Times of Transition: Ben and Marlow’s Wooden Surfboard Workshop Experience

05 . 09 . 19

​Our first August wooden surfboard workshop was a special one, not least because we had three 7’2” Coasters on the trestles here. We were joined by Ben and Marlow, both of whom have recently (or are in the midst of) made some changes to their lives. Their time with us seemed to land at just the right moment for them both, and as ever the conversations that took place during the construction and shaping of their surfboards were both enlightening and enjoyable.

Ben is an academic with a focus on sustainability; he recently left a role running an outdoor education project for city children in London and is about to embark on a new adventure, re-wilding a patch of degraded agricultural land in Galicia, on Spain’s north coast. As well as gently helping nature to reclaim the land, he also intends to open a natural surf camp and a bunk house for pilgrims walking the final leg of the Camino de Santiago, between Santiago and Finisterre. Ben’s dad was a boat builder, and whilst his brothers followed in his footsteps of working with their hands (one brother is a stonemason, the other a blacksmith) he pursued a career in academia.

Working with wood though to create a sea-going craft, as his father had, was something that Ben took to as though by some sort of genetic-memory. Crafting his own wooden surfboard was, for Ben, a resolving and circular process that built on his dad’s connection with woodworking and the ocean. Similarly, and by complete coincidence, he discovered after looking at a plot of land above a bay on the Galician coast, that it was the exact site of a story that his dad had once told to him about how once, when rowing ashore on the north coast of Spain, a dolphin had leap clean over the top of their row boat. He didn’t think it a total coincidence that he’d inadvertently been drawn to the same bay, nor that he’d enjoyed making a wooden surfboard so much.

Marlow, our other workshopper, is a film stuntman who is currently transitioning to life back in the UK after living and working in Los Angeles for a number of years. A former professional rugby player with Harlequins, a decade ago he retired from rugby and pursued his passion to do stunt work in the film industry, with great success. He and his young family have been back in the UK for a little over a year now, settling back in to being “back home” and adjusting the focus of his work to more projects closer to home which, with the UK’s booming film industry, has meant fielding a lot of phone calls.

“In my line of work it’s easy to lose connection with yourself, because you’re always on other peoples’ schedules or unpredictable schedules. It’s been really helpful to momentarily disconnect from one world, and reconnect with myself.”

It’s not uncommon at all for people to join us to spend a week making themselves a wooden surfboard at a time of transition – often the only opportunity to take a whole week out from work and family commitments is in-between jobs or during a career change, or when children have left home, or just before a significant change such as moving to another country for work. During such turbulent times, taking a week out and away to focus on creating something with purpose is a luxury, but a very meditative luxury with the added bonus of a new surfboard.

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