Passing a passion for long boards and deft footwork from father to daughter. Watch Ambassadors Sam and Lola Bleakley share waves and skate sessions at the western edge of Cornwall, while Sam talks about the saltwater stoke that runs through three generations of his family.
From Dad To Daughter
Where other people have a hearth, we have a surfboard rack, climbing the kitchen wall in the front room that oversees the Atlantic to the horizon. These surfboards have all been shaped for the giant tub of saltwater on our doorstep where the earth’s floor dips away and ocean weather fills the space. This ocean weather shapes us relentlessly here at the rugged western tip of Cornwall. It can be unforgiving, bullying and blistering, but also calm and forgiving, and perfect for gliding on longer boards. The Cornish weather is a chameleon, changing rapidly and unexpectedly. And longboarding is a family ritual we have collectively practiced for decades - my dad for nearly 60 years, my wife and I for 40, and my kids Lola and Ruben for ten already.
On clear freezing mornings Lola and I love to skate the local promenade to recreate footwork patterns across peeling waves. Then at sunset our wetsuit disguise brings us closer to the seabirds and seals, and we treasure these small winter surfs when Cornwall is less overrun with people. This is why we persevere in this remote part of the country where work is scarce, finances are threadbare, but calm winter sessions like these can wash away the depression.
I love the colours flux at dawn and dusk in deep winter. It was in these moments were I taught Lola to cross-step on a skateboard, and to pick out channels amongst the waves that allow an easier passage for paddling out. Through shared experience she has learned this vocabulary beautifully, a surfers’ semiotics, moving effortlessly between wheels and water.
Despite the coldwater hardships we cherish the sharp and wonderful contrast between night and day, dawn and dusk, immersion, and the magical moments when you are on your feet, in control, walking and paddling back out for more. This is our shared identity as daughter and dad. Surfing is an addiction that runs through our family. They say ‘blood is thicker than water’. Our family is bonded by saltwater and lucky enough not just to live on the doorstep of one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, but to be immersed in surfing culture and history. Saltwater is in our blood. Waveriding is in the collective memory. And new memories are re-created in every surfing session we share. Of course, there are a million other things in life: apple blossom, taxes, bad politicians, illness, mass global displacements due to conflict and climate change. These are part of the tapestry. But surfing and skateboarding are key themes, a focus. In these dances we feel alive, present, confident and creative. We are infected by this stoke and ‘write’ across each wave a ‘thank you’ note to the source of the swell, born far away in a deep water, low-pressure weather system.
And these surfboards and skateboards are our family familiars. The English word ‘family’ comes from the Latin familia, cognate with ‘familiar’. So, a family living in the same household can include your ‘familiars’, your pets and domestic farm animals, your surfboards, your skateboards, your cherished objects. Familiars were ‘friends’. And a family unit under one roof had a central focus. This was the hearth, the fire, the focus and heart of the household. Our hearth is a surfboard rack and the skateboard collection. The Greek goddess Hestia would rule the hearth, where warmth emanated. But the hearth was mobile, as the heartfelt emotional warmth emanated by family members. But let’s not get too cosy. Families can be dysfunctional, conflicted and sharp-edged. Sometimes the hearth gets too hot. There is bad blood at play. Families the world over are hotbeds for trouble. And yet the moral compass of the ‘family’ sticks, where blood is indeed thicker than water. Families then need bonds, common interest and shared passions to keep the flame burning. In my case, the blood of the family is strengthened by the saltwater that metaphorically runs through our veins while we are a family bound by surfing. Blood ties then become sister to saltwater bonds. Lola and I are proud and ambitious, but also grounded and humble, fully appreciative of the rich rewards that surfing and surfing culture have brought to bond us more closely.
After all the grandiose stuff, my philosophy around surfing with the kids is actually simple - to focus on fun and safety. We use equipment that can thrive in small waves, wear warm well-fitted Yulex wetsuits, keep things simple, respect others, fully respect sealife, gain confidence, trust, and tackle new challenges in slow steps. It’s a wonderful feeling to be comfortable in the sea, in control of your equipment, hyper aware of your surroundings, immersed in blue mindfulness and emerging with a much deeper appreciation of our shared blue world. This is why we surf, and this is why we skate, to translate that dance of energy back into water.