The Scattered Few…

One of the initial visions I had for Soul Surfers was the idea of little lights scattered around our coast-line, sparking off one another, separated by geography but speaking truths in a common language – different personalities and backgrounds, but journeying somehow through life together and living transparently and authentically in the places we find ourselves – sharing faith and doubt and living it all out loud in some sort of surf related community both on-line and in real life…a place where people could be accepted and feel they belonged, a place where we would throw around ideas, share life experiences and encourage one another…a place to be honest, to disciple each other, to grow and to be people who add flavour and who preserve the good in the places that we inhabit. To be salt and light. A community joined by something bigger than surfing…individuals who would never push an agenda or a belief system, but who would be straightforward about their faith if invited to talk about it.

This past 12 to 18 months have witnessed a fair few of our initial core group relocate to pastures new within Scotland. Maybe it’s a season of planting and sowing? I always love when I get a message from someone who has been around our group but whom I see far too little of these days.

Today I received an email from one of those people. Judging from the photo that accompanied the email, I think that I might need to pay them a visit!

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Hey-Ho, Thurso!

As many of you may know, the UK Pro Tour is winding its way around the UK coastline over the next 10 days or so. The Thurso leg of the competition is due to be held at some point between Wednesday 29th October and Saturday 1st November with the judges yet to make the call –  dependent upon the weather conditions, forecasts and wave chart data.

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Once again CSUK have been invited to help facilitate at each stop of the tour and our gazebo will be ready to offer hot drinks and refreshments to the competitors, judges and spectators. From my experience of helping out at Thurso last year, it became the place for folks to hang out, warm-up, chat, laugh and watch some of the highest calibre of UK surfing displayed on a weekend when Thurso decided to comply with perfect mechanically barrelling waves over the slabs.

Whilst the crew are in town a special screening of the wonderful Beyond Sight film is also being hosted. I wrote about the film recently elsewhere on the blog and you can read that by clicking here. It’ll be shown at Caithness Horizons at 7pm on Thursday 30th November and is completely free.

Beyong Sight Thurso

I’d highly recommend it even though I won’t make it to Thurso personally till the wee small hours of Friday night/Saturday morning.

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SUrf Camp 2015?

Well, I’m pleased to announce that the rumours are true…After the resounding success of our inaugural SUrf Camp this summer, we’re beginning to make plans for next year.

The link below has the latest inspiration from Stephen for those of you who can’t wait till next July!

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152305915657854&set=vb.42162257853&type=2&theater

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(T)here Is Hope.

There are some places that simply feed your soul and some people who do the same.

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Was it serendipity or providence that led us to stroll the sandy shores of Polzeath the very first evening we ever set foot in Cornwall six years ago? In the subsequent years, we have regularly returned and have created a host of fond memories.

Sunday morning saw Tubestation host their annual Surfer’s Blessing as part of the Jesus Longboard Classic competition that I wrote more specifically about in my previous post. Those attending the Tube on Sunday morning were treated to a completely free breakfast with a great spread of hot drinks, granola and yoghurt pots and home baking. The King’s Men provided a musical backdrop with their accapella renditions of well-known songs whilst locals, visitors and a surprisingly high number of contestants from the previous day’s surf competition ate and chatted.

We were each given a candle and simple set of instructions.

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The reality is that life can lack hope at times. Many of those gathered for this weekend’s competition were very aware of the absence of Phil Pachonis, a larger than life character who had made nearby North Devon his home from home and who had always been heavily involved in these events and who was lost to cancer in recent months. Others were mindful of the memorial paddle-out last year for St. Agnes’ surf legend, Peter “Chops” Lascelles. Maybe the things in our minds were altogether different and more personal – the struggles, pressures or uncertainties that each of us experience.

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What unfolded was truly beautiful.

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After a minute’s silence as the word “hope” blazed brightly, there was an invitation for those who wanted to participate to receive a simple Surfer’s Blessing. After Dave Matthews read a couple of verses from the bible an orderly queue formed, mainly led by those who had been at the previous day’s competition and many whom, I would guess, would rarely darken the door of a church. A sprinkling of Polzeath’s sea water was placed on the forehead and a Hawaiian lei placed around the neck. The building was transformed into a sea of colour that then spilled out onto the street and beach as people exited back out into the places they inhabit everyday, but still adorned in their leis.

Some shared experiences become significant moments that grow into cherished memories. This was yet another one of those – entirely authentic, appropriate and simply offered to those who wanted to enter into it.

There is hope and that is important.

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JLC 2014.

Last weekend some of the Soul Surfers crew made the 500 or so mile journey down to Cornwall to help out at one of the UK’s longest running surf contests. This year’s competition was sponsored by some of my favourite surf brands – Nineplus and Finisterre together with Riz Boardshorts and 360 Photography. Whilst sponsors often seek to badge events by inserting their name into the contest name as some sort of payback for endorsement, this competition retains its original name – the Jesus Longboard Classic.

Now, before the name puts you off, let’s set some context. A small local contest was hosted in Croyde, North Devon in 1991 with about 25 locals competing in two categories: the Juniors and the Open surfing titles. The event was organised by Christian Surfers UK (CSUK). In the subsequent 23 years the event has grown into one of the UK’s largest surf comps, so much so in fact that seven years ago they decided to run a longboard specific contest to complement the established Jesus Surf Classic. The Jesus Surf Series, as the two comps have become known, is highly regarded by the UK surfing community. One of our country’s most prized surf authors, Tom Anderson, wrote an insightful and uplifting chapter about his own experiences of it in his wonderful book “Grey Skies, Green Waves”.

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This year there were 90 entrants competing in the: Juniors; Women’s; Masters and; Open categories of the longboard specific comp. I volunteered as one of the beach-marshalls and it was great to be able to chat to the surfers between heats. There was plenty of particularly stylin’ surfing throughout the day. The CSUK guys were working hard as some of the crew simultaneously ran the second leg of the Jesus Classic back up the coast in Croyde.

The day also provided a bit of time to observe from the judges vantage point up on the cliffs and to liaise with the tabulators back at Tubestation. Having got to know so many genuinely wonderful people through CSUK over the past five or six years, it was a delight to catch up with many familiar faces from throughout the country. Some are people who have become close friends and others are folks whose stories I still love to see unfold on social media. Many people describe CSUK like a big family and, despite my initial preconceptions and misconceptions when I first came across the organisation 10 years ago, I can attest that it does very much feel like a big family and one that I am proud to belong to.

We managed to run the entire event in a single day and retired back up to the Tubestation for the awards ceremony. Congratulations are due to everyone who took part. Particular props should go out to Emily Currie who won the Women’s and to Connor Griffiths who was the Open Winner. Sam Bleakley took the highest scoring wave of the day and Master’ titles. This photo from my good friend, Kris Lannen, might give you a flavour of the prowess on display.

Sam Bleakley JLC14

I have long loved Sam Bleakley’s writings and I continue to miss his adventurous travelogues to far flung shores as recounted in Surfers’ Path. Sam shared some really genuine and heart-felt words about his own participation in the Jesus Surf Classic comps over the years and his gratitude to everyone who had worked so hard behind the scenes to deliver such a well run and enjoyable event.

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The vibe and spirit of the Jesus Surf Series are unique within the UK surfing calendar. As Dave Westwater of the British Longboard Union commented, “if only you could bottle this stuff”.

Kris also captured something of the essence of the day in this beautiful little video.

 

Good times!

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There Once Was A Man Who Changed The World.

A sweet little video from Lewis capturing something of the larger community that some of us feel part of and from which other little smaller communities and extended families have been birthed. A nice little cameo from fellow Soul Surfer, Josh too.

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A guest post…

As I posted the other day, one of our crew who helped lead at SUrf Camp last summer decided to fundraise for SU by entering his first ever 10K at the Great Scottish Run last weekend.

Today, I received a little personal account of his experience. So, here it is in his own words:

“I’m going to try to write this without sounding cheesy or self-congratulatory but on Sunday I ran the Great Scottish Run 10k challenge and felt carried through each kilometre and counselled by the Holy Spirit in an hour and five minutes of my life that genuinely felt like my own personal worship event, with Rend Collective as my resident band and “The Art of Celebration”, the chosen set list.

I didn’t sleep at all well the night before and come 3 am we got our usual visitation from our son who wouldn’t just lie still but wriggled and squirmed well into the night. My alarm went off at 6 am and the thought of driving though to Glasgow to then run 10k didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore!

To add to that my well planned 10k challenge 8 week running plan had been put off the rails by a persistent dose of man flu and then a bout of eczema which meant that I hadn’t been able to exercise for 2 weeks. On Saturday 4 October I felt ok and tried to run 5k from my house to the beach and back and failed miserably but at least I had shaken off my cold and skin was looking much better. I decided that even if I walked the 10k I would do it to honour the people who had sponsored me.

So I reach for my bible, bleary eyed at around 6:15 after putting my alarm on snooze a couple of times and read this;

‘But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ Isaiah 40:31

I found it funny but then flippantly prayed that if that was the case God, I was going to ‘run and not grow weary!’ I decided not to set a time target but to just run and if I managed to complete the course without stopping then I would have achieved my goal.

As I waited at the starting line I read some of the t shirts of people around me and they were so humbling. ‘Running for daughter who has cancer’ to ‘Running for my baby with Leukaemia’ or ‘in memory of my Dad’ every person with a story of personal struggles and causes worth fighting for but each running the same race.

I hadn’t thought too much about what music I wanted to listen to on my mp3 player on the way round but standing there I just wanted to make this challenge all about Him and lift these people around me up. So Rend Collective was the music of choice.

Through each stage of the race there was a marker telling you how far you had run and for me a song of encouragement;

1K ‘The joy joy joy making me whole, though I’m broken, I am running Into Your arms of love’

2K ‘Burn like a star, Light a fire in our hearts’

3K. ‘In my wrestling and in my doubts, In my failures You won’t walk out, your great love will lead me through You are the peace in my troubled sea’.

4K. ‘You are the power in our veins, Our Lord, our God, We are more than conquerors, through Christ, You have overcome this world, this life!’

5K only half way! ‘It’s only in surrender that I’m free’ (at this stage my legs were beginning to ache and a slow song wasn’t what I needed but then came…)

6K. ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, What is coming, what is coming, Never-ending joy, never-failing love, You are coming, You are coming!’ (I had not ran further than 6k in my training so I was now running into the unknown)

7K. ‘Yeah, you lift me when I’m sinking, Like the swell of mighty oceans, the power of redemption, Yeah; it gives me wings to soar’!!!!!!!!!!!! COME ON!!

8K. ‘You’re not finished with me yet!’

9K. ‘Stronger than any weakness, You are my fortress!!’

10K ‘Boldly I approach Your throne, Blameless now I’m running home, By Your blood I come, Welcomed as Your own, Into the arms of majesty!!!’

At the end stretch I looked up and saw the Soul Surfers crew cheering me on, which make me appreciate just what a great wee community we have. I had achieved my goal of running without stopping but felt God had shown be so much more than that. At SUrf Camp I remember Stephen Jones had an amazing power point presentation which told us something like 100 facts about who God is, by the end of the talk everyone was just cheering! I felt like that on Sunday, when surrounded by people with genuine hurt and loss it put my problems into perspective, you tell the darkness just how powerful God is and if you run, you will not grow weary”.

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When We Was Rad…

I remember being sat around our table a few years back, sharing food and life with a bunch of friends who used to come around every Tuesday evening. Somehow we got to talking about inventions and how we couldn’t imagine an existence without the internet. One of my friends suggested that the most important invention in mankind’s existence was something much simpler – the printing press. I recall screwing up my face, but as he began to elaborate I found myself understanding the thought process.

Words are hugely important things. The tongue is difficult to tame and from it little sparks can spout which lead to metaphorical wild-fires. There are times when we’ve said too much and times when we’ve not said enough. There are words that all of us over-use and others that we simply love the sound or meaning of.

But, back to the printing press. It put words and information, stories and philosophies into the hands of ordinary people. Provided that the process was coupled with increased levels of literacy, then that had the power to shift the very power-base, to encourage engagement and reasoning. If that, in turn, was combined with the power of the idea – then that could actually lead to a collision point as combustible as humans making fire for the very first time.

I’m reading the beautifully presented Long Live Southbank book at present. It is a work of art and of history capturing many voices, stories and opinions through photography and font in its 400 plus pages. I found myself reminiscing of hours spent with friends pouring over the words and photos of the underground skate and bmx scenes in everyday towns and cities across the UK as documented in BMX Action Bike and R.A.D in the mid 80’s to early ’90’s. There were quite a few forays into the places we travelled to throughout Scotland too. I have so many fond memories of devouring and re-reading those magazines, of condensation on my bedroom window as a mob of sweaty teenagers would grab a cold drink and flick through skate mags in my room before heading back out to ollie and slide our way around the often damp or frosty winter streets under the cover of darkness and streetlights.

This week I re-visited a website that remains an unfinished project with an initial plan to create an archive of all of the editions of R.A.D. I’ve looked at it often over the years, but this time I thought I’d leave a comment of gratitude – a few choice words of thanks. Truthfully, I’d lost myself on the site and within a happy state of nostalgia and it was pretty late when I quickly typed in my comments without spell checking.

Anyhow, the next day I received a genuinely lovely email from Tim Leighton-Boyce who had been the editor of R.A.D magazine back in the day. He told me a little of what life looked like now, of how much he had enjoyed a half hour or so reading my blog and my musings upon the surf scene in the north. He briefly regaled a tale of an odd moment he experienced at a deserted beach somewhere to the east of Loch Eriboll. He shared my joy at what the Long Live Southbank campaign had achieved. He talked about how there was still a lot of the old R.A.D magazine ephemera kicking around including some examples of original paste-ups and even some repro “film” for some pages. He mentioned how he would one day like to curate an exhibition so that people who have grown up with digital design can see how very physical things used to be. Now, that would be rad!

All of that just made me feel really appreciative of the things and words that have influenced me, of old-skool magazines that actually ended up documenting parts of our lives in an age when we didn’t have cameras with us regularly, let alone smartphones and digital platforms to record and share seemingly everyday occurrences that would one day become the fondest of memories.

Words that I most over-use?

brisaac isRAD

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Run for it!

I’ve said it many times, but when we first started out with Soul Surfers five or so years ago, we had a bunch of ideas and little clue where they might lead to or what, if anything, would evolve. Much of the first year involved things being rubbed away as we returned to a blank sheet of paper and, in many ways, I find us in a time of transition again. Some deep friendships have been forged alongside many other cherished acquaintances. A few unexpected partnerships have emerged and continue to be cemented.

Today a few of us from Edinburgh filled up my car and headed over to catch up with a couple of the crew based over in Glasgow. We met on a sunny but crisp autumnal morning in Glasgow Green. We cheered on those taking part in the Great Scottish Run. It made me realise how many of those competing or taking part where doing it for a specific charity or loved one. How many untold stories were literally running before our eyes? We whooped particularly loudly for our very own SUrf CHamp, Craig, who had taken it upon himself to raise funds for Scripture Union after he and his wife and kids helped us in our inaugural SUrf Camp this past summer where we partnered with SU Scotland. A great effort for his first ever 10k – well, done that man!

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The day provided time to chill and chat and catch up on what is going on in one another’s lives – the highs, the lows and the inbetweens. Smiles, laughter and frustrations and wrestles were all shared in the authenticity of friendship and community.

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The Sea In Between.

I’m a firm believer that life is about making memories. When I turned forty a couple of years ago, my parents were keen to mark the occasion with some sort of keepsake. There was little that I particularly needed or wanted so, upon recognising that we all still had our health and strength, I proposed that my sister and they joined us on a family holiday to Cornwall. I wanted to share with them the people and places that we have fallen in love with and to which we make the 1000 mile round-trip pilgrimage more frequently than many of my friends can comprehend.

My actual birthday was spent making memories on a beautiful sun drenched day in the company of people whom I hold very dearly in, quite simply, one of my favourite places in the world. A fellow surfer who has become like a brother to me of sorts ended up spontaneously calling me up to the front of a gathering at Tubestation and asking me to talk briefly about the Scottish surf scene and the small part I play within it. He then got everyone gathered to raise a chorus of “Happy birthday” before we prayed for surf and surfers. Upon milling about afterwards, I caught up with another of the Tube Crew whose conversations have had more influence upon me over the past five or six years than he will ever know. On this particular occasion he was talking enthusiastically about a couple of new albums that he had discovered, one of which was called “Love  & War & The Sea In Between” by Josh Garrels.

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That was then. This is now.

After far too long out of the surf, I washed much of a fairly challenging week  at work off in a downpour of rain on the cycle home from the office on Friday evening. After getting the kids to bed, it was a delight to crawl into the creative cocoon that was the visual and sonic feast of the film “The Sea In Between”. Whether or not you are familiar with Josh Garrels’ music, I would highly recommend that you check this film out on iTunes or vimeo. If you enjoy music, artistic expression, creativity and the grandeur of nature – then you will love this. Here’s a taster:

And with that, it was a joy to see our daughter join a flock of enthusiastic children being offered their first free guitar lesson courtesy of Creative Scotland on Saturday morning. On another day when headlines on the news give me headaches, may self-expression bring joy and help this lot make sense of the world they inhabit and  to find their own unique voice with which to make it a better place.

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