Tuesday, December 19, 2006

For Those In Peril On The Sea

A neighbour dropped this Christmas card round today. It's one supplied by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) and helps raise funds for this outstanding organisation. A very pretty picture for sure, but especially poignant today. Cornwall, and the residents of Mousehole in particular, are remembering the crew of the Solomon Browne lifeboat that went down with all hands attempting to rescue those on board the Union Star cargo ship 25 years ago to the day. As part of the reflection on this disaster, BBC2 are showing again the documentary that I referred to in an earlier post that had us signing up as supporters of the RNLI.

Beach Bum's 94 year old grandfather was on the blower tonight. Think salty, slightly pickled Sea Dog and you get the picture for he's a man who spent his working life at sea. Having towed Mulberry harbours to the beaches in Normandy, shot down a Stuka on the way back (not usual for a merchant tug), lugged the first oil rigs to their moorings in the North Sea and still found time to check out most of the bars along the French coast he's had an eventful life.

Not that long ago, he casually referred to the "second time he was shipwrecked" - like you do. Not a man of many words, it took some time to piece the facts together. Back in 1932, he was a young sailor on the Watford, a collier lugging coal from Montreal to Sydney, Nova Scotia.

A hurricane was blowing offshore and they ran into a storm off Cape Breton. The ship was well and truly pummeled onto the rocks.

Several of the crew died but, by all accounts, the locals mounted an amazing rescue attempt and (fortunately for Beach Bum) winched the survivors, including Sea Dog, off the ship.

My uncle tracked down this picture of the beached ship after the storm had passed. Fate, luck, divine intervention - take your pick - but Beach Bum can't help but ponder how tenuously our existence teeters on times past.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Take a deep breath...

Some heavy breathing ...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Donavon Frankenreiter Is Not A Beach Bum (He Says)

DF is coming back to Cornwall which is a good thing. He's a new album out don't ya know? He muses, however, "I listen to so much music and I pretty much feel comfortable singing all of it, so I didn't want to come across as a guy who does nothing else but sit on a beach with an acoustic guitar, playing around a fire."

Dude?? What gives?? I've worked hard to get to that beach and bum around. Don't knock it or I'll make fun of that tea cosy you call a hat.

There's a prize going here - so pay attention! Something has been on my mind lately, what's left of it. Despite hearing either Donavon Frankenreiter or his, arguably, more famous pal Jack Johnson in just about every shop with hip aspirations going, I still enjoy his eponymous 1st album. Ok, so I'm a bit of a day dreamer and Sea Nymph says his music gets in the way of our love. She says I get so far away when I'm listening to his stuff but like, it don't matter - isn't that what chilled music ought to do? She doesn't understand the resonance of the vibe. Let me explain.

Last summer, I was heading home from the beach in my dune buggy. I was just reaching this bend in the road when the brakes failed and the vehicle starting free wheeling down the dual carriageway. Buggeration! I'm shelling past this bloke in a convertible on the outside lane. "What'cha know about brakes?" , I yell! "Swing on down to the footwell and hammer on that peddle!" he hollers back. It makes less than no sense to me, but "whack, whack" and the brakes are back.

Well, call me papa, call me Al, call me anything you want but even in extremis, I've a great eye for faces. Comes from being a social butterfly, I guess. The convertible is now speeding onwards past me, this great hairy happening of a dude waving ciao. I know that tache, it's the Frankenreiter himself! Wow, what a moment. Then I woke up and had my cornflakes something more healthy.

Right, I'll dispatch One Pair Of REALWIIIINGS to anyone who can tell me which song from the album isn't mentioned above. NB Beach Bum's Realwiiings review - I did warn you.

PS no alcohol or nefarious substance was involved in the creation of this post, honest.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Into Indoboards?

Like the Chinese water torture, the slow, slow drip of the same sales pitch repeating itself can weaken the will of the strongest. At least that's my excuse. I need one to justify the fact that I'm seriously considering getting one of these Indoboards.

I think it was a mailshot from SAS that caught my eye a while back. They were offering one of these balance training boards as a raffle prize. Hmmm I thought. Bit of a gimmick. Then a randon comment on Life's A Beach takes me over to the Outer Banks and Surf Mom's blog where she gives the Indo a thumbs up. Well maybe, I'll check out their website. Perhaps I was too hasty. 

And then it was trudge, trudge round Truro today with Nippers and Sea Nymph - mostly spending money on other people's Christmas presents. (And they left the anchovies off of my siciliana pizza.)  Then I spot this this blue Indoboard winking at me from a shopfront display. "You want me, you want me" came the sirens call. "Work out on me twice a day and you will balance like a Jedi Master!" I give in. If it's all a load of cobblers, please tell me before I ask Santa for one this Christmas.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Surfing Industry - An Oxymoron?

Are you local? (If you clicked on that link you might never have gotten back to this point - but just in case...)

Yes, today it's stuff on Beach Bum's own stretch of coast that's exercising me. This is the day I buy the West Briton. I flick to the sports section and note that the editor of Wavelength magazine, Tim Nunn, is penning a new surfing column called TubeTales. Lots of shaggy bleached blonde hair and competition results. There's prize winners for every feckin company, age, aerial manoeuvre and nationality imaginable. Feckity, feck - I'm missing out, me thinks.

Tim points out in his column that Cornwall's "surfing industry" is worth around 21 million pounds to the county. He then also mentions that 99% of the surfing community never enter a surfing competition in their surfing life."Surfing Industry" - an oxymoron? Discuss.

(Glad to see that seagull proof bins and seaweed recycling are some of the ideas being bandied around by Perranzabuloe beach committee in an attempt to improve the state of Perranporth beach. How about recycling seagulls, would that work?)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Boards For Beginners - Pumped Up Pop Outs

I wonder if you, like me, ever made the connection between the ubiquitous BIC pen and surfing? Up until recently, I didn't realise there was one. Then a mate, landlocked in London, asked me for some advice about boards for beginners. This is when I discovered that the French company that makes the pen also makes Bic Surfboards.  There's a useful little "Go Surfing" essentials guide that the Bic blokes offer up on their site that's aimed at newbies.

Along with NSP (New Surf Project), these two manufacturers must have well-oiled (should that be waxed?) marketing departments since ads for their boards pop up (pun intended) on any Google search that combines "beginner" with "surfboard".

There's a host of on-line shops out there happy to deliver boards like these to your door. The Boardshop.co.uk is running a promotion at the moment that includes free delivery, board bag, leash and a block of wax.

Here in Cornwall, the guys at Piran Surf will set you up with a good beginner's board. Being able to walk into a shop where the staff all surf is a bonus when you're buying your first stick plus there's the opportunity for a trade in when you want to graduate to something fancier.

My first board was a chunky Circle One with lots of flotation but which needed a forklift to get it on the roof-rack after a days' action. They've come a long way since then - and they're tougher too - as this little video shows.

The term "pop out" was used to describe the early mass produced surf boards that "popped out" of aluminium moulds. These boards are indeed mass produced but using epoxy resins, crafty laminating and finishing techniques, they're a good place for the beginner to start.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Superior Surf Posters


All together now - "we're not worthy!". Like sharing that secret break, Beach Bum likes to offer up the occasional gem from Neptune's chest - and here's one for your delectation and delight.

A recent visitor to Beach Bum's shack stood staring at a poster on my wall. "Great poster", he said. "Yup" I said. He was referring to one of a series of artworks produced by one Barry Britton of Rossnowlagh, Co.Donegal.

These posters will appeal to anyone with a touch of the Celt in them. Simply beautifully drawn surfing & musical posters from a wave rebel of the old school. Check out the Quicksilver tale (pictured below) ... one man's stand against corporate surfdom.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Normal Service Will Be Resumed ASAP

It has been pointed out to me by the select few who bother to read this stuff that they have been experiencing "technical problems". Most common is a glitch with Internet Explorer - the first few posts start to load and the rest of the page hangs, effectively crashing the browser. I strongly suspect that this may be related to Google's recent tweaks of the Blogger platform I'm signed up with. I've noticed some alignment weirdness and some earlier posts being re-sent when corrected - which really shouldn't happen. I've made some tweaks of my own and from my side all seems hunkey dory now. I'd really appreciate you letting me know if the same applies from where you're sitting.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Aloha Trash Vortex!

© Greenpeace / Alex Hofford

As pilgrims travel to their shrines, so the wave rider dreams of making their own personal Hajj to experience the Hawaiian surf. When my regular mail shot from Greenpeace Ocean Defenders popped up this morning with the header "Greenpeace arrives in Hawaii and exposes World's Largest Garbage Dump", I clicked on the link immediately. Depressing, eh?

The article bangs home the message with the grisly picture below that shows the contents of an albatross chick's stomach. I think back to that bit of beach cleaning that the SAS organised at the tail end of summer. The cynics will equate these stunts with micturation in a Force 10 but the state of the planet leaves the individual with two options - to be overwhelmed into apathy or energized into action. I choose action - even if this starts with binning some bozo's beer can on the beach.

Final rant for today: given the convergence of Greenpeace and SAS on many issues, I do wish their respective websites would make some effort to link up.

© Greenpeace    /    David Liittschwager & Susan Middleton

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Good Gear ? RealWiiings Review

When reviewing products it's generally best to apply some sort of scoring system for the sake of objectivity. Marks for functionality, design, style, value and so forth. So when Sam over at Surf Core  asked me if I'd fancy field testing a pair of "RealWiiings", a few seconds of feedback from curious bystanders suggested I'd better add "chuckle factor" to the criteria.

The name, the name! If the thought had only flitted through my mind, then I might have buried the notion and resisted the urge to go Fnarr! Fnarr! like my old mate Finbar Saunders. But to a man - and every woman present - before any credible assessment could get underway, we had passed round the laughing gas and cracked all the panty one-liners, female sanitary accoutrement gags going.

But titter ye not, we won't let a dodgy name get in the way of an honest review. As you can see from the bumph on "RealWiiings" site these "sleek, ultra light durable paddles attach to each wrist with an adjustable (velcro) strap" and are designed to give some extra oomph to your stroke as you paddle out to get some wave action. At just under £25 a pair, with various colours and slight strap length variations if used with a shortie, the price point is reasonable enough if the wiiidgets work.

Impressive are the claims mentioned - "faster paddle out!", "get out of the churn quicker!", "longboarders reach incredible speed", "faster than a speeding bullet" – well OK, the last one's Superman's.

Mine arrived with a set of instructions double printed so I'm blaming that for the time it took me to figure out how to attach the velcro straps and angle the paddles the right way. Their website has a much clearer set of instructions and once you get the hang of it, it is pretty simple to get your Wiiings on. An "R" and and "L" on either wing wouldn't go amiss mind you. Do try fitting your Wiings at home first (fnarr, fnarr), if only to preserve a modicum of credibility when you finally hit the shoreline.

And so it was that on an unseasonably sunny stretch of Portstewart strand the winter suit was donned, the RealWiiings were fastened onto Beach Bum's wrists, tightened and aligned as instructed. Despite concerns about how these Wiiings would look strapped on, I have to say that they were reasonably discreet, far more so than I would have expected. There's a slight feel of having “done a Batman” and whipped out something from the utility belt – but that’s a plus point as far as I’m concerned. The blade-like design of the Wiiings brought out the none too deeply buried "inner child" in me, so prior to diving in to the surf, I did strike a couple of suitably Ninja-like poses. Or was that Power Ranger? But I digress.

All that shenanigans out of the way, I was into the sea and awaaay (adding extra vowels seems only natural nooow).Did I paddle faster? Did I catch more waves? To be fair, I’ve seen bigger waves in my bath and in truth I didn’t notice much difference. I suspect that there’s more performance to be gained from improving paddle technique, strength and stamina than from strapping on Wiiiings or the other alternative - webbed gloves.

Perhaps for the surfing elite, any product that offers an edge is a plus and RealWiiings will take off on the back of guys like Mike Esposito who designed and endorse them. When Sam asked me for comments, he added that he didn’t know what to make of them. For me the jury’s still out too.  

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Clean Waves, Clean Conscience

This isn't my slogan - it's Errant Surf Travel's. These boys run a customised surf travel company out of Newquay & that often means flying customers off to warmer climes. And jet travel, as we all know, messes up the environment. From August this year, Errant have been offsetting the cost of any carbon emmissions generated in the travel back into projects run by the CarbonNeutral Company. This is a good thing. We want the carbon footprints of a pisky, not the sasquatch.

Mind you, I thought I heard on the radio the other day that the methane from cow's fart is more of a problem than all carbon dioxide emmisions put together. There's a thought ... which I don't want to dwell on.

Talking of carbon feet, over at Surfcore, you can calculate your vehicle of choice's carbon emission and the equivalent number of trees you need to plant to restore the carbon karma. Sea Nymph planted a witch hazel last Sunday, so we're doing our bit, OK?

I'm leaving on a jet plane (to N.Ireland) this Friday. I know when I'll be back again. We won't have the weather, we might have the waves but we'll certainly have the Guinness.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Winter Wetsuit Buying Guide

The cheeky chappies at Wavelength magazine have posted a handy guide to the latest winter wetsuits that you can download here. Most of the major wetsuit suppliers are listed, including my own personal favourite - Snugg...

... and Lifeguard Cover on Perranporth Beach is being extended again to the end of October at weekends and over half-term. Not that there's a connection...

Photo courtesy of Jon's Flickr gallery and while I'm handing out the credits, you might pop over to his site where he flys the flag for Devon's surfing scene.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nutritional Nuggets - Seaweed For Wave Riders

"You are what you eat" - according to an old native American Indian saying. The fact that it aint' a ham & cheese toastie typing this somewhat disproves the idiom, but these days, most of us understand there's a connection between what you eat and how you perform.

But hold off the dietary dissertation and let me cut to the chase - go eat some seaweed! Not just any old bit of kelp mind you. I'm talking about Rhodymenia palmata otherwise known as Dulse (pronounced where it counts as "dullus").

All around our shores is a rich resource of this fabulous free seafood that only a select few are aware of (and they're mainly from Ballywalter).There's enough in a handful of this stuff to provide all of your daily Vitamin B6 , iron requirements and over 50% of the recommended B12 intake. Who needs those Vitamin supplements at rip-off prices, eh? (NB: Spike - great for pregnant ladies!)

There's a few things you need to know about getting your hands on this "wunder-weed". Traditionally, it is collected between March and September at low tide from exposed rocky outcrops normally submerged. A small, distinctive leafed weed with a purple hue when wet, it is easily plucked from its rocky home.

Photo courtesy of Laurie Murison

Take care not to pull off the holdfast and all of the fronds so it can continue to grow and you can harvest again. Best then to just spread the booty out to dry in the sun - but you can take it indoors and let it dry out there. It should become a crisp, almost brittle material and will be covered in part with fine crystals of sea salt. Don't worry if it's a little bit moist though, some like it that way too.

Store it somewhere dry in plastic bags for a week or two. Perfect for a nibble on the beach with your sarnie and a brew. Of course you can get creative and use it in a wide variety of recipes. If you can't wait until next year's harvest, you could try these folks for a sampler.

I'm not going to try and describe the taste. Bit of a Marmite / Vegemite experience for some - you either love it or loathe it. One word of warning, don't eat too much before taking on a pint or three of Guinness. There's some sort of gaseous reaction that goes on there that can clear a pub in minutes. Trust me on that...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Beach Blonde Surfer Girls

Two reasons for this post - number one, I like the picture and number two, I gotta make a quick post to see if Windows Live Writer is finally configured to work with Beta Blogger. (Like, who cares?) Let's see!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Green Stick Surfari - Hunting For Environmentally Friendly Surfboards

Photo courtesy of Ed Fladung - who's got a groovy blog thing going

Beach Bum is planning on buying himself a longboard when the bank balance moves from red to black (and I can swing the deal past Sea Nymph). Ah, decisions, decisions! There's all the usual ones involved in such a significant procurement and, for good measure, I thought I’d check out the feasibility of buying an “environmentally friendly” (EF) stick.

Sometime ago, I'd read that the a company called Sustainable Composites had teamed up with the Eden Project here in Cornwall and shaped up a highly EF board. This "eco-board" got plus points for effort and concept, but wasn't a serious alternative to existing boards. Bit of a brick was the word on the waves. However, this set me trawling through the net for the lowdown on potential green purchase options.

First off, the thing that hit home was just how noxious many of the key components involved in surfboard production really are. You can read all about the detail here - but suffice to say that "toluene di-isocyanate" is not something to mix with your tequila for that extra kick - unless it's the bucket you wanna put your foot to. There's no doubt that the pollutants associated with surfboard production industry, and the related recyclability issues don't sit well with the oft-cited green ethos of most surfers.

Second, in the UK at least, there’s a definite dearth of options, and I would suggest, a lack of awareness of the issues and alternatives. The most excellent Ecosurf Project does list a range of EF suppliers but that doesn't make it easier for the punter to translate all the good work that's going on into the basics ie where can I buy the board, what types - and at what price. As far as I can see – and please let me know if you know otherwise – available EF boards are produced or supplied in the UK by a few eco-conscious trailblazers, namely:

Ocean Green – who make their boards from hemp & balsa wood sourced from Nicaragua. These guys are literally just up the road from Beach Bum's shack in Newquay, Cornwall

Loose Fit – with an online shop and realtime one at Barnstaple. They stock some boards from Oz shaped by a dude called Tom Wegener and are claimed to be the “world’s most eco-friendly board”. By the by, I like the sound of Loose Fit - everytime they sell you a board they plant a tree!

There’s another Australian innovation in the bamboo board – but their website seems to have suffered a wipeout and any emails sent seem to ping pong back to me unanswered.

Finally, there’s the price. Let's just say that getting my bank balance back on dry land will take significantly longer should I splash out the semolians on any of these new boards. Added to the price is the question of durability, repairability and usability. Not knowing anyone who has one won't necessarily put me off, but I'd love to get some feedback on the gear ahead of buying.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Woodies, Waves & Wagons

As a kid in Norn Irn the early seventies, I used to listen to the Beach Boys on an 8 track stereo unit wedged into the dashboard of my Dad’s car. An 8 track cassette, on reflection, would have doubled as a bodyboard.

We could ride the surf together, while our love would grow, in my Woodie I would take you everywhere I go”. What the heck was a woodie I wondered? (No tittering please, I was a kid, OK?).

I finally figured out that what old Brian Wilson was eugoogolizing alongside his Surfer Girl was a specific version of the “passion wagon”, the “love machine”, the “combie”, the “wheels” or whatever you want to call the vehicle that gets waverider and gear from A to B (where A = too far from beach to walk and B = as close to shoreline as possible).

Of course, this being Britain, while the Yanks had their woodies above, we had the Morris below - the preferred choice of pipe smoking fudsters in tweed.

But wherever the fancy takes you by way of four wheels, all Beach Bums will gradually develop a relationship with their vehicle that may verge on obsession. And to call it a vehicle just ain’t fair. There’s a point in your life when you probably spend more time in it, on it and probably under it, than wherever you call home. Some dudes never move out of their surf van - -check out Rick Stelter’s perspective.

This little vehicle below was mon amour. An AK350 Citroen Left hand drive ’67 import. I could just about sleep in the back of it with a little help from a hip flask of Bushmills. Until the roof rack was fitted, the board was secreted under the chassis when I crashed out. Mind you, when I picked it up for £500, it required some extensive remodelling. A few tins of tank paint courtesy of the MoD and the Gingham curtains had to go!

If you fancy a go at making your own surf van there’s a useful guide that’ll point you in the right direction. If you want to try the combie van experience - minus the clapped out engines and a lifetime subscription to the AA - you can hire one from Kernow Kampers.

Me? With three Nippers now and a Sea Nymph, I need something a little larger to work on - if you have one of these please get in touch!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Free Surfing Lessons & BIG Waves

There may be no such thing as a free lunch but the British Surfing Association is offering 40 free lessons a day for 40 days as part of - you guessed it - their 40th anniversary.

This set what's left of my fevered mind running off in some peculiar directions. There was the 40 days and 40 nights thing - you know Noah and all that rain and overflowing oceans. Then there's Hurricane Gordon blowing this way with waves at Fistral, where the free training is taking place expected to be BIG, and I mean BBBBBIG - this coming Thursday.

Maybe this is why surfing is now determined to be an "extreme" sport. Well , with this mix of newbies and thumping waves, I reckon I need to get down to Fistral with the gear - and the camcorder. Oh yeah, and if you want more lessons when the freebies finish, you can try the...

... or you can hire yourself a pop-out, paddle out and teach yourself!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ear We Go Again

Lies, damn lies and statistics! Well, maybe so Mr.Twain, but here's one for the record. Today on Porthtowan beach, about two dozen Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) volunteers took 20 minutes to collect over 600 of the plastic sticks that end up on our beaches when you take a cotton bud and flush it down the loo - instead of binning it.

As mentioned earlier, Beach Bum, Sea Nymph & Nippers took part in the SAS Beach Clean - part of a wider programme running this weekend organised by the Marine Conservation Society. Something similar was going on on over 70 beaches in Cornwall.

We collected and bagged everything from shotgun cartridges, beer cans, sweet wrappers to tampon applicators. The cotton bud sticks were an eye opener. I had no idea that there was so much ear cleaning going on in Kernow. Perhaps it's the prevalence of Surfer's Ear . The sewage filtering screens, however, have mesh sizes large enough to let them slip through. Then they end up on the beach, along with all the other predominantly plastic crap that plague our shores.

Another "novelty" were the literally thousands of tiny plastic beads that are used in polymer production processes. These get shipped around the oceans and inevitably, either through cargo spillage or otherwise, get washed ashore. See for yourself. Next time you stretch out on the sand, take a look around. You'll find all manner of crud within arm's reach. Sad to say, these days, I reckon there's a lot of us that just get used to it. Part of the seascape. Hopefully, this little exercise in environmental awareness will keep our Nippers sussed, not complacent.

Fortunately, it wasn't all wallowing in waste. We actually had fun. The SAS dudes organised some "competitions" for the folks involved that involved collecting specific waste items within a certain timeframe. I suspect that Andy, who had thought up the bead and bud collection, is probably the sort of person who would have pulled the legs off spiders as a child, but his £50 prizes for these two "events" fairly galvanised the volunteers. After much frantic scrabbling over rocks, stream and sand, I'm stoked to say that Team Bum & Co. pulled off a win and made haste to the ice cream shop with our winnings. Callestick, of course.

Anyway, in case you haven't figured it out yet, SAS are fighting the good fight. Go on soldier, your beaches need you - enlist now!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Beach Clean At Porthtowan

The SAS are organising a Beach Clean at Porthtowan this coming Saturday. This is what I call a "hands on" approach to activism, and one of the reasons I pass on some cash to these guys by way of subscription. A couple of weeks ago, I was bodyboarding with the kids. Sitting on the shoreline pulling off some fins, my eye caught this plastic bag lolling back and forth like a corpse washed up in some B movie. A dog owner had thoughtfully packaged their pooch's poo - how kind - but somehow managed to leave it on the beach... Anyway, gloves will be provided. See you there.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Are You Tough Enough?

That's what the poster asked hanging over the finish line at the end of the Perranporth Surf Challenge Triathlon that was run today. The event is reckoned to be one of the most challenging in the UK and anything that involves an 800m swim in the sea, a 35km cycle and a 7.5km jaunt over beach and dunes, qualifies for "tough" in my blog.

I was just checking the race results tonight and several of the squad from Perranporth SLSC chalked up some tremendous results. I won't mention names, but let's just say that MT, or "The Dude" , as he's affectionately referred to in our house by Nipper 1, carried off the silverware with what looks like a stomping performance.

But for Beach Bum and crew, the main event was prefaced by the Biathlon the day before. This was a fun event organised to give the Nippers and Juniors a taster of what their seniors subject themselves to. It consisted of a swim or wade and then a run along the beach combined with a stretch of sprinting through the town to finish on the green. It coincided with the highest tide at Perranporth for 20 years but fortunatley (or not!), the sea was pancake flat. Late summer sun and a beach less crowded than for many weeks set off the scene perfectly.

For newbies like us, there was much debating about such crucial stuff as whether or not Nipper 1 should wear goggles, full suit or just his rashie. Would a full suit slow him down? Would the basins of water provided be needed in the transition area or would the sand brush off his feet running back from the sea and thus faciltate a quick turn around in getting on the trainers for the sprint? It was getting serious - well, sort of. The kids just had a laugh, but they went for it, big time.

And as they crossed the line, puffed, wet, speckled with sand I, for one, thought, "Yep, they're tough enough".

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Windswept At Fistral

As usual, it was a busy beach at Fistral yesterday. The tourists were thinning out like a rash easing but there was a flurry of activity at the North end with the SLSA National Seniors Championship still going strong.

It was Beach Bum’s first day back with sand between the toes since that run in with salmonella and mighty good it felt too. Bracing, breezy, sunshine – just what the Doctor ordered! Sea Nymph and Nippers in tow, we moseyed along to the South end (after picking up some T-shirts in the Fat Face sale) to let the kids splash about in wetsuits and go crabbing.

Sea Nymph was keen to check out the new-ish beach cafe perched above the rocks - the appropriately monikered “Windswept Cafe”. The cafe perches on top of the building with a board hire-come- coffee shop and the Lifeguard’s station nestled underneath. Be advised, access for disabled is challenging, to say the least.

The staff were pleasant if a little dreamy and we ambled over without any discernible encouragement to a vacant table and plonked ourselves down. The interior décor is suitably “natural”, with washes of white woodwork and pine beams aplenty. Creative decoration as opposed to lavish expense, I reckon. A local photographer’s work is hung around the walls and the atmosphere seems properly chilled.

The balcony seating outside provides diners with a wonderful view of the surf and beach stretching away up to the Headland hotel. There’s a few peculiarities that struck us - like the key required to use the loos and the tiny kitchen area. I pity the poor chef that has to conjure up his culinary thing in this squeezebox.

Alarm bells ring when I see space devoted to the diners at the apparent expense of what should be the heart of any decent restaurant. I couldn’t track down any other reviews on Winsdswept – there’s a link to what looks like their website but it’s broken. Weirdly enough, I was able to find out more about the “chef” at his MySpace site.

“Didn't really wanna stick around my hometown of Worcester, so got a Job and moved to Newquay for a while to see how it goes. So far it is going well and I'm having fun, met some cool people. I'm a chef at the Windswept cafe on south Fistral beach, come and have a meal its all homemade and well nice, I constantly make fishcakes so they must be selling well!”

No doubting his enthusiasm but I think Rick Stein can relax for the moment.

They don’t have credit card facilities installed yet so we had to root around for cash. This fact and the presence of three hungry Nippers baying at our elbows ensured that our selection was something that wouldn’t stretch a chef. Fortunately, the food delivered was tasty and dispatched with gusto.

The menus are scribbled up on blackboards and are not overly fussy or ambitious. It would be nice to have some set menus on the tables though. I have the memory capacity of a gnat, and hate having to shuttle back and forth like a fool to remind myself what’s on offer. So bowls of chips it was, chunky but pleasantly crisp, spinach salad (slightly glutinous dressing) and calamari with the ubiquitous sticky Thai dressing. Coffee was excellent (phew!) and the sliver of brownie slightly squishy, but acceptable. We both felt prices were on the high side for the quality and presentation of the food on offer.

There’s an unusual loyalty card scheme in operation that involves stamping cards in return for some freebies after x visits. Based on this taster, we will be back – minus the Nippers – to try something more adventurous. I hope it does well. There’s stiff competition from the Lewinnick Lodge just over the hill and Fistral Blu at the far end of the beach. The business buzz over the winter months will be the acid test I guess.

(This post has been so Googled many time - there's more on the Windswept including reservation numbers here!)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fistral Surf Company

If you're into retail therapy then the surf stores in Newquay will provide you with a plethora of shopping opportunities by way of a cure. There's a glut of shops down here that will cater for all your surfing needs - whether you realise you have them or not. Whatever your view on the rampant commercialization of the sport, there comes a time when a purchase is required. In my case, this usually means cossies & kit for the Nippers or relatives on tour.

First stop for me is usually the boys at FSC. Over the years, I reckon I've bought more gear from these guys than any other local company. My rationale is simple - the guys know their stuff, are willing to negotiate over price if you end up spending a reasonable amount and look like they are actually making an effort to keep the customer satisfied.

Nipper No.1 recently got his first board from FSC and the dudes involved made the little grom feel special, which rates highly with Beach Bum given the usual scowls of some sour faced shop keepers when a kid appears.

By the way, the board in question is a Salomon Noseless Gambler - "An offshoot of the Salomon S-Core board is the noseless board, designed by surfer Nick Wallace and inspired by skateboards. The Noseless Judge, Dog town and Noseless Gambler are responsive boards with good buoyancy making them suitable for younger /shorter surfers. Designed with kids and tricks in mind, all of the Noseless collection pushes surfing to a new generation."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Dive, Dive, Dive!

Is this the latest Surfers Against Sewage stunt? What a novel way to collect garbage from the seabed, eh? No, of course not - this is an Ami (singular) doing what Ama (plural) have done for centuries - diving down deep for seaborne goodies such as octopus, sea urchin and abalone.

The Ama are a select, all-woman coterie of Japanese divers that originally dove for pearl oysters and then, when some clever clogs figured out how to farm cultured pearls, switched to diving for the aforementioned, much prized delicacies.

These outstanding Japanese ladies were considered better suited to the diving business than the blokes since, it was reasoned, they had more fat and greater lung capacity. It was only recently that these sea nymphs have shifted from diving in cotton robes to wetsuits apparently. Most of them actively diving in Japan today would qualify for bus passes here. Seems sad then, that this way of life is on the wane, like a lot of traditional fishing practices elsewhere.

I think I'm turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Your Oceans Need You!

Despite running the risk of turning into a bona fide tree hugger I want to point you in the direction of another worthy cause to consider. Greenpeace are running a "Defending Our Oceans" campaign that is entirely laudable and deserving of your support.

Coming from a part of the UK where raw, untreated sewage can still be poured from large towns directly into the sea, I have tended to make donations to most excellent groups like Surfers Against Sewage that deal with, for me, very local pollution & environmental issues.

Greenpeace has a global reach but we all share the same seas and the same concerns. Yeah, and there's always the cool wallpapers too.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Endless Bummer?

I was flicking through "Surf Movies Tonite!" - a book of surf movie poster art - and like a kipper that repeats , the Endless Summer artwork is given a couple of pages. The way this movie still gets mentioned from time to time, you would be forgiven for thinking that it's something worth watching.

Quick synopsis - two Californian surfers take boards and travel the world checking out some superb - and at the time unspoilt - surf spots circa 1965. The dudes involved, perhaps unfairly, look like everyone's stereotype of a WASP. Seeing them boarding planes wearing blazers with long boards under their arms is sort of compelling in a weird, disturbing, Austin Powers kind of way.

As a period piece, it has its merits I suppose. I tried going with it but was really turned off by the lines like, "Being good Africans, they threw rocks" and the generally condescending (I'm being polite) comments about the "Natives". Wonder where these guys are doing today? Hopefully not working on foreign policy for Washington.

Riding Giants instead then, OK?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Pass The Pasty

Beach Bum had a serious run in recently with the bacterial twins, Sam and Ella, that made for a whole lot less beach and a lot more bum. I just started eating again after 4 days on a liquid diet so it's appropriate that this new post focuses on something more solid.

Yes, I'm talking about the magnificent Cornish pasty that you might have expected to have made an earlier appearance on this blog. For surely, what better way to revitalise the energy levels after a day's surf stuff? This is food perfectly designed for eating on the hoof, food that you want to stuff your face with," get down yerself", when the mega-munchies set in.

There are all manner of different fillings these days. I am, however, a trad steak pasty guy myself so I'm not tempted by the exotic variations now on offer. My idea of "different" for a pasty is chucking on a bit of HP sauce. Anyone spotted some really whacko pasty fillings out there? Do tell.

Anyway, for those of you in exile, in need of a pasty fix or just plain curious to sample this unique wedge of life you can order some of Cornwall's finest from the dudes at thePasty.com.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mad Marlin & Sashimi

I listed "The Old Man & The Sea" as a favourite read some time ago under Beach Bum recommends. There's the style and pared down craftsmanship that Hemingway brings to his writing. Yip, plenty of top drawer literary stuff that those more qualified to criticise can edumacate us all about. Personally, shallow Beach Bum that I am, I have to say that Santiago's culinary techniques with fish is what really sticks in my mind. The old fisherman ends up eating a lot of raw fish. He wishes he had brought some limes aboard his skiff and that he'd had the foresight to evaporate some seawater down to salt - all for extra piquancy. I love my sashimi too and could really identify with his thinking there.

And then, of course, there's the humongous marlin that he struggles with throughout he story. So when I spotted a newspaper clip entitled "The fisherman, the marlin and a narrow escape", I had to read on.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Man Down

Microsoft have made available this blog writer that - supposedly - allows you to post to your blog and do all manner of cool stuff. Well, if this scribble turns up where it's supposed to then it will certainly smooth out the fiddly bits of blogging.

Apologies for the total lack of beachy, wavey, surfy stuff here .. I know, it depresses me too. Beach Bum has been laid up with a gammy knee and has thus had more time to fiddle with his PC.

One plus was the realisation that a blog equivalent of a scribble pad would be handy, if only to spare us all this sort of post. MSN My Spaces here I come ...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Perfect Pizzas At Poldhu

I love beaches, I love summer and I love Cornwall. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems that everyone else “up country” does too. So the population of Cornwall at this time of year swells significantly. This is good for the tourist industry, on which the county has perhaps a rather unhealthy dependency, but bad for us Beach Bums that like less crowded beaches and less cluttered breaks.

Fortunately, we have the Lizard, where the chances are, you can still find coves not crowded out entirely by sun scorched lobsters and their ilk. And so it was, late last Tuesday afternoon we found ourselves heading round to Poldhu Cove to work off some seriously tasty luncheon downed earlier at the New Yard restaurant at Trelowarren Estate.

There followed the usual bucket & spade thing with the kids. Sea Nymph almost got a hair braid but it was late in the day and the girl was packing up. Our Nipper got some sandpapering on the face as he managed to get dumped off his bodyboard right up the shingle shore. Beach Bum caught some late afternoon sun in the beach chair and all was well with the world. The munchies set in.

Fortunately, Poldhu has its own most excellent beach café. Don’t expect the Fistral Blu experience here- this is the beach equivalent of a roadside diner but none the less impressive for it. In fact, I fear such establishments will eventually get a makeover and end up looking like most every other “commercial” beach front eatery. But listen, the thing is, the place does tastedelicious pizzas. Italian bases, toppings sorted on site and within minutes, you’re sitting back smiling. Don’t know what’s in the mushrooms though. That night Beach Bum and Sea Nymph both had some seriously psychedelic dreams…

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

No More Heroes Anymore?

So asked the Stranglers way back in the late seventies and as the grumpy old man here begins to morph alongside the Beach Bum, I often ponder the same question when I look at some held up as idols for kids these days.

Let me point you in the direction of some real heroes that need your support. A little intro first...

Beach Bum & Sea Nymph were recently on holiday in Scotland and kids finally bunked away, we were sitting tucked up in this imperial sized monster of a bed with the TV on, channel hopping.

We started watching a documentary about the Penlee lifeboat disaster and I don't think we exchanged another word until it was over. Tragic, gripping, heroic, poetic - words fail to grapple with just how poignantly this tragedy unfolded.

Back around Christmas 1981, the Solomon Browne lifeboat launched out of Mousehole to respond to a distress call from a freighter dangerously close to the rocks off Land's End. The sea conditions that night were, frankly, the stuff of nightmares. The waves were so high that the helicopter charged with an initial rescue attempt was in danger of being clipped by the breakers.
The crew were all local volunteers. We often talk about how "you couldn't be paid to do a job like that" but watching the program, there was something hauntingly transcendent about these men and their sense of duty. To leave family and friends ashore and venture out in a lifboat under such staggeringly attrocious conditions was both confounding and inspiring.

That night 16 in total were claimed by the sea - from the freighter and the entire crew of the Solomon Browne.

I'd usually complain about how the scandalous it is that we live in a country where we can spend so much on other people's wars and yet we have to fork out of the public purse to keep such valuable services afloat. Well, blah, blah, blah .. this time, I just don't care about the politics. I went to the RNLI's (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) site and simply joined up as a member.

Do the right thing and join up or make a donation here.

National Nippers Championship: Day 2

Day two, the sun shone through, and the events rolled on. Someone clever had organised a medal ceremony so that everyone taking part took something home, not just the winners in each event. I know one little boy who took his medal on holiday and wore it for the best part of a week ... that's motivation for you!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

National Nippers Championship: Day 1

Otherwise known as "Attack of The Killer Bees". Was it Pete or Spike that coined the term? Well, it seems to have stuck. The Perranporth Nippers were out in force today competing against close to 500 other kids from all over the country. Resplendent in their spanking new yellow rash vests, specially made for us by Jaberwocky Surfwear, with their black & yellow hats and speedos, they looked every inch the swarm of hornets, buzzing around the marshalls and our team managers.

Portreath Surf Life Saving Club are the hosts over the two day event and are doing a fine job, the early morning provisioning of bacon butties being much appreciated. Given the number of kids, the different events & heats, the organisation has been admirable. The tents, pennants and gazebos pitched on the beach conpsire with the club colours to lend the whole event a slight air of a medieval joust.

For once the forecasters got it right. The weather was crap. No other way to describe the downpours interspersed by relentless drizzle. Cruel indeed as the early morning sun had threatened to break out in force at one point. Did it take a fiz out of the kids ? Not a jot. And standing in the sea, neck deep in a swell that lifts you several feet above the sand, or duck diving under pumping breakers, you see these scrawny 8 year olds swim out around the marker buoys, faces etched with exertion, and marvel.

Pity the poor sea-nymph though, squeezed into a sodden excuse for a tent, feeding soggy rolls to the 3 year old. NB : replace existing decrepit beach tent asap.