Friday, February 26, 2010

'Scribblings from the Surf' - Devon Life 3/10: Surfers Saving the World

The nineth in a series entitled 'Scribblings from the Surf' for Devon Life. To read the article see the text below or click to enlarge the pictures of the original article below that. To see the whole series, click here.

SURFERS SAVING THE WORLD

Barrister and writer Tim Kevan meets two surfers helping to save the world.

Many people might have the impression of the standard surfer as a flaky, spaced out Californian dude who doesn’t actually get much done other than stare out to sea and catch the odd wave. But that image couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to those who surf the English waters since you’ve got to have just a modicum of fortitude just to paddle out in freezing mid-Winter swell. Such strength of character also comes through in the activities that many surfers get up to out of the water as well. Two such surfers who are inspiring others are aid worker Tim Tanton and environmentalist Mikey Corker.

Tim Tanton: The Aid Worker
When the terrible tsunami hit on Boxing Day 2004 the world mourned. But for Braunton’s Tim Tanton who had been surfing in Sri Lanka since the mid-1990s the tragedy was closer to home as he had friends out there who lost family members, homes and businesses. He visited three times in the following year in an effort to help the local community next to one of the area’s famous surf spots of Arugam Bay. During the same year Tim and local paramedic and surfer Paul Martin conceived the idea of Paddle4Relief (www.paddle4relief.co.uk), a fundraising body which would provide a bridge between English surfers wanting to help in some way and the disaster’s victims.

The first event was a sponsored paddle in August 2005 and this has now become an annual event. They have also organised social events and the like with the same dual aims of both raising awareness and money and have had support from numerous people in the North Devon community but most specifically Mark Krazizky at Tiki and Glenn Harris at Surfed Out surf shops, Bridget Allsopp at the Saunton Break Café and Steve at The Thatch pub in Croyde. In the meantime, Tim gave up being a full-time psychiatric nurse and now spends much of his year living and working in Sri Lanka providing both physical labour himself as well as employing local people in the community on a number of projects.

The first major project was the building of a pre-school which was completed in 2006. This has been followed by a number of well projects after Tim realized that people’s wells were still contaminated and that people were having to travel long distances simply to get water. To date they have made good about 15-20 wells, including a couple of new ones. All of which is in addition to the day to day help with medicine, food, short term loans, fishing equipment and boats. They’ve also set up a surf club out there and have shipped over a number of surfboards donated by people in England. Back home, the Paddle4Relief Surf Club now provided merchandise such as hoodies and t-shirts as well as insurance for surfers through the British Surfing Association.

So far, they’ve raised over £20,000 and in addition to his own time, Tim has also used a lot of his own money. Oh, and that’s not forgetting that he’s been doing this in the Tamil Tiger heartlands which until recently was somewhat of a political hotspot to put it mildly. It’s been a long journey in a relatively small space of time and Tim has inspired people not only to help with his own cause but more widely as an example of what can be achieved for the good if you really want to make it happen.

Mikey Corker: The Environmentalist
Another person showing the difference that one person can make is environmentalist Mikey Corker. Brought up in Cape Town and a top class surfer he’s been living in North Devon for many years now. But it was perhaps the mountains, the open plains and the wide ocean in his homeland which provided Mikey’s initial inspiration to try and protect our planet’s natural heritage.

Since being in North Devon, Mikey has found two particular ways of making a difference. The first is through his job which is managing the Loose Fit surf shop (www.loose-fit.co.uk) in Braunton which was the world’s first carbon neutral surfing shop and has an emphasis throughout on being aware of the environment. This means that they specifically pick brands with an environmental ethos such as Patagonia and Finisterre. They have also been supporting the development of green surfboards in collaboration with Mark Roberts of Glass Tiger Surfboards. Mikey in particular has been working with him for approximately three years helping him to develop a product which is commercially viable and they are now selling a board which contains wood and a vegetable-based eco-resin. The wetsuits they sell come from West Wetsuits who also have a strong environmental lean, making suits from limestone-based neoprene rather than the usual petro-chemical base and with their lycra being made from plastic bottles and bamboo. Such work has led Loose Fit to winning the Surfer’s Path Green Wave Award two years in a row as well as the 2007 Green Apple Award.

All of which dovetails well with Mikey’s other role which is the North Devon representative for Surfers Against Sewage (www.sas.org.uk) an organisation which has long campaigned to clean up our coastline. Mikey ensured that SAS are the recipients of 1% of Loose-Fit’s turnover through an organisation called 1% for the Planet. In addition, he is now working to promoting their cause more widely in North Devon, most recently with a beach clean at Saunton Sands. There are a number of plans for 2010 including a Devon coastline paddle and in the Spring and grass roots projects with local educational bodies which can help raise awareness.

All in all, Tim and Mikey are an inspiration to us all and highlight the good work which can flow from catching a few waves and enjoying the pleasures which this planet offers up.

Tim Kevan is the author of the comic novel ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ (Bloomsbury) and the co-author of ‘Why Lawyers Should Surf’ (with Dr Michelle Tempest). www.timkevan.com.

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