Thursday, December 29, 2011

One of those unexpected midday stoke sessions


If you want to surf in Byron Bay during summer, in the depths of the school holidays, then give up on any expectations about getting waves. However, what you can expect is thronging crowds, and getting snaked, dropped in on and interrupted on the few waves you manage to snare. You must compromise: speeding along int rim is awesome, but when there are 100+ people in your line, you have to turn your board. You have to accept being patient. I mean, you really have to love lineups. So when a few of us decided to go in for a surf in the worst of Byron's summer lineups - The Pass - we were dubious at best. There were uncertain conversations, there were 'Are you sure?' moments. But we went anyway. The sky was clear blue, the sun was shining, the water was like crystal and there was little swell leaving us few other options. And we figured everywhere was going to be busy anyway.

As I parked I saw Jules and Gary heading to their car. What's it like? I asked, hesitantly. Just don't expect anything, Jules laughed. But Gary piped up, I reckon you've caught it at a good time. A heap of people have been leaving.

We walked down the beach and paddled out into the fray. I got a wave. Terry got a wave. Jess got a wave. Then we all got more. And they were fun waves - long and clean with fast little sections! Then Izzy and Ryan arrived, and got waves too. Smiles spread across faces with exclamations of, This is pretty fun! We all surfed until the sun burned our eyes and faces. Stoked.

And I guess that's why we keep on surfing there. Because in amongst the craziness, in amongst the drop-ins and arguments and irritations, the place delivers in the most unexpected ways!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas eve

Fridge poetry.
Endless thank yous to friends, to home, to the ocean.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Remembered

I remember the surf I had on the day I found out my mother’s cancer was back and she was going to die: the colours, the sunset, the wetsuit, the disbelief, the sadness. I remember the evening light on the water. I lay flat on my board, my face at water level, watching the orange, gold, lilac and silver of the fading day shimmering on the glassy green surface of the sea. It was so beautiful. I think of that day when I surf of an evening. I think of my mother then. That beautiful soft light is bittersweet for me. From that evening, the ocean, the light, the time of day, the water, the waves, my board all wove their way through the following years, so the moments of pain, reflection, sadness and love found traction in my memory in ways that make sense, for me.

I remember the moment when I realised my heart was breaking. When I paddled out into the crowd last summer, thinking I could escape from the fog of sadness. But it didn’t work, nothing worked, and I was frustrated. I remember the too-bright sunlight and the too-full waves feeling like a taunt: See how good things are? See how life will go on, how it is going on? I remember the way the kind words of a friend made my shoulders and tears begin to drop as I sat with her in the salt water. On that day, I stopped trying to fight anything.

With continuing confusion, I remember the times when the ocean failed me. When it failed to offer the comfort, escape and release I had always found there, that I assumed. When it dunked, tumbled and drowned me. When it swallowed me and spat me out. When I walked home covered in sand, more tired, aching and unsure than when I had arrived.

I remember the last time mum came to the beach with me. She insisted on coming to watch me surf, even though I knew she couldn’t see that far. But that wasn’t the point, really. She shuffled to my car and I closed the door after she tucked her already tiny frame inside. When we arrived, I ran up the path to check it was worth it – like there was any doubt – and bumped into an old friend who helped me set her on a towel in the sand and sat with her for a while. In an uncrowded lineup I waited for the one foot set waves to peel through. A dad was there with four ‘sponsored’ grommets, maybe nine or ten years old, there for a competition that weekend. The kids were awfully behaved and kept dropping in and snaking me, and the two others out. I paddled further down the break, away from them and into a lovely long wave. One of the kids tried to snake me as I surfed, and when I stuck the line, the child screamed after me ‘Fuck you, mate’! Furious, I paddled after him, towards his father. I told him what happened, he told me to get over it. I erupted into words and gestures, pointing to my mother, so small in the sand-dunes, arguing against such behaviour, arguing that I was there to get waves, to escape, not to cop abuse from a child. The father accused me of nearly hitting the boy, believing the bald-faced lie the child had told to avoid getting into trouble. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. They paddled away and I sat in the disappointment of the moment. The shock of the argument, the treatment I was forced to accept. That this was the last time I would share the beach with my mum. I fucking hated them. I think I still do.

I remember the time I surfed the beach break behind my house, alone except for one cute guy. Chatting with him, forgetting the little body that I loved so much, that was wasting into skin and bones not even 500 metres away from where we sat: salty and flirting. I remember watching him and thinking of a million other ways to escape and forget, but choosing instead to catch a wave into the shore and walk back along the track alone. Home.

I remember spending hours sitting on the edge of a north Sydney beach. The beach itself, as a whole, felt familiar, but the pieces of it strange and ill-fitting. Course, grainy, yellow sand, almost-black water, pine trees and over-sized houses crowding the shore. I wondered how I would make it back up the hill and down again to where I was staying, how my legs would get me there? How my heart would get me there.

I remember, more recently, starting to breathe again, finding solace and calm in the ocean once more. I learned to paddle out alone, to say no, to leave the others. I found a way to make the ocean my own in new ways, to surf it on my own terms.

I remember finding how weak I have become. Finding it hard to paddle, to carry my board, to make it out through the whitewater. My body no longer accustomed to the rhythms, demands and requirements of surfing. The things I have been so proud of – being capable, being strong, being able to look after myself – have drifted and weakened and I have learned to accept help.

And now I remember my surf this morning. Tiny and full and gently raining, but I paddled into the water anyway. Me and two old guys and waves a-plenty. I picked off the middle-sized and smaller ones, which were better as they held their form and broke along the shore without closing out. One of the guys was chatty, complimenting my waves and dwelling on the beauty of the morning. When he asked me how I was, without missing a beat I answered ‘Good, thanks’. And I meant it. Feeling good made me think of my mother, alone in the hospital in town, tiny in her bed, like a pile of blankets. Dehydrated, in pain, drugged and unaware. Dying. Really, dying. I wondered how I would feel if I got back to my car to find a message that she had passed away while I had caught waves, surfing? How would I feel about that? I knew then, I would feel fine. She would love to know that I had been happily doing this thing that I love as she slipped away. She’d really love that.

In the coming days, weeks and months I will find solace and calm and love in the salt-water, in the waves. I will remember this too. I will find myself, my heart, my strength, my grief. I will let my tears fall back into themselves, falling along my cheek, onto my chest, legs and board and into the water, washing away. Those tears will take their place in the sea, forever a part of the waves, no matter where I surf. Forever.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beach babes

All images via Miss Moss (who lifted them from here). I'm especially obsessed with the first one.





Friday, November 11, 2011

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

'Surf City' - Exhibition at the Museum of Sydney

The amazing looking exhibition Surf City has just opened at the Museum of Sydney. This exhibition has has been coming together for some time and has seen the curator, Gary Crockett, collaborate with around 40 collectors in and around Sydney. The exhibition is not just about surfing itself, but places it in the context of Sydney as a city, as well as thinking about the social, political and cultural events and changes that were happening along the way. If you find yourself in Sydney between now and March, it looks as though it would be worth a visit. I'll be checking it out this weekend.

For more information, photos, clips and an idea of what it is all about, you can check out the exhibition blog here. From the blog;
Surf City will track Sydney’s dynamic surf scene through the 50s, 60s and 70s: spanning an amazing period of social upheaval, post war optimism, teen angst, rock and roll, prosperity, drugs and shifting cultural frontiers. We'll feature Sydney's surfing hubs, hot spots and cultures along with the movers and shapers who stirred the pot during these vivid and volatile years. We'll also show what surf-crazed Sydneysiders wore, watched, made, rode, heard and read and even reveal how surfing changed Sydney. The exhibition will contain boards, movies, photos, magazines, music, clothes, everyday surf wares and treasures.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Surf film bonanza

If you're a surfer living in Brisbane - and I am - then this year's Brisbane International Film Festival has a whole category of films called 'Let's Go Surfing'. Including surf films including Crystal Voyager, The Fantastic Plastic Machine and High on a Cool Wave, more recent films like First Love, a retrospective of Albie Thomas, and a series of silent films accompanied by live music, there is a whole range of surf-related films that have been curated for your viewing pleasure.

Seriously, you should check it out - it's pretty amazing!

Maybe I'll see you there...


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NO MALS

This beach-side footpath must have been laid some years ago. The 80s? The 90s?


Either way, the times, they have a-changed and this sentiment would probably no longer be so concretely expressed* in this small coastal town, where mals and a variety of other boards abound.

It gave me an unexpected laugh as I got out of the longboard-laden car though.

NO MALS.

Hahahaa!!!



*Pretty stoked with myself there.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday funday


This is my new favourite photo.


My niece and nephew love the beach and the sand and the water and the waves. They are used to seeing my boards and always ask me about surfing. My 2 1/2 year old niece will run after me as I walk about the door: Surfing? Surfing?

Yesterday, my sister and I took them to the beach where we grew up. We walked out the back gate of our parents' house and along the scruffy beach-track. The kids fought over who got to carry their surfboard, but feisty little MD won. I didn't realise, but she watched the way I was carrying my mal, and copied me as she followed us along the path.

As soon as we dumped our stuff in the dunes, my nephew ran into the shorebreak and focused on catching the biggest waves! He would wait and wait until one arrived that he thought was big enough and would throw himself into the foaming white-water, flying along until he slid up along the sand and then running straight back out. He was picking them well.

Best Sunday in a long time.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Looking into a crystal ball

(I'd credit this image if I could, but it's just one of those wonderful, joyful images that someone sees and says, 'this made me think of you'!)

Friday, October 07, 2011

"Bodies we want" - ESPN annual Body Issue

So, last year Kelly Slater went au natural for the 'ESPN 2010 Body Issue: Bodies we want'. It's a great image.

Included in ESPN's 'Bodies we want' this year, was Steph Gilmore:

Before you assume what I am thinking, you should know that I reckon both images are beautiful and indeed, on many levels (youthful, ageing, fit, athletic, desirable, healthy, aspirational, sexual) these are certainly bodies to want! I do, for sure.

But, of course, sometimes it is useful and interesting to think beyond the surface, beyond the desire and beauty...

While it is hard to access Kelly's shoot and interview from last year (it seems I have to pay to enter the ESPN archive, which is fine but not today), Steph's interview is up and available for now. You know what else is available? Her body stats (height and weight!) and some comments on which parts of her perfect young body are her favourites. These are the bits where the ESPN thing starts to fall apart for me. And yes, I am also disappointed with the way they shot Stephanie here. She is featured in this issue because of her success and capacity as an athlete. She is an active, powerful, strong and dynamic young woman, who moves through the water with power and speed. Yet despite this, they shoot her lying down on a beach lounger - reclining, still and awaiting something. Kelly's shot is much better - he's running to feature his toned and sinewy frame.

Of course, considering the exposed nature of surfing bodies, these kinds of shoots aren't that out of the blue. I mean, how often are women surfers photographed actually wearing clothes? That is not the problem though. Feeling good in a bikini is fine and should be encouraged and I don't mind admitting that I'm happiest when surfing in as little as possible. The problem is the way this gets turned into something marketable and sexualised. This was my main issue with Nike's all-girl surf film, 'Leave a Message'. The film presented strong and dynamic surfing, while retaining focus on the young women's bikini-clad bodies (in one case, also in thigh high stockings). Sorry, but that's not 'empowering', that's kind of shit. In this photo, Steph's achievements are stripped away and she is laid motionless on the beach. She looks hot, sure. But what's so sporty about that? Naked doesn't have to be soft-porn, people. Compare that to Slater's photo above and maybe you can see what I mean.

And let me make it clear that I'm not indicting Steph Gilmore as having done anything wrong. She has every right to participate in these photoshoots and to feel good about herself and her body. But the way companies and magazines try to sell this kind of thing as 'making the women who take part feel beautiful' wears a bit thin. Stab magazine (Boo! Hiss!) used the same kind of interview technique with Laura Enever when they convinced her to pose as a doe-eyed sex kitten a few issues ago. They asked her questions about whether the shoot had made her feel beautiful and, of course, she said yes. What else was she going to say anyway and would they have printed anything else? Stab made the whole thing seem okay by publicly showing that Enever was complicit and consensual in the process, removing space for claims of them having taken advantage of yet another teenage girl. And yes, this ESPN shoot is entirely different but there is an echo of the same thing in the interview here, for me anyway.

I know this kind of argument and discussion is far from new, and to be honest I'm even a little irritated at myself as I write because I really can't believe we are still having these conversations. But it's hard to ignore that sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Overhearing the neighbours

Now that winter is done, everyone in Brisbane is venturing back onto their verandahs of an evening; sitting, reading, eating, drinking, talking with friends. It's lovely. Where I live the blocks of land are big, but they're longer than wide so the houses are close together. It means you hear a lot of conversations, music, tv and other goings on that aren't happening in your house. Mostly, we all pretend not to notice each other, so even when we are all sitting outside and can see each other only metres away, we just mind our own business. Or at least appear to.

Last night I was sitting on our verandah, drinking a beer and working. Next door a couple of women were having a cup of tea, some ciggies and a catch up, gossiping away unselfconsciously about work, parties, friends, guys and hook-ups. Although I wasn't really listening, the conversation drifted across my table and this snippet of conversation caught my attention:
I don't know what I was thinking. He was so gross! I mean, he was a surfer, so there was that. (Cackling laughter from both women) But he was filthy and he stank and his house was disgusting. I would sit on the couch while he played playstation, and it was sticky! And his mates were so irritating and rude. I'd go out with them and they'd just sit and watch the football and completely ignore me. Like, hello! I could be home drinking wine, you know!
Haha! I love that she went out with someone just because 'he was a surfer, you know'. But I also love that, in the end, it wasn't enough. It shouldn't be enough! Sometimes I forget how other people see guys who surf - as mysterious or exciting or hot, or something. Bless. I just see them as guys who surf - not too much mysterious about that to me. I grew up in a town where surfing is central, so I had no illusions about the surfers I went to school with. Not that they were horrible, but they were, well, they were surfers. But for a lot of girls from inland and women from the city, there is something about surfers that really ignites their imagination.

I've noticed this works the other way too. When people I don't know very well find out that I surf, they're interested. They ask questions about it. Unfortunately, I'm about the least mysterious person you could ever meet, so who I am in reality conflicts with their fantasies. That I surf also makes the students I teach think I'm cool... for about 5 minutes! It's amusing how much the idea of me surfing surprises people. I suppose I fail surfing's stereotypical and exciting image;

Rebecca Olive: dork who surfs.

Not that that bothers me in the slightest. To be honest, I'd rather people didn't meet me and assume I surf. I like that it can be my secret.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

'Point Break' revamped: 21st century masculinity?

So, you might have heard that there are plans afoot to remake Point Break*.


According to producer Michael DeLuca, the 1991 film, "wasn't just a film, it was a Zen mediation on testosterone fuelled action and manhood in the later 20th century and we hope to recreate the same!" (exclamation point Michael's own). Except that this time, I'm assuming they hope to create a "Zen mediation on testosterone fuelled action and manhood" in the early 21st century, which could make it an entirely different film.

Either way, I'm not sure about this. I mean I honestly love the original, but mostly for its 90s kitsch and the camp performances of surfer dude-ness and bro love by Patrick Swazye and Keanu Reeves, rather than for any deeper meaning, connection or zen meditation. But could they really still get away with "Surfing is the source. Surfing is the ultimate"? Could anyone honestly take themselves that seriously again? Will the main characters show their diversity and masculine connection to surfing as a soulful pursuit by busting out logs, alaias, handplanes and mats? I hope so. But how would that connect with contemporary "testosterone fuelled action and manhood"? Yeah, I know - it's Hollywood. But still, I love listening to all the hyperbole that surrounds it all.

Oh shit! I just thought... if there is a Bra Boy in it (and you know there will be) I'm going to be pissed. Ugh.

*Note: There are also (apparently) re-makes of Footloose and Dirty Dancing in the works, but how it would be possible to improve on such perfection, I am not sure. Have you seen Footloose? It stars Kevin Bacon and is about him moving to a town where dancing is banned. But he sure shows them (as is evidenced by the excellent and inevitable glitter-filled prom scene). But looking at the 1984 original and based on this scene, perhaps Footloose is a good zen mediation on mid-80s masculinity...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Liquid Light

I recently wrote these words to appear alongside Joni Sternbach's images from Byron Bay in a gallery for The Anthropologist on Facebook. Check them both out!

Melissa (by Joni Sternbach)

Liquid Light

The Pass is a very particular place. It swells and swirls with adults, children, families, old and young. Locals and tourists sit alongside each other, indistinguishable in their swimmers and boardshorts, lying on their towels. The sweep of beach curves the inside length of the Bay, arcing back in on itself before trailing north again to the town and beyond. The mountains peak and trough in the distance, with evaporating oil rising from the eucalypts turning the landlocked horizon blue, bottle green and purple – that very particular Australian bush palette.

On the sand, warming in the morning summer sun, families have staked their claim. Children run and scream with delight as they play in the shallows, build castles and ride in the foamy waves close to shore. Parents stand guard – arms folded, legs square – or lie on their towels, relishing the summer break. People running, walking, playing, swimming, throwing, catching, talking, yelling, sleeping all the way along the coast as far as sun-filled eyes can see. The Pass is busy and beloved, it seems, by all.

Especially by those who surf. Those with bodies brown and tan, those with sunscreen thick across their cheeks and nose, those with loose, crispy hair. Those who walk across the sand, ignoring adults, children, families, young and old, looking instead to the waves. Those who stand in the wet sand just beyond the lap of the water, stretching their arms and legs, zipping up wetsuits, wrapping leg ropes around their ankles and knees. Those who walk into the water confident and sure of the way the ocean moves and where it will take them. Those who rise to catch waves of water and light, gliding, turning, speeding, dancing, laughing into the distance. Those who fall into the water and come up smiling. Those who ignore the perils of the sun and sea, dedicated to the water and waves.

The sun and sand and water mingle in between my toes. Friends gather around. I laugh and call to people I know as they emerge from the water. I paddle out myself, catching the waves that roll and peel from the headland. My body tingles with joy and the water catches me, passes me along the glassy face of the waves, spinning beneath me in invisible circles, lifting my board my body, my heart. The sunlight shifts, and as I walk back up the beach the sweat drips along my hairline to my jaw and onto the rocks at my feet. I’m smiling.

In amongst all this, in the sand beneath the pandanus palms, is Joni Sternbach - an artist’s tent, a hive of activity and an antique camera lumbered across the beach, rocks, pools of water collecting on the shore. While the children scream, the athletes jog and the surfers dance on water, Joni’s camera catches the space and time and light and bodies of the ocean people with sand on their skin and salt in their hair. In an unexpected way, Joni and her camera create moments of stillness as surfers and ocean lovers stand motionless for her. The time it takes to capture an image is like a held breath... then a slow exhalation and anticipation as the plate is run from the camera to the tent, the result unknown.

The Pass is rarely shot in black and white, its colours too beautiful to ignore. But by centralising the practice of photography, Joni’s collodion process uses liquid and light and time, there on the sand, to reveal the subjects and space in a way invokes dreams and memories, turning familiar faces into questions. For those who have never been there, it highlights the beauty of the place and people in ways that are warm, cold, tonal and stripped back, but which are all contained in the salty bodies captured on the beach. But for the locals – those who know it well - it asks them to think again, and to know The Pass and their place within it, anew.


Jemma (by Joni Sternbach)

Rusty (by Joni Sternbach)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My girliest post ever.

Over the past few years, I've thought and written a lot about the ways the ocean, sun and surfing mark my body. From the tanlines that map my skin, to the aches and pains of paddling and even down to the sadness I feel at getting back to the city and washing away the ocean from my skin, hair and eyes. I've always loved the salty way my skin and body changes when I'm surfing a lot, and I've come to accept that my eyes turn red and wet, and that my hair is dry and brittle and that my skin gets odd marks. At home these things are normal, but in this city they are strange and difficult for some people to understand.

Now, living a life so far from the ocean, my body has changed again - in ways that make me sad. Sure my eyes are clear and healthy and my skin is an even tone, but my muscles have softened and I'm not nearly as strong as I was a year ago. My hair has lost its salty blonde and the mere sight of a bikini fills my heart with fear. Nay, terror! But I've been trying to look for the positives...

...and I found one. But before I tell you what it is, I feel I need to point out that although this blog is a lot about women and surfing, I tend not to be particularly 'girly'. That's not to say I'm not a keen lover or purveyor of girly-ness, it's just that it's not my universal or abiding preference. However, one (potentially) girly thing I have noticed is that as a consequence of not surfing much lately my fingernails are really strong and pretty. When I surf a lot they get ragged and split, but at the moment they're lovely and shiny. As an added bonus, I can paint them 'Bubble Bath' or 'Blue Satin' or 'Vamp' or 'Candy Cane' and it stays on and isn't chipped or peeling within a day.


(Note: colour is 'Bubble Bath')

So there you have it. My ocean-free consolation prize: strong, pretty fingernails.

(And yet, oh! How I wish they were ragged and chipped!)


Friday, September 09, 2011

White Wash

Yes. YES! This new film, White Wash, looks great. It's opening in the USA this month - go see it!


From the White Wash website:
White Wash, the documentary, is a film exploring the complexity of race in America through the eyes of the ocean. Examining the history of “black consciousness” as it triumphs and evolves into the minds of black surfers, we learn the power of transcending race as a constructive phenomenon. The story is narrated by the legendary, Grammy Award winner Ben Harper (Fistful of Mercy, Relentless 7, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals) along with Tariq “Blackthought” Trotter of the Grammy Award winning hip hop group, The Roots whom also originally scored the film.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Recently, a very wise friend of mine has been imparting advice from an unexpected and amusing source: via scenes from the animated film, Finding Nemo. While usually this would concern me, coming from her it's hilarious, thoughtful and well-timed. So this post and this song (which has been stuck in my head for a week now) is dedicated to the truly wonderful, Rebecca Vonhoff. You're a doll xx

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Keala Kennelly is hardcore: NOW do you believe it?

Often, when people talk about women's big wave surfing, they talk about it as though it's somehow 'lesser' than what the guys do or as though women don't go as 'hard'. While I'm not going to go into why that's a redundant and ridiculous argument (I've talked about it previously anyway), I am interested in a couple of images of Keala Kennelly circulating at the moment, and what their affect might be on this way of thinking.

First is this wipeout of hers at Teahupo'o during the now infamous two-in session there at the end of August;


Heavy.

But also, here is an image of her one of the waves that she made;

Also heavy. And finally, this image of an injury she got shortly after;

Again, heavy.

Seeing Keala Kennelly's horrifying injury made me think about how this photo, it's timing and connection with the recent focus on Teahupo'o and the wide-ranging distribution this image is getting, might affect the way we thing about the women who surf these waves - or Keala Kennelly at least. I wonder whether this image of Keala's very real reef encounter in connection with her very real and incredible surfing at Teahupo'o might be significant in shifting those kinds of perceptions. Kind of like evidence that women go hard. As though injuries like this one are the gold-standard against which commitment and courage must be measured.

I think these recent images and the profile they got because of the comp there will certainly cement Kennelly's reputation as a dedicated and crazy heavy wave surfer. I wonder how this reputation might play out for other women, or how we think about other women who surf similar waves. I will admit I was pretty irritated that in an interview at the comp, Kelly Slater singled out Maya Gabeira as being 'out of her depth'. I mean it probably was a fair call but there were plenty of guys who were probably much further out of their depth than she was. Anyway...

Maybe there will be some slight shift, maybe there won't. But it's pretty hard to ignore that Keala Kennelly is one awesome (and insane!) woman.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Lady logging

And I love, love, love this section from 'Sprout' by Thomas Campbell!



(Thanks for reminding me of it Mar Lake)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Lapsed Catholics

I've mentioned this film by Toddy before, but I never actually got around to posting it.

I think about the ideas and feeling of this film quite often, and how commitments, connections, relationships, time can lapse without you even noticing it. How things shift so slowly that they escape attention until they've changed so significantly that you don't really know if you can ever go back. Of course, you can't. You can only move along and in other directions, and maybe those things will be a part of where you're headed. Or maybe they're finished, relegated to be an inescapable part of who you will be and become - a memory, regret or yearning.

Melancholy? Perhaps. But beautiful with it.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Cornish summer

Years ago, I spent a northern summer living in Mawgan Porth in Cornwall. It was lovely. I lived at a surf school, right on the beach, where I spent a fair bit of time. In the days I was working long, long hours at a cafe, but in the evenings I would take walks along the cliffs to watch the sun set into the ocean, which is still a thrill for an east coast Australian person.

The culture of the seaside holiday crowd is very different to beach culture in Australia. People bring more stuff for starters. They are armed with buckets, spades, balls, bats, hats, sunscreen, boogie-boards, picnics, clothes, rain-gear, multi-coloured plastic wind-blocks and chairs, while ice-creams, chips and tea are always for sale close by. When the holidays first began, I was amazed by how many people could fit on one beach - especially since they had so much stuff with them. And they were all there through sunshine, rain and fog! At first, I didn't understand it at all, but after a while I felt a great affection for it.

Recently I discovered Sue's watercolours through her blog, Studio Window, and seeing them brought my Cornish summer rushing back. Her images are straight from the sand, capturing the everyday ways that all kinds of people use the beach, the coast, the sea. Far from young and athletic, many of her coastal images are of families, older women or children, all off to play in the foamy shore-break or sitting in a chair on the sand, enjoying the seaside.

But once the summer crowd disperses, many of the businesses pack up until the next holiday or the next year. These villages and towns often seasonal places, so there is a distinct difference between the tourists and holiday-makers and the people who live there year round. Like the coastal town where I am from, you discover that the locals use the beach very differently: for walks, for collecting shells, for romance, for losing themselves, for bracing swims, for surfing.

My favourite of Sue's pictures capture these people and these moments - drying off and getting changed at the back of a car or sitting wrapped in a towel in the sun post-surf, watching the waves and avoiding peeling off the rest of your wetsuit.

I love these two images most of all. I love that they are so candid and quiet and personal. I love that, even though they're thousands of miles from me and my world, I can see myself in both of them. They make me miss the beach. They make me miss surfing.

You should check out Sue's blog. She makes some wonderful art. Not just watercolours either...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Glass Beach

My friend sent me this link from Colossal in an email the other day, and I sincerely don't know what to make of it.

Photo from digggs
Photo from Matthew High

Photo via Megan

Beginning in 1949, the area around Glass Beach became a public dump. It is hard to imagine this happening today, but back then people dumped all kinds of refuse straight into the ocean, including old cars, and their household garbage, which of course included lots of glass.

By the early sixties, some attempts were made to control what was dumped, and dumping of any toxic items was banned. Finally in 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board realized what a mistake it was and plans were begun for a new dump away from the ocean.

Now, over 30 years later, Mother Nature has reclaimed this beach. Years of pounding wave action have deposited tons of polished glass onto the beach. You'll still see the occasional reminder of it earlier life, such as a rusted spark plug, but for the most part what you'll see is millions of pieces of glass sparkling in the sun. (As part of MacKerricher State Park, collecting is no longer allowed).

Glass Beach also has a very interesting array of tide pools to explore. Crabs, mollusks, and many aquatic plants make their homes in these ever changing environments. It is very easy to spend your whole day poking around the tide pools and watching the busy little worlds that go on inside each one.

Obviously I'm amazed by this place, Glass Beach - it's beautiful! But at the same time, the back story is so horrifying, and the lovely, soft, worn glass fragments become slightly melancholy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Arc: Lines of Flight

(Inspired by Brine Time)

'Lines of Flight'

Despite our feelings
and our needs,
the way of things
never really flows
in one direction.

They arc
north and south,
east and west,
bending and curving
in on themselves.

(In)consistent,
twisting,
bent,
warped,
clean,
curved,
divine.

Time and light
have
smooth curves
and
clean lines of flight,
into the unknown.

We mould these
curves and lines
into our lives:
aesthetic,
moving.
They hold us still and shift us
through the world,
earthly and oceanic.

The way of things
never really flows
in one direction.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Teahupo'o

(Images from ASP via Swellnet)

A confession.

On no level do I get the surfing at Teahupo'o that I have been watching today. I mean, it's totally spectacular and entertaining, but in terms of it making any kind of sense or being an experience or even a concept that I can relate to in an at all realistic or rational way... I draw a blank.

So even though I am enjoying sitting open-mouthed as I watch these people take off on such crazy mountains of water, there is a massive bit of my rational mind that asks, 'Why? WHY?' Because I'd like to say that I find them courageous, but then I wonder if it's not just blind stupidity!

Having said that, I am endlessly amused to read various blogs where commenters ridicule those who pull back from taking off on waves that would most likely have munched them into the reef. I mean, it's a pretty rich call to make from the safety of your own couch, huh.

Anyway, I don't usually get into surf comps, but this one has been pretty compelling. I mean, wowsers!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mariachi El Bronx

When punk goes mariachi...


Of course, I can't really post anything mariachi-related without also posting this clip now, can I!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

4-6' and clean

Sunday afternoon at my bus stop, conditions were almost perfect....

If only it was water!

Friday, August 19, 2011

She goes alright...

I could never tire of watching Isabelle Braly surf.


This gorgeous photo is from Nathan Oldfield's lovely blog, Look&Sea.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

El Mar, Mi Alma

I don't know much about this film, El Mar, Mi Alma. But going by this clip I am looking forward to finding out more. Whatever the case, I won't have to wait long...

'El Mar, Mi Alma', coming soon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Walk, skate, roll to the city (or Toowong).

I came across this sign as I was walking to the markets in West End this morning. It's directing non-motorised, non-cycling traffic along the river around some post-floods works. The cycle/footpath along the river got pretty decimated during all of that, so they're taking the opportunity to make some sections a bit more user friendly. I walk past it all the time, so I'm not sure why I haven't noticed it before - I've never seen another one like it.

They're three such disconnected graphics though. Almost like they're from different decades of design - 60s, 80s, 90s is my guess. How great is the little skater. Looks like she's mid-flight, or about the launch off some stairs or something!

Yeah Brisbane.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Do women surf much?

Because I know so little about it (i.e. nothing at all) this surfing stuff fascinates me… Excuse my na├»ve question, but do women surf much? Is it a male-dominated thing?

This comment appeared at the bottom of one of petebowes’ beautifully written and amusing posts the other day, and I can’t really figure out whether I’m shocked, upset or kind of flattered by this question. I can’t figure out whether it’s an indictment on the ways that women are almost invisible in representations of surfing both in Australia and beyond, whether I’m sad because apparently so few women surf that they escape the notice not only of surfing culture but also of Australian beach-goers, or whether this is evidence that women are the new counter-culture of surfing: edgy, underground and unknown.

What I do know is, and what I like to say in response is that yes, women surf much. Also, yes, surfing is male-dominated, but that despite this women are a vibrant, enthusiastic and dedicated membership of surfing contributing along with the guys to the ways it is growing, developing and changing into the 21st century.

The short answer: women surf.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

More books less bombs.

Another piece of art that is not only thoughtful and gently political, but is beautiful as well.


In four beautifully typeset words, johnny&stacie capture so much of what is central within my own politics and aspirations. Historically books have been burned, outlawed, banned as political, threatening and shocking. They are difficult to produce, but are easy to literally and symbolically destroy.

For me, this statement - more books less bombs - is not necessarily about school or schooling, but is about education and broad thinking. What is particularly clever about the term 'books' here is that books today are about more than words on a page, but can be visual, colourful, artistic, aural and tactile. They can be hard-copy of course, but are also growing as an online, electronic resource too, which is allowing the growth of whole new multi-media options and imaginations. In this way, books evolve as educational, pleasurable and political resources as their boundaries and edges get blurred.

I love books. And I love this poster.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Surf film stoke!

This weekend, I decided to take it a bit easy. I only worked a little and the work I did, I did from home. I drank a lot of wine and coffee, sat in the sun, met friends at the markets and picked up a dress I had on lay-by. It was wonderful. At one stage, I even found myself with a little extra time on my hands, so I pulled out my copy of Dear & Yonder and watched it, and realised that I'd forgotten how much surf films can be!

I forgot how much pleasure there is to be derived from watching footage of waves and boards and bodies and fun and colour and light and surfing. I'd forgotten how the feelings and memories and longing that this can all bring to the surface. I'd forgotten how nice it is see great footage of great surfing. Before I realised it, I'd sat through the whole thing!

So I'm back to being stoked on surf films (again).


And then I saw that Lorene Carpentier's film, Oceanides, has finally been released! I have been particularly excited about this film, so I bought that too!


And now not only do I have two new films on the ways, but I can look forward to things other than bills in the mail!

Then today, over at Ten Piggies Over, I came across this fun looking film...


Apparently, when it rains (surf films) it pours!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday morning coffee surf

My favourite things begin to meld into each other...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hypothetical

I had a day-dream recently. I was walking home along the river when an image, an event, filled my thoughts. It wasn’t a memory, more like a hypothetical…

I was in my wetsuit, board under my arm, running down to the water. I could see the waves, long and perfectly formed, and was excited to get out there. I hurried down the shore and just as I felt the wet sand sink beneath my feet and the water wash around my ankles… I tripped on my leggie.

One minute, I was running and smiling and excited, the next I was face down with a mouth full of sand and humiliation. The legrope was twirled around my ankles, stringing them together, binding me. My board was caught under my arm, the pressure pressing back on both my board and my shoulder. Creased? I tried to shift my arm. My hair was plastered across my eyes, there was a dull ache in my lower back. The water washed under me, filling my face with sand, sucking at my body.

I lay there, still. Ashamed. Numb. All the excitement vanished. I knew the waves were still there, the same long peelers running along the beach. I knew if I got up, I could get out there and catch them. But, well, could I? What would happen? The break was busy, so if I got up again and paddled out, what would happen? What would be said, or not said? Was I up for swallowing the remnants of my pride and laughing at myself? Or would I detach myself from my board and return to the safety of my car? Would I cry? Options, options.

With the shame rising in my chest, I lay there, thinking, the wash filling my mouth, nose and eyes with sand…

And then I was back, back by the river in the city. Dry and walking and listening to some kind of fluffy late-afternoon pop. The sun was setting and the light was soft. No damage done. I've never tripped over my legrope (yet!). I make sure to catch it in my fingers underneath my longboard when I pick it up, and it makes a difference when it's attached at your knee, rather than your ankle.

But if I had been lying on the beach, on the sand, in the wash, fallen over, I knew what I would do. I would get up and I would try to push aside the awful shame and humiliation and I would laugh at myself and I would paddle out and I would see...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

'MERZ' exhibition opening tomorrow night

Featuring Jeff Raglus, Ben Waters, Gerry Wedd and Chris De Rosa.

This is opening at the Nine Lives Gallery tomorrow night. If you're keen, you can RSVP on their Facebook page.

I am so there!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Trickhouse.org


I'm really stoked to have just collaborated with Joni Sternbach on a submission for the online art journal, Trickhouse.

As you know, I am a massive fan of Joni's images, so to be invited to work with her was a real pleasure and something I'm quite proud of.

Anyway, you can check out Joni's photos and my essay, 'Across The Water', here at Trickhouse.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Submerged

This morning I was drowning.

After my alarm woke me I had hit it off, rolled over and briefly fallen back asleep. According to my clock it was only for ten minutes, but in that small amount of time I was suddenly under water, under waves, held below, straining for air. Lost between sleeping, waking and surfing.

Somewhere, I knew I was dreaming. But I was mixed and confused and refusing to let go of it all. Somewhere, I was calming myself;

Just. Breathe. In.

But my dreaming mind and body was under water and flailing.

I never caught a wave, I never fell, but was simply under. The water was clear and white and fizzing around me. I was waiting for the pull of a leash on my leg, but it never came. I was waiting to hit the bottom to recoil and push towards the surface, but I never reached it. I was fighting against water that provided no resistance, no potential for power. In that irritating way of dreams, I was both doing and watching, drowning and observing, sinking and floating. I felt the water warm and swirling on my skin, against my muscles, painting oceanic stories with my limbs. My knee hit my jaw, my arm scraped a rock, and then, I was simply suspended, panic rising in my chest as my lungs emptied and began to feel as though they were becoming a vacuum of themselves. The water continued to thrash and spin around me, but I was still. Echoes of rational thought creeping in – You’re only dreaming. Breathe in, breathe in! But I didn’t, I couldn’t. I wanted to be under water, I wanted to be submerged and spinning and straining and still. I wanted my lungs to empty, to burn. I yearned for the panic to rise in my chest, to sink, helpless, into darkness and cold. I looked for shapes above me – waves, bodies, boards, light – but there were none. There was only what was beneath.

It was a dream. I knew it was a dream. Somewhere. I knew I could wake up, I would wake up. But then my chest was tighter, and tighter, I was fighting the drift into the depths. Breathe, breathe! But I was still under water. Breathe! But my lungs will flood, I’ll be dead!Breathe, you must breathe in! My still-dreaming body would not respond, sucked under, held below.

And I woke, gasping and retching. I can’t remember if I sat quickly upright and clutched at my chest, or if my mind followed my panicked inhalations more slowly, easing itself dry. But I remember the white clouds of pillows, sheets and quilts surrounding me, wrapping me, holding me safe and warm in my bed. I remember wanting to lean over and cough watery vomit into the mug on the table beside me. I remember panting and catching my breath. I remember hearing the rain outside and I know I sat still and silent for some time after regaining consciousness. I don’t know in what order or whether this all happened, but these are my memories of waking.

Even now, in the retelling, I barely remember any of that, but I can still feel in my chest and my stomach, echoes of the panic and vacuum and burn that consumed me as I drifted in and out of consciousness. I can still see myself motionless and suspended in the water; a collage of bubbling white momentum and clear blue glass. But I wonder… I wonder if I was safely breathing the whole time, cosy in bed with winter rain falling outside? I wonder if I was panting, if I was gasping and flailing in amongst the sheets and pillows? I wonder if, perhaps, I was still and submerged, slowly drowning in my dreams, in my memories, fears and futures? Drowning in those briefly stolen moments between sleep and waking?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Old mal, head-dip

Isaac Fields rips on an old mal.

Pic by Moonwalker, stolen from the Pacific Longboarder
site.

Last year he won a 'move of the day' prize at the Noosa Festival for, what the certificate termed, an 'old mal, "air drop, floater"'.

He seriously loves riding these tricky boards, and does so with an enthusiasm that is reflected in his always broad smile. Sometimes I get to go surfing with him, and he is always having a great time, always stoked. (He also loves double-ups, Evans Head and food.)



Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Longboard Girls Crew

I just found this clip about the Longboard Girls Crew by Juan Rayos, over on The Endless Bummer (who found it elsewhere) and it absolutely, 100% made my day!


I don't know much about these women, but I'm looking forward to spending some time on their website to find out more about them.

So great!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Surfing, art and artefacts: asking coastal questions

Over the past few years, I have attended a lot of ‘surf art’ openings and exhibitions. A lot. Mostly they’re quite lovely and colourful and, well, surfy, but mostly I also walk away and don’t much think about them again. I don’t mean to say they’re not good, because they are and people are doing all sorts of awesome things using images of waves, boards, bodies, colours, clouds and the beach, but while they might make me smile or feel good,I suppose they never really teach me much, or make me ask questions. And that’s not a criticism so much as an observation, because making beautiful images, films and objects for their own sake is wonderful and I don’t necessarily want anyone to stop. But there are a growing number of surfy artists I have come to love, whose work is not ‘surf art’, but rather is ‘art about surfing’. The difference is that their work is more than textual, more than art for beauty’s sake, and engages in cultural questions and ugliness and critique.

This ‘art about surfing’ is subversive and disruptive. It is more complex and rich and critical than surf industry art. It asks questions and highlights contradictions and takes nothing for granted and tricks us into thinking and discomfort. It makes our ugliness beautifully and aesthetically visible and available. It draws us in, enthralls us and then gets under our skin. It is political, ethical, sad and beautiful.

And it should be. It should make us ask questions. It should cause discomfort. It should say something new, show us something new.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Gold Coast City Gallery for the opening night of Gerry Wedd, Vernon Ah Kee, Michael Aird and Peter Walker’s collective exhibition*. Some of these names and works are very familiar to me – you will have heard me talk about Gerry Wedd’s gorgeous ceramics on here multiple times before, and I have read about and seen images of Vernon Ah Kee’s variously decorated, waterlogged and political boards and films from the Venice Biennale in 2009 – so I was stoked to have the opportunity to hear them both speak (and Michael Aird) and to take a look at their latest works**. Unfortunately as I was fanging down the highway I had the unfortunate interruption of a flat tyre and so missed the first talks, but made it just in time to catch Gerry Wedd. Phew! As I breathlessly entered the gallery, I was greeted by a forest of beautiful, glossy, muted wooden boards, with a backdrop of blue and white ceramic works – urns, plates, tiles and cheeky thongs. The crowd sat amongst the boards applauding Michael Aird as he took his seat and Gerry as he stood.

Gerry Wedd's ceramics are a revelation.


When you first chance upon them, they are a delight and a surprise, so to have the chance to hear him speak more about them was a treat. And I was stoked to hear what Gerry had to say. He talked about how he discovered surfing magazines through his sister, and ceramics through his mother. His love for surfing culture is his own, but his understandings of it, and the ways he expresses these came from his family, giving it a level of intimacy I hadn’t seen before.


He explained the ways he uses urns as a reference to our knowledges of the past, of history, and to what his art will itself eventually become - artefacts. He takes the shapes and styles of our human predecessors, creating objects that echo a past which we know and assume, using them to tell new stories of humanity, sport, travel and the ocean. He uses these historical tools to re-shape our cultural history of surfing, of being Australian. Through his ceramics, Wedd is creating an archive of alternative ways of knowing surfing and surfing histories, cultures and identities. His ceramics - his artefacts - add to what we know about surfing, but more importantly, they add to what is possible for us to know.

Gerry's urns, tiles, thongs, cups and plates bring new names and faces and stories into our homes and everyday. They hang on our walls and act as vessels for our tea. They are stories that we cannot escape as they quietly become a part of our homes. They are beautiful when displayed in a gallery en masse, but I can tell you from personal experience, that they are even more wonderful when they sit in your kitchen cupboard and on your beside table each morning, full of warm morning tea, telling stories throughout your everyday.

But Gerry Wedd is not alone.

Vernon Ah-Kee’s recent works re-colour and redraw other kinds of known objects and artefacts: surfboards. He questions our preferred Australian understandings of the coast as a place for leisure and fun, and instead discusses the beach as a battlefield and a site of ongoing and explicit racism. The images, colours and patterns of his boards, and of the connected films raise the spectre of the European invasion and subsequent settlement of Australia, as well as more recent coastal clashes such as the so-called ‘Cronulla Riots’ in 2004.


Ah Kee’s boards (shaped at Diverse Surf on the Gold Coast) are painted with bright colours on the deck, and gently drawn with portraits of men from his family, charcoaled in underneath.When hung, from one angle his boards compose a tableau of faces and family, soft in form, and from another angle are an earthy composition of colours and patterns connected to his country and place. But for me, what makes them come alive is the way they are dinged and waxed and ridden, with traces of sand, salt and water lodged in the wax and the resin cracks. For the surfers there, this meant something, it made the boards make more sense that those which are made to be hung on a wall, denied the function of their design. I heard one group of guys imagine how cool it would be to know you were the one who had ridden that board; like a secret piece of connection and knowledge to the art.

In a lovely connection, Ah Kee’s work is placed beside and connected to the films of Michael Aird. These films are different to Ah Kee’s coastal questions of culture, race and belonging, and instead are about those moments which are quiet and mundane: stories of everyday living on the coast, about being from and of the coast. Michael Aird tells us stories of his country and history, about the connections to place and family he feels as he boats on the river, reels in a fish, pulls up a crabpot. His films and photos are an attempt to record these moments as significant and to show the personal and cultural power of the everyday. As Michael says in his exhibition catalogue;

For many years I have been conscious of the types of images that are often missing from the photographic record. Most photographs are of people posing for special events, or maybe just simply people when they were together and want to remember that occasion. So looking back at most people’s photo albums, you may not see too many images of people doing what they normally do on an ordinary day in their lives. Simple things like sitting around a campfire or walking through a mangrove mudflat or a shallow creek at low tide, to me are all worthy of being photographed.

The works of all three of these artists, while very different in terms of form and motivation, are linked by engaging with the coast beyond a broad Australian preference for romaticising our relationships to it. Each of these artists is clearly and deeply connected to the coast and the water in intimately personal ways, but each is willing to question the complexities of these connections and their (and our) place within them.

Michael Aird’s films show that the coast is a place filled with mundane moments, but highlights that these are perhaps more significant than the ways we have celebrated them in the past. It is a place of family, home and history, which is both beautiful and troubled. Vernon Ah Kee’s boards, like Gerry Wedd's ceramics, are functional, thoughtful pieces that are more than textual, more than surf. They produce stories and ghosts that are both real and imagined, known and unexpected, familiar and strange, but which make an odd kind of sense. Their objects are not structured or wordy, but are visual, physical, objectified and cultural. They manifest something in my mind and heart and body: responses that I'm not quite sure about yet, but which are something akin to stoke. They make me think. They make me uncomfortable. They make me want to go surfing.

*This exhibition and the associated works connect to an admirable focus by the Gold Coast City Gallery on collecting works which are relevant in relation both to the Gold Coast and the the coast more broadly, establishing their place as relevant to the community they are such an important part of.

**Peter Walker’s public talk about his beautiful wooden boards will be on July 9th. See you there!