Jonny, Andy and Jon arrived on the Monday morning of this year's April workshop as total strangers to one another. Over the course of their week with us each of them made their own wooden surfboard and, much to our delight, made new friends. It's what we always hope will happen, and it frequently does. The three of them made plans to all collect their surfboards on the same day at the end of June, on the weekend of our Boards, Bangers and Beer open workshop event, have a few beers with us on the Friday evening, and then head down the coast to splash their surfboards for the first time and catch some waves together on Saturday. Jonny drove up from West Sussex, Jon headed down the coast from his new home in North Devon, and Andy made the short hop up from West Penwith; over the course of the workshop week Andy had sung the praises of his local surf spots around Sennen and Gwenvor so much that they headed down to Cornwall's far west for that first surf, with Jonny's partner Ainslie kindly taking some photos to share with us. We're always keen to see and hear the stories of these surfboards after they've left our workshop, so sent each of them an e-mail asking them to tell us about that first special surf session.
"Just to let you know, the 3 boards all met the water at the same time - we went for a maiden surf on Sunday morning - I had a great surf given the less than perfect conditions, scored two long rights - so already super keen to get out again soon. Thanks so much." - Andy
"I had an absolute blast surfing with Jon and Andy, the waves weren't huge but great fun and there was no way one of us was missing taking out the boards on their maiden voyage. It really was special to be sharing that experience all together, from meeting each other, spending the week building the boards, making really good friends to then all 3 of us heading out into the water for the 1st time. That kind of bonding is hard to ignore I think. The boards were fantastic, for me it had been a while since I last surfed, so was great to be able to build that confidence back in the water, and sharing a wave with Jon and Andy was fun too." - Jonny
"Oh man, what can I say! I love the board, it's nothing like I've surfed before; so much glide and flow to it. I'm so pleased with it and have been surfing it loads. It was just such an amazing week down with you guys for the workshop, and I never thought I would make such good friends through it - all friends for life I hope!! it was such an experience and one that I'll never forget. With regards to the actual workshop itself I really think you have mastered it. Don't change a thing!!!" - Jon
Last summer we received an e-mail from one of our friends at Surf Simply; Kerianne, their logistics manager, was spending a summer on Long Island, New York, and wanted a making project. She asked if we'd consider sending out to her a couple of "make-your-own" bodysurfing handplane kits, so that she could have a go at crafting a pair of handplanes over the summer to use in the waves around Montauk and the Hamptons, and then when she returned to Costa Rica. We've had requests for kits in the past, however we'd always much rather run one-day workshops so that we can demonstrate the techniques used and guide attendees in the creation of their water-craft. We made an exception for Kerianne though, to see what it would involve for us to send out handplane blanks, hardware, and instructions. We drew some template options on a couple of handplane blanks, packaged them up and shipped them to New York alongside a shopping list of tools and some basic instructions for her, and waited to hear how she got on. You can read Kerianne's account of her making experience over on the Surf Simply magazine, and we were thrilled when she shared this video edit with us, containing clips of her making in Montauk and then some incredible footage captured by Surf Simply's media team out in the warm tropical waters of Playa Guiones, Costa Rica.
Huge thanks to Kerianne for sharing her story, and to Ru Hill (portrait photograph), Marine Jaud (water photography and footage) and Harry Knight (drone footage) for the wonderful imagery. Check out Surf Simply's coaching programmes, podcast and magazine, here.
Last September Mat headed down to the southwest corner of France for a few weeks with his friends from Surf Simply. Because September and October are the height of the rainy season in Costa Rica, where Surf Simply have their luxury surf coaching resort, they shut up shop for a month and several of their coaches run a satellite coaching project on the French coast. Mat joined them as the project’s photographer, swimming in the beachbreaks around Hossegor capturing Surf Simply’s guests surfing some of the best waves in Europe whilst benefiting from some of the finest surf coaching in the world. It wasn’t all work and no play for the team though, as they had a few days to settle in before guests arrived as well as a changeover weekend and some time at the end of the project when there were no guests to look after and the guys could catch a few waves for themselves. Mat took our 5’10” Fetch Fish down to Hossegor, however one of the Surf Simply coaches took a liking to it and Mat took the opportunity to capture a few photos. Here’s his account of the couple of sessions that produced these images:
I’ve worked with Asher a couple of times now; like all of the Surf Simply coaches he’s a really accomplished, knowledgeable and very inquisitive surfer. He grew up in Florida, mostly riding traditional longboards without a leash but is equally at home on a modern shortboard or in significant and challenging surf. We had one really big swell hit Hossegor during our time there, over the changeover weekend in between different sets of guests, and we had to “tag-team” our three biggest boards between the six of us (we had twelve boards at the staff house, but only three of them were over 6’1” and the Fetch, with it’s twin keel fins, wasn’t really designed for double overhead barreling beach breaks!). I watched Asher ride a couple of absolute bombs on that Saturday morning.
For much of the rest of our time there, though, the surf was really small, fun and playful, which was great for the guests and the coaches. We were able to grab a couple of really early morning or late evening surfs to ourselves though, and had several trips to sand banks further north up the seemingly endless beach that is the Landes coast when the project was all wrapped up. We’d drive out of town through miles and miles of regimented pine tree plantations until the pin on the sat-nav told us which particular sandy track through the forest was the one that we had to turn down. We’d bounce along that until coming to a clearing where we could park up, and then walk up and over the sand dunes to get a look at the surf.
I decided to shoot photos on a couple of occasions because it seemed like too good an opportunity to capture a really smooth, stylish small-wave surfer on the fish. Asher has an uncanny ability to find the little pockets of speed on even the smallest and weakest of waves (something that I guess most Floridian surfers develop at an early stage), and he repeatedly laid down smooth carve after smooth carve before bouncing off the end section in the shallows. I didn’t see him pump the Fetch once, just flow from turn to turn as he sped down the line. Talking to him later that evening, Asher admitted that he’d not been quite sure what to expect from a wooden fish, but that he’d presumed it would be a bit heavy and that in actual fact it wasn’t as heavy as he’d expected and that the extra heft just seemed to help it flow down the line. It was great to see how much he’d enjoyed not just surfing a wooden board, but carrying, paddling and sitting on one. We both agreed that for those sunny sessions in France with nobody else for miles around save a few good friends, and the beach and countless peaks stretching away to the horizon in either direction, a wooden surfboard seemed like the perfect tool for the task.