Surfing has always been part of my life. I remember first becoming conscious of it when I was about seven years old I was at home from school with flu and I saw Bruce Brown's original “Endless Summer” on TV in black and white. I knew then that this what I had to do. Through out my life I have never surfed as much as I wanted, but it has been the underlying theme of every decision I have made, it has shaped the course of my life. There are times when I have despaired, I have moved away as the beaches became crowded with summer surfers. But it has always been there for me. I chose my university on basses of proximity to waves, (my master’s degree was similarly influenced) I then travelled to Morocco with the intention of surfing for a month I stayed for five years. I surfed some great waves, learnt to speak Arabic and discovered a whole new world that had previously been hidden from me, during the later part of my time there I hardly surfed at all. I came back to the UK influenced by a number of things; Islam, Africa, the desert and a former university colleague (to whom I had introduced surfing) who had visited me in Morocco. He had become a police officer, it seemed to me to be an ideal solution, a moral out door profession with plenty of time off for surfing. I became a police officer and surfed and rediscovered skate boarding (at 33 years old I had a half pipe in my back garden) I decided that the surf would be better in Devon and Cornwall so I transferred, It was not a move that went well though in the mean time I had become distracted again and discovered freediving. Total immersion in water, seawater is almost exactly the same salinity as human blood; sub sea apnoea brings us as close to the soul of the sea as it is possible to get with out actually drowning. I left the police and surfed and worked as a professional diver. I relocated to Thailand and ended up inland, it was an accident, I had meant to go to Bali. I freedived and learnt to kite surf. It was not for me Africa called me back, but the quest had exposed me to Buddhism and taught me Thai and Laos, I had learnt something new. I had cut rice by hand, and lived a life hidden from many western Europeans. Diving brought me back to Africa, the French I had learned surfing in Morocco secured me a job. I devoted a lot of time to body surfing rediscovering the purity that I had missed. I brought a new board shaped in South Wales not far from my old university and even closer to the shaping bay of the most spiritually important board I have ever owned. The shaper is no longer in business (for those surfers amongst you it was a 6’8 single fin pin tail, I had been watching old footage of Shaun Thompson and decided to go retro, long before such things were fashionable). The board was latter stolen from the roof of my car whilst visiting my old university. Any way I took my new board back to Africa (Shaped by JP at jpsurfboards) It was the right board for the moment 6’5 quad, I was not sure exactly what I would find as waves and it was the ideal surf anything board for me. I went with it to Senegal; somewhere I had always dreamed of since that day when I had first seen "Endless Summer" all those years ago. On returning from Senegal I found that I was ill, potentially fatally. The next day I took my board and paddled out on an unexceptional day. I sat alone in a tropical line up and watched the sun shining on the sea. The African coast line rose up and down as the swell rolled beneath me. I decided that I was going to live; I did. I swore that I would never abandon my muse again.
I remembered something in one of my favourite books
“when a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realise his dream”,
It is the advice of the Alchemist to Santiago in Paulo Coelho’s novel of the same name. What I always wanted was a house near a break where I could surf reasonable waves. I almost have my house, I am being temporarily distracted, I must go on a job in Nigeria that will take me a way from the break. But like Santiago when he left Fatima to go to the Pyramids I am doing it in order to return.
I recently had JP shape me a new board, getting it back to Africa was a nightmare, I arrived a at my break and suffered the new board jinx, the surf was completely blown out. I have yet to get the board wet, I will not until it has a wave that merits it. When I waxed it I new that after 20 years I had found the successor to the Heavy Sessions board that was stolen. Things come full circle. I will risk sounding like an old hippy surfer but some boards do seem to have “soul” not many, this one will, I know. ( Ironcally my best friend and surfing buddy in Morocco was also JP and he has recently returned into my life, syncronicity I believe).
Through out my travels, which have been extensive, I have laid my head in the direction of Mecca, I have lit incense in Hindu and Buddhist Temples, I have read the Adi Granth, I have also pulled into a deep tube with the sun coming through the back of the wave it was there that I found my answer,
“when a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realise his dream” ,
Soon the house will be finished; there is a long right-hander that breaks one hundred meters away from the door. I will work in Nigeria, for it s there like Santiago that I will find my pyramids, I have already passed through fire there and returned. The wave will break, I have found my Fatima, and she is there on a rising tide with a southerly swell. Now like Santiago I can truly say
“ I am coming, Fatima”, and this time I know she will be there.
A final remark; the man who first put a surfboard in my hands was Bez Newton, he is now dead. He was one of the founding fathers of European surfing, a writer and a traveller, an eccentric and a gentleman. There is an annual surf contest in his honour in Australia. He was my Alchemist.
I was lucky.