Another Year In The Life Of Soul Surfers.

As 2014 draws to a close, it’s that time of year when we naturally reflect upon what has been and what is yet to come. When I stop to think about Soul Surfers in 2014, the word that most naturally comes to mind is “transition”. It has felt like a year where we have set some things down in order to step into some new opportunities. Upon reflection we have maintained our monthly rhythms of Soul Sundays and we continued to have our back gate open every Tuesday night for whoever wanted to come and share food and life in our home. But, we have also launched into some new ventures and with that comes the realisation that some things have run their course.

There have been many great initiatives within our own culture that some of us have been able to support in different ways. That’s not about taking ownership or looking for recognition. Rather, it is about cheering on the things that other people are simply getting on with and seeing where, how and whether we can support, serve or just encourage them. There have been: Surfers Against Sewage beach-cleans; the piloting of the Wave Project in Scotland; involvement for some of us in the Edinburgh Surf Club; and exploring ideas about CPR in a year which tragically brought the vastness of the sea and our own immortality into perspective. There have been chances to champion various kick-starter projects for the likes of Bethany Hamilton’s new film, the Hobgood brothers upcoming film and the hugely inspiring keep skateistan rolling campaigns.

There have also been a bunch of things that we have been able to launch ourselves or in partnership with others. In March we hosted our first ever Christian Surfers Scotland Gathering. We had over 30 people from across Scotland gather and share stories, ideas and a lot of fun. I hope that we spurred and inspired one another in the process. You can read more about that here. CS Scotland Gathering In June some of us made the trip down to Cornwall for the 20th CSUK National Gathering. It was a fantastic long weekend spent with what I can only describe as extended family. There’s a little write up here. CSGathering2014d In July we launched our inaugural SUrf Camp with Scripture Union. It was such a great week of bluebird skies, corduroy lines and a very natural means of unpacking what it might look like to live life to the full. We were so stoked by how it went and are so indebted to a long list of folks who made that happen. You can get a flavour of that here. SurfCamp1 In September, we were due to make our next payment for  our repayment of Davina the camper-van. We had our socks well and truly blown off with provision beyond belief. You an read about that here. surfcampdavina In October some of us headed back down to Cornwall for the Jesus Longboard Classic competition. What a great vibe and comp was had by all. There’s some pretty sweet footage and thoughts here. Sam Bleakley JLC14 Also in October, some of the wider CSUK crew helped serve and judge at the UK Pro Tour as it wound its way up to Thurso. There’s a great little edit and write up here. image It has, however, also been a year to stop some things. As the summer approached, on a personal level, V and I were feeling pretty burned out. We just knew that we needed a little space as a family unit and some time to re-gather our thoughts and to revisit the original vision of Soul Surfers. Things didn’t go quite to plan, but we slowed the rhythm of things down. We used the time to try and take soundings from various people involved with Soul Surfers to varying degrees. Oh and I also achieved a lifetime ambition of skating Southbank with the added surprise of meeting Ed Templeton and also skating at the newly opened House of Vans in London a week after my teenage heroes Christian Hosoi and Tony Alva had christened the concrete. LDN1 LDN2 By the end of summer, it seemed that there were new things for the two of us and our family to step into. There was also a recognition that we couldn’t persue those things without passing some other things on or setting them down. After several months of discussion we, as a collective set Soul Food down.

So, where are we heading? Well, actually this thing has really got our heads, our hearts, our imagination, our feet and our bank account. Just as the Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood, we are feeling more than nudged to do the same. So as the year fades out, the home we have made our own over the past 12 years has just gone onto the market as we make more than tentative strides towards a relocation to Dunbar. We hope that we can really get involved in a host of great initiatives that are being pioneered there. Hopefully by dwelling well we will preserve the things that are good and add flavour to the places we inhabit…

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For now we see in part.

B.

Davina – Provision Beyond Belief!

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It’s hard to believe that this photo was taken a year ago. We’d picked up the keys for Davina the camper-van many times before, but it had always just felt like we were baby sitting her…we could always hand her back when she misbehaved (as she often did). This time, however, was different.

There’s that look in my eyes…the sense of excitement, pride and disbelief – simultaneously pleased as Punch and scared witless. In many ways it reminded me of that first journey home after being discharged from the labour ward, but in a sense we were actually taking care of a beautiful old lady. Originating from Germany and having spend most of her life in Rhode Island, U.S.A., she found her way to Scotland in 2010. She had the appearance of a weathered traveller when she was discovered harbouring in Ayrshire. The Scottish Bible Society (SBS) had the vision to restore and commission her as a means of journeying, of creating sanctuary and retreat outside of traditional places of worship.

We stumbled upon a promotional leaflet in 2011, got in touch, bounced around some ideas and threw out a bunch of invitations to head down to the beach on a sunny August Saturday afternoon. Over 60 people from different parts of our lives turned up – people we knew through surfing, through our local community, through our daughter’s school, through church and a host of folks we didn’t know at all. There was no particular agenda, but throughout the afternoon we heard little snippets of conversations that just made us smile at the very notion of sharing life simply and authentically out in the open rather than behind the confines of the walls of buildings that we often congregate within. In my mind there is one story from that day that became a catalyst for everything that followed and you can read that by clicking here.

Little did we know then what would follow. In 2012 Steve, who had been the original pioneer behind the Exit:Van project that the camper had been associated with, moved on to a new job. Having applauded SBS for the great project they had initiated, they then began to explore whether or not we would play any role in continuing to develop that. Despite my own enthusiasm, all I could really see was obstacles. In an enormous act of generosity, SBS suggested that Vicky and I volunteered for them – that way we would be covered by their insurance and could help ourselves to the van whenever we wanted to as long as we simply put some fuel in her! We could barely believe it, but it enabled us to test drive some ideas. A year later SBS decided they were going to sell the van and wondered whether we would like to buy her to develop our ideas and continue her legacy? Once again we could see so much potential, but an £18,000 price tag was a barrier to entry. How on earth could we make that happen? Maybe we needed to fix our eyes on things above?

Having thought and prayed about it for a couple of weeks and sought the wisdom of our church leaders, the leadership of Christian Surfers UK and a few close friends, the only way that I can describe it is that “it seemed right to us” to pursue it. Within 10 days we had been pledged £10,000! Upon telling SBS this, they suggested we paid them £7,000 as a down-payment in recognition that the van needed some essential remedial works. They suggested that we paid another £3,333 each year for the following three years. Our home church offered to administer the funds in order to remove the administrative hassle from us and to provide accountability to anyone who wanted to pledge financial support.

A couple of further generous one-off gifts and a small number of monthly standing orders from other individuals who shared something of our vision enabled us to pay for some key remedial items and insurance. This past year has enabled us to get Davina back into good health and running well and to use her as intended. We hope that the blog and social media have been platforms to faithfully tell something of her ongoing story and how that is shaping other peoples’ stories too.

Truthfully though, there have been plenty of times this year when I have been anxious about the repayment. It has felt like a big step of faith and no-one likes the burden of debt. As we approached the first of our three further balancing payments to SBS, I was amazed at how the funds had been provided. Once again, a series of generous gifts or acts by others combined with our own personal giving and resources had come good. Just as I was about to contact our church about releasing the next payment of the funds that they administer on our behalf for the van, they got in touch with us. They in turn had been the benefactors of others’ generosity. It transpired that we actually had about £5,000 amassed in the Soul Surfers kitty. The elders at our home church decided to match that out of the gifts they had received form others and, therefore, pay off the balance of the van in full! As has so often been the case thus far, we were completely blown away and left fairly speechless. Praise be!

So, what next? Well, we hope that people will continue to support us as the upkeep of a 47 year old Camper-van involves a fair bit of TLC. We want to steward and look after her well. We continue to use her in partnership with Soul Surfers, CSUK and Scripture Union in terms of the ongoing development of SUrf Camps after the success of our pilot project this summer. We want to enable others to find ways in which she can function for the purpose she was created – as a mobile sacred space. If you would like to explore that, then please drop an email to brian@biallen.freeserve.co.uk with the heading “Davina”.

A huge “thank you” is due to everyone who has played a part – from words of support or encouragement and to financial contributions. “Thank you” also to those who faithfully pledge monthly support which assists us greatly in the annual maintenance and insurance to enable us to continue to run the van, facilitate the things we have progressed and to look to new opportunities.

B.

Wetsuits for sale!

We have two brand new and unused wetsuits for sale.

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The first is a Tiki Prodigy 6/5/4 mini-zip heated wetsuit with integrated hood in a size medium – RRP c.£350 but I have seen one online earlier this year for £250, so we’re prepared to sell for £175.

The second is a brand new ladies Tiki TK50 5/4/3 wetsuit with rear zip in size 12. The RRP is £140 and we will sell it for £80.

Both were generously donated by Colin at Surfer’s Attic as fund-raisers for CSUK. Neither suit has ever been used or worn. They are both here in Edinburgh but we can post at cost to wherever you may be.

If you’re interested, please just drop me an email at brian@biallen.freeserve.co.uk with the heading “Tiki Wetsuit”

Cheers,

B.

 

The McWave Garden???

With construction of  The Wave Garden Project near Bristol due to start next year, this is an interesting proposal for the creation of a similar surf facility on a disused quarry on the outskirts of Edinburgh…Click here for more info.

You can watch the latest promo video for The Wave in Bristol below:

B.

You could win THIS!

I hope that this blog regularly helps to serve as a bit of a cheer section for many of the great things that exist or get organised within our sub-culture.

The Wave Project undoubtedly falls into that category. This past year has seen a successful pilot project run in Scotland for the first time. The whole purpose is help young people improve their health, increase their motivation, find a sense of belonging and to grow in self confidence and esteem through introducing them to surfing. Whilst I have largely only been able to watch from the side-lines thus far, I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and dive into whatever I can to help Jamie and the other volunteers in their exciting plans for 2015 onwards.

In the meantime, they are auctioning this beautiful handcrafted 27″ cruiser board as part of their inaugural Christmas raffle. The board has been custom-made from beautiful book matched mahogany strips and, given that it has been lovingly crafted from reclaimed snooker tables, it’s one of the greenest rides that you could hope for. It was constructed by Fraser Reid of FAR Cabinet Makers who also
specialises in custom wooden surfboards and skate decks. The board comes complete with 3″ trucks, 59 mm wheels and unique Wave Project logo. Truly one of a kind!

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To be in with a chance of winning it all you have to do is enter the raffle. Tickets are £5 per entry with all proceeds going to Wave Project Scotland. You can do so at the Wave Project stall at the John Muir Winter Fair at Foxlake by Dunbar this Saturday (29th Nov) or by sending cash or cheque (made out to the Wave Project) along with your name, address and email address in order to acknowledge receipt and to post the board to you should you win.

Entries should be sent to The Wave Project Scotland, Beltonford Industrial Estate, West Barns, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland EH42 1AD. Alternatively you can stop by the Scottish office at the same address – just give Jamie a holler on 07941484587 or an email at jamie@waveproject.co.uk to make sure he’s around.

Please feel free to share as it’s a gorgeous prize and a wonderful cause.

B.

 

 

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Skateboarding is not a crime…

“Destroy preconceptions” was a phrase that I think Nick Philip once scrawled in small letters upon a printing press before going live on one of the front covers of R.A.D magazine back in the day. It’s funny, but that phrase has stuck with me throughout the years…

I don’t know whether the 16-year-old version of me would think that it was sad or rad that the 42-year-old version of me still trundles around on various skateboards from time to time. On the week where one of my heroes from my teenage years, Steve Caballero, was still stylin’ on his 50th birthday I’d hope it was the latter.

Just in the way that people say “only a surfer knows the feeling”, for many of my generation skateboarding was also pivotal in shaping us into who we are today. It gave us a place of creativity, of self-expression, of belonging and it delivered some of my fondest and most fun memories. From time to time it brought a little trouble too.

The only time I have ever been attacked was by a bunch of guys who targeted out a few of us who were on our way from one skate spot to another. The only trouble I’ve had from the police involved being asked to move on from one skate spot to another. The frustration that invoked globally at the time gave birth to the “skateboarding is not a crime” sticker phenomenon.

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All these years on and the landscape looks somewhat different with a plethora of skate parks dotted around our map. Or does it? It seems that Norwich City Council are trying to impose a blanket ban on skateboarding within the City Centre.

After the public engagement and ultimate victory of the Long Live South Bank campaign, it is great to see them returning the love, respect and support.

Destroy preconceptions. Skateboarding is not a crime. Not skateboarding might just be…

Please take a few moments to read this link.

B.

 

Surfer Libre.

My friend, Danny has the best story ever of a linguistic misunderstanding that occurred in Covent Garden. He also has the best moustache I have ever had the pleasure of surfing Puttsburgh in North Devon with…and, now to top it all, he has just released his “Surf Rock” E.P. It’s so fresh that it’s just made it to iTunes.

You can see the film clip here which I suspect might just bring a smile to your face!

B.

On The Road…

Here’s a sweet little edit that David and Daren made between judging heats, making hot teas and cooking bacon sandwiches for the UK Pro Tour last week. It was a really fun trip for them. Thanks to Karl, Paul, Jamie, Stuarty, Jaci and Vicky for all helping out along the way.

Enjoy!

B.

Of Mountain Tops and Ocean Floors…

Dunbar born naturalist, author and early advocate of the preservation of wilderness in the United States, John Muir, famously said, “I’d rather be in the mountains thinking about God, than in church thinking about the mountains”.

I have more than a degree of sympathy with that sentiment at times. When I read about “church” in the news, it often describes something I barely recognise or  the stories relate to disagreements or debates about things I feel disconnected from. When I contrast that with the joy that hill-walkers, skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and others find up a mountain, then I really grasp the reality of why people think that they would rather inhabit “God’s playground” than “The House of God”.

On Friday afternoon, Michael and I found ourselves at the Motherwell Concert Hall. We were unsure what to expect. As I observed the delegates, there seemed to be a wide spectrum of attendees from every part of society: young hipsters; a burly and heavily tattooed guy with an impressive beard and baggy shorts; plenty of folks in their 30’s or 40’s and many who were a few years further down the path. What would bring such a diverse group together and see them chatting enthusiastically in a coffee break between seminars? The answer seemed to be “church”. But, upon closer inspection much of it was about how to rethink that – about forging the future.

So, why were we there? The funny thing with social media is that you can’t necessarily define your audience. I kinda like that. Sometimes people just stumble upon something and start to follow it. We had been invited to tell something of the story of Soul Surfers and it is always an honour and somewhat humbling when we find ourselves invited to do so. We’re just a bunch of ordinary people who are trying to put one foot in front of the other and who have found a lot of adventure, favour and partnership along the way. If that encourages or inspires others, then we’ll happily be story-tellers.

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As I followed the twitter-feed of the conference, various long forgotten names and faces began to appear. I found myself realising that, whilst I rarely define myself by denomination, there is a rich heritage and legacy of those who have gone before us – of those who invested or influenced us in ways they will never know – from those who spoke a word in season that resonated at a point in time through to the minister who simply permitted a bunch of skaters to use the super smooth long tarmac driveway to his church as a means of generating sufficient speed to pull decent sized airs out of a fly-off ramp rather than getting irked with the sound pollution we must have caused.

As I reflected upon things I felt a huge sense of gratitude. I think most of us love the mountain-top experience, but that’s not where we’re called to dwell permanently. I need community. I need people who will journey with me and enjoy those high points. I also need people who will walk though the darker days, who will speak truth, who will  share ideas, wrestle with concepts, hold me to account, cheer me on, challenge, teach and disciple me. Hopefully I can do that for others too. I find bits of that in many places and in many friendships, but I find it most frequently in a place that I love dearly and a community that is known as my home church.

Michael and I finding ourselves on a podium addressing the Baptist Union of Scotland at their annual assembly seems far flung from the fresh sea air that we often breathe in, but the atmosphere was far from stuffy. Their invitation was borne out of their genuine interest in the unfolding Soul Surfers journey and, in particular, the tales of Davina the camper-van and all the places she is taking us.

I heard Shane Clairborne comment in a Q & A a few years ago that, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, but traditionalism is a dead faith of the living”. The two are very different things. We need to be respectful of our past and, yet, be pioneering as we contend for our future.

B.

Thurs-OH!!!

So, whilst the Scottish Surf Team battled it out at the International Surfing Association championships in Peru last week, the UK Pro Tour was winding its way around our British coastline. That has become an annual fixture in my family and friends’ diaries as it is always a delight to offer accommodation to some of the CSUK crew who faithfully serve on the circuit.

With the Tynemouth leg cancelled due to barely contestable waves on Monday, we had the benefit of David and Daren arriving with us at a more sociable hour on Monday night. We had a great evening catching up over food before they journeyed up to Thurso the following morning.

The comp ran on Thursday and Friday with Thurso East putting on a great backdrop and producing some clean and decent barrels for the show that unfolded.

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Congratulations are due to Emily Currie who won the U18 Girl’s event and who we also witnessed taking the Jesus Longboard women’s title in Cornwall three weeks ago.

Gearoid McDaid won the Adams Surfboards U18 Boys title.

Lucy Campbell delivered a stand out performance to secure victory in the Women’s event whilst Miles Lee Hargreaves won the Pro Junior event.

The overall title was won by Jayce Robinson.

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Well done, one and all. Thank you to the Thurso locals for letting the event be hosted up on the North Shore. Thanks to my fellow CS Crew – David, Daren, Paul, Jamie and Stu for offering hot drinks and refreshments to the contestants, judges and spectators alike and for providing the space to hang out and for serving everyone so selflessly.

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Saturday was spent searching for waves in places as far flung as Strathy on the North Shore and Bamburgh in Northumbria. There may have been a lack of swell, but there was no shortage of great conversation. The weekend was wrapped up perfectly with a veritable feast of Indian take-away shared between people who have become like extended family sat munching, chatting and laughing around our large wooden table.

Until next year…stay stoked!

B.

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