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.

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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.