"The summers passed with each year. I don't seem to remember them anymore. I remember the fall and the coming of winter.
The water got cold. It was a time of the West swell."
Jack Barlow, Big Wednesday (1978)
September is a special time of year for surfers in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a time of colder sand and a warmer ocean, of long-range ground swells, and of dawn surfs that aren’t so early that they don’t count as still being ‘last night’. September by the sea has a distinct fragrance too; a cool and calming smell from the spray of breaking waves being carried on the wind. Line-ups get quieter here in Cornwall, and noticeably busier in southwest France, northern Spain and Portugal, with surfers who are able to follow the sun south through the autumn. All of us at home though, get to reap the rewards of a summer’s worth of sand bar build-up and hurricane swells.
Wherever you’re surfing this September, enjoy. Even if it does feel as though autumn’s barely letting summer put its coat on before being ushered out the door, it’ll be back again at about the same time next year. We’re looking forward to sharing the last of the September waves with our community of wooden surfboard workshoppers in a few weeks time for our Annual Gathering of Makers event, but until then we wish you all clean swells and favourable winds, whichever coast you’re chasing waves on.
Our August Bank Holiday workshop had a little bit of everything in it, and as such was a fantastic representation of what makes our “Make Your Own” wooden surfboard courses so special; Matt, Terry and Martin (in that order in homage to the late Hobie Surfboards shaping legend Terry Martin…) arrived on the Bank Holiday, ready to start work when the rest of the country was enjoying a day off, and each had their own story to tell.
Matt’s choice of surfboard has everything to do with the wave where he will surf it the most; Seal Point, and the Seal Point Beaches in St Francis Bay, South Africa (made famous in Bruce Brown’s original Endless Summer movie) are just a few blocks away from the house where he grew up and having worked at sea for many years that is where he is returning to in a few months time. Seal Point and its neighbouring beach break are popular surf spots in summer, when they pick up almost any swell going. Matt built himself a 5’11” (slightly longer) Fetch Fish which will be the perfect board for both the long South African right hand point breaks that surround Matt, and the uncrowded summer beach break at the end of his street.
Our own Mat spent some time living and working in nearby Jeffrey’s Bay some years ago and surfed Matt’s local a fair few times, and the two of them spent several tea breaks getting excited for the waves that this surfboard will see. Thankfully, having grown up surfing there, Matt is pretty good at finding the high line to make it around the rock named Full Stop that sits halfway down the point!
Terry’s workshop week was a “big” fortieth birthday gift from a group of his nearest and dearest. He made a lovely 7’4” Island Hopper, but stopped short of writing the names of all of the people involved in sending him on the course on the bottom of the board once he’d had a go with our pyrography pen and realised how long it would take him! He settled instead for signing his surfboard off with the words “Thank You”. Terry’s definitely an out-of-doors “doer” and we think his family and friends made a great choice sending him along to us; earlier this summer (his birthday was back in June) he spent a few days mountain biking in the Pyrenees with friends as part of a birthday trip, and in the past has cycled from the north coast of Wales to the south coast (175 miles) in a single day!
Martin, who was working at the trestles nearest the workshop door, is a designer by trade. He’d been planning on signing up to make his own surfboard with us for a while, and over that time had come up with his own artwork (what, on a regular foam surfboard would be the spray-job) to customize his surfboard. He also built himself a 7’4” Island Hopper, but with just a single dark stringer. Once it was all finished we then had two stencils produced so that the tail end of the surfboard could be sprayed black, curving up to a point on the central stringer leaving a fishtail shape of wood right between where his feet will land, with the other being for a complementary logo nearer the nose. The spray on the tail will give the board a classic pattern that is most often seen when traditional longboards have been laminated with a decorative Volan glass patch (a stronger, heavier glass that gives a green tint to a white foam surfboard) on the tail. We won’t see the finished article until we collect Martin’s surfboard from the laminator’s, but we think that it’s going to look stunning.
Matt, Terry and Martin represent a really good cross section of our workshoppers (although, they are by no means a comprehensive representation); Matt having joined us from overseas, and selecting his surfboard shape with a specific wave in mind, Terry coming as a "big” birthday present with his family and friends having picked up on his hints and surprised him, and Martin representing those workshoppers who have worked towards coming on a course to build their own wooden surfboard, and by the time it comes around having a very specific “dream board” that’s developed over the waiting period and that they’d like us to help them realise. It’s this variety of interesting characters that makes workshop weeks our favourite weeks of the year – alongside the upcoming Annual Gathering of Makers when we get as many former workshoppers together as possible for a catch up over a weekend of waves and a communal dinner.
It feels somewhat counterintuitive to drive away from Cornwall and head up to London in the middle of August, but last weekend that's exactly what we did when James and Liz set off for Seven Dials to run our annual make-your-own handplane workshop at Finisterre's flagship store. The workshop was part of Spotlight 2017, a one-day festival that sees Seven Dials in London's West End (just above Covent Garden) transformed into a traffic-free hub of of music and entertainment. This year, trestle tables were set up under a gazebo on the street in front of the store, and the two half day sessions became part of the entertainment for curious passers-by. Although we don't rate summer in the city as highly as summer by the sea, it was a lovely few days; we caught up with our friend Riz from Riz Boardhsorts (who make lovely sustainable swim shorts from recycled plastic bottles), and recent workshoppers Tim and Rich both stopped by to say hello, not to mention all of the wonderful people who joined us to make their own handplanes. Amongst those who spent their Saturday crafting in the city was Nick who came to our Boards, Bangers and Beers event back in June, Jon Khoo from Interface carpets (who make innovative carpets from old fishing nets) and the editor of every surfer's staple The Stormrider Guide series, Bruce Sutherland, and Steph Pomphrey from Huck Magazine. We had a lovely day getting to know everyone and bringing some bodysurfing stoke to the big smoke - thanks again for having us, Finisterre, and we'll see you again same time next year!