Friday, May 20, 2016

Networked surfing

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of the notion of mobile phones in the surf. I know it would be really useful for those whose jobs mean they're on call etc., by giving them more flexibility in the water, but still, the idea fills me with dread. I accept that it's inevitable, but it sucks.

Voluntarily and involuntarily, our lives these days are so connected to friends, social networks, knowledge, news and media. W're constantly looking, listening, watching, reading, absorbing, responding, capturing, posting and sharing, and I'm totally part of that and I think there's lots that is wonderful about it. I mean, I'm writing this on online an online blogging site, using social media video sharing capabilities of YouTube, with text messages popping up on my screen and two email accounts open in my browser, all while listening to Cat Power via Spotify. So, yeah. Because I have so little discipline when it comes to being logged on, I really love those moments when I'm unavoidably out of range and offline.

Going for walks, flying, driving in the country, surfing... there are so few spaces left that are unavoidably disconnected from the Web and the networks we belong to as part of it, that they've become oddly sacred.

So the possibilities raised by this innovation in mobile communications technology embedded in Gabriel Medina's board bum me out.

I can totally see the potential of such communication as a training tool, but then technological advancements in surfing continue to be all about high and elite performance - something so few of us ever truly achieve. In everyday surfing, we get enough feedback from those round us to know when we're doing well or badly, and I think that's about all we (I?) really need. For athletes, it's different, but for those of us who do it for the love alone, surfing isn't all about performance. It's about not caring about that, about enjoying the moment, enjoying the feeling of riding waves. Or it is for me.

Or it should be.

As well as the constant connection, the sense that we need constant feedback on our surfing is terrible. That we need always to be judged on how others saw our abilities or capacities. Yes, Medina is an elite athlete, so that's different for him, and that's fine. But I'm quite sure there are days when being removed from that is an incredibly welcome respite: to be alone, away from coaches, fans, social media, and photographers; to not worry about how your every moves looks or could be improved.

Considering how much it means to a mortal like me, that must be a special kind of moment.

Then again, I'm not a hyper-competitive, world class athlete in a highly commodified individual sport, so truly, I could be so very, very wrong about that.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dolphin chop

As it happens, I've moved back to Australia! Back home to Byron Bay. It was a sudden move and it feels weird, but it's also wonderful and I'm enjoying the familiarity of home.

Yesterday, as I was looking at the shitty waves being messed about by a strong on-shore and strong currents, I noticed some commotion over at the Table of Knowledge*. I could see there was attention being paid to the nose of a longboard, so I went to have a stickybeak.

Sure enough, the board was damaged. A long incision that cut through the whole board, deep into the body of the nose. The cut was as long at the span of my outstretched hand from my middle finger to my thumb. Obviously, the board had been hit hard.

It was a dolphin! the man told me. He looked, while not exactly in shock, certainly in bewilderment.

Yeah look, it's left some skin behind, John pointed out, sticking his fingers into the torn fibreglass.

I stood, mouth open.

I took the opportunity to talk for a while about how I've been telling everyone for ages now that dolphins can be a bit sinister and smug, and how I've heard a researcher explain that they can be a bit clumsy. We have a lot of bottlenose dolphins around here, and it's really common to share a surf session and even waves with them. Along with turtles, stingrays, fish, sharks and, in migration season, whales, bottlenose dolphins are a part of our everyday surfing experience. According to a research project about the local populations, there are 1000 bottlenose dolphins that use the area regularly. When they swim around me, I can't deny how amazing it is to share the waves with such a huge creature, who moves so incredibly through the water. At the same time, I find it intimidating and a little uncomfortable, especially if they've come in chasing schools of fish. People often paddle over to them when they're in a pod, feeding, which I always find insane - they're feeding!! My relationship to surfing with them is combination of amazement, stoke, terror and suspicion...

But of course, I hope that poor creature is okay. It certainly got hurt in that interaction so fingers crossed the injuries are superficial and heal quickly.

*The table of crew that surf that spot at that time everyday. At this break, it's claimed before sunrise by John, who leaves his board bag and wet-basket on the table to make sure no-one takes it. I always stop by for a chat and banter and to dissect the waves fro that surf before getting on with my day.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Carissa Moore is the World Champion. Again.

And here's one of the waves she caught in the final (when she already knew she was the world champion).

Seriously an inspiring athlete.

And woman.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Whatever, The Inertia.

As much as I'm loathe to contribute even slightly to this article getting any more attention than it's click-bait style writing aims to achieve, I still really want to say to Alex Haro and the rest of The Inertia editorial staff, 'Are you fucking serious?'

'3 Reasons How Surfing Can Make You Into A Full Blown Sex Machine' not only hacks at rules of grammar, but is also an actual article that The Inertia published on their website.

So if/when you go ahead and click to read this piece of crap, lad's mag style, stereotype-filled 'comedy' piece,  keep in mind that it's written by the Senior Editor at The Inertia, a website that has variously described itself as 'The Thinking Surfer's Website', and the 'Definitive Surfing Community'.

The Inertia is a website that flits unreflexively between publishing strong articles that highlight and argue against the sexism, homophobia and racism that can be so common in surfing culture and media, to articles that contribute to and perpetuate these issues in surfing culture and media. Apparently, this is about showcasing a range of perspectives to reflect the diversity in surfing, but there's a point at which I just can't get past the hypocrisy. If articles like this one were buried in the mass of content they produce each day, then fine. But they're not. These articles are promoted across their website and social media as strongly as their best, most critical ones.

And look, humans are inconsistent and we move between arguments and behaviours and we contradict ourselves all the time and that's understandable - humans are wonderful and shit all at once. But this isn't that. This is just a case of shitty, lame, lad mag writing which, if they must publish it, should most certainly not be coming from their own senior editorial staff. At the very least, they could just let it come from unpaid, freelance writers they could distance themselves from. But no. By allowing this to come from their own editorial fold, they have to stand by the content, which even further takes away from The Inertia's already tenuous relationship to forward thinking, change affecting media production.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Gwyn Haslock surfs in Cornwall

So, I know it has been around for a while, and I also hate that this is ultimately advertising but this little film is pretty great:

Some super interesting points that help highlight how and why surfing was possible or not for women in the past. For example, the capacity to carry their own surfboard (which was limited by the weight and length) and the limited number of other women participating.

Fingers crossed I get to live and surf as long as Gwyn.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Not pretty, not perfect, not warm

The last couple of months, the weather has been pretty crappy here, making it hard to get outside to run, to walk and to generally be outdoors. To be fair, it has been winter. But last weekend there were some wonderful, sunshine-y breaks in the weather. Sadly these didn't include any waves - through circumstance and timing, I hadn't surfed in weeks, but I feel pretty zen about that these days. There'll always be more waves, and in the meantime I still got to go for a long walk.

I rarely check the surf before I go for a walk, so I always wonder if when I get to the top of the hill if I'm going to see anything tempting below me. A few times I've crested the hill and found myself running the kilometre or two home to get my board and rush back to the beach, or kicking myself for not being more organised.

Other times I've been floored by the crazy, messy ocean in front of me - whitewash as far as I can see.

Last weekend was somewhere in between. It wasn't nice, but it wasn't insane. As far as waves go, it was just big, mushy, whitewash-y crap. Let me put it this way, there was no-one out at Manu Bay - not so much as a car in the carpark. Same at the beach. Closeout crud.

So when I walked down I was blown away to see two women on soft boards in the shorebreak, paddling into the crud and having a ball. Actually, I was stoked by the sight. These two women were learners and clearly had hire boards and the waves were cold and messy and uninviting and it was still pretty early and yet, there they were. Learners often get a hard time from more experienced, more skilled surfers, but in all of the world famous surfing paradise that is Raglan, they were the only two people stoked enough and committed enough to be out in the water. They were the only two who got up and got out there even though it wasn't pretty, wasn't perfect and wasn't warm. They were the only two people getting waves.

So great. And I was so, so jealous that I don't yet have the kind of buddy here yet, where we can convince each other to go out, rain, hail or shine, pumping or crud.

As far as I can see see, those women are as surfy as it gets.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I haven't written much on my blog this year. I've wanted to but the stories didn't seem to flow from my brain into words on the screen the way I've always found they have. It's not writer's block because I've been writing lots of other things in other places, so perhaps my word count got used up. Or something. I don't know. But I think about it a lot because I really love writing this blog. Actually, I really love writing.

But I have a couple of stories I want to share from today and last weekend, so I'll write them up over the next couple of days.

In the mean time, how beautiful is Aotearoa!!