Monday, December 22, 2014

Looking at the east coast from the west

So tomorrow I fly west to my east coast, subtropical roots, where I'll be spending christmas and new year and a little more too. I've been away from my NZ home more often that I've been here these past two months, so it's weird to be leaving again, and it also feels a little... weird. As always when I move somewhere new, the word 'home' starts to shift and find new applications, and today I confused a friend when I used 'home' to describe first Byron Bay and then Raglan, almost in the same sentence. I'm not even sure I mean the same thing when I use it for each place - Byron is my heart and bones, but Raglan is where I live and is being very kind to me. I feel a bit bad skipping out on it now just as the holidays arrive. 

Home I go. Home I leave.

But these last few days, Raglan has really turned it on, as if to show me what I'm about to miss here too. Today was stunning with blue skies, sunshine and a cool breeze. And tonight, to top it off, it put on one of it's never-get-less-breath-taking sunsets.

See you in 2015, Aotearoa.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

This is the best clip of women's surfing I've ever seen

Check out this beautiful clip by Morgan Maassen of Stephanie Gilmore surfing in France. It's gorgeous.

Stephanie from Morgan Maassen on Vimeo.

Watching this, my first thought was, 'What the hell was Roxy thinking in that stupid sexualised clip of Stephanie they made to promote the 2013 Roxy Pro in Biarritz?' I know the controversy is long past now, but when I see footage like this of the stylish, strong, smooth, female approach Steph Gilmore takes to waves, it really blows me away that Roxy didn't centralise it.

Anyway, I headed this post by saying this is the best clip of women's surfing I've ever seen, so I guess I better qualify why.

1. It focuses on Stephanie's surfing, which Morgan Maassen has done in his past clips of her as well. But this one is different because...

2. It addresses that thing people say about women's surfing being sexy and beautiful and athletic. You know, the 'women can be strong AND beautiful' thing. Sure, whatever. Usually they (Marketers and media) say this to justify copious footage and photos of women in bikinis (e.g. the Roxy clip), and usually it makes me roll my eyes. Because, who cares if they're sexy? But this clip shows that beauty and, more importantly, good surfing shines through - even with a full wetsuit.

3. It shows Steph both in comp and free surfing modes, which is pretty cool and an interesting intersection that is not - as far as I've seen - so common in clips about women who are on the tour. And it does this without including 'lifestyle' aspects (see #1).

4. It's totally beautiful. Like totally. Those sunset waves at the end are stunning.

(If you can think of more reasons, please add them below.)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Don't drop in and call it sharing

Today was my third surf back after over two months out of the water. Say what? A combination of weather and travel has kept me out of the surf, and I've been going nuts. But the last few days have offered up waves and no wind, so I've been making the most of it all.

Today I paddled out to some lovely, glassy beachies. I'll usually take a point break every time, but some of my favourite surfs in NZ have been at this beach, so I feel a fair bit of affection for it. In my mind it's always raining and green, which has much to do with the kinds of winds and weather conditions that shape the conditions. So I made my way down to the black sand and along the shore to some lefts that seemed pretty consistent.

There were only a few people out at first and it was lovely. The waves were far from amazing, but they were fun and they were there. After a while, more people arrived and the competition stepped up. Everyone was playing the inside game where the usual rules of the lineup get put aside in favour of hassling and positioning. There were plenty of waves, but you get one or two crew doing this, and it's game on. It wasn't heavy, but it was happening. Suddenly, I found it much harder to get waves, which I tend to attribute to being the only chick, but it's hard to know, really. I decided to be patient and wait it all out - I'd had a bunch of waves and it was easy for me to get the smaller ones on my longboard anyway - but started to get a bit frustrated with the constant stream of dudes going straight to my inside and taking the next wave. Then one came my way, so I took it. There was a guy right next to me on my outside who went for it too, but I was pleased that he finally pulled off. But as I got up, there was another guy on my inside, who I knew had just that moment paddled out, so I decided to disregard him. But he called out to me,

'Stay on!'

'Oh, I am.'

'Keep going!'

'Don't tell me what to do!'

And then he sped up right next to me reaching his hand out and yells,

'High five!'

'Are you joking? No!'

I was so pissed off. I get it - he was being friendly etc - but I didn't see him be so friendly like that to any of the guys out there. He did that because I'm a woman and that meant something to him - either he wanted to meet me or he thought I wasn't going to make it or something. But I didn't want to share that wave with whoever he was. I didn't want to feel him pushing up behind my board on the wave. I didn't want him to try and touch me. And sure, I'm sensitive to this stuff, but you know what? Just don't, dude.

So I ignored him and stayed on the wave, but couldn't turn back into the pocket because he was there. And I know it didn't matter because I was getting waves enough, but I knew by then it had turned into a minor hassle-fest no matter where you sat and I just didn't feel like being singled out as someone who was easy to take waves from or to 'share' them with. As it turned out, those guys took off on my inside on every wave I got after that, and I saw them talking and smirking at me after, like I'd been a real bitch about it. But I don't have to be friendly to some guy because he wanted to engage with me. I mean, he could have just talked to me, which plenty of other guys out there were doing without making me feel singled out. They just talked to me and let me get waves without needing to be a part of that.

It's nice that dudes want to be part of women surfing out in the water, but that doesn't mean they get to make women feel uncomfortable, which this guy really did. He made me feel singled out and different and accessible and I'm sure he didn't mean any of that, but that was the effect. I considered going and explaining to him why I reacted the way I did, but since he'd already made me feel so uncomfortable, it felt risky and I didn't. I guess he's not my problem anyway.

So I sat away from that guy and picked off the wide ones, which was frustrating really because then avoiding him totally defined my waves and sure, that was my choice, but I didn't want to deal with whatever way the situation was going to go - I didn't really know anyone out there so I was on my own in negotiating it. Slowly I made my way back to the inside and got a bunch more and had a really nice surf in the green water and the gentle rain.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Portland, Oregon

Blogging has been this crazy thing in my life. It has led me places and introduced me to people I would never have otherwise met. It has always been more than an online space, weaving its way into my day to day life and relationships. Amongst others, over time I've met Jamie, Felix, Neil and Mick (you can find Mick over here too), who have become people I count as friends and who have been incredibly supportive and inspiring, and there are a bunch of other bloggers and Instagrammers, who I hope to get to visit some time. (Y'all have been warned! Haha.)

At the moment, I'm in Portland and was lucky enough to meet Kara Sparkman, who is currently involved in the She and the Sea project in the Pacific Northwest. We met because I contacted her about one of her beautiful prints, but was stoked when we realised that she was going to be at home in Portland while I was here for a few days. Yesterday we met for coffee, and it turned out that we had a lot in common in terms of ideas and aspirations and projects, so we talked non-stop for several hours.

And then, Kara - this woman who I have only known through her blog and some emails, gifted me the framed original of the print I'd asked about (note: Kara made that gorgeous frame herself). Can you believe that! I was blown away.

I feel really lucky that I've come to know such kind and generous people over time, and still, after all these years, I can't believe the unexpected joys and people that blogging continues to bring to my life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Undress: For if you get carpark changing anxiety (I don't).

One of the ongoing embarrassments that my surfing buddies endure, is the lack of concern I have about modesty when I get changed in the carpark pre- and post- surf. I'm sure you think you know how much I don't care, but you really don't. I feel like making a fuss draws more attention that just changing and risking the fact that someone might see parts of your body for a moment. But I can see why my friends might tire of seeing me. Haha. My poor friend Izzy is so used to/exasperated by my needless boob and bum flashing that she has pointed me to this new possibility: The Undress.

So, I'm not saying this isn't a great idea - I mean they really have thought of everything and it's pretty smart! - but I am saying it's sort of mental. How chuffed is April though. Also, people are clearly super stoked on this idea because while they aimed to raise $22,000 and they already have $182,627!! Holy crap!

I'm not chucking in for their Kickstarter campaign because I'm a bit Kickstarter-ed out right now, and clearly they don't need me anyway, but if you're keen and want to get one as part of the deal, you can find out more here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stop pushing me, already!

So, a few weeks ago, my friend Ollie came and stayed. Ol and I have never lived in the same town at the same time, but we've managed to catch up in a bunch of places over the years - in Byron, in Sydney, in Brisbane, in San Francisco! It was so great having him here.

Sadly, the surf wasn't really doing much that was tempting while he was staying. It was big enough, but it was full and washy and moving around a lot. Nonetheless, we paddled out because, what else are you gonna do? Also, you gotta keep your go outs up.

It really was a mess so there were only a few others out - maybe six. One guy on a fat, red shortboard was getting some waves, but the pickings were otherwise slim. I wasn't so fussed, so I sat wide and paddled for the odd wave, but the faces were doubling up in that not good way, so I wasn't getting on them. I got one, but I was happy just to be out there and cruise.

But after a while, the guy on the red board paddled over and started talking.

'That's a good looking board. Is that fabric in the nose?' My board gets a surprising amount of attention over here. Almost every time I surf someone comments on it, or walks over in the carpark to pick it up. I should tell Gary to set up shop!

'Yeah, yeah it is. The shaper had it spare so put it in there. It turned out to look really nice, huh.'

'Yeah, it's really blue. Like your eyes.'

'Oh. Yeah. Like my eyes. Yeah. Cause they're blue.' To be fair, my eyes are very, very blue, which gets a lot of comment and I know can be disarming.

'Yeah. And like the words on your wetsuit.' He meant the colour of the branding spread across my chest, which he helpfully pointed to as he spoke.

'Um, yeah. That's right, that's blue too.' 

At this point, having had him point at my boobs, it just felt awkward. So we just sat there until he re-found his words.

'Go for this wave', he suggested.

'Well, there's already someone on it, so I probably won't.' My tolerance for strangers telling me which waves to get is conditional on many factors. Usually things like, do I want that wave. At this point, all things considered, my tolerance was at zero. More awkward silence ensured. Then...

'Go for this one.'

'Yep. Okay. I'll go for this one.' I knew it wasn't really a wave - it wasn't going to turn into anything, let alone break - but I thought it would be a good chance to get away from him so I turned and started paddling. As I did I saw him move around behind me - between me and the wave - to my other side to come alongside me. I figured what he was going to do next and the indignation of the moment filled my chest. Best to get away from him, despite the fact that he was lining up to...


Which he promptly attempted to do. He pushed my board into the wave. Well, he tried to anyway. The wave face was so full that there was no chance, so his attempts failed, but I just kept paddling in that direction to get as far away from the situation as possible. I wasn't pissed off at him. Mostly I found it funny because this kind of thing has happened to me before and has become a standing joke amongst some of my friends who regularly crack themselves up by asking me if I'd like a push, so it's not like I haven't made my peace with this particular form of being patronised in the surf. I kind of wish those friends had been there to see it, actually.

I don't know what he was thinking when he decided to push my board. I'm hardly world class, but I can surf and I can get my own waves and I can look after myself in the breaks I paddle out into and I don't need a push. But maybe he thought I was shit and needed help? Maybe he was trying to be supportive and gets really stoked on chicks in the water and this was his way of being encouraging? Maybe he's just awkward and that's how he rolls? Maybe he's just a dick? Whatever the reason, I really wish he hadn't pushed my board. Like, really.

So in case I haven't been clear before, let me be clear now:

Men and women of the surfing world! Don't give strangers a push into a wave unless you have established they would like that kind of assistance. Because they might be happy just cruising in the water, in which case leave them alone. Or they might really appreciate that help, in which case, awesome! But making awkward conversation with a stranger is really not enough to go on in making the decision to push her board into a wave she didn't actually want to go for anyway.

Ol, of course, found it funny. It IS funny. I mean... me!  But I was pleased to have someone else there to witness the moment because sometimes I'm sure people think I'm making this stuff up.

Friday, October 24, 2014

'Away', by Elisa Bates

I love any film about surfing that is different - that challenge the stereotypes and mainstream representations of what surfing is, what is looks like and who does it. I like these films because they call into question who gets to tell the stories of surfing. For so long, it's been those who are best at it, those for whom surfing is life, rather than part of life, those who are the most self-interested, those who see their place in history as significant, those who are trying to make money from it. This is all fine, but it means that our surfing stories have been mostly high performance, glamorous, spectacular, and let's face it, hyper-masculine. Again, that's cool, but it's given us a pretty limited representation of the majority of surfing experiences.

So when I saw this surf film, Away, come up on my social media feed this morning, I was pretty thrilled.

Away, by Elisa Bates is a short film about three women who surf in New York - Katarina Del Mar, Jee Mee Kim and Mary Leonard. These women talk about their passion and drive for surfing, how they even came to surfing, and how the idea of surfing in a city like New York - to be able to access nature and wildness in a place that is so abundantly human and cultural - is pretty cool. Such stories are so interesting to me. As someone who grew up living next door to a white-sand, warm water beach, being in the ocean seems so fundamental. The only weird thing was that I didn't surf until so much later in my life. My not surfing is almost the negative of their relationships to surfing - it was the culture and the 1980s and 90s craziness that kept me disinterested. Getting to the sea was always easy for me - basically I walked out my back gate and then another 200 metres and I was there.

But, as I've discovered in my own years of city living, getting to the coast when you are constrained by traffic, work commitments, relationships, and distance is a whole other story. I've come to admire and understand the dedication and organisation that goes into making surfing a regular part of your life. And that's in Australia. In this film I see the added complication of icy, snow-filled winter days - negotiating an ice-covered footpath in booties - something I've never had to consider! The image of Jee Mee Kim inching her way across the ice on her feet, and on her bum, will stay with me for some time yet.

These things interrupt the possibility that you could even consider surfing. Like I said, I didn't consider it til so much later in my life because the blokey aggressive culture itself kept me from imagining surfing as a possibility. But for the surfers in this film, there is so much more than that, so that they have ended up committed to surfing is amazing to me. For Katrina Del Mar, after making a fictional film about girl surf gangs, she got interested and came to grow into her name. Jee Mee Kim explains that surfing became so important to her, so frustratingly constant in her mind, that she "went to therapy because of surfing". Mary Leonard, had to put up with her mother trying to guilt her about surfing when she should be with her kids, finally coming to understand that "I get it. Surfing is like your golf", using her previous acceptance of another male-dominated form of time-out to make sense of her daughter's right to independence.

That the key surfers in Away are women seems incidental to this film actually. I mean, it feels like a film about surfers in New York not women surfers in New York. The way a film about male surfers in New York would never be positioned as about male surfers. I hope that makes sense? I'm so often accused of applying a gendered analysis to everything (a fair accusation) that I always want to point out when something goes beyond gender to tell a bigger tale. This tale is about surfing beyond the high gloss, super cool, magazine-worthy images we're so used to seeing, to dig down into what it is we do and love, and what is involved in that at an everyday, mundane level - the drive to the beach, the frustration of learning, the frustration of work, the commitment to family - all of which frames the moments we spend in the sea, catching waves.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I totally meant to do that.

Surfing is always a bit of an unknown. For me especially. I mean, mostly it just feels like a leap of faith that things will work out, and to be honest I still feel amazed whenever I stand up on a wave. Only because, well, it's rally amazing to be able to ride a wave like that, don't you think? And then there are those days when things work out that weren't meant to work out and you think... okay.

So, I'm thinking of a wave I got the other day. It was so nice out in the water - long, peeling, clean, 3-4 foot, and sunny. Like, wow. It was kind of crowded though, so I did my special trick of sitting wide and waiting for the big, wide sets to come through - the inconsistent sets that scuttle everyone on the inside, leaving the wave for me. It means I spend time looking like a moron sitting on my own, but it seems to work well enough. At one stage I abandoned this plan for one of the smaller sneaky inside waves that were coming through. I was keeping an eye on the horizon though as the inside wasn't a place to get caught out if you could avoid it. Which I didn't...

And so I found myself rolling upside down, clutching my board to my chest to make it under the broken wash crashing towards me. I felt it hit and catch just under the nose and lift me up, flipping and spinning me around while I held tight to my board, straining not to lose it. I emerged into the light and found flying along towards shore in the whitewater. Well, I guessed I was, because I had a face full of water and couldn't get my eyes open. But then everything smoothed out, and when I opened my eyes I realised I was perched right in the pocket, screaming down the face. What? I started laughing and clambered, gracelessly, to my feet, taking off down the face for the remaining short distance it had left to travel.

I can't imagine how that looked from shore - funny at best, formless and kooky at worst. But on a busy day a wave's a wave, so I'll take that. Also, I didn't lose my board, so that's always a win.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day trip

On the weekend, I ventured down the coast to meet up with my friend, Kevyn. I've been here for 5 months now, and it seemed as though it might be time to check out places other than my own little corner of Aotearoa. Kevyn lives a little further south, but we wanted to go surfing together, so she kindly split the difference and we met in Takanaki.

The drive down is a few hours and a half, so by the time I arrived the wind had picked up and was starting to ruffle the sea. But we grabbed a coffee and Kevyn showed me her favourite spots and we found ourselves a left that was consistent, smooth and had a bit of size. Oh, and no-one on it! The few guys who'd been out there were making their way back in across the rocks, so we had the chance to ask about it... Fun, they told us. Kind of full, but with a longboard, no problems. We had parked beside the weekend campsite of these guys, who'd been cruising there for a few days. As they peeled off wetsuits, we pulled ours on and made our way across the ever-present rocks and boulders to the waves.

Coming to live in New Zealand presented me with a four surfing challenges: colder, bigger, lefts and rocks. I wasn't spewing about any of them, but I knew they were going to be things to negotiate as I learned to surf in these waves. So far I've found myself loving the lefts, not bothered by the cold, and stoked on the bigger waves. But the rocks remain a challenge and I know that I am held back by my disinclination to deal with them. I think I'm mostly opposed to the lack of grace and elegance that is possible in negotiating them as you get in and out of the water. To be fair, stumbling back and forth across scratchy, weed covered rocks while carrying a longboard is far from ideal, but I know that the rocks are less likely to give in than I am. Instead, you have to gingerly pick your way through the rocks which the wash rushes around you - pushing you forward and pulling you off balance. I know I'll get there with it, but until I have to, well, I've been avoiding it. But not this day. This day rocks were all that were offered - rocks are far as the shoreline could be seen! Rocks to the water, rocks back to the soil and grass, and the receding tide was little help. So I had to suck it up.

And I did.

I made my way down. The scratchy surface gave them grip, which is a blessing, but they seem to tumble so far into the sea, which is an extra ugh when you have a massive fin sticking out from your board. So your board goes upside down, upside down and I scrambled and curled my toes and watched the sets and looked ahead and felt my way as best I could. And I got out with dry hair, which was surprising.

But the surprise was short lived. Kevyn was shouting instructions at me about the wave - how it breaks, where to take off. I kind of heard, I kind of didn't - I was too intent on watching the horizon and not getting caught on the inside and washed back into those acres of bloody rocks! A couple went through, but then, very quickly a wave was coming through - solid with a nice shoulder and formed so I was just in the right spot. With Kevyn shouting encouragement, I paddled into it...

The drop was much steeper than I'd expected, and as I got to my feet I felt the water disappear from under me and for a moment expected to kook it. But no! I managed to hold the take off and then had a long, clean, speeding wave to play with. An oh, it was great. I sought out the edges as far as I was able - finding the top, the bottom, the pocket, the shoulder (as much as my limited skills would allow). It was the best of times and against my better judgement, I surfed it in as far as was really sensible given the rocky realities of the coastline. But how do you give a wave like that up before you have to?

As I paddled back out - stoked! - a massive broken set meant I had to ditch my board and dive. It's so rare I have to cast my board aside to get past a wave, that I can actually count the ties on one hand. But this one was solid! After the first wave, I retrieved my board and paddled hard to see if I could make it through the second one. You've got to try, right? I didn't come close to making it though, and ditched my board a second time, diving down into the water. As the wave passed over me I noticed that I never felt the pull of the wave against my board and knew that my leash had snapped. I could barely be annoyed. I've had the leash for ages and it's stretched well beyond it's original nine foot length. I bobbed about diving under the waves and then peering rock-ward to see where my poor, unfortunate board washed up. As I started the swim in, I realised I'd not being paying enough attention to actually inhaling and found myself out of breath and feeling a sense of rising panic. I just couldn't get much air into my lungs. My breaths were so shallow. Kevyn shouted across to ask if I was okay and I said that I thought so, but I doubt it was terribly convincing. It was one of those moments when you know you'll be okay, but you also suddenly remember how small and fragile you can be. I was never in real trouble - I'm a strong swimmer and have grown up by the sea - but as I focused on getting air into my lungs between waves, I remember thinking to myself, 'Oh, so this is how people drown'.

Of course, I made it in, and as I scrambled over the weedy rocks towards my board I expected the worst. I'd seen it rise up and crash down a few times, so I was braced for dings. I grabbed it up and started making my way across the acres of rocks that were spread in front of me, back to the car. I dabbled in the idea of paddling back out with no leash, and then thought of asking the guys back near our car if I could borrow one from then. But then I thought about surfing a longboard using a shortboard leash and decided I was done. My one wave was enough.

I parked myself on the rocks to check the damage and to get the leftover length of leggie out of my way for the walk back. I ran my hands across the board again and again, but all I could find was one crack in the glass on one of the rails! Amazing! Nice work, Gary.

I looked back out to Kevyn, paddling amongst the swell. I didn't expect her to come in, of course. Surfing is a bit brutal like that - someone has a shit time but their mates keep surfing - but that is something I love about it too. I love that others know that I can take care of myself and that if I need them I'll make it damn clear. No-one bothers to baby you, because they know you wouldn't be there if you couldn't be.

As I gingerly crept back across the rocks and pebbles and dirt, I arrived back to an enthusiastic set of boys who admired my wave and offered me a leash. When I turned it down, they shifted the offer to a beer and a place sitting by their fire, which I did accept. Surfing in NZ has its challenges, but it surely has its kindnesses too.

P.S. As I drove home that afternoon, I saw the craziest clouds! I've never seen these ones before - can anyone shed any light one what they're called and what they suggest?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Boards for miles! Boards for sale!

So there is a pretty amazing surfboard auction happening over in Western Australia at the moment. There are 111 boards up for sale - you can check out the boards up for auction via this link.

There are some pretty wild creations in there, this one chief amongst them:
OLE Olson Twin Fin

1961. 8’11" X 21 ½". Built in 1961 by Bob, he remembers only making one of these, one of the first ever twin fins. Double glass on fins and black stripes with OLE logo. Fully restored.


Tom Blake Paddle Board

1946. By the Catalina Equipment Company of Los Angeles. Tom Blake was a forerunner of surfing design and is credited with being the first person to put fins on surf boards. A champion athlete he was a fine surfer, swimmer and board paddler, having won many titles at the three pursuits, both in Hawaii and America. 16’ long and of a hollow design with ribs inside.

And this one I'd love to have. It's is one of only two of the 111 boards that are in any way associated with women (the other is one of Layne Beachley's boards):

Joe Larkin Single Stringer

C. 2008. This is a replica of the board that Joe made for Phyllis O’Donnell with which she won the 1964 world titles held at Manly. Signed by both Joe and Phyllis this board is 9’ X 21". It has the classical "D" fin of its era and is a clear board with 4 black pinstripes. Phyllis, by winning this competition became Australia’s first World surfing champion.

Anyway, board lovers... get involved!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oh Chanel! You've done it again.

So, it has come to this. And obviously, I can't let such a thing go by without posting it here in all it's contrived, luxury, haute couture, ridiculous glory. Here you have it, Gisele Budchen, supermodel, not riding a not waxed surfboard:

(Note: I cannot find who the surfer - the actual surfer doing surfing - is in this clip. Can you please let me know when you find out! Seems weird they've not said...)

The thing is that it's just so 'bad rad', so beyond reality that it's hardly worth saying much. It feels like watching an action film - those films like X-Men or Iron Man or Pacific Rim, that are so filled to the brim with sexism, racism, homophobia, false history and incredulousness that I really can't be bothered critiquing them, and thus find myself going back for more. This clip is the same in that it's 'So fashion! Much Chanel! Very surf!' that it becomes a parody of itself.

And Chanel is no newcomer to this. They've been making sporting accessories and using surfing to promote their clothes, scents and aesthetic for some time now (those hyperlinks are all to previous posts of mine on this topic). Vogue has been a part of this too, with Steph Gilmore and Laura Enever willing participants in the pose-y oddness of it.

While Cori Schumacher rightly takes a more critical direction on talking about this, this time I see it as another case of co-opting and using the idea of surfing, the image of surfers and surfer girls to sell stuff.* It's gross, sure, but I'm not sure what to make of it - what it might mean. Maybe it's just Baz Luhrmann having another self-indulgent laugh.

I hope you watch this 'behind the scenes' clip because it really is crazy. It reminds me of the guy I wrote about yesterday. I mean, as much as I love listening to guys tell me who "women" are and what we can do - sorry, who "The Chanel Woman" is and what She can do - at some point, it's just funny. Especially when it's this expensive.

Maybe NZ is having a chilling out effect on me, but in the case of this Chanel clip I just found so silly that I laughed. I mean, look at her face while she's getting massively barrelled:

Haha. Stop worrying about your stupid boyfriend and enjoy the moment, character-played-by-Gisele! After all, you're surfing! Right?

Oh, and P.S.:

Grease - You Are The One That I Want from rodrigo fischer on Vimeo.

*The books I link to by Fiona Capp, Kristin Lawler and Krista Comer are all great and you should check them out!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Looks like a chick's board"

Today I went surfing.

The last few weeks have been driving me mental with what I've come to realise are dreaded seasonal winds. They're strong and relentless and filled with rain, and they've been getting in my head and stressing me out. As in, I've a constant headache for the past couple of weeks. Over the weekend, however, they relented and I was back on the beach and back in the sea. Bliss!

So today when I noticed the wind coming up again, I rushed down to get some waves before carrying a longboard became impossible. The waves were solid and long and fun.* Sets were coming through wide and cleaning up the lineup, so my longboard and I sat wide to keep out of the periodical carnage.

The crew out were chilled and quiet. People say hello and give you a smile or at the very least, a head flick. It was mainly shortboarders of course, but there was one other longboarder and a couple of SUPs out too. One of the SUP guys paddled over to me and, as happens a lot here, commented on my board and we exchanged a few words.

That's a really nice board. Looks fun.

Yeah, thanks. I love it! It goes so well for me.

Looks like it was made for you. 

It was! Gary Burden made it. 

Yeah right. Looks like a chick's board.

At first I thought I'd misheard him, so I checked.

Did you say it looks like a chick's board?

Yes, a chick's board.

I laughed and explained, Well, it was made for me, and I'm a chick, so I guess that's just how things worked out.

Yeah. A chick's board, he said one last time as he paddled off. I kept laughing. I didn't get the feeling that he was trying to be insulting or patronising, but you never know. I mean, maybe he's Regina George in disguise...

Of course, he's a middle-aged white guy on a SUP, so he's a surfing cliche all of his very own.

I'm not exactly sure what makes my board look like a 'chick's board'. It might be the beautiful turquoise blue fabric that's across the nose.

But I can't take much credit for that. The fabric was Gary's and he suggested it would look good. He was stoked on it, actually. Maybe it's that a chick was riding it? Nonetheless, as it turns out, I ride a chicks' board.


*Wind's in it now so don't bother.

Friday, October 10, 2014

'The sea' and 'Blue-green sea with steamer'

I love seeing new perspectives on the sea - ways of imagining the ocean that I've never dreamed of. Noah Sabich presented me with images like this today, when posted this very beautiful and evocative paintings by Emil Nolde (1867-1956) on Facebook. 

The Sea (date unknown)

Blue-green Sea With Steamer (date unknown)
Emil Nolde (7 August 1867 – 13 April 1956) was a German painter and printmaker. He was one of the first Expressionists, a member of Die Brücke, and is considered to be one of the great oil painting and watercolour painters of the 20th century. He is known for his vigorous brushwork and expressive choice of colors. Golden yellows and deep reds appear frequently in his work, giving a luminous quality to otherwise somber tones. His watercolors include vivid, brooding storm-scapes and brilliant florals. Nolde's intense preoccupation with the subject of flowers reflect his continuing interest in the art of Vincent Van Gogh. (Via ArtStack)
(image found via the perpetually stoked and always inspiring, Noah Sabich on FB)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Feminism and famous people

So, feminism has become a real talking point among female celebrities lately. Popstars and TV and movie stars have been coming out in droves to associate themselves with women's politics, and clearly stating what feminism means to them. Sometimes I find the way this appears like a trend a bit uncomfortable, and sometimes it becomes a little simplified into soundbites. But I can't deny how pleased I am that it's encouraged conversations about what feminism is, what its political goals are, and enabling the kinds of highly publicised discussion that they have the pull to get media coverage for. While some of these seem like self promotion (I'm not linking to these), others are a reflection of personal beliefs. Angelina Jolie's participation in the 'Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict' is an example of this, as is Emma Watson's recent speech to the UN. They're not unproblematic examples (over to you, Roxanne Gay), but they're sure something.

Mostly, I'm just stoked that so many women are owning feminist politics. I mean, seriously, sequinned leotard and all, check out Beyonce.

That is a pretty amazing image.

Lena Dunham has been explicitly engaged in these issues in her TV show Girls, and these little clips promoting her book are pretty clever and funny.

Also, I know I've mentioned this before, but this interview between Tavi Gevinson and Lorde is excellent. So very excellent.

There is no real point to this today, except to say... Yes.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Roxy Pro France 2014

So it seems like Roxy was paying attention after all! This year's trailer for the Roxy Pro in France is a world away from last year's controversial offering:

There are still a bunch of butts, but it focuses on featuring the women as surfers and athletes - wetsuits and all - which is awesome.

Good work, Roxy! :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Surfing is not only for the sea

In 1998, I lived just south of Munich for a couple of months leading into winter. It's a really, really gorgeous area and I loved my time there, but I never saw this on any of my trips into the city.

River Surfing in Munich Germany from James Kamo on Vimeo.

River Surfing in Munich's English Garden from Snehal Patel on Vimeo.

You can read a good article about it here.

P.S. Form a queue!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

She and the Sea

Over the years, I've talked to a lot of women who surf. Like, a lot. I've learned a lot. Like, a lot. But most of my knowledge is of women who surf in places where is pretty warm and where you can easily get into the sea year round. As in, you just need a 3/2 and you're set.

I've made no secret over the years that I'm in equal parts intrigued and confused by those who manage to surf all year in places where it's cold, where you really have to love surfing in order to keep getting suited up and into the sea over the winter, and sometimes in the summer too!

One of the things that has come up in my conversations with many women who surf, is that they are not so into the cold. They tend to drop off their surfing in the winter, or they didn't bother to learn until they moved to a warmer place. They just weren't interested in the cold. Maybe it's just us wimpy, summer-loving Australians who are so adverse? And of course, I'm sure there are a bunch of men whose surfing is equally as negotiated by the cold, but I haven't asked them that question as much, so I can't really talk about that. But it's meant that I've always really admired the women who stick it out when it's cold. It's also a capacity I'm proud to discover in myself here in NZ. (Although, it's actually pretty mild where I am. Really.)

For a whole bunch of reasons when we think about surfing in cold places, women don't tend to feature. I think that possibly they're less interested? That there are fewer surfers and thus fewer female surfers in colder places. I mean, I'd be less likely to learn if it was cold! The lack of a bikini might have something to do with it to - women and girls who live in warm places are getting more and more photos, but outside of comp photos, images of women surfing in wetsuits remain less common. It might be that cold places remain less photographed and filmed as well! Like I said, there are a bunch of reasons.

So this film project, She and the Sea, is a step to exploring the experiences of women who do step up to surfing when it's cold - when it's cold and windy and snowing!!

The project is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to gather funds to help with filming costs. I know that the crew are about to head off on their trip up the coast, so this need for money is pressing.

What I like especially like about this project is that part of the process of filming and production is to give back to the communities they encounter. To develop relationships with people and places by spending time with them, teaching and learning from them, and being creative with them. This way it will produce a number of things - not just a film - that will be able to give many different perspectives on the project, and tell different aspects of the story.

If you would like to contribute, you can go to the She and the Sea page and donate. Like all Kickstarter projects, you get a little back for your donation, so have a look through the options.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Frankie Harrer and Teahupo'o

Gill just sent me another great link, this one by Morgan Massen of 16 year old Frankie Harrer surfing at Teahupo'o back in May this year.

Frankie from Morgan Maassen on Vimeo.

Great clip, huh. You can see how with more opportunities to surf breaks like this more often, women are going to be gain the experience needed to compete at these breaks more comfortably and with more confidence. Like Frankie is clearly doing, they will get to know the waves better and better and be able to ride them with more familiarity.

Seeing as she's only 16, I did feel a bit icky about the lingering shots across her body. I feel like her surfing (and her obvious gorgeousness) totally speaks for itself, without needing to be driven home. But like so many of the photos he takes of women who surf, Massen's shots highlight what a skillful and flowing surfer Frankie is - he really is good at what he does, huh. I reckon he totally admires and respects the abilities of the women he photographs and for me, that comes across in his work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Onwards Upwards

This is the film clip for the track, 'Onwards Upwards', by North Arm. Both the song and the clip are really, really lovely.

You can read more from the artist, Rod Smith, talking production and motivation here at Lost at E Minor.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Hmmmm... What to wear?

So, this has to be the shortest and most adorable surf short I've ever seen.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Sunrise sliding

What I love about blogging is the kind of responses that it can elicit. Sometimes these are on the comments thread, but other times these come via email, Facebook or text. I've received a couple from my last post, including an email from Gill that had a link to this lovely clip.

Sunrise Slide in Bondi from Lynden Foss on Vimeo.

It's definitely not the same kind of critical nose-riding as in the last post, but in lots of ways, I much prefer it. Sometimes with longboarding, folk are so focused on nose-riding, that they forget there are other possibilities. Watching logging can feel a bit like that. But the way this woman sweeps around and explores the wave a bit more is really nice.

Thanks, Gill x

Monday, September 01, 2014


I decided to work from home today and I was focused and ready to get some runs on the board. But then I saw my friend, Kylie, who let me know there were waves about...

So I caved.

I spent a happy couple of hours out in the chalky green sea, tickled by drizzling rain and looking back to the green and golden hills and cliffs, and the mist-covered mountain rising from the shore. And the waves sure were fun. They were long and clean and right-handers and I was the only longboard out, so I could get all the ones that the shortboarders didn't want (plus a couple they did) and I was super stoked.

I was also really, really cold by the end, with frozen, red hands and feet that I knew were going to itch like hell as they warmed up.

Weekday surfs you don't expect feel sneaky and secret. They're always worth the distraction from work. Always. Now I'm back at my table, staring out my window at the tide coming in and wishing I could go back to the beach - wet wetsuit and all! But now it's time to work.

Oh, but first it's time to see what clips are online, and I saw this one which is great and interesting to see longboarding from this angle. It looks so much less stable, but more impressive somehow. I know nose-riding is physics, but it still seems like magic to me.

Of course, I do have to ask the question... were there no good female longboarders out that day? Really? Because, it's Noosa and Noosa has plenty of excellent women who surf longboards, so I'm just wondering why there were none included in this clip?


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Extreme lego surf

Pretty smooth clip.

Post by Mpora.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quincy Symonds: surfer, skater, hero.

This is a great story, and this girl, Quincy Symonds, is one hell of a person. (Via the wonderful, spectacular, government-funded, nationally available, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

A small surfer makes big waves from ABC Open on Vimeo.

From the online article:
“It just doesn’t make sense to me, how she’s able to do what she does,” says Jake [her dad]. “I’m amazed by it. I’m really proud of it but, to be honest, I can’t comprehend how she does it.”
“She has no fear,” offers Quincy’s coach Anthony Pope. “And she just doesn’t fall off. She has incredible balance and her ability to judge the conditions and adjust is at a level I’ve never seen in someone her age.”
When the waves were too big for her to surf, Quincy took up skateboarding. As you’d expect, she took to a board on land just as deftly as in the surf. Looking over the edge of the 12-foot skate bowl as I filmed one of Quincy’s skating sessions, I felt immediately uneasy. But there was Quincy with her back foot planted on her board ready to drop in, with a smile from ear to ear.
She just loves it so, so much. She reminds me of my niece, who just can't ever get enough and who has no fear at all. It's awesome. The way Quincy's body moves that board around is so impressive. She totally knows what she's doing.

I like that her folks and her coach directly talked about whether or not they'll head towards competition - they seem to have clear thinking on that. And it's great that her coach knows that people can lose their stoke for it if pushed too hard, which he doesn't at all want for her. At the same time it's a bummer to know that's the first thing that comes to mind for us all.

But for now, she's stoked and she has all the encouragement and support possible so she can get in the surf and to go skating, which is so great to see.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Einstein was a surfer

Um, WHY have I never heard of this song before? Did it do the blog rounds last year when it was released and I wasn't paying attention? Having missed this song, I feel... inadequate. Not that the song is great, but conceptually... AMAZING!

And the photo Jimmy Buffet is talking about is real and here it is!

And here is a bonus Einstein sporting shorts and a devil may care attitude!

Now, LYRICS!! With the obviously winning lines being 'Cause the universe was his home break/And we’re still all paddlin’ out'.


There’s a photo of a genius
Standing by the ocean
In a pea coat and cool hat
In 1943

On a beach in Santa Barbara
He’s looking quite contented
His world is only matter
And energy

Past the Channel Islands
Out into the cosmos
There are worlds in motion
That only he can see

He’s smiling as he’s thinking
The harbor lights are blinking
He’s the smartest cookie
Ever was, ever will be

Einstein was a surfer
There really is no doubt
Cause the universe was his home break
And we’re still all paddlin’ out

On an iceberg off Newfoundland
A lyric sits half-frozen
Waiting for a comet
To crash into the sea

It’s drifting towards the tropics
And melting into topics
Fills the sea with answers
That have always worked for me

Bass notes from the chasm
At speeds that we can’t fathom
Music is the language
Of the near and distant stars

Black holes humming b-flat
Heard only by street cats
Astronauts in orbit
And singers in the bars

Einstein was a sailor
With a universal song
His sails were tight, his course was right
So let’s just all cruise along

Order to disorder
It’s the way we all fly
Light speed is all you need
To pass the future by

There’s a YouTube of a genius
Gliding over liquid
Sultan of the short board
In two thousand and ten

He looks like Valentino
Moving like neutrinos
To the oceans in the heavens
Where no wave rider’s been

Einstein was a surfer
Who found the perfect break
Where the strings of time
Meet the final chime
It’s the path all surfers take


And since we're talking about Jimmy Buffet (and since my unsuccessfully searching for it on iTunes was the catalyst for this post, and since I live alone and am about to play and dance about my house anyway), it would be remiss of me not to play this song:

Monday, August 11, 2014

When should a blanket just be a blanket?

I just wrote a really long post about the focus on the small-scale production of bespoke items in surfing culture at the moment. There's a pretty solid niche brand, handmade, homemade, up-cycling vibe in surfing culture at the moment, and it's great and I see lots of lovely things and I even purchase some of these things (especially swimwear). A lot of the time, this is about owning something unique or individualised or local, which is based on the use of small-run or second hand fabrics, many of which are sourced from jaunts to second hand stores. I wrote how great this is - financially, ethically and aesthetically. I was trying to set a tone for my point which would reflect that I like this DIY-esque approach, while allowing me to admit that I've got a bone to pick about one aspect of it. But instead of dancing around the issue, I've decided get straight to my point, which is this:

Can everyone please stop cutting up woollen blankets to make surfboard covers. 

Currently, down here in the southern hemisphere, it's winter, which means that even in the most temperate places it gets really cold at night. Cold, which can in part be staved off by owning woollen blankets, which are expensive to buy new, but much more affordable if you buy them second hand. So I'm suggesting that those blankets could be put to better use. I mean, do our surfboards really need to be covered in cut up woollen blankets? Aren't there a bunch of other options that are less... useful?

The reason for all this is thinking about low income earners and homelessness and winter and being cold. For example, I just looked up the stats for homelessness in Australia based on the 2011 census (the 2013 numbers aren't available yet). I want to clarify that homelessness is not just about sleeping on the street, or not having family. Women and children escaping domestic violence partners are often homeless for a while. People in between affordable accommodation and teenagers kicked out of home who find themselves couch surfing are homeless. I just don't want to you to think that I'm going all out with a street-life assumption of what homelessness is. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it's not. But often being homeless - despite how it manifests - can also mean relying on others for things like, for example, bedding. 

So, stats. Did you know that 1 in 200 people are homeless in Australia?
  • NSW 28,190 (40.8 people per 10,000) +20.4% since 2006
  • VIC 22,789 (42.6 people per 10,000) +20.7 since 2006
  • QLD 19,838 (48.5 people per 10,000) -5.1% since 2006
  • SA 5,985 (37.5 people per 10,000) +1.4% since 2006
  • WA 9,592 (42.8 people per 10,000) +1.1% since 2006
  • TAS 1,579 (31.9 people per 10,000) +32.9% since 2006
  • NT 15,479 (730.7 people per 10,000) -7.8% since 2006
  • ACT 1,785 (50 people per 10,000) +70.6% since 2006
And do you know what kind of accommodation they're living in? No, I didn't either.
  • Improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out 6%
  • Supported accommodation for the homeless 20%
  • Staying temporarily with other households 17%
  • Boarding houses 17%
  • Other temporary lodging 1%
  • “Severely” overcrowded dwellings 39%
You can check them out in more detail at Homelessness Australia

But my 'please-don't-use-blankets-to-make-boardbags-because-people-legitimately-need-them' point is not just based on homelessness. It's also about those who are on a low income. I mean, people who earn the least usually can't afford the best quality housing or heating, so access to cheaper, quality, second-hand, woollen blankets seems to me a cosy if imperfect thing to consider. It's what I would consider.

I'm not trying to have a go at anyone. I don't think that it's about anyone doing the wrong thing, and maybe all those blankets are coming from other places. But even if they are, if they're not needed by your friends and family, maybe donate them to someone, or a local organisation that will distribute them. Because when I see people using second-hand wool blankets up to make covers for expensive surfboards, I just think... no. It's not necessary. In fact, I think it's kind of insulting. Our surfboards are fine. Our surfboards aren't cold. 

In so many ways, up-cycling fabrics is a really great idea - please continue! - but maybe not everything needs to turned into something else. Maybe a blanket can just be... a blanket.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Well, he could write.

This second line about writing from Ernest Hemmingway just made me laugh out loud:
"No matter how good a phrase or a simile he may have if he puts it in where it is not absolutely necessary and irreplaceable he is spoiling his work for egotism. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over."
Love, love, love it. Also, I reckon I might be pretty guilty of this. Hemmingway would have hated the way I write.

Friday, July 04, 2014


I’ve been really, really wanting to go surfing. The days when it’s been sunny and nice, I’ve had to work and the days that I’m free and willing, it’s just a bit too wild for me on my longboard at these unknown breaks where I know no-one. Maybe I should feel shitty about not wanting to take such risks – maybe I’m meant to step up - but I don’t really care about any of that stuff. I don’t care if people think I’m lame or afraid or a wuss. I’ve got nothing to prove on that front.

The other day I looked and was dabbling in the idea of paddling out. It was wild and big and cold, but the fuller wide ones looked manageable and would keep me away from a total pounding on the inside. There were quite a lot of crew out there, and double that number standing on the sidelines watching – the place is like an amphitheatre, which is a bit daunting. I sat on the rocks and watched and wondered and hesitated. If I’d been with a friend, I wouldn’t have wondered at all. I would have gone out. My friends always seem to have more faith in my abilities than I do, which always gives me more courage and confidence. As I sat there, a guy skipped up the rocks towards hi car. What’s it like? I asked him. Pretty full on. There’s a strong rip that drags you around the corner. He didn't advise me against it, but he wasn't suggesting it was good enough out there to take it on either. I talked to him a while longer to avoid making a call on what to do. It's a knack I have.

After he went to get warm, I watched the floating bodies in the section I was thinking I could sit in and they seemed okay. They were all on shortboards too – bodies submerged and flailing, dragging themselves through the water, where I would float on the surface. I knew, really, that I would be okay. I can handle all that.

But then I hesitated. I looked again at the rocks, the steely water and the expanses of whitewash, all with that guy’s words in my ears and, well, that was that. I stayed ashore.


Monday, June 30, 2014


One of the things I love about the sea - well, about the world really - is the way it simply defies containment. We can make boundaries of and for things, but unless we work hard to keep them as we wish, they simple crumble away, or grow over, or spill out, or flood. That idea makes me think of parts of Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, 
And spills the upper boulders in the sun; 
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know 
What I was walling in or walling out, 
And to whom I was like to give offense. 
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 
That wants it down.

The shifting, changing nature of the sea - where the water line will be each day, each month, each season; the shifting sands; the currents that bring weeds, bluebottles, whales, warmth - all of it is far beyond my control, and that is something that I fear and love.

And that is what I thought about when I saw these artworks by Ana Teresa Barboza (via demilked).


In an interview (that includes many more of her works), she explains these pieces in terms of their craft and construction:

Both embroidery and crocheting are techniques that require time. I use these techniques in order to make a connection between manual work and the processes of nature; creating thread structures similar to the structures that make a plant for example. My aim is to create pieces of work that simulates experiments, aiming to reconstruct nature, teaching us to have a new and fresh look at it.

I like her points about this. But from where I'm sitting, what I see is the way that we can never really contain a place - not in an artwork, image or by building walls. And the minute that it breaks those boundaries the edges of things (of what we know or hoped to achieve) become less clear. They take a less defined form and fill space in new ways. 

I've had these images open in a tab on my internet browser for days now, and I'm not yet bored of them. Imagine one of the pieces of the sea in your home, taking up space that was never meant for it, falling and unwinding, even as you try to keep it hanging and in some kind of form. I doubt the weight of the thread, or the loose construction of the weave would allow it to do that, even as a completed work. 

Pretty awesome, huh.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Samantha Keely Smith

I saw these images on Facebook the other day and couldn't stop staring. They're the work of artist Samantha Keely Smith and they're beautiful.


You can see more of her work over on her website, and if you're in the USA (and in the region of the gallery over on the NE coast), you might want to check out her exhibition.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

'a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam...'

Clips like this make me think I might have missed my calling as an astrophysicist - Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox*. But then I remember how much maths is involved (blergh), and I know I made the right choice.

But holy crap, astrophysicists, way to put things in perspective.

This too.

*Yeah, Cox isn't technically an astrophysicist, but he's awesome and I'm counting him here anyway.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

International Surfing Day

Yeah, I know. It was yesterday.* And yeah, I know this video is not new, but it's awesome. Stephanie Gilmore really does have a lovely, smooth approach to waves that is a pleasure to watch. If there is anything specific I would like to acknowledge this International Surfing Day, it's the much improved visibility of women as surfing participants in the water and in the culture that I've noticed over the past few years. So great!

Dear Sylvia, love Steph. from Morgan Maassen on Vimeo.

*So was UNHCR World Refugee Day, which I feel horrid adding as a footnote to this post. I don't really know what to say about that, except that all Australians should read the first and last chapters of Nam Le's book The Boat. Also, here is something I wrote when the boat of refugees smashed apart on the rocks at Christmas Island. Almost 50 asylum seekers died in this truly terrible and avoidable incident.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Looking at the west coast from the east

As I told you, I’ve just moved across the sea to a new home in a new country. In many ways, it’s not such a huge change; English is widely spoken, we have a similar recent colonial history set against a significantly longer past, and the north island has a lot of environmental similarities to my own home country. But there’s a lot that is different as well. For example, I know so little of the Maori history, people and culture, the cold is something new to my way of life and thinking, I don’t know where to get anything (what shops sell what?), and the coastal places on this wild west coast are very different to the powdery white sand and the clear, warm water, of the sub-topics I grew up. Here the sand is black, the water a chalky green, there are a lot fewer people (the beach I run on is often empty), and the beaches are buffered by looming hills and cliffs. It is incredibly beautiful and I’m blown away, but it’s still not in my heart. Not yet anyway.

So right now, I’m giving myself time to fall in love with this place, to know it for myself, to find out what it means to me. It’s made easier by the sweeping views I have from my little home on a hill, which I’m spending many happy hours taking in - views across the harbour mouth, across the golden hills and out to sea. I’m not sure how surfing fits in to that yet, and for some reason, I haven't been ready to find out. I can’t explain this, not even to myself. But I’m not asking too many questions of it either. In a way, it’s like I’ve written before about how I think that surfing might be a beautiful trap, so I’m taking this as a bit of respite from the demands that having surfing as an important part of your identity and your life can bring.

The summer just gone, there was no respite, but nor was I looking for any. I surfed more than I’ve ever surfed before. I surfed hours every day, waking at dawn to rush to the sea, and later in the day counting the minutes til I could go back. And when I got there, I would rush, run and skip along the sand and over the rocks to the water, paddling as quickly as I could out to the breaking waves. When I wasn’t in the sea I was thinking about going back. Catching up with friends, working, eating, sleeping, these were the in-between moments that framed my life down at the beach. It was wonderfully all consuming. I don’t regret a minute of it, but I knew at the time that it was not a real life. It was a temporary return to adolescence, experienced with all the knowledge and privileges of being a 36 year-old woman.

This summer just gone, surfing was key to how I lived in my town and my community. I didn’t surf new places or anything – I surfed the same break almost every day all summer - but I met new people, made new friends. People think that living in a small town, you must know everyone, but it’s not like that at all. Byron is my place in a way that is deep and beyond my ability to explain, but there is still so much that I don’t know about it, and there are so many stories that I haven’t heard. This summer, I learned a few more. I got to know Ed better. Ed’s from Taranaki and he is a real stand-out in the lineup, both for his surfing and his ferocity. He surfs with a level of control, commitment and determination that you rarely see in such a degree. In a similar way, he defends his waves and the people that surf them. The ones he likes anyway. I got to know Roisin (Row-sheeeeen), who is such a joy to be in the water with and who I would tease by pretending I saw turtles when there were none. I met Bernie and Jye, teenagers whose surfing is well beyond anything I will ever achieve. They are the loveliest and most stoked young guys, whose excitement levels in the water matched my own, and that is really saying something. I got to know Nathan better. I met Nath on the beach in Newcastle, back in 2012. He kept my number and when he moved to Byron he got in touch and we started hanging out. Isn’t that awesome! I got to know Laura who was always, always in the water before me. She would be at the beach before dawn, walking up the bush path to the lighthouse before the sun got up, so she was ready to paddle out as the light warmed the sky. I also spent a lot more time with the morning crew, who I have known by face and name for years, but who - through the hours I spent there and at the monthly Sunday morning mal club round – I came to know with even more affection. And that is a far from exhaustive list.

And the beach. Well, I knew it better than I ever have before or, perhaps ever will again. I knew it the way you can only know a place by being there every day. I knew where the rocks were, what the tides meant, what animals were commonly around. I knew the rhythms of the water, winds and tides as well as I knew the rhythms of the people who would routinely arrive at various times of day. As you would have picked up if you read any of the few posts I wrote, my heart was more full than it has been in a long time.

But now I’ve left that behind. Not abandoned, not discarded, not with regret. But I’ve left it because it wasn’t sustainable for me right now. There are other things to do and explore. And I’m lucky because my new home is incredible and far from a difficult landing! One of my dearest friends lives here, and a couple I already knew from Byron live here too. In fact, Kylie took me for my first surf the other week. But like I said, it’s not mine and to go from being in a place that is in the very fabric of your body and sense of self – a place that lives deep in your bones - to a place where you don’t yet belong is a shift. Not a shift that is awful, but a shift.

My approach is to be here in a way that is entirely open to its beauty and its community. To know it in a way that avoids comparison. (And believe me, comparisons between Byron and this place would be easy!) For now, surfing has not been a part of that. Mostly I’ve been running on the beach below my house, getting to know the line of the coast from there. Getting to know the colours and the way the beach-breaks look. Starting to smile and wave at people I pass on the sand. But I think I’m ready to learn to surf here now. I’m ready to know this place from the water, not only the sand. Today I bought a wetsuit appropriate for this cold water, a task I’d been avoiding, but one made easier by the lovely guy working in the store who understood my aversion to rubber. Hailing from the Gold Coast, he assured me it took him a while to get used to it. He told me that it took a while to settle into this place for him as well. That he started out by spending time alone with the place itself, getting to know the coast before he got to know any of the people. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised this is what I’ve been doing too. Getting to know the place before I get to know the people. But that is already changing.

P.S. Thanks for the writing encouragement x