pashley passing around bottles of hydrogen peroxide, coke, and bintang.  The fizzing white pain was a small price to pay each evening for getting such good waves to ourselves.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Don't Be Disheartened By Dane

Frontside grab out of nowhere.  Dane Reynolds, La Sud, September 2012.  

Imagine this:  You're on holiday in South West France in late September, probably camping out of the back of a van or car in the pine forests with some friends and wringing the last joys out of summer before returning to University perhaps.  You're from somewhere in Europe, probably not near to a wave-blessed coastline.  You've surfed a bit in summer's past and really enjoyed it, but you've not been able to put the hours in required to get particularly good.  You love it though and you'll get in the sea any chance you get, even if the conditions aren't A+, because in a few week's time you'll be back to your daily grind.  
You pull up in Hossegor late one afternoon.  It's grey, stormy and the waves are a junky mess, but there's lines of whitewater to ride.  You suit up and walk down the beach, south of the square towards the rock groyne at Le Sud.  There're a couple of other surfers out, and a huddle of people and photographers a little further south, so you decide to surf away from them.  
At waist depth the longshore current running south is strong, and after a couple of waves you've drifted south, past the little rock groyne.  The waves are awful.  Onshore and as messy as they come.
Some guy in a black wetsuit, on a white board, takes off and races towards you.  He hits a dumping section of lip and stomps an air reverse right in front of you; a full 180 degree rotation on a wave that plenty of surfers would have been unable to even get to their feet and go straight on, and he rides out of it.
Don't be disheartened, it's just Dane doing what he does.

This shot encompasses almost the full range of the surfing ability spectrum. 

You'd be forgiven for catching a wave in and hanging up your wetsuit for good.  You've just had one of the best surfers on the planet show you just how far you've got to go in this whole pursuit.  Or you could scoop your jaw up, appreciate what just went down right in front of your face, and decide to practise until you can do that to some unsuspecting learner in the whitewater too.  Hopefully it'd be the second of those options.

Dane and Spain

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Design For Life

"Strive for perfection in everything you do.  Take the best that exists and make it better.  When it does not exist, design it."

Sir Henry Royce

Alex Issigonis' Mini, whose transverse engine allowed it to be a genuine four seater car at just 10 foot long, and which revolutionised popular motoring.

 If it hasn't been formed in the depths of the earth's core, or grown out of the ground, then it will have been designed by somebody.  If it was made, then it was designed.  That chair that you're sat on?  Somebody designed it so that it would be comfortable, you can sit down and stand up easily, and you won't fall through it. The computer that you're reading this on?  Designed.  Your clothes?  Yeah they were too.  Almost everything in your life, no matter how humbly you try to live...was designed.
It might not have been designed very well, but some thought has gone into how it will function and look.

Nature is the best designer, so it stands to reason that many man-made objects take their inspiration from nature.  Bio-mimicry is a wonderful thing; you only have to look as far as anglepoise desk lamps whose mechanism and range of motion is based on the human arm, or surfboard fins which take so many design elements (as well as their name) from fish and cetacean fins.  But us humans can come up with some good ideas on our own, or are forced to in order to overcome some of the design constraints that we are so often faced with.

Design is a wonderful thing.  Take a look around and realise just how much it impacts and influences your day to day life, and recognise that whatever it is, somebody designed it that way.

"One sheet design" has challenged designers ever since standard size sheet material became available.  From chairs to tables and even boats, how best to utilise a 8' x 4' sheet has been a constant design challenge. 

A shoulder, an elbow and a wrist joint, with springs replacing muscles.  The anglepoise lamp is a design icon which is subject to constant evolution and design development.

Images shot by Mat Arney at The Design Museum, London.  If you're in the big smoke it's well worth an afternoon of your time.