Posts Tagged 'surfing'

Have You Fed The Fish?

“Sometimes you’ve got to rewind to go forward.
There’s some good times around the corner.”

From “Have You Fed The Fish?” by Badly Drawn Boy.


The other weekend I headed up to the North West Coast of Scotland with seven others.  The minibus drive through the glens brought us closer to stags than I have ever been as they sheltered in the comparative warmth of the valley in the wee small hours.  We awoke to the beauty of the view from our lochside cottage on Saturday morning to see a dusting of snow on the hilltops.

We drove north to a secret spot and watched the lines on the water come across the horizon with increased rhythm as the tide withdrew and the swell built.  We stripped off in the November air and clambered into our wetsuits, trying to read the sea and the positioning of the rocks on the reef break. 


I felt exhausted just paddling out beyond the whitewater and was happy to just sit on my surfboard and lap up the scenery as I looked over towards the Hebridies.

Truth be told, I was out of my depth, nervous of undoing my knee’s gradual recovery and scared of dashing my board or body on the rocks and boulders below and on the shoreline.  I felt unsteady, tired, injured and out of my comfort zone.  The few waves I tried for took me off with such force that I felt every ligament pulled and stretched close to snapping point as I went through the under surface washing machine desperately trying to protect my head from being whacked.


The afternoon session on the beach break was gorgeous, but I just couldn’t get my technique together despite the near perfect conditions and beautifully peeling waves…

Saturday night, I felt quite discouraged, out of practice, injured and a bit of a fraudster.  Maybe I should sell my board and wetsuit and recognise I’m getting older…

Sometimes, we just need to humble ourselves, stop pretending and recognise our limitations.  There are times to ask advice and questions – to be prepared to take a few steps backwards, to deconstruct notions and rebuild things afresh – to see ourselves as others do and to learn from that – to reposition ourselves – to stop battling against the waves in our own strength, using our own technique and bad habits.   

On Sunday morning we returned to the reef break.  I sat the session out, resting my sore knee and simply enjoying the scenery and the sound of the ocean.  I just took the time to feed my soul and to find pleasure in everyone else’s stoke.


We returned to the beach in the afternoon and, having constantly repeated all of the advice from the day before, it all came together with me catching most of the waves I went for. 

The waves were cresting perfectly and with precise rhythm as the spray projected small rainbows in the offshore wind behind the line-up.  I came out of the water under a setting sun as the stars began to light up, exhausted but deeply chuffed and focussed.


I need humility.  I need to listen.  I need a different stance at times.  I need discipline.  I need practice.  I need focus on the areas I need to work on.  I need to get fitter.  I love the rush.  I love the sence of feeling so small amidst creation.  I love to hear the whoops of my friends’ delight when the conditions come together or someone catches a really great ride.

Maybe the lessons reach far beyond surfing?



The Sound Of The Crowd.

“Get around town,
Get around town.
Where the people look good,
Where the music is loud.
Get around town,
No need to stand proud.
Add your voice to the sound of the crowd”.

From “The Sound OF The Crowd” by Human League.

My daily working life involves gathering and analysing evidence, forming opinions and offering professional advice.  My days regularly involve preparing for meetings with clients, investors or stakeholders whose actions may be influenced in part by what I bring to the table.

Yesterday I had a board meeting with a difference.  My preparation involved taking cover in an underground carpark, dispensing with my suit and trying to avoid suspicion from other carpark users and ensuring I was out of sight of any CCTV cameras. 

A couple of minutes later, I emerged back into the natural daylight to be greeted with strange looks from those wandering about Holyrood Road, Arthur’s Seat and Our Dynamic Earth.  Soon a little crew of like-minded individuals had gathered, all looking a little like fish out of water in the shadow of the Scottish Parliament building.   

Was it a flash-mob?

Was it a publicity stunt?

Was it a demonstration?

What was it all about?

Find out here.

Perfect Day.

“It’s such a perfect day.

I’m glad I spent it with you.

Oh, such a perfect day.

You just keep me hanging on”.

From “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed.


I spent a couple of hours on the bean bags and graffitied old choir seats in my favourite cafe the other week.  We made ourselves at home and enjoyed the crepes and coffees of the Tubestation whilst watching surf videos on the big screen, listening to some mellow sounds and perusing the leaflets and literature lying around.

I had a really encouraging and affirming chat with Henry and Kris who run the place.  Whilst in many ways, I barely know them I feel very connected with them and on the same wavelength.  I will, therefore, always be part of the cheer-section for what God is doing there.

Refreshed and re-energised I clambered into my wetsuit for the first time since June.  I’ve been nursing a knee injury for some time now, but the physiotherapist has given me permission to get back on my surfboard for no more than 30 minutes at a time.

So, after proper stretching and warming up on Polzeath beach, I walked into the sea audibly singing my praise.  Pushing my board against the whitewater and feeling my feet take on the firm sandbar, it wasn’t long till I was paddling out and trying gingerly to catch a few dumpy waves, unsure of how my knee would hold up.

It may not have been the least sketchy or most well styled surf session, but it felt great to be immersed afresh.  As I peeled my way out of a cold, clingy, wet suit in the car park, the backdrop was a perfectly arched rainbow.


Praise be!

This Is The Sea

“These things you keep
You’d better throw them away.
You wanna turn your back
On your soulless days.
Once you were tethered
And now you are free.
Once you were tethered.
Well, now you are free.
That was the river.
This is the sea!”

From “This Is The Sea” by The Waterboys.

I’ve written about the concept of “missional expressions” on my blog before. 

It is the direction our church community is moving in.  Groups of folks clustered around a post-code, people group or shared interest and trying  naturally to be distinct – to bring flavour, to preserve that which is good, to shine a little light in the darkness.  To be outward looking rather than insular.

The leadership asked us to float ideas and the first eleven or so are about to be rolled out and tested between now and February.  So here’s what I’m looking at being a catalyst for:

Soul Surfers –  An opportunity for Christians who surf (or who would like to learn how to) to arrange to do so together.  We will look outwards, intentionally building natural friendships in the surf community and inviting non-Christian friends to join us. We will encourage and support each other, “doing life together”.  We’ll spend time getting to know each other, including our non-churched friends, to live our lives as open books and to build familiarity with those we come in contact with”.

Want to join me in sussing out if there is any mileage in this? 


Surf Wax America

“You take your car to work.  I’ll take my board.
And when your out of fuel, I’m still afloat”.

From “Surf Wax America” by Weezer.

I usually cycle to work.  The car normally only makes it in if it is needed for a particular appointment.  I do, however, love the days when the only reason it accompanies my journey to work is because my surfboard is strapped to the roof and I’m heading out into the sea at the end of the day.  That thought keeps me smiling all day long…

I was meant to be  heading up north for a weekend’s surfari with a group of folks, many of whom I don’t know, this weekend.  Sadly, I’ve been nursing fluid on my knee for the past 6 weeks and I’ve reluctantly accepted my friend Sam’s advice that 4 to 6 full-on surf sessions in BIG SWELL is only likely to set back my recovery…So, I’m back to the doctors to see if they can offer any more advice or physio and I’ve got myself booked on another trip in November. 

Sam’s lastest email read “You sound gutted, but don’t be – I’ll be on the November tour and it will be amazing!  I’ve booked you in”.  That made me smile.  Hopefully it will be amazing – amazing scenery, amazing fun, a sense of amazment at the vastness of the ocean and its refreshing and cleansing qualities, amazing laughs over food and drinks and maybe just some little significant words in season that nudge us all a little closer to amazing grace…

I’ve been in training for this trip -trying to cycle lots, do some weights, read surf books and watch surf movies to get me into the right headspace.  I watched this short clip and it scared the living daylights out of me.  This is for real.  Whilst I’m hoping we score decent swell and an offshore wind in November and when we’re in Cornwall next month, I never want to see anything like this unless it’s on a DVD!

Life’s What You Make It

“Baby, life’s what you make it.

Celebrate it.

Anticipate it.

Yesterday’s faded.

Nothing can change it.

Life’s what you make it”

From “Life’s What You Make It” by Talk Talk.


I’ve been thinking a lot in recent weeks about stories and how they help us make sense of our place in time and space.

We use metaphors to describe life.  I most frequently think of it as a journey.  What if it is a story? 

Famous people often get asked, “Who would play you in the film of your life story?”  What a bizarre question to be asked of the rest of us.  My life feels a lot more uneventful than how I imagined it might have played out when I was a teenager.  No international stardom for me.  My life often seems hum-drum and run of the mill, but I love it too.  When I stop to think about it, I realise there are shed loads of things to be thankful for.

As I think about my own story, I realise how often I shun or avoid the word “Christian” in certain company.  It holds so many negative connotations.  It is loaded with baggage which would lead people to jump to a whole bunch of assumptions about me and my world view – many of which would be wrong.  Maybe it’s time to reclaim what being a follower of Jesus is?

Our church leadership are an amazing bunch of folks.  I’ve seen little glimpses of so much that is done behind the scenes in recent weeks.  I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on a Sunday morning.  Karl concluded a four part series this week and his message about the restoration of all things was so refreshing, so engaging and so inspiring.  Why have we so often made it about something it’s not?  Isn’t it time to start living for what we believe in?

I recently heard someone pray for “death to religion”.  That may sound shocking to some, but I knew what they meant and couldn’t agree more.  What if we started to get a fresh vision for what we’re meant to be making of our lives?  To realise that we can invest our time and energies in things of significance and still enjoy life to the full. 

If history is ultimately a story, then as today fades to yesterday that itself forms part of the story.  We have the ability to write ourselves in or out.  Life’s what we make it.  Our decisions have consequences and we’re not meant to figure it all out alone.

Sometimes we need to humble ourselves and abandon ourselves to something bigger than us.  Today it was hugely meaningful for me to get past the awkwardness factor and to actually go to the front of our church and have one of the leaders place oil on my head and to pray for anointing.  To pray for a realisation that I am who I am and that I don’t need to pretend to be someone else.  There’s something heartening to realise that people who know our lifestyles can pray specifically into them.  To pray about: the situations I feel I can coast through on my own strength; the meetings and presentations that I feel more apprehensive about; my words and conduct in the day to day goings on of the office and the wider circle of people my work brings me in contact with; my role and responsibilities at home and in family life; the time I’ll spend with friends surfing this week. 

There’s something refreshing about stopping, being still and refocusing on how we live our day to day lives. 

Baby, life’s what you make it.

Natalie’s Party

“Heading for the beach, head for the sea.

Belongs to you belongs to me”.

From “Natalie’s Party” by Shack.


I love the beach.  Just to kick off my shoes or Birkenstocks and walk on the sand or to submerge my feet in the cool water.  I love those rare times where I have needed to stoop and to walk, bent over, into the wind – wrapped up as the white sea foam cascades with my sole aim of enjoying the battering and looking forward to the shelter of a warm cafe…

This week BBC’s Panorama unearthed a frightening story of the state of many of Britain’s beaches and the resultant water quality of our coastlines.  One particularly novel stunt was for the reporter to drive an ice-cream van around Cornish beaches and to secretly film customers.  When he handed them their ice-cream he warned them that there was a 1 in 7 chance that they might get ill if they ate the ice-cream they all looked baffled and refused to take it. 

Who would willingly take that risk?  Yet, many of the beaches that are monitored by the Environment Agency and SEPA and which have “good” or “excellent” blue flag status offer such risks for those who venture into the water.  This affects those who walk dogs, whose kids play on the beach, surfers, canoeists, kite-boarders, body boarders, etc.  You can find out more here.

Surfers Against Sewage are trying to place pressure on Scottish Water to clean up their act.  If we get success with our first campaign then we can focus on other Scottish beaches.  Our first target is Pease Bay in East Lothian.  We need to get 500 signatures by next week.  We’re only halfway there.  Could you take a few seconds to add your support by clicking here?

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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