A Brief History of Mine…

I can clearly recall the first time I came across Southbank. Photos of Eric Dressen replete in blue Thrasher hoodie, Air Jordan’s and a back to front flat cap appeared in an article in what I think was still BMX Action Bike (or possibly an early incarnation of its re-branding as R.A.D.) circa 1987. Despite living about 550 miles away, in an era before each of Britain’s towns and cities had their own purpose-built skatepark or Council provided mini-ramp, it felt as if we knew these far off spots. Latimer Road, Meanwhile and Southbank became part of our vocabulary.


Southbank in particular sent us out searching for something similar, for architectural features we could see through a different lens and where we could unlock new potential.  We discovered the tight transition of the brick banked walls at Denburn Health Centre, a couple of mounds of concrete in Bridge of Don, an empty fountain in a public park, the smooth concrete of multi storey car parks, flights of stairs, hand rails, benches and walls that we would regularly wax. We dotted around our city on buses, on foot and by skateboard re-marking the map with new place names and spots we could session. In a pre-internet or social media age, it still baffles me how we found some of the places or people that we did. We began to scour Scotland after hearing rumours of fly off ramps or home-made half-pipes. Our trips took us from Aberdeen to Dundee and Livingston and to little known places far from the beaten track….to fun comps in Elgin or Keith and a host of other places.

I stopped skating at some point in 1991. Life was transitioning, but skating never really left me. I would regularly look at flights of stairs, curbs, embankments or a host of other pieces of public realm and find my mind subconsciously mapping out the possibilities. Flurries into snowboarding and surfing were all probably derived from the simple pleasure of the glide, so beautifully captured in the short video below.

On the relatively rare occasions that I’ve been in London over the years, I’ve often walked along the Southbank to watch those skating at the Undercroft. When a few of my surfer friends bought longboard skateboards for those landlocked or flat days, there was huge appeal coupled with a degree of self-consciousness. Whilst I found a new form of self-consciousness if caught rolling along on a set of 78As by parents of my kid’s friends or work colleagues, it was altogether usurped by a long-lost love of skating. One thing led to another and I began to skate the local skate park under the cover of darkness or when it was relatively empty. It’s funny how many other elder-skatesmen I have met – either those who never gave it up in the first place or others, like myself, who have had the stoke re-kindled through surfing or through their kids discovering skating for themselves.

Southbank’s creative arc has extended far beyond its natural reach over the past couple of years. With the Southbank Centre’s proposals to create a new festival wing at the cost of redeveloping the Undercroft, the struggle that has ensued has seemed like one of David and Goliath proportions and, yet, one that seems inherently conflicted. Why seek to foster and promote creativity and culture at the cost of decimating a rare place where those very things have abounded organically for close to 40 years? Southbank is a living British example of words penned by Craig Stecyk back in 1975, “Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential, but it was the minds of 11 year olds that could see that potential”. There have been plenty of points over the past 24 months where it has looked as if the Undercroft would be replaced by retail units and lost forever. I’m sure that I’ve regularly bored people about this on my social media feeds…


Last year one of my surfer friends took his family to London for the day. In recognition of the threat facing Southbank they bookended their day with a visit there.They were so moved at seeing and experiencing things first hand. Their two young boys really engaged with the skaters at the Long Live Southbank campaign table. Paul wrote me a lovely letter all about their day and the impact that visiting Southbank had upon them as a family. They also very generously sent me a T-shirt, badges and a pile of stickers. A plan was hatched that we would spend a day in London as families and that the day would include a visit to the Undercroft if it was still there. At that point I genuinely wondered whether its fate would be determined before the end of 2013.


So, this weekend we made the journey and, quite simply, had one of the most perfect weekends I can recall. There were many highlights and I’m amazed at how much we crammed into a single day. The kids all got skate lessons at the hugely impressive House of Vans whilst Paul and I also managed a free skate session in the amazing indoor concrete bowl and street course there. We surveyed London’s staggering skyline from the vantage point of the London Eye and made it out to Moredon Park to catch a rare London gig by The Grenaways which also gave us the chance to carve out some sacred time with a couple of very special surfer friends from Cornwall. In amongst it all, we made it to Southbank.

After enjoying the patter of the street performers and a quick look at the Southbank Centre’s “Festival of Love”, we ambled along to the Undercroft from where the sound of wheels rolling on flag-stones and the thwack of ollies was drawing us.

On Saturday, for the first time we became participants rather than spectators. My tricks were far from technical and I found myself flat on my back on more than one occasion when I failed to land a re-entry out of the bottom of the banks. What struck me, however, was how welcoming and respectful the vibe was. There was no sense of it being for locals only or of there to be some sort of rite of passage or initiation process. Our kids rolled around and no-one seemed in the least bit put out by that. There was an authentic sense of acceptance and community. I was so stoked to be cruising, popping and rolling along the banks that have accommodated the wheels of many skate legends and locals for almost as long as I have inhabited this earth.





As we headed off to the London Eye, there was just enough time for my daughter to add her signature to those supporting the campaign to save the Undercroft. As I proudly watched her choosing to add her voice to the campaign, I noticed that I was stood next to pro-skater and contemporary artist, Ed Templeton who was doing exactly the same. I overcame my natural disposition not to engage and told him how much I have thoroughly enjoyed his curating of the latest edition of Huck magazine. He was engaging and I spent a few genuinely beautiful moments chatting to Deanna and him about some of the things their articles and work have caused me to think about and be inspired by. I wrote a blog post about some of that last month and you can read that by clicking here. Ed was happy to pose for a selfie and then helpfully suggested how I could shoot a better one which we then took. As if I wasn’t stoked enough already! What a happy coincidence.


So, there you have it. The ramblings of a 42-year-old who has been in a long-term long-distance relationship with Southbank for more years than I care to remember and who eventually got to skate it this weekend. Sharing that experience with friends, family, strangers and people whose contribution to skate culture I have respected for years was pretty sweet!

You can’t move history.

Long Live Southbank.


Telling tales…

After the success of our collaborative SUrf camp this summer (which you can read about by clicking here), we were invited to join SU Scotland at their Big Celebration this weekend.

Davina the camper-van operated as a mobile story booth. She was rigged up with studio lighting and a couple of cameras.  We simply opened up her doors and invited people to share 60-second stories of their involvement with SU this year. As I ambled at various point throughout the day, I was struck at how she just fitted in – not bolshy or seeking to be the main event.



I really was unsure how many people would interact with her. At the end of the afternoon, however, Neil who had been responsible for the camera-work said that he had been busy and that Davina had provided the perfect setting. Many people don’t want to be in the spot-light or seen to be blowing their own trumpet. He had a sparkle in his eyes as he commented on how he had been able to almost eavesdrop into conversations or to capture stories that may otherwise have failed to reach an audience.

I was musing upon these things and others as we meandered back home looking over fields that were white onto harvest as a rainbow arched above us.


Upon nearing home, we pulled into a small supermarket car-park to pick up a couple of essentials. We were flagged down by two guys in a car who were waving and giving us “thumbs up” signs. They came over and we chatted for 10 or 15 minutes about camper-vans and something of Davina’s own unique story and how we find ourselves somehow written into that. As they took photos on their mobiles I noticed another woman hovering at a near-by car. Once the first two guys and I had parted company, she also wandered over to complement the van. It turns out that she has a more modern Volkswagen camper and we got talking about all that they conjure up. Once again, we found ourselves very naturally trading tales of shared experience and re-telling something of Davina’s story.

I find myself thinking about how effortlessly people are drawn to us and how easily conversations seem to spring up when we are out and about in our mobile sacred space – being open, undistracted by time and bringing smiles to faces. We are story-tellers and, just maybe, new ones are beginning to be written.


All This Mayhem.


Last night I took it upon myself to grab the rare opportunity to see a new skate film whilst on a limited UK cinema release. The story that unfolded contained some incredibly rad vert skating, tonnes of authentic amateur footage and an up-close and personal account that left me altogether winded by casualties of rock-star proportions and by the gentle whisper of a source of redemption that is even bigger still. It is harrowing and powerful in equal measure.

It’s a 15 certificate due to the extent of strong language and drug references. That said, there was beauty amongst the ashes and all of the quotes on the poster below ring true for me.


You can get a flavour of things by watching this trailer.

You can check out UK screening times and places by clicking here.

If you miss the chance to see it, then it’s also coming back to Edinburgh as part of the International Film Festival and is due to have a run at the Edinburgh Film House from 2nd to 4th September.  Certainly not one for the easily offended, but a film that is bound to make a big impact upon any viewer.


Road trip to Thurso in October, anyone?

imageSo, the UK Pro Tour dates were announced last week with the Scottish leg set to be contested on Thurso’s slabs on 30th October till 1st November.

Over the past few years we’ve had the pleasure of providing board and lodgings for the CS crew on their way to and from the comp. Last year, however, Michael and I made the pilgrimage up to the North Shore for the weekend of the event. We were blessed by experiencing first-hand what a majority of commentators, surf mags, bloggers, tweeters, etc described as a culmination of the most perfect conditions combined with the highest calibre of UK surfing ever witnessed on the UK circuit.

It was so good to be involved in serving the competitors, judges, event organisers and spectators alike by rustling up hot drinks and snacks at the CSUK gazebo which very naturally became THE place to hang out.  You can get a flavour of last year’s shenanigans by clicking here.

Who’s up for joining the crew this year?


Let there be light.

I’ve really been enjoying the range of writing styles, subject matter and cultural lenses through which people perceive the world as conveyed by those contributing to huck magazine of late. Professional skateboarder and contemporary artist, Ed Templeton, has curated the most recent edition. Within its pages both he and his wife, Deanna, talk about their passion for leica photography and chronicling the seemingly every day things of life in Huntington Beach. Interestingly, they both comment separately about the importance of light in that medium and of how drawn they are to Europe because of the culture, architecture and ever-changing light.  By contrast, sunlight in Huntington Beach is pretty much a given and pretty much constant. It made me think about how easy it is to be absorbed in things, to focus on the thing directly in front of us.  Maybe that is why Instagram and social media grab me so much – they distract me back to the little things that we often miss in each allotted day.

Last Sunday we decided to take a sabbatical from the rest of our week. Maybe it was an attempt to prolong the summer holidays now that I’m back at work. Maybe it was a realisation that we’d really felt fairly thinly stretched in the lead up to summer. Maybe it was a recognition that we need a break from the usual rhythm of life and work and, even, some of the stuff that we are involved in which is connected with Soul Surfers. Maybe it was the desire to protect some time alone as a family unit. Maybe it was the need to just have some space and no demands placed upon us. We simply put “nothing” in the diary. We scored out the things we’d usually be committed to and headed off on a mini road-trip choosing a soundtrack that would navigate our thoughts upwards.

On the drive down, I just found myself looking at the sky: the cloud formations; the sun breaking through; the shifting shadows that were created. Having checked the tide times, we took a detour and it made it across the causeway to Lindisfarne.  We ambled along ancient paths that pilgrims have trodden, made tracks through the marram-grass and looked over the ruins of the abbey and out to sea. But, once again, my eyes were drawn upwards to the sky and the clouds.




Even when we found a little sanctuary in the island’s quiet buildings, my thoughts were directed to things above.


The following Sunday marked our monthly rhythm of throwing out an open invite and heading to the coast. I just wanted others to experience a little of what I had so helpfully felt the previous week.  So, in an attempt not to disrupt the plans that others may have had in place, we arranged to meet at Belhaven Bay in the late afternoon. Driving Davina the camper-van to the coast always slows life down for me.  Soon over 20 of us had convened in a grassy car-park overlooking the water as rays of sun punctuated the brooding skies.

Maybe it’s been a combination of those thoughts of Europe’s shifting light, a couple of mid-week soakings on the daily bike ride and some thoughts from Oswald Chambers written in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s that I’ve been musing upon this week, but I wanted us to embrace the elements. So often we live lives that are so sterilised in our temperature controlled and air-conditioned little cocoons of buildings and modes of transport. Whilst these things keep us comfortable, I wonder if they also keep us numb? Whatever happened to singing in the rain?

So, we took a couple of guitars and some percussion and did just that.  What started as windswept worship quickly became a bit of a wash-out. Part of me wanted to stay there and push on through, but I also recognised that not all of us were equipped with suitable clothing and I was concerned that some of the children were getting cold. We headed back to take refuge in Davina the camper-van, but it was clear that the rain was on to stay for a while.


Jamie and Mary kindly offered that we all de-bunked back at their home. Flasks and snacks were decanted, the children played, we chatted and then picked up where we had left off on the beach. I’d asked Jamie to share a few thoughts and, true to form, it was as articulate and simultaneously light and weighty and helpful as the writings conveyed on his blog, The Accidental Monastic. Then he and his wife shared something of their own giftings, speaking very directly into situations they could have known little, if anything, about. Sometimes you just want to stay there in the moment, but life pushes you back out into the seasons you inhabit, chewing things over.

As time marched on, most of us decided to head back to the beach after a visit to the local chip shop.  As the temperature dropped a little and the daylight began to fade, we sat around a picnic table eating, laughing and enjoying one another’s company as a family of sorts that is connected by friendship rather than blood-ties.


After we finished our food and bade our good-byes, I spent most of the drive back home in the camper-van mulling over the words that had been said and looking at the heavily dabbled clouds and shards of sunbeams as the colour and light continued to shift…


I’m learning to spend more time in the slow-lane attending to a little kindling for the soul.


Have you heard the good news?

Following on from my previous post about surfing, skating, giving, receiving and generally making the world a better place I was so stoked this week by the following two social-media posts:

THANK YOU! It’s now August and we have finished the #KeepSkateistanRolling drive! We raised a whopping $24,281 – far surpassing our $20,000 goal. It is only with your support that we are able to do what we do. So THANKS from everyone at Skateistan.


And, then this…

IT ENDS TONIGHT: In a few short hours, the campaign for the film will close at 12am PST. Thank you to EVERYONE who has contributed. We can’t wait to start making this film for you. Click here for one last look and a thank you video: http://bit.ly/hobgoods

It turns out that they also bettered their $80,000 target and managed to raise $84,185!



It brings me so much joy to see people coming up with creative means of harnessing the things they love and are passionate about and trying to make some impact for good through that.

Thank you to anyone who shared or contributed to either of these projects.


On Giving And Receiving…

“If I could open my mouth
wide enough for a marching band to march out.
They would make your name sing
and bend through alleys and bounce off all the buildings”.

From “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab For Cutie.

I love the above lyrics. Whilst they are a declaration of love, sometimes there are other names that need to be cheered on too.  So this blog post is just a chance for me to shine a spotlight on three inspiring initiatives that are happening within the culture I love so much. The unfolding story of each of them brings me so much joy and excitement.  Each one is overflowing with potential and changing things for the better.

First up, the Wave Project. I first became aware of this initiative through friends of mine from North Devon, Joel and Helen Blackman. What started as a six week pilot scheme in Cornwall continues to blossom into something truly beautiful. The simple aim was to examine whether surfing offered positive benefits upon the emotional health of young people who were referred through social services, mental health charities and the like. Four years on and there are countless testimonies of how these sessions have improved individuals’ self confidence, social skills and offered a more positive outlook on life whilst having a lot of fun. Local surfers have got on-board as the Wave Project has set itself up in new locations. It enables surfers to give something back and to rediscover the simple pleasure and stoke that surfing and a bit of encouragement can bring to each and every one of us. Everyone is encouraged to go at their own pace and the development of the Wave Project has been  nothing short of a pleasure to follow.


Last year a six-week pilot scheme was run in conjunction with our friends at Coast 2 Coast surf school in Dunbar. I keep hearing so many encouraging and positive stories from people who have had even the faintest bit of contact with the project. The Scottish initiative is being led by Jamie and I know that he’d love to hear from anyone who would like to find out more or to volunteer.  There’s a Wave Project Committee meeting on Thursday 7th August at 5pm at Beltonford Industrial Estate, West Barns, Dunbar EH42 1UW.  The aim of the meeting is to look into sustainable local fundraising for the Wave Project in Scotland and expanding on some new opportunities for people to get involved with the project over and above the crucial surf mentoring.

If you’d like to support the wider UK Wave Project then you can do so by clicking here. Alternatively, if you would like to support things in Scotland practically or financially whether by standing order or via a one-off gift, then please contact Jamie directly at jamie@waveproject.co.uk

In any event, please click here and have a look around the website.  It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.


Next up is Skateistan. An Australian guy called Oliver Percovich found himself in Kabul, Afghanistan with his then girlfriend in 2007.  His skateboard caught the attention of the local kids who all wanted to have a go. By sharing out the three boards they had between them, they started a little skate school. It took off and Ollie could see such potential. More boards were brought in and in 2009 an all-inclusive skatepark and educational facility was built. But skating is just the hook. Skateistan is about engaging those difficult to reach and marginalised 5-18 year olds. As a not for profit charity it aims to provide opportunities in cross-cultural interaction, education and personal empowerment. The project is now operating in Afghanistan, Cambodia and a team has now also been established in South Africa.

Whilst there’s a little video on the website for their latest “Keep Skateistan Rolling” campaign and also a nice video of Tony Hawk’s visit, I still think this clip below captures what it’s all about. Some people have said that I skate like a girl, but after watching this – I’ll take that as a compliment.  Enjoy!


Every six months there is a little fund-raising drive. Their current campaign runs for the month of July and they’re doing well with trying to raise $20,000. Maybe you could help with some loose change or a one-off donation? You can link to the website by clicking here.

Last, but by no means least, two of my favourite surfers CJ and Damien Hobgood are trying to put a documentary of their life stories together. Now THAT is a film I wanna see. For those of you unfamiliar with the Hobgoods, they are two brothers who have occupied the spotlight of the competitive surfing arena for way longer than most. Much of that competition has been driven by being identical twins and seeking to out-do what the other was doing. Being in the spotlight, however, means that their lives have been lived out loud – the triumphs and the punches. They want to tell their story honestly and I am convinced that this will be a film that will captivate not only the surf community, but many outside of it too. These two have given so much back to the wider surf culture and this will be a story of something much larger than sibling rivalry.


In order to make this, they also have an on-line funding campaign which is running till 2nd August. They are offering some pretty sweet optional gifts in exchange for pledges and are also donating off some major trophies, boards and other paraphernalia. Check it out here.

So, I hope some of that has inspired you.

I was reading an article in Relevant magazine the other night about our culture of entitlement. It struck a chord with me. How easy it is to feel like we “deserve” this or that. I’m not suggesting that we should deny ourselves all things and live a meagre existence of self-imposed poverty, but I wonder whether I have learnt to be content in all situations? I know what it is like to have spent weeks living with peasant farmers in remote Romania and to feel hugely content and thankful despite meagre surroundings. I also know how much more the lure of newer and shinier things can seem to have over me when my bank balance is more challenging. The article I was reading advocated cultivating an attitude of gratitude. It’s like that old notion of “counting your blessings”. Funny how quickly that shifts gears in my head-space. So, with those thoughts and these projects, I find myself smiling and thinking that sometimes it’s better to give than to receive.



Surf Camp’s Up!

If Soul Surfers is about anything, then it’s about partnership. Last October I received an unexpected email from a guy called Stephen who had been following the blog for several months. Funnily enough he first found out about us after enquiring about the possibility of hiring Davina the camper-van from the previous owner for his work with SU Scotland. It turned out that he had led SU’s ski and snowboard camps to Austria for several years and had the idea of developing a surf camp for teenagers. We arranged to meet up to explore things over some hot and spicy burritos. We got on like a house on fire and our conversation became fairly animated as we visualised the possibilities. Quickly we realised that between our respective contacts and passions we probably had the resources to give it a go…Why wouldn’t we want to try this thing?

It has been nothing short of a delight to discuss our idea with others and to witness friends from different circles of our lives share the enthusiasm. I love it when a plan comes together. This time we’ve even got the t-shirts to prove it.

Surf camp f

So, a fortnight ago we launched our inaugural SUrf Camp. Ten teenagers from across Central Scotland had signed up and we had amassed a team of 11 leaders which included three family units who also brought their kids along. The aim of our week was to have a lot of fun and to explore the idea of living life to the full (John 10:10). After an evening of chilling and eating great food in a room decked out with inflatable palm trees, surf posters and Hawaiian lei it was time to introduce them to some of my personal surf heroes: Kelly Slater; Rob Machado; Cody Maverick, Chicken Joe and, of course, Big Z. Surf’s up! A fun DVD night seemed like the perfect way to round off our first evening at camp.

Sunday heralded in our first full day of activity. We were greeted by sunshine and couldn’t resist the lure of spending the morning on the beach which was a hop, skip and a jump from the camp. How beautiful to warm our feet in the sand, to gaze  out to sea and to share some thoughts and songs on a secluded beach.  Ruth then took us on a very creative and interactive tour as she re-told an ancient story and encouraged us to re-tread some ancient paths.

Surf camp b

After lunch it was time to meet up with our friends at Coast 2 Coast Surf School for the teenagers’ first surf lesson.


The waves were a bit blown out and messy but they had a bit of punch to them. The team got stuck right into it and by the end of their first lesson, I was amazed to see most of the teenagers managing to get to their feet and catch waves. The stoke of shared experience rubbed off on the leaders too.



The next two days saw us greeted by bluebird skies and corduroy lines in the sea. We seemed to have scored the best of Scotland’s weather and waves. Another two great afternoons were spent under the watchful eye and encouragement of the team from Coast 2 Coast.


Surf camp c

Surf camp d

Surf camp a

Our evenings were fairly chilled and we watched some great surf movies including: Surf’s Up; Soul Surfer; and Chasing Mavericks.  All of those are films that surfers and non-surfers alike would enjoy and each tackle real life issues and raise interesting questions. Naturally, those also inspired some interesting conversation.

I have taken such encouragement from the willingness of other individuals and organisations to also get involved in SUrf Camp. Mid week we had a visit from local Surfers Against Sewage rep, Alasdair. He helpfully explained about the issues associated with marine litter and the notion of conSURFation. There were plenty of practical suggestions about how we can make a difference individually and collectively.


We followed that with a beach clean and were dumbfounded to have gathered 124.8 kg of litter in little more than an hour!


The waves had dropped a bit by Wednesday afternoon, the sky was more brooding and the water felt colder to begin with. The wind was offshore and there was such a commotion in the ocean as all of the group managed to ride waves back to land. The whooping, hollering, drumming on surfboards and general enthusiasm created such a good vibe in the sea. The smiles and waves shared were euphoric – so much so in fact that a couple of the surf instructors themselves commented on the attitude and camaraderie amongst the group and how infectious that was throughout the week.


On Wednesday night we were able to present a Scottish preview of up and coming surf film The Perfect Wave. A good friend of mine works for the film’s media distributor and they were keen to get some impartial feedback ahead of looking at how they roll out screenings later in the year.  Popcorn and cake was munched as Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott, re-enacted a modern-day re-telling of Ian McCormack’s remarkable true life surfari story.


With the waves all but disappearing on Thursday, the guys from Coast 2 Coast took the team on a whole new adventure…coasteering. That basically involved them jumping from greater and greater heights off the rocks and into the sea. Whilst I had personally retreated into the sanctuary of Davina the camper-van for the afternoon to prepare my thoughts for an evening talk, I was once again heartened by the stories of the fun that had been shared and the way the teenagers had all helped one another to overcome their fears.


Surf Camp l

The week wasn’t just about surfing.  We had plenty of chill time and the most amazing food and cake prepared by Suzi.  It even included four birthday cakes, one of which was a replica of Davina the camper-van.


It was a joy to be able to let others experience Davina first hand. We let the teenagers use Davina as a space to meet in as small groups and to have some quiet time. We also rotated who got to travel in her to the beach each day and to tell of her own story and how we came to hold the keys. You can read about that here.


We  embarked upon a host of other fun activities during the week too. These included: obstacle courses; zip wires; beach frisbee; nuke ‘em ball; flume races in the local swimming pool; BMX races and fun on a giant inflatable structure.



Surf Camp i

Surf Camp j

Surf camp e

In addition to the various surf movies we enjoyed during the week, we also used the On The Rocks series of surf DVD resources produced by CS South Africa/SonSurf to explore issues of faith. Those provided a natural springboard to chat at whatever level the teenagers wanted to.

No camp would be complete without a campfire and sing-song on the last night. So, after an awards ceremony, what started off in tranquility morphed into a riotous medley of songs old and new accompanied by enthusiastic dancing and a glow stick party.





As the fire began to die thoughts were gathered, ukuleles and percussion dug out and a reflective chorus arose as we enjoyed a few moments of late night reflection.


I turned to see this on the sand…


Friday morning involved sleepy heads and messy bedrooms needing to be tidied up.  We still found time for a quick jaunt to the beach where we discovered the smoldering relics of the previous night’s fire.  With a little prodding and blowing, the embers caught light again and we sang one last song and shared short thoughts and prayers as the week drew to its natural close.

As I pause to reflect upon things, I realise afresh that this is not something we deliberately set out to do. Let’s face it – we wouldn’t have had a clue how to run a surf camp.  As has so often been the case with our stories, a conversation was started and an idea ignited that became an opportunity worth pursuing.  I am so grateful to Stephen for having made contact last October and I’m somewhat blown away by how far we have come in such a short space of time.  SU have over 70 years experience of running activity camps. They had the know-how, the resources, the procedures, protocol and insurance to ensure that we could concentrate on making it happen and trying to make it as much fun as possible.  Stephen is a hugely gifted leader with a sharp sense of humour and a great means of creating a very relaxed atmosphere and chilled-out vibe without neglecting all that needs to happen behind the scenes.  He quickly established great relationships with the campers and fellow leaders alike. His input into the daily sessions and quiet times was invaluable and he is a very natural and engaging communicator. It has been a privilege to get to know him and his family these past few months and to assist him in running SUrf Camp.

All in all, it was an amazing week.  I want to give a huge shout out to the teenagers that came and made it so much fun.  I have found myself inspired by their willingness to throw themselves into a week dedicated to a pursuit which most of them had never tried before.  It’s made me wonder whether there could be the possibility of running shorter SUrf camp weekends in the future too? A huge debt is owed to all of the leaders who sacrificed a week of annual leave and paid their way to help make this happen.  Their willingness to do so much behind the scenes demonstrated servanthood.  Also, a big “thank you” to Scripture Union for having the faith to let us try this out and to Christian Surfers UK for supporting us and donating a Surfers’ Bible to each of the teenagers.  Thanks also to Central for endorsing the camp. We hope that we have honoured you all in the camp we have delivered.  Last, but by no means least, a huge thanks to Coast 2 Coast for bringing all of their expertise and investing in the teenagers and encouraging them.  We literally couldn’t have done it without you guys and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. The evaluation forms and feedback from the campers have been a joy to read. What a blast! Surf Camp k

Wanna do it all over again next year?



plan BIG.

I left my heart in San Francisco 16.5 years ago, but then and again that was easy to do.  We were newly weds honeymooning our way around the hilly city enjoying the vistas, watching the world go by and soaking up life over strong coffees and the twinkling of early Christmas lights.

Six years ago another long distance relationship was sparked.  It caught me unexpectedly and started as a holiday romance of sorts – not with another person, but with: the very land; the coastal trails; the headlands; the wide open beaches and the acres of sky.  Cornwall wooed my wife and I both and we have travelled the length of this island to return to her shores as often as we can in the subsequent years.  It’s become a pilgrimage of sorts – not just to the places we have come to truly love, but also to the people with whom we have built genuine friendships and community.

So on Thursday night we packed the car, strapped a couple of surfboards to the roof racks and headed south.  The first time we made the trek we set off at about 5.30 in the morning.  A combination of the stuff of life, the commitments of our kids and the insane ability to survive on very little sleep that parenting alone brings saw us set off about 7pm.  Mind you, extensive road works on the M6 coupled with a sleeping family resulted in a costly missed turn off, a jaunt across much of middle England via minor roads and a car park height restriction fail at 4.07 am.  Thankfully, no damage done!


Friday, saw us enter the Peoples’ Republic of Kernow and I couldn’t but help think about how much greener the grass appeared factually and metaphorically.  With only 36 hours or so to try to condense the highlights of a week’s family holiday in Cornwall, we made a bee-line to Padstow for a stroll, pasties and ice-cream by the harbour.


After a little chill time we headed to Polzeath and hooked up with a few of our fellow Soul Surfers crew who had also made the journey down from Scotland before we wandered over for food in the marquee outside Tubestation.  We were gathered for the 20th Christian Surfers UK National Gathering and it was a joy to catch up with faces old and new amidst the bustle and laughter of al fresco dinner conversation.  We meandered into the Tube where Knoxy, Sophie and a shuffling cast of barefoot friendlies helpfully carved out some time and space to gather our thoughts.  Founding member and head of Christian Surfers International, Brett Davies, had flown in from Australia to be there and gave us a brief canter through the CS story.  We were then treated to the UK premiere of “Beyond Sight” which is one of the most inspiring surf movies I have seen in a long while.  I won’t give too much away, suffice to say that it involves a blind surfer, Pipeline and a host of big name pro surfers who provide far more than a series of cameo appearances.  You can get a flavour of it here and we hope to be able to arrange a series of UK screenings later in the year – possibly with a couple of very special guests – watch this space!

We rustled our sleepy heads out of bed on Saturday morning and I placed my trust in a trucker cap to hide my bed-head hair.  Breakfast was followed by a helpful morning reflection from Daren before Knoxy, Sophie and the crew helped us gets our hearts and heads closer to where they ought to be.


Gill Davies then picked up the theme of the weekend, “If God is your partner, make big plans”.  She talked around the story of Nehemiah and of how he enquired about a people and how that gave him a heartache and a holy discontent because he saw a vision of God’s preferred future.  Once he knew what that was, he stepped in.  It was practical and thought-provoking stuff.  The rest of the morning was dedicated to discussing the core mission and vision of CS.


The afternoon involved free time and people headed off to spend that time as they saw fit.  Despite a lack of waves, there was beautiful sunshine and enough of a lure for a few of us to get wet and let my daughter christen her new surfboard.


We reconvened over a wonderful bbq before gathering to share stories and celebrate the 20th anniversary of CSUK.  It was a night to honour the shoulders of the giants we get to stand upon.


It was a delight to see Jess and the CS London crew be awarded the “Outstanding Contribution to CSUK” trophy.


There was barely a dry eye as Mike Scott talked of his late wife Chris’ commitment to CSUK before awarding the trophy in her honour to Brett and Gill Davies in recognition of all that they have poured of themselves into CS over 37 years.  How fitting at this point in history where they draw close to handing over the reigns.


For every story that was told, I found myself thinking that everyone in the room has their own equally important tale of where CS has connected them into an extended family of sorts and helped them to journey with others who loved the same culture and speak their language.

It seemed perfectly fitting to faithfully tell something of our own adventure and story in the very place where much of it began for me.  It was an evening heavy with the presence of God and a sense of heritage.  I spent a good few sacred moments where it seemed as if time slowed down a  little soaking up the enormous and palpable sense of gratitude in the presence of some friends whom I hold very dear.




With that we wandered down to the headland and perched to watch a setting sun paint the beach in oranges and golds.  The chattering disappeared as we watched in silence as the ball of fire sunk towards the horizon before simply disappearing into the sea.


Despite a lack of waves forecast, I heeded my early morning alarm call and tip-toed out into the bright morning sunlight and dewy grass as my family slumbered.  I slung a longboard under my arm and suited up at Tubestation before walking across the sand to the turquoise sea.  Alice met a small group of us there and encouraged us to unpick what the phrase “Be still and know that I am God” means.  By the time the session had finished there were about 30 surfers gathered.


We then paddled out into the beautiful, tranquil, sea and made the formation of a cross.  Dave Matthews then lead us through The Lord’s Prayer.  At the end of that the quiet was interrupted by “yews” and “yelps” and much splashing of water.  We then reformed into a large circle, hands held and all facing inwards as we all simply went around the ring calling out the name of someone who was on our mind and offering it as a prayer.  It was the most inspiring start to a Sunday I have experienced in years.



So we paddled back in, dried off and enjoyed a feast of a breakfast from the Tubestation crew.

I have long loved the idea of taking the things that are attractive and authentic about a community of faith and planting that out in the open rather than behind the confines of the walls of the buildings that we often congregate behind.  I want to live my life out loud.  So, this is what church looked like on Sunday morning…and it was very good.


After coffee we had a final session together which was followed by lunch and a pretty sweet little skate session on the miniramp in the Tube.


Whilst some people needed to head off, we were able to spend the afternoon back at the beach playing amidst the small waves again.  What a joy to witness our friend’s seven-year old son catch his first wave where he managed to pop up, stand and ride his Dad’s longboard and then to do so repeatedly with such a relaxed stance whilst loosely shaking a shakka sign with his trailing arm!  Invites were thrown out and a ruckus evening unfolded at the Cornish Arms in Pendoggett which included an impromtu set from Kris and Joff of The Grenaways, albeit my four-year old son replaced Henry on percussion duties.  A good night was had by all.


So, Monday always marks the start of long amble home.  In usual fashion, we resisted that for as long as possible opting instead to linger in the company of other fellow sojourners.  We then headed to the Eden Project which is a place we never tire of and chatted with some of the Scottish Soul Surfer crew about a host of things and some of the thoughts that were taking shape in our heads and hearts as a result of being at the Gathering.  When it couldn’t be delayed any longer, we reluctantly headed back up North just before the staff locked the car park gates for the night.


Like any long distance relationship, we had no sooner made it over the border into Devon before we were scheming and planning our next welcome return…maybe October?



Share the stoke.

I have found little in life that lifts the spirits more than a shared adventure or a shared story.  The language I would naturally use to describe that is to “share the stoke.”  So, here’s a little story that I hope puts a smile on your face and restores your faith in things…

If you read my previous post then you will be aware of the huge generosity of Surfer’s Attic in donating some high quality, new and unused surf equipment to Christian Surfers UK (CSUK) in order that they be sold to raise funds for CSUK’s work.  With Surfer’s Attic having started out above a skate shop in Inverness, CSUK themselves suggested that they passed the goods to us so that any funds raised could be used specifically for CS Scotland.  We were blown away and, in turn, suggested that the money raised be directed towards our on-going funding of Davina The Camper-van which is one of our key projects here whilst subsequently passing 10% of any proceeds back to CSUK for their wider initiatives.

So it was a delight to drive across the M8 to Glasgow under a setting sun last night to hand deliver the lovely surfboard we had been donated to its new owner, fellow Soul Surfer and CSUK member, Ruth.  There’s beauty in the detail, however.  Just like Surfer’s Attic, Ruth also has strong family connections with Inverness.  We actually met her in the Tubestation in Polzeath two summers ago and have become friends and tracked one another’s developing stories in the years that have followed.  She will be taking the board down to Christen it in the Cornish surf in the coming days.  We ourselves will be heading down there for the 20th CSUK National Gathering the following week, so ought to be able to share a surf or two with her there too.

The way things have worked out are so honouring of Colin from Surfer’s Attic’s generosity where his preference was that someone within the CS or Soul Surfers community would get the benefit of the equipment.  Not only has Ruth bought herself a beautiful new board for an attractive price, but the money she would ordinarily have paid a surf-shop is simply being re-cycled to help fund the camper-van which operates as a mobile sacred space – the concept of which is something she spent a lot of time studying during a recent year-long course associated with Forge.

After a good old catch up over a cup of tea last night, I drove home with my iPod shuffling its way through an eclectic  playlist which took my mind to a host of times and places and people.  Sometimes it’s hard to feel little other than gratitude for this life we get to live, the people who form characters big or small and the stories we get to write.

We still have two wonderful brand new Tiki wetsuits for sale (a male one in a size medium and a female size 12) that Surfer’s Attic donated.  All of the information on them can be found by clicking here.  All proceeds will be used in the same manner as the money received for the surfboard.  If you want further information then you can email me at brian@biallen.freeserve.co.uk with the heading “westsuits for sale”.

Stay stoked!


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