I’d put together a film and photography project to explore different ways to make a journey we’ve made for decades, from England to northernmost Scotland in search of some pristine Atlantic waves.
We’ve been bombing up North for years on a mission, on a chart, usually in a dirty diesel to get barrels then get home for whatever we needed to be home for. This trip was about slowing it down, taking whatever surf came our way and treading lightly, riding sustainable surfboard designs throughout the amazing light of the surreal solstice night.
Unlike winter trips, it’s not about scoring heaving slabs so much as new possibilities in travel, sustainability and surfing, making hay of the wild northern coast while the midsummer sun shines over the summer solstice.
Travel seems to be a core aspect of surfing but its a real challenge and I often feel conflicted about that. I’ve spent a large part of my year travelling all around the world burning up plenty of fuel to do that, but at the same time, I am where I am because of those journeys that I’ve made, and what I’ve learned and been able to share and take back home.
The Irish have always had a really close connection with Scotland especially the Northern part and the islands and though history, going on those journeys was key in terms of our culture and learning. Early Irish scholars would make these voyages, part as a rite of passage, but really the most important thing was making the journey itself, learning more about who you are through the environment, that sense of spiritual quest, being challenged and that sense of going into the unknown… arriving someplace new its’ always that really interesting meeting place where exchange happens, where the real learning happens when you meet other people.
And you have to move around to do that..
But I guess its more about “How can we do it more consciously, or more slowly, or better or differently?” It’s not about not travelling but its maybe about looking at how we do that?
I’ve loved taking that sense of the adventure and the journey and bringing it closer to home, exploring the coastline here which is next door for me, on the Solstice and travelling in a different way so its’ lower impact. I get the way society is today, everything is about how fast we can do it and how much of it we can do? But what would it look like if we could slow it down a bit?
I don’t know if we all have to travel to surf but for me, living on the east coast where it goes flat for ages, I feel the need to travel to get waves, that’s kind of a selfish way of thinking but I think where I come from definitely spurs me on to travel to get waves. I’ve loved the way we have done this trip, pre-planned it, sorted an electric vehicle, camped out, and its paid off this time.
It’s crazy being up here this time of year, just the amount of light you get its phenomenal I think there was around twenty hours of light last night, in winter where it gets light at 9am and its dark by 4 in the afternoon, you’re lost fighting the light and the tide but this time of year, you’ve got so much time there’s no rush.
It looks like a totally different part of the world, its so green and bright and everything is in bloom and its seems like a different scene, people camping, cycling, out on motorbikes. We are just blow-ins and head up here when the chart is on which is usually means bad weather but you don’t really see in winter
Riding the different wooden boards from Otter Surfboards has been the highlight for me, just looking at them, the amount of work that has gone into them and their sustainability, you’re not relying on toxic materials as much and they’re not being shipped around the world.
The wood comes for the South West, crafted into this beautiful board by James in Porthtowan and now its in my hands and under my feet, thats amazing, I’d love to see so much more of that.
I don’t often surf a fish but it felt really good, so smooth, almost kind of user friendly, the wide shape and the full rails made it easy, the waves we were surfing on were perfect for it, on a short board you woulda struggled so much, I would have got frustrated but that fish felt like it fitted the wave perfectly.
This trip is my first time to surf this wooden surfboard from Tonn (which means wave in Gaelic), It’s a new design and from two shapers back home in Ireland, Luke Underwood and Jean Philippe Hetier who is an amazing wood worker. They use this amazing honeycomb design in its’ core which makes it really light but its’ 100% wood so I was excited to ride it and see how it would feel compared to the more high performance shortboards? what would be the similarities and the difference?
For me I’m just excited about the possibility to shift more onto wave riding craft that has that more natural feel in the water, subtle things like the buoyancy, the lift, how responsive it is? the feel of it under your feet and just how well it surfs? And this board feels epic! its totally gonna be my replacement shortboard!
Its interesting within surfing because we have that connection to the sea and the environment yet a lot of the industry and the materials we use are so harmful and toxic. The surfboards we ride are oil-based, made of plastic essentially, and there’s this kind of almost inertia when it comes to design and innovation.
I actually think with the overwhelming global crises that we face now and the onus and responsibility on us to do something about it, we have a chance to get more creative with solutions to deal with these challenges. So what we’re seeing now in surfing is a change in materials and new designs in an industry that is typically been actually pretty static for a long time.
I think once you have the awareness of the environmental impact of what we do, you can’t just switch that off and you get to a certain point that the status quo just no longer serves us anymore and so how do you change that? and part of it is changing the mindsets and behaviours of people in surfing who look to certain surfers and a certain way of surfing. A lot of that has to do with the media and the stories that we tell so what excites me about this journey is how do we share a different experience? shine a light on a new story, a different way and approach perhaps to surfing that is outside of the more corporate, WSL, competitive type of surfing that really overemphasises the high performance aspect.
And then how do we even challenge and break the notion of what is high performance and why do we surf? how do we want to feel when we are on a wave? And Think with these wooden boards its an amazing way to reconnect with why we surf and how its feels because the feeling is so different, I hope we'll get there, I think we will.