Spring has sprung!

dolphin statue

It may sound like community service or shovelling snow in a blizzard, but, I’d rather that you thought of it as a UK-wide flash-mob of sorts – giving something back; raising the profile of an often neglected issue; acting as anthropologists of what is causing plastic tides and devastation to the marine environment and affecting our food-chain with the assistance of a new smart-phone app…

Yes, the annual Surfers Against Sewage Big Spring Beach Cleans are almost upon us. As a seasoned participant, I’ve always found these times to represent a great chance to catch up with friends, meet new people and to do something worthwhile whilst even having a bit of fun.

There are over 150 beach cleans being organised across the UK this coming weekend and 15 of them are in Scotland.

So, why not give up an hour or two, roll up your sleeves and get involved?

You can find out all the info on times and places here.




Life is complicated.

“Life is complicated: sport is simple” was a slogan that once appeared in an old Howies’ catalogue. It’s true. Many of us find escape and a deep pleasure in the simplest of activities.

Last Friday I watched part of Comic Relief with my kids. Part of me wanted them to enjoy the humour whilst simultaneously protecting them from the stories of childrens’ lives devastated beyond belief. But, a bigger part of me wanted them to learn something. To count their blessings, to have gratitude in their bones and to long to try to actually DO something about the things they are exposed to.

It took me till I was researching Anita Roddick in my post-grad year at Uni to even ask the question about what must have happened in the background to enable a T-shirt to be available on my High Street or supermarket for only £5. How cheap was the labour involved to enable the price to be so seemingly competitive? Now, even my four-year old understands something of the meaning of Fair-trade. I knew nothing about the threat of melting ice caps and rising sea levels until I read “Our Common Future” in a University library in 1994 and I found myself genuinely shocked at the findings from the first ever Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992. Now, these things seem obvious. The adjective “Eco” gets tagged onto everything from homes to holidays.

I regularly find myself surprised by conversations with friends or acquaintances who seem accepting and unmoved by these things or who find the whole thing an inconvenience.

In many ways I think surfing wrecked my life. The experiences it began to offer were coupled with the fact that I became a father shortly after I started learning to surf. The latter meant that I began to see the world with a whole fourth dimension. Add to that a bunch of new ideas and books and podcasts that lead me to really examine how my faith collides with my appreciation of so much of nature’s simple beauty and I was left with a fairly combustible set of influences that reshaped the way I view the world, my place within it, the priorities and values I hold true, where I want to go and how.

Life is complicated. Sport is simple. Sometimes, I want a more simple life. Thanks to my good friend, Sam from Coast 2 Coast surf school for sharing this little clip this week. Now this is what I’m talking about…


A pause for breath…

So, our house is on the market at the minute. It has rarely been less cluttered. There’s this enforced rhythm of trying it keep it as tidy as possible. We are presenting a house that we hope others can envisage their life unfolding in – a place that becomes as special for the next owner as it has been for us these past 12 years.


There is a difference between a house and a home. Today, shortly after the viewings were completed, our back gate was opened as friends and extended family were invited in. Soups were heated and decanted, loaves sliced, cheeses unwrapped and drinks poured out. Stories of the hum-drum and the extraordinary were exchanged. Tales of waiting, experiences of uncertainty, things that have yet to play themselves out…life and love and loss…

As we drew everyone close, the kids spilt the contents of boxes of musical instruments all over the floor much like the adults had spilled out the guts of our lives in conversation. C pulled out a guitar and struck up a few songs – modern, yet, ancient. The children joined in with percussion, whistles and battery operated toys. Orchestrated it wasn’t. A joyful noise? Certainly. It was messy, but, then and again, so is life. So is community.



At the end of a week where we have shared things for prayer over on the Christian Surfers Scotland FaceBook page, it felt right to wrap the week up reflecting upon some words from Stephen Cherry’s “Barefoot Prayers”. V read these words as some mused and others sketched.

Walking into the ocean

the cold bites toes and ankles.

Sand is ripped from footprint

in the ebb and flow of surf

even at an inch’s depth.

Pushing on, each wave becomes a body blow, a

thud on the belly

a crash on the chest.

The eighth, the biggest, pushes me

back a pace or two.

Best to lunge over or

dive under, through

water, suspended sand and murky foam.

This is what it is to face

the One who was and is and is to come.

This is what it is to face the Creator

who comes in Spirit and storm.


if this is what it is to face,

maybe I am facing wrongly.

In surf there is no

question. The journey out allows the return;

what seemed like infinite

resistance, is now propelling power.

Let me turn my back,

not in disrespect, but in true alignment;

and speed me along the new forward,

my old backward.



Get Involved!

As The Wave Project in Scotland builds momentum for the year ahead, I’m delighted that we’ve been able to offer a little help in finding accommodation for one of  their Edinburgh Volunteer Induction evenings.


I’ll let Jamie explain things in his own words:

“The Wave Project Scotland Team are stoked to announce our first set of volunteer induction dates for 2015. It is really important that if you would like to volunteer that you attend one of these dates. Do not worry, it’s not a heavy evening of learning but there are some key points we have to impart. If there is no way you can make any of these we will try to sort something out but please do try and make one of these if you can.

The available events at the moment are:

Wednesday 11th of March, 6pm to 7.30pm at Central Venues, Central Hall, 2 West Tollcross, Edinburgh, EH3 9BP

Thursday 12th of March, 6pm to 7.30pm at Wave Project Scotland Office, Beltonford Industrial Estate (Opposite Belhaven Bay), West Barns, Dunbar, EH42 1UW

Saturday 14th of March, 11am to 12.30pm at Wave Project Scotland Office, Beltonford Industrial Estate (Opposite Belhaven Bay), West Barns, Dunbar, EH42 1UW

It’s also a great opportunity to get all of your relevant PVG (background check) paperwork done, so please bring the following:

Some photographic ID
Your national insurance number, passport number and driving licence number
A proof of current address
Any pre-existing PVG forms
Your address history for the previous 5 years (do not need proof but just need details)
Your registration number with any regulatory body (medicine, nursing, dentistry etc.)

Following all of this you will be ready to rock and roll!!!! Please let me know which event you wish to attend so I have an idea of numbers. I have sent an email with this information, if you have not received this please drop me a note at jamie@waveproject.co.uk”

Get on board!


Get On Board!

I frequently encounter people and initiatives within the surf community that make me believe in the possibility of making the world a better place. Often these are little tales of ordinary folks using the things they love in order to affect lasting and positive change.

One such couple are North Devon based Joel and Helen Blackman. I’ve got to know them through CSUK over the past few years. It’s been a delight to hang out with them and offer them food and accommodation to and from a couple of trips to Thurso and the North Shore. This week their involvement with the truly inspiring Wave Project was acknowledged by the Prime Minister.

Here’s a great little clip that appeared on local television of exactly why even David Cameron is tweeting about their awesomeness.

More locally, The Wave Project Scotland was piloted by the wonderful Jamie Marshall last year. Jamie is keen to round up more Scottish based volunteers and you can find out more by contacting him at jamie@waveproject.co.uk

WaveProject Scotland15

There’s going to be a social happening in Edinburgh on Thursday 19th February at Jake’s Place which is a pub beside Waverley Train Station (on the Market Street side). It would be great to see some of you along there from 6pm onwards. It will be the perfect chance to catch up or meet new folks and find out a little more about the Wave Project – all welcome for as long or short as you like.

I’m also trying to see if Soul Surfers can assist in providing a venue in Central Edinburgh in order to run a volunteers’ induction and training evening in the coming weeks. Watch this space for more information shortly.



Fancy Fading West On Friday?

Ok, so if the video clip below whets your appetite, our back gate in Edinburgh will be open from 8pm on Friday 30th Jan to fire up some stoke on the TV. Bring cinema snacks and email me at brian@biallen.freeserve.co.uk with the heading “Fading West” if you need our address.

Stay rad!



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…


For now we see in part.


Davina – Provision Beyond Belief!


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.


Wetsuits for sale!

We have two brand new and unused wetsuits for sale.


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”




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:


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