Friday, 26 December 2008
One of the biggest contrasts however is surprisingly summer and winter surf.
I'm not as stupid as I look and I'm fully aware that winter is the best time for waves in WA,but like any normal country,even our own blessed Cornwall has waves all year round.When asking a lady when the last swell was she replied ''Two months ago'' .Shocked,I asked whether there was any expected soon ,to which she replied ''Nah,probably April.'' Well blow me down!Had a just embarked on the least successful surf trip of all time!?
Fortunately while the surf resembled Drift reservoir,we managed to find one of the world most impressive coral reefs at Coral Bay,some two days drive North of Perth.
The second half of the trip proved to be slightly more successful when we bumped into Jamie Pardoe in Margaret River.Small world.By the way,Jamie and Alice say hi.
It felt more like home in Margaret River while we stayed with Gene and Sonni Hardy who many may know.
Token Cornish gestures litter their house like a christmas card on the fridge from Chris Ryan and 'Mickey's corner' (Mickey Smith) that Sonni hopes wont be vacant for too much longer.
The first morning there I was woken up at 6 am by Jamie,we were off to Ellensbrook.For those that don't know it's home to some of Australia's sharpest reef,and heaviest waves.We head straight for 'THE WOMB',a heavy reef breaks flanked by two other breaks called 'Umbilicles' and 'Fallopeans'It was a solid 4ft but great fun and helped redeem my surfing expectations of Australia.
Yallingup offered class waves and all in all WA was pretty magic.It's become home to many Cornish whom we somehow met along the way.Unlilke the East Coast where most people associate England with having no waves,rain and wind....come on its not that bad!People in WA have eitehr lived or visited Cornwall and can appreciate where we are from.
Seasons greetings from down under.Make sure you do the Sennen Christmas swim!
It was, however, my intention to write this article having spent a little time on the East coast of Japan and having sampled the waves that so many people have told me about.
Unfortunately the four hour train journey from Tokyo was made in vain as when I arrived I witnessed the first flat spell for some weeks according to a local surfer. "I could have told you that", I remarked with a somewhat disgruntled girlfriend having made the journey with me. The industrial look to the beach in the prefecture outside Tokyo called Chiba, was not enough to deter business men from Tokyo as literally hundreds of them make the trip daily to catch a few waves before the sun sets. One surfer said there can be as many as five hundred surfers in the water, the beach is not a lot bigger than Godrevy.
This area is not known for it's clean water and subtropical surf, but the powerful swell pushed up from the Pacific can produce some world class waves.
On my return to Tokyo and after some advice from a few locals, I visited a surf shop near where I was staying that sold the most ridiculous array of surf gear. Better than most Cornish surf shop I struggle to understand why this place needed a shop so well stocked. From the standard Surftech that appears to have taken Japan by storm to some incredible custom made boards by Japanese shapers. I had also been told about the brilliant quality of Japanese wetsuits but even these surpassed my expectations. The two old Japanese men repairing a board wearing hats saying "I love surf" told the whole story.
Anyway I head for the southern islands tomorrow where warm tropical waters await and I am informed that the swell is on it's way.
During my travels I have tried to identify different cultures and the aspects that set them apart. My current trip is no different but this time the onus is on surfing.
Now not every country I plan to visit is surf mad. This has proved to be the most interesting part.
My last article saw me trapsing through central Japan after waves that I had only heard about. With little media coverage, especially in the Uk, I was simply going on local knowledge.
A 12 hour train journey from the city of Kyoto took me to a part of Japan where westerners are watched with the least amount of discretion. As my girlfriend and I walk from the small train station on one of the last seaside towns/fishing village in mainland Japan we may as well be from out of space.
Kaifu in the Shikoku prefecture is renowned for its quality surf. Despite its nationwide fame, Japanese locals still hug the coast of Tokyo (Chiba) due to its convenience and close proximity.
Told my many locals that "not many westerners make it here" I feel a little more adventourous for my exploration.
Kaifu turned out to be one of the highlights of Japan for me. With some of the warmest water I have ever surfed in and a good 3-4ft barrelling wave, I wasnt suprised to find the locals as heavy as they were. Before you catch anywaves in this part of Japan you are subjected to some verbal bashing - obviously in Japanese not to offend the victim. I just smiled and in my terrible Japanese asked them if they were having a good day?
To my suprise around the 12.00pm mark people left the surf and headed back to the beach. I surf was getting better and I made the most of the empty waves.
Towards the end of my time in Japan we visited the coast of Chiba for one night and stayed with Eugene Teal, Japans premier longboarder. To prove how small the world of surfing is, he asked me if the knew the likes of Sam Bleakley and Ben Skinner. Very strange.
Here I managed to get a clearer understanding of Japanese surf culture.
I have never seen such organised surfers. With surfboard stands behind their "surf vans", portable showers connected to their cigarette lighters and fresh water to clean their boards and leash when they finish their surf Japanese van life makes me feel as if we are behind the times!
Brand new four hundred pound wetsuits are all the rage for surfers from Tokyo and surftechs line the waters edge.
The cultural difference is more apparent when at 12.00pm a horn sounds followed by gentle "plinky plonky" music informing the entire town that it's time for lunch. As if by magic, the waters empty and I am left sitting alone with 1-2tf perfection.
Eugene informs me that all towns have their own theme tune and the next towns is reminisant of John Denvers "Take me home Country roads".
With Hong Kong my next stop I was eager to see the waves of Big Wave Bay. Very small when I arrived I could see the potential with youngsters lining the beach in a far more Western scene. I would urge surfers to stop by and check out the surf during your next stop over.
Having spent a week in China, where surfing doesnt exist in the Chinese Language I am assured that further south youngsters are taking to it like duck to water. Soon we will be competing with them on an International scale.
Monday, 8 December 2008
Friday, 12 September 2008
Our newest recruit left for University this morning but not before an early morning surf. Those of you who met Dirk thought he had been doing the job for years and I think this is testament to his skill. We will miss him and hope he has a good winter before he returns to the beach next spring.
September means different things for everybody. For many it means the start of hard work as children return to school and school leaver’s head to college or embark on the start of a career. Parent’s return back to work and students prepare for another year of university frolics – albeit very hard and terribly academic!
For me it means something very different. September means the end of manic peak season and time to reflect on the season just past. For my team and I, it comes as a shock at how different two days can be. Friday the surf school is fully booked with everyone working two lessons and finishing late, Saturday arrives and the bookings book looks very different. A sense of relief is felt as well as an overwhelming feeling of sadness – where has the summer gone? Why didn’t we do this? The truth is, as we start to reflect on a the summer just gone, we are reminded of the reasons we were unable to do so much and how we whined and moaned about the lack of sunshine.
The last time I remember putting on a dry wetsuit and dusted the dry sand of the wrong side of my suit, rather than smacking a sopping wet pair of neoprene legs against the wall, seems so long ago now. It is soon apparent to us that we probably had our summer in June and early July rather than when we should have had our warmest months. As a direct result, not only have our wetsuits never dried out but the sea temperature seems to have remained around the 13 degrees Celsius mark all summer. Where as last September I recall cruising 1ft logging waves in board shorts or a shorty making the most of the warm water and late summer - we can all but hope!
This isn’t a rant though and to be honest many of us have benefited greatly from the poor weather. Surfers have obviously reaped the rewards of countless low pressures. The abundance of swell has been truly amazing if not too much at times ensuring closed beaches and dangerous conditions. As far as flat days, I have not had to cancel any lessons due to no waves with everyday producing enough to float small adults and children.
So here we are at the start of another chapter, the beaches are steadily becoming quieter, the line up is naturally less busy and if last year is anything to go by we may see a little more of the bright ball of fire that sometimes frequents or sky.
For me September is the best time of year. Having reflected of the summer and drawn both positives and negatives from the year all we can do is sit back and enjoy having our home back. Whether it be meeting some friends after school on the beach for a BBQ or heading straight to your local spot for an after work surf, we should be grateful that we even have that luxury as an option.
September can provide us with the spirit of summer while we all desperately cling to the hope that a late summer is on the cards.
Whatever happens please just enjoy our home and for those of us who are fortunate enough to be heading off to foreign shores, remember how lucky you are to be returning home to somewhere as beautiful as Cornwall.
Friday, 22 August 2008
Never one to complain about too many waves, I have recently found myself wishing it was flat. This August has seen more red flags than any other I can remember. The red flags mean that the area is too dangerous for bathers or indeed surfers. When the beach is entirely red flagged, the beach is in effect closed.
This summers poor weather is without doubt to blame for the huge swell we have experienced. A slightly smaller swell would have been welcomed by locals and visitors to Cornwall, but when the red flags line the beach and cameras are pointed out to see to capture waves the size of small buildings, you would need to be truly crazy to even attempt the paddle out.
Lets keep praying for waves but not too hard.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
It hasn't been seen for weeks and has been the sole reason for many unhappy campers and visitors to our beautiful coast. The sun seems to be suffering from memory loss...does it not realize it's August and is should really return to our skies from hibernation.
Wet- wetsuits I can cope with but not for the supposedly 2 warmest months of the year.
Pray with me and it will re-appear.
Friday, 8 August 2008
The British Surfing Association (BSA) wants schools to be licensed because it fears a growth in such schools could lead to a rise in accidents.
The BSA is concerned that unqualified instructors lack vital training in first aid and life saving.
Around 70% of BSA approved surf schools are based in Devon and Cornwall with an estimated 250,000 regular surfers in the UK.
BSA marketing director Karen Walton said: "There are no laws or guidelines set out so anybody, whether qualified or not, can set up their own surf school."
Paul Benney, head RNLI lifeguard for Restormel in Cornwall said the problem of cowboy surf schools was making his team's job more difficult.
"We get surf schools turning up with 20 or more people per instructor at least," he said.
Saturday, 19 July 2008
After much anticipation and a very long spring, Summer not only arrived with warmer weather and small waves, but also with visitors traveling from near and far to visit the Cornish Jem.
The surf school can boast one of their busiest July's for some years. School holidays have confused us all but allowed our peak season to start almost 2 weeks earlier than normal.
We would all like to thanks everyone for thier custom so far this summer and have enjoyed June and July too much!!
Friday, 30 May 2008
Surfing is one of those sports that very few ever really master. Like golf – we’re told ‘you don’t need to be good at it to enjoy it’. I have even used this phrase before, but do I really believe it? Of course not and if anyone says they do, they’re lying. I think it takes a very special person to enjoy a sport that they are truly terrible at. Either that, or they have the patience of a saint.
Like most people I remember my first wave, as if it were yesterday. It was in Hayle on Gwithian beach, on a very dark, damp day with my parents and sister huddling around a windbreak in true British fashion. I had spent hours trying to get to my feet, slowly making progress and each time feeling closer and closer to becoming a stand up surfer. Even more vivid, however, was that feeling of total frustration and utter desperation. “Learning is meant to be fun”, said my Dad as I was almost in tears.
But then- that moment, the split second that remains in a surfer’s mind forever. Whether you trimmed along the wave or simply caught the white water, you realised your dream and the so-called surfing bug had manifest itself.
A wise man once told me, (in fact it was a motivational book neatly located in my downstairs toilet) that ‘Life is hard. Its gives you the test first and lesson afterwards’. Never a truer word had been spoken (or in this case printed). In the case of surfing, I believe this to be very true. How many people do you know who bought or hired a surf board, failed miserably on their own and later asked a friend for advice or booked into a surf school for lessons. Well I see it every single day.
So why do we do it? Why do surfers spend countless hours, regardless of skill or ability, plodding on without advice or tuition? If you were a rugby player, cricketer or football player, you would have a coach. Even the old boys who think they know everything, that every sports club has, will seek advice from the coach. Now swiftly back peddling at the risk of people thinking I am purely plugging my surf school, I am a great believer in ‘self critique’.
Whilst in Australia a few years back I spent a fair amount of my time on the infamous Gold Coast. Ridden with phenomenal surfers as well as a majority of ‘improver’ surfers, I noticed the amount of cameras and video cameras recording the day’s action in the water. At first glance you would probably dismiss this as the media frenzy of surf photographers that line any beach where the likes of Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Dean Morrison frequent. I have no doubt that many of them where there for that exact reason but on closer inspection, I noticed they were the friends, Partners or parents of the average everyday surfer. This free and relatively easy method of coaching can be done by anyone with a video camera and has helped the Aussies become one of the greatest surfing nations.
Go on give it a go. Find a family member, friend or partner and give them a camcorder. Stop wishing you were a better surfer and do something about it.
Saturday, 1 March 2008
This week three places on the steering committee were filled by Mark Wesson. Carl Jeffery and Matt Lloyd. A fourth candidate, Peter Urqhart of Sennen, failed to gain the support of members and surf schools in an attempt to sit on the committe and implement changes he felt would correct the BSA's faults.
As a BSA member and owner of an approved BSA school I hope this committe can now steer the BSA out of trouble and restore my faith as well as the other thousands of members
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
After Christmas, once I had managed to save a bit of cash, I fulfilled a long dream to own a Canon SLR. I have always been pretty crazy about photography but never really had the chance to use a quality digital or 35mm camera.
So, you can imagine how I ran around the Cornish countryside randomly snapping away and downloading each evening like a man possessed. A wise man once told me, actually is was Russ - that you should create a massive bank of photos before starting a blog. Of course I paid no attention to someone I should have listened to and have only now probably just built up enough of a library to compliment my blogs.
Here is one from our marvellous Capital city (London)
A few weeks ago, during my schools half term, I traveled to London, Oxford and Northampton for several daft reasons. With texts and phone calls from my mates and father I was constantly reminded of the fact I was missing some ‘epic waves’.
The truth is I didn’t actually need those texts and calls from home to remind me of the surf I was missing. Armed with my laptop – by my side for emergency ‘tales from the tube' use, as well as my new gadget, the new I touch, I had all the equipment needed to keep track of the surf. It was so ridiculous that not only could I write the forecast for the surf and weather, despite being over 300 miles away, I actually watched people I knew run past the camera at the Chapel Idne surf shop on their way to that ‘Epic Session’.
I shouldn’t really be that surprised, we are part of a generation where technology improves by the minute and new becomes old and ‘passé’ even before the credit card has time to clear.
What really did surprise me was the way in which surfing has progressed almost as much as the fore mentioned technology. Shops and surf stores run by large brands as well as independent traders seem to be sprouting in some of the most bizarre areas. As I exited a lift to a shopping mall in Northampton (a town considered the furthest from any sea) I was confronted with a massive Roxy Life/Quiksilver store. Home from home some people may suggest, but when surf boards and wetsuits are for sale in areas where people have never seen the sea at prices most surfers would never pay, you start to doubt the morality of these larger brands. Having said this that’s just the way surfing seems to be heading.
As a beneficiary of the surfing industry and keen to promote the sport to all-willing to participate, I have no problems with the rate of growth the sport is currently witnessing. What is interesting is where this is happening and who is responsible for it. Readers of the ‘Surfing Magazine’ may have seen an article last month on the surf in China. Visited by a handful of professional American surfers they traveled to some of the longest beaches in the country where lifeguards resembled Tahitian watermen and yet had never surfed before. These virgin breaks were teaming with Chinese locals in the summer months, but on nothing more than arm bands and a lilo. Despite small but ride able surf, China is one of many countries that small groups of surfers are traveling each year in order to find un-crowded breaks. It seems ironic then that the most populated country in the world also has some of the quietest beaches.
As I wondered through central London I was also aware of the extreme success of one of surfing's first pop-music stars –Jack Johnson. With billboards plastered with Jacks new album cover, he became a household name in recent years and only this month shot straight to number one in the album charts with his new album ‘sleep through the static’. Many people would argue Jack became known through the playtime in café’s, bars and clubs in Cornwall. Like quicksilver, Animal, O’Neill etc, Jack Johnson has received more coverage and success from parts of the country where surfing is nothing more than an activity during their two-week holiday.
For those in the industry this is an exciting time. Surfing is possibly Britain’s fastest growing sport and not necessarily in Cornwall. Did I mention plans to build an artificial wave in London?... Next time!
Friday, 11 January 2008
Local surfers Russ and Jill Pierre became proud parents on Wednesday 9th Jan to a handsome little fella called 'Jago'. At 6lb 2oz, Jago doesn't take after his old man who is an honorary member of the 'chunky brothers' along with legendary shaper Tyler.
Friends of SSC will know Russ as the Brightbox images photographer who captures learner surfers as they attempt to master the art of surfing under our guidance.
We wish you all the best Russ and I hope the most photographed baby in the world can reach your fantastic level of surfing one day? Oh, and Jill- you can go surfing again!
The school is heavily linked to the immediate surfing community and will therefore bring you news from other bloggist's, surfers and photographers, all doing great things.