Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I think I have a temperature...

... my brain's been poached and dribbles from my nose. I'm slipping back 'twixt fevered sheets for more hallucinations.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pro Surfer Perks

Who needs a roof-rack?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"There's Gold In Them Thar Waves!"

Well, there was a £1000 (courtesy of Skinners Brewery) and a year's supply of beanies (from Ignite) for the winner of the "Gold Rush" - the invite only surfing competition that was held at Fistral beach last Sunday. Who goes through beanies that fast, I wondered?

Billed as the UK's only Big Wave competition, the event is called with three days notice when the organisers have huddled round the weather charts and figured out that "something wicked this ways comes".

With boards the size of plectrums, the competitors pulled on their sucky boots and carved, barrelled, hacked and flew fin-free - with Tony Good from the
BSA sporting a trilby whilst providing a pithy, running commentary. Hell knows how they score these things but local boy Oli Adams grabbed the gold and bagged the beanies. Full report here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Al Mennie Talks Tow In Surfing

Unless you've been off the planet for a spell, most of you will know that Dec 1st saw a group of UK based tow surfers take on some mighty waves off the West Coast Of Ireland. I was super stoked to track down Alastair Mennie to ask him about the session and his surfing career just before he headed off to Mavericks.

When and where did you catch your first wave?

"I caught my first wave on a body board when I was nine. I caught my first wave on a surfboard when I was 11 at Castlerock. My arms weren’t long enough to carry it so my Dad had to carry it for me. I wore a life jacket for about the first six months 'cause my Mum wouldn’t let me go into the sea without one!"

What was your first surfboard like?

"My first board was a 7’2” pop out, covered in stickers and not much wax 'cause I didn’t know you needed it."

What do you get up to when you're not racing down the face of some wild wave monster?

"I spend a lot of time training - in my home gym, on the bike and eating well. I believe training and preparation are the keys to surfing confidently. I used to compete on the UK pro tour and I approached those events very professionally - the same way I do now for big wave surfing. I also do some stuff in the property market."

You're from Portrush in Northern Ireland (NI). It's often described as the "surfing capital" of NI. Given that quite a few people reading this may have never have heard of Portrush or associated NI with surfing, how would you describe the scene up there today?

"It used to be that throughout the summer you’d get a few more people than normal in the water - people came to Portrush for their summer holiday. Come the end of October anyone who was a summer surfer had fled back indoors and only a small number of hard core surfers stuck out the winter. Now in the summer the waves are packed unless it’s early in the morning and in the winter there are still more surf commuters in the water than there are locals. I used to recognise everyone at the beach even only 2 years ago, nowadays I'd say I only recognise about 40% of the faces on any given day."

What got you into tow surfing?

"I got into tow surfing mainly through the desire to surf bigger and bigger waves. I bought a boat first and then some Admiralty charts. I studied the charts for the whole North and North West coastline, ringed a few likely spots along the coast and went out there over the space of a year in search of offshore big wave surf spots. When I realised that I had discovered three or four locations and paddled a couple of them, I knew the potential for bigger than paddleable waves was present and I needed to be prepared for them when they next arrived - so I bought a ski."

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take on waves like we saw a few weekends ago?

"If you're seriously interested in surfing big waves you'll know it in your heart. It’s not something I ever decided to do; it’s just something I do because I have to. I think if you are trying to talk yourself into it then it’s probably not for you. I remember sitting in my bedroom with my wee brother when I was 13 watching the latest Mavs video and actually saying “I’m going to do that someday, I’m gonna ride one of those big waves”. There is a line in a song by a band called Stampin Ground which comes to mind-‘those who restrain desire, do so because their desire is weak enough to be restrained’"

Al living the dream

The British Tow Surf Association is a relatively new body - what and who was the driving force behind its formation?

"My friend Duncan Scott was the main man in the formation of the BTSA. He's an exceptionally talented surfer, speaker and writer - there's really no better man for the job. He has a driving passion for big waves not unlike my own and he set it up mainly to support the tow surfers and to help them with safety training options, advice and a voice."

Reading through the B-TSA's mission statement it struck me just how much kit is needed for a tow in session. What kind of expenditure is needed to cover kit alone?

"Kit is a serious expense - maybe one of the factors that keeps the numbers of skis down. All in all, if you have no discounts or sponsorships and you buy everything new you could be looking at close to 10K. It's easy to get a ski for a couple grand and make do with what you’ve got - but I’ve been there and it can be a nightmare not having the right equipment.

For example the rope I use is very thick and it floats. It's designed so that the Jet Ski intake doesn’t pull it in. I used an ordinary water ski rope when I started and three times we drove over it and it got stuck inside the ski - once it happened a mile off the coast at a reef we had never surfed before. My friend Carl and I had to swim it in for a mile through offshore reefs. I also started without a rescue sled - that's a vital piece of equipment though it's only now that I realise that. It's so
important in so many areas and can literally help save lives if something goes wrong. My point is it is very important to use the right equipment that has been tried and tested regardless of the cost - it may save you or your partner’s life."

Given that your recent exploits at Mullaghmore and Aileens will have turned a few heads and stimulated further interest in Irish surfing, do you think that there's a risk that surfing in Ireland will ever get as "commercialised" or crowded like the way it has in parts of the South West?

"I think surfing in general will get more popular as it becomes more accessible through better technology. Though I don’t think it will get as crowded as it is in England. It is bleak and cold here in winter and most people would rather spend their money and go to the Canaries for a week than go to the wilds of Ireland or Northern Ireland - at least in the winter. Yes I agree that in the summer it will more than likely get more and more crowded."

Take us through the thought process in riding waves of the size we saw recently off the Irish coast? Where's your fear zone in the process - I mean do you get more anxious about preparation, take off - what? (I'm assuming you feel fear!)

"The anticipation of what could happen scares me more than the reality - at least that's the case so far. I get scared when I think my tow partner isn’t concentrating for a split second as I know he has to be on the ball at all times. I think that's the scariest thing about tow surfing in particular. You need to have confidence in your own surfing / driving ability but also that of your partner. In this you are a team and you really are only as good as your partner - that can be very rewarding or very frustrating and scary."

As you describe it, the relationship between the guy on the Jet Ski and the guy and the board must be pretty tight. What do you look for in a partner?

"I've worked with a few of my friends on this and then realised that it can't just be your mate - it has to be someone who has the same desire as you. That may not be a close friend but that person will have the same desire and drive for it. I’ve done a lot with Cotty (Andrew Cotton). Cotty and I have learned a lot together and been through some very testing times (not to say we’re not friends). We've had the highs and the lows but perseverance has paid off so we understand how each other thinks - whether they are on the ski or on the rope.

I've also worked closely with Duncan and spent a fair bit of time with him, sometimes not in the same team but within the same session so we both know what each other is thinking too. It takes time to learn how someone reacts in situations in big surf and know what they are going to do before they do it and also what they're comfortable with. I mean Cotty knows exactly what I’m comfortable with and where I want to be put on a wave and he also knows what I expect him to do and vice versa . It is the same with Duncan. I think the most important part of tow surfing and by far the most difficult to perfect is ski handling in big surf. The surfing part comes more naturally 'cause as a surfer you’ve been doing it for years."

I read somewhere that you and Andrew Cotton are "probably the most experienced tow team in Britain and Ireland." - this something you'd agree with?

"We certainly have had a great deal of experience, especially on our own. We've spent numerous sessions on in perfect and horrendous surf and driving conditions. We've experienced the highs of riding big waves and doing everything right and also the lows of getting washed off the ski or losing faith in each other. We spend about 99% of our tow surfing time in poor conditions because that's what's and we have to make do with it. It is very rarely glassy and big like other parts of the world - so for us to be able to drive in bad conditions sets us in good stead for the rare occasions when it's really good."

There are people out there who will be trying to get their head round how the sort of modern tow board you rode at Mullaghmore differs from a "regular" board. Tell us a bit about the design elements and set up of the board you ride, weight and so forth. How much input do you have into the design process for the board(s) you ride?

"I basically speak to Jeff about what I’m going to need the board for, make a few suggestions and then he throws in his ideas and we meet somewhere in the middle. The design of a tow board is slightly different to a short board for example.

The one I rode on Dec 1st I had only been ridden twice before as it was only designed for really big waves. That’s actually a problem with tow board testing; you can’t tell how its gonna work on a big wave until you are hurtling down the face of one! The board I rode on Dec 1st was a 6’0” x 2” x 16.5”. It weighs about 10kgs and hardly floats (keep in mind I’m 6’5”). It's triple layered in 6 oz glass with epoxy resin and then loaded with steel bars to put extra weight in it. It's sprayed orange so that it can be seen after a wipe-out as we don’t wear leashes. The weight is in there to make the board go faster, kill chop and allows you to let go of the rope earlier and glide on the swell line before it breaks so you can get into position. It's designed to go straight very fast. I have just got a new one with a wider tail template and slightly more rocker. The straps are adjustable in position on the deck and also in their tightness. The straps are needed so that you don’t get bounced off at speed and the board stays with you."

I've read a lot about Duncan Scott and your mates at Mullaghmore but I also heard a rumour that it was you that caught the biggest wave? To what extent do you guys compete with each other and is bigger always better?

"I personally don’t compete for the biggest wave. I can’t speak for anyone else though I know it's always the first question a journalist asks! "How big was it and who rode the biggest?" Also it's not fair to give credit solely to the rider as it was the driver that put you there. I always go out there wanting to surf the biggest wave I can get my hands on but that’s for my own enjoyment - I’m not trying to better someone else. In fact I’m a very conservative tow surfer. I play it very safe. I don’t take silly risks, I try to play it on the safe side, and I owe it to those around me to do so. On Dec 1st I actually wore two impact vests!"

Your wipe-out from hell - where and when?

"Touch wood-I’ve never had anything that’s really scared me enough to think right that’s it, that was way too close for comfort. I’ve been rolled around under water for ages once but I was OK. When I was 16 I paddled out in Tenerife on my own when the whole bay was closing out. I got caught inside and took a fairly big one on the head and my wetsuit got ripped down to my ankles, that was pretty scary."

What's (pun intended) in the pipeline now?

"I’m just about to get ready for a session at Aileens in two days time, swell looks big and winds are good. Then the next day I’m off to Mavericks again. I haven’t been there in two years, it’ll be good to go back now that I’ve surfed a lot more big waves since I was last there. Apart from that I’m going to be waiting for the next big swell to come and hopefully light up one of the offshore reefs we have been looking at."

What's your take on the recent BA ban on carrying surfboards on board flights?

"The whole thing with excess baggage is a joke never mind banning boards. I hate when organisations or people try to ban things. Duncan organised a hefty petition and went to parliament with it on behalf of everyone - he’s the man! It’s like the Jet Ski thing. I know some people hate them and they're often banned from being used at beaches but it is generally down to the people that have them that ruin it for others as they haven’t been educated or trained in the safe use of one. Anyway, I feel it is much better to regulate rather than ban something like surfboards on a plane."

If you didn't surf what other sport would you focus on?

"I’d probably be playing Rugby. I used to play at school and for the local team - I really enjoyed it. I had to make a decision as to whether I was going to focus on surfing or rugby and surfing ran away with it. I don’t even watch rugby now but I enjoyed playing it so it would probably be that."

Surfing heroes - did you have any as a kid?

"As a kid and all through my surfing I don’t remember looking up to any surfer at all. I wasn’t that interested in following any of them. I remember looking at pictures of Mavericks and Waimeia that I'd cut out of a magazine and stuck on my wall though but that’s as far as it went."

You're on Surfari - what’s in the CD / iPod / mp3 changer?

"I listen to Hatebreed, Terror, Throwdown, Stampin Ground, Otep"

Gym, pool or bar?

"I don’t go to any really. I have a home gym that I train on a lot, I do all my swimming in the sea in a wetsuit and I don’t go to bars 'cause I don’t drink and I’d rather be doing something else."

Thanks Al - stickin out!

Al is sponsored by Gecko (headgear) and Circle One.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pro Surfer Or Oompa Loompa?

"A vast majority of surfers are built like sea turtles - short as hell. Most of the women are barely over 5 feet; many of the men are barely over 5-5 with wide torsos and really short legs and arms with wide hands like flippers, and long, rubbery spines that seem to have too many vertebrae, like the Ingres Odalisque. Extremely low center of gravity. The Brazilian pros are practically Oompa Loompas - they weigh little more than the chicks, and it does nothing but magical things for their wave ability."

I stumbled upon this wickedly descriptive prose by way of Charlie Don't Surf and his spleen venting
musings on surf journalism. Penned by one Cintra Wilson following some reportage at the Lacanau pro, France, way back in 1999, I insisted on reading out the following sample to Sea Nymph - twice.

"Brock Little looked like a piece of animated driftwood. He'd been absolutely chiseled by the teeth of the ocean, physically and spiritually -- he had the look of somebody who's died six or seven times already and is now a project of voodoo scientists, running on some whole other ghost chemical. All the blood in his body has been removed and replaced with concentrated adrenaline and a clear, high-octane bionic fluid made from denatured testosterone and the distilled essences of his dead friends, which makes him beautiful and creepy to look upon."

Cintra's original article
here for more of the same. Enjoy - I did.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rupert Bear - Eco Warrior

About this time of year, along with ordering the turkey, Beach Bum makes sure that there's a Rupert Annual on the Christmas shopping list – for the Nippers of course, ahem. (For those of you that need edumacating – look here for the low-down on the furry wagster.)

Rupert and all his “chums” (yes, those were what you had before you had “mates”) get up to stuff that would have old Jimbo Bond look on with envy.

Now Rupert’s parents – Mr & Mrs Bear naturally – would probably baulk at the suggestion, but I reckon that Rupert is just a few furry steps way from reaching Beach Bum status. Look at the evidence! Every opportunity he gets he’s on the beach, in the sea or off on holiday to Rocky Bay – which is clearly just St.Ives with a different name. Give this bear a bucket and spade, a stretch of sand and in no time he’s hobnobbing with Neptune or diving with sea dragons.

But this is a bear with a conscience and when he’s not helping stranded whales or rescuing stolen merboys, Rupert rolls up his sleeves, gets down and dirty with the beachcombers (they’re the ones with the shell hats) and gets his beaches clean. I will be writing shortly then, as a fully paid up member of
Surfers Against Sewage, and asking them to consider conferring honorary lifelong membership on this bear. I urge you to follow suit.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Definitely Too Sticky...

I was going to save this for later, but it's Christmas and I have a tree to hack down.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Move Over Mavericks - Mullaghmore Is Pumping

Photo: Kelly Allen

Back before Troggs, circa 1980, I don't recall seeing many surfboards or surfers blowing round the streets of Portrush. Today it may be touted as the "surfing capital of Northern Ireland", but back then it was Barrys, the bars and the Golf course that was bringing in the tourists, not the surf. In fact, finding a surfboard in NI back then was almost, but not quite mission impossible.

Back then Alistair Mennie might have been in nappies, might only have been a twinkle in his parent's eyes but this weekend, the Portrush lad has had quite possibly the ride of his life - and I'm not talking about something that went on at Kellys.

Along with Newquay surfer Duncan Scott, Alistair has been out off Mullaghmore head in Donegal ripping up some humongous 50-60ft waves that, frankly, look just scary.

Speaking earlier in October about
Driven - the film that charts the hunt for these West Coast monster waves - Big Al commented that he "knew for years that these sort of waves existed off our coastline and now we are riding them on a regular basis. Now that it has been proved that waves as big as can be found anywhere in the world exist off our shores, the only question left to be answered is how big can it get?" Looks like you got close to finding that out this weekend Al. Respect.

PS It's a small world Mr. B - I'm the bloke that found your wallet in Perranporth.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Beer For Surfing Saints

It's been one of those weeks. In a few minutes, I'll be throwing on a Hawaiian shirt despite the gales and rain. Some Surf Club mates have organized a tour of Skinner's Brewery where I hope to visit the bottom of as many bottles as I can, with a stopover at pasty island.

St Piran was an Irish saint who crossed the sea on a millstone, got the job as Cornwall's Patron Saint and had one of the brewery's brews named after him. Something like that anyway. As someone in the Antarctic once said, "I am just going outside and may be some time." Hope it don't end up like this...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In the Midst of Life...

...we are in death - something I've always been aware of having grown up in Northern Ireland where the "troubles" (a politically convenient euphemism for civil war) meant that nearly everyone knew somebody who'd been shot, bombed or intimidated.

Sometimes though, the transient, fragile nature of life is set into relief not by the big events, but by the small ones. Recently, I'd been out snapping pics near Fistral and came across a bench on the headland with this plaque attached.

The well weathered bench commands a wonderful view across the beach. I sat down and wondered where Randall's spirit surfs these days. A few days later, the local media were reporting the untimely death in Hawaii of Nolan McSkimming, another local surfer. Many papers prefaced their reports with an eye-catching but heartbreakingly poignant picture of Nolan riding a wave in with his baby daughter balanced on one hand.

And then on Monday, I found myself trying to comfort a young man whose face had just smashed through the windscreen of his car. The front end of his vehicle was crushed like a crate of crumpled tin cans against his chest, his legs trapped and broken, his face unrecognisable, the pleading groans unbearable to listen to.

Brooding then on one's mortality and the middling years seem co-joined in a mind game, sidling round each other like boxers in a ring. Combine this morbid introspection with a healthy dose of hypochondriasis and I'm reaching for the Leonard Cohen with the Laphroaig. My facial expression these last few days, is, as Sea Nymph assures me as "long as a Lurgan spade".

Perhaps I'm suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). "One in five Irish suffer from SAD" - presumably that figure rises when the pubs close. As Juliet Turner sings, "I read it in a magazine, so it must be true it must be true".

(I suppose if a Beach Bum is going to have one of those slightly undiagnosable conditions what better cross to bear than a condition that is treatable by extra exposure to sunlight? Perhaps I can persuade my friend Marty, the GP from Port Wenn to write me a prescription that involves two tickets to the Gold Coast?)

I phoned the cops today who sorted out the accident. The lad's in a bad way but he will live, thank God. As you can probably tell, it was eating at me. I wish him well, I really do.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Maybe too sticky?

I promise I'll get over my wax fixation soon but sometimes, a picture paints a thousand words...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Smells Like White Spirit : De-Wax Your Stick

There comes the day, there comes the hour when your surfboard needs (there's probably a groovy technical term for this) "de-waxing". How best to ex wax your Sex Wax? Down at the Club the other day, this very question sprouted like a seedling for the first time inside the skull of Nipper 1.

In the course of a conversation with an older lad - who has a Saturday job at a local surf shop and is therefore perceived as a kind of surfing Solomon - my boy was touting for some feedback on his
snub nosed board. "Cool board, but you should take better care of it", answered the oracle of the ocean, pointing at the layer of sand and detritus embedded in the waxy deck. He had a point - there's traction and then there's sandpaper.

This gentle admonishment from an older peer, along with a comment that some "
X-Wax" would have it looking like new had Nipper 1 energised with a focus that was positively revelatory. Nothing would hold him back from scouring every surf shop on the strip for a bottle of this magic potion but I wasn't going to hold him back. I was thinking ahead.

In a big book called "How To Bring Up Children Proper" I'd read about something called "developmental markers". In my view this type of single mindedness is to be encouraged and, like early induction to lawnmowers, must help these markers getting met. Young children appreciate being given purposeful tasks and when I'm swinging from my hammock, glass in hand and encouraging their business, I may as well have them de-waxing my kit as their own. Come on, they're too big to fit up chimneys.

Well, there was no X-Wax to be had but I wasn't going to deny Nipper 1 the opportunity to acquire a valuable new life skill. Sex Wax and most (but not all) similar products are a combination of paraffin wax, beeswax and synthetic scents. White spirit is a paraffin derived solvent and as every chemist knows, "like dissolves like". One stop at the hardware store later, we were off home with a bottle of the stuff at a fraction of the cost of what we'd pay for something in a bottle with a seXy brand.

Scrape off the bulk of the wax (having first warmed the wax in the sun or as it's the UK - with a hairdryer), mix a little water in with your white spirit, apply to a cloth and you will have the residue off and the board shop new in no time at all. Try not to inhale, though.

As well as similar commercial solvents like
Chief Firewater there's other more exotic kit out there that you can use. Now I've never seen the Pickle Wax Remover from Hawaii in action here but I'm sure somebody reading this can vouch for its effectiveness. It might double as a stress ball but I don't recommend sticking it in your hand luggage on a flight to Bangkok - looks like something a cocaine mule might swallow.

Finally, there's the question of what you do with the wax scrapings. If anyone can come up with a constructive or amusing suggestion, I'll send you a couple of blocks of special edition hi definition Sex Wax. In Wales I hear they fashion them into weird looking voodoo doll heads to "scare off tourists" ...

PS: Seems there's almost no post title out there you can dream up that isn't the name of someone else's blog. "
Smells like White Spirit" is a case in point, and as the author's just across the border in Devon, and I like his style (bandana excepted) he gets a mention here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

For Sale - Environmentally Friendly Surfboard...

...runs on chip fat, two carbon feet and a bungee cord - Moses sandals not included in sale.

Monday, November 12, 2007

UK teams Grab Gold in France at 1st European Surf Rowers Championships

The weekend before last our Surfboat teams, affectionately known as "boaties", did the UK (and Cornwall in particular) proud by winning both the men's and lady's races at the first ever European Surfboat Championships held at Hossegor in France. The waves may have been flat but the adrenalin was pumping. Competing against teams from France, Portugal and Spain, Porthtowan took the honours for the blokes and the bold ladies from Bude just pipped our gal's team from Perranporth to grab the gold. By all accounts, it was a weekend to remember with
Le Surf Boat à Hossegor Sauvetage Côtier hosting the event with commensurate hospitality and elan.

Perranporth Desperados Down & Dirty

Perranporth Rebel Angels Go For Glory

At the post race congress, the European Surf Rowers Federation was formed. With "traditional" and long established UK rowing clubs getting into the action, and a dedicated organisation now behind it, this is a sport that is just going to grow and grow.

Next September will see the world's finest professional surfboats teams from Australia roll out their Ocean Thunder event in Biarritz, setting up a tussle in the surf that promises to set the surfboat scene in Europe ablaze.

The Aussies, with a tradition in surf boat racing that's almost a way of life, will fancy themselves big time. I wager they'll get a surprise or two in the Bay Of Biscay. With media coverage to follow this event no less than global, any prospective sponsors out there with smarts best start queuing up now to get their logos on a surfboat.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

John From Cincinnati, John Butler Trio and The White Buffalo

I really get into stuff. On the whole though, when it comes to music and soaps, I get into it several years, and sometimes decades, after everybody else has seen it, heard it or are wearing the, by then, retro T-shirts. This is probably classified as a character defect.

Take "Cheers". An old mate - I'll call him "Chuck" - 'cause that's what we called him even though he was a "Martin" - couldn't decide if he was a New Yorker or a Belfast boy. When he was in Belfast, he wanted to be in New York and when he was in Belfast, well, you get the picture. He raved on and on and on about Cheers until frankly, I made a personal pledge never to watch an episode, even when I was dragged into the bar in Boston that inspired the series - a peculiar tactic I thought, the assumption being that this would somehow connect me to the masterpiece of comedic art I was missing out on. I enjoyed the chicken wings but not much else. And nobody knew my name.

Now I'm collecting the DVD releases and watch them in bed at night, stifling guffaws while Sea Nymph slumbers. After never having seen an episode of the Sopranos, I'm fully expecting that in five years time, I will be engaged in similar nocturnal practices.

Now as far as I know,
John From Cincinnati, the HBO series about several generations of a family described as "surfing royalty turned society misfits" (oxymoron, anyone?) hasn't aired in the UK yet. I understand that the series had a devoted following of three or four fans, was very "dark" and "surf noir" and then one day, as Zimmy would say, the network axe just fell. Having never seen an episode, I can really only comment on the title - which made me laugh.

Given the marketing hyperdrive that's been firmly applied to the surfing engine, I thought the absolute unconnectedness to anything that sounds remotely gnarly was a stroke of genius. I also found myself wondering if someone at the BBC would commission a similar programme here based on several generations of
Badlands boyos - something like "Steve of St.Aggie" or the like.

If you've followed my mental meanderings this far, well done! It's a roundabout way of sharing the acoustically orgasmic enjoyment that a batch of
John Butler Trio albums that I've been playing on random, replay mode have been bringing me. I urge you uninitiated few, to go forth and and tune in to this Australian combo.


After that (and thanks to Kim at Sharkbait's Local Spot for this) you may possibly want to track down the White Buffalo, the alter ego of one Jake Smith, a thirty something with the bellow and hairstyle of a bison - or a buffalo. "Although he’s toured with roots artists like Donovan Frankenreiter , and his songs used in surfing movies, Smith says it’s just that lazy affiliation when people compare him to shoes-off beach-sitters like Jack Johnson. “I don’t think my music speaks to surfers any more than it would farmers, or your criminal neighbour. It’s a little bit darker.” See? There is such a thing as surf noir. Anyone wearing a German Army tunic (he's been staying up late watching Big Wednesday), and sporting a beard like a prophet (not the prophet, I hasten to add - I've been through that movie before) deserves some ear time.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Taiji - some days that will live in infamy

The saga of the seven plagues of Egypt - the curse where rivers and streams turn to blood - kept trickling through my head as I stared at this shocking image from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's site. This isn't Egypt but the coastline off Taiji, one of a number of villages that make up part of the fishing community in this region of Southern Japan. The ocean has turned a gory red, awash with blood from scores of dolphins, porpoises and small whales that are herded into shallow water for slow death slaughter by spear, knife and hook.

The dolphins are caught and valued for their meat but some end up in "dolphinariums" - sadly still an industry out there, where idiots pay money to go watch these wonderful creatures do circus tricks. In Taiji, there's a dolphin slaughterhouse to process the carcasses that are hunted down over the six month "season". There have been efforts to feed the school kids dolphin and whale meat in a kind of nightmarish self justification - despite the fact that mercury levels ten times higher than that recommended by Japan's own Health Ministry have been detected in the food.

I guess part of the reason I'm aware of this shameful practice, are the media waves that professional surfer and dolphin defender Dave Rastovich have generated by holding a paddle out ceremony to commemorate these creature's needless deaths. The Save Japan's Dolphins Campaign has more on this and a link to how you can help. You can also write to the Japanese Prime Minister here and give off stink.

A footnote: I note that it is easier to contact the Prime Minister of Japan than Willie Walsh, the Chief Executive of the "Worlds Favourite Airline"...(not)

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Day Without Boards...

Once in a while I'll try to bodysurf. Picture your shirt spinning round and round in the washing machine and you've a pretty good approximation of my style and ability. Now take a look at the clip attached and see how it should be done. It really is gobsmackingly great to see these dudes ride waves the way, some would argue, nature intended.

A word of warning - watch out for Todd Selis wearing what looks like a pair of pink knickers on his head. This may detract from your viewing pleasure - frankly, it only added to mine. More on bodysurfing here and here.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Surf Film Double Bill For SAS

Is the artist drawn to surfing or does surfing stoke the art? The reasons why so many surfers and wave riders express themselves through music, painting, photography or film is something that has been exercising me for some time. There is an increasingly vibrant and eclectic movement out there that you don't have to dive too deep to find.

Take Ollie Banks, a songster, surfer and now a film-maker. He's just spent two years putting together "Nine Hundred Miles" which focuses on the "U.K.'s East Coast from Scotland's world famous reef breaks all the way down to Yorkshire's very own big wave spots"

Often, like the Switch-Foot publication, the best work is generated through collaboration, with friends and colleagues helping out to get a project, publication or an exhibition off the ground. Shoe-string budgets and goodwill are the order of the day. With a lifestyle or sport (depending on your take) that has an uncomfortable relationship with the pervasiveness of corporate surfdom, there's often a reactionary feel to the art.

So if your up East Yorkshire way Sunday the 11th of November why not nip over to Beverley and check out Ollie's film. As a bonus, you can get to watch Step Into The Realm by Tim Davies as well, all the while raising funds for our friends at SAS. Pass me the popcorn and the beer!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Beach Bum Birthday Blues

I was a year older the other day. I marked the event with a hair cut that had me cracking the same lame joke with Jim the barber about my hairline receding "South of the Border, Down Mexico Way". Although he is at least fifteen years my senior - and subjects his customers to Cd's of the band he played in circa 1970 (think Paper Lace, falsetto) - he possesses a thick thatch of hair that rightly belongs on a woolly mammoth. This is so unfair. I was immeasurably cheered then by the cards my lads made for me.

They depict their Father falling off a (
Bilbo) surfboard, sleeping on a surfboard with his butt cheeks exposed, showing off his muscle, snoring and playing Halo 3. I am also pictured with a speech bubble calling "Yo dood!" [sic]. Ah, they know me so well.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hossegor + Surfboats = Extreme Action

Certain living legends from Perran's Surf Lifesaving Club are already in Hossegor, France getting ready to rumble at the first European Surfboat Championship which runs from the 1st – 4th November. Given that in Cornwall, the ground is sodden, the sky is grey and I'm going to have the light the fire tonight, some time spent on Hossegor is as tempting proposition as I can imagine - even if it means having to inject yourself with crazy potion (see video) and climb into one of those surfboats. Good luck you "boaties"!

(Looks like this Surfboat shenanigans is catching on - so here's more surfboat stuff from earlier
here and here.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is This The Best Beach In America?

This self styled Beach Bum is hardly in the position to take the mickey out of someone called "Dr. Beach", but anyone with a website that pictures themselves holding up a stethoscope to a conch must have a sense of humour and consequently constitutes a valid target. The Mel Brooks look-a-like is one Dr.Stephen Leatherman who conducts an "exhaustive annual study of America's beaches" that involves analysing fifty criteria such as sand colour, water condition and lifeguard cover that so he can come up with a "Top 10" rating. Not a bad way to make a few bob, I suppose.

This year, according to the good Doctor, Ocracoke Island Beach came in at number one - the first time the accolade has gone to a beach outside of Florida or Hawaii. This caught my beady eye for several reasons. The island is the furthest flung member of a string of barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina. I'll just say "Queen of The Surf Pirates" and leave it like that. Secondly, I've waxed on about my appreciation of piratical tendencies before, so to discover that Ocracoke was the stomping ground of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard was positively riveting. Add the fact that back in Blackbeard's day the locals spoke with a Cornish patois which - perhaps somewhat dubiously -is claimed to resonate in the local accent today, and I was Google Earthing the place and working out if it was feasible to get there for half term.

Rating a beach is a bit like giving a woman marks out of ten for her looks but I'll cut Dr. Leatherman some slack since I suspect his Dr.Beach schtick is more about promoting the "Healthy Beaches" campaign than awarding prizes. Anyway, everyone knows the best beach is actually...well, that'd be telling - but feel free to share.
(PS Sea Nymph scores a 10)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beach Bum Bookworm

If I raved on here about all the other stuff, it wouldn't be a Beach Bum's blog, it would be...well, messy. So with discipline and devotion, I have focused on the way of the beach, never deviating from the sandy path or the waves. This is good but in truth I struggle from time to time.

Was it sushi and
sashimi that led me to his door? Like I said way back, I think I'm turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so. My fascination with Nippon had me soaking up the work of Haruki Murakami back when asking for his books had store hands stare like slates. I mention this so you too can veer off the Booker bores and get your paws on literature that reads like a trip.

"Surfing's a more profound kind of sport than it looks. When you surf you learn not to fight the power of nature, even if it gets violent"; Sada -
Kafka on the Shore. That was easy. Now here's what's on the bookshelf at the shack right now...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Nude Dudes Surfer Calendar

I was gonna say "here's one for the chicks" - but then I'd be accused of sexual stereotyping. The Surfs Up Surf school just up the road at Polzeath are getting ever more creative in their ploys to raise funds for their Boardriders Club - a non-profit making initiative that's designed to help local kids enjoy the ocean. All in a worthy cause then - so head on over to the Orca Surf shop and make your purchase.

If you can't wait until the postman delivers (fnarr, fnarr) the calendar to see the other buffed bodies on display, then check out the snapshots here. In the meantime, here's Mr. January. The frontispiece on the calendar announces "Let the mind unshackle, set it free". Looks like Mr.Jan hasn't quite unshackled yet - phew!

WARNING! Google "Nude Dudes" at your peril - as I discovered to my cost

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ROXY Parfums - Scent For A Woman?

This Beach Bum likes to think that the combination of my natural pheromones and male musk are all the olfactory adornment needed. Sea Nymph does not entirely subscribe to this view so I have been known to splash on the Old Spice, or a spritz of the Blue Stratos for special occasions.

As you can tell, I'm pretty sophisticated when it comes to the subtleties of scent - comes from all that time on the beach surrounded by beautiful women. No surprise then that when ROXY - the brand that "likes to provide the sporty woman with fresh styles for her inspired lifestyle" -launched their first fragrance last month they selected this Beach Bum to receive a sampling of their pretty-in-pink perfumed products to pass on to Sea Nymph and some female friends.

According to the French perfumer that worked on the fragrance, when you marry Frangipani and Ylang it delivers "salted amber harmony" that's evocative of the sea. The
ROXY fragrance blog will tell you more than you'll ever need to know about Ylang. I'm still struggling to pronounce it.

The eau de toilette went straight to Sea Nymph for evaluation - well, straight to her wrist for that curious ritual that women do with perfumes that's honed from year's of sniff tests. The verdict? "Breezy, floral, fun" - straight into the handbag. Job done, ROXY.

Next up and pictured left, Emma, a former Miss Cornwall, musician and hypnotherapist who volunteered to try the shower gel. Loved the packaging, loved the look but thought the smell took her to "Barbie's beach house" rather than some exotic palm fringed isle as hoped. Still, it did get her clean.

Caitlin, the last and youngest of the volunteers had only to be shown the box of body lotion for a paroxysm of pleasure to pass across her face. Forget about the pearl extract -there's ROXY power for you!

The ROXY brand sponsors the "
Keep A Breast" operation fighting against breast cancer which is one of the reasons this post is here. No animals were tested in the production of this piece though I did eat some salt beef sandwiches the other day.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Clubbie Classic" Surf Contest

From a few weeks ago, as Summer finally slipped away and Autumn rustled in. Perranporth Surf Lifesaving Club members make the best of the surf for the annual "Clubbie Classic" - everyone's a winner! They came, they saw and they surfed.

Beach Fashion

As seen on xxxxxxxxxxx beach (you can fill in the x's).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cornwall Air Ambulance - It's A Scandal

There must be scores of surfers, bodyboarders, swimmers and other ocean users who owe their life to the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust. Be it longboard meeting head, cramp out the back in heavy surf, asthma attack, rip currents - there's as many opportunities for a day's surf to go badly wrong as right.

Assuming you do get back to shore and urgent medical treatment is required, anyone fading fast might as well bow out early if they were to struggle in a conventional ambulance to the nearest A&E unit along the fatty arteries that are the minor roads in Kernow. And that's assuming you're near a road to start with - the beaches, clifftops and moorlands of this county are often inaccessible by road. Clearly the service that the Air Ambulance provides is both invaluable and essential.

So, guess what? In this United Kwangdom where the current lot in No.10 like to boast about all that investment in the NHS - this service that has saved the lives of thousands depends on charity not governmental funding. To ensure that the aircraft can fly ten hours a day, every day this year will cost £1,250,000. What a canny lot we have who run a country where they can hive off tax for wars that no-one wants and have the plebs stump up for services that keeps them happy.

So whether Flash Gordon calls an election sooner or later, it won't be long before the politicians come a-crawling, creeping for your vote. Make your views known so that maybe next time, when someone up in Westminster asks what's up with funding air ambulance services, the Secretary of Health comment that "there are no plans to review the funding..." will be less likely to stay as a
footnote in Hansard and more likely to make the news.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Rescue 2010 Lifesaving World Championships Coming To Cornwall

I haven't posted anything here for a few days - mainly because I temporarily lost the power to move my arms and legs and all associated appendages without groaning. This was the result of a moment of madness that had me signing up for our Surf Lifesaving Club's winter swim training sessions. I found myself floundering up and down the lanes of Waterworld in the company of men and women that I'm beginning to suspect are some hybrid aquatic spawn with gills cleverly disguised to look like ears.

I digress... the big news for those interested or involved in Surf Lifesaving was the announcement at the beginning of the week that the UK secured the bid to host the Rescue 2010 Lifesaving World Championships. This will be held in Cornwall and will involve building an Olympic sized outdoor swimming pool adjacent to Fistral beach.

Local businesses are rubbing their hands together like Scrooge on speed, politicians who wouldn't know a Rescue Tube from a tyre inner have been congratulating everybody - mainly themselves - on bagging the bid. Meanwhile somebody is going to have to figure out the logistics of hosting an event that will involve more than 6000 competitors from 55 countries competing in events ranging from flags, ski paddle races, Iron man to surf boat races. It is easy to be glib, as is my way, but "Hosting Rescue 2010 really matters – here the sea, safety and service matter more than gold medals and we want the opportunity to prove that."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

God, sharks and one armed wonders.

A couple of posts back - it won't take much figuring out - I was sorely tempted to mention "Bethany Hamilton" and "unlikely to endorse" in the same paragraph. This would have been both tasteless and infra dignitatum. If you don't know who Bethany is, you can read all about this remarkable surfer from Hawaii at her own super slick website.

Now, if a Tiger shark had snacked on my arm, I'd be looking to track the bugger down and mount it on a wall. This would involve having to drink a lot of cheap whisky and giving up shaving and finding a clapped out boat and a harpoon and cylinders of gas and a crew of disgruntled shipmates and a really good soundtrack and... I could go on. Not in the Christian spirit, perhaps.

Bethany is a Christian, however, and her faith has helped her to make some sense of the events following the shark attack. She continues to surf competitively and is involved with World Vision "a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty."

Surfing has undergone a bit of religious revival in Hawaii it would seem since the days when...the first of the Calvinistic Christian missionaries arrived from England and began to convert the Hawaiians from polytheism to the one True God, whose son was Jesus Christ. The Hawaiian chiefs resisted this new God for a time, but within a decade this new strict, moral Christian code was replacing the kapu system and the Hawaiian's sensual way of life. The Calvinists insisted that the Hawaiians wear more clothes, learn to read and write, work more and play less. Restrictions on play included surfing. People who knew Hawaii before and after accused the missionaries of ruining much of what was unique and good about Hawaii, and that included discouraging Hawaiians from surfing.*

Is that irony or enlightenment? Who cares? Hallelujah!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Porthemmet Beach To Host 2nd Cornish International Nude Surfing Festival

These days, when you're organising a surfing event, you really have to plan ahead. I'd just persuaded my mate Marty, a GP over at Port Wenn to act as medical cover again (he's had to treat some Weever Fish stings in unusual places!) when the phone rang and it was none other than Lord Tremms, Chairman of the Porthemmet Beach Trust. He's offered us the use of the southern end of this wonderful beach as a venue for next year's Cornish International Nude Surfing Festival!

For those of you who know Porthemmet Beach, this section of the strand is crowded with bars, moobs and topless sunbathers - so there's a certain synergy there which I believe will complement the competition. Exact dates to be confirmed but roll on next Summer!

If You Go Down To The Beach Today...

The kids made me buy this. Apparently, it's a "collectable" and not a toy - so that's OK then. Poor old Surfer Bob has slipped down the kitsch ratings to No 2.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Do You Come From A Land Down Under?

“Before you arrive to surf the Superbank or Burleigh on the Gold Coast, Australia is a racist country where the Indigenous people have just had more of their land rights taken away by John Howard’s conservative government - this includes the Kombumerri who are the traditional owners of these surf-breaks.”

Strong stuff from Clif over at the ever readable Blown Glass who tags on this provocative video to reinforce the proposition and then goes on to call for a boycott of Australian surfing.

Now the fact that I’ve only ever enjoyed the company of any Aussies I’ve met seemed to sit at odds with this depiction of Oz as a racist republic and had me rather agitated. Do you come from a land down under? I bet you have a view on Clif’s perspective.

As a kid in Belfast in the 70’s, Australia seemed as far away as you could get from anywhere short of leaving the planet. That ticked a box. If I was looking to escape over the rainbow then Oz – well, my imaginary construct of the place – looked pretty enticing.

First there was Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and later, when the hormones starting kicking in I lusted after Jenny Agutter in Walkabout without worrying too much about the fate of the Aboriginal boy or the story. “Friday –too tired, Saturday – too drunk, Sunday too far away” is purportedly the lament of the sheep shearer’s wife and provided the title for one of those cinematic buried treasures that only aficionados of Australian movies will have heard about. Set in the Outback of the 50’s it’s a straightforward tale of how changes in the labour market impacted on the lives of a bunch of hard drinking sheep shearers. But like all great movies, the film is more than the sum of the sets and the story. It’s one director’s take on what it means to be a man, and an Australian. I thought it was great.

Around this time I was working on the Irish border in a madhouse of a factory concocting chemicals for cows. Some of my production team were also interested in chemicals – rustling up some explosive presents for the British Army. It was time to get out and, but for a twist of fate, the emigration papers from the Australian embassy may well have been submitted and I’d be there, not here.

When John Howard made the headlines a while back with his plans to tackle the alcohol and child abuse endemic amongst indigenous communities it had me thinking. From the outside looking in, it sounded bleak beyond belief. Surfing and the life of the beach has often proved a lifeline. Were there Aboriginal dudes out there that I could read about that challenged what was beginning to look like a media stereotype? I’d never heard of any Aboriginal Surfers but it didn’t take me long to Google up Dale Richards – the teenage surfer from Queensland who has become the first Aboriginal Australian to qualify for the main round of a world championship tour event.

Then flicking through “Between The Flags – One Hundred Summers of Australian Surf Lifesaving” to see if there was any reference to Aboriginal Lifeguards I came across one Burnum Burnum, formerly Harry Penrith.

This bloke campaigned for Aboriginal rights and wasn’t shy of pulling the odd stunt to publicise his views. During the Australian Bicentenary Day celebrations in 1988, he was busy hoisting the Aboriginal flag above the white cliffs of Dover. This was one in the eye for Arthur Philips, who in a moment of supreme colonial cheek, had stuck a flag on a continent and claimed it for England. If a people's sense of humour is an indicator of their spiritual and mental well being, then I hope for the Aborigines' sake, there's more like Burnum stepping up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where there's a will there's a wave

So what if he was on sabbatical in Iowa? Herr Professor Doktor Strandgammler didn't need his Indoboard anymore.

Follow the link for "Iowa's fun facts" if you want to lose the will to live.