Sunday, October 19, 2014

Surfing on the Silver Screen

I don't really watch all that many surf movies any more.  That is, apart from one four-day weekend every year in London when the London Surf / Film Festival is on and I binge on airs and barrels on the big screen.  The other 361 days of the year I usually click on any one of the handful of three minute web-edits that are posted on a near daily basis, and after about ten seconds I either get enormous work-guilt or I get bored of seeing the same old thing yet again and click away.  I don't think that I've got A.D.D. but my attention span for surf films without any narrative is definitely pretty short.  That's where the LS/FF swoops in and rescues me; a carefully crafted line-up of surf films balancing documentaries with adventure and art, feature length flicks with quality shorts, and all on a massive screen.  If anything is going to hold my attention more than the screen of my laptop, it is a full-size cinema screen in an auditorium full of hooting surfers.    

This year I had the pleasure of multi-tasking for the four days of the festival; I was invited to be the event photographer, as well as exhibiting both a selection of my photography and a display for Otter Surfboards.  It kept me good and busy, but I still managed to sneak into the back of a choice selection of movies and get my fill.  Here's a stack of images that I shot, alongside one film selection from each night for you to take a look at…

Thanks to LS/FF Directors Chris and Demi for inviting me along again and for putting on such a great festival.

This year the festival moved to a new venue at the Genesis Cinema in E1, and in one fell swoop both doubled its capacity and damn near filled it.

Surf photographer, cold water adventurer and plastic pollution campaigner Tim Nunn gave an incredible slideshow presentation on Saturday night.

5x ASP Women's World Champion Stephanie Gilmore paid the festival a visit for the UK premiere of the biographical documentary film "Stephanie in the Water".  She smiled constantly and and posed for photos for a good couple of hours with fans, as well as throwing some shakas with the big painted cut-out of Rob Machado produced by Chris from Makemake.

I carried the Otter Surfboards exhibition across London on the tube in a hold-all bag, and managed to bring it back to Cornwall in one piece too a few days later.  Thankfully my exhibition, on the other side of the corner, was delivered for me in a big cardboard box.





Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Brad's backhand foam climb, somewhere north of Hossegor.

"We've got plenty of time, I'll definitely make my train." were the famous last words that I uttered as I walked backwards up the beach with Harry, still firing off shots of the rest of our friends surfing an empty, head-high peak on the beaches somewhere north of Hossegor.  We ran up the sand dune, got back to the car and set off along the track through the forest to rejoin the main road, both pretty confident that we would get there on time and that I'd catch my train.  Well, get me there on time we did, but I hadn't accounted for the queue that I would face at the ticket office which was clearly running on a skeleton staff.  I watched the clock tick down from quarter to twelve towards the departure time of midday; I was fidgeting, huffing and starting to get anxious.  With three minutes to go I left the queue and tackled the automatic machine which spat my ticket out at 11:59.  I ran under the underpass and up onto the platform where my train to Bordeaux was waiting and, just as I reached out to press the button to open the door, I heard the ominous clunk of the doors locking.  "Non, c'est parti monsieur.  Le prochain train est à quinze heures" the conductor shouted down to me, as I watched my train leave without me and taking with it any hopes of me making my flight home and getting back to work the next day.  Harry doubled back to pick me up, and on the drive back to Hossegor the exhaust fell off his car on the péage.  Clearly it wasn't our morning.  We limped back with the car sounding like a motorbike and rejoined the rest of our friends who were spending the afternoon watching the WCT surf contest, and I fired off a few frames of the world's best surfers in action.  
Sometimes a morning really doesn't go your way and there's nothing at all that you can do about it apart from try your best to make the most of the afternoon.  It's just the way that the cookie crumbles, but at the end of the day cookies still taste good.   

Julian Wilson, teasing me for missing my train 
by pointing straight at 12 o-clock.

Ol' green eyes on a nicely backlit green wave.

Contest winner John John Florence entertaining the crowd 
way down at the southern end of the contest zone.  
The beach was absolutely packed in front 
of the peak and the grandstand.

Miguel Pupo casting a shadow in round 3.

Taj Burrow and a rooster's tail.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Shoulder Season?

It's often called shoulder season - that period of time after the kids have gone back to school yet the chances of good weather are still high.  Summer lingers on but there's a slight chill at dawn and the odd leaf blowing on the wind.  The beaches are quieter aside from the sound of breaking waves, as hurricanes spinning off the far side of the Atlantic and the first of the northern winter storms send long period swells towards Europe's western coastline.  So pack the car, load the van, board the ferry or hop a flight and find a spot with a good view of the shoulder.  This season for surfers means solid swell and sunshine, and there isn't anything "shoulder" about that combination - it's the face that we all fell in love with.

If you want to see more of my work (smaller, sometimes squarer and slightly more regularly) and are on instagram then feel free to keep an eye on - Thanks!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Outside Food: ABC (Autumn Beach Chilli)

There are four key ingredients that elevate this beach campfire meal above a normal chilli:  bacon, beer, dark chocolate and accidental campfire ash.  It’s ideal for keeping the dream alive into the autumn, as you can keep warm around the fire on the beach after surfing if you’re at the sort of spot where you can light a discreet fire that won’t spoil anybody else’s enjoyment of the place.  Alternatively, you could always do it over a fire pit in your garden if you have one.
I’m going to assume that you’ve all cooked some sort of "minced beef and tomato" based meal at some point in your life (chilli, bolognaise, cottage pie etc) so will let you work out for yourself the quantities of ingredients based on the number of people that you’re feeding and how hungry they are.  This will do for about 4 hungry adults who’ve spent a few hours paddling in the sea.

You will need:

  • Decent firewood (bits of tree that still look like bits of tree - nothing tanilised like garden decking and no crap gluey scrap wood like plywood or MDF)
  • Charcoal (bag of)
  • A dutch oven (big, heavy cast iron cauldron) or a heavy old casserole pot, and somebody willing and able to carry it to wherever you’re cooking.
  • Tin foil
  • Knife
  • Wooden spoon
  • Bowls + something to eat with
  • Cup + scissors (optional)

  • A couple of onions
  • A couple of carrots
  • A few cloves of garlic or a decent squirt from a handy tube of minced garlic.
  • 10 or 12 Mushrooms
  • Red and green chili pepper, more or less depending on heat
  • Green and Yellow pepper
  • 1 or 2 fancy long red Ramiro peppers
  • Bunch of coriander
  • Block of butter
  • Small bar of dark chocolate
  • Beef stock cube or pot
  • Tin of red kidney beans
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper and paprika
  • Beer – a couple of those small French stubbies in green glass bottles is ideal.
  • Bacon lardons or cubed pancetta – handful of.
  • Beef mince, about two handfuls is the way I describe the quantity that I need to my local butcher.  He has normal blokey hands, but I don’t know what this translates to in grams.
  • Jacket potatoes or rice


  • Light a small, hot fire surrounded by rocks somewhere that you’re not going to incur the anger of any busy bodies and where you can easily put out the fire and leave no trace of it ever having been your outside kitchen.
  • Once it’s well established, add charcoal and allow to get to a nice, white, even cooking temperature just like a conventional bbq.
  • Don’t cook over raging flames – wait for white, dusty, embers which give off an even heat.
  • If you’re going with baked potatoes then spike them, wrap them in foil and place them in the embers to bake for an hour or so.
  • Place the Dutch oven on the white coals.  If you’ve got a fancy tripod then hang it from that.
  • Things happen quickly when Dutch ovens get hot, so be ready.
  • Throw in a thick slice of butter and melt.
  • Roughly cut onions and carrots into this and soften until the onion is translucent.
  • Add bacon lardons or pancetta cubes.  Fry.
  • Mix in minced beef, chopped chilis and garlic.  Brown.
  • Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
  • Add about half the bar of dark chocolate, in bits.
  • Roughly chop in peppers and mushrooms (can be left whole).  Soften.
  • Throw in both tins of tomatoes.
  • Put in the beef stock cube or pot.
  • Pour in a load of beer.
  • If you’re having rice then put a pot of water on for the rice the appropriate amount of time before you plan to eat.
  • Let it bubble away and keep stirring.  You can’t control the heat aside from moving it to a cooler part of the fire so just go with it.  Ash will most likely float into the pot too.  So what?  You can’t stop that and it’s just the same as burning meat on a bbq.
  • If you need to add more liquid (beer or water) then do so.  Over the course of 45 minutes or so it should reduce down to a nice thick consistency with a gloopy, shiny gravy.
  • 5 minutes before serving tip in the can of red kidney beans.
  • Tear up the coriander or, alternatively, put it all in a cup and chop in the cup with scissors.  Throw that in.
  • Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  • Hook out the potatoes (hoping that they haven’t just turned to lumps of coal) and butter, or drain the rice.
  • Pile into an enamel bowl.
  • Serve with more beer and smoke in your eyes.

When you’re done make sure you kick out your fire or pour a few buckets of seawater on it and dig the ashes deep into the sand.  Take all of your stuff away and don’t leave any trace – there’s nothing worse than being the first person on the beach in the morning and seeing a beautiful beach with a blemish of somebody’s campfire from the night before spoiling the pristine sand.


If you're UK based and have wandered past the magazine rack in your local newsagent in the past week then you may have seen the latest issue of Wavelength Magazine (#235 Autumn 2014), and if you're particularly eagle-eyed then you may have seen my name on the new-look front cover.  I feel honoured that Tim Nunn and the team at Wavelength thought my photography worthy of a portfolio feature and ran some of my favourite surf images across several double page spreads.  These are images that I've been sitting on for a while, only letting them see the light of day at exhibitions as I was hoping that they might eventually appear at size in print.  I'm so pleased that they're now out there for others to see rather than just sitting on my hard drive.  I'm also really grateful to Mr Chris Nelson (of Approaching Lines and the London Surf/Film Festival) for writing an introduction that made me both laugh and blush in equal measure...and for giving me a new nickname.  
I'd be stoked if you take a moment to check it out, and hopefully see fit to purchase a copy to help support print media.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Come Ply With Me

"I don't know of anything so exciting as getting a perfect surf. Timing one's shoot off from the waves, and riding along on the crest and coming far inshore.  By jove!"

John Betjemen

The first Sunday in September each year is really rather special around these parts, and today was no exception.  The World Bellyboarding Championships is a wonderfully "British" event; a competition celebrating traditional wooden prone surf riding (judged primarily on smiles and length of ride) with the air of a vintage village fête.  Wetsuits are definitely not allowed, the Junior category is for the under-60s and the cake bake-off is as hotly contested as the surfing.  It's a day rich in bent plywood and cups of tea.

The Polzeath contingent; my former housemate Matt and Andy Cameron, who runs bellyboard company Dick Pearce and Friends.

Today I took three photos.  Last year I took about a thousand.  I had been commissioned by Coast magazine to document the champs and the article that I produced appeared in the September issue this year, which because of their slightly funny publication schedule was on newsagents shelves for the duration of August and has recently been replaced by the October issue.  It was great fun shooting the 2013 event and having an excuse to really research the fascinating history of prone surf riding in the UK - I geek out pretty hard on the history of surfing, vintage surf-craft and stuff made from wood - as well as getting to sit down and chat with so many of the people involved in the champs.   

The Expression Session

This year I entered again and had a thoroughly enjoyable and really quiet uncompetitive ten minute heat as the high tide started to push up into the cove.  The water was warm and I wore a pair of mid-century US navy seal canvas swim shorts in keeping with the spirit of the event.  I have no idea how I did.  I don't think any of the entrants outside of the podium finishers do, and most probably don't care.  It's not really about the competition, you see, but more about sharing the enjoyment of wading out to waist depth with a group of smiling folk (whose ages probably span 44 years), turning around and pushing off to ride a wave back towards shore on a flat piece of wood - the design of which hasn't really changed much in more than fifty years.  

These are some of my favourite images, shot at the World Bellyboarding Championships over the past few years.  They were all shot on 35mm film and I like them because, to me, they are the ones that really capture the spirit of the event.  I hope that some of you have had a chance to pick up a copy of Coast and check out the article that I produced (and that you enjoyed it!), and I hope to see some of you at Chapel Porth on the first Sunday of September next year with a thermos of tea in one hand and a bent plywood bellyboard in the other.

Jenni is the sister of the event's founder, Chris Ryan.  Chris (who works for the National Trust who own the beach) and local head lifeguard Martyn Ward held the first competition to celebrate the life of regular visitor and surf-riding enthusiast Arthur Traveller.

Photographer and bellyboard revivalist John Isaac, leaning on his Model A Ford.

Sally Parkin of the Original Surfboard Company (who very kindly lent me a lovely board to compete on this year) and John Isaac, next to the Museum of British Surfing's old van.

Chapel Porth

The Starter's Claxon

The opening spread of the article that I produced for the September issue of Coast magazine.

It was great to see so many competitors this year riding bellyboards that they'd made themselves whilst attending a one-day "Build-Your-Own" workshop at Otter Surfboards.  Click on the photo to see the short video, and click here to find out more about how you can make your own bellyboard to carry you to victory at next year's event.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Magic Beans

A handful of seeds, a patch of dirt and some water.  

It's magical what some people are able to produce when they add a bit of care and devotion to that simple equation, isn't it? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

They Don't Make 'em Like They Used To

In a couple of days I return to the UK and am due to pick up my car from my magician of a mechanic who's had it in for its annual MOT (UK vehicle safety and roadworthiness check).  I am due to pick it up but, just the same as every year, I am not entirely confident that it will have passed and that I'll be able to.  When I dropped it off he lowered his voice (to the tone reserved for use by concerned vets who don't want the family pet to overhear that it might not have much time left) and said that my run-of-the-mill mundane silver estate car (which has getting on for 250,000 former sales-rep miles on the clock) has served me well and added, "There's a similar car for sale over the road.  I'm only saying, just in case..."

For as long as I've been able to drive and afford to run a car I've placed a whole heap of other things higher on the list of what to spend my money on than my vehicle (see this former post).  Actually getting to the beach has always been far more important than what I get to the beach in, and thus over the last 12 years or so I have owned a succession of loveable bangers or functional wagons, each with their own stories to tell.  Every year I am still however, without fail, slightly surprised when my car fails its test and needs work doing and money spending on it.  I really shouldn't be.  And, every time that I need to consign an old four-wheeled friend to the scrap-heap and search out a new set of wheels, I always end up spending the bare minimum on another barely functioning motor car.  But one day - one day -  I'll get my act together and hunt down an old car that comes pre-loaded with stories; a vehicle older than I am with a front-end like a smiling face and an interior that smells like an antique shop.  I adore cars with character.  I've no doubt that if I ever manage to do this I will be lumbered with an absolute heap that costs an inordinate amount to fill up with fuel, that I can't drive in the rain, is impossible to source parts for and that I won't be able to transport surfboards in.  But I'll love it all the same because if you're going to spend some time broken down by the side of the road anyway, then you might as well do so with some small degree of style stood next to a beautiful machine.