A cold day and a big swell

Yesterday saw a big lined up swell hit the coast. Temperatures remained around freezing, and a cold afternoon brought few surfers to tackle the shifting peak and variable sizes that broke down the point. Those who did brave it were well rewarded with long waves and big open faces, as well as some deep dark pits if you wanted to stall through the inside section. The first three pictures are available as a triptych mounted and framed for £95 please contact me if interested below


Surfing cornwall







Bude Sea Pool

Here’s a shot I took recently for Bude Sea Pool. After recent cuts this wonderful resource for the people of the area has been taken over by a charity who desperately need help to keep up the fabric that is constantly bombarded by the might of the Atlantic.

First built in the 1930’s it is a magnificient example of municipal building, offering a safe and fun place to swim amongst the grandeur of the Cornish coastline. It would be a great shame to lose this famous landmark and I urge anyone who loves Bude, the coastline and it’s history to join the charity and help the volunteers keep this great resource open.

Late November

I have been enjoying the dark skies, and the movements of fronts across the County. Regularly the waves clean up for a while as the winds swing around. Here’s Richard McGonigal on a dark afternoon, the low winter sun just about to drop behind Cam, giving some lovely light on the grey seas.

Point Surf

chris smooth

We have had a great run of surf all autumn, so much so that I have not had much time for any other interests. Full service should be resumed shortly. In the meantime here are a couple of shots of Chris Hartop on his mini simmons. Chris makes boardsocks, handplanes, and surfboards. Here he is jamming down a windswept wall on a seldom seen wave in Cornwall20111103-IMG_0228
chris hartop odd socks

Sunday Smiles

Last Sunday (October 2nd) was the end of a superb run of fine weather and good surf. The last days of September all began with warm damp dawns, the stillness and clear skies a portent of the heat to come. The bushes full of bursting blackberries, the grasses wet with dew, and the light soft with a fine mist. As the sun rose the air dried, no wind, far off cirrus diffusing the sun to a warm glowing yellow ball across half a sky. Day after day swells poured in, long period, hitting banks all along the coast that had spent all summer sorting themselves out. In a coastline of surfers there was a lot of days taken off, jobs put back, meetings missed. On the Sunday the swell dropped, but the heat, light and stillness remained. The beach was full of people having a lot of fun. The happiness was palpable in the air, it was the last day of summer.

I took my youngest son out surfing. He is four, he held tight around my neck and we paddled out to the surf line to catch up with his Mum. We took waves in turn with the other surfers and swooped down the line lying prone. There were lots of hoots. I felt slightly deafened for a few days from Alby’s shouts of pleasure in my ear.

On the Monday the wind picked up, blowing leaves furiously across the landscape. the temperature dropped, rain was forecast and everyone went back to school and work. Autumn had arrived.

Paella and Navajas Rosado

On a long hot summer evening I love to see a group of friends waiting on a huge pan of Paella, drinking rose and watching the sun go down. Especially if you have gathered some of your own shellfish and others have bought fish or meats to add to the pot.

All over Spain the hardware stores sell huge paella pans and stoves to take to outside parties. The last few years have seen a popular take up of Volleyball, and on a sunday afternoon courts are scratched out, a net is strung up and while some play, some cook, often in vast pans able to cater for 30 or more.

The meal is now pan-iberian and recipes change according to district, region and most importantly what is available. One thing is constant, the wafting rich smell of saffron, fish, rice and garlic, whether drifting over hot beach sands, or pine scented forest is a typical Spanish note, add the high voices of family and children and you are unmistakably immersed in Iberian culture.

The basic recipe is very simple: Rice, Saffron, onions, garlic, fish and shellfish, and food is added to the pot according to how long it needs to cook. The Typical Andalusian recipe involves chicken on the bone, but I have used duck, and spanish sausage and pieces of pork on occasion, whatever is to hand. In Catalonia the stock is darker and fishier and hardly ever cooked with meats.

I always like to start with browning the meat in the pan and then adding chopped onions and garlic with plenty of olive oil, and then adding the rice. Spanish Paella rice is similar to rissotto rice, and really any short grain rice will do. Although if you manage to obtain some of that wonderful nutty rice from the spanish deltas you will be well rewarded. Once this is stirred around the pot gathering up the meat browning and olive oil the stock is added, usually chicken stock in Andalusia, or fish stock in Catalonia; which has had plenty of saffron steeped in it for a few hours. when the rice is swimming in stock at 3 parts stock to one part rice, the fish is added making sure it is well covered and finally the shellfish. A few gentle stirs are needed to stop the rice sticking to the pan, but not too much or the fish will fall apart and the shellfish get stuck with rice. As the last of the stock is soaked up and the rice is plump and golden serve immediately. Everyone will be waiting and a big pan is easy to serve from. Use large chunks of white fish- sustainable pollock or ling is perfect from our shores, along with mussels, clams, squid, and prawns- shell on, fresh and large if you can get them. Herbs are generally wild thyme from the hills sprinkled liberally during cooking. The resulting dish should be a rich gold, glistening with oil and inundated with tasty bites of fish, chicken and shellfish.

We drunk a couple of bottles of Rioja Rosado Navajas, a young fruity rosado which had a brilliant heady flavour, perfect with the richness of saffron rice. It is a great slurping wine and affordable enough to buy a few bottles for a long evening with friends. The flavour is bright and intense, typically Spanish and getting popular in the beachfront restaurants and bars all over the peninsula this year.

If you are in Bude the very knowledgeable Oliver from North Coast Wines has a few cases left of the Navajas at a reasonable, quaffable price. You will be intrigued at the taste, with 50% tempranillo and 50% viura grape it is a very different rose, very spanish, and well worth a go.



The Evolutionary Surfer and Timothy Leary’s view of surfing

In 1978 Surfer Magazine published an interview with Dr Leary entitled ‘The Evolutionary Surfer’. Some of the quotes encapsulate surfing succinctly, and have stood the test of time, others seem lost in a naive drug fuelled landscape.  At the time Leary promoted himself as the west coast link between the youth counter culture and the status quo of square rationality because of his doctorate. The hippies knew him as one of their own- a purveyor of strong high quality acid, and allowed him to be their spokesman.

Here are some outtakes from the interview. Both SURFER and Leary come across as highly literate and erudite. The magazine and surfing culture, for better or worse has made a lot of changes.

Surfer Magazine: One of the great lessons that you learn in the ocean is that while you are totally insignificant to the total mass, that you can survive in it by being part of it. Surfing gives you very elemental illustrations of broader truths by serving as a microcosm that we can grasp.

Timothy Leary: I’ve been doing a lot of lecturing, and I’ve picked out as my symbol, surf; and I want to have film of a surfer right at that point moving along constantly right at the edge of the tube. That position is the metaphor of life to me, the highly conscious life. That you think of the tube as being the past, and I’m an evolutionary agent, and what I try to do is to be at that point where you’re going into the future, but you have to keep in touch with the past … there’s where you get the power; … and sure you’re most helpless, but you also have most precise control at that moment. And using the past … the past is pushing you forward, isn’t it? The wave is crashing behind you, yeah? And you can’t be slow about it or you … (Leary illustrates the lip picking you off.)

Surfer: Another thing, when you talk about the next step being the exploration of space … the most popular type of article we can run in our magazine is travel/exploration for new surf.

L: Is that right? See, that’s beautiful, isn’t it! S: So there’s much yet to be discovered here, yet what happens where the waves are all discovered here?

L: O.K. I can give you the answer to that question. And I urge you to contact people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. George can give you the names. The next thing after sea surfing will be solar wave surfing, solar sailing. Now this may sound like acid hallucination, but the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is one of the most respected scientific institutions we have in the country, with enormous government grants and aerospace investments. It has as one of its largest projects now, working out the hardware aspects of solar sailing. The action out there … since there’s no gravity or resistance, we’re going to just float along on solar winds. George would you explain further?

George (A scientist brought in to add gravitas): Well, coming out from the sun, there are great waves of energy, which if you erect super-thin sheets of phase vapor deposited nylon mesh that’s about one-tenth the diameter of a human hair, you can catch and harness these waves of solar energy.

S: I can relate to that. There are quite a few surfers who have evolved from surfboarding to sailing. They’re all aspects of what we call nature’s free rides.

There is an important sub text to the story however, and that is the group known as ‘The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’ a gang of hippy surfers affiliated to and led by Leary who espoused a communal, free love lifestyle based in Laguna Beach. They had a vegetarian outlook, opening a cafe where no prices were given and diners chose to pay what they felt reasonable. Many of the group became involved in selling contraband and suffered the considerable ire of the establishment, who made their final arrest of the group in 2009. It is thought that ‘The Hippy Mafia’ were responsible for bringing wholesale amounts of pot from a myriad of countries including Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan, helped by the Welshman Howard Marks. Whether the millions of dollars thought by the narcs to be made by the group ever materialised is too close to history to yet be known. Leary said of them “The whole concept of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love is like a bogeyman invented by the narcs. The brotherhood was about eight surfer kids from Southern California, Laguna Beach, who took the LSD, and they practiced the religion of the worship of nature, and they’d go into the mountains. But they were not bigshots at all. None of them ever drove anything better than a VW bus. They were just kind of in it for the spiritual thrill.” But then he would say that. The group has become a part of the surfing collective unconscious and folklore, and I am sure referenced in ‘Point Break’, and ‘Big Wednesday’.



The Brotherhood of Eternal Love








Barnstaple to Hong Kong by train

How to get round the world by trainA couple of years ago I was talking to my friend over a pint and discussing the best way to get to the far eas. Ostensibly it was to go surfing, he mentioned that one might be able to take a train from our local station to a regional budget flight hub in the far east for onward travel to the Indian ocean islands.

I quite liked the idea of crossing the gobi desert enroute to the waves. I knew I would not be able to take a board with me, they are very strict about things like that on Great Western, and the hassle of having a longboard sticking out of my compartment 9000 miles across Russia was an uncomfortable contemplation. I saw myself dragging a 10′ Takayama through a scene from Chekhovs ‘The Cherry Orchard’, searching for a tavern in the late summer sun while families watch me from behind picket fences and long corn.

I also envisioned our local train station: It is ten to eight on a busy weekday morning. I am at the front of a long queue attempting to purchase tickets from Barnstaple to Hong Kong, and wanting to double-check I can make all my connections. I can feel the other travellers looking at the back of my head willing me to give up, but I can’t. I must make sure that Ulan Bator is in the correct time zone for the connection to China.

Of course these days the optimum method for organising this sort of journey is with a computer, and the armchair world that opened up to me was a beautiful thing. I had the romantic carriage from Berlin to Moscow with double bed and ensuite shower for less than a single from here to London. I had the cost and time of train number 4 out of Moscow heading across Mongolia to Beijing. I had the time taken for the carriages to be craned off russian gauge dollies onto the chinese tracks. I had the cost of upgrading to ‘soft class’ on the chinese trains south to Hong Kong.

Unfortunately I never took the journey. Time and work precluded the adventure, and I flew via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur to Sumatra. However the journey is in my imagination, it might one day happen. Perhaps you and I will meet in a tavern in Omsk, the sun setting over the steppe. The horizon still and bereft of humanity.

The notes I made in the picture above included flights to continue round the world.

If this journey piques your interest have a look at http://www.seat61.com/Trans-Siberian.htm