Tag Archives: Newquay

Karl Mackie – Surf Culture Exhibition Review

11 Dec

Karl Mackie, soul surfer and artist, held his first solo exhibition in Newquay at the weekend. Very much a product of his environment, and influenced by the renaissance in analogue photography, Karl showcased surf art combined with classic British seaside imagery.

The venue, Cafe Irie in Newquay, itself an embodiment of travel and surf culture within Newquay, was well suited to the subject presented.

The exhibits ranged from Lomography to a somewhat unconventional hand shaped surfboard. The purpose of which was to provide the artist with as much pleasure from the process of creating the board as from the function. Also featured was the Hand Plane Art Project. Karl started to produce wooden hand planes several years ago, whenever the swell meant it would be more fun planing (a form of body surfing) than surfing. A change of direction earlier this year lead Karl to turn them into art pieces. Karl sent his hand planes around the world to a number of artists and asked them to carve, paint, draw or tattoo whatever they wished onto the hand planes. The result is a collective work, each hand plane as unique as the individual artist, and reflecting a unified love and respect of the Sea. For example, Chris Del Moro, pro surfer and active member of Surfers for Cetaceans submitted a piece to highlight the wider responsibility of surfers as caretakers of the oceans. This is a project that has grown organically, and will hopefully continue to grow.

I have known Karl for many years as a work colleague, and understand the challenges of balancing subsistence in Cornwall with the need for personal fulfilment. I found the exhibition inspirational for the creativity Karl has demonstrated through making opportunities’ for himself.

Karl’s exhibition runs until the end of February 2012.

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Read ‘Em and Weep – Reading the Charts

18 Nov
Magic Seaweed

Magic Seaweed Surf Forecast Newquay

Office bound surfers are often to be found trying to surreptitiously check the surf forecast throughout the week, anticipating their release when the clock strikes 5:00 pm. The problem with these short days and long nights means we can no longer sneak a quick dip before and after work. The onus falls squarely on the weekend now.

What is worse than a chart denoting no swell and flat conditions for a surfer like me? A chart a bit like the one shown on this post. Why you ask?

I have watched all week and seen the charts looking full of friendly 3-4 foot surf. I have seen the Tweets from the smug weekday surfers, and viewed the pictures posted by the oh so helpful surf magazines. ‘Look what you’re missing’ they scream. So now it is the weekend, and I along with the other weekend warriors are amped to get wet, and Saturdays forecast is for 7-11 foot swell.

Too big for me! Cold, overhead surf is not want I want for my play time. I am happy to accept that I am a wimp. My muscles have slowly been turning to jelly whilst sat at my desk munching cake all week. The challenge is now on to find somewhere where it will still be fun.

Cornish beach breaks do not generally hold large swells particularly well, although there are exceptions. Even the sheltered spots are likely to be heavy and rammed with others who have had the same thought process as me. I do have something up my sleeve, a semi secret spot. Somewhere between Newquay and Bude lies this very Cornish spot. If the tide is right and the swell gets in, long right handers will be mine, oh yes, they will be mine.

Cornwall, Sunny Cornwall

12 Nov

In the sun, even Newquay can look like Hawaii or some other tropical paradise. If you look away from the arcades, surf shops and chippies, and use a bit of imagination it is not winter anymore. Ignore the surfers in full winter suits, pretend that you are not wearing scarf, body warmer and fleece. Turn your face to the sun and soak up that vitamin D. It is November now and we have a many long, dark days ahead.

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British Surf Film Festival

22 Sep

I have just returned from a night out to the inaugural British Surf Film Festival in Newquay. The new WTW Lighthouse Cinema hosted the event and my friend Karl Mackie was one of the organisers.

There has been a buzz surrounding the event over the past few months. Newquay has a large population of surfers of all ages who have made the sacrifice of low wages for a better standard of living, and the ability to surf as often as possible. It is really exciting to have an event that has been directly targeted this community.

The new Lighthouse Cinema opened this spring, and has already dipped its toe into the water with a few surf films. It screened Rio Breaks, a documentary about two best friends from the favelas and their life in the slums and surfing at Arpoador Beach, in Rio de Janeiro. It also held a Surfers for Cetaceans event where we saw Dave Rastovich’s movie Minds in The Water followed by talks by the surfers, directors and producers of the film.

The Lighthouse was a great venue for the film festival with its large atrium and multi screens. A band played, canapés were served and drinks were available from the bar. A red carpet was laid for Bethany Hamilton, the inspiration for the film Soul Surfer, which was premiered at the event. There was a good turnout from Newquay’s finest, dressed in their glad rags.

Although Bethany Hamilton’s story is inspirational, Soul Surfer (a Disney production) was not for me. I did however see two other films tonight.

Thirty Thousand – a beautifully shot surf travel movie by Richard and Andrew James. The premise of the documentary is two brothers who undertake a trip from Casablanca to Cape Town surfing the west coast of Africa as they go. This was eloquently narrated and unpretentious. The mellow, retro style surfing of the James twins was a joy to behold.

Last Paradise – an unintentionally funny documentary about the pioneers of extreme sports in New Zealand in the 60’s and 70’s. The stars of this movie, included AJ Hackett the founder of bungee jumping (who looked as if he’d done one too many), truly had a screw loose. I left with a longing to emigrate and live within spitting distance of Manu Bay, Raglan.

The British Surf Film Festival continues tomorrow, when a film competition will also be held with a screening of the entrant’s submissions. A great event, I hope this becomes an annual occasion!

Newquay – Surf Town Hangover

17 Sep

A breezy September afternoon and my hangover is mirrored by the Town. The streets are vacant and shivering as Newquay clinks and clatters in the wind. The holiday makers are mostly gone, and Newquay goes about its business. Muted and lifeless compared to the thump and bustle of summer.

Proprietors stare blankly, their shops quiet. A hen do straggles from bar to bar, a gust snatching at their feather boas. A surf school struggles down beach road. Heavy swell boards under arm in their uniform of wetsuits and flip flops.

Love it or hate it, on an August afternoon the town is alive. Newquay is pumping (unlike the surf), with music blaring from the bars. Thousands flock to the town, to party or just to see the spectacle that is Newquay in the summer. Fistral beach is transformed as the travelling show of competitive surfing dips its toe into the town.

View From Fistral Beach Bar - August


A Saturday afternoon six weeks later and Fistral is almost deserted, bereft of human clutter and exposed to the elements. Like the morning after the night before, the silence is deafening, with the Autumn breeze ringing my ears instead.

View from The Beach Bar - September

Watergate Sunset

22 May

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Surfing in Winter is Actually Quite Nice!

31 Jan

That might sound like a crazy statement to make, but when there is a wind chill factor of -5°C, getting in the sea is a blessed relief.

A chill North Easterly wind had been rattling the window panes of the bedroom throughout the night, and an extra blanket and the dog had failed to keep the chill out. After almost 6 days in daylight starved, artificial environments of exhibition centres, I was desperate to remind myself that I did have a life outside work. I wanted to surf, but having abused my liver in a systematic manner over the previous week, I found getting out of bed more strenuous than usual. My husband’s natural instinct upon waking up at the weekend is to go surfing. Impervious to my protestations that we would freeze, he proceeded to pack up the car, leaving me to make my own mind up as to whether I wanted to brave the elements.

I managed to strike a deal. Instead of clothes, I got out of bed and got dressed in 5mm of rubber. Not as exciting as it might sound. As I pulled on my split toe neoprene booties, I thought what a far cry this was from my new soft leather knee high boots I had been parading round in over the past week. My neighbour did a double take as I left the house and wished him a good morning.

As we pulled into the car park, I fully dressed in my winter wetsuit, it seemed others had had the same idea (unsurprisingly, as we were in Newquay). My husband cursed as the cold wind snatched at his towel as he got undressed on the tarmac. I wasn’t smug for long. As blood vessels constricted to keep me warm, my hands transformed into claws, useless for carrying my heavy long board down an ice covered beach. It was a strange feeling walking down the beach, the sand cracking under foot where frozen. Stalactites of icicles hung from the cliffs. It sounds totally crazy, but I knew from a similar outing last year, when we trudged through snow on the beach, that a couple things would make it well worth all the suffering.

For those of you that don’t know, getting in the sea when the air is below freezing is blissful. In Cornwall the sea in January is about 7°C. Compared to the air, the sea is significantly warmer. Body parts slowly defrost, and being submerged is an exhilarating experience, before any waves have been ridden! And of course, the whole purpose for braving the elements in the first place are the clean, groomed, wedgy waves of a winter swell and an empty line up. I got the added satisfaction being the only girl surfing at Watergate Bay that morning.

Equally, many of you out there brave far more Northerly latitudes than Cornwall, and will laugh at my feebleness. I can’t complain though. I was driven home after a 2 hour session, sopping wet, still in my wetsuit perched on a board bag and towel. I also had the luxury of getting changed under a hot shower. I really don’t have any excuses to avoid surfing in January!