“…always drawing unusual but smooth lines flowing with the waves rather than the attacking nature of the shortboarders around him.”

The Inertia

After a cold Cornish dawn session, I sit watching perfect head high waves breaking from the back of my clapped out but faithful old van. I reflect on how my surf went; it’s strange how it always looks so much glassier than it actually is.

A nice set looms on the horizon, and a handful of surfers head out to it. While others sit, unaware of the impending gift nature is about to unload on them, I notice one surfer in particular heading in the opposite direction to the others. He strokes over the first wave, the second, and turns for the third, a slight adjustment, a couple of easy strokes, and the wave feathers beautifully on his take off. I watch in anticipation as he bottom turns and takes a high line along the perfectly peeling lefthander. He puts in a cutback to adjust his speed and as the next section unfolds he shuffles forward and speeds down the line in a coffin ride. I watch chuckling to myself as he bails in an explosion of whitewater. Classic !

I look on as he takes the cream of the waves in the session, always drawing unusual but smooth lines flowing with the waves rather than the attacking nature of the shortboarders around him. I can’t figure out which kind of board he’s riding. It looks long, but not a longboard. A larger set wave takes him all the way into the beach and he walks to a van parked opposite me.”Nice waves, eh?” I call over to him, he grins and replies, “Always nice waves on one of these.” I notice it’s just a foamboard, like the ones the surfschools use. Curious, I ask him why he used a foamboard. He looks into the distance, back towards the increasingly crowded surf. “Too many reasons: more waves, more fun,” he answers. “In these fat summer swells, why would you use a shortboard? It’s not exactly Indo, is it.” He looks down at my 6’0 thruster and grins at me.”Why not a longboard, then?” I ask. “Ain’t got the flex like a foamboard. Each to their own, but I just love the way the way foamies feel in the water. They’re harder to surf in proper waves – with the lack of proper rails and small rubber fins, it all just adds to the excitement.” That excitement is evident in his voice as he continues. “I also love the way people can’t figure you out. They think you’re just some kook until you start taking all the waves.” It’s just what he wants at this exact moment in his life, he tells me. “It’s just where I’m at. I don’t want a longboard, shortboards are optimum a handful of days here, twinnies, eggs, fishes, mini mals, etcetera… they all have their place on a given day. But not for me, not right now. I like to think of it as devolution, not evolution.”

I can’t help but like his passion and non-conformist, if somewhat opinionated, attitude towards riding waves.The conversation turns to life here in Cornwall. He and his French Canadian wife live here for the summers these days and spend their winters seeking out points and reefs around the world. While in the UK, they live off the grid with no electricity or running water, grow their own vegetables and keep chickens. Working in town on a small wage, they manage to save enough to fund their winter trips.”The few sacrifices we make gives us the means to do what we do. People always wonder how we manage to go on trips for so long. I feel I’m lucky because I was brought up with very little. It taught me from a young age the value of money and to appreciate the things I have. It all depends how much you want it. While people are sat in pubs every weekend or wasting their money on more fashion accesories they don’t need, I’m putting that money away so I can sit in the sun and surf pretty much every day of the winter.”

As we trade travel stories, his wife turns up from the beach with a big smile on her face and a foamie under her arm. Introductions are made, and I’m invited to check out their piece of land and have some breakfast. As this way of living has always interested me, I eagerly follow in convoy.

After a few miles of winding back country roads, we turn off, seemingly in the back of beyond. We meander down a bumpy trail and pass through a farm gate. As I jump from my vehicle, I’m assaulted with the smells of the great English countryside. We’re only a few miles from the hustle and bustle of the tourist saturated coast, but it’s like we’re in another world. Buzzards and kites circle on the thermals above us, sounding their shrill cries while rabbits scatter here and there. We hang our wetsuits out to dry and I’m taken on a culinary tour of a huge greenhouse bursting at the seams with tomato, pepper, and cucumber plants. The air is thick with the smell of aromatic herbs, and bees are busy doing their work pollinating. I’m offered a small cherry tomato straight from the vine. An explosion of sweetness bursts in my mouth. I haven’t tasted anything like it in years. Somehow, it reminds me of how the fruit used to taste.”You don’t get that from a supermarket, do ya?” he boasts. We gorge on strawberries, raspberries and blueberries as I’m shown around a series of raised beds next to an area enclosed by chicken wire. Several chickens watch our every move. “They’re so easy to keep and give us incredible eggs, but you gotta watch out for Mr. Fox, of course. So far we haven’t lost any, but I guess it’s just a matter of time.” Onion, potatoes, courgette, brocolli, salad, and beans are plentiful.”It’s a lot of hard work, but helps keeps me fit while there’s no swell.” And that’s just a small part of the benefits, he tells me. “All organic of course; no point using chemicals if you grow your own. I know a lot of people that get a plot on a community garden and give up on it as soon as they realize all the hard work involved, but the labor just makes it all taste so much better. Lazy veg doesn’t taste the same.”

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