Monday, April 27, 2009

A weekend of winter has just swung through, though blessedly not with the winter water temperatures. Snow though, has arrived early in the mountains, and with a thumping wind and rain bucketing, it made for an elemental go out on a not sunny at all Sunday morning.

Richie and I had to have the obligatory coffee and croissant at our favourite St Kilda cafe (I almost like this bit as much as the surf), heading down and gas bagging with a steamy hot cup cupped in our not yet blue hands. Conversation naturally turned to the unavoidable misadventures with kids and wives, interrupted by hopeful projections of wave quality and weather.

Hit the coast with me begging to stop by Patagonia to pick up my new wetsuit, Rich going naaaa ya can wait ya weak bastard... but Rich, it rained on my old one last night... I hate a wet wetty, but no... too early anyway and he took a short cut bypassing Torquay. Poo.

Blowing like a Bangkok hooker (not that I know) it was bloody freezing, and the usual suspects (Winki and Bells) looking either crowded or fat, in that order, we opted to "have a look at Boobs".
Nestled at the bottom of the cliffs halfway between Torquay and Winki, Boobs is a fun right, with a fun left too, works on mid to high tide and is rarely as crowded as it's more famous cousins up the road. It's downsides are a very dodgy treck along the cliff base on razor sharp rocks, made especially painful if you've forgotten your booties.

Which we did.

Hip hop ouch ooch trip stumble shit fuck ahh the water ain't so bad after all that.

So out we went, and had a great fun surf, I got some belters, with a rising tide and swell gradually filling it up and creating a big backwash as it began to thump up against the cliffs.

Heading across to make our way in, and snag a quick wave at the next break up, the descriptively named Razorblades, from out the back I realized that getting in was going to be treacherous in the extreme as the high tide was making access to walkable shoreline a hit or miss affair, with a river like sweep compounding the issue.

I managed to get a final last fun wave, and as I was pulling out sneaked a look at my prospects of leaving the water.

No bloody way as a peek seawards saw a set approaching half again as big as the one I'd just ridden.

A quick dash out the back and I did the go 'round to try again.

No lulls, the sweep and bang crash against the cliff getting worse, I though discretion the better part of valour and opted to ride the sweep through, past the steps and... go the kilometre along the cliff line to Torquay.

Hang the embarrassment.

Still... it was rather majestic as I paddled and drifted my way, happily putting out of my mind the fact that the last shark attack (Great White) in Victoria was just nearby around this time last year. Ho hum.

A belly ride in on a close out with a sandy rinse in the shorebreak, up the stairs and the long walk back to the car, to find Richie looking a little worried as I seem to have disappeared.

He'd managed to find a way in, brave lad that he is, but got cut up on hands and feet as he was dutifully rewarded for his efforts.

Change in the rain, but who bloody cares, and a cracking good BLT for lunch.

Steps on the way down through the trees, Richie checking out the view and strange companion overlooking Boobs, and the view from Boobs to Winki with Bells capping in the far distance, with a rain band getting ready to make getting into wetsuits a joy.

PS: Question: Any one out there got a Patagonia suit... and what are they like? I've typically had a Ripcurl 4/3 for winter and was considering the change to try one out. Mine is three years old and getting to the end of it's life.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A few months back I discovered a young writer (to me everyone is young) who makes me feel rather jealous of his skills, insight and courage.

Jaimal Yogis hails from San Francisco now, but he has been on quite a journey over the past few years, and the insights gleaned have taken flight in his new book, Saltwater Buddha.

Now, I haven't read it all, as I hate reading pdf's, just loving the feel of paper and dozing off with good words in front of me is more my cup of tea, but I have spent many spare moments over the past couple of days been dazzled by what he says, how he says it and being constantly jolted by flashed of recognition.

It is wonderful reading, though if you lack introspection it may not be your cup of tea.

In less than ten days it will be released so keep your eye out for it...

This clip previews the book, but only skims the surface of it's depths. Enjoy, but patience for the way the window rides over the text. Blogger techno babble stops me from fixing it.

And speaking of enjoyment, the LA Times have just published a review of the Australian Chamber Orchestra's recent performance at Disney Hall in LA.

Here it is, to save you clicking through endless links. It is a doozy, I hope some of you saw them, but if you are in San Fran there is still a chance as they are playing at Zellerbach Hall, University of California, in Berkeley on Sunday 26 April. Not to be missed.

"The Australian Chamber Orchestra brought suitable trappings for its appearance in the Baroque Variations series at Walt Disney Concert Hall Tuesday night. The ornate harpsichord looked antique and worn. The ensemble decided to forgo the hall’s Scandinavian-modern music stands and use it own, old-fashioned folding models.

Like players of yore, most performed standing up. The repertory included proper Baroque works by Vivaldi and Rameau, as well as some middle-period Haydn and Mozart, which was close enough for jazz.

Actually, the evening was, in spirit, surprisingly close to jazz. These Aussies are no period-instrument junkies, no all-but-bewigged scholar/performer period-practice zealots. They dress in sophisticated modish black. Some of the guys sport nifty spiked hair styles (the women, curiously, dress more conservatively). Everyone plays everything with raw, high-spirited, rhythmically propulsive energy.

The ACO has just made a surf film, "Musica Surfica," which looks pretty great from the YouTube trailer. In it, surfers seem to be eloquent dancers on waves of purple haze accompanied by a Baroque soundtrack with the drive and din of Jimi Hendrix. Early music doesn’t get much hipper than this.

You might also say that early music doesn’t get much more authentic than this, either, if true period practice is less about history and more about making ancient music sound as though it were written yesterday.

The ACO was founded 20 years ago by violinist Richard Tognetti, who leads it from his fiddle. It has an international reputation and attracts top soloists. In the past, it has brought with it soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianists Piotr Anderszewski and Angela Hewitt to UCLA and the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Paul Lewis, the young British pianist whose recent fastidious recordings of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas has won raves, was on hand Tuesday as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12, K.414.

But the ensemble’s profile is still Down Under. Its recordings on the ABC Classics label -- which include old and new music and some smart crossover -- are hard-to-find expensive Australian imports in the States. And the ensemble didn't do itself any favors by collaborating on the widely promoted but trivial “Classical Destinations” television series. PBS would do far better to pick up “Musica Surfica.”

Or maybe it should just broadcast a terrific concert like Tuesday’s in Disney. The evening began with the 11th of Vivaldi’s 12 concertos from the “L’Estro Armonico” series, with Tognetti as startling soloist and conductor of a small contingent of strings. His approach to Vivaldi was one of extreme articulation. Strings were sharply attacked with bows. The ensemble virtuosity was breathtaking. Drama took center stage, and yet through it all Tognetti maintained an engaging singing line.

Mozart’s Concerto was, in contrast, exceptional for its melting eloquence. Lewis is a wonderfully fluid player, and I began to have visions of surfers here, as he seemed to glide over ravishing strings with sure, delicate grace. Heavenly melodies were shaped for maximum pleasure and exchanged between piano and strings like kisses and caresses. Maybe this is the place to praise the three violas. Never buried, they felt somehow to be Mozart’s mellow soul. The pairs of horns and oboes stood in the back adding a sonic glow. In the ACO, winds and brass are second fiddle.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 44 was played after intermission. It is known as the “Mourning” Symphony because Haydn may or may not have asked for its slow movement to be used at his funeral. The movement, here, was given an extraordinarily delicate treatment, Tognetti and his colleagues producing the finest slender thread of exquisite string tone, the sound of the soul leaving corporeal flesh. But the rest of the raucous symphony was pure red meat.

The suite to Rameau’s “Dardanus,” closed the program with grand flourishes. Lacking recorders and flutes, only part of this color-saturated French Baroque score could be presented. Two horns stood apart on risers. The oboes were embedded with the violas, and the lone bassoon shared space with the cellos and bass. Once more, it wasn’t their show now when the strings rocked and rolled in six short, irresistible movements.

The last was war music and a rollicking riot. If there were still mainstream surf hits, I’d bet that with a bit of electronic voodoo and a backbeat this could be turned into one. After 20 years, this red hot band is long overdue for a major record contract and star treatment. And next time the Australians come to town, bring the kids."

-- Mark Swed LA Times

Photo: British pianist Paul Lewis performs a Mozart concerto with the Australian Chamber Orchestra conducted by violinist Richard Tognetti, left. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Monday, April 20, 2009

A few days since the last visit to the old blog.. had a post Easter Easter break when Sue actually had a day off, so we hoofed it down on Thursday to visit pals Rod and Hazel on the coast... again for me but poor old Sue hadn't managed a break to the coast in months, so a gossip catch up for her, and I got a couple of splashes.

The post Easter hordes still about, which naturally I contributed to, though the waves were quite delicious if not for the odd local lad who does not have the word share in their lexicon.

"I can't wait for these idiots to piss off" quoted one old wag in the water, to no one in particular, which really meant to every one in the water that wasn't his best mate.. No threat to the advancement of English likely from his neighborhood, and a tight little crew of local boys at a fun beachie did their level best to block out or drop in on every attempt at a foreigner ridden wave.


I was on Fab's Fish, all twenty odd pounds of it, sussing it out in smaller beachbreak conditions and enjoying the scraps I could gather amidst the hassling. Nice dinner that night though, a few laughs and hope for the morning as the buoys were calling for a swell rise and a light offshore.


Rod and I trooped down to a nearby point break that was reeling off some very fun looking waves and four hours later we got out pretty happy.

The locals again were in a feisty mood, but they were outsmartable... sometimes, so those few waves I caught I was very happy with indeed. This time on the 6'1" Maurice Cole, which fit the clean to glassy, very speedy conditions to a tee. I actually felt like I was a younger me for once so the old quality not quantity adage rang true on a sunny Friday morning.

Next day, little Tom had the Australian Rolling Titles on for his skating (blades) so I dutifully played the old fart in the youthful masses as he battled his way through the comp.

Happily the relentless devil ended up Australian U/16 Champion. He also made the top 15 in the Open Mens and probably would have made at least top 10 if he hadn't stacked big time. A lot of dislocated limbs, blood and bodies dragged away. I've got to say they throw their bodies on the line these boys, though Toms injuries were, this time, more of the pain and aggravation of old wounds variety than new carnage.

He's just turned 14 so good effort Tommy. We're very proud of you. Indeed, any one out there who makes a fruitboot comment please remember he rips on a skateboard too... having first dropped into a 14ft vert ramp when he was 8.

God I wish we lived closer to the coast. Water is far softer.

Now make your bed and do your homework.

Pics, the waves on Friday, and a couple of snaps of Tommy, bless his black little heart.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A mixed but fun bag of tricks over the Easter break.

Friday saw me working, with the hope that Saturday would allow a window in proceeding to nip down for a quickie, family permitting. Unfortunately it was clear that morning that the wind was lightly onshore and the promise of good waves a bit dodgy, I hummed and hah'd, got diverted by a Facebook entry (I'm only doing it for the movie.. honest) and was then set upon by three New Yorkers telling me to go go go, it's three degrees there and they just got out of the two foot waves happy.

Well I did get the guilts then so decided to take advantage of the time and do as I was told..

On the way I popped by to buy some wax at the local surfshop and spotted Fab's Fish on the wall.

Fab's Fish is a beautiful Wegener Balsa Fish, heavy as all get out, like about 20 lbs, but it's had me intrigued for ages and I asked if I could take it for a run.

So down it went, and I headed straight for a beach/reef combo spot I know of that works with a bit of swell and a higher tide.

Onshore, but light, and the smell of the dead whale up the road not reaching the break, a couple of hours exploring the fish in less than ideal but challenging waves made my day. After a shaky start I began to feel it out.. well as much as feeble old me can, and it was a blast, a ton of momentum had the glide going big time, but god help you if you muffed a duckdive. Once you start going backwards it's hard to stop.

Swings and roundabouts... but I want one.

Sunday, headed deep south with Tommy, but we had to leave Joey and Sue stuck in town with basketball training and work respectively.

So down to Rod's place, where we got a late surf at my most hated break, The Point, a shit fight of a wave that only locals of long standing can work out and even then they hate it, but endure it too as it would have to be the most consistent wave on earth. Never without swell but it has the maddening ability to supply a flat mushburger and heaving wall in successive waves, lots of power but usually delivered to surfers other than me. Over the years it has done me some great injustices, and very occasionally made me feel the king of the world.

Usually though I slink in feeling miserable.

As was the case on Sunday.

To make matters worse, I took Tommy out, it was a bit bigger than we thought, Dad it's gonna kill me as he got sucked over for the third time, but good for the little chap's heart. He dealt with it all and gave me a serve on the way in.

I had to take him to the skate park afterwards so he could regain some pride.

A lovely evening at Rod and Hazel's after, with the anticipation of a cracking good morning.

Up early and 'round to my favourite reef in all the world, it was a lovely 6ft - maybe 8ft on the biggest biggies, clean offshore and heaving with just me and Rod for three hours. Twelve guys there when we arrived but they all paddled in while we suited up. Couldn't believe it and a very happy pair of campers were we.

Then a whizz across the coast to Marky's place and a follow up surf this morning at his local, shifty peaks and very hard to find a good one but I got some exercise.

Now back at work.

Shots for the day, Friday's sandy dredgers, the fish, the point from my iPhone and this morning not far from Bells.

My camera battery died for the prime session so shot four of five is the break in question from an earlier, not so good day last year.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This past few days has been surfless, for me at least, as Sue and I headed to Sydney. Using a good friend's largess for accommodation and Frequent Flyer Points earned over years burning the credit card, we flew up to attend an extra special Australian Chamber Orchestra concert, which it was, and catch up with old pal Paul (the friend) who is about to leave Australia forever and head to north western Spain, where he intends to buy a ruined hacienda, fix it up and paint.

Half his luck.

This Seachange thing could be catching. Strange, wonderful things seem to happen to people who give themselves the time to have the time, time to ponder and act as opposed to wait in hope something will happen to drag them out of the morass, real or imagined, they seem to be in.

A case in point, and in this case I think his morass was more metaphoric than around his knees, is Tim Kevan.

Tim is a Barrister Come Author- and a surfer to boot.

For some time he has run the Barrister Blog, and another undercover as BabyBarista, a fictitious SerialBlog about the trials and tribulations of a learner-lawyer-in-chambers. It's attracted a huge following, having just been picked up by Times-On-Line, and to top it off is about to be published by Bloomsbury, the publishers of Harry Potter no less. I wish Tim one hundredth the luck of JK Rawlings. That's all he'll need to be a happy legal surf rat for the rest of his life.

The fact that he just moved to the coast himself means even if the money doesn't arrive he already has fresh air and a far horizon.

It just goes to show what happens when you start tapping those keys.

I hear the phone. I think it's my publisher, Bloomersbury.

Shot for the day?


I suppose it best be Tim's Book cover, plus a treat from my files... a shot I took a loooooooooong time ago.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

While wandering in to our weekend secret spot splash last Sunday my photographer mate Rod couldn't resist snapping a few.

He has a lovely eye, as opposed to lovely eyes, though his ears aren't bad.

The shots: a stop on the walk in, with Benji, Mark and I resplendent in my One Good Shirt, I even think the undies were clean, getting ready to head out with Hazel looking on with a certain amount of disgust as I think I'd just dropped the towel, Marky post surf, getting all foetal with the cliff face... and the view on the walk out.

The last shot is between sets... not giving a good idea of what it was like... apart from beautiful, pink and glassy.

Marks craggy old head kinda fits the cliff shot... gives new meaning to Earthmother doesn't it?