Introducing Vol.263

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Turn on, tune in and fight back: what it is to be a surfer and custodian in today’s world. 

Pure waters are often muddied by vested interests, both literally and figuratively. As our rivers and waterways here in the UK shamefully slosh with untreated sewage (at the same time the pockets of water company bosses are stuffed with dirty money), we are constantly bombarded by the ideologically motivated doublespeak of politicians and leaders, promising one thing while delivering the opposite. Promising a reduction in fossil fuel usage while giving the green light for further exploration, promising to help those struggling with astronomically inflated energy bills while allowing energy companies to make record profits, promising to be bastions of freedom of speech while passing laws aimed at crushing legitimate protest and dissent. 

It’s easy to become lost in the maze of misdirection, to lose hope. But that’s where surfing helps to keep us grounded, to keep us focused. Surfing shows us the absolute best of planet earth, the moments of soaring bliss which, more than anything else I can think of, are reasons to be hopeful. It also offers a tangible reminder of the issues at hand, our oceans are often at the front line of environmental breakdown, we can see the plastics clogging our beaches, we can smell the sewage being discharged into our lineups, soon we will watch as the sea levels rise, flooding our homes and displacing millions.

But surfing also teaches custodianship. For its followers, it fosters a sense of connection to nature and often to specific places which few other pursuits can claim to do. Surfing rewards those most devoted, those who dedicate their lives to learning the ever evolving language of the ocean. In this edition of the magazine, we explore the myriad forms which custodianship can take and learn about individuals and organisations around the world who, through surfing, have been compelled to protect their waves, their oceans and their planet. 

We visit Liz Clarke on her yacht and learn how life at sea can influence one’s outlook on the world. Michael Kew then riffs on time, casting a degree of perspective on the human journey on earth. Noah Lane recounts a recent trip to Nicaragua, in search of empty waves and a more conscious version of consumption. Lauren Hill frames surfing, indeed each wave we surf, as a gift of energy and we, the surfers, as conduits of that energy with the responsibility of reciprocity. Alan ‘Fuz’ Bleakley went searching for such gifts in 1970’s Europe, but was greeted instead by cultural custodians of a darker kind, the pawns of authoritarianism and fascism in Franco’s Spain and Salazaar’s Portugal. 

Sean Doherty describes the bemused euphoria which comes from a battle won. From thousands of surfers and coastal dwellers coming together to stand up for their places of play and solace. In a world of over-exploitation, materially or otherwise, success stories of true sustainability are rare birds. Demi Taylor and Lucia Griggi take us to the Galápagos Islands where they may have managed to crack the code of sustainable tourism and true custodianship through education and respect for the fragility of their ecosystems.  

Hannah Bevan tells the story of one of the most successful environmental lobbying groups of all time, the Surfrider Foundation, and chats with their CEO, Chad Nelson.

I speak to Mickey Smith about his most recent film project, Hunros Jorna, a hypnotic masterpiece charting the beauty of a life spent devoted to salt water. Our conversation touches on Cornish cultural identity, the barbaric treatment of bodyboarders in the 1990’s and the pitfalls of creative intention. I also speak to Dr Cliff Kapono and find out how he has managed to craft a career combining surfing and science and how his indigeneity has led to a life of intuitive responsibility and sensitivity towards the ocean as a whole. 

French photographer Thomas Lodin provides this edition’s portfolio. A nostalgic blend of classic surfing in classic locations from Cote de Basque to San Onofre, Lodin’s work is a testament to his passion for 60’s surf culture and impressive photographic sensibilities. Lex Weinstein leads us through her life as both a surfer and a grower, how and where the two parts of her life intersect and why a combination of both sea and soil could be a much needed antidote to the current state of the world.

This issue’s contributors are a motley crew of custodians, young and old, male and female. Each brings their own outlook on the world, their own story, and, as a collective, I hope they can offer a view of what it is to be a surfer today, connected to, and grateful for, the ocean we play in and the planet we live on.

– Mike Lay

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