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 d├ęcor 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.