Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Waves in things

I'm back in the city but everywhere I look, I see waves in things...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Intersections, collisions, reflections

I have been taken by the similarities in the form and feeling of waves and clouds and mountains for many, many years now. It's no great insight that there are some intersections and reflections between them - nature's pretty clever that way. But these images by Alessandro Puccinelli really highlight how strong the intersections between the sea and sky can be. Spending today indoors in a library in Melbourne, I can't stop drifting Puccinelli's 'Intersections' portfolio and getting lost in them.

(I've seen these images in a few places now, but most recently on El verano sin fin, so that is who I will link them via)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ocean Light

This gorgeousness is from Head Like an Orange (via Colossal), which is nature gif central and my new favourite online place.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

First We Fall

Clare Pluekhahn is a cool lady. You might have seen some of the work she has collaborated on, including the feature film, First Love.

Clare has her first solo exhibition opening tomorrow night at JCP Studios, 51-57 Cubitt St, Cremorne in Melbourne. According to Clare,
The exhibition runs until 6th March, so check it out if you can.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Wallace Grommets and the Shitbox Rally

If there is one thing in life that I am absolutely sure of, it's that cancer is a total arsehole. Like, it's totally fucked. If you have been reading this blog for a while, then you might have figured out that my mum died of cancer at the end of 2011, after an exhausting, terrible and heartbreaking two year illness. I am proud to say that my mum didn't go happily - she wasn't ready to die. Instead she was pissed off about it until the very end.

Lots of friends of mine have lost loved ones in a similar way, including the Wallace's, whose lovely dad, Stu, passed away from cancer not long after my mum. The Wallaces are core Wategos Beach crew, and you could be pretty certain to see one or all of them there early in the morning on any given day, carving it up on their longboards.

The boys still carve it up, but in memory of their dad and in response to what an arsehole cancer is, they're taking part in the Shitbox Rally, which is an event that raises funds to donate to the Cancer Council. The rules of the rally are simple, the most important one being that, as it is the Shitbox Rally, you must be in a car worth less that $1000. When you consider that the route this year is from Adelaide to Freemantle via Uluru (which, if you know anything about the Australian interior, is nuts!), the quality of the car is a pretty big deal in terms of reliability and comfort. Dan and Ben's team is called, The Wallace Grommets, and as part of their participation, they're fundraising. You can donate via their team here.

I'm not really sure that I think there will ever be a 'cure' for cancer - I mean, you know - but in my experience  the Cancer Council does some amazing research and provides great support groups, services and programs to cancer patients, so for that alone they deserve our support.

Good luck, Wallace Grommets! I'm totally looking forward to hearing about your trip!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lennox Head All Girls Surfriders

If you're a surfer on the north east coast of New South Wales, you might want to think about joining the Lennox Head, All Girls Surfriders ClubTheir sign on is this Sunday, 17th February.

The All Girls Surfriders Club aims to encourage female surfers of all ages and abilities in the sport of surfing. Club members range from 6 to 60 years of age, from beginners to advanced surfers, shortboard and longboard. The club meets for competition each month.
Other activities include a yearly campout, and various coaching clinics throughout the year. The ‘Winter Surf Slash’ prize round is held in July each year – club members who have surfed regularly throughout the year are eligible to compete for prizes.We also host the Ma Bendall Tag Team Interclub event- where we join with other female surf clubs for a weekend of competitive fun .
The club aims to promote friendship, good sportsmanship and mentoring for junior and inexperienced surfers while providing an opportunity for girls to gain experience in competition surfing- All Girls Surfriders prides itself on being supportive and enthusiastic, empowering women through surfing!
The All Girls Surfriders Club has been running since 1992 and is one of the largest women's boardriders in Australia, and I have always heard wonderful things about their positive and supportive vibe. Of course, while it's only women who compete, I'm sure guys are more than welcome along to support their friends and help out with administration and set-up.

If you don't live close enough to Lennox Head, there are all women's boardriders clubs across Australia. For more information, you can check out the this 'Clubs' link on the Surfing Australia site.

(Update: For Sydney surfers, the Bondi Girls Surf Riders has their sign-on Saturday March 2nd. You can check the BGSR Facebook page for more updates.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Surfing Havana

Clifton Evers's recent post on Kurungabaa, 'A Provocation: Detonate 'surfing as marketing', has had me thinking a lot. It's had me thinking about the ways I think about and know surfing, and about the ways that I often feel corralled into acting like an 'authentic' surfer, with comments by others in the water curtailing certain ways of surfing waves that I find pretty fun (like riding my longboard on my knees). But it's also had me thinking as I come across different stories and articles and posts in my online journeying. This NY Times article about surfing in Cuba, 'Cubans Face Hurdles Before Catching Waves', was particularly interesting in terms of the ideas and critiques presented in Clif's provocation, especially the quote about learning by intuition (which Clif will love) and the final paragraphs (which I'm quite sure will make Clif's heart drop).
The waves will come, up to six feet the next day, but for Cuba’s surfers the other staples of the sport are hard to come by. Surf wax, new boards or simple online surf reports are scarce. Cuban policies, combined with the American blockade, have made surfing in this country a complicated endeavor, at best...
Still, without access to information like videos or surf magazines (“We fight over a single page,” Valdes said), surfers in Cuba make their progress in the sport on a separate path from the rest of the world...
I started surfing by intuition,” said Frank González, 26, who speaks in the slow, spaced, colloquial manner of a Californian surfer, if that surfer spoke the Cuban dialect of Spanish. “And my tricks were unlike anything modern. Then, after surfing for four years, I saw my first surf video. Wow, I was impressed, because it wasn’t anything like they do here. So I started learning the new tricks”...
“The government struggles with the idea of surfing,” said Cording, who works with Cuba’s sports ministry to negotiate the flow of donations. “It is such a new idea to them. If we tell them what we’re doing, they’ve pretty much said they are very in favor of having surfing grow on the island. But they don’t want to support it financially. So, they said do it underground and we’ll turn a blind eye”...
As much as Cuban intuition and determination help to advance the sport, cultural and social issues threaten its development.
“For a woman surfing in Cuba, the men are very macho,” said Yaya Guerrero, 29, who is one of the few female surfers in the country. “So because of that it is difficult for women to do the same things as the men do. They are a little territorial when it comes time to surf. Sometimes, since we are just learning and don’t know much, if we are paddling for a good wave that they want, they’ll say, ‘Get off!’ They demand that we bail right in the middle of it, and start arguing with us”...

For Valdes, all of the problems facing Cuba’s surfers could be helped exponentially with one change: a modern surf shop.
“I just want someone to come and make a surf shop here, at least with wax and leashes and maybe rashguards. We could be sustainable. That would be enough.”

(Note: Article via Joni Sternbach and Surfland)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Telling secrets

In the city
when I stay up late
sitting alone,
working on my balcony
into the night
(which is not often)
I listen to the bugs,
and the bats,
and the crickets,
and the possums crawling
along the gables.
It's not so bad.

But beneath it all,
(even though we live
with quiet neighbours
in a quiet suburb
on a quiet road)
is the sound of traffic:
The white noise of cars,
the hoot and rumble
of faraway trains,
the soft whir
of helicopters.
It's not so bad.

But it's there.
So in the city,
when I stay up late,
sitting alone,
working on my balcony
into the night,
in my head
I morph those sounds
into something new
something different;
Into the sea.

So alongside the sounds
of the bugs
and the bats
and the crickets
and the possums,
I imagine
the sound of cars
into foam,
of faraway trains
into sets of
breaking waves,
of whirring helicopters
into the wind.
I turn the city sounds
into something oceanic.
It's not so bad.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Finding wax

Why? What's in your handbag...

A week after returning to Brisbane, I was rummaging through my bag for a pen and came across a block of wax. Day, made.

Friday, February 08, 2013

EPIC means I totally LOVE IT!

Indisputable proof that my not-quite-four-year-old niece totally rules:

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Watching 'Musica Surfica' (a few years after everyone else)

I am going down to Melbourne to see a performance of The Reef in a couple of weeks, which I'm really looking forward to. In part because I'll finally get the chance to meet director of the film component, Mick Sowry, who I met a couple of years ago via blogging, but have never yet managed to meet in person. Knowing I was going down, I remembered that I never posted the review I wrote of Musica Surfica, which is the previous collaboration between Mick, Derek Hynd and Richard Tognetti (and others), and which I watched and wrote about exactly a year ago today (according to the dates on my files)! So I thought it might be nice to post these words now to encourage me to think about reviewing The Reef as well. So, here you are, a belated review of a film that came out four years ago!


I have a confession to make: I didn’t watch Musica Surfica when it came out, because I was cynical about it. A film about finless surfing that was somehow linking itself with classical music? I avoided it. I avoided it because the film was released at time when I felt there were a number of surfers trying to convince the world that what they do is some higher form of living, of being. It was at a time when numbers of surfers were positioning their wave-riding as art, a positioning I still feel uncomfortable about. Riding waves is a highly creative pursuit – absolutely – but it makes me suspicious when surfers start throwing around the word ‘art’ to describe their lines. Maybe it’s just me, but I generally find it to be a disingenuous and self-serving use of the term. So despite the accolades, when Musica Surfica was released I stayed away. But since then, I have come to know a few of the folk involved in it, and find them to be humble, sincere and intelligent people, so I sought the film out, and oh! How wrong I found my assumptions to be.

A quick summary: a group of accomplished surfers, led by Derek Hynd, travel to King Island (in the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania at the bottom of Australia) to surf finless boards for a week. As a collaboration with this surfing ‘experiment’, a group of classical musicians from the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) organised to develop a performance to take place in the old King Island Dairy. Included in this musical collective is the film’s other main protagonist, Richard Tognetti, who is both the Artistic Director and lead violin of the ACO. He also surfs. What Derek Hynd and Richard Tognetti share beyond being highly skilled and successful at their chosen pursuits is a passionate belief in and dedication to the development of surfing and music respectively, as well as an interest in their own relationship to the ways they participate in and perform them.

In this way, Musica Surfica does not extoll surfing as art, but rather uses relationships to how various people understand and experience surfing and music to consider the nature of creativity, performance, movement and how we come by these forms of knowledge. How do we know what surfing is, what boards look like, what music sounds like, and what the rules for these things are? How do these knowledges limit us in the ways we create, perform and move? And what it is like to push ourselves beyond all of that? Or, in the words of Derek Hynd, what is it like to have “a conversation with the unknown”?

Derek’s engagement with these questions manifests in exploring what happens to surfing when you remove fins from a board; when you remove the usual methods of control and structure? By now of course (and perhaps in part as a consequence of the success of this film), finless surfing is no longer ‘new’ and the trend of looking back to look forward has taken a firm hold. This renewed interest has opened up another generation of surfers to board designs of the past – the ones that got discarded after the thin, light, fast, manoeuvrable, dynamic, high-performance thruster took hold. There is of course, nothing wrong with design and performance moving on, except that in doing so a whole range of other approaches to waves and to wave-riding got pushed to the side and devalued as old or lacking innovation. But of course, ‘smaller, faster, lighter, higher, stronger’, is not always better nor more innovative.

Taking experienced surfers onto finless boards really brought Derek’s “conversation with the unknown” to life. As lab-rats, Derek invited a host of willing and talented surfers including Tom Carroll, Belinda Baggs, Tom Wegener, and Heath and Sage Joske to come and play, some of who (Wegener and Sage Joske in particular) were familiar with finless surfing and others who, um, weren’t. Jumping on boards with no fins took many of these talented folk out of their comfort zone, right in the space where they are usually so confident, competent and at home – in the waves. Yet here they were falling, sliding, slipping and stumbling as they learned how specific their performative surfing knowledges were.

Richard Tognetti sums up this kind of discomfort perfectly, locating it as risk. He connects this with his own experiences performing as a violinist and as Artistic Director of the ACO, lamenting the structures and rules that, he argues, limit the ways classical music is accepted and performed amongst its own cultural elite; the lack of risk. I have heard English concert pianist, James Rhodes, describe similar frustrations about the ways that the culture of classical music performances (in terms of spaces, music, dress, behaviour, instruments) limits the access that ‘outsiders’ have. Yet James Rhodes sees access to the music of Beethoven and Bach as a public right, one which should not be denied to those who are not willing or able to don a suit or visit a concert hall. Instead Rhodes takes his music to country halls and pubs, telling stories of composers as part of his concerts, breaking the rules of classical music performances in order to make it more accessible and relatable. This kind of approach is risky but, like Tognetti wonders, how else do we learn? How else do we challenge ourselves and our ways of knowing? In surfing, in playing music, in anything, what does it mean to get to the top of your craft and then stop reaching beyond your comfort zone? What does it mean to always be good, to always excel, to never stumble? What are the implications for ourselves and for the things we do?

Of course, in taking these risks at King Island and in being filmed doing so, we must remember that Derek Hynd was already practised and experienced at finless surfing, so the risks he was taking were less performative and more conceptual – that is, he was using finless surfing as a way of thinking through and talking about risk and the unknown. However, Tognetti was unhappy with some of his performances in the Dairy, so for him in particular the question of what does it mean to always be good and of putting your own reputation on the line, seemed to have a particularly interesting vulnerability. He was really stepping out in performing in these spaces, in these places, in these ways.

Whatever Tognetti’s hesitations were, the music was beautiful. Across the footage of the island and surfing and performances, the sounds of strings pierce, tremble, flow and resonate through the images and the viewer. The warmth and emotion and passion of the music is unavoidable, and Tognetti (I’m assuming) has been very clever in the pieces he chose to accompany the film, the Island and the surfing. The way the performances were filmed and edited really linked in with surfing as well. Richard Tognetti and Satu Vänskä’s performances in particular illustrated the physicality of playing music. Their whole bodies sway and move with the music, in part consequentially to their playing, in part involuntarily in response to what they were hearing and feeling. It is always thrilling to see people come to life as they do the things they love and this was no exception. Derek Hynd is similar. On land, and even sitting in the lineup, Derek is unassuming in how he passes through space, but on a wave, Derek’s movements come to life, sliding, turning, twisting, surfing – movements both consequential and responsive to riding waves.

Of course, in this review I have only focused on the characters and crafts around which this film is based. However, there is also risk and leaping into the unknown in even making a film like this, a challenge taken on by director, Mick Sowry. The intriguing thing about Mick’s role is that he does this in a way that so invisible that he almost disappears. We hear his voice and there are a couple of images, but his real achievement is that he manages to make this film about other people, not about the way he sees them. For me, this is the most telling hint at the level to which this film was collaborative across several platforms – surfing, music, film - rather than by or about one person in particular. Mick’s role in this is to bring all that together, a role that he fills very successfully. A role that should be acknowledged.

After some years now of exploring surfing culture – contests, histories, films, music, art, photos, stories – I have come to be quite cynical about certain words and approaches and attitudes related to surfing. I’ve talked about this before and am willing to admit that this is not my best quality. And it took my developing relationships to some of the people involved in this film for me to take the time to watch it. Having done so, I can remember few times when I took so much pleasure in having my assumptions proved wrong. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Does blogging count as procrastination?

From 'The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do', over at McSweeny's
Procrastination is an alluring siren taunting you to Google the country where Balki from Perfect Strangers was from, and to arrange sticky notes on your dog in the shape of hilarious dog shorts. A wicked temptress beckoning you to watch your children, and take showers. Well, it’s time to look procrastination in the eye and tell that seafaring wench, “Sorry not today, today I write.”

(Thanks, Jen)

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Gender, surfing, and why I love blogs

Toddy's blog post from 2009 is still one of the best things I have ever read about gender and surfing. (You can read the entire post here at Endless Bummer NY)...

... The heart of the question is often whether the feminine aspect can be incorporated by the masculine and vice versa. To contend that the man, with generally more physical power, can learn to incorporate the feminine line while the woman, with architecturally less physical force at her disposal, cannot sufficiently incorporate masculine power, is so obtuse as to miss the point entirely. What line is being drawn? Is it consistent? Pleasurable? Exciting in its own context? Simply look at what each is doing on the wave regardless of gender, then because of it. See the differences in natural, personal inclination at critical moments and appreciate and criticize them as such. The waves of the ocean are inherently democratic. It feels awkward to treat it any other way.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Wannabe country singer?

You know it's a disorganised Monday when you get caught out wearing double-denim...