Sunday, March 28, 2010

Occy versus Curren

Goofy versus Regular, rough against the smooth, Australia versus America, introvert against extrovert.
With the Bells Beach ( Torquay, Australia) WCT event about to start, they're putting on a heat between the two old and retired idols. To some this will be more interesting than the event itself.

"In Search of Tom Curren" is my favourite surf movie in terms of admiring surfing style, pure class. I read an article sometime back by Kelly Slater talking about Tom, he was famed for his foibles. For instance Curren would often not cash cheques from winning events and in Miyazaki in Japan (a place I love) he paddled out in the final and refused to catch a single wave because the waves were better down the road at another beach. Curren is also a great musician. In a sport that has had so many characters and currently seems to have so few, it is little wonder that he draws the attention of many even aged 45.

Occy on the other hand is a larger than life character who fell off the tour because tinnitus (ringing in his ears) that drove him to sitting on a couch for a year, eating none stop and if rumours be true taking vast amounts of charlie. He then got off his arse and got back on tour till he retired aged forty when the little groms still couldn't touch him. Famed for the beefiest back hand attack in the world, Bells will certainly be a perfect playground.

Oh yeah and they're both World Champs. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Photograph by Greg Martin.

I was round at Greg Martin's house the other day and couldn't take my eyes off a photogarph he had on his wall. So with little respect for copyright etc, I thought I'd just pinch a copy.

  I started to wonder what Archie would look like in a few years.

Probaly won't see him at Sennen though, bit cold. Man up!

The Children

These last few months have been pretty interesting climatically. I started the year in a peruvian summer that seemed to be cloudy  all the time, then spent a day in minus 15 New York before returning to the driest and coldest English winter I remember. Something else which has been funny round here of late is the frequency with which the south coast is working, big, good, great banks....its not so normal.

 The answer is El Nino or potentially la Nina. A Pacific phenomenon which has made its presence felt all the way over here in the North East Atlantic. The normal weather pattern for the Pacific  is shown below.

The right hand side is South America's west coast and the left hand side Asia's Pacific Rim. The moisture is heading off to Asia.

Now when the trade winds don't play ball and decide to not generate enough force it leads to hot water flooding too far south in South America and a reversal of the cycle. Hence moisture goes where it doesn't normally and visa versa. In effect the environments get the opposite of what they where designed to cope with, Jungle's drought and deserts rain.This explains the landslides etc of the central Andes this year as well as the constant cloud in Lima. El Nino.
The Above picture is the opposite again: it is called La Nina - The girl. This is caused by a dropping of eastern Pacific temperatures,  the opposite of El Nino. La Nina years often follow an El Nino year. El Nino years happen every 5 to 7 years, so next year is looking good for more funky weather.

 Anyway without getting really spoddy about it, the resulting effect on the Thermal conduction belt is that a swell chart like below is the result of  El Nino by the time its effects are felt here in Cornwall, UK. The low pressure systems sweep much further south rather than crossing over the top of Scotland. Hence a few weeks back my posting about the Norwegians mentioned their lack of swell, it was an El Nino effect and it screwed over the beardies for surfing.

Well as the South coast is way nicer, its beautiful coves and varied igneous rock and proliferate flora all do it for me. The fact that the Perran Pipe and Praa Sands all have classic shape right now helps.

Porthleven has had one of the best winters in History and if you see Wavelength this month and the pictures by Greg Martin and Ben Selway, you'll surely agree. 

Old style north charts might keep populations safe from landslides etc, but it doesn't fire up Cornwall's south coast enough.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Perran Pipe

Shortly after posting yesterday, my phone rang. Welsh was down at the Perran Pipe where the westerley gale stopped, the wind turned north easterly and freight train head high bombs were detonating.

  A 6 mile run far from preparing me for the surf had actually made my quads a tad on the sore side. Great waves though, the banks were a little ill defined and the channel completely missing, making for a paddleathon but good times.

 Something I love about that surf was that it wasn't on any website, it wasn't predicted and as a result the waves were pretty empty. The swell must have come out of the Bay of Biscay and just missed everyones attention.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lack of swell = pies, fags and beer.

3 weeks without any decent waves, the belly swells, the beers open earlier and get put down later and ciggy's gather momentum...... I know this syndrome from when I last lived in Cornwall. The worst bit is when there finally is a great swell and you are in no condition to enjoy it and leave beautiful waves feeling frustrated and full of regret.

 Well I happened upon some blindingly obvious advice in the shape of a Dalai Lama toilet book the other day, stating:

"... to achieve happiness. One begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those factors which lead to happiness. That is the way."

 I may have gone a bit far when I set myself the goal of completing a 10 mile run  on Sunday the 28th of March in Helston yes the An Resek Helly's is 10 miles multi terrain and......I don't know whether I can do it.
This morning I ran 6 miles and ......covered the ground very slowly, so much so that I worry that I will come last, last by so much that the finish gate will be packed away and the car park empty when I get back to Helston. I guess it doesn't matter, it will teach me humility and keep the belly down...But I am worried I will not be able to complete the distance.  We shall see. I have said that if Neptune throws up some classy swell then I can throw a sicky.

 I should point out that if your reading this, you can register on the morning and there's a good chance of finishing penultimate or better. No waves at the mo but trying to keep the pecker up.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Surf Town for sale? Surfing Lobitos.

Currently I'm trying to write a surf guide toPeru, and though I have blogged about  Lobitos before, I thought I'd stick it on my blog, and see if I could get any feedback, after all there is nothing worse than going down the wrong road for longer than you need to

Huntington Beach, Jeffrey's Bay, Torquay, Pichelemeu, Kuta, Hossegor.....There are surf towns in every continent and then some. These places are different, town's focussed on the sea, the waves and its moods. The focus is sharper than elsewhere, surfers are drawn in and reluctant to leave.

The town, the houses, the crowds and the reputation of the place all grow. It's not long before people start searching for the original pioneers and local crew, pictures of the place before the developers moved in and the grainy black and white shots of the "Day of days."

So how about a place where this progress is in its infancy? A town where the waves have been established relatively recently on the world stage through the Peru Movie star classic? In 2009 it was won by the most fitting of surfers Sofia Mulanovich.

The town has a fascinating story but first the waves.

El Hueyco. El Hueyco works on south swells and big ones at that. It needs a low tide coming over the reef to stop you from being impailed on the cliff and is not for kooks or me. It is an amazing site.

Lobitos - Is the top of the point in the town and is very consistent responding to all swells and size. It starts over reef before churning out tubes over sand bimbling down the line. Its always good but sometimes a little busy.

Los Generales - It's a little bit more fickle than its surrounding breaks with no real set formula but instead its more susceptible to sand movements. When it cracks out its tune, it is sweet, fast and tubular. It can be a barrel fest on its day. Sand bottomed and of course it's a left.

The Pier - Is a left hand barrel and nothing else. Its super shallow sand bottom can snap boards and backs. Helmets can be worn here, you can take some amazing photos too, as anyone can shoot the wave from 10 yards away. You can also get smashed up, 'nouf respect.

La Piscinas - Just at the south end of town on a beach that has a military no entry sign which is completely and utterly ignored by everyone is a tidal pool and a very consistent left hand point called Piscinas which gets pretty busy too. Open faces, speed sections, tubes, its a good wave that doesn't really hold crowds too well as the take off spot is quite small. Maxes out at double overhead.

Panamas - is a fair trudge south from there and if its breaking you will see it clearly as breaks in the middle of sea and therefore gets blown out easily. It only works on north swells but its unique feature in the barren world of Peru is that it is a right! Get there early before the wind hammers it, is my advice.

With wheels or a long walk with plenty of water and suncream there are other waves but that's for you to find.

Lobitos has the largest swell window in Peru, it gets swell from the south which is the most consistent source on our planet but when Hawaii's north shore fires, you have 5 days before Lobitos will sing fortissimo with swells regularly surpassing 20 second periods.

From beginners to advanced, from surfing 'ho to soul searcher, something here will float your boat.......

Lobitos may now be etched into Limenos surfers minds and a few travellers have been filled in on the jewels. They often hangout for a long stint as this is definately a budget destination.

There can be little denying the fact that Lobitos is a dive, its my kind of dive but none the less its a dive. Yet it stands on the precipise of a major overhaul.

Lobitos was a British owned and ran oil refinery. In a desert, the impact of grass and trees are not to be taken lightly but Lobitos was relatively verdant. Beautiful queenslander houses and all the services of a thriving colonial power were available.

(Photos courtesy of Jose Antonio)

Enter Juan Velasco Alvarado. He became the left wing military dictator of Peru in 1968 and famously said "Campesino, el dueƱo nunca mas va a comer de tu pobreza". which reads something like "Peasant, the landlord will not eat again from your poverty.". He promptly then nationalised everything, ran it into the ground and destroyed landlords and peasants....who'd have thought it!

(from Wikipeadia)

His effect on Lobitos was no less catastrophic. The oil and gas refinery was nationalised and run by the army, who unsurprisingly didn't know much about it. The gas was diverted to Talara (today's Peru's biggest refinery) and the army simply ran the town into the ground. The desert blew in and no one swept it back.

Eventually the army decided that enough was enough and left on mass. However they finished off with the amazing idea of removing the most valuable resources from Lobitos, namely hard wood and metal. Most of the roofs and uprights were taken with the obvious result that most of the structures simply collapsed. The town was abandoned. It is often hard for westerners to understand such actions but this is further compounded that there are still a handful of soldiers in Lobitos today, guarding rubble from....well no one really, because there isn't anything to guard.

Some of the bungalows (the least effected) have been occupied over the years. Local residents like Jose Antonio who runs my favourite guesthouse in town have been there for in excess of 5 years and unlike the vegetation have put down roots and are determind to stay and why not?!? They have put in hard work repaired houses, brought economic activity to the area as they provide accomodation and food for travellers. More so than that, in a dry and barren wilderness with no mains water or electricity he's brought sole, laughter  and a little worryingly a bodyboard to the place.

These days the ruins and rennovations are filled with an ecclectic mix of surfers, dropouts, locals, escapees, a few basta addicts (the residue from the cocaine making process) and 3 religious sects/cults depending on your perspectives. Some have dared to invest in generators and fans (it gets really hot here especially around Febuary).

There is a second village of Lobitos back from the beach which is lacking sophistication but has the world's smallest pharmacy with only about 10 things on offer, but I have to say they have always cured everything I've thrown at them, much to my relief.

The army may be selling the land at the north end, which is both exciting and scary. Local residents like Jose Antonio want nothing more than to own their property and have the security that comes with it, but the crowds are gathering and the infastructure is groaning. The prices will rise, the developers will push the prices up, back room deals in corruption riddled Peru will not look after the rats and residents of today. It will become a surf town, but what will it look like? Many are worried, those with most to lose and some no doubtare rubbing their hands.

For myself I will miss the day when nightfall brought bed time, dawn brought light off shores and 20 soles would get you a bed for the night in one of the proudest, cleanest, laughter filled surf shacks I've ever stayed.

Buena suerte.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

There is only one thing worse than being attacked by a Great White Shark.

Some photos.

 The last picture is the new Muslim women swim wear range

Cornish Surf music.

Surfing in different places has spawned and then embedded different music into its varying scene. I often find it pretty odd that Hawaii renowned for heavy locals, violence, strong waves has the plinky plonky ukulele at its heart. The Balinese have Gamelan and Ketchak as their oceanic pulse which I adore.

 Cornwall and surfing here to me is about folk music (you can tell it through blues but its still folk if you ask me) because that's what best describes the lore of the land. On a recent wonder through some cow fields on the way to surf I came across Carn Euny an ancient Celtic settlement dating from the 5th century BC which wasn't abandoned till the Romans left the best part of a millennia later. Remote, beautiful and weather battered it must have been an amazing existence, tough at times undoubtedly, battling the elements and everyday disasters that life before advanced medicine raised. But those folk must have spent many an evening gathered around storytelling, huddled out of harms way, a few yarns must have been set to verse.


 Today Cornwall still feels the same but its shape and form has moved on. The Fogou (an underground structure created by the Celts whose purpose is debatable) are  no longer constructed, yet the Cornish Cottages very much keep the granite building tradition alive and the hand of music and art proliferates as ever.

 The musician who best reflects Cornwall and surfing this ancient land for me is Martin Harley. The rhythm and poetry of his language reflects not only the pace of life here but also the spirit in which it should be lived to me. It can be lively enough to get you going, and mellow enough not to attempt suicidal overtaking of a tracter which might be driving you nuts with frustration. What more could you want?!?

 His days of turning up at the Sand Bar with long hair and mud on his boots have gone and these days if he isn't making documentaries about African music in Mali then he's galavanting around Europe playing gigs. Good on him nice to see someone with talent and passion do well.

 Anyway Martin Harley check him out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Surfing in Taiwan by Chav.

My mate Chav lives and surfs in Taiwan, this is what he has to say on the place:

I chose to move to Taiwan, primarily because of its location, and the fact that there was a job available. One would guess that being in typhoon alley and being right on the edge of the Pacific, with one of the largest open water fetches in the world that it would most likely get waves…. Unfortunately, common logic can be deceptive. Most of the year, waves are produced by low pressures sweeping down the Sea of Japan from Siberia. This produces a short period swell that can be pretty big at times, that smashes into the top of the island around Taipei. This will give you a wave…of sorts, and that wave will get progressively better the further south you go. Living in Taipei means you have access to a limited number of beaches and conditions, but waves generally are somewhat weak and gutless as they break on the shallow beaches…….the locals all tend to ride long boards, so they don’t face some of the same problems that shortboarders have on waves with no power. Surfing is a relatively new sport in Taiwan, though it is growing fast. A significant portion of people in Taiwan still cannot swim and the ocean is something to be feared. That doesn’t mean that these guys can’t rip, and it can still get busy. Especially if small. As with all places, there are a few gems that can be found with a bit of searching but it can generally be unpredictable.

Taiwan has its fair share of natural disaster type events. Earthquakes, typhoons and exploding whales are not uncommon. But for 6 months of the year, its typhoon time.
Typhoon season starts from around April and lasts till the start of November. As the weather starts to heat up and get more humid (And believe me, Taiwanese heat is a force to be reckoned with), more and more typhoons will start to form. Typhoons can start anywhere, but more often than not, they form on the Pacific coast. They will usually move from East to West and will start to veer as they approach land masses. Many will cross Taiwan, often leaving a mass of carnage in their wake. (The effects of Typhoon Morakot last year are still being felt. In the more rural areas of Taiwan even a year later, communities are still being isolated because of devastated bridges and roads). But a typhoon out at sea is the best time to catch a solid ground swell in Taiwan and often offers the best waves. That’s when things really start to come alive. Don’t get me wrong……typhoon swells are open to the same local wind factors as any other swell, but when its on……the whole of the east coast becomes a playground of un-ridden and un-explored waves. The locals tend to avoid the really big swells, so the bigger the wave, the less people will be out, leaving all sorts of reefs, and points ready to be discovered. Just make sure, if you are surfing 24 hours before a typhoon hits, surf somewhere unknown, or hide when the rozzers (police) turn up. Refusal to exit the water can sometimes lead to a night in jail.

There are lots of flaws with surfing in Taiwan. There is a very small window of opportunity for scoring waves. It can be very hit and miss and the beaches on the north of the island are dirty and protected by tetrapods to reduce the damage of typhoon swells. Driving in Taipei is to take your life into your own hands. Up until recently, if you got hit by a blue delivery truck, it was cheaper for the drivers insurance to have killed the unlucky victim and it was not uncommon to see CCTV footage of drivers reversing over their victims to finish them off. When there’s no swell, the summer heat can be impossibly oppressive. On the other hand, when it’s on….it can be as good as the best places in the world. Taiwan is a country uncorrupted by tourism, and it shows. The locals are warm and accommodating, amongst the friendliest in Asia. If someone comes up to you in the street to chat, it’s always because they are genuinely interested, and people will go out of their way to be helpful to westerners. The food is good, if a little quirky at times. Taiwanese tend to prefer the parts of animals that you wouldn’t usually think to eat….chicken heads, intestines and pig brains are very popular, and the mountains in the center of the island can rival any of the Alps in both height and beauty. You’d never come to Taiwan primarily for a surf trip, but for a travelling and worldly experience with the possibility of some surf thrown in, I cannot recommend it enough. 

 Many Thanks to Chav for taking the time ....I was surprised you didn't mention any of the cheap tickets to Sumatra you keep bagging!