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.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wave Hub Hubbub

"We look forward to using the same energy we've used to ride waves to light up our homes as well." So said Andy Cummings, Campaign Officer of Surfers Against Sewage in response to the news that the UK government has given planning approval for the world's first large-scale wave project off the coast of north Cornwall. In a nutshell - perhaps seashell would be more appropriate - they're going to sink a large socket type gizmo on the sea bed into which will be plugged a selection of energy grabbing devices devised by competing companies with a view, I presume, to testing out which system generates the most watts.

Now if you're familiar with the vagaries of the planning approval system in the UK you will know that "approval" doesn't always equate with judicious decisions. Being seen to be green is more important for some of our politicians than the actual substance of their next eco-friendly pronouncement - which is often timed, it seems to me, to draw some headlines away from whatever uncomfortable issue is in the spotlight that week.

Some surfers have yet to be convinced that the scheme will not spoil their wave fun by sucking up all that wave karma and turning what are arguably some of the UK's finest breaks into "sloppy seconds". On the wireless today I heard some fishermen muttering about about the risks to shipping of all these cables and gubbins. Well mention "corporate surfdom" and "fish stocks" and you have two reasons why surfers and fisherman don't have any particular monopoly on wisdom either. Like most issues, facts tend to help one take a more measured judgement. A cursory trawl through the studies commissioned suggests that wave impact will be negligible and the positives outweigh the negatives. Well, I guess we'll find out soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Biodegradable Surfer Charity

"Just because I'm a country boy, don't mean I can't surf." If you were in Crantock this evening, the chances are you were quaffing pints and pushing hay bales and going a bit red in the cheeks. Yes, another extreme sport - the Cornish Hay Bale Push Championships. All in a good cause, of course. Money raised is going to the The Parkinson Disease Society and Crantock Surf Life Saving Club (the latter for their beer fund - that was a joke). And remember, as the straw man says, “he who pushes hardest gets most satisfaction.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Beach Movies For Boom & Baxter

Like a very "plum, plum", the Cornish coastline could be justly praised for its very "beachy beaches." I used to live a pebble throw away from Holywell Bay, a wonderful spot that many of you will have probably seen without realising it. "How so?", I hear you ask. Well, the beach was transformed into a North Korean battlefield as part of the set for the 2002 James Bond film "Die Another Day". Yes, even the Lifeguard station was made up to look like a Pill Box.

Now here's another favourite beach of mine immortalised on film - our very own Perranporth Strand has been used as the backdrop to a video produced by the kids of the Humphrey Davy School from Penzance. It's been selected by the BOOM! Awards - a national initiative where schools enter videos designed to "inspire the teaching and learning of creative media and film production skills in the classroom."

Having spent my school days hiding behind a map of the Peloponnese at the back of the class - thus avoiding the missiles of a deranged master of Ancient Greek - I can but marvel at what kids get up to at school these days. And all this in two weeks!

What's ace about this particular video is not just the quality of the production but the fact that it has been selected by up and coming song-smith Tom Baxter as one of three hopefuls for selection as the backing video for his new single "Better" which is being released in the UK on September 24th. If you've seen "Run, Fat Boy, Run"directed by David Schwimmer (Friends) starring Simon Pegg (star of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead) then you will have already heard the song.

I know I'm biased but if you enjoyed it as much as I did, please head over to Tom's site at and vote for the kids at Humphrey Davy's.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Perranporth Extreme Surf Triathlon

A shoal of bodies, sporting DayGlo style swim hats and suited up in Snugg and ORCA wetsuits, gathered at the far end of Perranporth beach last Sunday. If you joined up the orange headed dots there’d only be one picture revealed - the opening 1km swim section of the ever popular 20th Perranporth Extreme Surf Triathlon. Follow a dip in the sea with the hilly hell of the 35km cycle and a 7.5km jaunt across some soul sapping sand and you get the bit about “extreme”.

The competitors stretched and jangled limbs, waved at friends and waited, waited. Some dived and swam a bit before the off, literally testing the waters. What waves there were lay low, the big rollers of other years a memory - much to the relief of those less used to wild, sea surf. Some folk looked focused, some looked glazed, some looked like winners. Mostly they looked frighteningly fit. There’s a communal vibration that’s pulses almost tangibly when a gathering like this goes on. It’s seductive and maddening and had me wishing I was in the race. I pushed this thought aside for later and thought of Clint Eastwood muttering, “Every good man knows his limits".

Having volunteered to marshal I’d ended up "official" photographer to stand in for the blokes that normally cover the event. Now "the camera never lies" is an old chestnut that, as every photographer knows, is patently untrue. As the countdown to the start drew nearer, neoprene encapsulated nerves twitched and risked turning into something looking pretty close to fear on the faces of virgin competitors, or those veterans who'd wished they'd packed more training in. But as the camera pulled up to capture the proceedings, it wasn't fear I framed in the lens but the forced rictus of a smile, a jokey gesture or a thumbs up. If anyone was anxious, they weren’t going to let it show.“True Grit”, “Right Stuff” and other suitably cinematic tag lines seemed appropriate. I hoped it wasn’t going to be “Die Hard” for some.

One hour, forty three minutes and thirty four seconds later (just outside the course record set in 2003) young Harry Wiltshire crossed the line to win the Men's Open event. Having set a blistering pace and with the sun coming out like a blowtorch towards the end of the race, I expected torrents of sweat - not the fine sheen of moisture on the winner’s brow. Whilst later finishers grimaced and rolled to the ground, all spent and done, there was a fluidity and ease with which Wiltshire unzipped the tracking chip from his ankle that suggested he’d been warming up for something bigger. His sights are set on Beijing 2008.

Matt Pullen followed a few minutes later just pipping Perranporth’s own Andy Byatt, another elite performer into third place. For the women, Sam Herridge crossed the line just over two hours after starting, followed by Helen Parkinson and Perranporth’s Jemma Holland pulling out what they refer to in footballing circles as “a top drawer” performance. Michael Birchmore, surely one to watch, also of Perrranporth Surf Lifesaving Club won the Junior Men’s race bagging another great result for the club in their 50th anniversary year.

As the competitors chomped through the catering tent, grabbed a post-race massage and headed to the Sunset Bar for the presentations, I glanced up at the banner set across the finishing line. “Are You Tough Enough?” , challenged the banner. I wondered.

Photographs available for download and purchase here!

Full race results here

Event Sponsors: Skinners Brewery, Cycle Logic, Snugg Wetsuits, Ponsmere Hotel, The Watering Hole, PureBlue