Wednesday, 30 November 2011



Al, architect and onetime art director for Wallace and Grommett, reflecting on another quiet fun offshore logging session while the masses battled unfavorable winds elsewhere.

It's starting to be the season for finding the quiet corners out of the wind, for boots, more rubber and rather depressingly gloves and hoods before very much longer. With the dark evenings and winter storms, it's the time of year that my mind starts to focus on climbing (indoors) a little bit. Al is often on the other end of the rope as i dangle two storey's up desperate to clip the bolts before my finger strength gives up. Quite a position of trust if you think about it....... i must remember to stay on his good side!

It's quite refreshing to be able to pick a day and time to go do somthing and not have change plans for weather or tide at the last minute. We're pretty spoilt for choice around here for indoor climbing at the moment. The excellent bouldering room in Pilton school is getting about a third bigger as we speak, Barnstaple has walls in Petroc and an old church, the Mill near south molton is still open and exeter has the quay, reviewed in a previous post.

For those a little further along the coast, Bude just got a brand new bouldering facility, called the chalk house, in the kings industrial park on the edge of town. It's not been open that long and i went to check it out last week. It's a decent size, not as big as say the climbing academy in bristol but bigger than the bouldering areas at exeter or south molton. A lot of the wall is slab rather than overhang though they have plans to add a proper roof area soon they say. It's got a fairly lo-fi feel with ply rather than coated climbing wall surface and is obviously born out of a few peoples passion rather than a big investment by a business. On the day i went, they had just had a comp on so there were fewer routes than normal but there were still 50 routes up. They were ungraded but the majority weren't too hard, many of the steeper ones having fairly juggy holds, which i think is a good thing for a part time climber like me. One big difference compared with other places i've been is the height. The wall tops out at 4.5m which, although is regulation international contest height,  feels a long way up when you're clinging horizontally on bad holds lunging for an uncertain grip!

All in all it's pretty cool and great to have another alternative if you're down that way and the surf forecast lied!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

solace in a six string....

One of the peculiar (and also best) things about surfing is how all-consuming an activity it is, while you're out there i mean. There's the oft-used quote of the "church of the open sky" and hackneyed though it is, the sentiment behind it rings true. For me, and for lots of others too, no matter what's going on in our lives or how busy or stressed we feel, we can leave everything on the beach and let our minds be all consumed by the activity itself. The lines of whitewater serving as breaks to disconnect a busy mind as we wade out, the physical effort bringing peace through repetition of simple action. The rhythm of the sea, not the ticking of a clock dictating the pace of the activity. It becomes a touchstone, a constant in our lives, marking the passing of events, helping to deal with the peaks and troughs, a stillness we can come back to, a place of refuge in a sea of change.

Playing the guitar is a lot like that too. I've been playing a long time, counting up just how long makes me feel old, and though the desire to play waxes and wanes as the years pass, it never leaves. It's hard to explain to a non-player but, though your mind is partly focussed on making your fingers move, letting the notes flow through you and out of your fingers, especially while improvising, brings a kind of relaxing that makes minutes drift by and nothing else matter. Sounds cheesy typed out but some of you will know what i mean.

As an aside, i was well into music before i picked up a guitar. Not long afterwards, I remember one day looking across at my guitar in the corner of my bedroom and thinking how cool and amazing it was that pretty much all the music i'd ever heard or would ever hear could be coaxed out of those six strings. The breadth of the human condition and the full gamut of our emotions expressable for anyone with enough imagination. My tastes and views are more mature and broad and sophisticated now but its still true and its an idea that still fills me with wonder whenever it flits through my conciousness.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

black rock

Relaxing in North Cornwall on a warm summers day, remember those? Incidentally here's a random question, are we the only country around that has windbreaks? The americans don't. In all probability people in countries with proper warmth dont bother to go to the beach on a day that's windy enough to need one!

Friday, 18 November 2011


So after a brief lull in swell and wind hereabouts, it's back to some solid groundswell and breezy conditions again. Almost all my surfs recently have seem to have been battling some kind of strong wind, whether onshore or offshore and as usual i've not had the time to seek shelter on the bigger days. Summer's mellow sessions feel long gone and winter feels just around the corner.

 It made a nice change then earlier in the week to slide into some unexpectedly fun thigh high glass at low tide croyde of all places. Even at that size there's some speed in the wave and getting up on the nose and back requires some deft footwork, especially as it tends to be quite A-framed at lower tides. I took the pointy squire log in and i have to say, in the type of wave it is built for (i.e hollower and fast), it really lit up, light enough to feel responsive not tracky from the back as it zipped along in trim and really solid despite it's narrow nose on the tip.

Having headed beachwards with little expectation of a dip, an hour, alone in the line-up in the fading sun brought big smiles.

 In other news, i tried on one of the samples of the new Nineplus Hasu chest zip suits this week.
All black with a subtle gold logo, it features the lightest, stretchiest single lined yamamoto i've seen. Really looking forward to mine arriving in a couple of weeks now!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

keep your head up.....

Keep Your Head Up - Ben Howard from mickey smith on Vimeo.

Hopefully most of you that read this from the UK will be aware of both Ben Howard and Mickey Smith ( who directed this video ) already. If not then i'm going to encourage you, along with our american cousins, to check out his album. It's really very, very good!
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