Eastern Treasure

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It is strange that I enjoy a good travel book or a book where there is a strange mission – particular favourites include Digger by Max Anderson, Round Ireland With A Fridge by Tony Hawks and The Dark Tourist by Dom Joly – since I struggle to make it out of Somerset, and when I do it is usually on a South Westerly heading. Sure, I’ve been across the channel a few times (Bristol and English) but never to a proper “jet lag” destination. So I was more than a little apprehensive when my other half Timmy informed me we were off to visit her family in Thailand. I’d managed to put it off for more than 10 years, but she was out of patience and I was out of argument, so with that we were off.

The first week of our trip was spent at a beautiful villa overlooking the sea on Koh Samui. We went on a terrifying but scenic 4×4 safari, visited some funny shaped rocks and saw a mummified monk wearing cheap shades – you can Google “Wat Khunaram” if that’s your thing. Week one complete it was then on to Bangkok Airport to rendezvous with Timmy’s parents and collect the enormous Toyota hire van.

Our silver land yacht delivered us efficiently to Sa Kaeo province in Eastern Thailand a couple of hours outside of Bangkok, and close to the border with Cambodia, to catch up with the rest of Timmy’s family (there are a lot of them!). It felt more than a little familiar with large flat areas of farmland set against a few gentle rolling hills, like a very warm Somerset but with bigger potholes in the roads. Sa Kaeo city itself isn’t especially remarkable, but the surrounding countryside has some real gems. My children loved Khao Chakan Arboretum or “Monkey Mountain” as we called it, a limestone outcrop where you can hand feed wild monkeys. We also visited the strange rock formations at Lalu which look like the set of a science-fiction film, and the stunning butterfly reserve and waterfalls of Pangsida National Park.

But the real highlight of our time in Sa Kaeo, and of the whole trip really, was Prasat Sdok Kok Thom. This is an 11th century Khmer temple just a few hundred metres from the Cambodian border. In fact so close that it has been fought over by Thailand and Cambodia during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Clearance of landmines was only completed in 2004 towards the end of a restoration programme started in the 90s. The temple hasn’t really made it onto the tourist trail, to the extent that it doesn’t even receive that many Thai visitors, let alone foreigners or farang. On the day we visited there were only about 8 other visitors. As we made our way through the wood to the entrance it was hard not to be overcome by the vicious 37° heat.

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The main sanctuary is approached along a cobbled street across a moat to a grand entrance, which you pass through to reach an inner courtyard. At the centre of the courtyard lies a big sandstone tower. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and historically it is massively important. Carvings and inscriptions which were once in place here have unlocked some of the secrets at other bigger and more well known sites like Angkor, though these are now held at museums in Bangkok. The tranquility and grandeur of the temple is something never to be forgotten.

Leaving Prasat Sdok Kok Thom was like exiting the set of an Indiana Jones film, and it is possibly the most amazing place I’ve ever visited. It feels something of a privilege to have set foot there, and I would never have gone there had I not been in the company of locals.

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Following Sa Kaeo we moved on to Pattaya for a few days, taking in the worlds worst magic show, meeting Thailand’s No.1 Michael Jackson impersonator (not that we saw many other MJ impersonators for comparison, but he was good) and getting kissed by a beautiful performer at Mimosa: City of Love – a sort of shopping mall Disneyland with dancers. Timmy insists it was a ladyboy, but she totally and definitely wasn’t, OK. Not at all. Ever. The last leg of our visit was spent in Bangkok to catch up with a few more cousins, explore a few more temples and enjoy the excellent transport systems.

This could have been written last August whilst still in Thailand or straight away after returning, but following the brilliantly inspiring article by Bryn last August I decided to wait and see how I felt a little down the line, and I’m glad I waited. I’m a slightly less reluctant traveller and actually enjoyed it more than expected. Thailand, the land of smiles, is a beautiful country. Fond little memories keep springing to mind and raising a smile. Six or seven months on and there are still little pieces of treasure to be enjoyed.

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Eastern Treasureposted on by Dan Fear in The Road, This World


Work 9-5? Can you keep the stoke alive?

Great swell this morning. Scored the Marina with just two out. Offshore and perfect.”

A typical Facebook post from a friend here in Brighton, followed soon after by a host of comments from people who had also scored said swell and we’re equally ecstatic.

Where was I? Certainly not able to comment (other than to say “Gutted. Missed it”), because I was at my desk at work.

And then the photos started to arrive…

Hotpipes Shoreham Surf break

Exhibit A. Photo from James Onslow/Sharkbait.co.uk

OK so this is a fairly rare day for us Sussex surfers, but still this winter has seen quite a few of these and even the less mediocre ones I would have jumped at the chance to get in.

It’s the curse of us ’9 to 5ers’. Stuck in the office, while friends with more ‘flexible’ working arrangements can pick and choose what time of day/day of the week they go.

I guess it’s the same curse suffered by those of you landlocked surfers, who may only see the sea on odd weekend trips or if they are really lucky a whole week ‘down west’.

And to be fair I’m luckier than most of them, living just 10 minutes drive from the beach and spending every-other weekend in Devon. But still the magic mystery that is ‘sod’s law’ means that often when I am free it’s flat or blowing a hooley. Why are weekdays always better?!

So yesterday just rubbed salt in the wound and it’s a wound I’ve had for the past 20 years since leaving Uni and deciding to do the sensible thing and get a proper job. In hindsight I may well look back when I’m older and say “I wish I had chosen a career that would allow me more time to surf when I wanted”, but maybe it’s not too late to change now?

To be fair I love my job and the career path I’m currently on – it’s exciting, challenging, fast-paced and fun – yet there are times when I wish I could be like Stokesy, Reubyn Ash, Ben Skinner and other ‘pro’ UK surfers, who do get to spend their lives travelling and surfing.

And maybe living where I do doesn’t help, as our waves are inconsistent, but having said that I have some good friends in Devon, Cornwall etc who probably get in as little as me due to work (or other family commitments).

It doesn’t help matters that it’s winter too. It’s basically dark when I go to work and leave it (although getting better by the day), so when you work 8.30pm – 5.30pm you’re definitely a weekend warrior.

So how do surfers like me deal with our lack of wave time and keep our stoke going? Here’s a few thoughts…

Surf mags – these can be our friends. The likes of Carve, Wavelength (or imports such as Surfer) do help inspire and statisfy to an extent, but often just make you want to surf more!

Surf movies – easily accessible on your phone, tablet, laptop or other device (or DVD if you’re old school like me), you can immerse yourself in a watery world of sunshine, endless barrels, cold beers and fun. They do allow a bit of rewarding mind surfing, but as with magazines tend to make you pine for those waves your missing

Skateboarding – this can help in fairness. I will try to skate to work when I can, just to get a bit of that feeling of ‘the glide’ in your life

Surf trips – when the cold darkness wraps us up then what better cure for your surf sadness than jetting away on a trip. Morocco, Portugal and the Canaries are all popular destinations with the Brit crew. These are a great cure as you’re a) actually getting wet and b) getting some sun/warm water too. However many of us 9-5ers have used our time-off up on non-surfing holidays so if we’re lucky can squeeze in a long weekend (whereas some friends can disappear for the whole winter!

These do help to offer a glimmer of hope, but I don’t think any of these can properly replace the ability to drop everything and surf when you want, no matter what time of day or day of the week.

So until that time when I’m in the same position I will sit at my desk and dream of the next time I’m gliding across a nice glassy wall.

And maybe I should learn to ignore Facebook when I know the surf is on!

Work 9-5? Can you keep the stoke alive?posted on by David Somerville in Surfing


Shine

Flatland BMX is probably the closest thing riding a bicycle gets to a pure art form. Its not about biggest, highest or fastest. It is about the individuals creative expression and how he or she translates that in to riding a bike. New tricks and sequences are made up every day, there are no limits or boundaries, no right and wrong, just the rider and a bike.
There are some sports and forms of expression that get me stoked and thinking ‘man I want to try that’, but Flatland BMX is different. I know I don’t have the patience the time or the skill. In fact I don’t really want to ‘do it’ at all. Instead I find it hypnotic, mesmerizing and beautiful. It’s like watching the sea or the flames from an open fire, constantly changing and evolving and yet captivating in every moment.

This is a short film called Shine that, for me, captures the essence of Flatland. Hope you enjoy it too.

SHINE – bmx flatland short film from Progressive Pictures on Vimeo.

Shineposted on by Chaz Curry in Art, Cycling, Uncategorized, Wheels


Sharpy

To write about strangers is easy. You list what you’ve read, what you’ve heard and what they tell you. With no personal connection on either side it becomes a straight forward transaction.

To write about someone you know seems like something that should be easier than easy. There’s an advantage to knowing someone, your only job is to let people see what you see. The difficulty is separating what they want to be seen, and having them trust you enough to do a good job.

Roger Sharp, Sharpy, @surf_photo, I don’t call him any of those names, I call him Dodge. There is no reason why we should be friends and we have absolutely nothing in common beyond both liking the colour blue. It’s an odd friendship, but for some strange reason, it works just fine. I have wanted to write about Sharpy and his work for a while, and he has wanted to take a photo of me for a while, the second is unlikely to happen and I wasn’t quite sure how to go about writing about him, he isn’t the easiest of people to get stuff out of. Of course when I asked him what sort of piece he wanted me to write about him, a standard interview, a personal piece about who he is as opposed to what he does, his response was completely unhelpful

“whatever you want to write, you’re the writer”

Sharpy, editor of Carve, the largest surf magazine in the land and one of the finest surf photographers on and off shore. It might seem like a bold statement, but when you consider his achievements in an industry that so many fail to maintain a career in, it’s a statement that upholds itself with very little effort. As an editor he was the first to put a woman, Robyn Davies, on the cover of a major surf magazine, Surf Europe back in 2003, and as a photographer his pictures have graced every national newspaper and a host of mainstream television channels.

Sharyp's favourite pictire, Andy Irons (RIP), France

Sharpy’s favourite picture, Andy Irons (RIP), France

Self-effacing and modest it’s rare you would ever hear him talk about his work in those terms, proud of what he does but protective of it, he remains meticulous about the photos he takes and when he takes them, having travelled the world and back shooting the very best surf in the world, you can kinda see why he’s fussy.

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Oli Adams in Ireland

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Tassy under the sea

Naïve to the world of surf photography, I’d have thought anyone that had double page spreads in Surfer magazine, and shot ads for O’Neill, Billabong, Quiksilver, Gravis, Animal, C-Skins…the list goes on, would surely be sleeping on a bed of fifties and sipping Crystal. But apparently, it makes you rich in memories.

“This becoming a job was a happy accident, no one should ever set out to be a surf photographer for the money, it has to be for the love”

Having shot the most well-recongised surfers in the world you’d expect some sort of ego, or at the very least some self-assurance, but there is none. Growing up with his adoptive family in Bath and a quiet childhood, the understated side to him hasn’t ever really gone away, and only recently has his passion for a good cause surfaced

“I hate unfairness, but can’t be arsed to campaign for stuff”

He absolutely hates being wrong, which is why I enjoy poking him like a bear with the proverbial big stick. He cannot stand criticism which he describes as “a bit of a pickle in this online age” and I have yet to see him get angry or even slightly agitated about anything, he reckons he just doesn’t have it in him, I reckon I just haven’t poked that big stick hard enough.

You really have to dig to get him to show you how skilled he is at what he does, and how impressive his photography archives are, Andy Irons, Kelly Slater, and shots of Oli Adams and Micah Lester in Thurso are just some of his favourites.

A successful career spanning 20+ years can only be achieved in such a challenging industry through sheer love for his craft and a passion for being in the water. Purely self-taught he doesn’t do badly for someone who forgot to go back to do their PhD, and who bought his first camera for £20, a Russian DLR from a junk shop below his student house.
If you ask him why he’s a surf photographer he’ll say that taking photos in the surf is the most fun thing in the world. It’s as simple as that.

Happier behind the camera, few people would recognize Sharpy walking down the street, and that isn’t unintentional. He doesn’t surf on crowded beaches and likes the privacy of being in the waves with close friends and the solace of being behind the camera. Finding it difficult to feel like he belonged somewhere for a lot of his life I wonder how much of what he does is about the water and the lens being a residence for him, somewhere he feels at home, where he belongs.

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Surf photographer and musician Mickey Smith

It’s difficult to get the real truth from someone outwardly confident and inwardly so private, I wanted to know why he really does what he does, but I think I got as close to an answer as I’m ever going to get

“I am simultaneously amazed and horrified by the modern world, I do just likes being in water tunnels. Looking inward is just confusing. I took photos for fun before I got paid, and I’ll do it for fun after”

When asked about Sharpy I always say the same thing, you would have no idea what he does for a living at first, but spend time in his company and you will always get the feeling he is really looking at things, it might be because his glasses need a wipe but it’s more likely to be that even when he’s in familiar spots, he is always looking for potential.

“Good photos come from an understanding, understanding the whole environment, the light, the weather, the season, the subject”

Always aspiring to be better he’s keen to start shooting full length films, web clips for him no longer seem enough, and when I asked him what his 2015 ambitions were his answers were straight forward, “get more shots of John John and Dane in the water, get better at what I do, and take a portrait of you“. The first 2 I can see happening.
He did once have a dream to discover all of the gravys of the world…so also, there’s that.

5 Millimetre from Roger Sharp on Vimeo.

I tease him that his choice of profession behind the camera was a subconscious decision to avoid spotlight, but he insists editing a magazine with half a million followers is the opposite of diverting attention.
And, on the surface I make him right, he hardly shuns interest, it’s actually quite clever, by having a presence like that it means the private life he actually leads remains happily unobserved.

Sharpyposted on by Lisa Reading in Photo, Surfing


Bite the Buffalo

After being recommended this band by a friend, I pushed for them to play at Leopallooza. I don’t get a lot of input on acts so I was glad this one got the team consensus on first listen. And they didn’t disappoint… lo-fi blues rock with a solid crowd in full support. Definitely a stand out for me at the 2014 festival.

Bite The Buffalo – Scot-born, Zambia-bred, UK-based duo, the Goneos brothers – recently signed on to Never Fade Records, the label run by platinum-selling artist Gabrielle Aplin. Their first release following this is below – the excellent single Polka Dots, which sees the decidedly hairy lower-halves of their faces replacing the speakers of a ghetto blaster.

2015 is going to be a busy year for them. New label means new album and new tours… I caught up with the brothers for a little pre-Christmas Q&A before things get hectic…

Cai: So, 2014… what was your best gig and why?

BtB: The Hope, Brighton, although we have had a few amazing London shows. Playing with the Ben Miller Band was a great show at Borderline. I think Brighton has it though as it’s always great to come to a city months after playing a festival there and seeing a hell of a lot of familiar faces… followed by an after party at a house near by, the night climaxed in some good old fashioned debauchery.

Cai: Tell me about your standout moment from the road this year…

BtB: A lot of this year has been about getting ready for 2015, making sure the single went out, writing a lot for the new album. We had amazing fun working on the Polka Dots video with Rhory Danniells. Never Fade gave us free reign to do something different and I think we certainly did that! It has been a bit less on the road because of all the prep for next year but one moment I guess might be back in Brighton, that night of good old fashioned debauchery… never purchase six litres of Scrumpy Jack, especially if it’s called Crumpy Crompton.

Cai: Best Breakthrough act from BBC Introducing; placed in the top 10 new acts at SXSW 2013… what does 2015 hold for Bite the Buffalo?

BtB: We are learning all the time about this crazy business. As a band you want to be out with fans playing as much as possible and thankfully it looks like 2015 will be super busy because of all the groundwork done in 2014. First job is to record the album and release it, we are heading into the studio with the amazing Ian Davenport in January which is really exciting. Then we get to go back on the road for some mass gigging! New festivals, re-visit some of the best ones we have already played, so many gig’s in between and then sleep a little!

Cai: I’m still mystified as to how you got your actual heads in the stereo system for the latest video, Polka Dots. Camera trickery or a little-known Goneos family ability?

BtB: It is a secret that only the Goneos family and a Zambian witch doctor will ever know! Oh and also Rhory the director and the amazing special effects team he used!

Bite the Buffalo

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Bite the Buffaloposted on by Cai Waggett in Festival, Music


#OPENSPACES

OS Press Pack - Book Back

Avid Hickory Nines watcher’s will no doubt remember our guest, Karl Mackie. He’s a talented photographer, designer and just one of those highly creative and vibrant people that manage to continually produce work that is at once inspiring and influential.

Over a long period, Karl and his team at Mackie Studio have been taking daily pictures of Cornish life, more often than not along the coast, and have uploaded them directly from their iPhones. In so doing, they’ve created an enviable bank of beautiful images that tell as many stories. From this has developed #openspaces – Karl and team’s new Kickstarter project from which, with your help, will come a book. A really good looking book, best explained by Karl himself (images are examples of those which will appear in the book)…

“For the vast majority of my work I’m either shooting on film or with a digital SLR. Since the rise of the smart phone and, in this case, the iPhone, I have found mobile photography is hugely important, convenient and above all a lot of fun.

OS Press Pack - Book Crantock

“Almost every working day, either on the way to work, on a shoot or out with the dog, a shot has been taken, edited it in the VSCO App and shared on Instagram, and consequently we’ve seen our Instagram account grow over two years to now include a loyal and connected community that have played a large part in the decision to make the book…

OS Press Pack - Book Fins

“#openspaces is not so much about the fact the images have been shot on an iPhone, but about the memorable images that were captured throughout a year in Cornwall, UK.” – Karl Mackie

OS Press Pack - Book Porth

And it sure is a challenge. Karl and team need to raise £12.5k on Kickstarter to get the #openspaces project to print. But it’s not without highly prized benefits… on the Kickstarter page you’ll find many varied incentives to encourage donations, not least The Weever, a limited edition Mackie-made surfboard… worth digging deep!

Kickstarter

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OS Press Pack - Book Spreads-4
OS Press Pack - The Weever prize
The Weever – this board and many other project-funding incentives are available on the Mackie Kickstarter page

#OPENSPACESposted on by Cai Waggett in Art, Books, Photo, Surfing


Hickory Nines | Winter Playlister 2014

Trust me to be so late posting the winter selection of tunes from the bulk of the Hickory Nines team that Christmas music is likely to drown it out…

But see this as a happy alternative. Hopefully introducing some new artists & bands to you that you hadn’t come across before (like it has me) and in so doing, enriching the build up to Christmas and beyond. A few classics, a few psychedelic treats, some laid back stuff and I had to shoehorn in a track from the latest Mariach El Bronx album too (which is brilliant, as you’re asking).

Hope you enjoy it – Cai

Hickory Nines | Winter Playlister 2014posted on by Cai Waggett in Music


Nizlopi at Glastonbury Assembly Rooms

Nizlopi

Today we are surrounded by digital content. At home, in the street, at work. Especially at work, where in my world clients increasingly require digital content that is interactive. But the interactive world can be a lonely place. Detached, remote, conducted through an iThingy. Sometimes you need to step back, and find some good old fashioned interactivity, with actual real life beings.

Which brings me to Nizlopi at Glastonbury Assembly Rooms. You’ll probably know Nizlopi from the JCB Song. An intimate affair, the rooms hold perhaps 150 people, all seated. Upon entering we were invited to jot on post-it notes the things that make us happy. Shortly after, Nizlopi made their entrance and headed for the centre of the room to open the show with a song written from the thoughts on the post-it notes. It was rather nice for me that the first line was mine, about skateboarding.

For what is principally a duo Nizlopi make a big sound. The beatboxing and deep grooves from the double bass of the writhing beast of rhythm that is John Parker set against the folk driven guitar and soulful voice of the energetic Luke Concannon. A swirling fusion of hip-hop, folk and jazz, they switched several times between the crowd and the stage, encouraging people to sing, dance, make out, and even join them on stage singing. All highly interactive, with a family feel.

There were moments of joy and fun, with favourites like Helen and the JCB, to deeply touching moments like I Feel Free, documenting the frustration of suffering a stroke. Often they give you the back story of a song, whilst the performance is always well crafted and highly controlled. Nizlopi don’t follow the beaten path lyrically or genre wise, and this is where their charm lies. A quick chat with them afterwards confirms they are thoroughly lovely offstage too.

All of which make it one of my top performances (amongst Portishead, Reef and the late Bert Jansch, for those interested). Interactive, in analogue form, can be a pretty special experience.

I took some photos of the gig on my iTelephone, but they were a bit rubbish so the image is from Nizlopi.com. Below is a taste of what they do, from YouTube.

Nizlopi at Glastonbury Assembly Roomsposted on by Dan Fear in Music


Juniper Ridge

Two things you should know before I introduce this post.

1. Like many, I’m a real cynic when it comes to advertising. I’m not prepared to buy what you tell me to buy, just because you have a cracking PR company who are good at their job… (n.b. this excludes most Christmas based food & drink products. If you slap a snowman on it and call it festive, it’s probably already in my cupboard/fridge. I’m not proud of this at all.)
2. Along the way I seem to have accumulated a range of colognes and aftershaves. I appreciate them, I often wear them in fact, but not often enough to warrant going out and buying more.

BUT WAIT.

This morning, as I had a relatively late lie-in, my friend Rebecca introduced me to Juniper Ridge by way of a Facebook message. Lying there under my weighty down duvet, the introductory video from the link she sent me took me back to Yosemite, back to the top of Nevada Falls where, had I just gone 30 degrees off the path and kept walking, I’d be out & lost in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. Safe underneath the contained feathers of a long-since-dead gaggle of geese, my heart ached for that feeling again. The flora, the fauna, the sights, sounds and, of course, the smell.

Well this is where I left the world of cynicism and fell completely under the spell of quality marketing.

Juniper Ridge source, make and sell ‘Wilderness Perfume’. Which is not limited to perfumes, you understand… they sell cologne, soaps, sprays, incense and even tea. The team trek out into the wilderness across North America, and source ingredients for their wares.

It was started in 1998 by self-confessed mushroom forager and wilderness enthusiast, Hall Newbegin, who would create potions from wild flora, and sell them at San Franciscan farmers’ markets. Since then it’s grown into a 15-strong operation, but with it’s original aesthetic at heart. They describe themselves as ‘the world’s only wild fragrance company’, and their fragrances really do come from plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and tree trimmings. I’m sold.

What I appreciate most is that the team really do seem to be hikers and adventurers first, with the passion to source & hand-create their perfumed products as an added bonus. Could this be the perfect job for a wilderness romantic like myself? Yes, I think it could.

On top of all the well-presented and thoroughly backed up marketing, they also give away 10% of their profits to a range of wilderness based charities. Sold, twice over.

Go check out their website. Not only is it a real pleasure to search through and take in, it also includes some well-penned ‘Harvest Stories’ from their foraging trips, expunging any idea that this might all be the work of some stealthy PR company. There are also some beautifully filmed videos from their treks.

I haven’t yet checked their shipping costs to the UK, so these additions to my Christmas purchases may yet flounder. But it’s taken me back to my happy place for at least 2 hours this morning… a morning well-spent on Juniper Ridge.

Juniper Ridge on…
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Adendum: It turns out that Juniper Ridge don’t ship internationally. However, they do stock their products in stores around the globe. In the UK, you can purchase it from the following outlets…
- Garbstore: 188 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2ES
- Le Chien Et Moi: 60 Derby Rd, Nottingham, NG1 5FD,

Juniper Ridgeposted on by Cai Waggett in Film, Nature, This World


Get out there and get one

For me November has always been a bewildering time of year. Nearing the end of another ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ 12 months, and so it begins, a period of pensiveness, reflection, melancholy for what hasn’t been, and eventually an unfaltering and naive optimism for what might be in the year ahead.

It’s a time to think of the waves I didn’t catch, that blue 7’2 single fin I didn’t get to ride and that inspired summer suit I was just too seasonably late to debut. There were the camper trips we didn’t make time for, beach days we waited too long for the “right weather” for, and the dawnys we were just a little too tired for.

Then of course there was the first family camp of the year, not telling my brother-in-law he shouldn’t tuck his wetsuit into his boots, watching my sisters face as she caught her first ever wave, falling in love with it just like I did.

As much as there is to wish had been different, there is twice as much to be grateful for, and there is always inspriation to be found. The late Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan, probably the oldest competitive surfer in the world before he sadly passed away, his thoughts were unassuming, his aspirations simple and his motivation inspiring, he thought positively about surf, life, and his wife who gave him the desire to just keep on going.  Still Swell at 85 is his perception of being involved with surfing since  the advent of the sport and how surfing shaped his philosophy to life.

We could all use a little Magoo in our lives, to find the time to do things, to not spend too much time pondering what has gone and what could have been, and to just “get out there and get one”.

Get out there and get oneposted on by Lisa Reading in Film, Surfing