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In Conversation: Tina Bingham and Amy Brock Morgan

Friendships forged in transit often become the strongest. Amy Brock Morgan; maker and adventurer, who also heads up Finisterre's repairs workshop, and surfer and model Tina Bingham, connected in Iceland. They missed flights, wrestled with burst car tyres in the frozen wilds, and shared their awe for the landscape, sharing easy smiles as they surfed together. Two women on the edge of the earth, inspiring each other: with their love of waves, nature, travel - and a commitment to experiencing life so they can share it with their kids. 

IT SEEMS LIKE YOUR FIRST MEETING SET THE TONE FOR THE FRIENDSHIP THAT FOLLOWED – A MIX OF SURFING AND TRAVEL AND ROLLING WITH WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU. TELL US HOW IT CAME ABOUT?

AMY: We were in the airport at Reykjavik. It was September 2017, and we were in Iceland to shoot some product and make a film. Tina was flying in from Japan, via London. We’d got to Reykjavik slightly before her, and were all sitting in this tiny little domestic airport, really far from anywhere. And then Tina walked in with her longboard and I remember she had kind eyes. I thought, ‘This trip’s going to be amazing.’ But as all trips do, this one suddenly took on its own organic form: we had missed our domestic flight to Ísafjörður. You try and plan stuff but actually life has its own ideas for you.

TINA: There was a natural magnet between Amy and me; this sense that I really understood her. She made me smile, and we had a bunch of things in common. A natural flow. It’s hard to explain.

AMY: It was like we’d known each other from another time.

WHAT WAS SURFING IN ICELAND LIKE? THAT MUST HAVE BEEN MAGICAL.

AMY: I remember paddling out the first time and looking back round to the land, and suddenly everything sunk in: the magnitude of where we were, the beauty. The mountainous cliffs on either side, their sheer faces flowing down into the valley. The sky was huge, and the farmhouse tiny, we were tiny. I liked that scale, of greatness to tininess , which gave a feeling of being remote, on the fringes.

TINA: I remember feeling pretty hungry to get in. You know that feeling when you just exchange looks in the ocean, when the smile on someone’s face says a thousand words, and you know that you’re feeling the same. The land was hard-edged, magnificent and almost overpowering. It wasn’t there to please and be a kind and lovely picture. It’s got something about it. You feel the power, like you’re at the mercy of the elements. It was amazing, and off the scale of anything I’d ever seen before.

It wasn’t like we got used to that feeling, either. We went for a few sessions and I had that same feeling on repeat, ‘Oh my God…. Look at where we are.’ It’s hard to say in a word.

AMY: It’s euphoric. It wells up from your belly. But comes out in your smile. And the water was a lot warmer than I thought it was going to be too.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE KEY TO MAKING TRIPS LIKE THIS SUCCESSFUL?

AMY: It’s about camaraderie. We did a trip to Scotland this September, traveling around in a van, in howling westerlies, thunder and horizontal rain. It was the most intense weather to shoot in, but everyone just pulled together. Around each bend rainbows shone. There was always someone taking the lead or pulling a few gags. When we need to be serious and get on with it, it happens, but there’s always a lightness, a playfulness , and I think that carries a good team forward.

TINA: The team becomes a seamless thing. It’s like you don't have to talk about it too much; you see what needs to be done and you get it done, whoever’s at hand at the time. That’s just the dream way to be with a group of people. Everyone’s well equipped to deal with whatever’s thrown at them. And there are no boundaries, no men’s jobs or women’s jobs or anything like that. All of that’s out the window. There’s this unspoken thing. Our strengths are encouraged and appreciated, and that’s it.

AMY: It’s a beautiful time to be part of the growing movement, of shrinking the gap and bringing equality across gender to all the different scenes in our societies. There’s more of a movement towards oneness. It shouldn’t even need to be a thing, that’s what’s so interesting, but groups of people have been fighting for equality for a long time and it’s positive that surf culture is creating a voice in support of this. On the trip it feels organic. There are no gender roles, which is lovely. We all support each other in different ways.

TINA, HOW HAS SURF FED INTO YOUR LIFE IN JAPAN?

TINA: I actually grew up in England, in Hertfordshire. I was a national swimmer and biathlete, and so I was training in the water every day growing up. But I lived a landlocked life. When I moved to Japan I was a lot closer to the ocean. I started to connect with people there, and was slowly pulled into surfing through modelling. I started working on a surf show for National Geographic, called Secret Spots. The idea was that I would learn to surf while introducing spots out in Japan. I met a few key people who pointed me in the right direction, showed me some footage and told me stories. I had no surfing background or experience whatsoever, but this made me want to work surfing into my lifestyle. Now I can’t imagine what sort of person I’d be without surfing.

HOW ABOUT TRAVEL?

TINA: I have a four-year-old daughter, and while I think some parents might feel their adventure days are over when they have a kid, I’m always dreaming of that next trip. It’s an itch. My desire for travel and adventure has maybe even turned up a notch since having my daughter. I want to show her a mum who’s not stuck in a routine. I want to show her a mum who’s going on adventures and doing this wild stuff, and to show her this time in the wild, travelling and seeing all these different cultures. Recently we’ve been to Peru, Mexico, France, Australia and Morocco, as well as the UK and around Japan. I take my daughter everywhere.

AMY: It’s amazing for Tina’s daughter to see that she’s able to go on these adventures and show her the spontaneity of life, but also, that she has roots. The same as I have here with my boys, that you work, contribute to your community, your environment and also explore the world. I think that’s beautiful; it’s inspiring for our children to see us work that way, that it’s ok to not just do what you think you should, but actually follow your heart. And that work can be so much fun; your life’s work… You can do the things that feel important.

TINA: People have asked me the point of taking my daughter travelling, saying that she’s too young to remember it. But travel shapes you as a person, no matter whether you’re one or 10 or 20. You’re shaped by all those things that your senses are touching.

AMY: The first five years or so of a child’s life is when they learn their footprint on Earth, so in a way that’s the best time to take them travelling. It will give them adaptability and flexibility, love and openness, and a deep connection with the planet. It shows them that we’re really lucky to be here. Children teach you so much and you teach them. And the more transparent that relationship is, the more you all grow as people.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED WITH YOUR KIDS A LOT, AMY?

AMY: I’ve travelled pretty extensively with my two boys – they’re eleven and eight now. I took them on the road from when my first boy was 10 months. I took him to Northern Spain and Portugal in the van, just travelled down the coast. After a while my second came along and each year we go away and do something – with our feet on the ground. A lot of it has been in Europe, and we’ve been down to Morocco and the Canary Islands. The simpler the life, the better. It’s fun travelling with them and watching them grow. Now they’re a bit bigger, we can go a little further, climb slightly higher mountains.

I’ve done some real short trips too – just decamp from the house with a real stripped backpack and walk for an hour and camp on some tiny little outcrop and watch the sunset. Or park up in the van and cycle off with our tent.

TINA: I used to have this thing of going to all these faraway places. But last year I got a little Mazda Bongo with a roof tent, and it made me realise what is right in front of us. Luli and I camp out in that. It’s been such a cool aspect of our life in the last year. At the southern end of Japan is the Kyushu Prefecture, where it’s slightly warmer and more tropical, and you start to see even more wilderness. I like to travel down there. I base myself in Tokyo for work, but the Bongo lets us do that wild thing.

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WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE WILDERNESS THAT DRAWS YOU OUT THERE?

TINA: It’s almost not something that I think about anymore. We just do it automatically. It’s part of life, part of the balance of who we are and the life that we’re making for ourselves. I live right by the highway that gets you out of town, so if I have a couple of days off I literally pull out of the parking, get ourselves onto the highway and off we go. Amy has been an inspiration: I visited Cornwall earlier this year, and saw how she interacts with her boys out in nature.

AMY: When I’m in nature, or in the cold sea, it fulfils my animal side. I feel completely at ease, taken in by all the elements and all the energy of the Earth. Because that’s basically all there is; the Earth. And it gives me a rationale when I’m back on the land, for being part of this system. I take the magic that comes from it, and it gives me the fuel to do my best work on land. That’s the magic: we have these two sides, and it balances them out.

SO YOU MANAGED TO HOOK UP IN CORNWALL, TOO? HOW WAS THAT?

AMY: We were so lucky when Tina and her daughter came down. We had this incredible storm and swell. But all the main beaches were blown, so the two spots that Tina scored were off the everyday trail. We were tag teaming it on this old mid-length board I happened to have in the van. This left was incredible; unreal. And in the heart of winter as well. Everyone was wrapped up in scarves and piled into jackets, getting blown around in the wind. Welcome to Cornwall… It was magical.

TINA: It was incredible. This was the first time I’d ever got to surf in the UK. So it was so many things all at once. It was a pretty hard left, beyond really sharp dark black rocks. And I’m not great on my back side. Amy was like, ‘Come on, you can do it, it’s not as full-on as it looks.’ She was totally right. I couldn’t have asked for more, really.

ARE YOU COOKING UP PLANS TO SURF TOGETHER AGAIN?

TINA: Definitely. We’re flirting with the idea of taking our kids somewhere that’s not particularly touristy. We’ve mentioned India.

AMY: Somewhere a little bit challenging…

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