Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Path to the Dark Side

There is many a path to the dark side. You can walk along a tight rope never really falling off, but when you fall, damn it's hard to surface again. You can be the greatest person in the world, but all it takes is one small insignificant moment....And then. Everything. Changes.

'I want revenge. I can't bear that people might think he got one over me. I can't stand that people expected me to come off worse. I hate that his life goes on, nothing changes. He's a great guy I hear. Total accident. Most of all I detest being forgotten. All I would have wanted were occasional words of kindness and encouragement'.

It's so hard when you feel your blood boil and you wanna put right something that is wrong, but you can't. Not many understand why you yearn to do this. Or why you feel such a need.

This week a Premiership footballer called Dean Ashton had to retire through injury. At the age of 26. In my opinion, most footballers are pampered, greedy, arrogant prima donnas (with the odd exceptions). By all accounts Dean Ashton was an all round good guy. He had made it the hard way. Coming up through lower leagues before getting a big money move to a premiership club. He had so much potential and it was gone, just like that. One. Badly. Timed. Tackle. Over.

There is talk now that Ashton may sue either the player who tackled him, the players club or the football association. A lot of people are hoping he doesn't and can't understand why he would think about it.

Well let me tell you something. Unless you've had a serious injury that has taken a long time to come back from, you won't understand. There's a need for closure, for righting the wrong and for feeling that nobody has 'got one over you'. The mental torment this guy must have been under is immense. I can just about begin to imagine it, so for others they will have no idea.

The anger, subsides most of the time. It doesn't even bubble away under the surface. But sometimes; a photo, a memory, and instantaneously, it's right back to 12 months ago.

The maxim, 'carpe diem' has never been truer. Live your life for each day, forgetting things that don't matter. Let them go.

Easier said than done....

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

End of an Era

Good times come and good times go. And even though at the time you know how great they are, part of you is itching to recreate it before it has even finished. Then when you do try and recreate's never the same.

A lot has changed in the last 18 months. Not just superficial stuff like work, home, love etc. But physical and emotional things too.

The last couple of years has seen a huge amount of people come in and out of my life. I guess I've always been a bit of a drifter, drifting from one group to another. Some of these people were good, some downright awesome and some not so good. But most of them have faded away now. Either physically moved or just drifted, but it feels the end of an era.

I guess now is a good time for reflection. Yesterday, my doc told me that I didn't have to come back to the hospital again for 6 months. I can do a lot of stuff with my leg now, within reason. It seems to be healing well. But reading between the lines, I can safely say that I won't be able to play hockey again for the forseeable future, if at all.

I liked belonging to a team with Hockey, however shambolic a team it was! It was Hockey that allowed me to meet various great people; Finn, Tigger, the Coach, number 35, May Day and more. People I learnt a lot from. Some I still hear from, some I don't.

I guess there always comes a time when thigns have to change. Rather than look back being wistful and nostalgic, I guess the way to look is ahead.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A list

You know you sometimes wander along and get that know the one I mean? You smell or hear something and all your senses rushing to the fore at once, a gazillion memories flooding back at the same time and usually accompanied by a pang of nostalgia.

Here's a list of things I like that make this happen :)

1. The smell after a thunderstorm
2. Hearing 'When I come Around' play
3. Being tucked up in bed when it is miserable, cold and raining buckets outside
4. Running around in a heavy downpour
5. Sitting out back with a close friend
6. Walking to the train station early morning, when the sun is shining and the streets are empty
7. Drinking pimms and lemonade
8. Smell of a bbq
9. Drinking Fosters draught in a bar

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Back in the Old Routine

Saturday 10th October. I finally made it back in the water. It's been a long time.

I'd squeezed in a trip to the states, where a lot of walking, cycling and swimming and stepped up my rehab somewhat. Though only 5 weeks off crutches and not allowed to do anything too strenuous, I though I might be able to squeeze in a short surf trip.

As luck would have it, the Boss was back in town. Granted 2 weeks leave from fighting in Afghan, he was more than willing to hit the old road trip route and reminisce over the past.

Being a little older this time. Not going above 80 and accompanied by girlfriends, we road-tripped to North Devon and setup camp. Everything was set for an end-of-season BBQ and some swapping of war stories around the camp fire.

The surfing itself was good on Saturday. The forecast hadn't been too promising, but the weather was warm, sea still manageable in a summer suit and the sun shining. The waves were regular and in the 3 foot range, even if they lacked a little power.

I'd already prepared myself for the fact I would have no chance of being on a board, so was content to take in a bodyboard and pick off a few waves as and when they had enough juice to assist me. Unfortunately, my ankle was still too weak to allow me to kick for any weaker waves. But I was back, I was happy.

The Boss however seemed to have other ideas. Mellowed by age and experience, but still as eager as ever, he owned the waves. I'm not sure that I have ever seen him surf with such enthusiasm and skill, after such a long layoff. It was a pleasure to be back in the water with the guy it all started with.

The short trip has shown me where I need to work my leg to improve and get back surfing properly. I'm on it.

Friday, 2 October 2009

All Mouth No Trousers

Pecs to die for, a sculpted six-pack, boardies worn low and the latest board shaped by Al Merrick. Owning a pristine VW camper and spending a week each Summer in Newquay. Now that's what it takes to be a surfer. Facebook is full of people who pose as surfers in their profile pictures, but probably haven't been out back, let alone stood on anything more advanced than a foamy.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people learning to surf. Totally the opposite. I love people taking it up and the excitement they get once they are hooked. I still remember the feeling I had when I caught my first ever wave on a big foam Swell board. It's the feeling I'm still trying to recreate 8 years on.

My gripe though, is when people lack humility, they have to act the 'big I am'. Owning a board, driving to Newquay and looking the part, don't make you a surfer.

I remember I saw a photo of a friends 'love interest', on myspace. The guy used to rave about how he was a surfer, yada, yada, yada. Sure he looked the part, the hair, the clothes, but this photo.......well, not only was he walking along the beach at sunset carrying his board (oh yeah a 6'2 thruster that would rarely get use in this country!), he had his leash round his ankle. Mistake number 1. Nobody walks down the beach with a leash round their ankle, you trip over the damn thing! I could have forgiven him though, I mean the guy might have been Jeebus and floated across the sand, avoiding leash tripping (yeah right!). The clincher though........he was wearing his skin tight white vest with his boardies. Was he gonna wear that out there or put it in his pocket?! It was more like the Abercrombie and Fitch 05 catalogue shoot.

Who cares what people ride or where they do it. Who cares if it's the fashionable surf spot to be at or the gnarliest. Surfing isn't about macho bullshit or partying 24/7 then surfing. Surfing comes from within. It isn't something you do, it's a state of mind. It isn't the physical act of being in the water and partaking in a watersport. It is something you feel. Something grounded in humility. Something anyone can be part of, but they cannot own it or allow their ego to be bigger than it.


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

In the Present - Part One

We sat on the headland as the sun was warming the sky. Looking out to sea, the lines of swell were already marching in. The sea churned in organised chaos. The surrounding terrain; rocky, dangerous cliffs - reminding us how beautiful the coastline could be. The sky looked unpredictable, reds colliding with black, blue and grey. The resultant collage reflecting the state of Johnny's mind.

I sat there on the damp grass, cross legged and watching. A light morning breeze cooled me and contrasted with the first warming rays of the sun. Was I warm or cold? The conflict played on my mind, as did the events of the last 6 months. Peace. That's what we had come here for. To get away from everything and find some peace.

I sat watching Johnny for a while. He appeared to be watching the swell roll in, but I knew he wasn't paying it much attention. Like me, he was mulling over recent events and trying to make sense of it all. The build up to it, the loss, why did it have to happen? What a waste.

We sat there for maybe an hour more. In silence, just watching. Waiting.

We heard the tyres on gravel as a car slowly pulled in behind us, both turning as it slowed. A figure stepped out and spoke. 'You ready? Let's go.'

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The journey is a Marathon

Impatience can be a terrible trait. I've always seen myself as a sprinter, rather than a Marathon runner. And by this I mean, I want everything and I want it now. I'm the kind of guy who would rush a relationship and cram 2 years worth into 2 months. Why? I don't know. I've never felt or had the urge to really tackle something slowly and methodologically and reap the benefits after I have put in the bulk of work. I see and want the end product, with none of the dedication to the craft that is required. I'm like a walking, talking, breathing 0% finance Buy Now Pay Later deal!

It could be that the good influence of some people has finally rubbed off. Perhaps seeing how well Merlin is doing in NYC, that Sampras now has a family, including a 12 week old daughter or even that the Boss is in Afghan defending his country. I'm no longer grasping after a youth, feeling I wasted it and need to relive it. I was there, I packed in as much as I could and I'm all the stronger for the rest of the journey.

Now, I've got a long-term woman, decent job that I worked for and made mine, career prospects and I'm studying some new qualifications in my own time. I've practically forgotten that my leg is still in a cast and has been for nearly 9 months. Priorities have shifted and I learnt to be patient.

There's one thing keeping me patient without fail. The thought of surfing once again. Lately, I've read a few surf fiction books. Very creative, expressive and linguistic. They've really amped me for getting back in the water.

I no longer care how good I can be or whether I'll ever be anything but ordinary in the water - but don't mistake it for a lack of competitiveness. I'm just glad I will get the chance to take part once more. A shattered shinbone could have kept me out of the water permanently. Take a step back and realise what it means to be merely competent at something. Is there anything wrong with being, just ordinary?

So what's my point? How does learning to be patient, being prepared to put in the work for the reward, looking forward to something again and seeing the bigger picture link up? Well, finally I do see the big picture. It isn't about the destination at all. It isn't about everything culimating in a one-off moment. It's all about the journey too.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Priorities, timing, effort, perseverance.....

It's funny how priorities change over the years. One minute all you care about is nightclubs, chasing skirt and the next pay cheque and the next minute you're preferring upmarket wine bars to night clubs and getting satisfaction out of work.

I've definitely been the slowest out of all the guys to appreciate growing up. I still stuck to my youthful dreams - skateboarding, riding, surfing - no idea how to take them with me into adulthood. Bouncing from one calamity to another and self-destructing whenever anything went well. Running scared of approaching the big 3-0 and thinking I was forever 18. But as I got older the girls got younger and your outlook changes. It happens to us all.

Merlin was the first I would say. Slogged his guts out for his dream job, now travels the world, earns a lot and married to the girl of his dreams. Always knew where he was going and was in a rush to get there, but boy was it worth it!

The Captain and Sampras quickly followed. Homeowners, marriage and kids. They are happy, have beautiful families and good jobs - hell if they aren't role models to me, I dunno what would be?! I'm proud of them all.

Gradually everything falls into place - you can't force the issue, you just find your path naturally works.

Some people I envy, because they seem to know where their path lies before it's been made. They forge on, aware of their destination and reach it in record time. The rest of us are left wallowing in wrong turns or a jungle of dead ends - like me clinging on to my younger days.

Some people struggle to give up dreams and become older and why should they?

A good friend of mine, Finn, has recently taken steps towards achieving his dream of playing a particular sport at the highest level. He never gave up or thought his time had passed. He kept plugging away, perseverance earning him the reward and then his path opened out right where he wanted it to. I'm proud of the guy. As well as talent, he has guts, determination and hard work going for him.

Merlin once said 'nothing worth having ever comes easy' - the simplest statement but so true. Doesn't matter how good at something you are, or how much you want something to be yours - if you don't put in the effort and hard work, it will never be.

I don't have to give up anything I love, I just need to keep my path clear, keep working ahrd, glide all obstacles and know where I'm heading. And right now that looks like a helluva sweet place.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

A New Dawn

I’ve not written for a while. I’ve not felt sufficiently inspired or motivated. That’s not to say things haven’t been going well. For once everything seems to be falling into place. A new (lush!) home, a great girlfriend and soul mate and a new job. I just haven’t had that burning need to write something down – that spark when something that means something to you blazes into your mind.

Now though.......

I guess amongst all the highs come the lows. I’m still here, 7 months later, with a bust leg. I’m waiting for another operation that should speed up the healing process, though I remain unconvinced. It seems whoever I speak to gives conflicting advice. I know that they’re just there to help and do the best for you, but does that mean you shouldn’t question things? Does questioning and voicing an opinion go against trying to be a better person?

It seems this 2nd operation will put me out of action for a short time (again). The recovery isn’t as straightforward as I hoped and there is no guarantee it’ll work. Quite a different description than I was told before. Then to make me feel even more buoyant, I was cheerily informed I may be able to surf but might have to ‘knock mountain biking on the head’! Not what I was told originally………

I guess getting back into the swing and routine of life, I’ve forgotten a lot of my lessons I recently learnt. Now is the time to drag them from the dark, cluttered, corners of my mind and dust them down.

Out of adversary comes strength. I believe in concepts such as SISU and have the mental strength to overcome obstacles along my path. Ultimately, there are people far worse off than me.

However, I vow, once back on my feet, I’ll never take things for granted or waste valuable time again. I intend to champion the cause for people who cannot take life for granted as we do so often.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Smell after the Storm

Life is full of so many obstacles, sometimes it becomes impossible to navigate your way safely on a day-to-day basis. We experience one trauma, then another, which sends us crashing and spinning into something else and in turn we bounce from obstacle-to-obstacle like we’re trapped in our own life-size pinball machine.

When this happens and the moments of uplift are few and far between, how do we seek light? As Merlin once said to me; ‘I thought I saw light at the end of the tunnel, then I realised it was some bas**rd with a torch bringing me more work to do!’. Does light exist?

The last 6 months, plus recent developments and a setback in my rehab, have challenged me to find the answer to this. And I think I may have done.

Our imaginations are powerful tools. I had forgotten how to utilise mine. How to picture wonderful sights, sounds and smells, dream of exciting adventures and feel at peace. I’ve recently been losing myself in books and this has unlocked my mind once more.

Picture this….I’m sat at my desk at work, routinely working through the day to day tasks and wishing many things. I wish I had more money, 2 working legs, some food, a clean kitchen, no work and so on……..Suddenly, in a flash, the memory of sand running through my fingers came into my head. Dunno what made me think of this, or why? Warm, golden sand. Microscopic, fine particles, being poured from one hand to the next, my fingers digging into the sand, feeling the warmth of the surface and the coldness as I dig further…..memories of being on a beach, perhaps mid-surf session…..

The warm feeling this memory conjured up in my stomach, led me to seek further recollections that brought the same reaction. Memories that would give that fuzzy feeling inside and make you see how much easier the journey should and could be.

The smell of freshly cut grass, sat with the Captain in his parents garden. The empty streets of a dawn city centre, while me, the Boss and Merlin staggered home at 6am. The smell in the air after a heavy summer thunder storm whilst surfing in Croyde. The satisfaction of an ice cream on a hot day riding in the forest. A bottle of ice cold water when you are thirsty, the sound of waves crashing, early summer mornings, bathing in the warm shallows and so on and so on……

I guess my point is this. Life doesn’t need to be so tough and hard work. Light can and will be found in all the small moments. The simple but pleasurable moments are what brings us the light. All we have to do is……………..close out eyes and remember them.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

When You Wish Upon a Star

Remember that intense feeling of your own beating heart and the constant churning in your stomach? The realisation that you feel sick and there’s nothing you can do to make it stop? Like a ship without a rudder, all you can do is look up and make a wish.

Some people use this anxiety to their advantage. I know Merlin does in his martial arts training. A fight or flight response. In fact, he advocates that it is far better to feel nerves than not. Then there is no danger of complacency and it reminds you you’re alive.

Other sportsman use them too. To motivate or ‘gee themselves’ up for a big moment in their field. To turn it to their advantage, feed off it and use it to dominate.

I remember when Sampras got married and I was his best man. I don’t think I physically started thinking about the speech I had to make until the day before. Then it was sweaty palms time, shortness of breath, panicked thoughts and an impatience to get it out the way. Anxiety and nerves lead to stress, which in turn makes you feel like you are failing and useless.

What’s always funny about this situation, but I still never seem to learn this lesson, is whatever you are worried about, never turns out as bad as you think it will be. My best-man speech went down a treat, I got congratulations from strangers and hopefully Sampras, as well as his new bride, enjoyed it.

I’m the same with interviews. As I write this, I’m watching the clock count down the minutes until an interview. The nerves are increasing and I’m assuming I’ll get in there and have nothing to say. They’ll look at me wondering in astonishment what I am doing there and I’ll shrink, slowly, becoming smaller and smaller…I’ll have failed, I’ll feel paranoid that they are mocking everything I say and so it goes on and on…..

When I was young, I couldn’t talk to girls either. The same constraining feelings would leave me feeling emotionally crippled – were they laughing at me? Did they hate me?

When I used to skate with Merlin and the Captain back in the day. I had the natural skill to be at a much higher level than I was, but I was always held back by nerves. A fear of falling, of failing, or looking stupid, perhaps of not fitting in?

Experiencing nerves and anxiety about the direction of my life in general is a daily occurrence. I worry where I am, where I am going and how on earth I am going to get there.

The only time I never experience nerves negatively, is sitting out back on a surfboard. Whether it’s the gentle rocking of the ocean or the feeling of being close to nature, I don’t know. I’ve paddled into some big surf, surf that was way out of my league, I’ve got caught on rocks many times with seemingly no easy escape, but during all these times, I’ve fed off any anxiety in a positive way. I’d almost go as far as to say I’ve embraced the feeling.

Perhaps with surfing, there isn’t a point where you have to stop and psyche yourself up for something. The energy in the water means you are constantly in motion, the waves shape and size constantly changing and thus you, the surfer, never have a moment where you pause like in other aspects of life and can take stock of the situation. There is never time to think about how good you are, how you look, who is watching or what you are doing in that moment.

I used to use alcohol and other substances to block out the feelings of anxiety, nerves, depression and despair. But that isn’t what I’m about anymore.

It could be that the Captain’s teachings are finally getting through to me? Maybe, it is seeing the Boss grow and make some of the best decisions he has ever made? Perhaps it is seeing Sampras become a Father? These guys inspire me and help me to grow. I know it is all of these things and more.

Pulling all this together, is StarGirl, who has given me more love, respect and advice than people I’ve know for years and has shown me how to see the world through new eyes. A tripod cannot have more than 3 legs, but it will always be there and perhaps I’ve found my lobster instead.

Life shouldn’t be about worry.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

What price to sell your Soul?

What price to sell your soul? Perhaps a pound of flesh for a pound of flesh or the undetectable loss of 21 grams? You shake hands with the devil, you have to be prepared to pay a price.

I always preach being true to yourself. Never sacrificing what you believe in and treating others how you wish to be treated. I've been trying to be a good person. How hard does that sound? Sounds like the easiest thing in the world right? Well, as I mentioned right back at the start of this journey; dying is the easy part, living is the hard part. Being true to yourself and others? Hard to say the least....

I've lived a selfish life. I've seen and experienced things that live in darkness. I purposefully chose to walk in the shadows of life for a while; to toughen myself up and lose some of the naivety and innocence that seemed ingrained within me. It was a conscious choice and ironically, sometimes, I wish I could go back 10 years and reverse that decision. It's my belief I sold my soul, to trade one lifestyle, that I felt wasn't rewarding or desirable, for another that on the surface had all the aspects I could dream of.

The thing is, there's certain lifestyles you lead that have consequences. There is only so many things you can get away with before someone decides to collect. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating being boring and I know how to live. But there is a line. I spent most of my time on the other side of that line. For me, it is all or nothing. Whatever you think you've done that's crazy, multiply it. I never boast, brag or show an ego, but I can assure you that whatever you've done in life, it is kids stuff to me.

So, I felt I needed to seek imrprovement. I accepted breaking my leg. The way it happened, the severity of the break and the length of recovery time. All with fairly good grace - though I've had my moments! I figured it was my time to pay. Dismiss it as rubbish if you wish, but karma exists. I was happy, willing and it was the right time to pay my pound of flesh. The time off allowed me to reflect on things and improve myself. As you may have read throughout this journey, I truly believed I had changed for the better and improved myself for my benefit and others around me.

Turns out that isn't true.

A leopard cannot change his spots that soon. Maybe deep down, there is part of me that truly is the boy I was 10 years past. Or maybe, I'm kidding myself and should just embrace who I am now? Maybe my quest for high-standards, over-thinking and perfection means I'm always doomed to fail. Whatever is true, I do know this. I've not served penance for the past and recent events have condemned me even further. I just wish I had the words or actions to show how sorry I am for the choices I have made and the people who have been hurt. Rather than blaming others, I should seek to put right those things within my control.

I know only 2 people in life to have never 'sold their soul' so to speak. The Captain and Sampras. Maybe, looking up to them, I'm just setting myself unrealistic targets to achieve?

But should we not at least try to achieve that which is out-of-reach? Last week one of my idols, Ricky Hatton, lost his 2nd bid for the title of greatest boxer in the world. Is he a disgrace for falling short of his target? No. But he at least had the balls to try.

I've gone from thinking I had it all figured out, to not having a clue. Jeez, does anyone or are they all just pretending?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Out of the Game

As I sit at my desk working, my mind is always wandering. I’m constantly restless. I know deep down that I don’t belong in an office, it’s almost like a cage to me. But in this life our choices exist within certain boundaries. And as a good friend recently said; ‘It is usually more profitable and successful to follow the path of least resistance’.

Why am I so restless? Well, I guess 5 months of not having total freedom are slowly pushing me to the edge. I’ve lost the skip in my step that was in existence a few weeks ago. I’ve lost some of my compassion for other people and slowly I am losing the desire to be a better person and better myself. All negative things and stuff I must stop. Other people, work and life in general seem designed to bring you to this state. It seems there is a game you have to play in life and those who have power or get off on making others miserable, are the winners.

Of course I could easily blame other people for the loss of spring in my step.

I won’t blame others though. Although it is hard to take the high road, rise above the monotonous of everyday crap and ignore others when they seem to be at their most irritating, annoying and bullying. It is something worth pursuing. As I recently said to Moony who was experiencing some of the same feelings as me, towards others; you need to take a step back and put things in perspective. Out of the billions of people in this world, who cares what a few say, do or think. Their lives must suck if they have to make themselves feel better in such a way.

5 months of staring at walls, relying on others and constantly explaining the same story over and over, slowly grate. But I’ve got to look on the bright side. I’m fit and healthy and I’ll soon have my freedom back. I’m taking myself out of this game. Office politics aren’t for me. Games of one-upmanship the same. While they waste their lives playing them, I’ll be metaphorically sticking 2 fingers up, whilst sat outback on my board, facing the horizon.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Magic of True Friendship

I think it is hard to make new, good, close friends as you get older. The ones you have tend to be people you’ve known a while and I guess you tend to spend the majority of your time with your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband.

I don’t make new close friends easily. I think it’s because I’ve been burnt too many times, taken in and let down or just because they are extremely unreliable. I like to think I’m a good judge of character nowadays. And the times you get somebody that everyone raves about, I’ll usually see through the bullshit and spot them for what they are deep down.

Aside from my oldest friends and fellow tripod legs I went to school with, I’ve actually had the good fortune of meeting some great people over the last few years. The Coach, Finn, Boobs and Willow, have all been there when it’s mattered and will be friends for life. But one friend I’ve known for about 12 years and is very important, is Merlin.

Possibly the hardest working, most talented individual I have ever met. He went from being one of the crowd, occasionally confident but often shy, to standing out head and shoulders above everyone else.

A black belt in Karate, a Sensei himself, a world renowned leader on Microsoft products (trust me, you’d see if you Googled him!), a husband, photographer, a resident on THE Wall Street, a survivor and most of all, a great friend.

Over the years Merlin has turned his hand to most things with great success. While we spent our late teens getting drunk, he spent his working his way up the corporate IT ladder to a worldwide recognised status. I took him surfing once, he stood within 5 minutes. He took up Karate when he was 17 and now teaches it himself AND studies with the grand master in Japan. He had a bash at Snowboarding and by all accounts is now a regular showcasing his skills in Vermont. He liked some of my photos, so decided to take up Photography – he now produces images that are magazine cover-worthy! He took up mountain biking and….well you can guess the rest!

The guy is an actual wizard. He makes magic happen, in every sense of the word. You spend time with him and it’s like the spotlight shines on you that little bit more too. Never a dull moment, never a boring story, every experience shared with him enriches your life further.

Now to any outside reader, this may seem a little sycophantic. But I think that when somebody is one of the most driven, hard working and inspiring individuals you’ve met, it should be mandatory to give credit where credit is due. He’s also a central figure in these rambling stories I tell. If he isn’t in them, he’s shaped my opinions and views in some way.

It’s important to note that he isn’t one of those people blessed with good fortune in everything they touch. The kind of person that does exactly what they want in life and possesses no humility, yet still seems to succeed at everything they try. Merlin is the opposite of this. Through a mixture of mental titanium toughness, talent, humility, strength in adversity and a discipline for hard work that seems to have been forged in another time and place, this is one individual who deserves anything and everything good that comes their way.

Of course being jealous of other people is never a good thing. But it is always so much more refreshing, when it is an individual who deserves every bit of success that comes their way. Especially when they have worked so hard for it.

You can usually count the people you can really rely on on one hand. Merlin is on that list for sure.

The word average could never be used in the same sentence as this guy. I accept I may never reach the heights he has, but it gives me great pleasure just being along for the ride.

Summer and Stubbies

5pm on a Friday afternoon and the sun was still shining. Work was finished for the week and the cars were loaded. The usual faces were there; the Captain, the Boss, myself and a few others. Our tents and sleeping bags packed and most importantly, our boards were loaded on the roof. Road trip time.

2 hours later and spirits were still high. We’d hit the M5 in Devon, stopped to refuel with an all-day breakfast at Little Chef and we were back on the road. The M5 gave us ample opportunity to fill our water bombs (condoms!) and launch these from one car to the other. Direct hit from the Boss! Unfortunately, my return fire was a little weak, due to me throwing like a girl!

Once the condoms were used up, ammunition consisted of boiled sweets, pies, custard doughnuts and anything else of a messy and hard to clean nature! Boys will be boys, and this was quickly followed by a mooning competition and then a sketchy race between the Boss and Captain to see who could navigate the M5 in the most pant-wettingly and quickest amount of time.

Tents setup, a couple of beers and we hit the sack, ready for a day of surfing for some of us and a pummelling from the waves for the rest.

10am and we hit the beach, the place is like a zoo as we try and surf amongst ankle biters, bikini clad chicks and even a family and their oversized inflatable boat!

After a quick break for lunch the waves had jacked up. Offshore breeze, clean A-frame peaks and heights of 6 foot plus. The sense of anticipation was great, we were salivating at the prospect of being that close to nature.

There’s less traffic in the water now and the only liabilities seem to be the weekend warriors. You know who I mean…the posers with their shiny new boards, unused wetsuits and Daddy’s 4x4. The kinda people who may have been popular when you were at school, yet 10 years later still think they’re ‘the man’. They list surfing as their main interest after standing for a few seconds on a foamy in Newquay.

Sitting out back, straddling the board, facing the horizon. The sea pitches slightly, a solid green lump rises and heads for me. A perfect line of swell. A quick turn, I lay down on the board, check over my shoulder for the waves position and I paddle, arcing my turn towards the peak of the wave. The swell hits me, I feel the energy and I paddle faster. As soon as I can I hit my feet and angle down the line, letting the energy of the wave take me. I survive the elevator drop and pull in, pumping the board and racing along the clean face of the wave. I bottom turn hard and angle up the face, I go to top turn, but the waves quicker than I am and the curl takes me clean off the board. I recover and with a huge smile and a hoot, I paddle back out to the line up. Job done.

The evening arrived and this meant one thing. Barbeque time. The Captain decided as well as a feast of sausages and burgers, he was going to buy up the shop’s entire stock of alcohol. Alongside the crate of beer (stubbies of course), there was a bottle of vodka, a bottle of whisky and a selection of brightly coloured, garish looking alcopops! The Captain demands that nobody can sleep until the stash is drunk dry.

The evening flew by in a blaze of chat, food and drink. Talk about the waves, the wipe-outs and where we’d like to surf. A fire was built to toast marshmallows and this slowly turns to chaos as the soft, gooey and very sticky marshmallows became ammunition to use against each other.

As the fire slowly dies we drift off to our tents. The food gone and the alcohol severely diminished.

Deep sleep quickly follows, followed even quicker by the Captain waking everyone at 4am to tell us of the latest entry in the Captain’s log. He has not only finished the rest of the stubbies, he’s also taken care of the whisky and vodka too! We throw things at him and fall asleep chuckling.

The next day we cleared up with a spring in our step. Another great surf trip under our belts. This happiness is only slightly tempered by the discovery of one lone stubby the Boss missed the night before. Can he bring himself to drink it? Alas, no. But not to worry, with one quick move, the Boss took the beer and chugged it in one. No thinking, no hesitating. That’s why they call him the Boss.

It is for the reasons above I surf and when the warm fingers of the sun touch me around May each year, my mind permanently wanders to memories such as that above.

I’ll see you out back.

The Bigger Man

Sometimes, everything can get that little bit too much. Everybody annoys you and you just feel stuck in a rut. People just talking in general, grates. Any remark made, even in jest, pisses you off. And you spend your day wishing for another time, another place….anywhere but where you are.

Today is one of those days.

Life is going swimmingly, nothing has particularly happened and progress is being made. So what’s the problem? Well, for starters, everything is moving to slow for my liking. I’m not a fan of patience and hate feeling like I’m living in glue. I know where I want to be, but I’m not getting there fast enough. Maybe 5 months of not being able to walk, having to depend on others for too many things and not having the freedom to do what I want, has finally got to me?

Whatever the reason, the one thing I need to remember is this - there are far more people, in far worse positions than I will ever be. It’s impossible to get on with everyone all the time and the few that do irritate you, make up such a small amount of the population it renders them insignificant.

Through all of this, trying to stay true to your beliefs is the hardest thing in the world. How can you be who you want to be, when others won’t let you? When someone pisses you off, it’s natural to react. If someone puts you down, it’s natural to fire back at them. And when things just don’t feel like they’re going your way, it’s hard not to hate and blame the world.

Hell, I’m too old for these games of one-upmanship, playing the alpha male and conversations consisting entirely of ‘banter’. Sometimes it’s harder, yet entirely more fulfilling, to not fight every battle and just to let things go. Let them wash over you. Take the high road, be the bigger man, whatever you want to call it, it comes down to the same thing. Who really is the better man? The kid who is ‘young, dumb and full of cum’(to rip-off Point Break!) and talks far too much or the wiser, kinder, more fulfilled figure, who tries to stay true to themselves and whose serene exterior belies the life they have lived and the adventures they have experienced?

Nowadays my tastes are simple. Good company, good conversation, a couple of beers and some good memories - forged by summers spent in Croyde with the Boss, the ‘gay’ centerparcs holiday with Sampras, lazy evenings skating and living it up in Manhattan with Merlin and Seth/Ryan time with the Captain.

When it just isn’t going your way, sit back, close your eyes to the world and cherish the good times you’ve experienced. Nobody can take those away from you. Maybe throw on a tune that takes you someplace else, but ultimately, look at what you have and not what you don’t have.


Thursday, 16 April 2009

Back in the Saddle

Over the years, I've often wanted to be better at things than I am. Better than I probably am capable of being. It has frustrated and depressed me in equal measures. It is not so much that I won’t put the effort in if it is something I truly want, it is more that I struggle to see how I will ever get to the place I want to be.

What got me thinking about this was a book I recently read, named ‘Surf Nation’ by Alex Wade. The story of his travels round the British Isles surfing different breaks and meeting locals struck a chord with me. It also brought home how I always feel I am never quite at the level I want to be. The level he was at, to make his trip possible. I don’t want to be a pro or even one of the best at the break, I just want to be solid and hold my own. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself? This coupled with my current lack of mobility and being unable to do anything about it, may be, making me underestimate myself.

But the same goes for my riding too. When things click together, I feel like I am riding well, the lines I’m taking fast and smooth and certain things on a bike come so easily to me. But do I ever get to that level where I want to be? That level where countless other people are and I always seem to be slightly behind? I don’t, no. What holds me back is a fear, a fear of failing and a presumption that what I'm trying won’t work. I fail before I even try.

Maybe the way the media pumps images at us; of individuals performing impossible superhuman feats on bikes or boards, means we defeat ourselves before we have even tried?

My first reaction after shattering my tibia and fibula, was to pack in anything too adventurous and adrenalin filled. Not because I didn’t want to hurt myself, break something else or because I thought the plates in my leg would affect my performance. More because losing 6 months of your life to 1 thing is pretty tough mentally. It’s basically a pain in the ass!

As my recovery has gone on and accelerated recently, my viewpoint has switched. Mainly, this has been due to nightly chats with Finn over how tough certain sports can be mentally, how you need to really love what you are doing to succeed at your level and how mentally you can grow from something like this. Why give up something you love, something that makes the world make sense and something that courses and flows through your entire being, body and soul? I owe this guy a lot for his advice. His dedication to the game of hockey is awe-inspiring.

Additionally, meeting up with the Boss brought back a lot of memories of summers past when we rode and surfed from dawn until dusk. The Boss was the one rider who would push me, on the trail and in the water. He’d take me out of my comfort zone and push the boundaries of what I thought I could achieve.

6 months out isn’t long. I’m incredibly lucky. I’ve got a good job, awesome girlfriend, great friends and a love for riding and surfing that cannot be taken away. I’ve learnt to be patient and more forgiving over the last 6 months and I’m a better more rounded person. Everything happens for a reason.

My friends are going to be driven crazy once I’m back on my bike. I want, no I need, people to push me, force me beyond where is comfortable. We have the talent, so let’s make the most of it? I apologise in advance to any of them who get annoyed with me constantly pushing them to ride Wales and the Alps! But to me….the Captain, Sampras and the Boss, you guys have the ability to create memories that will last forever. Amongst our group we could be legends, so I make no apology for that. I want to look back when I’m 75 and smile, remembering how Sampras blitzed a black run in Wales, how the Boss nailed a jump at Lordswood and how the Captain rode singletrack as sweet and smooth as it has ever been ridden.

Life is for living. I don’t have a death wish or the ability to be totally crazy. But when I finally get myself back out there, I’m going to make the most of it. Some people aren’t so lucky in life. I’m going to sort out my issues in the dirt and the waves.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The 3 legs of the Tripod

Recently I had a day off from work (not that I needed it, with the events of the last 4-5 months!!) and met up with a couple of friends; the Captain and the Boss.

Now the Captain I see on a regular basis. He lives near to me and works in the same office as I do. As I've mentioned before, he's like a brother and is always there with good advice when needed.

The Boss on the other hand, I had not seen for a year. He went walkabout last March and was nowhere to be found. He was following his own journey, searching for the way and I admired that. When he recently surfaced, I found out he was in the armed forces and is now getting ready to be deployed to Afghanistan. I think he's finally found some peace within himself and it's a great thing to see. This guy will always be like a brother and after speaking for a few minutes we fell back into a smooth groove of conversation with ease.

Meeting up with these 2, we talked about lots of good times from the past. Mischief we had got up to and road trips long forgotten, that had since been replaced by new memories. Every time we remembered something that had us laughing, we would be shocked to realise it happened 5 years ago or more. Where had the time gone?

The Captain and the Boss are 2 polar opposites, yet when you know them as well as I do, you can see how similar they actually are. The 2 of them would often fight like cat and dog and were forever falling out with each other. But I do believe deep down, they genuinely cared and still do, care for one another.

My first ever road/surf trip was undertaken with these two. This was about 9 years ago and would become a template for a period of about 5 years in our early 20's. We had Easter trips that became traditional; the Good Friday and Easter Sunday sessions. Then there was the September Sessions, forever ingrained in memory from the house sized waves coming in and the broken boards that greeted our arrival. Finally our swansong was the summer the Boss lived out of his car in Croyde Bay for 5 months and we regularly criss-crossed the westcountry looking for different breaks.

I clearly remember one Good Friday 5 years ago. The weather was cold, the sky looked miserable and I had agreed to drive us down at 6am. Obviously I thought it was a great idea to go out the night before. The clock struck 6 and on cue the Captain drove round having already collected the Boss. After hanging out my bedroom window to greet them and receiving my dressing down from the Captain for not being anywhere near ready, I was pleased to notice the Boss was also in a semi-comatose hangover condition. Being in no fit state to drive, the Captain had to take my keys and drive us to Devon, picking up Merlin on the way.

I'll always remember those 6 hours spent in the car. Pulling over in deepest Dorset to allow me and the Boss to throw up on what we then dubbed hangover hill, the Boss and Merlin having a waterfight and then a foodfight in the back of the car, my pair of gloves being used to torture, touch, stroke and irritate our designated driver repeatedly from the back of the car, the 4 of us lasting 30 minutes in the water before our eyeballs froze over, my refusal to drive my own car, the pit stops at McDonalds and the race against time to get back for a night out in Winchester.

The 3 of us spent a good few hours laughing and remembering those memories, along with others - the Boss breaking his arm skateboarding (when we were 25!), our first attempts at bbq-ing and using vodka as lighter fuel, our first mountain bike rides, the Boss cooking burgers on his car engine at 8am, discovering an old concrete skate bowl from the 70's, how we funded the September Sessions on 'dubiously' obtained petrol in a jerry can, finding an abandoned boat in a car park, strapping it to the roof of a pickup and selling it on ebay to fund another month of surfing and a random night out in the westcountry with only £20 to our name, which involved befriending a newly released prisoner, hitch hiking and then blagging a taxi ride for miles free of charge, whilst fending off the unfriendly advances of the local Royal Marines!

I got the Captain's wife to take a photo of the 3 of us. Although times have now changed and moved on - we may never experience another road trip together and I may never surf with either of these boys again - that photo will always freeze a single moment in time and remind me of the things we shared and the sights we have seen together.

I will always remember our camping and surf trips, the skateboarding at night in summer, riding through the woods and forest on a dry evening, sitting by the fire swapping war stories, our road trip snack of choice - mini cheddars, sleeping in the back of the Boss's pick up and waking on the cliff to see beautiful clean lines of swell......but most of all, with 2 people like brothers, I'll always remember the 3 legs of the tripod.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Boys (and Girls) of Summer

'And i can see you, your brown skin shining in the sun, you got your hair combed back and sunglasses on baby....'

This week it finally feels like Summer is on her way. The temperature is currently at T shirt level and the beer gardens are becoming crowded. As you walk down the street the sun warms the back of your neck, while sights and smells remind you of summers long past.

Lazy walks along the beach in the evenings, sitting outside sipping a cold beer, trips abroad to even warmer climates, shorts and flip flops, the smell of surfwax, bbq's in the evening, camping from May til September, riding through the forest and the smell after a summer thunderstorm.

Like sepia snapshots frozen in the mind, adventures long forgotten come flooding back. Road trips and convoys down to the Westcountry with the Boss and Captain, letting the afternoon drift away in a beer garden with Merlin or Moony, surfing in Portugal, drinking Port with the Coach and summer nights out.

The cold grip of Winter is gone and everyone seems that little bit chirpier. Having been out of action for the last 4 months, fortunately, I missed Winter and Summer seems to be arriving quicker than I anticipated. I'm literally frothing at the mouth, dreaming of the good times ahead.

The new board is waxed and ready to ride. The bike serviced and ready to roll. Trips are being planned; camping, Scotland, Canada and anywhere else that takes my fancy.

The enforced layoff has allowed me to reflect on many things. What I would like to change about myself and who the people I really care for are, both old and new. I'm currently midway through putting my many plans of action in place, improving myself as a person and living a better life. The warmth of summer seems to have put an extra spring in my step. Motivation is renewed.

I've a good mix of close friends that have been invaluable over the last few months, when without them the mental struggle could at times have brought me down. Along with my family, I've had the wisdom of the Captain and Merlin, the wit of Sampras, memories of the Boss and Coach and the humour, blog and advice of Finn. Alongside this, the kindness of new and old friends such as; Willow, Fielder, Tigger, Knighty and the Ledge.

Today is a good day and tomorrow will be the same. I may be hobbling at present, but I am still charging towards summer with excitement and anticipation of all the good times and new memories I will share with this most excellent bunch of people.

Party On.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Never Go Back

A wave is created by many different things occurring simultaneously but it is formed, by energy. This energy moves the surfboard forward, allowing us to harness it and in this moment we are moving in sync with a very natural force. Where else in life can you experience that? We may momentarily be able to cutback into the wave, but in essence we are always heading in one direction.

Singletrack, by definition, is a single track, usually of a extreme and volatile terrain. The bike goes up, down, winding, twisting and zig-zagging through the hills. In this instance gravity takes control. You become one with it and can tweak your body weight and position to alter your course. Sometimes the trail will switchback, but you are always heading one way...forwards.

Why are these concepts important to me? Well, in life, I find it so hard to move forward and not go back. Sure, it's easy to understand why people do go back, but is it right? It seems so natural sometimes, does that make it right? Should you go against natural instincts?

When you think about it though, life in general moves forward, so surely this is the more natural path to take? Learning from the past, remembering the past and appreciating it sure, but moving forwards with one eye on the future is key to our survival and happiness.

I find it nigh on impossible usually. I need constant reminding and prodding to move forwards. I guess I'm a creature of habit, I like spontaneity in the moment, but change? Well....

Luckily, I'm surrounded by a good group of people who constantly offer advice. People who have been there and done it before, got the T shirt and in some cases written the book! Sampras, the Captain, Coach and Finn, offer valuable advice on a day-to-day basis, as I've mentioned before.

It's always good to know that you're not the only one who has trouble moving forwards. However, it is nice to see how far some people have come when they do decide to move forward. It is that which is inspiring and motivational.

Life really is too short to worry and ponder such things for too long. A catastophic change could happen in the blink of an eye and change everything. Keep on moving forward, never go back, life should be about taking risks.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

All my Life

Sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves. If we don't succeed at, for example, a sport to the highest level, maybe we think of ourselves as a failure. I certainly did when I knew I would never be the best surfer in the world or the best mountain bike rider. This feeling used to make me want to quit, I forgot the reasons I did these things in the first place. This is the feeling that makes me not want to try new things. As I mentioned before, I guess it's that fear of failing.

I guess it is the feeling a boxer must get when they retire, the question marks that stand over a career, did they achieve everything they could? Does their record really look that impressive at the end?

This used to weigh heavily on me through the years. Anything I did, experienced or lived through, I felt wasn't to the fullest it could have been. Sports, trips and holidays, adventures, relationships. It felt like I missed out on opportunities and didn't make the most of them, even if I tried too. As I mentioned before though, I think all it takes to take stock of this kind of situation, is a shift of perspective.

Sure, I may never surf pipeline, I may never have gone totally crazy when I was in Las Vegas, I may never master dirt jumping on my bike or ride the World Cup trail at Fort Bill and I may never get to play ice hockey for a team or make the A team for my old roller hockey club.

However, I do know how it feels to surf along a clean wave, feeling the sun shining on my back, the wind trying to block my way and the spray washing across my face, the effortless feeling of gliding across water, the energy carrying me at speed and distance, my subtle body movements altering my direction and path. Hearing the Boss hoot as I surf past, carving round him.

I do know how it feels to ride some decent single track on my bike. Being a slave to the hill, constantly shifting my weight and power where needed. Feeling the wind whipping past me and branches brushing my face and body as I fly past. Racing into a berm and being thrown out at a higher speed, allowing the bike to lose control for a second as it takes a corner before being brought back under a degree of control and that feeling of adrenaline pumping as you reach the end. Chatting with the Captain, the Boss or Sampras afterwards, laughing at those near falls, those sketchy moments and feeling high from the buzz.

I do know how it feels to party like a VIP in cities such as New York. And how to lose money at the roulette table in a Vegas casino as friends watch and laugh. I've visted places many haven't and experienced good times that I cherish.

I do know how it feels to play roller hockey in a proper league for my B team. Sure we got beaten regularly and I couldn't cut it in the A team, but I still got to play. And more importantly, I take away incredible memories of playing against the Coach and Finn in their last ever game. For me that is priceless and cannot be replaced.

I may not play ice hockey for a team and maybe my broken leg will always make me wary of lacing up the skates, but I got to see another close friend, Boomtown, play his last ice hockey game here before returning to Canada. It may not have been his best game and I may not have been on the ice, but I still wanted to show my support and that memory will again last a lifetime.

I may not have found my niche in life, you may not be able to label me as anything in particular and I suppose I could be described as distinctly average. But, the memories and moments I shared with these people are much more important to me than how much I achieved or what level I got to. For me, it is the experience I will treasure.

When I look back and think, did I achieve and experience what I wanted, I think I can comfortable say yes. I think everybody can. It may not have panned out exactly how you wanted, but look at what you do have, not what you don't.

Vaya Con Dios.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


Tonight I was driving back from a town I used to know well, although I haven't been there for a long time. We passed by an old hotel that sits by a roundabout and I noticed how it was now closed, boarded up and in a state of disrepair. Seeing this hotel - which I had never even been into - brought back so many different memories from over the years.

I used to drive past this old hotel whenever I visited an ex-girlfriend, named Lane. I hadn't thought about her in a long time and it was never a particularly serious relationship, but just remembering her made me wonder what she was up to now and how fate had intervened and taken her off on a separate path to my own.

This old hotel was right near a bar I used to work at. Alongside my first mentor the Fish, we worked hard and played hard. In our eyes, we owned the night. Our lives revolved around partying hard, meeting women and having fun. For those few years that we were inseparable, I learnt many life lessons. Some of those days were reckless, hedonistic and probably stupid, but they were also some of the best of my life.

Just by seeing this beautiful old building, now shut down and wasting away, the memories began to freefall. Old friends, exes, nights out, trips away, random drives at night and so on. Even unrelated memories; living with the Coach, watching hockey late at night with Finn, crashing at Merlin's house, spending the night chatting with the Boss , trips away with friends etc, filled my mind. The one thing they all have in common, they were great times. One other thing they all have in common? Everything grows old and changes eventually.

I often feel a sense of regret as life changes and moves on. Events that were unforgettable fade into the distance and time moves on waiting for nobody. It can be an upsetting feeling and take a while to sink in and accept. Realising that a certain time in your life is over, most likely forever, is hard.

There is an upside though. Everything happens for a reason. If life never changed, never moved on and stayed still, we would never experience new adventures. I hate realising something is over, but by accepting it and moving forward with time, we get to enter a new era. Then at least for a short time, we again get to experience that wonderful feeling when you know times are great and you are living through something that is truly special.

The times are a changing.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Walking in someone else's Shoes

It isn't something that I have always adhered too and to try it is extremely difficult. But I do think it is incredibly important to treat others how we want to be treated ourselves. Everybody complains when they are mistreated or hurt by somebody, but how many of those people can honestly say that they have not done the same thing to others in the past? I'm probably the most guilty of it. Sometimes we just need to take a walk in somebody else's shoes for a bit.

Like I said, I've always struggled with this, though recent events and time on my hands have made me pause for reflection. It is something I would love to be able to do and something I strive towards.

In most situations like this, I look to people I admire who are able to rise above the general everyday crap we all experience and still stay true to their principles and treat others how they would want to be treated.

The Captain is one individual who, apart from the odd grumpy moment, always treats people how he would like to be treated. He's been through a lot in his life, yet never does he try putting others down to make himself feel better, you wouldn't find him cheating on a partner, nor would you catch him trying to purposefully hurt somebody else. He has a pure soul. Even if it is the difficult path to take, he will always do the right thing.

Tekno is a close friend I've not mentioned before. A former work colleague, he's become an important person in my life and somebody I look towards for guidance and advice. Like the Captain, he too has a pure soul, a genuine love for life and would not harm a fly.

Neither of these characters are soft though. It would be foolish to think that. They both have a strong will and steely determination that runs deep throughout them. Both would only ever do something they truly wanted to and would never follow the crowd for the sake of it. To make friends with them, is to make friends for life.

I particularly appreciate Tekno giving me some advice last year, regarding how people may interpret my actions, regardless of my intentions being different. He allowed me to see that a more calm, collected and I guess, mature approach was beneficial in life. It helped me see life as a series of smaller journeys linked together. It put things in perspective. He showed me that being competitive, an alpha male and constantly rising to people's words, was futile. Let others get involved in that, just control what you can control. You don't always have to fight. I guess most importantly, he taught me to have balance in my life.

People say you never have friends like the ones you do when you are 11 or 12, but that isn't true. Tekno proves the exception to that. Somebody you can have a beer and chat shit with, yet somebody you would trust your life too. His actions are an inspiration. They show that good people do succeed in life. Wouldn't it be great if somebody could say the same about you in return?

Like I said, I want to treat others how I would like to be treated myself. Once in a while, take a walk in somebody elses shoes and see how it feels.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Be True to Yourself

I have to admit that I have struggled on many occasions to be true to myself, true to what I believe in and who I am. It is probably one of the most hardest lessons in life to achieve. So many things affect how and why we behave in the way we do. Sometimes we enjoy destructive things too much to change, sometimes peer pressure affects us and sometimes it is just a lack of maturity or experience.

It can take what feels like a lifetime to get to a place where you truly feel happy and then it can take just a split second for that to all change - if you are not being true to yourself.

Allowing ourselves to be derailed from our path can also happen when we want to seek vengeance on a perceived wrong. Or if somebody else's actions cause us to question our own destination and beliefs, momentarily throwing us in another direction that ultimately may not lead where our heart lies.

So many things alter my focus and stop me doing what I really want. The break up of a relationship, blaming somebody else for my misfortune, financial difficulties and so on.

I was chatting to a good friend recently about these types of things; his name is Finn. He was feeling particularly bitter, with good reason, toward the government in this country. After we had chatted about shit for a while, we started talking about a Finnish term; Sisu.

Unusually, it was me reminding Finn to let go of the negativity and push forward, to use his strength of will, determination, perseverance and act rationally in the face of adversity. All elements of Sisu. In turn, this reminded me to let go of things that troubled me, to put aside any past grievances, any grudges I had against people or any pain I felt had been caused by others. Why hold on to it? Whatever happens, happens for a reason.

Maybe Sisu gives me a 'physical' notion to put faith in. Something to believe in, to make myself feel better when I am trying to overcome obstacles that litter my path. But whatever, I think what it stands for and what it allows people to achieve is far more important and beneficial. It gives me something to structure my life around, something to give me that extra percentage of belief when things are not going so well and more importantly by believing in this notion, it gives me the strength to stick to the path I am on and be true to myself and to others.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Legends never fade

It can be hard to let go of our youth and embrace being older. I think as you approach 30, most people start to worry about whether they have done all the things they were meant to do and question where they are in life. I've certainly been guilty of this for a number of years and I'm not even 28 yet!! I've constantly battled between growing up and being mature and then wanting to saviour that one last big crazy adventure.

I guess you could call me a follower rather than a leader. I mean, I am independant and fairly stubborn, so if I don't want to do something I won't. But if someone is doing something fun and exciting and I'm offered the chance to join in, hell yeah, I'm there!

Now I have this friend, who I have mentioned before, The Boss. I've know the Boss on and off since I was about 8ish I guess. We became particularly close friends when we were about 18 and bonded over a love of the ocean , surfing and random (mis)adventures.

Many of our summers were spent road tripping at 2am on a Sat morning down to Devon to be there ready for the morning surf. We used to park up on the cliff, sleep in the back of a pick-up and wake up to see how the waves looked. My favorite memory of this was the morning we woke up in a car park in Croyde and drove out toward the cliff road to check out the 2 local breaks. The first sight that greeted us was a guy carrying his 10 foot longboard, that was now in 2 pieces! And this was only 9am!! Needless to say, that weekend consisted of some epic waves, some severe beatings, a few near drownings and a hell of a lot of adrenalin to keep us going! And through all of this, we pushed each other to new heights.

The Boss was one of those characters people would either love or hate. He played his cards close to his chest and was one of those people that when you were with them, the dazzling light they seemed to generate, would illuminate you too.

He used to open up to talk to me and I think it helped that I was always ready to go along with his latest adventure. Whether this be mountain biking through a flooded river, doing a day trip to Newquay or pretending to be pro South African and Australian Moto X riders when we went out and were chatting up girls!

As I have hinted at in earlier posts, this lifestyle can become self-destructive. There can be too much of a good thing and me and the Boss had no halfway switch, it was all or nothing for us. We lived for the maxim, go hard or go home. This was applied to not only, riding, surfing and adventures, but nights out too. Everything we did would be all or nothing. We would rather have a spectacular fail than live risk-free. It also meant we would have spectacular falling outs too.

The Boss had always been a bit 'loose' with his reliability and occasionally disappeared for months on end. But last year he vanished and the next time I heard from him, some months later, he was in the RAF. I have to admit, I do miss some of the crazy things we got up to, but I think it's probably the best thing he's ever done. He always came across as coolness personified, but underneath it all I think he had more worries and fears than the rest of us about what path he was taking through life. I'm glad he found something he seems to love doing and that gives him a purpose.

I guess it would be fair to say that if the Captain was the angel character in my life, then the Boss was the devil - not that I ever needed much persuading. I was down for whatever. But sometimes, however much fun it can be. Two people like that should not be put together for too long.

Whatever people think of another person, there is always room for interpretation and a different opinion. The Boss might not have been everybody's cup of tea, but to me he was a legend. I learnt life lessons off him from 18 to about 27. And when you get to know somebody that well and break through their barriers, I think it is a given that you accept them, flaws and all. Anytime he needs me I'll be there, he was like a brother.

Some people say that you have to go out in a blaze of glory to be a true legend. But I think some legends just continue to live and shine bright. Good luck Boss, go hard or go home.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Learning a Lesson

Sometimes life throws you a total curve ball and your experience dictates how you deal with it. We either react and roll with it or it catches us by surprise and totally unaware. When this happens we're left gasping and clutching for air, our senses scrambled and amidst this mayhem, we are trying to make sense of it all.

My reaction used to be to throw my toys out of the pram, kick and scream like a small child and try and get the situation back under my control. But now? Well, what's the point? It stresses you out, makes you angry, sad, emotional and tired. Let someone else worry about things for once.

Now these thoughts, I admit, have been kicked off by an event in my personal life and by the more philosophical approach I have tried applying to life since breaking my leg. This has made me question the whole dating and relationship scene. I always used to think that you had to have something with someone straight away, something magical, that would make whatever happens between you all the more special.

I've often been advised that 'love' at first sight is rubbish and always defended it as existing. But recently I was speaking to the Coach and he said something that really made me think. Now a little bit of background here; the Coach is a French-Canadian, a smart guy who teaches and somebody I would definitely go to if I wanted straight advice with no bullshitting. I lived with him for about 6 months and can honestly say that was an awesome time in my life.

Him and his fiance have been together for about 6 years and when I asked him how it worked so well, he replied; 'When we got together, we didn't have any expectations for each other'. So simple, yet utter genius. Maybe this is where I had been going wrong, always wanting certain things and expecting stuff.

So alongside being more patient and letting things happen that are meant to happen, it's time to go into new things with no expectations. It's really hit home with me and I am looking forward to giving it a go! Probably obvious to most of you, but hey, I don't usually take the easiest option!

When I look round now, I see my closest friends; the Captain, Sampras, Merlin, Finn and the Coach settled down and either married or on the way. I feel like these guys have really taught me something. They are the wise men and I am the converted.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

This is the Captain speaking

Even when we are not trying to be control freaks, it can be incredibly hard to surrender control, leave things to chance and let things that are meant to happen, happen.

Over the last few months I have stopped trying to force issues so much and surrender myself to the world that surrounds me. Not being able to walk for 12 weeks has helped enforce this and made me appreciate how much stress free and more comfortable it is to live this way. As of yesterday, I am now allowed to begin walking, though I would describe it more as shuffling. I only hope having some control back in my hands does not make me lose my new found respect for keeping the natural status quo.

I guess you could say the seeds of this new found maturity and peace were planted a while back. I think it is time I explored in detail some of the characters that surround me. Particularly relevant to this tale is a man I call the Captain.

I've known the Captain since I was about 6 and he calmly took me apart over a few games of 10 pin bowling. It's kind of fitting now that he finds his peace and solace at the bowling alley, spending a few nights a week bowling in a league. As well as this, he is the first of my peers to get married and buy a house, he's coped admirably with numerous serious medical traumas over the last 10 years and he has still remained down-to-earth, anti-establishment and basically a total dude. If you ever want advice, regardless of whether you are still likely to do the opposite, you go visit the Captain first.

Now the Captain has long believed in fate and leaving things to their own devices. He has often preached the wisdom of patience, usually when I am in a hot-headed flush of rushing around like a ritalin-starved teenager, cursing and blinding. And I am usually too stubborn or short-sighted to heed his words. I would describe him as the yin to my yang.

Ever so slowly though, something must have filtered through. For I now usually manage to pause, take a moment to gather my thoughts and think of the consequences of rushing and trying to control a situation or person for my own means. The world is designed to exist in balance; people, the environment and nature. You cannot force this balance or control it, we exist within this status quo. Why would I now want to control something to benefit myself if I am merely upsetting this balance? I am only going to be putting more obstacles in my way at a later date.

I'm not saying it is easy to sit back and let things wash over you, but it sure beats running round trying to confront everyone, blaming people for things that have happened and trying to take on the world. It takes time, but once you realise the possibilities gained from this, a whole new world opens.

I feel much happier by remembering that I can not force an issue, if it is meant to be, it will be. I do have to force myself to remember this when it comes to many situations; work, friends, relationships and family. But I always pause now and think; 'What would the Captain do?'.

I will never be promoted to the Captain's level. And I don't think I would want to. You see, everyone needs somebody to look up to for guidance and I prefer it that way.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Feeling the Moment

It can be hard trying to find our way. We encounter obstacles, we have hiccups, we get lost and sometimes people just want to block the route we want to take. But when it seems things aren't going to plan, we have a vast library of material to call upon that can guide us where we want to be. I'm talking about memories, moments in life, those small but significant events that make you feel alive and give you the inspiration to push on and continue.

Have you ever had that moment, where things feel like they're a scene from a film? Sometimes it will be as it happens, other times it will be when you look back. Usually for me these important moments and memories are triggered and brought back to life through something as simple as a word, colour, smell or in this case a song.

I can probably link every person in my life and every inspiring moment, to a particular song. When I hear that song the pangs of nostalgia grow and you get to relive that moment in glorious sepia, like a slow motion montage on film. The rushing of a long past memory giving you that drive to continue.

September 1998, Merlin had just passed his driving test, every free moment was spent cruising around listening to Don Henley 'Boys of Summer'. I still remember it as though it was yesterday. Fast forward 10 years, the Coach is owning the dance floor of our local nightclub whilst Rick Astley 'Never Gonna Give You Up' plays. Rewind, driving at night over the Brooklyn Bridge whilst my ipod has switched to Jay Z and Linkin Park 'Numb'. Jump back another 8 years as Merlin picks me up on a Friday night blasting ATB '9pm til I come' through his new speakers and shocking the neighbours. Picking it up in 2008, I smile as I see a new friend, Moony, dance the night away on a podium grinning from ear-to-ear as Journey 'Don't Stop Believin' plays. Instantly we're back in 2001 and a week in Devon, surfing and camping with the Captain, is soundtracked by American Hi Fi 'Flava of the Weak'. Then we are back to 97 with Sampras, as Green Day 'When I Come Around' fills my ears throughout sixth form. In a flash we are back in the present and Kings of Leon 'Use Somebody' reminds me of somebody who is particularly close and important.

These memories and pangs of nostalgia remind me that I have truly got a lot to be thankful for and I have experienced a lifetime full of memories, moments and wonderful people, that are probably only important to just me. Sometimes it can be easy for us to lose our way and become lost, but sometimes, all it takes is a memory, something important to ourselves, to remind us of where we have been, where we are now and where we are heading.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Magic Moments

After a recent awesome weekend, that I really didn't want to end, it got me thinking about moments that are truly defining and memorable in life. I enjoy many good times, but there is a difference between something being enjoyable or fun and a moment being really life changing.

For some people it is going to be a sporting moment or a moment of high achievement in whatever field. For others it could be their wedding day, the day their children are born or the first house they buy.

Personally, for me, these moments have to have an 'x factor' about them. Something special that does not fade over time and if anything, just grows stronger and adds to the magic that surrounds the memory. These are usually like snapshots in the mind; an image, colours, smell and sound, all of these come flowing back. When remembered they trigger that feeling in the pit of your stomach that reminds you, you experienced something unique.

Sometimes, it hasn't dawned on me immediately how important and defining these moments are or will be. But you usually have an inkling.

This weekend was one moment like that, everything came together perfectly and nothing went wrong, like a scene from a film. Perfect company, perfect words and a perfect time. That got me thinking about past moments that would likely last a lifetime.

These range from Sampras' wedding, a wet and windy bike ride through the forest with the Boss, long near-forgotten camping trips, remembering the sun shining through the lip of a North Devon wave one crisp September, drinking beer and talking shit with Merlin in NYC, drunken conversations with the Coach over dinner, many heart-to-hearts with the Captain and more.

In my mind, what links these moments together and weaves them into the fabric of my being is that they all affected me in some small, yet significant way. Each one helped me grow in some way. Just thinking of each of these, transports me back to that time and place and reminds me why I enjoy life so much.

Everything about them is so vivid and detailed. The buzz I felt at the time of the experience, still comes back to me now. It is moments like these that resonate later in life, as remembering them helps give the inspiration to move on forging new paths and adventures.

A memory as simple as a past conversation, can provide you with the initial push to remember why you are heading where you are and what else you need to do to continue.

The important moments in life, only need be remembered by one small detail in the mind. Something somebody said, the way the light looked, a smile or a stolen glance. But these small details have the power to echo throughout our lives, continuously inspiring us.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Gaining a new Perspective

Recently I've started viewing my life in larger segments of 6 months or a year and found this more rewarding, fulfilling and definitely less frustrating, than being impatient and trying to rush towards things you want every day.

Now I bring this up because I'm not known for my patience. I try and cram 5 years worth of a relationship into 6 months. I cannot save for anything. I'm not even patient enough to learn something, I just want it all and I want it now!! What has struck me lately, is it is hard not to think like this, without taking a step back and gaining some kind of perspective on the situation. This goes for many things in life. Relationships, jobs, social life and growing up.

Often, when I'm thinking of growing up and where I want my life to head, I usually find myself feeling nostalgic over something or other and often thinking I never experienced enough of whatever it may be and questioning, have I missed out on something? Could I have experienced more? My perspective is so close to the subject, I can't step back and look at the bigger picture without questioning whether I was fulfilled.

This type of thinking in the past, has led me into trying to re-experience different things, trying to relive a memory from the past or trying to capture whatever it is I feel I missed out on. But sometimes, it isn't that we have missed out on anything, sometimes, we've just forgotten.

Chatting to Sampras just the other day, he reminded me of the time Merlin and I went on a surf trip to Croyde and he visited us for the weekend.

A week of surfing, drinking, eating and being lazy, was punctuated by severe February weather, michelin man wetsuits, near drownings, collisions with rock reefs that looked like seaweed in the dark, me being saved from Hypothermia by Merlin (see, the boy is magic!), late night curries, once Sampras joined us and sinking a few beers in a 'locals' pub.

Now, until Sampras reminded me of this small, yet significant adventure, I probably hadn't thought about it for at least a few years. But once he had, so many good memories came back; from driving down there through snow, watching Merlin get wiped out by some heavy waves, performing housewife duties and cooking him breakfast and scrabbling for change to get the electricity meter back on once the temperature had dipped below freezing!

After this recollection of events, it got me thinking how many other good times and adventures I've shared with my brothers over the years that have drifted into the furthest reaches of my memory. My perspective on the past had made me forget a lot of what I had experienced. Time had merely past me by and covered these memories in its cobweb shadows, waiting for me to dust them off and relive them, in places like this blog.

The adventures never stop, that is what life is, a series of them. Sometimes, without taking a step back and getting a different perspective on events, we think of things slightly differently and usually unfavorably, to how they actually are or were.

Just by taking a step back, slowing things down and looking at the whole picture, we allow ourselves to gain a real perspective on our lives, both where we've been and where we plan to head.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Growing Up

It's taken me longer than most, 27 years in age, though 18 in spirit! And looks, I like to think! But I am no longer afraid of growing up!

From the age of about 17, Thursday to Saturday evenings were spent out in town. Before the 'casual, just got outta bed' look became popular, we used to spend hours in front of the mirror; bathing, grooming and let's not forget Gel-ing ourselves, into mini Tony Manero's (Saturday Night Fever, come on, get with the program!!).

Back in the day (yes, I cringed whilst typing that), cream jeans and Ben Shermans were the attire of choice. And being that Southampton was a high class city rivaling New York and Paris, if you weren't wearing shoes, you weren't coming in! A lesson we still never learnt, even though one of us would always forget!

In those days there was one weekly Thursday night ritual.....the mighty Ikon and Diva. You had Ikon, with its monotonous chart club music and Ibiza foam parties and Diva, which at this point played 70's music and was my venue of choice. DJ's Disco Dick and Randy Feelgood could be seen wearing afros, flares and spinning some quality tunes!

Now in those early days, I frequented these places regularly, alongside Merlin, OG, Buzz, occasionally another best friend Sampras and a few others. In later days, the Bear and the Boss were my regular 'wing-men'. My very first initiation to getting drunk was alongside Merlin at an Ikon foam party, where he looked very stylish in his suit!

Somewhere along the way, these nights out turned into something of a lifestyle. Living for the weekend became the norm and my pay check became pretty much non-existent. Suddenly, it's 10 years later and nothing has changed for myself. But people like Sampras, the Captain and eventually even Merlin, have grown up, settled down, taken work more seriously and one-by-one got married. They haven't stopped being fun, or the people they always have been, but they did alter their priorities and correctly too I have to say. These 3 more than most, became role models for me and have given me advice and inspiration many times over the past decade.

So now I find myself at a crossroads, if I may use such a stereotype. I guess having all this time on my hands has allowed me to think. But it has finally hit home that partying 24/7 isn't all that fun anymore. Somewhere along the line, the rides gotta stop. Now is that time. It's still fun when it isn't your life, but once it becomes your life, it's time to question priorities.

Thanks to Sampras and the others, I've learned that just because something stops and changes, it doesn't mean your life has to.

Now, I'm looking forward to getting my own flat, buying furniture and hell, even choosing curtains! I might not want to party 24/7 anymore, but doesn't that allow me to appreciate the fun times more, enjoy the finer things in life and realise what my priorities should be?

There's no crime in growing up, but there is a shame in not embracing life completely.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

When we were Young

Reminiscing about the past got me thinking. From about the age of 15 to 18, one thing owned my life - inline skating. I thought that was quite ironic, especially as having never suffered a bad injury during this time, inline skating was how I ended up breaking a leg.

When I was 15, I'd just recovered from a couple of serious operations and been brought some inline skates as a birthday present (had taken me a long time to convince my Mother to get them, as she figured I'd break something and hurt myself....go figure!)

There was a new wave of skating around at the time, called 'aggressive skating'. This involved performing tricks on inline skates, such as jumping off steps, ramps, walls etc and grinding rails, kerbs, ledges...and so on.

There was a small group of us who every Saturday from 8am (god forbid I even know what that hour looks like now!), could be found skating around a pre-West Quay Southampton City Centre, frequenting McDonalds, the Guildhall, the train station and a 'secret spot' nicknamed White Ledges by fellow skaters.

There was the Captain, my oldest and closest friend. And 2 new friends, Merlin and OG. Together we would terrorise the streets and shoppers of Southampton, until a skate park was built at Mayflower Park. Up until now, we had travelled infrequently to Southsea Skate Park (which for a group of lads from Southampton held all sorts of tribal issues!).

This new skatepark revealed a step up in talent required. The most adaptable to this was Merlin. Anything he lacked in natural skill/talent, he more than made up for with his ability to achieve far more than mere mortals could hope for. His combination of enthusiasm, fearlessness, hard work and speed of learning has blessed him until this day. There is something magical about what he achieved and continues to achieve. Even then he could go that one step further than the rest of us, when it came to really wanting what we all would strive for.

Myself? Well.....I had some natural talent, but I never made the most of. I always had something; fear, timing, any excuse, whatever...there was always an excuse for never maximising what I could of become. A favorite mantra of my teachers was, 'he's very intelligent, but just doesn't apply himself'.

This pattern would repeat itself through most things I tried in life. Anything I wanted to be great at, skating, riding, surfing.....I was never as good as I wanted to be and I didn't like that fact. What was I afraid of? Failure? Slowly, over the years, its dawned on me, there is no shame in not being 'the best' at something, to strive purely for that purpose, means you lose the reason you had for starting in the first place. As long as you try your hardest, there is no shame. It is harder to try and then learn to live with your limitations, than not try at all. But that fear should never put us off trying.

There is no shame in failing, but there will always be questions if you do not try. As Merlin himself once said to me, 'Nothing worth having, ever comes easy'. It's a lesson we can all learn.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Looking Ahead/Looking Back

At the moment, I've got a lot of time to myself to think about stuff. Now, the other evening I was daydreaming about what I'm looking forward to when my legs fixed. I thought back to about 6 or 7 years ago and when I first started regularly visiting North Devon to surf. It was thoughts of those Friday night road trips that really got me buzzing.

After a hard week at work - constantly checking the surf report, wishing I was somewhere else and generally feeling pretty miserable with the hand I'd been dealt - I stopped swimming lengths in my pool of self pity and when it hit 5pm, we road tripped down to Croyde Bay.

There was usually at least 2 cars in convoy, sometimes more. There was a bunch of us, old mates from school etc, but 2 characters who really played an important part through my life are the Boss and Captain. 2 guys I had know since I was about 5 years old and 2 polar opposites.

The weekend would be a blast of surfing, hanging out with friends, drinking, having BBQ's and swapping stories round the fire. For those few days, we were living the dream.

But good times can't last forever, these sessions went on for a few summers and eventually earned the nickname 'the September Sessions' from the Boss. Eventually, people grew up and drifted away. Legends don't burn out, they just fade away, or get a mortgage and marry. The Boss, the Captain, they'll always be legends.

It's important we really appreciate those good times. They won't always be good, but, if we didn't have the bad times, we would never know how much to enjoy the good. Take the rough with the smooth.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Beginning

Every journey has a beginning and an end. The middle is the tough section, kind of like parts of life in general. The hard part of life isn't dying, the hardest part is living - think about it

Anyway, we're at the start of a new year and like a lot of people, I'm looking into 2009 and thinking of where I am, where I want to be and how the hell am I going to get there! At the moment, I'm waiting for a broken leg to heal - snapped fibula and tibia in 4 pieces - and permission to put weight on it for the 1st time in 3 months. This enforced break has given me time to relax and think about a lot of things in my life. Specifically things I'd like to improve about myself.

I'm a huge believer in karma, what goes around comes around, we reep what we sow, etc, etc. Now I'm not saying I've been smited with a broken leg because I've been a bad boy. Merely, that sometimes the world needs balance brought to it. If that balance is achieved by ones self, stopping, thinking about things and then improving upon their lot, then so be it.

What this has really made me think about though, is realising that life is for living and we should make every moment count. I used to think I lived each day like it was my last and enjoyed life to the fullest. There were moments when this was probably true, but too much of it was also spent lazing in bed recovering with a hangover, spending obscene amounts on a forgettable night out and pining over some chick, who in hindsight, probably wasn't worth it! Now all of these things are fine - in moderation, but when they become a way of life, it has got to be time to question your priorities.

My biggest priority used to be surfing. I was an ok surfer. I wasn't particularly phased by larger surf and would give most things a try. But the important thing was, I enjoyed it. I didn't care that I'd never surf those gnarly reef breaks I'd see in Carve magazine or hold my own at Pipe. I occupied my own small niche of the world of surfing and I loved it. I felt alive. I had to drive 3 hours plus to get a half decent wave, usually starting early morning and not getting back until late, with the time in between spent freezing my ass off in the sea. But it was my thing and it made me feel alive. So many memories flash back to me from the recent past. Taking off on a wave and flying past my surf bro (who I am going to call the Boss), piling into the fish and chip shop after a surf before it shuts, clambering off the rocks in overhead surf, a night out in the pub after a day in the water and meeting Kelly Slater in Hossegor.

What I'm trying to say is......this time I've been forced to take, sitting, contemplating, has only been positive. It's allowed me to reshuffle my priorities, lose some of my selfishness and really want to be 'a better person'. Memories of happy times, hanging with the Boss, living each day to the max and really appreciating what I used to take for granted. Too much time has been wasted on wallowing self indulgently.

So we come to the end of the beginning, a declaration that I want to live my life in a positive way, whether that be maxmising each day to the full or just treating people that little bit better. I want to do something more than live a 9-5 existence and then drink for the weekend. I want to improve things in my own small but significant way. I intend to look out for myself and those around me and...well.....enjoy life and help others around me enjoy it too.