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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Black Stars&White Water: Surfing and travelling in Ghana


A year ago today I left London for 5 months to travel, volunteer and surf in Ghana and finally I have got around to editing some of the footage. Here's the first 5 minute cut of Black Stars&White Water.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Armageddon

A lesson on always being prepared.
My girlfriend’s parents have a beautiful house in Folkestone by the sea. It's a beautiful spot but as there are so rarely waves I have stopped bothering to look at the charts before we head down for a weekend.

One weekend earlier in the year we were down there. Everyone was out so I went for a Sunday morning run down the beach and was horrified to see clean 3ft-ers rolling in the bay with only 4 guys out. I instantly tried to beg, borrow, hire, steal or make a board and wetty but to no avail. I just had to stand and watch. 

On the sombre jog home the below formed in my head. So I wrote it down.

A lucky *@!#$* charging down the line

Armageddon


"Roll up! roll up!
Catch a wave.
Walk on water,
dance with waves.
That's my gift from me to you
for just ten pounds,
it is true.
Grab a stick.
Run on down.
Hop on nature's merry-go-round!"

"Oh I say!
Darling!
What fun!
This wave riding could become.
To swim out into the deepest blue
and catch a wave or two with you.
For the sun is out
and it's not too breezy
doesn't it look oh so easy.
To get pushed along by the ocean
stand atop and feel the motion.
I say good sir I'll take you up!
Darling give me a kiss good luck
I'm off to conquer the deep blue sea
and all that it can throw at me."

"Oh love of mine,
the day surely is one that’s fine
I’d love to come...
But…
Urm...
Um…
I’d rather cheer you on from the beach,
you know water makes me screech.
I'm even scared of rubber ducks,
I can only take showers once a month.
Go! Go! In to the blue.
I'll be here to wait for you."

And off he went in to the deep,
to find the feeling we all seek.
To rise and fall with the lumps of brine,
until in a couple of months time...

"Roll up! roll up!
Catch a wave,
stand up tall
and slide away.
It’s a gift from me to you,
for Just ten English pounds
it is true.
Grab a stick.
Run on down.
Go hop on nature's merry-go-round!"

"Good morning, my good man,
I'm back again.
I've been dreaming of hanging ten,
getting deep within the barrel
and throwing spray higher than a moody camel.
I've got ten of the finest English pounds.
Give me something I can throw around."

"Welcome back my friend.
It’s nice to see you back again
What, Sir, can I do?
To make your dreams all come true?
If you want to go out to hack and shred
you’re going to need a better sled,
to get the kick you are after,
may I suggest something.. Harder?
For the softy is for first timers,
amateurs and wimpy minors.
Get the hit you really need
Hand over a twenty.
Here.
To me."

"Of course fine sir,
I must agree.
You surely know what's best for me.
To get a hit out in the waves.
Here take my 20 sheets.
The waves are almost 6ft.
Here! Here! Take my money,
and take it quick.
I'm heading in,
on my new Bic"

"Oh love of mine,
I'll just wait behind.
Oh you're gone
.........
Never mind"

And as the weeks and months did pass,
our hero was progressing fast.
Lefts.
Rights.
Bottom turns.
Floaters and occasional cut backs,
wafts and almost lethal hacks.
Until the sunshine left our shores
The rain fell
and the gale’s roared.
His fair maiden froze threw it all,
as she watched him loyally from the shore.
Every wipeout.
Every peach.
She stood there still upon the beach.

"Roll up! roll up!
Catch a wave
Stand up tall
and slide away
It’s my gift….”

“My good man, never mind that shit!
All I need is one good hit.
The waves have been mush for a good 2 weeks.
I want a spot with perfect peaks,
offshore winds, a huge groundswell,
away from the crowds as well
Give it me!
Give it quick!
Its been so long I'm feeling sick!

“Of course Sir.
Right Away,
there’s no reason to delay.
What you need is something epic
something perfect,
something sic.
A wave so exotic,
it will leave you feeling quite erotic.
Perfect waves that look quite gnarly,
and are bigger than the biggest tsunami.

“Yes! Yes! I quite agree.
Now quick, quick give it to me!”

“Ok. Ok. Calm down sir.
You are causing quite the stir.
There are several options I can offer,
but I need you to listen good and proper.
All you to do is pick,
the one that really grabs your dick:
There’s all the usual destinations
Bali, Oz or New Zealand?
Or anywhere Indonesian?
Fiji, Samoa or Sumatra?
But I know what you’re really after.
You want something no ones ever seen.
Something of which you can barely dream...
There’s slab in deepest, darkest North Korea.
In water riddled with gonorrhea.
They say that it’s so radioactive it glows in the dark,
and is home to a dozen angry mutant sharks.
But the wave is surely worth the peril
A 10 mile long.
100ft high..
Perfect...
Barrel.
It’s a wave known locally as Kim Jong Fun.
But it's known to the rest of us as Armageddon.
Roll up! Go on! Go and go get some.”

“Oh love of mine,
I'm begging. Please.
See I'm down here on my knees.
Let it go. It’s just not worth it.
We’re broke and you've sold all our shit.
We’re living underneath the pier!
Don’t you think it awfully queer
That we haven’t eaten all this week
so you can buy magazines on surfing technique.
Please. Can we just go in land,
just a mile or two
To settle down just like we planned,
just me and you.
I can’t take this anymore!
All you care about is where next to score.
I don’t even like the sea.
All you think is Me Me Me!”

“A perfect 100ft, 10 mile barrel you say.
Well huzzah! and hip hip hooray!
Get me a flight right now.
I’ll sneak over the border somehow
I’ll scale the cliffs and fight the sharks.
Oh it will be such laughs.
You watch. You see. I’ll tame the best
It’ll be a YouTube feast!”

And with that our hero left at pace
and an almighty slap across the face.
To surf the world’s gnarliest wave
hoping to come out unscathed.
While the ‘good man’ counted his money
thinking it was very funny,
how easy it was to rake it in,
from the long haired hippies in the swim.
Our maiden she was not so pleased.
She vowed to herself her life would be one of ease.
Far far away from the sea.
A life of boredom and consistency.
Where everyone is old,
and nothing changes,
so she moved to Milton Keynes and golfed for ever and ages!”

What about our hero I pretend you ask.
Did the sharks take him to task?
Did he fall from the cliffs?
And end up impaled on spikes all stiff?
Because there is no way that we could have made it:
snuck over the border,
dodged the sharks,
and got barreled off his nut for an hour and a half.
Surrounded by green glowing water
he surely was a lamb to slaughter.
There’s no way he could have won,
against the might of Kim Jong Fun,
and returned back down to the pier,
where to this day you can hear...

"Roll up! roll up!
Catch a wave
Walk on water,
dance with waves.
That's my gift from me to you
For just ten pounds
It is true.
Grab a stick.
Run on down.
Hop on nature's merry-go-round!"


Next time... Next time.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Inaugural Meeting of 'The Landlocked Surf Club'.


Cleansing hangovers in the 9°C Atlantic

Agenda.
McDonald's breakfast
Cross the Severn
Catch Up With Mates
Find Waves&Surf Until Numb
Beer
Make Friends
Jager&Snakebite
Insult a National Treasure
Bacon
More Waves
McDonald's


The time I made it between the lines.

-McDonald's-

Floodpocolypse, tubeaggedon and galeocaust had plagued the past week. It was a week of checking and re-checking forecasts and webcams, dire warnings from loved ones and speculative emails. It was only on Friday that caution was thrown quite literally to the wind and the trip was a tentative go. Even so when I woke at 5:30am the wind pounded the windows with such ferocity that even placing the boards on the car seemed a herculean task. My heart sank. Maybe this was a bad idea. I went back to sleep. By 8 the wind had died down to a reasonable level so I loaded up, gave Zoe a kiss goodbye, hoisted the mainsail and was blown all the way to a McDonald's just outside Reading. Adam met me with a derisive laugh at my parking and a Sausage and Egg McMuffin both of which I willingly accepted and we sat chatting and laughing about the night before and the trip ahead. 

Enter the Dragon.

-Crossing the Severn-

The wind drove us on to Wales, buffeting the car around all the way. The heavens opened and the rain leaked in, following the path of the roof straps. My shoulder took the worst of the water. At least I was wearing a dark hoody. My shoulder had just turned from a stream in to a river when we hit the self perpetuated traffic jam to pay our £6.40 entrance fee for the welsh safari park. There wasn't even a solitary sheep in sight. 

We powered on through Powys, held our breath through Talbot and battled through the bay before reaching the crest of the hill. The sun had danced out from behind the clouds and the winds that had brought us here abated. The bay was sparkling. Lumps of head high swell hit the bay's exposed reefs, points and sandbars with a beautiful irregularity while one lone black figure bobbed in the brine. It wasn't a perfect but it's close enough for me. Especially as we only paid £6.40.

The only time getting naked in car parks is normal.
-Catch Up With Mates-

'You are so shit at parking'
'Fuck it. That'll do'
'Is that the curb over there on the horizon?'
'Shut it. Let's check the waves and go find Jason.'
----

Me: 'Alright Jase'
Jason: 'Alright buddy. How's it going?
Me: 'Good man. How's you?'
Jason: 'Good mate. Bloody Knackered though.'
Me: 'Out on the town?'
Jason: 'Nah. Valentines.'
Me: 'Ah. Got home late?'
Jason: 'Just went to the cinema.'
----

Adam: 'Rob, your house mate who let us in...'
Rob: 'Georgie?'
Adam: 'Yeah. Is she on Tinder?'
----

Adam: 'Oh he is so selfish with the ball in hand. He always dummies...'
Jason: 'I threw a dummy once.'
----

Time well spent.

Not the ideal time to find that your boots have holes in.

-Find Waves&Surf Until Numb-


We shovelled down bacon butties, chips and coke in a restaurant overlooking the bay. Adam cracked jokes while Jason’s laugh, a full body convulsion that takes over his whole person and never fails to make me happy, filled the room. I behaved like a small child with OCD cutting out mid-sentence to admire the potential as a set rolled through.  

When all food had been consumed and the laughter died away we succumbed to temptation and headed out on to the sun drenched promenade before strolling back to the car park where Adam and I stripped off and changed in to our neoprene armour, an act that in any other situation would invite at best a caution and at worst a lengthy prison sentence. 

Dressed head to in rubber and armed with our boards as explanation we headed in to the icy blue to join the ever-growing line-up. I headed for the point at the west of the bay which was sparsely populated by long-boarders and  SUPs which may have been a rash move considering I was riding a 6'0" Fish but I fancied I had a greater chance there than in the mêlée occurring over the Eastern reef. 

Adam’s plan was to get his feet in the white water before heading out back. Enthusiasm, however, got the better of him as he paddled straight out and proceeded to take off on a 5ft+ bomb and wiping out so badly he ‘broke his fibular’ while Jason watched on from the shore presumably doubled over and filling the bay with laughter. Thankfully the broken fibular wasn't ‘too serious’ and Adam managed another 3 hours in the water before presumably the ache in his leg and sight of bone through his skin made him realise it was time to go in.

I was having my own leg trouble realising around 5 minutes in to the session that my boots were next to useless with them both harbouring a couple of here to unseen holes.  To add injury to insult, before I’d even caught a wave, a stray long-board popped out from its duck-diving owner and smacked me squarely in the head. At least I wasn't going to miss playing Rugby this week.

I started to get the hang of the point break and the wave count started going in the right direction. The take-off's were becoming quicker and later. Though one of the curiosities of having numb feet is that controlling a surfboard becomes near impossible. The feedback loop between the wave, your feet and brain breaks down and you resort to careering along a wave like a Formula 1 car on ice. On the plus side, it's rather fun.


I moved to the reef and caught a couple of neglected lumps amongst the crowd. The sun disappeared behind the point and after a few more last waves than is mathematically possible I headed for the shore where my numb feet finally came in useful when traversing the stony beach up to the front. I met Adam on the front and we walked back up to the car where my feet found sensation and also Jason.







Popping Up.

-Beer-


Scream pubs are brilliant. A much under-rated pillar of Uni life. Any pub that can provide you a beer, meal and change for £7 is always a welcome end to a day. Fatigue was kicking in. Conversation slowed. Burgers arrived. Glasses drained. All was well. Waves reminiscedwipe-outs were told, sessions compared. All were revived. Onwards! and down in to town.



                                                       
Left: Stavros uses snakebite as his inspiration & practices his pop-up in Walkabout. Right: Diego is squatted by a friendly squaddy.

-Make Friends-


Having had a sniff of student living there was no going back. We hit the nearest Spoons where Adam asserted that basically all drinks were basically half price. The workers got a round in followed closely by another and then another. We had students to entertain after all. The Welsh circled. Rob was separated from the pack and picked off by a vicious pack of valley's girls. Adam thought quick and decided to give us all pseudonyms though to what use I'm still not sure. Rob was dead and Diego was born who within 5 minutes was promptly drug searched by security before being squatted by a provoked squaddy. The barmaid soon put a stop to the shenanigans: "Oi! Boys! Not near the bar all right?!". Fair enough. 

Stavros and Diego embrace.

-Jager&Snakebite-

Always make things interesting. A walkabout was called for. Snakebite drained. Steve (Jason) became increasingly Welsh until congratulations were offered from the DJ to English Steve, up from London, celebrating his 30th. 

Stavros (Adam) had won £31 on a fruity and ordered copious Jager before hitting the snakebite hard and practising his pop-up on the floor of walkabout. Diego went missing for great stints presumably detained by security again for taking too long to poo, while Vlad stoically held the fort throughout. Stavros then decided he'd had enough, wiped the glasses of snakebite on to the floor and announced we were moving on. I decided it was time for bed and took a recently re-appeared Diego home while one side of his body fought an increasingly losing battle to get his coat off while the other tried desperately to put it on. Progress was slow. 

               

From left to right: The gang; Jason (Steve), Owen (Vlad), Rob (Diego) and Adam (Stavros). On the right: Steve's 30th was too much for him evidently.

-Insult a National Treasure-

A group of random boys swarm around Charlotte Church outside a club.

Stavros: 'She's not fit.'
Steve: ' Where's Gavin?'
----

I blame Jager.

-Bacon-

We woke to the smell of Bacon, coffee and croissant followed by the sight of Jason cocooned in a sleeping bag on the landing. We went downstairs to find students awake, in a clean kitchen at 9am. Things have changed. I'm not complaining though. Bacon is tidy.

A left rolls through. I take chase.
-More waves-

Due to an inevitable combination of laziness and faffing we only arrived back at the bay at 1pm though by a stroke of luck the sun shone, the waves were cleaner and almost empty. An old boy emerged from the water and told us to make the most of the quiet because everyone was watching Swansea play. "Enjoy boys!". We certainly did. 

I took off to have fun on the left hand point and without numb feet I had a ball. The tide was low and reef was shallow; knowing when to kick out was key. I attacked every wave I could. My confidence was sky high in the slightly smaller, underpopulated and cleaner swell. Spray even went flying on a couple of carves. Things were moving forward. Until an ill advised floater left me standing on shallow reef and taking a battering from the breakers. I styled it out though (I reckon) and thankfully I left the blue unscathed and stoked.Tiredness got the best of me despite the fun, sun and swell. South Wales certainly was a stereotype. Maybe it's all a clever ruse to put off the English

I rejoined Adam and Robs on the beach. Adam was pumped after a couple of nice waves at the end. Robs was understandably green from a mixture of envy, after being sidelined by knee surgery in December, and hangover but seemed chilled out by a day out of the big smoke. All smiles and surfboards we left the sand and changed in the car park, waving goodbye to the bay of opportunity.  

Adam styles it out.
-McDonald's-

The Ox had just put Arsenal ahead as we pulled in to McDonald's, famished from a mixture of paddling and hangover hunger. Despite the mood we needed more than happy meals. Big Mac's were eaten, waves analysed, stories told, wipe-outs mocked and laughter filled the air mixed in with the smell of neoprene and chips. Food finished and trays cleared away we piled back in to the car and headed east to the sound of Adam's snores and an Arsenal win.


-Trip members-

Surfing: Ant (Pablo), Adam (Stavros)
Social: Rob (Diego), Owen (Vladamir), Jason (Steve)

The bay of opportunity.