Friday, November 30, 2007
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
...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
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
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
Monday, November 12, 2007
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.
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
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
Monday, November 05, 2007
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
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
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.
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