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.