Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why Lawyers Shoud Surf reviewed in The Independent newspaper

The following review appeared in The Independent newspaper on Wednesday 9 January 2008.

Why Lawyers Should Surf, by Tim Kevan and Michelle Tempest
How riding the waves can be the ultimate stress-buster
Reviewed by Andy Martin

If anyone had asked me before I read this book why lawyers should surf, I would have said that they would feel right at home with the sharks. The more enlightened and benevolent logic of Tim Kevan and Michelle Tempest is that lawyers and other stressed-out souls can get an infusion of wisdom by imitating the spirit of God and "moving upon the face of the waters".

Surfing is so difficult that it's hard to think of anything else while you're doing it. It's virtually impossible to worry about taxes as a monster wave comes hurtling towards you (although the question of death does arise). It concentrates the mind wonderfully. I suspect that there is something in the neurochemistry of surfing that induces a more contemplative, even transcendental, outlook.

Kevan, a London-based barrister, has truly seen the light and gone off to live and surf in Devon. The clever thing about the book he has written with his psychiatrist co-author, Tempest, is that even if it doesn't persuade you, in the middle of winter, to whip off your kit and get wet, it does give you the mental equivalent of a perfect day at Sunset Beach, Hawaii. I am generally averse to motivational books, probably because they reduce me to a sort of Pavlovian dog that can be easily trained. The beauty of this book is that, even as it suggests ways of fixing my "neuro-linguistic programming", it subtly restores a sense of poetry and enables me to "hear the mighty waters rolling evermore". Kevan and Tempest, like Wordsworth, address the soul-surfer in us all.

Jean Baudrillard, philosopher of the media age, assumed that all surfing was virtual – a product of the internet – and anything else just a Hollywood-engineered myth. Why Lawyers Should Surf not only reminds us that surfing is real, and feasible, but makes a strong case for it being a productive metaphor of our immersion in time and space. I don't know if it is going to make me a better surfer (it may be too late), but I am hopeful that I could become a better human being. And if the waters keep on rising, our souls really will have sight of Wordsworth's immortal sea, "though inland far we be", and surfing could turn out to be the key to survival.

XPL Publishing, £9.99. Order (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897

The book is also available on the Waterstones website here.For extracts from the book, click here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Singer/songwriter

Douglas E Powell is a singer/songwriter who lives in Braunton in North Devon. Great music and lyrics and well worth checking out. I highly recommend his latest album which is called The Still and The West and is available on his website at douglasepowell.co.uk. You can see more information and his list of forthcoming gigs on his myspace site.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Spending habits

Stumbled upon an interesting blog today called The Compact which has the following objectives:

'1. To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.
2. To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er)
3. To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)'


It's perhaps the rules which are the most interesting:

1. First principle - don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)
2. Second principle - borrow or buy used.
3. A few exceptions - using the "fair and reasonable person" standard -- i.e., you'll know in your heart when you're rationalizing a violation:
a. food, drink, and necessary medicine (no elective treatments like Viagra or Botox)
necessary cleaning products, but not equipment (don't go out and buy the Dyson Animal, for example).
b. socks and underwear (utilitarian--non-couture or ornamental)
pajamas for the children
c. Utilitarian services (plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, veterinarians, dog/house-sitters, fire/paramedics, dry cleaners, house cleaners, etc.) -- Support local and encourage used parts (rebuilt transmission, salvaged headlight unit, etc.)
d. Recreational services (massage, etc.) & local artisanal items - Good sources for gifts, but should not be over-indulged in for personal gratification
e. Charitable contributions (
Seva, Heifer, and the like) - an even better source for gifts
f. Plants and cut flowers - Whenever possible, cultivate from free cuttings or seeds. Ok in extreme moderation (yo, incoming oxy) when purchased from local businesses (i.e., not the Target Garden Shop)--and again, within reason
g. Art supplies - First line of attack:
SCRAP. When absolutely necessary (for the professionals and talented amateurs in the group), from local businesses
h. Magazines, newspapers, Netflix - renewals only, no new subscriptions. Even better to consume online
i. V ideo rentals and downloadable music files (non-material) -- freely shared and legal, please.


I'm not sure I could follow these to the letter but they're perhaps not a bad place to start the new year after the excesses of Christmas.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Stand-Up Paddle Surfing

The following article recently appeared on Alex Wade's blog for The Times entitled Surf Nation. It was written following a recent trip to Portugal with Tiki in which I got the change to interview big wave legends Dave Kalama and Keone Downing.

“Waterman is a term which is over-used and even abused.” So says Dave Kalama who, along with his friend and tow-in partner Laird Hamilton, is probably the greatest all-round waterman of the modern world. He explains his thinking: "The term waterman starts with a philosophy. It starts with ‘anything goes’. You’ve got to have your mind open to discover things….taking everything the ocean has to offer and recognising that if I take this piece of equipment all of a sudden these things are cross-referencing and advancing.”

Kalama certainly has the pedigree to make such sweeping statements. His grandfather was one of the best bodysurfers of the forties and fifties in Hawaii and took canoe-surfing to California, while his father Ilima was the U.S. surfing champion in 1962. As for the man himself, Kalama was a world champion windsurfer before becoming one of the pioneers of tow-in surfing at Jaws on his home island of Maui.

Given so illustrious, and grounded, a backstory, it is no doubt appropriate that the latest phase of Kalama's career is taking him right back to the roots of surfing itself with stand-up paddle surfing - or, to its converts, SUP. Modest and always aware of the long tradition that precedes him, Kalama is keen to correct a misapprehension by some that he and Laird invented the sport. He is at pains to point out that it goes back to the ancient Polynesian paddlers who used the term ‘Ku Hoe He’e Nalu' which, translated literally, means ‘to stand - to paddle - to surf wave’.
The modern sport was revived by another great surfing pioneer, Duke Kahanomoku, and it popularised at Waikiki Beach in the 1960s when photographers would surf standing backwards in order that they could take photographs for the tourists. It then pretty much disappeared until the mid-nineties when Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton rediscovered it - by accident. “We were on a photoshoot and were getting bored. The waves were 1’ to 2’ and we had a couple of paddles. When we get bored is usually when stuff gets invented. It made it fun.”

Since then paddle surfing, for Kalama, has become much more than a mere distraction. “Stand up paddle surfing represents the majority of my surfing now," he says. "Maybe up to eighty per cent, so it’s a very significant part of my daily fix of surfing.” He adds, tough, that “It’s not meant to replace surfing. It’s just something which is really fun. I like that there are so many different levels and facets that you discover along the way. You can do all the maneuvers that you do in longboarding and then you throw the paddle in and it creates a whole different element.” For Kalama, indeed, the journey towards mastery of a particular activity is more important than its destination: there’s a sense that once he’s completely mastered something, he almost immediately wants to move onto something new. As he says, “I really like the fact that I’m learning and there’s still a lot to learn about it. It makes mediocre surf really fun again and it gives you that excitement and that enthusiasm to keep you driven to go out and play in the surf every day which keeps you healthy and keeps your attitude right and keeps life good.”

Kalama is in Portugal promoting his South Point SUP board along with a range of his favourite surf boards which are distributed in the UK by Tiki International. Meeting him, what is at once apparent is his modesty. That and his sense of fun - a word he used a lot. He gets into the water, even in the most dangerous conditions, to have fun with his friends and to push the limits. It is this spirit of enjoyment and creativity which also encapsulates the sport of stand-up paddle surfing. As for the boards which bear his name, typically he lets actions speak louder than words. This includes riding a 9’2” South Point longboard on a 16’ to 18’ wave at Jaws. He mentions the authenticity of the designs and the philosophy behind South Point which has gathered together a very tight knit team of world class surfers including Bonga Perkins and George and Keone Downing, not to mention some top shapers including Carl Shaper, Kym Thompson and Jeff Timpone. As he puts it, with characteristic simplicity: “I believe in it and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t put my name to it.”
As for stand-up paddle-surfing in the UK, it may be in its infancy but with the arrival of the BSUPA as well as the country's first national championships (held just a couple of months ago) the future looks bright. Not least, if domestic practitioners of this ancient art can harness just a little of Dave Kalama's admirable, and inveterate, enthusiasm.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Shortcut to Longboarding

The following review will appear in issue 4 of Drift Magazine.

Review of 'A Shortcut to Longboarding' by Lee Ryan

For years now, people have been heralding the return to longboarding as a return to the heart and soul of surfing itself. Whether this is true, like the rest of the world longboarding has moved on. In this respect, Lee Ryan’s book provides a refreshingly forward-looking and modern approach to the subject. That is not to say that the author does not give due respect to the wisdom of those who have gone before. But what he does is to thoroughly demystify the subject without in any way diminishing it. In doing so he provides both an entry level text for the beginner and also an advanced manual for the expert. The breadth of the book is also impressive and covers the technical aspects of both the equipment and manoeuvres with nuggets there for everyone. This is a real gem of a book in which the passion the author has for both surfing and teaching shines through in every page.

For more information and to buy the book as a pdf download, visit http://www.shortcuttolongboarding.com/

The picture above is of a longboard shaped locally in North Devon by Jools of Gulf Stream.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Gone surfing

There's an advert on the radio at the moment that goes something like this: 'Give up your job. Write a novel. Live by the sea. We all have dreams but some of those dreams are actually attainable...' It then goes on to promote some car or other. Well, I guess in the last 12 months I've finally made the jump and at the age of 36 I retired from my job as a barrister, got a book deal to write a novel for Bloomsbury Publishing and am now living down by the sea in North Devon where I can go surfing whenever there's even a hint of swell. So from now on The Barrister Blog will be more accurately an Ex-Barrister Blog with more of an emphasis on living the dream in the countryside.

The picture above is by Steve PP who is an great surf artist based in Woolacombe in North Devon. Before moving down here he drew the cartoons for Danger Mouse.