Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Collecting Wood.

I first entered the world of skateboard collecting about a year and a half ago, when I purchased my first re issue board, a Powell Peralta Cab mini street.  I made this decision independently and while it felt a little extravagant this was a board that I have always coveted, but never owned.  At this time I had every intention of setting it up to use, as such it was fully justifiable.  My decision was made, I ordered the deck and that's where it all began.

While the Cab was set up, to this day it has never been used.  And I am fine with this, more than fine in fact, for since this first re issue related purchase I have obtained many more, while my collection is fairly slow when compared to other peoples, it is something that I extremely proud of nonetheless.  They are simply beautiful things to own and I get a great deal of enjoyment from just looking at them.  I have no desire to make any money from them, I am in no rush to own each and every board that I once owned, or want to own.  They are something that I treat myself to every once in a while, a fun purchase in a world of bills and mundane consumerism.  It isn't easy to describe the exact feeling of getting a new board, for it is partly the aesthetic element of the shape, the graphic and overall look and feel of it, a degree of nostalgia also entry in to it.  But there is something else too, a feeling of buying something incredibly special to me.

Since making my first board purchase, I have discovered that there are many, many people (mainly guys, of a similar age to me) doing just the same.  I follow quite a few groups on Facebook, and a couple of friends have the same enjoyment for old skateboards too.  It seems to me that there are many collectors who are obsessional about the whole thing, chasing holy grails, different colour ways, and entire series of boards. This is great and I would do the same if I hade both the space, not to mention the financial resources to do so.  But since I have neither of these things, not right now at least I am more than happy to admire other peoples collections, gaining inspiration to get a new one of my own every once in a while.

Aside the pleasure that I gain from buying boards I have also begun skateboarding again too, albeit in a very small way.  This was after all the whole point of buying that Cab in the first place, but rather than use an old style board, I made the decision to get something new (I think the main reason for doing so is that I simply wouldn’t want to use an old one, for fear of damaging it).  I don’t go all that often, and to be honest the prospect of injury scares me quite a lot, so I am not what you would call committed.  That said I love doing it, I found that once I had gained some confidence it all came back and in no time at all I was riding a small bowl and having a whole heap of fun doing it.  I tend to pick my times so that I get the places to myself, and in doing so it feels like surfing without having to wait for waves or hassle.  I can take as many runs as I want when it’s quiet, and not have to think about my lack of ability, I am doing it purely for the joy that I get from riding a skateboard on smooth, transitioned concrete.

Anyway, the point of me writing this was to share the fact that I am so super stoked to have gotten back in to something that I loved so many years ago (a quarter of a century, no less), but put on hold for a heap of reasons as presented by life. I along with countless other people around the world are having a second go at skateboarding and I am immensely happy to be a part of this movement.  One of the main reasons I stopped (aside having a healthy fear of pain) can be attributed to the perceived stigma that was attached to skateboarding, ie a gown man can’t possibly be seen on a skateboard.   I now know that the main part of this notion was imagined, rather than real. That said, it suddenly feels acceptable to skate, and to talk about doing so to those who don’t, or never will be a part of this world.  I have to say that I really enjoy doing so.

A whole new scene has emerged off the back of collecting boards and to be honest this fascinates me.  For in my view it really does seem as though this latest carnation of skateboarding is a natural progression of the culture whereby those who formed the scene the first time around, are now having another go at I,t and in doing so are shaping the culture again. Okay this emergence is happening in a fairly small way, but fundamentally we are taking ownership of the culture that we helped to grow all those years ago.  I love the fact that at the time I bought that Cab because it just felt right, so many others were doing the same thing.

I will continue to collect boards, and will ride too, for as long as it gives me the enjoyment that it has done thus far I will count myself as being very much a part of the culture that went so far to define me in my youth.

Photos will follow, when I get the time to take some decent ones!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Far From The Sodding Crowd.

While surfing the other day, in a line up that was so ridiculously crowded, that it resembled an uncontrolled zoo where the animals were just left to their own devices.  A scene that was a free for all, where the usual etiquette and rules that everyone should at least have a inkling of are being totally ignored or simply not being applied.  Anyway, it occurred to me (after I had been dropped in on multiple times) that there has to be a different way.  I want to surf without the crowds of kooks, the aggro, unfriendly people, and the down right clueless.  I want a different version of surfing to be my reality, no crowds, and attitude, but near solitude where smiles are plentiful, the vibe friendly, and space.  I think that latter is the thing that I crave the most, for lately it would seem that personal space is something that is no longer observed in the line up, any more than it is on the land.   For it is so busy, dodging flotsam and jetsam in the impact zone, being drooped in on, and jostling the whole time has become de rigueur lately.

No more.  I just want to enjoy the simple act of surfing, being in amongst the beauty of the nature and just having the time and space to take it all in.  The space to ride waves, try different boards, attempt new things and just surf, without any of the BS.

With this in mind I am determined to make my vision of surfing utopia a reality. I know it is possible, with a bit of planning and selective sessions I can get away from the hoards. And when I do, I will keep it a secret, for I do not want my peaceful little corner of the surfing world to be spoiled, again.

Photo credit: Mike Coots, via The Inertia.

Like finger nails on a blackboard.

While it is true to say that the commodification of surfing has been taking place for quite some time, it would appear that the suits within the corridors of power at many of the companies who have a vested interest in surfing have seriosuley upped their game.

Okay, let's start with the shark 'attack' during the comp at Jeffrey's Bay, okay, it wasn't orchestrated, but the whole incident was given far more coverage than was actually needed.  Surfing, and indeed Mick Fanning, received unprecedented amount of media coverage (someone correctly pointed out that Fanning will be remembered more for this, than for anything he has ever done in surfing), at all levels throughout the world. Suddenly surfing was in the spot light, not because of anything to do with surfing, but the fact that a shark was perceived to attack one of the competitors, but was fought off, thus thwarting the shark and saving his ass.  Now don't get me wrong, I don't wish for a second that Fanning was actually injured by the shark, but it really bugged me that surfing was suddenly, albeit briefly in everyones realm in such a sensationalist way.   I bet those sponsors were jumping for joy for the free brand exposure that they received.

While the above was an example of man versus beast, that just happened to be in a comp and being televised at the time, a freak incident, that could have been worse, but wasn't, so we can all move on.  The same cannot be said about the ridiculous stunt as set-up by Red Bull, DC et-al, that involved a guy (don't know his name, don't care to either) riding a motorcycle derived contraption at Teahupo'o.  That just wound me up so much when I read about it, I haven't watched the clip, for I do not see any point in doing so, but I know that it was set up purely as a means of focussing the attention of the masses towards surfing.  I hate that so much.  It is bad enough that these companies are destroying the very soul of surfing in the quest for increased profits, but this just takes the prize, hands down.

I would love to think that because Red Bull are resorting to such pointless novelty acts, they are beginning to tire of surfing, and acting in desperation before moving on to the next thing that they can plunder.  I hope so, but only time will tell.

And then there is Jamie O'Brien, or J.O.B, as he has been branded.  This guy seems to know no boundaries when it comes to self promotion and a quest for notoriety, for all the wrong reasons.  The guy can surf, and surf incredibly well, shut I fail to see what the appeal is with his stunts, that are constantly given exposure in the surf media.  The latest being time setting himself alight while surfing, again at Teahupo'o, I haven't seen it, but I can only imagine how the crowds went wild when they saw the little stunt.  Really?

I know that the genie is out of the bottle as far as surfing, or rather the revenue that it provides goes, but lately things have gone just that little bit too far.  I have always hated the involvement of crap drinks companies in the surfing world, but to witness them turning it in to a circus like this, just grates, like the proverbial finger nails.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Getting Heavy.

After a run of fun but slightly mediocre surfs, last weekend yielded something that I had been craving for quite some time.  Fast, racy, heavy shore break. Praa Sands style!

I love surfing here in these conditions, it was the beach where I grew up, as such I have put enough time in over the years so that I have got it more or less wired.  Because it was the place where I predominantly surfed during my formative years, it no doubt shaped my style and approach towards surfing.  I have surfed it a lot throughout my surfing life, taking a fair few knocks in the sand along the way, broken some lovely boards too, but I do love these waves. And I am truly in my element when the tide gets high and things get a bit heavy!

This past Saturday as soon as I saw what was happening, that shift from the outside banks to the ones just below the high tide line, I knew that I was in for a treat.  And I realised that because I am no stranger to these conditions, instinct kicked in and I was picking off the ones that I knew wouldn't close out.  The walled up beasts that offer the fast, albeit short race to the finish, providing plenty of scope for speed and big make-or-break moves, all in ankle to knee deep water, this is definitely not for the faint of heart.  As soon as you take off on one of these you are committed, pulling out would undoubtedly put you straight over the falls and on a trajectory with the sand, and straightening out would be equally disastrous.

It was fun. My only regret was that I was on my favourite and newish Donald Takayama.  For as I have mentioned, I have snapped a number of boards in these conditions over the years, I didn't want this one to meet the same fate, plus it really isn't the ideal board for such conditions.  So I held back a little, whereas I would have taken more risks had a been on a board that I wasn't so fond of, I surfed it with a degree of caution. Although many of the other guys didn't not, so at least I was able to witness to some big moves.

Note to self; take two boards next time it's on and go all out!

Still Rolling.

Lately I have found myself being drawn more and more towards skateboarding.  The magnetism began some time ago when I bought the first of my re-issue desks, a Powell Peralta Caballero street.   This was bought as a treat, based upon how it looked, as-well-as with a tinge of nostalgia, as this was one of the boards that I coveted when it was first issued, many years ago.  Being a child of the Bones Brigade era, Animal Chin was the film that really sparked my interest, so really it was the natural choice. Anyway, while I had every intention of getting out and using it, once I had set it up I just couldn't bring myself to do so.  My rationale has always been that I have older, well used boards, so why mess up a new one?  Whilst it was never bought with the intention of re selling it, I simply wanted to keep it pristine. A wall hanger, the first one of my collection.

So, fast forward eighteen months or so, and I find myself at a vert comp, with a whole heap of guys of a similar age to me.  And this is where things took a different turn.  For while I didn't feel the urge to take on the vert stuff (although, it was so good to watch), my stoke from just being there was enough to make me want to start skateboarding in a real way.

After some thought I decided that if I'm going to do it then I want to skate parks, rather than street, there are some really good ones around and if I time things right I can avoid the youth and the hoards of scooter riding kids(!).  Early mornings and later evenings were what I had in mind.  Based upon my reluctance to use my precious collectibles, I also decided to buy a new set up - although initially I was just going to treat myself to wheels, trucks and a few bits, a trip to the local skate shop was all it took to go fully new-school with my choice of desk also.  The friendly advice from the guy that runs it saw me walk away with an Anti Hero, Tony Mioriana.  This model is of a decent size, a really great shape, and an awesome graphic too!  I left that shop a very happy chap and ready to session those parks.

I get the feeling that the journey that I have taken to get back in to skateboarding, well in to my forties is by no-means a unique.  For while there are lots of guys that never stopped, or if they did it wasn't for very long, I know that many more have ventured back in to the culture by way of collecting, and then having the same what the hell moment that I did.  This is great, for the fact that there is now a much older scene bolsters my enthusiasm, not to mention confidence, plus it just feels good to be a part of something, sharing the experience.  For many years I held back thinking that I was too old, it would hurt if I slammed, in fact the list of reasons for not going was a long one.  But you know, it is all to easy to talk yourself out of doing something, based upon reasons that don't pass close scrutiny (apart from the hurting myself bit, that really I do take as a serious threat!).

In general, the view taken by society is that skateboarding is something for kids, nothing more.  The scathing and badly researched pieces of sloppy journalism that I have read recently can only reinforce peoples prejudice towards older guys skateboarding.  But the reality is that age is not a factor when it comes to such things, and it is awesome that so many people have realised this and are ignoring the sneers and sniggers from the general populous.  The result is a shoal new scene, guys, and girls too, are doing something that is a whole lot of fun, and offering a lot of encouragement to those, who would love to I did.

It would be easy to take the criticisms as offered by the main stream media to heart, but I am so glad that this has not dampened the energy and enthusiasm that is being generated in older skateboarding right now.  I find it really interesting that skateboarding culture is going through this latest stage, for in real terms it is still young, so there are no previous generations to follow.  I, like so many others were a part of the Bones Brigade to H-Street era, a critical few years that saw skateboarding change in a massive way.  Boards evolved, tricks got bigger and way more technical, and the culture altered at an incredibly fast pace.  Driven by the thriving industry and the fact that it was skateboarder owned at the time, innovation was given providence and the scene flourshed. But then as with many things, money took over and things took a turn for the worse, in my opinion anyway.   It was at this stage in the early 90's that I stepped away from it, not in a conscious way, I just got more in to surfing, which was always my main thing.  But I have always kept an eye on what is happening in skateboarding, it's great to watch good skateboarding in any of its forms, and while a part of me does regret not keeping it up, I can't change that.  But I am so stoked to have re discovered it, and that I am able to share the whole experience with a group of people who were also there the first time around.  I think the effect of this is that feeling is one of familiarity, but on the whole very fresh.

The groms of the eighties are re-emerging, a little bit grey, slightly slower maybe, but certainly full of stoke!

The journey started here, the first of many!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Backlit Beauty in Green

I saw this photo on the Surfer Magazine site recently, and it really struck a chord with me.    For this is one beautiful wave, I love the colours, deep blue fading to emerald green, the way in which it is back lit by the sun, but most of all I like that it is a wave that I can relate to.  I could surf it.

It is also empty, untouched.  This one went through un ridden. This heightens its beauty, and further fuels the imagination.  I am imagining riding it, on my backhand, going off the bottom, off the top, flying down the line super charged.

Just looking at this picture gives me immense stoke, in fact if I could surf waves like that every day, or even most days, sans crowds I would be a happy chap.

Bury Me.

This is a clip from a film that helped define me in terms of my surfing life.  For a long time it alluded me, searches proved fruitless and the VHS copy I had has lone since been lent out to a friend, never to be returned.  Finding it was difficult, partly because I thought it was called something else entirely, but on hearing Bury Me by The Smashing Pumpkins on the radio recently, I made another search.  And guess what?..

This film was from the Momentum era, a turning point in surfing, which paved the way for a whole style and approach.  This was power surfing taken up to the next level, these guys were doing airs, in pretty small shore break surf, the type of waves that I grew up surfing.  It smacked me around the chops and made me alter my own surfing.

This particular clip also introduced me to the Smashing Pumpkins, a band that have waned a bit in recent times (in my opinion) but for a while in the 90's they turned out some amazing songs. In fact I can't hear Bury Me without thinking of this clip, and those airs.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Bella Vita, Surfing and Pure Italian Style.

This weekend I had the pleasure of watching Bella Vita, Jason Baffa's latest surf film.  I had been looking forward to this for quite some time. Having treated myself to a copy of the DVD from Mollusk while in San Francisco, it received its debut in our house on Saturday evening.

I had anticipated that it would be a great film, based upon Single Fin Yellow and my all time favorite, One California Day.  I wasn't disappointed, not at all.

The film is made beautifully. For a start it is shot entirely in 35mm, giving it a really lovely look and feel, capturing the colours of the Mediterranean and the Tuscany countryside in their full vibrance. The narrative is absolutely lovely, providing an insightful look at so much, surfing related as well as Italian customs and culture. Put simply, the film has got soul.

As for the surfing, well that is everything you would want it to be, plenty of great footage of CDM, styling in the Italian waves and mixing it with the locals. He is joined by Dave Rastovich, as well as the talented Coffin brothers, and of course a whole host of local Italian surfers. They look like a colourful bunch of characters and not only do they surf incredibly well, they also have a huge amount of soul, not to mention enthusiasm, and an underlying passion for the ocean and surfing.

It is a highly crafted surf film, capturing a lot of the aspects of surf culture that I can really connect with, as well as elements of the Italian lifestyle that are really appealing. For it portrays the scene so perfectly, and as with the previous two films from Mr Baffa, it is a true celebration of surf culture, in a real sense.  He really does get it, and skillfully translates the beauty of surfing through his films.

I love this side of surfing, away from the mainstream, the modern identikit high performance movement. This is surfing for me, soulful, stylish and with more than a slight nod to the past, embracing the traditional without being too retro. It is riding waves for the fun of it and the pursuit of doing something super special that connects us with the ocean and sharing the whole experience.  I also loved the fact that the Italian surf scene as portrayed embraces many aspects of Californian surf culture, while adding an whole new twist that is full of rich Italian flavour.

And this is theme is why I liked it so much. The realisation that the individualism that is in short supply with many aspects of surf culture thrives in Italy. This being despite the fact Italy is not exactly known for its quality surf. I have been to the area and had no idea that there was potential for surf along the Tuscany coast, next time I visit I am taking a board!

I really enjoy hearing people's stories and how they fit in to a world that I know and can really relate to. Bella Vita provided this, and the experience left me feeling truly inspired afterwards. I know that the film will become a firm favorite, adding to my collection of go-to surf films.  There for me whenever I need to add some stoke, inspiration, or simply want to watch something that is beautiful. 

Moody and Beautiful...

A Hoppy Taste of California.

Whenever I get back from my travels I always hold on to the feeling by enjoying the things that I had while I was away, if possible.  One of these things is beer.

Beers sampled and enjoyed on European visits are usually pretty easy to come by at home, my favourites of American Craft variety less so.

Many of these are produced by small, local breweries, as such they are only available in the immediate area, even some of the larger ones do not export.  However, luckily for me one of my all time favourite beers is Anchor Steam, which you can find over here, it's quite rare, but obtainable, with a bit of effort. So I thought that this would be a nice treat that reminded me of my trip.

A quick search found several possible sources online, but I also tracked some down and found some in a shop just around the corner.  The guy on the phone told me that he only had a few cases left, so as the weather was conducive to beer drinking I feared that they would all be gone by the weekend.  A trip to said shop immediately took place.

I located the craft beers in the shop, and sure enough there was the Anchor Steam, but wait, what is that I spy.  Why it was no less than Lagunitas IPA, a beer that I discovered on this last trip, sampled at several stages throughout Northern California, including on a Delta Airlines flight from SF to LA, served in a glass bottle, which I though was against regulations, but there you go, and I wasn't complaining.  Anyway, I never for a minute thought that I would be able to find it back at home, never mind in a shop a few minutes from my work.

Oh how wrong I was, and I am so glad that I will be enjoying a few of them over the weekend.

Mollusk Surf Shop...Surf Retail Perfection.

Surf shops get me as excited now as they did when I was a grom, in fact I really struggle to pass one by.  Wherever I am in the world, if I spot one, I'm in it.

I have my favourites that are both local and further afield, and I love discovering new ones too.  But I never fail to get excited when I visit a good one.  I get a real sense of anticipation when I enter through the doors, and then once inside I am hit with the sight of all that surf stuff, the smell of wetsuit neoprene and board wax filling the air.

Every now and then I get to visit a Surf Shop that is on my wish list.  One such shop is Mollusk in San Francisco, which has been on my radar for quite some time, and recently I was able to visit it in person. I wasn't disappointed.

As we were heading south from Guerneville to Monterey we would have been pretty much passing the door, so the zip code was plugged into the GPS and off we went.  The journey itself was outstanding in itself, we travelled through wine country, farm country, the Marin Hills, then over the bridge and into San Francisco, all in beautiful Spring morning sunshine with an incredible selection of music on the car stereo.  Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday morning.

On arriving at the shop we parked right outside, and what a sight greeted us.  The shop looks fantastic, and through the large front window I could see the incredible selection of surf related treasures on display.  I couldn't get out of the car and in through the doors quick enough.

As soon as I was in through the doors I got that surf shop smell that I know and love so much.  The shop has an amazing vibe, one that is friendly, laid back and everything that I would want a surf shop of its kind to be.  We were greeted by the lady working there, who got chatting to K about weddings and al sorts, it turned out that she and her partner were also married at City Hall, just a few weeks previously. So cool.

I was blown away by the selection of boards that were racked up from floor to ceiling, down the whole of one of the walls.  They were my kind of boards and true things of beauty.  Mandalas, Campbell Brothers, Gary Hanels, Tyler Warrens, they were all here, looking resplendent.  I could have bought any one of them.  Alas, I feared that they would have succumbed horrible damage on the plane journey home,which would have been a shame. So despite the strong feelings of temptation, I decided to leave without one.

I did however pick up a copy of Jason Baffa's, Bella Vita, which I had been holding back on buying until this trip,  To get my copy from Mollusk made it even more special. I also picked up a hooded sweatshirt and K an new t-Shirt, which she is stoked with.  The lady also gave me some free stickers, I always like that!

So all-in-all it was a wholly exciting and enjoyable experience. The shop was everything that I wanted it to be, friendly, smiley with a great vibe.  The selection of stock is just perfect and everything is set out in such a way that it all looks simply beautiful. Plus it is a mere block or two from Ocean Beach, the perfect testing ground for any new board.

I cannot wait to get the opportunity to go back, next time one of those boards will be coming home with me, for sure!

The Only Place.

Every trip that I make to California gives me a fresh perspective.  I come back home feeling rejuvenated and inspired.  In short I always bring a bit of the vibe back with me.

There are many, many things that I love about California, these include the climate, the light, the colour of the Pacific, the sunsets, the wildlife, the incredible variety of plants and flowers that grow naturally.  I love the surf culture, the car old scene, the emphasis on outdoors living, the list goes on and on.  In short I'm a big fan of CA, and have been for a very long time.

This latest trip filled me with so much inspiration, perhaps even more so than on previous visits - yep, we are talking about a lot of inspiration. I think a big reason behind this is because the amazing trip that we had involved taking in a whole range of different places, a significant number of which were wholly new to us, although did go to many of our favorites as well.  We set out wanting to experience new things, involving seeing parts of California that were less visited, quieter and interesting with more emphasis on the country, away from cities and urban areas. We achieved all of these things.

The areas were explored were mainly coastal Northern California, as well as the Central Coast, which we travelled to by way of Big Sur.  The Big Sur coast is a real favorite of ours, and as always the experience was truly outstanding, especially given that we went through there on a perfect, sunny Saturday, calm and sunny with a slight ocean mist, perfect!  On our trip we ventured inland a bit too, having been recommended a town named Guerneville, on the Russian River, this was a really interesting place, and again, very different from anywhere we had been to previously in the state.  Each day was an adventure and we ended up covering a lot of miles in Frank, the Hyundai (Senata). Along the way we took in so many amazing sights, met a lot of really lovely people and had lots of fun everywhere we went.  Everything about the trip was wholly positive, but the thing that really struck me was just how fantastic the Nor-Cal vibe is.  I have spent quite a lot of time in California these past ten years, and it is no secret that I love it there. This has now been reinforced further still by our latest experience.

To begin with the scenery is outstanding and very different to other parts of the state that I become familiar with.  This is especially true of the stretch of coast north of San Francisco, principally Sonoma and Mendocino counties, where the population is low and the development is minimal, resulting in beautiful countryside and coastline that has not been spoiled by over development. Not in the slightest, in fact I doubt if things have changed that much for decades.  For while there is a lot of farming activity, which has tamed the land to a degree, much of the terrain consists of established redwood forests and open country where you cannot see a single house or anything else man made.  There really seems to be a deep respect for the land here, there isn't a whole lot to spoil the view, no littering, or wonton damage to the environment is apparent. This is in stark contrast to other places in the State, where I often find myself wondering what it would have looked like years ago, before the developers made their mark on the landscape.  The coastline also has the characteristics that give it a much more rugged appearance, there are far fewer sandy beaches here, invariably the dark rock of the cliffs are met by the by the Pacific at their base, where the powerful long distance swells unleash a huge amount of energy upon the rock. Sea mist rises through the trees, many of which are old, and long established cedars, pines and eucalyptus, the latter filling the air with their aroma, adding to the atmosphere.  All of these things combine to create a landscape that is truly beautiful and you feel a real sense of being at the edge of the continent. 

While sparsely populated, the small towns that are situated in this part of California are full of character, and characters!  We were me with so many smiles, hellos and people seemed to have the time to stop and talk, with an openness and enthusiasm that I really liked.  Added to which they are small, really small (the town, not the people!). The population count of many was just a few hundred, this made for some quiet, unspoiled towns with lovely atmospheres and a tangible sense of community.  Also, the area has not been exploited in the name of tourism, a fate that has fallen on many places further south, sadly.

Something else that I really liked was that the area is beautiful and interesting just the way it is, there is now need for man made enhancements.  Furthermore, there is more to the culture and vibe of the area than beach and surf culture alone, it is far more diverse and this richness was something that I really appreciated.  For I have found that in recent years the surf towns that I have been to have gone to seed somewhat.  Undoubtedly caused by vapid commercialisation and the selling of surf culture to the general populous as has been the case back at home, albeit on a much smaller scale. Although the results are similar principally an experience that lacks any authenticity, in that any real connection with surfing heritage has been forgotten, as has the natural environment. This is certainly not the case in Northern California.

We we there during the quiet season, the roads were quiet and tourists virtually non existent. But I got the feeling that even in Summer things don't get all that crazy. There was certainly very little evidence of mass tourism in evidence.

So I have come home with even more love for the State of California, strengthened by the beauty that I found up North of San Francisco. And yet it is so different to the places that I already know and love. I know that I have grown an incredible amount since my last visit, so maybe this gave me a fresh perspective. Or it could be that I am in a different place now, so can fully appreciate the absolute beauty, as well as the overall vibe of Northern California. It could simply be that I have gotten a little bit older and like the quiet life! Whatever the reasons, I am so pleased to have experienced this part of California. The trip has left me feeling truly rejuvenated, the challenge is to keep the feeling alive now that I am home. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Back on board.

For quite some time I have been a little bit disillusioned with surfing. I have mentioned this before and is part to do with the fact that I don't know how I fit in with it all, part because the world of surfing has changed beyond all comprehension, a lot to do with the fact that I live in a cold part of the world, and the fact that I am in my forties might be partly responsible too.  Okay, that las bit might be a lot to do with it.  But whatever the cause of my perceived despondency towards the very thing that has defined who I am and how I regard the world, for as long as I can remember, I have been very much at the sidelines of surfing, looking in at it.  Maybe a little too much.

However, this has all changed, and I am very happy about that.  This shift in thinking is down to a number of different factors, principally a prolonged period of should searching has yielded many of the answers that I have been looking for. I have also been on quite a journey of self discovery, in all aspects of my life, this too has enabled me to put some much needed perspective on things, including surfing.

Having identified that I still love surfing, its culture and the world that surrounds it, I set about determining the things that I really connect with and love being a part of.  At the beginning of the journey this focus was mainly upon the aspects of surfing that were associated with a different era, the time that I discovered the surfing life, and the preceding decades.  Too much of modern day surfing was far removed from the aspects of it that I know and love, or that is how I felt. Because I identified with elements of its past, I looked towards the historical world of surfing, and got a hole heap of inspiration from it too.

This was great fun, but not really fulfilling in the truest sense, simply because I wanted something that was happening now, in the current moment. I wanted surfing to provide me with real feelings, feelings more involved than those evoked by than nostalgia alone.  I guess that I have been somewhat guilty of living in the past in many aspects of my life, when what I needed was to be living in the moment.

It has taken a while, but this is where I am at.  I have reached a place where I want to be with surfing and am ready to begin the next phase of my surfing life.  I can take or leave much of modern mainstream surfing has to offer, much of it is very competitive, alpha male driven and just not that friendly.  This version of surfing put me off, too many big egos, not enough waves and the thing that made me truly sad was that no one seemed to appreciate the natural environment.  Added to which I felt that it was being led more by market forces than the simple notion of surfing as a beautiful pursuit.

Much to my delight, I found that there is a lot more happening in surfing than the afore mentioned. It is the stuff that is going on at the edges that I love, and there is plenty.  In fact there is a really strong scene that is still very much about surfing for the fun of it, sharing the experience with others, enjoy the wonders of nature and simply enjoying the vibe. These are the things that I truly connect with, these are the things that I want to pursue.

Having got back from California last week, where I got married to the love of my life and had an incredible amount of fun, I have returned with good amounts of that vibe (even more so than usual). This fresh intake of absolute and positive inspiration, just at the right time means that I have now reached a point where I am completely clear about how I want to live my life, this includes surfing.  So, having treated myself to some new rubber already this week, with a heap of boards in many shapes and styles in the shed, not to mention a totally fresh perspective on the world - especially the surfing world, I am ready to embark on the next phase of my surfing journey.

I have fully reconnected with surfing, at long last, and while it all feels different, this is wholly positive.  It has always been there, I just needed to find it again, or rather I needed to take some time out in order to discover different elements to it, the things that I had missed previously.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Hello, my old friend.

This afternoon I was reunited with a very old friend. As a result my stoke levels are at an all time high.

The friend I am referring to used to be very close to me, I grew up with them, they were there when times got tough and they inspired me. Sadly, in recent times I have neglected them.  Something that I now regret.  For having rediscovered just who special they are, I wish I had never let things drift as much as they had done.

This afternoon, while enjoying quiet time at work I clicked on Surfer Magazine.  I cannot remember the last time I did this, but today I am so glad that I did.  I was instantly mesmerised by the photography and absorbed in the features.  Although I had been absent for a while, it didn't take long at all to become fully acquainted again.

Also, having been a little bit disillusioned with the modern surfing world of late, I am thrilled to realise that this has now been dispelled, to a degree at least.  I was quickly reminded why I love surfing as much as I do, and that this is my culture, my world.  I got lost in the site for a time there, and came away feeling wholly contented, my sense of identity reinforced, and the notion of how and why I fit within the surfing world restored.

They say that sometimes it takes a period of absence to make you realise just how much you love something.  Based on the experience I had today, I am not going to be a stranger again.

This is why I love it. Reef McIntosh, Off The Wall. Photo Zak Noyle

Monday, 9 February 2015

This Surfing Life.

A life in surfing has given me many things.  For a start I know how to ride surfboards on waves.  This may sound fairly rudimentary but years of experience has equipped me with the knowledge that enables me to do something that is pretty unique.  For I have the ability to read the characteristics of a moving wall of water in such a way that I can move a board, pretty much exactly where I want it to go, using nothing but the momentum of the wave as a power source to propel me across its face.  I can look down the wave at the moment of take off, plan my route and know which moves the shape and features will permit, then execute the entire sequence accordingly.  This is quite something, when you stop to think about it.  Working out what a wave is going to do, making the calculations to plot a route, before carrying out my moves accordingly is something that has taken many years of practice.  And without really realising it, these judgements are made in a single moment, and on a good wave several such thought processes will take place in a very short time frame.  Collectively  these individual experiences build up in to something much more significant which makes the act of surfing pretty much second nature. 

This is the essence of surfing in its most straight forward definition.  The pure and natural pursuit of riding waves with a degree of skill is something that I am extremely proud to be able to do and something that I truly love doing. This has been the case for as long as I can remember, but I have realised recently that many aspects of the lifestyle that I have pursued, the ones that I hold as being truly valuable, don't actually require me to partake in riding waves in order to get a strong sense of satisfaction.  The memories I have been afforded are often enough to keep me going through the periods when I don't actually go surfing.  Winter in other words.

Without getting wet, or cold I can watch, or even imagine a wave and know exactly how I would go about riding it, this is something that I have done for years.  Although recently I have come to realise that the experiences that I have collected are so deeply embedded in my psyche, formed from countless sessions over a thirty year period, that surfing isn't ever that far from my thoughts.  Having put as much time and effort in to learning my craft, it isn't wholly suprising that I have the ability to look at a wave and know exactly how I would handle handle it. I have ridden so many waves I wouldn't even know where to begin if I were to count them.  Added to which, there will be an incredibly high number of waves that I have watched other people ride, from the beach, from the line up, as well as on the screen.  Then there are the still images of surfing that I have absorbed from magazines and books, of which there are tens of thousands.  I have enough surfing fuel stored in my memory to keep my surfing imagination stoked for a lifetime!

All in all surfing and the pursuit of riding waves has etched itself into my identity.  It doesn't necessarily define me, not anymore at least in that as the years go on and I take on other interests, I don't want to let my world be taken over by one single thing.  That said, it does continue to provide me with an incredibly strong sense of being.  So while my love of surfing has taken on a different meaning in recent times, whereby it is the culture that I am drawn to, in a historical sense.  Lately I have come to realise that the act of riding waves is still the most important aspect of surfing for me.  In its simplest form, the thrill of riding a wave provides the magic that makes so many of us come back for more, year after year. The world of surfing has evolved in so many waves, but as trends (not to mention people) come and go, it is easy to forget that the feeling that surfing instills within us is the single most important element and at the centre of this entire culture.

I might not ride as many waves these days as I once did, but when I do, I know that I am doing something that is truly special. It fills me with a sense pride, not to mention joy when I realise that the ability to ride boards, long and short is something that is fairly unique. Not many people on this earth can understand exactly what it means to do it and I count myself as being fortunate enough to be one of the few who understands and appreciates the pursuit of riding waves.

A life in surfing has provided me with a rich and diverse set of experiences that I am truly grateful for.  It gives me a lot of joy to recall these, reliving the waves and sessions that stand out the most.


This mornings cycle was a dirty old business. Filthy. The recent rain has made the trails and tracks so muddy. Also the fact that most of the leaves have vacated their Summer residences upon the trees, and are now on the floor adds to the mess. Still, it was a good ride, different but heaps of fun none the less.

There was plenty of wildlife around, loads of squirrels, most of which were running off with horse chestnuts. Jays causing a ruckus in the tree tops, and Herons chilling by the lake. Oh and a crazy assed dog running loose in a field. Not a wild animal, but worthy of a mention none the less, simply because of how nuts it was.

The sea looked amazing, wild and booming, so different to the calm tranquil scene that I have become used too. The spray was being blown in shore by the stiff South Westerly breeze, so the air was damp with ocean, and incredibly salty too.

The dust trails of Summer have gone, but I think I will get used to the muddy conditions, it's a case of having too. It really is a different sort of riding though. Looking at my bike this evening, I can't help but think that it has been given the type of use that it was built for. It wears the mud well.

No photos were taken today, I forgot to take a camera, next time!

*This was written in the Autumn.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sliding & Rolling.

As I don't have a great deal of time to write anything today, I thought I would post some short clips instead. Here they are.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A Real Mercedes-Benz.

It is no secret that I have a real appreciation for German cars, particularly those from the Mercedes-Benz family.  The cars I really connect with tend to be those from the mid seventies to the mid eighties.  During this era the designs were pretty much as perfect as you can get,in my opinion. The build was solid and the overall look was synonymous with German (over) engineering.  However, these cars were not so utilitarian so as to lose any trace of personality, not at all for the models from this period have this in absolute abundance.  From nose to tail they have an incredible number of characteristics that are uniquely Mercedes and befitting of the era from which they hail.  These are just some of the things that provide them the appeal, but to be honest there are a whole host of ingredients that combine to give this car a set of qualities that never fails to make my head turn when I see one.  

The models that I have a real interest are those which are built on the W123 chassis, badged as the 200 range, or E Class.  I truly believe that these cars signify the pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz design.  At the front end they had the classic MB upright grille, an icon that has sadly been taken out of the design mix altogether now.  This lent itself perfectly to the lights and other features to give the W123 a perfect face.  The body is the classic three box shape, with each element in perfect proportion, but they don't look boxy, the lines have enough curve to soften the profile of the car, this is amplified by the ever so slight flare of the side panels, as well as by the subtle curve of the roof.  The body lines and contours add up to a relatively simple design with a lack of fuss.  However, the little details also add a great deal to the distinctive look of the W123 and these things are equally appealing to me.  The fluted tail lights, the body coloured steel hub caps, the chrome work even the shape of the wing mirrors, and of course that fantastic chrome grille, topped with the three pointed star emblem.  I like the look of both the European and US spec models, in fact I think the bigger US DOT regulation bumpers lend themselves to the car really well.

The design is a true classic, but for me there is something else that really captures the imagination.  I know that a lot of this is down to nostalgia, the concept of which I am more than familiar with when it come to cars and other items that I appreciate. These were the cars of my childhood, my Grandad had one (a blue, 2nd generation model in the early eighties) and I owned many die cast toy replicas, one way or another they have remained fixed in my imagination throughout much of my life.  These days I simply love the design and the kind of image that they portray.  A straight forward German flavoured elegance, a perfectly evolved design, in which you can see clearly see the heritage as shared with previous generations of the Mercedes family.  At the time of its launch the W123 would have been marketed as an aspirational purchase.  At the lower end of the Mercedes range, it would have been aimed squarely at the young executive and fleet markets. Although now, decades later it has shaken these staid middle class connotations and has a feel that is much more contemporary look and feel.  Fitting comfortably in the same bracket as a vintage Omega watch for example.  A timeless classic, that has all the right elements to make it appealing to those who appreciate and admire good design.  The mark of which can be gauged by the fact that it is particularly popular with the Hipster crowd. And I guess this is the point, they have a relatively low value, so cannot be defined in the same way as true classics, which means that people ain't scared to use 'em, and have them as daily drivers.

Until fairly recently the W123 was fairly common sight, here and abroad.  Their rock solid build made them the car of choice for many taxi fleets throughout the world, in fact in the past decade I have travelled in more than one that was still in use as a taxi.  I used to see them on the road at fairly regular intervals too.  But of late they are becoming a rare breed, seeing one is while out and about is the exception, rather than the rule.  Although I am happy to say that there are still quite a few remaining in the wild in California, where the climate is far more kind to cars of a age, so rust isn't so much of an issue. I have seen many examples that are in time capsule condition, despite being in day to day use.

Anyway, I have thought about owning one for years, and one day I really will.  Looking in the classifieds section of Mercedes Enthusiast Magazine, there are many examples going for the same kind of money has a few year old used hatch back.  So when I am feeling brave, or reckless I am going to get one, use it every day and I don't think I will ever tire of owning it (although this level of misty eyed romanticism could quickly bring things into focus when the bills roll in, but I won't let that sully the dream).