Friday, July 27, 2007

Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail... not pass go, do not collect £200. Words that will be familiar to anyone who's played Monopoly - or been sent down. Beach Bum & crew are going on holiday soon. Does Beach Bum need a holiday? There's some out there may reckon my life's a perpetual vacation - not least my long suffering Sea Nymph of a wife, but I digress.

I'm sure this isn't a unique phenomenon, but I find that holidays have me pockling about with quaint distractions that I have absolutely no desire to indulge in at any other time of the year. Such pastimes include chewing through a Biro while doing the Irish Times crossword (the easy version) and playing well used boardgames that usually require some whittling of wood to replace key missing pieces.

So while stocking up with summer offer books begins before the actual packing, I thought I might sneak the Surfing Edition of Monopoly into the roof box along with the board. The Nippers and their games consoles are overheated enough. Let's get back to some old fashioned boardgames. Teaches them stuff, apparently. I'm sure I'll find a way to justify the purchase.

Instead of houses and hotels you build surfboards and woodies. It's not Park Lane but Pipeline. Yeah and some dosh from every sale goes to the Surfrider Foundation. Ker-ching! I'm sold.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Smile With Slide Magazine

With the odd exception, I'm not a great fan of surfing magazines. Come to think about it, I haven't bought one in months. I don't want you to think that old Beach Bum is tight with his pennies. I've been known to buy a round - honest! It's just that when the urge comes over me to read about far away places with great surf that I'm unlikely to visit, or dudes surfing with style and skill that I'll never have, I can always flick through a copy of whatever's hanging round the Filling Station while I munch through a panini. See? There is such a thing as a free lunch.

However, these "could have been a contender covers" made me chuckle - which given the rain and generally dismal summer we've had means that Slide Magazine gets a mention. Did I mention sunglasses & thongs earlier?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Beach Life - An Occasional Series: The Pro Surfer

He hated how the surf played havoc with his hair. Fortunately his sponsor had come up trumps again.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Surfer's Knobs & Sore Feet

"Anchors aweigh!", says I, as Jake chucked the buoy from the rescue board to mark the spot where several shoals of Nippers, undergoing Dolphin training, would be swimming out to. Jake, as befits an officer of the Royal Navy, politely pointed out that this meant "raise the anchor", not drop it. Pass the port, please.

Jake isn't on the beach as much as he would like. In fact, he's back at sea next week and won't be home 'til Christmas. He was enjoying the time in the water with his son. As a going away present, he'd managed to rub his feet raw on the grip nuts of the rescue board. Never mind matey - could be worse, look at these knobs here!

These were typical features on the hooves of many Californian surfers back in the late 60's and early 70's that adopted a kneeling position on their longboards when paddling out. Back then, die hard surfers with feet like these may well have lived longer than some. Such deformations meant they couldn't squeeze their sprogs into Uncle Sam's boots, so they were excluded from the draft and missed out on the Vietnam experience - well, so the story goes.

Mind you, when a shark has a chew on your tootsies as happened to this geezer off the Mexican coast, I guess you'd swop a bite for a knob anyday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Caption Competition

Talking earlier of wax, I'm offering a couple of blocks of Sex Wax (I know, big spender) to whoever can come up with a caption raises the roof beams over at Beach Bum's shack. You better make your ditty pretty witty.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wet Women & Wax

I know what you blokes are thinking. I'm sorry to disappoint but with the testosterone fug that seems to hang around the back rooms where surf product branding goes on, I thought I'd try to redress the balance for the girlies a bit.

News then from Hawaii of the environmentally friendly Wet Women Surf Wax that washed ashore here the other day. If the product lives up to the hype, the company may be on to a winner.

As mentioned way back in an earlier post, I was raised sniffin Sex Wax. Then again, if I'd suckled on Mighty Mounds, my tastes might have differed. Different strokes and all that. But I'm guessing if I was a Sea Nymph and not a Beach Bum, I'd prefer to walk out with a tin of Wet Women any day. Mind you, there's nothing coy about Morgan Fisher, the lady behind the company's tag line of "making sure women stay on top".

Strangely, there's no mention of all that stuff about water temperature and basecoats, traction or anything so practical and mundane. That's probably a male performance anxiety thing. Maybe the wax rubs on like Vaseline but I think a bit of testing is required if I can get my hands on some. As I hinted at , it comes in a tin - also available in - guess what? Pink.

It does look like the company has put some serious effort into validating their green and clean credentials."Our wax is made up of biological nutrients that are compostable, are biodegradable, and can return to the earth, air, and soil without harm" - sounds good enough to eat, almost.

Perhaps that's why they add the rider about not chewing or eating Wet Women...steady, men.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Surf Rakes, Beach Butts & Water Bottles

As I watched this tractor tow a Barber Surf Rake up and down the beach the other day, I was reminded of some scenes from that flawed but minor classic film - Westworld. Set in a futuristic Disney-like amusement park, guests can check into themed regions and live out fantasies as Medieval knights, Roman noblemen or gunslingers - interacting with sophisticated robots that are virtually human. The guests literally tear up the town each night and while they sleep off their hangovers and recover from their brawls, there's a huge clean up operation taking place.

With companies like Rockland and D'Hooghe making similar devices there's clearly some business to be had cleaning up the mess folks leave behind. Sure, the clever clogs that design these beach brushes can have them lift up everything from cans to cigarette butts but if there was more focus and support for preventative measures like this, then perhaps we would need less machinery on the beach.

Now the councils should be congratulated for spending our money on this gear but the motivation may be just as much about much by keeping tourists on the beach as the broader environmental picture. Yep, the Surf Rake is kept busy at this time of year. Outside the holiday season, the beaches seem to get much less attention though often the heavier seas wash more crap ashore.

There's no easy answers to keeping beaches clean but less packaging and less plastic will do for starters.

I'm not sure if they are still on the go, but there was local manufacturer of bottled water that used a surfer logo on their packaging. Guess what? A few eejits were climbing over themselves to get some dosh and - this raises eyebrows - the company in question was keen to point out how they would be donating funds to groups like the SAS. Well, their bottle was still rattling round the beach the other day. I mean come on, water in plastic bottles - do we really need it? I hold my hands up and say I've bought bottled water. Hardly a crime, perhaps. At least I re-use the bottle and when it cracks I'll stick it in the recycling bin. I think though, I'll start to Surf Like A Girl from now on.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Dude, The Mad & The Bulky

  • One of these men made Saffron buns with David Hasselhoff in Hawaii
  • One of these men has a custom wetsuit - with zips in the legs
  • One of these men's heads is an erogenous zone - according to his wife

Not sure about these three compadres but I've just about recovered from last Saturday's party. It wasn't the Guinness, it wasn't even the raw, raucous, rockin, thumpin Chunky Custard - no, it was trying to compete on a paddleboard earlier in the day with a bunch of lads half my age. Like trying to balance on a bleedin pencil. When the IRB starts circling round you like a shark, you know it's time to head for shore. Suffice to say, a good time was had by all.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Under Investigation

Despite spending the evening as a human buoy in wild, windy surf with rescue tube and Nippers flailing, the wettest June on record here has chewed into the daily recommended dose of beach time. The only upside for this Beach Bum has been the chance to trawl through some goodies that have washed ashore, demanding more investigation.

First off, Surf Nation - a book that sets out to grab the wrist of the surf scene around the UK and Ireland and take it's pulse. Alex Wade, the author, is a fellow convert to Kernow, freelance writer, boxer and surfer who hangs out his wetsuit way down at Sennen. If he was a film, he'd be a Life Less Ordinary. Many of you will be familiar with his most readable blog, also of the same name. An early review of the book - which I suspect is highly unlikely to have been penned by a surfer - comments that "this makes this dip into the world of surfing in Britain and Ireland a hugely niche concern; there's never any premise behind the book beyond Wade travelling around our isles finding people who get stoked by surfing." Well, cut off me legs and call me shorty - this is just the kind of book I want to read. Give me a niche and I'll flick on the torch and go exploring.

Onto music.With a nod to Brian Wilson and describing one track as "not unlike being submerged 20 feet under a rickety harbour, being serenaded by a shoal of fresh-faced mermen" I'm gonna have to check out some of Panda Bear's vibrations very soon.

Don't ask, but my weakness for Nippon has led me down a dark alley to the door of the Surf Coasters. They've played with Dick Dale so don't rush to judge a book, or CD, by the album art.

And talking of the demi-god that is Brian Wilson, I was able to take a look-see at the "If Everybody Had An Ocean" exhibition running at the Tate St.Ives. The "California comes to Cornwall" theme required some serious, heavyweight girders to help suspend belief as we were blown into the gallery by the storm force gales.

There's a diverse collection of art and installations all linked or inspired, at least in the curator's mind, to the main man's music or, paraphrasing the brochure, the social milieu that the Beach Boys music shared with West Coast art. It was the nun that did it for me. That's Sister Corita Kent and her silkscreen prints. Check out the sister, bro.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Beach Life - An Occasional Series

Elmer had been partying hard for over a week and it was beginning to tell.

Lifesaving with Crocodiles

Guest Blogger: James Marsh- Head Coach, Cairns Surf Lifesaving Club

A few years ago, I moved myself and family from Perranporth in Cornwall to Cairns in tropical North Queensland, Australia. After 25 plus years as an avid lifesaver on the rugged Cornish Atlantic Coast and many years of competing around the world, I figured I'd seen all that lifesaving had to offer. Convinced that there was going to be no lifesaving where we were going, I sold my board, donated ski and paddles to the Perranporth club, and prepared to hang up the racing Speedos.

We moved into a company apartment on the southern side of the city away from the beaches. Free time was spent exploring rainforest or snorkeling on the reef, and lifesaving was forgotten for a few months. Then a colleague mentioned that there were two surf clubs up north of the city. I ended up checking out the Cairns SLSC based at Palm Cove one Saturday afternoon.

I found one friendly chap who told me to come along 6.45am Sunday morning for a ski paddle. So Sunday morning I brushed the cobwebs off my best pair of Perranporth Speedos and headed down the beach.

I thought I would try to impress them and drop a name: “I used to paddle with Simon Lawrence the hero of the surf
Simon who?”
You must know him - he paddled for GB in Hawaii, and made saffron buns with David Hasselhoff”.
“Sorry mate, but who the **** is David Hasselhoff?”

I knew I was onto a loser, and decided not to throw Mark Ressel or Glen Eldridge into the conversation, and just asked for a ski and paddle that I could borrow. After convincing them that I was capable of staying on a single, I picked out an old Burton that looked a bit like a Gaisford.

“What do you paddle in Pommie Land then?”
“I used to paddle Gaisfords”
“What the **** is a Gaisford?”
“You must have heard of Ghastly Gaisford, pioneer of ski building in the Northern Hemisphere and half of the Gaisford/Minnow Green legendary double act?”

More blank looks - it was time to hit the water. I hadn’t paddled for a long time, but made a superhuman effort to impress them with some Pommie ski paddling. The Sunday circuit is about 10km out around two islands just off the coast. Having heard numerous scare stories about sharks, crocs, stingers and sea snakes I was somewhat twitchy and did my Speedos up extra tight.

On the way out I discovered that the stingers were not due back until Christmas, sea snakes were harmless and the Crocs were not a problem in the sea except for occasionally in Jan-Feb time. About 400m offshore we paddled past the shark nets, which was bit of a giveaway. Apparently there are more sharks caught here than anywhere on the East coast of Australia. However, I was quickly told that the last recorded attack was about 50 years ago so there was "no worries mate".

That first paddle was fascinating as we passed over hundreds on meters of reef interspersed with sandy gulleys. A couple of turtles drifted by, dolphins circled and a sea snake sidled by. The islands were nothing like the weather beaten rocks of Cornwall and trees covered them from the water’s edge to the very top. Cockatoos and Rainbow Lorikeets flew from tree to tree whilst Sea Eagles circled above. I was hooked.

We stopped for a break on a small shady beach at the back of one of the islands and discussed my “initiation” as a new paddler. I didn’t like the sound of that, but thought I couldn’t give Pommie lifesavers a bad name. We paddled further around the island until a small opening to a cave could be seen in deep water. The initiation was to swim into the cave which involved going underwater into the air pocket inside and picking up some coral from the very back.

Apparently, I was “advised”, the trick was to avoid the 500lb Grouper that lived inside from grabbing your leg. Not believing a word about the Grouper, but being convinced I would come out to find them all gone along with my ski, I jumped off to swim to the cave. If you’ve ever swum from sunshine into a pitch black cave you’ll know how I felt.

Having passed the initiation I was a fully fledged member - and the only Pommie in the club. Five months later I was the local Masters Iron man champion and British lifesavers were on the map.

Patrols run from March until December, which makes it a very long season. There is no such thing as a rip current though, and not a lot to do until the stinger nets go in during November. They usually stay in until May/June during which time all bathers should stay inside the net to avoid the Box jellyfish, which can be deadly. It is around Christmas that the odd Crocodile strays out into the ocean looking for mates, and new territory. Sharks are nothing compared to a big croc, which will attack anything and everything that gets close enough. If one of them shows up the nets are closed for 2 weeks and if you go into the water, you keep moving.

Otherwise the main patrol duty during stinger season is to don a body hugging Lycra body suit and drag a 6’ wide net around the bathing area to make sure no stingers have got in. Unfortunately there are also almost microscopic jellyfish called Irikandji that go straight through the net. They are not deadly, but can put you in hospital for a couple of days. The best way to avoid them is watch out for Japanese tourists collapsing, and then get out sharpish. It always pays to wear tight sluggos in stinger season for obvious reasons!