Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Labels.

I don't like to rant on this blog, it ain't about that.  But occasionally I feel the need to air some of my thoughts on what I see happening in surfing, here is one of them.

One of the things I love about surfing is that traditionally it is a great leveler.  It doesn't matter what social group you belong to, how far up the career ladder you have got, or how much financial wealth you have on land.  All that stuff is left behind and doesn't account for anything when you are in line up.

But in recent times I have seen a significant shift in this paradigm.  For I have noticed wealth indicators have snuck in to the domain of surfing that was previously free from such things, on the whole.  These days it is becoming more and more about the purchase of kit, expensive kit at that.  Certain brands of boards are given vast amounts of kudos, not because they have been hand crafted by a master shaper, nor because they have any heritage.  More over they have come in to this world by way of a CNC router, much the same as the majority of mass produced boards, regardless of their price. They have the label, a cute little name and a price tag that puts them at the top end of most peoples budgets.  The same goes for wetsuits.  These days so many of these have become branded luxury goods, designer suits if you will. But really, does the level of warmth and comfort justify the crazy price?  Personally I wouldn't know, because even if I could afford to do so, I would never spend that much on a wetsuit, or a suit, suit for that matter.  But from what I hear, they don't match up to the hype.  A mid range suit will almost certainly keep you just as warm and will undoubtedly last just as long.

This might come across as being a bit like sour grapes, I can assure you that it isn't the case.  For I come from the school of thought that says that it doesn't matter what you ride, what you wear to keep you warm, or how much money you shell out on surfing kit.  If you have the moves, the skill the style, you get the respect and admiration, oh, I should also add the right attitude, that last little attribute is priceless.  Buying the latest, greatest designer kit won't make anyone surf better.  In fact the ocean has a funny habit of making anyone look like a goose, no matter how much money they spent on their premium board and suit combo.

Rant over.


Yuk! Chanel 'surfboards'. I bet they ride well.

Friday, 4 July 2014

One California Day



While on the subject of California, I thought I would say a few words about one of the finest surf films there ever was, One California Day.

This film sums up the California surfing experience for me perfectly. In fact when ever I am in need of some Cali sunshine, it goes on and never fails to lift my mood by taking me to the Golden State, by way of the DVD player.

Having got the goose bumps when I saw the trailer for the first time, I got to see the full film early in 2008, when K had managed to get me a copy for Christmas, (I am fairly confident in saying that I had the first copy in the UK, coming straight from Jason Baffa).  This was a defining moment in my surfing life.  For here was a film that wasn't backed by one of the corporate surf companies, it didn't feature the main-stream pros of the time, no competitions, no groms and none of the ego driven BS that is so often found in surf movies.  No, it was pure California, featuring some of the most soulful, stylish and down right great board sliders there are.  Shot beautifully in 16mm film and set to a blistering sound track, OCD is one of my favorite surf movies of all time.  In fact I would place it in my list of all time favorite films, full stop.

As for the surfing, simply put, that is just beautiful, from start to finish it is all about the purer elements of Californian surfing, from San Diego, right up to Crescent City way up there in the far north of the state.  Each section focuses on a different area and its local icons, perfectly demonstrating the diversity of the waves on offer as well as the rich surfing heritage that is evident there.

I can honestly say that OCD opened provided me with an entirely new perspective on surfing.  For this was not an historical account of surfing that was, this stuff was happening now, in a place that I know and love.  Shortly after seeing it I got my first longboard with ever intention of learning to ride it properly.  I can't tell you how much stoke this gave me and I have never looked back.  I now ride a longboard as often as I do a short board, and have learned how to cross step, and ride the nose.  It has altered the way that I surf, look at waves and view surf culture.

So it is safe to say that One California Day had a real impact on me, and was at least part responsible for providing me with a whole new approach towards surfing.  For that, I will be eternally grateful.


 
 


Thursday, 3 July 2014

California On My Mind.

I have spent a fair bit of time in Southern California, having made a number of trips there in the last decade.  I love it.  But, one of the things that really strikes me each time I am there is the level of development and the incredibly high density of people who reside on or near the coast, how people mange to co exist like that, I don't know.

I often wonder what it was like before the population explosion, pre mass development, when much of the coast was concreted over? I'll bet the line ups were quieter, that's for sure, probably less polluted too.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy spending time there, else I wouldn't have been so many times.  It's just that being a nature lover, as I am, I can't help wondering how it would have been say in the fifties, which lets face it, ain't that long ago.  My guess is that it would have been a much more pleasant environment, more open space, more wildlife, less people. 


To be fair while the beaches have seen an awful lot of change, by and large they have survived and remain pretty much unscathed.  But when you look back towards land, that's when you realize that the strip of sand is the only open space around, for there is barely any land that doesn't have stuff built on it.  This is particularly true for Orange County and beyond.  Heading towards San Diego on PCH, it seems that the only break in the mass development can be found at the San Onofre State Park.  Sadly even this sanctuary is under threat due to there being plans to extend the highway, right through the middle of the reserve.  The highway project was shelved in 2008, but I do fear that this stay of execution is temporary and that the powers that be will throw their toys around enough and eventually get their way.

The level change that the Californian Coast witnessed in the latter part of the twentieth century is particularly well documented by the California Coastal Records Project.  This is basically a vast photographic record of the entire coastline, border to border, from Oregon to Mexico.  The first of the photos were taken in 1972, with the latest being from 2013, what is striking is the level of development along the coastline in the intervening years.  The site is well worth looking at.

I have a huge place for California in my heart, I really do, but I am really fearful that the natural beauty of the place is being spoiled by this rampant level of development.  I can understand that people want to live there, I would too, but it does worry me that many of the things which make it so special are being destroyed in the name of 'progress'.  For me, heavy industry, strip malls, and highways are no substitute for open country and coastline. I know that I am by no means alone in thinking this, but I just hope that those of us who value the natural environment have a loud enough voice to stand up against the destruction of nature, on such a massive scale.








Wednesday, 2 July 2014

On my bike.

I went out cycling again last night after work, it was only a short ride, ten miles at most, but so much fun!  Now I am not what you would call a dedicated cyclist, I don't go out in bad weather, I don't time myself and I do it purely for the fun of it. I also try my very best to avoid roads, for me cars and bikes simply do not mix.

I love to take the time to look at the view, say hello to people and generally appreciate being out in the countryside or on the coast having got there through using my own energy, and nothing else.

They have opened up lots of new trails near to where I live, in fact you can see a section of one of them from my house.  And they are fantastic, the views are astounding and give a whole new perspective of an area that I thought I knew well.  They combine open countryside, with woodland and coast.  Last night the weather was super fine, so everything looked amazing, the land so green and the Atlantic sparkled in the evening sun.  There was some swell running to, so this added another dimension to the experience.  The combination of serene country, right next to the power and energy of the ocean provides a great contrast, not to mention an amazing colour combination.

And then there's the wildlife, on a bike you see so much of it, arguably more so than when I am out walking.  Although Bella, the unruly little black dog might have at least something to do with the wildlife running to the hills when she's in the vicinity!

Being out on my bike provides some excellent thinking time, I find that it gives me the space that enables me to work things out, or to simply get them out of my system.  It also gives me that feeling of being in the moment. There are precious few ways that I can achieve this, but when it happens it stays with me for quite a time afterwards.

Surfing does on occasion provide these things for me, but the sessions that enable me to pretty much detach from the everyday world, as well as to fully appreciate the natural elements are rare, for a number of reasons.  That said, it does sometimes happen, more often than not on smaller days, when I am out on my longboard, in a quiet line up with no distractions, feeling so relaxed.  I find that these are the days that I remember fondly, much more so than the busy surfs where it all seems so busy and hectic, not to mention increasingly competitive, which can sometimes border on being stressful.

So I have decided to try and make these sessions more prevalent, to do my very best to capture the things I love about being out on my bike while I am surfing.  This will mean some forward planning to avoid the crowds and the hub bub of modern surfing, but I really want my surfing to provide me with this connection with the natural world and level of contentment that I so crave.  I am fairly confident that this change in outlook will rejuvenate my love of surfing and I am really looking forward to sharing my experiences on here.