It’s amazing to go away…

40 years old and ripping...

(my 40th birthday in Welligama, Sri Lanka)

… this year I’ve been exceedingly fortunate. I’ve paddled out into the balmy waters of the Bengal Bay with turtles in the line up, palm trees lining the sun drenched shore and a beautiful bikini clad Tango waiting for me on the beach (grrr and grrr again). I’ve immersed my (rather elegantly) balding noggin in the icy waters of Oregon – accompanied by the lovely Surftwin and the gracious Gaz.

I’ve even been to Eastbourne (no surf).

I’ve surfed some great waves in some stunning locations but sometimes it’s good to get home. That little bit of extra confidence that comes from the intimate knowledge of your home break coupled with the boost from having surfed the unknown makes all the difference.

I paddled out at ‘Secrets’ yesterday into a glassy overhead session feeling relaxed enough to get the most out of the perfect waves that were lifting up over the reef. A surprise lull in the wind that’s been howling all week finally left the incoming swell unbroken – long, rippable walls that seemed to drive you down the line and lift perfectly to meet the bottom of your board as you hit the lip. Marvellous.

This time a year ago I may well have sat on the cliffs and watched those perfect empty waves going unridden…

I didn’t surf today. The wind is back – maybe tomorrow…

A briefly possible conversation…

gerry_standup.jpg

Tuesday morning, after a near perfect head-high glassy session on the Oregon coast…

Gerry Lopez: Hey hunnybunny – you’ll never guess who I surfed with today…

Wife of Gerry Lopez: …I don’t know sugar-britches – who was that…?

GL: Just the one and only Penfold – from Surfugal…

WOGL: You’re shittin’me! Holy cow…

GL: God’s own truth! And I think I dropped in on him too…

I didn’t surf today.

Canoodling all over the world…

rose's raiders...

…it’s a tough job – but somebody has to do it – Ireland, England, Surfugal, Sri Lanka, Canadialand and now the Good Ol’ United States of America. All recent venues for the ongoing chronicles of Tango and Penfold.

We’ve just returned from Oregon after a long weekend sampling the delights of the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. Cannon Beach, Manzanita and a few days in Pacific City. We also had the good fortune to make Blogworld a bit more real by meeting Gaz and Surftwin for beers on the beach and an overdose of Mexican food.

A few mornings ago Surftwin very kindly dragged me out of bed for an early morning taste of ice-cold glass giving me a chance to see their surfing finesse up close.

I’ve discovered surfers in the Pacific NorthWest to be some of the most hardcore, crazy people I’ve met who brave freezing water all year round in the search for waves. They are also the most friendly, welcoming and generous. Complete strangers lent me a wetsuit (thicker than the one I brought), gloves (tried one session without – bad idea) and even a board (thankyou Chris – you are a star). Fantastic…

There are a few more pictures over at my flickr pages.

I didn’t surf today. I still have hypothermia but Tango has lent me a nice cardigan…

They do say…

unknown in the zone at supertubos...

…that one of the best things about going away is coming back home – the time and experience in foreign lands making you appreciate the reasons you live in the place you do.

A surfer will often say the same about a surftrip – travelling the world searching for new and exciting breaks, catching a few fleeting moments of warm water perfection but secretly hankering for the confidence and pleasure that only the knowledge of a homebreak can bring…

I surfed some amazing waves in Sri Lanka (wrestling a twinfin down the line on my backhand at Arugam Bay was a challenge that I’ll never forget) but in some strange way it was comforting to be squeezing back into my 4:3 wetsuit and plunging into the seemingly icy waters of Portugal. Back to the unpredictable reefs of ‘Secrets’ and the lines coming into the bay at Baleal. I had an unexpected moment of bliss at offshore ‘Hotels’ last week that welcomed me back – I dropped into a clean headhigh wave – a ridiculously lazy take off into a drop that yawned open revealing a feathering barrel that just threw me down the line. Nothing to do but take in the speed and beauty and the tiny moment of natural perfection that only a wave like that can bring…

Home sweet home – I have my son (although I wish the little ‘angel’ would get up a little later on a Sunday). I have the mountains. I have the surf. I just have to go get the girl… (did I mention I was going to Candialand?)

I didn’t surf today.

(more surf pics here)

Paddling in the right direction…

tsunami wall decorations

…a surf trip to a country struggling through the aftermath of tsunamic devestation whilst in the grip of civil war certainly leaves you with some intense and varied emotional responses – the most potent being at the epicenter of destruction on the east coast at Arugam Bay. At times the despair and futility of life there could be overwhelming but then miraculously overshadowed by the genuine joy and laughter of the local children playing innocently in the water that swept away lives that they will only ever know about through story telling from the survivors.

The world was told that this country had been rebuilt and that the millions of dollars that left the western world found it’s rightful place sheltering and feeding families but we saw little evidence of that – a half built housing complex with a billboard thanking ‘Oprah’ or dozens of unused fishing boats. It seems a lot of good things were started with the best of intentions but many projects still remain unfinished…

What we did find were a few good people taking small but vital steps towards rebuilding a forgotten corner of the planet. One being Tim from Paddle 4 relief – a Devon surfer that has made Sri Lanka his home. Disgusted by the horrendous mishandling of funds he started his own charity – organising sponsored paddling events and small gigs in the UK to raise cash that would go directly to the people that needed it. A new pre-school has been built, water supplies cleaned and roofs mended. A plea in the West country for used surfboards produced the start of the Arugam Bay surf club and swimming school.

tim getting to the point

Of course it’s not all about saving lives and digging wells – Tim still finds time to drop in on a few mates at the point every day getting his 9′ 6″ nicely slotted into the face of one of the best rights in the Bay of Bengal…

I didn’t surf today but I did sneak a few off the locals at Abay a couple of weeks ago.

Walling, peeling, walling, peeling, walling, peeling, hmmm…..

A few days ago…

the view from out back...

…I was here.

My life was all about surfing in board shorts and factor 50 sun block – Tango in bikinis (grrr) and Huwj in a hammock – banana pancakes and seer fish curry – crazy tuk-tuk rides and endless military checkpoints…

Crows, chipmunks, elephants and peacocks. Banana trees, banyans, palms and papayas. Corrugated iron, mouldy concrete, dirt roads and mobile phone billboards. Poverty, destruction and the biggest smiles on the planet.

A month of sensory overload now dissipating in the decompression chamber of my parents apartment in Eastbourne. One minute I’m in the pearl of the Indian Ocean next I’m getting insulted by Daddy P – it’s a strange life…

I didn’t surf today but I did manage to find a decent cup of tea for a change…

(Loads more photos at flickr)