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.







Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rocketeering



The house that I used to live in was, without doubt, the best place to go if you wanted to know what the weather or swell was going to be doing for the next few days in North Cornwall; we worked, breathed and slept the forecast and it was normally displayed on at least one screen in the living area, and not because we surfed:  My housemates founded and run Cornish Rock Tors Ltd, an outdoor activity company specialising in coasteering and sea-kayaking, and are masters of reading weather forecasts because of the central role that it plays in operating their business.  


Coasteering is the pursuit of exploring a largely inaccessible stretch of coastline from the water with a guide: swimming, traversing across the base of cliffs, going in and out of coves and caves and, of course, jumping from the rocks into the water.  It's a journey involving many different disciplines and challenges, and has become an enormously popular summer activity around the south and west coasts of the UK.  My friends were one of the first providers to offer coasteering as an activity alongside sea-kayaking and climbing;  they swam the coast, plumb-lining the water depths beneath safe jumps, measured the effects of the swell and tides, and explored the multitude of caves with waterproof torches and glow-sticks.  It's a strictly controlled activity with a licensing body and some full-on insurance requirements, and as such it demands the utmost professionalism from guides.  That is why it is such a shame that when coasteering is featured in the national press the article is often beneath an attention-grabbing and sensationalist headline that does more to damage the industry through negative associations rather then applaud it for its stringent safety standards.  Tomb-stoning this is not.  Planned, assessed, controlled (as far as you can in the natural environment) and led by experienced and qualified local guides, it is.  

I recently headed out on a coasteering session with Cornish Rock Tors, the first time that I've been out with them in several years, with my camera rig in-tow to see what sort of imagery I could capture.  The stretch of coastline where they operate is truly stunning on a summer day (although I'm heavily biased because home is where the heart is) and never more so than when viewed from the water - a perspective that not many people ordinarily get to experience. 


I asked Jon (CRT's Head Guide) to wave to me from the top of this jump.  He misheard and instead pulled out his party-trick, this enormous back-flip.  Jon is an incredibly experienced guide and has perfected this "stunt" through a great deal of time spent training in a pool, so don't try and copy him.   

A moment of calm in the sea caves.

Cornwall looks positively Caribbean when the sun shines, with beautifully clear and turquoise water.

Whilst I was coasteering a kayaking group paddled past so I swam out into the bay to get some photos of them too.  They're able to travel further in a half-day session and access some really beautiful and remote coves and beaches further up the coast.  

If you're interested in exploring the Cornish coast from the water, learning more about the marine environment and perhaps jumping from a few rocks along the way then give Cornish Rock Tors a call. They offer guided coasteering, ecoasteering (with an emphasis on the marine environment), sea kayaking, wild swimming and climbing around the Polzeath and Port Isaac area, Cornwall.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Upcycling


“So I don’t think that I like grease and sparks quite as much as I like knitting and baking” Kate said as she handed over a box containing the various pieces of her vintage ladies shopper bike.  She’d found the dilapidated Hercules Balmoral online and proceeded to disassemble and strip the entire bike with the intention of refurbishing it, but now it looked like the task of reassembly was going to fall to me.  I took the opportunity to break down and rebuild my own bike, which had been my Dad’s mountain bike that he used to ride alongside me when I was a child, and come the start of the summer we had two good-as-new bicycles.  Her bike looked classic in black with a brown Brookes saddle and a wicker basket; mine looked like Frankenbike in green and black, with various boxes bolted on and a rack to hold my surfboard hanging off one side.


Kate and I used to live an hour's drive apart, she on the south coast of Cornwall and me about 45 miles away on the north coast.  It seemed like a nice idea for our first roll out last summer to be an overnight bicycle camping trip leaving from my home and travelling to hers, pedalling the coast roads and the cycle trails and stopping off at beaches along the way.  We’d upcycled our bicycles and we upcycled an awful lot of steep hills as we wound our way down the Cornish coast.  What follows is a photographic journal of our trip, shot entirely on 35mm film by Kate and myself:

We should've caught the ferry at high tide.

Long hills and lots of luggage.

Coasting downhill to the beach.

The Upcycling chalkboard.

Kate checking out the distance to our campsite, just the other side of that far headland.

Cyclo-shortcuts to avoid the holiday traffic. 

 Camp.

Washing the road off with a quick sunset bellyboard session. 

Fuel. 

We stopped at backroad farm-stalls to buy fruit and lunch provisions. 

 Two and a half foot at eight seconds with a light nor-westerly wind.  I probably needn't have bothered hauling my surfboard along with me if I'm honest.

A polite reminder to myself for all of the "up" bits.

Can you overflow a bike?

It turns out that Kate's house sits at quite some elevation.

The Last Lane.

The Finish Line.

A big thanks to the team at Babes&Bikes in Wadebridge for sorting out our gears and brakes (and giving my probably quite questionable workmanship the necessary once-over) before we set off on our journey, and to various colleagues of ours for the help and advice that they gave whilst ridiculing how heavy I'd made my bike.

Monday, July 21, 2014

You Know, Yeah?


You know that I do this whole photography, writing and content marketing thing for a living, right?  

Last week I caught up with my Dad, and he made a very valid point that I hope this blog post will address:  I don't market my work well enough.  I was having a bit of a work-whinge (no doubt revolving around the fact that I work a lot but that it never feels like it's quite enough) and unloading all of the regular freelancer's anxieties in his ear, when he highlighted the fact that most readers of this blog, or visitors to my website, probably wouldn't know that this is my job.  I market my clients very well, through ongoing content marketing campaigns and bespoke photography and copywriting commissions, but I don't actually market these services to other potential clients.  So here goes:

My name is Mat and I am a storyteller.

I develop and distribute high quality media content - mostly in the form of images and words - that builds lasting relationships between a brand and its customers.

This might be bespoke photography or copywriting for a website or a print marketing campaign.  It is more valuable to a brand, however, in the form of regular, creative and dynamic content that potential and existing customers engage with through various marketing channels.  Custom digital content such as blogs, e-newsletters, photo essays and short videos increase website performance (particularly for search engines) and social media engagement, helping your brand to reach more potential customers and consistently converts views to sales.

Every business needs to share its message.  Being able to communicate what you do and why, in order to engage customers, is the key to a successful marketing strategy in the digital age.

You have a story, let me help you tell it.



So there you have it:  I'm an award-winning, published, photographer and writer with an international client list including Cloudy Bay Wines, Nokia UK, Otter Surfboards, Hog Island Oyster Co and the London Surf Film Festival, and I'd like to work with you.

Let's talk:
All of my contact details are in the last frame of the short video clip above, or you can use mat(at)matarney dot com, send me a message on facebook, instagram or twitter or leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.  Thanks.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Barrel Equation



Waves break when they become too steep and the velocity of the water particles at the crest exceeds the phase speed (the overall wave speed), so essentially they trip over themselves.  A wave will break when it reaches a depth of 1.3 times the wave height.  If the depth of the seabed is gradually decreasing (for instance, on a relatively flat beach) then this theory holds true and the wave will "spill" slowly, however if a wave comes out of deep water and hits a shallow reef then it will break much faster and hollower.

The Iribarren number can be used to classify breaker types depending on wave height (H), period (T) and beach slope gradient (B):

=(1.25H)T tanB

Spilling <0.4
0.4< Plunging >2.0
2.0> Surging

If you don't have an accurate measurement of the inshore bathymetry to hand though, and let's face it who does, then you can use Galvin's Breaker Type Parameter from 1968:

B=Hb/gT tanB

Where Hb = wave height at break point and g = gravity at 9.8m/s.

Surging B<0.003
Plunging 0.003<B>0.068
Spilling B<0.068


The length:width ratio of the cross-section of a barreling wave can be used to determine the intensity of the tube, from "wider then it is tall" through to the sort of head-dippers that you really have to contort yourself into:

Square <1:1
1:1< Round> 2:1
2:1> "Almond"

Have a think about that next time you see a photograph of Pipeline or Teahupoo shot from the channel, showing somebody stood in a keg wide enough to drive a car through with their arms outstretched and unable to touch the sides.  Maths for surfers:  Don't ever say that An Tor Orth An Mor isn't educational!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Splinters


Wooden surfboards are at the root of many countries traditional wave riding cultures, and this is certainly the case for Papua New Guinea.  Here, "splinter" surfboards have been used for generations to ride the waves that break over the reefs and black sand beaches, the boards being carved from indigenous trees or pieces of old canoes.  At the end of last month the multi-award winning documentary film Splinters toured the UK with several screenings in the South West and London, including one just down the road from me in Porthtowan which I was quick to get tickets for.  Andrew Abel, President of the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea and a star of the film, was on hand and I was lucky enough to catch up with him after the screening to ask him some questions about wooden surfboard riding and it's place in the surf culture of PNG to feature on the Otter Surfboards journal that I curate.  This piece went out on the Otter Surfboards site last week but, for those of you who may not have seen it, here it is for you to enjoy.




What exactly is a splinter and where did they get their name from?
Splinters is a name given to the traditional boards that the local kids belly board or surf on around PNG...the local equivalent pidgin word is “palang”.  A Splinter can be cut out from an old canoe or cut from a tree trunk and shaped according to the eye of the carver, be it a young kid or his father or uncle...these days with the introduction of modern surfboards donated by the SAPNG and purchased by local surfers from visiting surfing tourists, Splinters are being carved to nearly identical dimensions as fibreglass boards, with fins fashioned from timber or plastic and leg ropes out of twine and tyre inner-tubes.

How did surfing on wooden boards develop in PNG?
Surfing on Palang wooden boards in PNG developed hundreds of years ago and has been passed down from father to son until the present day.  Over the past 27 years I have, in my role as the president of SAPNG, introduced modern boards but at the same time respected the craft of the resource custodians still carving and surfing their own hand carved Palang or Splinters as it is unique and something that must be continued and protected from dying out.  These surfboards are very much part of our PNG surfing culture.

Are they still used or seen regularly?
Yes, Palang boards or Splinters are still being ridden prone all around 
PNG, and more so being surfed standing up in the surf clubs in Vanimo, Sandaun Province, Tupira Surf Club, Bogia District, Madang province, New Ireland Province and in Wewak, East Sepik Province.


What are they made from and how are they made?The Palang or Splinters are made from light weight timber from the jungles along the coastline....the boards are cut out and shaped using axes and bush knives or machetes.


Are splinters/wooden surfboards a valued part of PNG's surf culture and historical development?
Yes absolutely, and myself and SAPNG take great pride in them and work hard to ensure that this important part of our surfing culture is carried on for generations to come. We are instilling in the traditional resource custodian host communities that we work with (in partnership in developing the surfing and surf tourism industry of PNG under our SAPNG model and policies) that this is unique to PNG and an added attraction and show piece of the evolution of the growing surfing culture of PNG.  I have, in my role as President of SAPNG, been approached by the PNG National Museum to develop an exhibition within the museum to celebrate our surfing culture and evolution. In addition, whilst I was in California presenting the Splinters movie I was asked to do Q&A at the San Clemente Surfing History Musuem and the Director of the Museum asked if I/SAPNG would be able to donate a genuine Splinters carved board to sit in their collection of historic surfboards alongside surfboards ridden by the likes of Duke Kahanamoku.
I am currently working on this and at the right time I will be taking two Splinters, that are sun bleached and worn from years of surfing, to be presented to the History of Surfing Museum in California so that SAPNG has a place amongst the surfing nations of the world.  I hope also to be able to present a Splinters surfboard to a national collection in the UK.



Would you like to see a return to using native (and less toxic?) resources for surfboard materials in PNG?I think it is inevitable that all our young local surfers in all of ourSAPNG established surf clubs will want to step up to modern day fibreglass boards as they all want to surf better and compete against their peers and other clubs. However, the art of carving a Palang or a Splinter only requires an axe and machete/bush knife without the need for any toxic materials like resin to make such a unique board, therefore I can see the traditional boards still being used by the younger grommies coming through the ranks until they are old enough and proficient enough to step up to a modern shortboard. 
In having said that, as part of staging our national surfing titles, the SAPNG will at all events ensure that we have an "expression session" style event where all competing surfers from the respective clubs will have an opportunity to have their best surfers compete on traditional Palang/Splinter boards, on the same waves and under the same ISA competition surfing rules as they do on modern day boards.  
In actual fact, as we are working towards staging our inaugural Mens WQS and Womens WCT in PNG in partnership with ASP Australasia, one of the events planned will pitch local PNG surfers against the visiting WQS and WCT surfing on Palang surfboards, on their home turf.  This will be the ultimate challenge for the PNG surfers who are experts in surfing these Palang/ Splinters to show off their skills against some of the world's best in the same waves and surfing conditions.
For me personally, as the President and Co Founder of SAPNG as we mark 27 years since foundation, it will be the most exciting moment seeing the kids that we have been nurturing being given the opportunity to stand tall and represent SAPNG and PNG on our traditional boards and show the surfing world how it is done.  For the families and clans of these young PNG surfers, it will be something to be proud of and remember for generations to come!

I would like to thank Andrew Abel and the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea (SAPNG) for taking the time to talk wooden surfboards with me and for providing me with such a wonderful set of images to accompany his answers. 
All images courtesy of and copyright SAPNG.

You can find and follow SAPNG on facebook if you're interested in finding out more about this intriguing surf destination.