The final instalment of our Time & Tide series takes us to the shores of south Wales to meet a photographer working outside of the usual nine to five. With dusk delayed, there is no better time to play with your work-life balance and get out there. Lunch time surfs and morning strolls are encouraged here at Finisterre, and we want you to head out too.
What drew you to living and working in Wales?
My background is in film & photography so after a brief stint working in London after university, I went on a holiday to the land of the point break…Taghazout, Morocco. Four years on and I was still there, surf guiding world class waves for Surf Maroc and making a living from surf photography. Something was missing though, Morocco is so culturally different to home which is something I love about it, but at the same time I missed a cold pint with my mates in a pub.
Prior to Morocco I ran a campsite in Croyde Bay each summer and called North Devon home. I was in my mid twenties and ready to get my teeth into a career in marketing where I could utilise my photography & film skills. I knew it was going to be hard to find this kind of role in North Devon so I looked across the Bristol Channel to somewhere I had never been before, Wales.
What immediately struck me about Wales was the beautiful rugged coastline, stunning national parks and how much the Welsh love their outdoor activities and sport. Cardiff is a buzzing coastal city and with Bristol only a short drive or train ride away, there is always a gig or event to discover any day of the week.
From a surfing point of view I was blown away by the huge variety of waves on offer within such a close proximity. Beach break, point break, reef, rivermouth, wedge… even a tidal bore were all within a 45 minute drive.
How much of your outlook on life – both work and play – is inspired by this kind of lifestyle?
Living in Wales for me is all about a good work life balance. I’m passionate about my career and like to work hard, often outside of a normal 9-5, which allows me to grab those windows when the wind and tide are right and most people are tied to their desk.
I don’t think anything beats summertime in Wales. With the M4 running the length of the coast from Cardiff up to Swansea, pre and post work surfs are a daily staple whenever the waves are good.
If it’s flat there’s endless places to visit from the beautiful Pen y fan peak in the Brecon Beacons national park to the busy streets and arcades of Cardiff where you can find tons of quirky independent restaurants, bars and shops.
What is the first thing you do if you’ve been away from home?
The first thing I do when I get home from being away is check the surf forecast. I’ve just got back from a trip to Costa Rica and the waves were phenomenal but nothing beats a good wave at home with your mates even when the water temperature is a balmy 8C.
What/where is your ultimate escape here? Why is it so special to you?
When I first moved to Wales, the beauty of the Gower peninsular blew me away. Rhossili beach connects to Llangennith via 3 miles of golden sands and is consistently rated in the top ten beaches in Europe. I didn’t think anything could beat it but then I discovered Freshwater West in West Wales.
As part of Britain’s only coastal national park, it can rival any of the best beaches in Cornwall or Devon with crystal clear water and vast sand dunes. It has a special tranquillity to it and even in the height of summer there always seems to be space to escape the crowds. For those that surf, it picks up every last drop of swell and there are numerous spots just around the corner for when it gets too big.
One of my favourite things about West Wales is the local food sourced straight from the sea. One place that’s stolen my heart is Café Mor at Freshwater West. Not your average fast food van, Café Mor is a street food outlet that produces the most incredible fresh local sea food. Continuing the age-old tradition of harvesting laver seaweed, which is dried and used to make laverbread or even sprinkled on a bacon buttie - my favourite!
To anyone travelling to Wales, what would you say they shouldn’t miss?
Welsh cakes - You can’t come to Wales and leave not having had a Welsh cake. Known as bakestones within Wales and dusted in caster sugar, eat them as they are but I think they are best served as a Jam Split; the Welsh nickname for a Welsh cake sandwich with jam and butter in the middle.
Welsh castles – Wales boasts over 600 castles and if you were going to visit one Caerphilly Castle would be a good starting point as the second-largest castle in Britain.
Drifters café – Stay at one of the many beautiful (and relatively cheap) campsites near Pembroke and Drifters café is the place to set yourself up for the day. A surf shop in a previous life, you’ll struggle to find a better breakfast than at this driftwood-decorated gem.
Surf Snowdonia – A trip to Wales wouldn’t be complete without surfing the perfect man made waves of Surf Snowdonia. And a trip to Surf Snowdonia wouldn’t be complete without visiting Snowdonia national park
Welsh Rugby - To say the Welsh are passionate about their rugby would be an understatement, and watching Wales play at the home of Welsh rugby, the Principality stadium is something you will never forget.
Cymru am byth – long live Wales.
Photos by Arabella Itani