Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Great city, great band, great time!

A couple of weeks ago I posted that I was about to visit Amsterdam for a few days, during which time I was going to see Pearl Jam, one of my most favorite bands.

Well I am now the other side of that trip so thought I would say a few words about how great it was.  First off, Amsterdam is an incredible city on so many levels.  It is beautiful to look at, I love the style of the architecture and the majority of buildings have avoided the hand of modernization.  Being on a network of canals means that you are never far from the water and the goings on that occur on and around it, I liked that a lot.  We stayed in Haarlemmerbuurt which is the oldest part of the city and known locally as 'the Pearl' of Amsterdam, a title it really does reserve.  It was incredibly quiet and had a village feel to it, while being only a short walk from the Jordaan and the city beyond.

The other thing which struck me was just how friendly people were.  In fact everyone we met were nothing short of lovely.  We were made to feel incredibly welcome in each and every shop, bar, café or restaurant that we visited.  Not only that, people in general seemed laid back and in much less of a hurry, compared to many other European cities.  The pace of life certainly suited us and lent itself nicely to ambling around taking in the sights and atmosphere of this great city.

As for the gig itself, that was nothing short of superb.  We had some great seats, directly above the stage, which provided a fantastic vantage point and a great way to experience the show.  And what a show it was, they played for roughly two and a half hours and the set list comprised of many my favorite songs from throughout their career, right up to many of the songs from Lightening Bolt.  They were tight and every single song was played with absolute energy and vigor, which the crowd clearly appreciated making for an amazing atmosphere. There were certainly a number of hairs standing up on the back of the neck moments.  One of the highlights for me was when they began their encore with slower songs, before going on to blow the roof off with some real barnstormers, including Go and Alive and ending the whole thing with Indifference.  The band delivered everything with absolute gusto throughout. Mr Vedder had evidently sustained an injury to his knee, but this didn't stop him from delivering a fantastic performance, with lots of interaction with the crowd.

All in all the trip was a heap of fun with too many highlights to list.  It is safe to say, Amsterdam is now firmly fixed on our list of favorite places.

The above clip is Even Flow, one of my most favorite PJ songs.  It was not shot by me, but was evidently filmed by someone in a similar location to ours!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Given to ride

I love boards, riding them, looking at them, or simply talking about them gives me a real kick.  Sometimes it's the graphics, or the lines that I like, but more often than not it is the fact that they are built for one thing, to be ridden.  Whether that is on water, asphalt, concrete, wood or snow, these things have a kinetic energy, it is this that gives them their allure.

When I look at a surfboard for example, preferably one that has seen a lot of action, been used and abused, travelled, I can imagine the waves it has slid on, the moves it has pulled, the spray the rails and fins have generated, not to mention the adventures it's owner has put it through.  This is particularly true of some of the used boards that I have picked up over the years.  They might be beaten, and have seen better days, but these are the qualities that make them special.  It is the history that they have that makes them more than the sum total of the materials that they are constructed from.  I look at them and cannot help wondering who owned them, where they have been and how they have been used?  Each ding, fracture and dent tells a story. Of course some would have happened in transit, or occurred as a result of a mishap on dry land, but I like to think that the majority have come about while they have been in use.  One of my favourite examples is a 6'4" thruster that I picked up for $100 in Huntington Beach a few years back.  From what I understand, it derived from Australia, saw a lot of use by the looks of it, before ending up in HB.  I bought it with every intention of using it and then either swapping it for a t-shirt or two, or even giving it away.  But I ended up becoming attached to this beat up beauty and gave it a new home in Cornwall.  I would love to know the stories it has.

Boards that you just know have history are just really appealing to me, quite often I will walk in to a surf shop and make a bee line to the used rack first, for the brand new boards just don't always have the same level of interest.  Don't get me wrong, I genuinely love all surfboards, apart from pop-outs that is.  I think it's that when a board has been in use for a while, it develops a history, the narrative of which gets more interesting the older it gets.  The new boards just haven't got this, they will given time, they just need some real use to achieve it.

These are a few of my boards.

Pearl Jam in the 'Dam

Tomorrow I fly to Amsterdam for a few days, and I cannot wait.  I always enjoy exploring a new city for the first time, and love travelling, but this trip also has another element.  I am seeing one of my favourite bands, Pearl Jam play on Monday!  I am one lucky boy to have a partner who gets me such amazing Christmas gifts as this!

This is a band that has consistently been on my life sound track for over twenty years now.  I have seen them live just the once, at the Cardiff CIA back in 2000.  The new album, Lightning Bolt has a sound and feel that is reminiscent of the Ten era and there is not a disappointing track on the album.  All in all it should be quite a show, I am sure they will perform a lot of their back catalogue, plus the new stuff too and I am thinking that there will be a few hairs standing up on the back of my neck moments, fantastic! 

I am also looking forward to my stay in Amsterdam a great deal.  I have heard so many great things about it, it looks beautiful, so many museums, places to eat and as with every trip abroad that we do, there will be plenty of scope for mooching around, soaking up the sights and sounds of the city.  Plus we will get to see Holland play Spain in their opening game of the World Cup on Friday night, and I am pretty certain that'll be an incredible experience too!

Excited? Just a little bit!

Sliding Across Waves

At the risk of sounding horribly clichéd, there is nothing that can match the feeling of riding a wave, I mean really riding a wave.  It's a feeling that comes alive when I drop into a decent wave, large or small it doesn't matter, but it is the sense of doing something that precious few can do, less still really appreciate.

I love that sense of being committed to the wave that I get when the speed at which you are paddling, matches the forward motion of the wave, and it has you. That feeling of anticipation, trepidation, excitement and wonder all rolled into one.  Looking down the line to and taking a quick snap shot in and in an instant planning a route, taking the line that will allow for the most speed and the best moves, all of this information is computed in that instant just at the point of take off, before the ride begins.

Once taken off, the whole plan is executed and the only thing that I am focusing on is the wave ahead of me, nothing else matters other than the ride.  Looking up at the wall of water, the wound of the board as it slides across the surface, the feeling of motion, being propelled by the wave alone, all contribute to the overall feeling.  But it's that butterfly in the tummy, pure excitement that surfing gives me which makes it truly special.  This is heightened with every decent turn, with each critical move and from the sheer speed at which it all happens.  That is what I strive for, that is the thing that I feel when I dream about surfing, and if I think about some of the best waves of my surfing life, I can feel at least part of the feeling through re living the experience, of which there are many.  But the best part, is that I get to feel this way pretty much every time I go surfing. Catching a decent wave and riding it to my best ability is a feeling that is timeless.  Longboarding, shortboarding, big waves or small, that sensation of doing it, and doing it well is why I still get the buzz that I do from sliding across the face of waves.

The Surfing Life

I surf and I surf well.  I should do too, given the years or should I say the decades that I have dedicated to it, although that last bit does make me feel a tad old, but hey ho, it's just a number.

From the day I first began surfing, way back in '86, surfing and the culture that surrounds it has pretty much defined who I am.  Although to a lesser extent in recent years, due to constraints on my free time and the fact that I have developed interests in lots of other tings, in the past it has been my everything, and nothing would get in the way of its pursuit.  My entire life would be planned around the next swell, plans would be thrown out of the window to go surfing, school was missed, jobs and girl friends were lost and turmoil created at home and away in the name of riding waves.

Surfing immediately put a spell on me, it gave me exactly what I was looking for when I was a young teenager in need of a direction.  It opened up a whole new world of fun, excitement and possibility, not to mention friends and a sense of belonging that was so important to me.  It has provided me with countless experiences that are being added to all the time, in fact I would say that my world view has been heavily influenced by surfing and surf culture.

In short, I love surfing.

Photo Max Buchanan

Lines, Curves and Soul

I am not a fan of super cars, I find many of them ugly trinkets of wealth that have the power and the price tag, but lack true style and for want of a better word, soul.

That said, I have a real soft spot for Porsches, especially the 911, old ones that is, and preferably those that were current from the mid sixties to the mid seventies.  During which period they came in some fantastic colours, they had the Fuchs wheels, were trimmed in chrome and the entire model range had small details that set them aside. The price tag, and indeed the speed and power mean very little to me, although admittedly, the race heritage does add to the attraction. There is something about the style of the body, the face and the overall aesthetic that I really do like.  From the earliest carnation, to the current model, the 911 has a look that is un matched.  For me the attraction is derived from the look of the car, which from nose to tail is perfect.

The 911 has lines and curves that give it a real sense of personality, and a clean overall shape from which you can see the close family resemblance that it shares with the Beetle, one of the other cars, of which there are precious few, that can wear the icon tag with true credibility.  But while the newer examples are fully race bred, very expensive cars that only a few can afford, the earlier model line ups consisted of less quick, lower spec'd but more style driven cars.  Cars like the Targa or the Carrera.

I doubt if I will ever own one myself, for I fear that much of the allure could be shattered by trying to keep a forty plus year old car in good working order, without the level of expertise to do the work myself.  But I know that I will never tire of looking at 911's, in pictures or in a real life context.



See the entire film here: -