The Broadcast / Hireth: In Conversation with Mike Lay

Hireth: In Conversation with Mike Lay

A short film by award winning Director Seth Hughes, Hireth explores the deep but often lost connection we have to home and our homeshores. Katherine Englishman talks with one of the surfing subjects, Finisterre Ambassador Mike Lay, about his deep personal connection to the film's message.

The original version of this interview was published in Field Mag.


12 min watch

Mike Lay interviewed by Katherine Englishman

Film by Seth Hughes
Photography by Luke Gartside

If you could sum up in a sentence the difference between surfing the Scottish coast as opposed to other more popular or obvious surf breaks, how would you describe it?

There is a tangible feeling of solitude, of being far from the centre of things when surfing in Scotland. While feeling relatively far from modern day civilization, there is a sense of being closer to our past, from the scars of runrigs (an ancient farming technique) still visible on the hills, to the neolithic monuments and vast landscapes, it feels like life on the Scottish coast might not have changed a great deal for centuries.

How does surfing in Scotland forge a greater connection to the land? The culture? The heritage?

The act of surfing doesn't really forge connection to place by itself, although it is the reason we all ended up in Scotland for that trip and indeed know each other in the first place. More relevant was the time spent with Colin and his family. The Macleod name is synonymous with the Island of Lewis and the hours we spent talking and sipping whiskey with Colin and his family was a vivid illustration of what love, respect and connection to place looks like. In our case it is the extended surfing tribe which brought us together, a tribe which i'm so grateful to be a part of.


What is the importance of making a surf film in Scotland?

For me, and I think for Seth as well to a certain degree, the film being made in Scotland wasn't the thing of most importance, rather the idea that we didn't have to fly to the other side of the world in order to find adventure, excitement and fulfilment. Indeed this film is part of a wider project encompassing several of the Celtic nations. At the end of 2023 we did a short trip to Brittany (unfortunately Colin had to pull out for a last minute, once in a lifetime trip to Canada to indulge one of his other passions, fly fishing), and we plan on trips to Ireland, Wales, and possibly Galicia as and when the time is right.

Anecdotally, I know and love the meaning behind the Cornish word "hireth" — a feeling of homesickness or a deep sense of nostalgia — being that is the name of the film, how does this movie evoke the hireth that these two surfers speak about at the end? Is there a sense of closure or possibly a new beginning?

During the trip, the sense of 'hireth' was felt as both loss and discovery, as you allude to in your question. From a surfing perspective, the feeling of loss comes from the boom in surfing (selfish I know, but then surfing is often a selfish pursuit) and the dwindling opportunity to surf in such splendid solitude, especially at the far more populated beaches of Cornwall. But that sense of loss is balanced with the realisation that such experiences are still absolutely available, even in Cornwall. If one is willing to tweak one's mindset or expectations, to get up at dawn or surf the less obvious spots or during the less-than-perfect forecasts, then those amazing experiences are out there, wherever you are in the world.


Is there anything particularly special about this beach break?

Other than the beauty of the cliffs on either side (which is far from unique in Scotland), the beach isn't particularly special. But that is the point, the experience itself was special, the company and our open minds. That being said, we were fortunate to have a pretty superb forecast for that particular beach for much of our trip. The sand, tide, wind and swell, all played their part.

How do you see the future of surfing in Scotland taking shape and what do you hope to add to that through this film?

Surfing in Scotland is characterised by tight-knit, committed and welcoming communities along the vast stretch of its coastline. I hope the future will be guided by those for whom Scotland is their home, those with connection to place. I don't imagine the film will have much of a role in the future of Scottish surfing, beyond it being a celebration of place. But perhaps it might add to the narrative of adventure being within reach for many of us, that it doesn't always have to be on the other side of the world, and might well be just beyond the horizon.


Share on Facebook Share on Twitter