Last night the Freshwater Parish Council invited Paul Blackley to be guest speaker at their Annual General meeting at Freshwater Memorial Hall. Paul showed the Councillors and members of the public a slideshow of images taken form the recent Exhibition at Dimbola Museum and Galleries and talked about how the Wight Surf History Project. With [...]
Isle of Wight Surfing History goes back over many decades and in 2012 Wight Surf History put together an exhibition including images at Dimbola Museum and Galleries at Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight. The Exhibition closed with an amazing Jubilee party with live music from Sam Scadgell, Black House Crows and The Shutes. Here are [...]
Both Wight Surf History Exhibition Prints are now displayed at The Waterfront Bar and Restaurant, Totland Bay, Isle of Wight. If you somehow missed the exhibitions previously then get yourself down to Totland Bay. It may not have great waves but it has to be one of the best places on the Island to enjoy [...]
(In other words – in the desert – The sun comes up; The sun goes down.) Just a few more shots. I’ve got anything you have sent before today which is Tuesday March 27th. I’m 66 in four days. Please send money. PO Box 82, Dunwich, 4183. It’ll be forwarded to the secret desert hideaway. [...]
In a reflective mood This is a toilet – 2 trunkated telegraph poles support the roof structure, they and all the interior fitting are secured to a concrete floor and the cement and sandstone boulders lead in a spiral to a well ventilated flushing loo. Ron says the (?8) loos with their running water, piped [...]
This is a bit of a blow. Even under the awning you can (just?) see in the foto below, the light is way too bright for me to see anything on MAC’s screen. So I can’t write standing at the table I made from a panel of Carbon/foam/laminex (Formica), or sit with MAC resting on the little fridge freezer I have on loan. So I’m reclined with MAC on my knees and my head jammed on the walls of the sleeping box on the ute. (The white bit, obviously).
Camp (Castles surf break just over dune) habitation of the Camel Driver, the Painted Dragon and the Honey Eater – the Camel Drivers 2 best mates (read on…) unless you already did. NB Solar panels calculated to spit out photovoltaic energy. Crafty.
Let me tell you about my new best friends: The first and most hilarious is not called a Painted Dragon. There IS a lizard here that IS called that. But the one I’d call a Painted Dragon is called here a Gecko, which it most certainly isn’t. To know why this little guy is my new best friend (number 1) you’d have to know those whom I designate mine enemies. Everyone in England knows what a horsefly is. They’re big bumbling f###ers… we used to shoot them with the elastic garters that held our socks up at the school where the man used to beat me with a stick. They used to breed in the hot tin-roofed classrooms or under the floors or somewhere. But they blackened the windows. Alive and dead. Here they are called March Flies and someone recently announced a theory that were properly called Marsh Flies. Well, this is the Desert, the edge of the Nullarbor Plain. (That means no bloody trees, sport…) And these things have gone forth and multiplied. (You get Biblical in the desert). So I think we can dismiss that radical take on the etymology of March Fly. Since one is covered in flies here from sun-up to sun-down and equally, as the hoi polloi are wont to say in the UK, from “arsehole to breakfast time” – which I suppose to mean, “all over” – the March flies come at you under good cover. And these ones here bite twice as hard as the Queensland March flies, PLUS! they are half the size. So you’ll be walking along trying not to be a woos, lagged in flies like a dinky-di, outback, mule-skinning kind of Ozzie or imagining yourself in one of those pictures you see of bee-trainers (you know the ones where they have a bee “hat” on) and suddenly your composure is shot to buggery by a stabbing pain in – some place on your delicate skin located between your ******** & b’fast time. You look at the afflicted part and sure enough, there is a drop of your very own red, red blude as if you’ve just been donating it of your own free will to the doctor (to check that your AIDS has not come back) or the clinic that collects it for people who need it. Far from it, it has been removed against your will, painfully, in order that this spawn of Beelzebub can go forth (and here’s the irony…) multiply Biblically. Indeed, in plague proportions. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Pharaoh was in these parts before he started afflicting the Jews and that he seriously pissed God off.
Enter the Lizard that should be called the Painted Dragon. He should be called that,
Because it’s a great name and he deserves to be called by a great name
Because his back is a beautiful scaly skin tapestry that is expressly designed to strike dumb your average word-smith. Oh alright! it’s a lace-work of black separating fractal patterns of reddish-ochre split into two broadly parallel lines each about 6mm wide in between a cool mint green patterning tending toward a lemon belly. Of course the overall effect if you don’t get up-close and personal is a light sandy brown. But don’t be fooled. This is the Painted Dragon.
And here’s his trick… it’s amazing and it’s what makes him my best mate. I’m cooking standing at my table. Along comes the March fly (by the way, you’ve noticed the month; just a hint to the radical etymologists (& entomologists) among us, he settles on your foot. And just as he is about to fork in his first mouthful of dinner you feel a delightful tickle on your ankle rather than a stabbing pain and your dragon has nailed him even as he drilled! But these guys are even more proactive than that. This morning I watched one jump a full 100 mm and pluck one out of the air! This may not sound like a great leap to a 1800mm high human being … but just try leaping 1800 mm straight up… these guys are just 100 mm long; probably 15 mm high.
Ron who owns the place these days was just by (we’re friends… I gave him money) and told me of a fellow who was here for a few weeks and became such good mates with one he wanted to take it home. That, of course is NOT ON. If everyone did that this place would be a writhing, knee deep carpet of March flies and there would be not a small number of emaciated once-human leathery near-corpses riddled with tiny blood-stains.
Best friend number 2 is a pretty, social bird with a tinge of green to his wings, a black eye-flash, a sweet unassuming song and a cunning ability to fly upside down into the tiny scrubby bushes here that look identical but actually constitute an eco-system of great diversity (if you get up-close etc…). They say that good art is a matter of ‘mis-direction’. So if this was good writing, you would have no idea at all why this pretty ‘Honey Eater’ (again, crassly mis-named) is my second, new best mate. And I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by mentioning that, while it may seem silly for a bird to fly into a bush upside down, they do have a knack of coming out with their beaks bristling with legs and wings. But I’m not allowed by the conventions of good art to say what the legs and wings are hanging off…
Anyway, enough of legs and wings; let’s get onto cabbages and kings. There was swell when I got in 3 nights ago but I’d driven all day – only 560km, not the 900 of the day before that, so I parked somewhere and braced myself to “make a deal” with Ron, who wanted $10 a night, which is a lot for a toilet when a chap owns a shovel. Ron came round shortly before dark which is about 7:30; sunrise is about 7:30 too so I guess we can agree that Meridian Passage at this longitude and using the rather odd time conventions in South Australia must be about 1:30 pm. For the record, NSW is one hour ahead of Qld. SA is 30 minutes back from that. NSW claim somehow to be saving daylight, eh? I know I wrote that, but it doesn’t seem to me to mean anything believable. SA of course, is – well the way I drove – nearly 3000k further away from sunrise than Stradbroke Island. And, now that we know that the world is round (actually, of course, an oblate spheroid) and goes round the sun (actually, elliptically round the sun) we know that sunrise is something of a misnomer. But more serious than the error of all those phrases is the sad fact that I even felt I needed to know what time the sun did, or didn’t “come up”. I woke at “6:30″ this morning in the dark. I actually went to bed at “7:30″ before dark. But the thing is, which 7:30 did I got to bed with and by which did I arise? The phone picked up SA time back in Ceduna where there is coverage. The computer is on Qld time. But my body is going to have to come round to acquiescing to Cactus time. The, sun rises, the sun goes down. Ca y est! Yesterday I went on to the beach and with no sign of human company did my Salute the Sun. I felt no need to rush. And last night, when I had a stainless cup of red (just found the glasses) I felt no desire to finish the bottle. This is part of why I came here.
The day I arose and surfed Castles. Very badly. In fact rather as if I were the victim of a bit of Jesus healing. You will know the story. A Centurion came to Jesus and said unto him. I am a man of authority. I say to this man “Come!” and he cometh. I say to this man “Go” and he goeth. I recognise in you a man of authority. It is sufficient that you say the word and my servant will be healed. He’s a 66 year old in a wheel-chair and he says he wants to surf.
Jesus said to his disciples, “I say unto you, I have not seen such faith as this in all Judaea.” And to the Centurion he saith, “Return to your servant. Tell him to arise from his wheel-chair. He will surf”. Well, as it went, I rather took the view that Our Lord had overestimated his pull with Our Father who is in Heaven. I surfed, but I surfed as if I were still in a wheel chair. Fortunately, I was alone and I pray, unseen. Later in the day I wandered up to Caves which was firing and offshore. I had wanted a paddle and did not want to mix it with the locals of which there were 12. But Lo, when I went out there in the afternoon there was but one. And I passed a man upon the road who was not young (for he was at least 40) and he was afflicted by poor attitude. He said to me, “The wind is on it. It is wretched”, though when I thought upon that I knew that the man truly had said, “For it is Rat Shit.” Thinking this unbiblical I passed upon my way. Having returned to my dwelling I picked up my 6′ 3″ quad, and girding my loins (read: fighting my way into a full wetsuit for the second time in 10 years, yay it was an struggle and yay I did fall upon the ground as it were possessed by an demon and if he who passed by on the other side of the road in my hour of need because I was a Samaritan and therefore despised, he should have seen me writhing in mine effort later to get out of it in the shallows, for, verily, I did nearly drown.) Long story short, terrific head-high waves running 100M with one guy out. “Carrick”. Good nautical name: the “Carrick Bend”, a particularly complex knot; also the name of a Cornish Council which would be right. Dad has a 100′ boat in Indo chartering. Carrick, after 11 years in Indo now drives a tug in Thevenard up the way near Streaky Bay I think. He ripped, and – you know what? – the healing kicked in. (A prayer, travelling at the speed of light – the ultimate speed of the permeation of force in the Universe – it must therefore take a measurable period of time to get from Judaea to Heaven and back again, so fair-enough!) And verily I did rip too. Later joined by Simon who farmed 7000 Hectares and was waiting for the first rains upon the land that he might plant grain. Simon had been a shearer before his parents gifted him the farm. I said, By Jove, that must have given you a strong back! And he said that it did but that it was a young man’s game. I had taken a look at him and thought he was not only young but hard as nails and I said to him, “And how old are you?” And he replied that he was 37. I said, Verily, verily, you are indeed a poor old f#ck.
And we had a ball.
The sea and part of the Gawler Craton, the granite underlying the sedimentary sandstone and limestone on which the surf breaks and a piece of rock that has neither been been faulted nor folded in 1,450 million years and can therefore be supposed to be “as God intended”. Which I would apply to all of Cactus if God believed in me.
Camel driver seen on walk to Port Le Hunte (That really IS the name) That really isn’t a camel driver…
Apologies to Al for the lateness of this article. April saw the first in the series of the British Longboard events held in very tricky conditions down at Marine Drive, Woolacombe. With howling onshore winds and rain the contest started with 2-3ft waves but as the wind got stronger the waves gor really messed up. On the Sunday the wind dropped a little cleaning the waves up a bit. I spoke to Al after the evnt and he said ‘it was well windy but pretty fun. I won all my quater and semi heats but when it came to the final I just couldn’t find the waves, only got two in the whole heat and it wasn’t enough for a win this time. I’m gonna get into some training I think as that Matt Thomas is a gurt triathelete and I’m gonna need to be as fit as possible to beat him! Got some 8 point scores for the big roundhouse cutback in the photo sequence. that was in the earlier round though, could have done with it in the final.’
I’m alive and nobody is more surprised and happy than I am. I’ll only mention one (out of many) reason: Road Trains. Any Australian who has driven outback knows what a Road Train is. Think very big semi-trailer with another one or two stuck on the back. You’ve got the hang of driving fantastically fast, gradually, over the course of five days. The legal limit is 110kph. You’ll be overtaken frequently if you drive at 120. But trucks, “lorries” (UK Speak) more or less confine themselves to the limit. There are now average-speed cameras. Truckies have always known where the cops are and where the cameras are. But this device has them beat, for their own good, sure! It automatically identifies vehicles over 4.5 tonnes weight – that is, NOT a van – and calculates the driver’s average speed over, what? 100 kilometers? So, no good speeding up between cameras. This means for the common ute/pickup voyager that, sooner or later, you will find yourself overtaking a road train. The roads are good. Straight and flat and my fotos give little impression of the fact that you can see to a 30k horizon and sometimes get a hint of further if the terrain permits it. You can on the larger version but I couldn’t send them.) The engineers were Romans. A road train coming towards you usually appears as a water tower in the distance. You’re seeing the white fibreglass wind streamliner that leads the air blast up and over the one-story-high trailers behind the prime mover. The body of the prime mover is hidden in the road’s “mirage effect” at a certain distance. Gradually it begins to make itself visible. First it gets two black legs then it forms itself into a recognisable object and then you start preparing yourself to stay real nice and steady on your side of the road. Of course, if you did do a head-on with one it would be over very quickly and with little damage, including psychological, to the road train or driver. Your engine would pass out through the back of your treasured transport/home with you a hard to-identify something in between One of the many little games you play over these great distances is to start counting the seconds from first sighting to the passage of the vehicle. Then you start trying to work out how far away it was when you first saw it. I found about 30 seconds was common. So, closing at about 220kph, you saw it about 2k up the track.
Anyway, passing an approaching road train is a thrilling but only a brief flirtation with death – the road is just wide enough for two of them to pass each other without going for a wander. Overtaking takes more planning. I overtook 2 in the past 2,300k which I concluded last evening here in Port Augusta. (About 560k to go… that has worked out about 400k further than I expected.) The last one was a bit of a worry. I came up behind it and stayed well back. The first one was a gentleman and perhaps realising how nervous I was, eventually gave his indicators a little flash to say – well, I don’t know what in truckie speak? “OK buddy you can f###ing GO now!” The second, on the 200k dead-straight stretch coming out of Broken Hill troubled me. He had to negociate an approaching Road Train himself while I was behind and he put himself half a metre onto the gravel shoulder. The entire back half, with some 32 wheels whose tyres cost about $1000 each (nothing like my friend who has a gold mine in the Klondike who pays for his earth moving gear $20,000 per tyre – second-hand!) well, the entire back half of the road train was drifting as if to overtake the first half. The driver pulled this off a couple of times and I can’t say if he was alarmed or not. I would guess not. He was down to about 100 and I had, days earlier shocked myself by realising that I had gone up to 130 on overtaking. So I got set to go. No worries about oncoming traffic – the road is empty to the horizon. So you take to the ‘wrong side of the road’ and go. To keep your wheels on the tarmac you have about 300m to your right and – for safety’s sake – about 500-1000mm on your left. It is like driving down a city block in height and extent and the sky does go dark. This is when you really hope the driver next to you does not go skateboarding on the gravel. Actually fear only comes into it before and after. At the time surgical concentration is the mode. Phew, my heart is racing just thinking about it. Hey, if you’ve got a Volvo or a great powerful 4WD that’s another thing. You go fast and steady and you’re by in quite a long! moment. But when you’re navigating your home, 3 surfboards, and a box with enough weight in it on the roof to need a lot of air in your rear tyres to keep them round… different story.
Anyway, let’s get off dicing with death and onto dealing it out: road kill. When I drove with the ex-wife and Jonno to NW Queensland, out past Longreach to Carisbrooke station 3 years ago, there was so much road kill you could go the whole way stepping from one dead animal to the next. Nearly all Kangaroos. Wedge-tail eagles more or less set up shop in groups of 20 or 30. Chatting as they gorged. For some reason, the roads were largely clear of road kill down here, farther south. In the first 1,500k I counted just 2, albeit fat, wallabies or small kangaroos… not sure which. Bit of a mess. I have not seen a single living one in 2,400k. (Had they all gone north and been run over?) However, and this surprised me, I counted no less than six dead European foxes. You’d think they’d be smarter having survived being imported expressly to be hunted. (What did Oscar Wilde say in reference to fox hunting? “The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible”). Just as I was giving up on wildlife in general, I saw a flock of emus, with their lovely brown tail feather drooping quite delicately. Had they been fluffier and a little more erect I could have mistaken them for Ostriches, which my two English surfing friends & I often saw when we cycled along the Garden Route some 1000k to Cape Town. Hmmm, funny how these adventures occur at the end of a relationship! Still, this time round I am not waking every morning miserable. Au contraire!
Of course, I wrote this as I drove, in my head. Or rather, this is precisely NOT what I wrote in my head as I drove. I surrender abjectly before the task of putting into a few paragraphs an impression of the really big bigness of the outback. And that is the impression when driving, almost flying, over it. God knows what the single cyclist I passed was thinking! He shamed me. I had been having thoughts like, “Oh F###. If the beast breaks down, I’m done out here.” Not dead, but I have no money for a tow and, pray tell me, what does a 100k tow cost? Then the repairs? I’d say to myself, Look, it’s done 181,000k There’s every chance it’ll do another 5 or 6, no? The outback passes your eyes hour after hour, day after day. But I should remark that this particular version of the outback trip has been beautiful, rather than bleak and desiccated. At no time was there not water standing somewhere. Thousands upon thousands of square kilometres passed with green as far as the eye could see. Indeed, it only got a little dry as I drove into South Australia yesterday, within 50k of the Spencer Gulf. I passed a farm at Wilmington some 20k from the gulf waters where some Charolais cattle were feeding on hay. I drove past millions of hectares of green without a domestic animal upon any one of them. I was shocked to come upon the actual Darling River in full flood. The colour of Rudyard Kipling’s “Great grey-green greasy Limpopo river”. That’d be the one that tells how the elephant got his trunk, if memory serves. In fact, leaving Gilgandra, at a petrol station, a Kiwi (the national, not the bird) told me that, seeing the surfboards on my roof, he’d guess I was heading to South Australia. I said I was. He told me that a bridge was down past Broken Hill which meant I would be unable to drive directly to Port Augusta, but would have to take a 400k detour via Mildura. Looking at the map I was almost tempted to head directly down that way and perhaps save a couple hundred klicks. As I was driving away it hit me how much pleasure he had in imparting that (bad) news. Schadenfreude is alive and well in the breast of the feral Kiwi. A couple hundred k up the road – I had decided to go the Broken Hill road as it was so straight and good and resigned myself to the long detour – I pulled in for a coffee. A fat girl (the girls are fat, the men are rake-thin outback. Strong arms but no bums, no idea why) a fat girls told me that No, the South Australian engineers were way better than the NSW ones gave them credit for. They had filled the then flooded, now dry, creek and built a road around the bridge. They just didn’t understand, she said, how quickly it floods and how quickly it dries round here. No more the feral Kiwi. The busted bridge was at a small settlement called Cockburn. The locals, (and what gives me any right to bicker?) pronounce the name not as the Scots and English, nor for that matter the Actor, James Co’burn, who chopped out the offending consonants. They pronounce it more as a male venereal complaint. The bridge hardly merited the description. (Of ‘bridge’, I mean of course…) A couple of concrete slabs set up like dominoes both horizontally and vertically which was no match for 2M of rushing mud. But the staunch SA engineers had filled it and faired it and we all drove round the bridge in a cloud of red-brown dust and with nary a care. But still a tad worried about the pronunciation. I did cry something lusty and rude to the Kiwi.
I won’t do the travel guide here but I have to thank Danika for the tip to take the Waterfall Way across the Great Dividing Range. Although the last 5 k uphill to the point where the rivers change direction tried the beast mortally in second and third gears. I realised then how loaded she is. When I took the foto of the tiny Newell falls she was pissing water and coolant all over the road as the radiator boiled fit to blow. After that, brave thing, she has run cool – even at 130kph. Phew. If I can attach it, the picture of the Ebor Falls, does no justice to it. Or the dodgey viewing platform that tenuously held the nervous writer above a 200M drop. Note the camera shake.
Oh just one pleasing note: I knew I was in the outback when truckies started to raise the hand to salute you. There is that sense of being “out there together”. The salute takes a number of different forms from different types of driver. The Common Trucky salute is the right index finger raised (print toward you). It is the Parisian demand for service too: “Service! Garcon…” I found mine was more along the lines of the night owl’s pinion feathers. The left hand, fingers slightly spread in a spiral. (In the bird it works to maintain laminar flow and avoid (noisy, hence warning the about to be dead rabbit) detachment of air as the wing terminates. You know how a pigeon’s wing whistles?) I don’t think mine was so functional but it did serve to express the pleasure I felt in being recognised as being fully “out there”. In all senses. Women were ambivalent about waving but when they did it was frequently the “High Four”. The thumb remained attached to the wheel for very good reasons. I never saw a child in a car. Perhaps they were all in the back working over an XBox 360. Or watching a video. God, speaking of toys! I saw huge rolling homes that actually towed a CAR behind! And I worried about (and finally had to concede I could not bring) my mountain bike.
Last night I took a sleep in a Motel run by a Sikh called Gorinda, here in Port Augusta. Charged the MAC, the camera and the phone. Spoke to Danika who may have been cooking for Sam. I was too amazed to catch her to take it in. Every other night has been by the side of the road in the bush. I got my guitar out at Tamworth in honour of the coming Country Music Festival. I had a good coffee and charming service (made to feel reelly welcome) in Gilgandra at the Jolly Cauli. The six foot transvestite who ran the business proved that hospitality trumps gender perceptions, for me anyway – hands-down. She was not exactly Priscilla Queen of the Desert, nor was she the Lebanese one who gave Danika her lift up this way all those year ago. But the tradition is strong. In Willcania, next to the Darling river, a nice Country Women’s Association type gave me coffee and a home-made cake. The shop was called the Elliott sisters. When I enquired about the sepia print of two very beautiful young women – although the adjective ‘handsome’ contends with ‘beautiful’, she told me they were the original sisters. She told me this story. The older sister Isabel had been engaged to a local farmer for 18 years. One day she took her courage in both hands and said,
“Fred, have you thought about marriage?”
“Yes, but who’d have us?”
And on that bombshell, Luvya,
When I was in Simonstown Naval Dockyard with HMS Jaguar (in South Africa) I had made friends with a young fellow on a Naval replenishment vessel. We’d met, so to speak, in the Mozambique Channel, during a RAS (“Replenishment at Sea”).
He and I decided one afternoon and evening to climb Simonsberg, the small mountain back of the dockyard. Going up was exciting. Pulling up onto a ledge we came eyeball to eyeball with a Cape cobra, which fortunately was not too pissed off. Going down was really quite dangerous for a couple of reasons. One, it was getting dark, so we were hurrying. And we had not taken note of a deep quarry which stood in our way down. There was a 100′ drop made by the excavation. We only became aware of it in the fading light from very close to the edge. So we were not too late to skirt it. The other thing that didn’t seem too much of a worry was a load of barking and screaming that was going on around us. We had no idea what it was. Obviously some bloody wild life.
We got to the dockyard a while after dark quite thrilled with the whole adventure, indeed with a small sense of achievement. When we came to the gates of the dockyard we had to identify ourselves to a dockyard policeman. These guys were Afrikaaners. Very big. But, if you’re not giving them a hassle (more on that in a sentence or two) they are personable and a source of much good information when your ear has cut through the thick accent. So he asked what we’d been up to and we told him. He said – can you do an Afrikaans accent? Well here’s your chance to try…
“Now you fellows been bloody lucky. You walked through a pack of baboons. And I want to tell you a little story about those boys. Last year, after they had been breaking into the food store in the radio station at the top of the mountain there for a while, one of our men was doing a patrol with his Alsation. He happened to catch the mob inside the foodstore and let the dog off his lead. The dog caught a small one and killed it. The biggest baboon called off the pack. He screamed at them and they all came out of the store. Then he carried on barking and screaming for a bit. Then the entire pack went in, surrounded the dog and tore it to pieces. I tell you man… you don’t want to piss them off!”
Point taken buddy. I wonder what happened to the policeman. He then went on to give us a little advice on the scorpion we had caught and put in our sandwich box. It was large and had black pincers and a black sting about the size of the last section of your little finger.
“That one is the most poisonous one in South Africa. It will kill you if you’re not very lucky. Put it somewhere safe!”.
I was thinking of my divisional officer’s bed. He was a bastard to me.
Anyway a week or two later -I had by now bought a surfboard – £30, a months salary, and a bit brown: a “Sunsurf” – and I had started surfing. I was at a drinks function in the dockyard and there was a guy there whom I knew surfed. He was shorter than us but fit and with regulation blonde hair. Not long; he was a conscript as Whites had all to do National Service in those days. He also had his right arm in a plaster cast to the elbow. I asked him what had happened and he told me. I’m glad you’ve been practising your Yarpy accent because here it comes again.
“See, ma brruther, I come back late from drinking and I was clahmbing the wall back into the dockyard when this big O comes up to me to arrest me. Well, Ah had enough punishment this month and ah was trying to reason with him but he pulls aht these bangles. He’s goin to cuff me, see? Now, ah don’t mind bangles but these were chromium bangles and – see ah was pretty drunk – and ah just couldn’t consent to the chromium bangles, so ah hit him. Trouble was, he ducked and ah caught him on his forehead and broke three bones in my hand. Now ah’m confined to the base for a month and the surf ‘s really good at Muisenberg this week! Ah’m just gled he didn’t murra me.”
I don’t have to tell you, I’d learned enough about surfing (that it was the future of my life… not the Navy!) to sympathise with him most sincerely, taking no account whatsoever of the cultural gulf that yawned between us.
What an incredible night, a great performance from Sam Scadgell (even though he was suffering with a cold and had rushed back from cricket in Ryde), Black House Crow were stunning (looking forward to seeing much more of you guys in the future). The Shutes, what can I say apart from AMAZING. I still can’t [...]
The Shutes are a four-piece from the Isle of Wight who make well-crafted indie-rock with psychedelic and surf flourishes. The Shutes are Chris Jones, Michael Champion, Dave Champion and Rob Potter.
“The most far our rock ‘n’ roll joyride to leave the Isle of Wight since August 31st 1970, when Hendrix’ trailer pulled out” – NME
The band grew up on the Isle of Wight and still live and record on the island, taking their name from a long, winding pathway known as ‘the Shute’ which runs down the cliff edge to the shore near their homes.
The band formed about 5 years a go when Mike, Chris and Rob got together for a jam having met through playing in other bands. Within a few months they were playing gigs in London and released their first cd soon. The band has toured Europe three times, playing in Hamburg, Berlin, Zurich, Vienna to name but a few. They have supported the likes of The Go! Team, The Bees, Alexander Ebert and Peter, Bjorn and John and will be supporting Level 42 at Northwood Park this Jubilee weekend.
In recent years The Shutes have headlined at the ‘Barfly’ and Koko in London and closer to home have played the Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival for the last 4 years. In 2011/12 The Shutes recorded in London studios their latest release, ’Echo of Love’ which was released earlier this year.
Chris and Mike met through surfing on the Island. Mike grew up surfing around Niton while Chris’s local breaks were Compton and Freshwater Bay. It was a few years before they both realised they had a passion for music.
Mike was inspired by the likes of Raff with his retro style and Chris started surfing with people like Dougie Richards, Ian Pacey and friends.
This year I am swimming the solent on Sunday July 15th 2012 in aid of the West Wight Sports Centre and Wight Surf History.
The Swim is from Hurst Castle to Colwell, approximately 1.5 miles through one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and some very strong currents.
West Wight Sports centre is a registered charity and unfortunatly thier funding has been cut so they rely on fundraising events like this to keep them going as does the Wight Surf History. The Wight Surf History will get half of anything raised over £250 so please give generously.
A huge thakyou to everyone who made the effort and put in some really hard graft in the cold a wet weather to help clear up the rubbish from the beach last Saturday. We shifted at least 6 big Biffa bins (6600 litres) of plastics and other debris from the beach at Compton Farm Beach (Fields).
A couple of weeks a go I posted a picture of some of the rubbish and asked it anyone would get together with me to help clear some of the rubbish at Compton Farm Beach. It got a fantastic response and then I disapeared off to Wales for a nice long weekend. When I got back Oli Harvey and Matt Harwood from the Isle of Wight Surf Club had done an absolutely fantastic job organising everything. They had got in touch with the SAS (Surfers Against Sewage), Robin Lang at the National Trust and Biffa bins, done advertising, organised bags and gloves. Great work guys and a big thank you from everyone who enjoys Compton Beach to all involved.
The majority of the rubbish was from boats and mainly plastics but also lethal entaglements of fishing line and ropes. It is very concerning for our marine and bird life along our coast. I am sure you have all seen what can happens to these animals if they get caught up in fishing lines or rope.
Well done, it’s your beach so take ownership of it.
Compton Beach : Compton Farm (Fields) Car Park
[Compton Farm Beach-9118]
Next Saturday 5th May 2012 first thing in the
Compton-Farm-Beach-morning at 9am,we are meeting at Compton Farm Beach Car Park, Compton Bay to clean up the beach.
You are not obliged to spend hours cleaning or if you cant make 9am no problem – just come down when you can.
If every one who surfs/walks/swims at Compton, pops down, and spends half hour to fill a couple of bags we would clear pretty much all the rubbish down there in one go.
Bring BIN BAGS! BLACK & the CLEAR ONES you get given by the council – WE ARE RECYCLING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Please understand this is a voluntary event and the Surf Club takes no responsibility for your actions.
This is my favourite beach on the Isle of Wight but not how I wish to see it. 20-30 people with a black bin bag could have it all cleared in an hour or two. Surfers , walkers and other beach users walk past like it isn’t there. I know the National trust employ a beach warden for the summer months and eventually they will have it all cleared but with the warm spring 1000′s of people have been down on the beach since those lovely weeks in February. This is the home to the Glanville Fritillary Butterfly amongst many others but it looks like a rubbish tip right now. Most of the waste is from storm/tide/ships but there is also plenty of rubbish every year left on the grass & cliffs by people having bbqs/camp fires etc
Anyone interested helping me get this cleared up please let me know. Provisionally we are looking at Saturday May 5th 2012.
IOW Surf Club wins the Annual Ventnor to Sandown Cracker Race – by Tony Macpherson
This race took place in the early 80′s. We had a surf club meeting in the Castle Inn in Newport and this peculiar race was mentioned. It got everyone interested and we decided to enter.
I offered to build the cracker and others were happy to do the run.
The rules required a cracker which was 12ft long by 3ft diameter. It had to be decorated and six runners had to complete the course with it in fancy dress. The race was from Botanical gardens in Ventnor to Sandown pier.
Annie and I worked on the cracker, it had a 6 inch x 12ft plastic water pipe as the backbone, courtesy of Southern water, six carrying handles, two telescopic handles front and back for passing through narrow spaces and several hula hoops as the frame. Annie and I covered and decorated it ready for the run.
On the day the surf club ran superbly and won, we also won best decorated cracker. My memory is not so good on the next details but I think we won the following year as well.
In the third year we failed to win as some teams broke the rules and used collapsible crackers which could easily pass through the narrow spaces along the course. Not sure what happened to the race after that.
The runners were Dave Jacobs, Mike Smith, Colin Graham, Dave Downer, Neil Smith and Simon Richardson.
One of the biggest challenges putting the exhibition together was finding and collecting all the memorabilia from people. Surfboards that had been kept for 30-40 years were obviously things that were going to be items that had great sentimental value. When I rang Roger Cooper to see if he would be able to make the opeing night and he said he had his original Bilbo (the first board he ever bought) and that did I want it for the exhibition I was stoked.
On the Tuesday evening before the opening night Jon Hayward and myself were putting up the board rack when we suddenly realised as we were putting in Archie Trickets board that the ceiling was only just over 9′ high and there were beams above the rack. I didn’t know the size of Roger’s Bilbo so I made a quick phone call to him and it was 9’6″. We quickly decided that the only way to get it in was to mount it on a slant and we’d have to do a bit of guess work.
Rog, Jimi and Paul – photo by Jason Swain
Roger and Sandy arrived at Dimbola on Thursday morning and luckily we had allowed enough room for the board although it was a tight squeeze. Jason took a few pics of us with Rog’s board next to the Jimi Hendrix statue and while chatting Sandy said that her Grandfather painted the amazing painting of the 1970 Pop Festival that was up in Dimbola.
Sandy & Rog next to her Grandfathers painting
Everything else slowly slotted into place in time for the opening night and it was a great night. Thanks again to everyone for all the help and to everyone who came on the opening night.
Opening Night – photo by Gerhardt Potgieter
Many thanks for these great opening night Pics by Kimmi Piggott, Dimbola Museum and Galleries.
It may have been Friday the 13th but the opening night was a great success with Dimbola packed to capacity. Thank you to everyone who came along on the night and a huge thanks to Sam Scadgell for playing guitar and singing for us. If any of you have any more pics please send them in to me.
The Wight Surf History Exhibition officially starts tomorrow. The first exhibition of surf memorabilia and photography from the last 50 years at Dimbola Museum and Galleries, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight on Saturday 14th April 2012 and runs for 10 weeks.
The exhibition will show how boards have changed through the decades, from Archie Tricket’s homemade wooden surfboard from the early 1960s, Bilbo longboards, the early shortboards and modern equipment, including surfboards from three-times Women’s English Champion Zoe Sheath and 2010 British Champion Johnny Fryer.
We also show how wetsuits have changed from the early ‘duck tail’ two-piece wetsuits to the warm winter wetsuits of today. Other items on display will include Trophies, leashes, wax, Isle of Wight Surf Club sweatshirts and magazines. The exhibition will also have photographs showing many of the characters who have influenced surfing on the Island over the last 50 years.
In the early 1960s, surfing was something a small number of friends had started to experiment with on the Isle of Wight. Many of these pioneers started out with belly boards, while some took to the water on homemade wooden surfboards.
There were small pockets of surfers scattered around the Island, all experimenting with surfing in their own ways, until Roger Backhouse and friends – Susan Ellis (Backhouse), Kevin Digweed, Geoff ‘Ned’ Gardner, John Ainsworth, Russell Long and Colin Burgess – decided to try and start an Isle of Wight Surf Club. An advert was put in the Isle of Wight County Press and this brought surfers together from around the Island, including Keith Williams, Glyn Kernick, Ben Kelly and Sid Pitman.
The first meetings of the Isle of Wight Surf Club were held in a tent on the cliff tops at Ventnor. They later moved to Mrs Backhouse’s (Roger’s Mum!) Bed & Breakfast in Ventnor. During the summer Pat Morrell and a ‘Woodwork Teacher’ Mike ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson would join them with their homemade wooden boards.
Once some club members had acquired wheels, it wasn’t long before trips to Cornwall were arranged and wages and savings were spent on the new fibreglass surfboards that were available. Rob Ward had come back to the Island after being in the Royal Navy and had learnt to surf in South Africa and South America. Rob’s surfing was more advanced than many of the island surfers, and in the 1970s, he travelled much of the globe in search of waves. Ex-British Surfing Champion Roger Mansfield and author of The Surfing Tribe once said ‘Rob is the most buccaneering, big wave-riding surf export of IOW’.
During the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Tad Ciastula and Roger Cooper had started shaping boards on the Island and both went on to become renowned surfboard shapers. Meanwhile, Derek Thompson started making the famous Cosmic leashes.
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, a young Dave Gray had started to dominate the Isle of Wight Surf Competitions and went on to compete in the English Nationals. Many of today’s top Island surfers will say that Dave was a major influence on them and they aspired to be as good as this Island legend. The Isle of Wight Surf Club started its own surf magazine in the late 1970s and many articles joked about other surfers not bothering to enter competitions if Dave turned up, as he only needed to wax down his surfboard to win an event!
In the early ‘90s, Stu Jones took over the mantle of best surfer on the Island, pushing the limits and starting a new generation of surfers who wanted to do aerials and the other latest tricks. In 1994, a young Craig Sharp took the South Coast Champion crown from Stu Jones and was one of many Islanders who took off in search of waves and adventure abroad. At the same time, 10-year-old Johnny Fryer was just making his mark by winning the Under-14 or ‘cadet’ category in the 1994 South Coast Championship.
Johnny dominated the Island surf scene until he moved to Cornwall, and he went on to become British Surfing Champion in 2010.
Into the Noughties, and young Zoe Sheath, daughter of Gail (an early member of the Isle of Wight Surf club, who started surfing in the ‘70s), began to shine. Zoe went on to become English Women’s Surfing Champion in 2007.
Many others have made a big contribution to Island surfing, including Barney Barnes, Ceri Williams, Keith and Steve Williams, Clive Richardson, Dave Phillips, Rog Powley, Xav Baker, Joe Truman and many, many more.
More recently, with the help of the Island-based Rapanui clothing company, the IOW Surf Club has been reborn, with Matt Harwood taking the helm alongside Oliver Harvey, as they successfully ran the Frost Bite Series of competitions in 2011 as well as the South Coast Surfing Championships.
Elite Clique Surf Club – I can’t quite remember how it went but evidently we weren’t allowed to compete for a reason that still escapes me, so John Ainsworth, perhaps Len and I started our own club in about three days and had it ratified by the British Surfing Association – if that was the name of the umbrella organisation. We competed and I think we might have won. It was a bit of politics and I honestly can’t remember who was behind it and what the motivations were. But I think the IW surf club had made it difficult for us to enter and be a part of the contest. That would have been about 1969. I was on my way to Australia.
What we did was silly (the name was intended to be) and to make a point.
I can report that the inverter works the coffee grinder. Tomorrow I’ll charge the MAC on it and after that, the world’s our oyster.
When I built the canopy for the ute, I bonded-on 2 20-ply bookshelves. Today I loaded an unfeasibly extensive line of books and had heaps of room for more! Rog Mansfield met me first when I was camping at M, Etchegoan’s valley and he was the reciprocal guest of Francois-Xavier Moran, the junior French champ, I think. He’d been a friend when we lived at the Villa Baccharis on the Chemin des Falaises. (Cliff Road.). Etchegoan was a lovely old dipsomaniac with a tiny herd of Friesians that used to wake me with their lovely cold, wet, black noses when they peered through the tent doors. I was under instructions from my friend Douglas Jardine (then in his late 60′s – he died in his 90′s) to leave the old dear a bottle of Martinique Rhum. Which was done. I can’t remember what the little pair of left and right reefs was called… ooops (‘Seniors’ Moment) it was Cenitz. I had a tent full of books then. Among them Arthur Koestler’s “The Act of Creation”. I must have been afraid that tent book-critics wouldn’t take me seriously as I also had Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy”. My reflections were sophisticated: “What the f### are they on about?” Roger later credited that as a guiding moment in his ambition (to beat me?) into print!
Busy day, setting up solar panels, getting inverter to work, 3 board repairs, loading box on roof with long-term food-stuffs.
I’m hoping to get off some time after Monday. If, by any chance, the ‘blog’ – if that is what it is – gets a bit raw, it will not be to provoke but merely where I may happen to be (“at”, as American hippies used to say.) I hope I may have your collective indulgence. One needs to trust those whom one imagines one’s readers to be. And yet not alienate. It’s hard to guess where that line might be with people one has not met. And looking at about 4 months alone on the road or in the desert (though not by accident but of free will) it is not always possible to anticipate how it may go. This is by way of a wavering and uncertain pre-emptive apology if things go a bit pear-shaped.
On a lighter note, I leave the light on where the basin is during the nights so I can find my way there from the ute where I sleep without, perhaps, stepping on a snake. Yes, it can happen! I came out of my office to find a large Brown snake 3 paces away and quite alarmed. (The snake, actually). It could get no traction on the concrete so spun its wheels for a bit before it was able to gather some composure. It slid off and out of the building by descending one of the small tunnels made by the corrugated steel overlapping the concrete slab. Finding itself in bright sunlight, which perhaps offends a snake’s delicate sense of privacy, it immediately returned to the shed and finding me not much of a threat, relaxed for a while before having another go at outside. But that’s by the bye. The light has been attracting some lovely insects. Today a 6″ long stick insect. It can’t feel very comfortable against the white paint. On any of the ten million trees that cover this Island it would be invisible. The two previous days a couple of bright green mantises wandered in, intent to make the most of the sterile surroundings. If you watch them closely they swivel their triangular heads this way and that and it is impossible not to conclude they are having a very good look at you. They also oscillate from side to side at about 3 movements per second. Whatever it is they grab and eat (head first if it is a mate) perhaps struggles to decode this endless movement. A good friend called Neil Harding, kept preying mantises wrote two books, one of which was called “Bizarre and Macro Mantids”. He was obliged to learn German as the main field work had been done by German entomologists. (Always a struggle to know if one means to say “etymologist”).
And that leads rather smoothly to a joke. Since I can only ever remember one joke at a time I rather hate to tell them as it is more or less inevitable that my audience will have heard it. That’s always assuming I don’t fluff the punch line, which happens often. Far safer to write them:
At a convention of philologists in Costa Rica (obviously this was suggested by the reference to etymology… IF I have that one right… my 2 volumes of the SOED are somehow packed in the ute) a Latin American philologist addresses an Irish visitor to the convention.
“Tell me, por favor, senor (sorry can’t do the enya!) do the Irish have a word equivalent to our “manana”?”
Looking up from his pina colada, the Irish man replied,
“To be sure, oi don’t think we have a word with quite that pressing sense of urgency!”
Going back, finally to snakes, I have never suffered a desire to kill them or throw things at them. DH Lawrence wrote a shamed poem about a snake who visited him in his garden in (?) Corsica. He heaved a stick at it and the poem was born of remorse. I have a picture of myself taken by a Cornish friend at Cactus 40 years ago. I am playing chess and have my head in my hand looking at the board which is supported by a Post Office cable spool serving as a table. As I straightened up I looked down to my right and there was a Red Bellied Black snake curled up asleep touching my right thigh. I was delighted and said to my friend, “Hey, Tris, look at this”. Unfortunately this disturbed the snake which quietly slid up the small bush-covered dune at my back. Two friends and I had a more serious brush with a large Western Australian Brown snake locally called a Djugait. These are really poisonous and, with the quantity of venom they pack, out-kill (measured in units of hypothetical dead sheep) the King Cobra. We had been diving for fish and were walking back loaded with wetsuits, lead weights and spear guns. We were chatting about the fish we had missed and in so doing, in a clearing with lawn-short grass on it, found ourselves on top of this 2M Djugait, whose head was raised about 300mm to strike. My friend on the left managed to get out one word,
We were in a diagonal line, he was behind me on my left and my other friend was less in harm’s way to my right. I did stop, with my bare right foot in the air above the snake. For the longest time (at least 3 seconds!) it was a stalemate. I had plenty of time to admire the beauty of it. A lovely fox red-brown with a belly of lemon yellow, clearly apparent from its raised portion. It moved off slowly in quite an odd manner, with its raised head remaining so and slightly turned back toward us. There wasn’t a moment when any of us felt any fear, which perhaps tells us something about the nature of fear. It is only useful in preparation for an event. In the instant, it has no use. Last week a friend, (Doctor) Ross Shiel was surfing when he looked up to find himself being charged by a large Tiger Shark. He told me about it 2 days ago. Astonishingly he reacted perfectly in the instant. He paddled hard AT it. It stopped 1M from him and he was able to gauge the width of its body at twice the width of his board, that is, it was a full metre wide in the body. I guess there was a moment of stand-off and the thing took off, thrashing water into Ross’s face, almost one imagines with childish pique. Tigers are scavengers and I have seen a documentary showing young Tigers trying to get the hang of catching and eating seabirds afloat on the water. It was far from impressive, but one finally got a bird down its neck. Well, I’d better not follow this line of discussion as Stradbroke has too many tales. In fact you can see some of them around you. Bruce, who drives the small car ferry to Moreton Island (to the N) has one leg. He was surfing at Main and a Tiger shark took his other leg. He tells of the relief when his leg came off as he was on the bottom and close to drowning.
I suppose I have always considered myself a surfer.
I was brought up in Joberg, South Africa, but holidays on the coast at Morgans Bay and Port St Johns near Durban always involved belly boarding on the wooden boards.
It was in Port St Johns in 1970 that I spotted “proper” surfing for the first time, I thought then that’s what I wanted to try. The beach boys came into the café and sat at the table combing their hair, which my mum considered very uncouth, they made a tremendous impression on me as a ten year old.
When we came to live on the IOW it was only a couple of years before I realized that you could surf on the Island, Mr Munt from the teashop steered me towards the Surf club and in 1975 I joined up. Dave Jacobs sent me a nice handwritten letter of welcome and a sticker to “stick where I wanted to”.
I didn’t have a board or a wetsuit, so spent up untill December surfing in a leotard on the rather interesting selection of mals from the surf hut, my favourite was an old blue Bilbo with a split nose. I got a real pasting and went home every week on my moped covered in bruises.
Finally I had a wetsuit made up at the Diving centre in Appley, Ryde, A Beavertail thing with knobs on that were definitely not designed for paddling prone.
I also bought a 6ft pink board that was far too small and traded it in for Diggers green gun that was far too fast. I think every learner has to go through this wrong board thing.
Finally Keith and Jake took pity on me, showed me how to push up, paddled me out back and lent me a suitable board. A 7′ 5″ shortboard that was nice and wide.
The first surf trip I went on to The Gower in Wales in April 1976 was so cold that the wetsuits froze on the hedge outside, as did the loaf of bread for breakfast but the cider was so strong you couldn’t feel a thing.
The next trip to Newquay in September was memorable for a classic swell at Crantock, meals in the Golden Egg, Americans playing pool in the Sailors, in check shirts and caps, how cool, and the first rains for 2 months, and how it rained.
Those were golden times and the club had a real good feel to it, we had BBQs on the beach and played volleyball, met in the 3 Bishops on Fridays and played darts and rode the first skateboards of the era up in the Castle car park and down Staplers.
I’d told everyone I was 18 so I could go to the pub with them, I lied but dipped out, as I couldn’t have a birthday for 3 years!
I think Dave Gray (Digger) summed it up one day when we were all sitting post surf on the beach and a crowd of grockels sat alongside us, rather white and pasty, he looked at them and quoted from a popular advert at the time, “we’re the Prize guys and they’re the thin yoghurts.” We all knew just what he meant.
Surfing continues to be a big part of my life, and I get in at Compton whenever I come back to the Island and miss the camaraderie of the car park. I now live in Newquay and work at Fistral beach, so waves are plentiful, both my daughters surf (much better than I ever will) and my Dad still surfs on his 1950′s Ride the Crest wooden belly board.