The first time I entered the hallowed doors of my local surf shop – Mitch’s on La Jolla’s Pearl Street – it felt like a rite of passage.
As a 10-year-old grommet, I was in awe of all the cool surf and skate gear crammed on the store’s narrow, cluttered walls. I stood there, paralyzed, imagining what it would be like to ride one of the shiny new Puringtons, Bessells, Craigs or Staples surfboards lined up along the back room. I eventually gazed toward the glass counter, and drooled over all the Gullwing trucks, riser pads, O.J. wheels, Powell decks, stickers and grip tape that I would later nag my folks to buy me for upcoming birthdays.
[Devon Howard grabs an FCD Fish off the rack. Patagonia Cardiff, California. Photo: Jeff Johnson]
Chances are if you’ve perused the Patagonia website or catalog, you’ve caught sight of a few of Ben Moon’s images. From surfing and climbing to capturing the music scene, the self-taught Moon took the photography scene by storm more than a decade ago.
Moon’s work will be featured this weekend at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado. I caught up with Moon in between travels at his home-base in Portland, Oregon and asked him a few questions.
[Above: Portrait of Ben Moon in SE Portland, Oregon. Photo: Ryan McDonald]
Emily: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Ben: I love to eat, so breakfast is a great excuse to get rolling on that early in the day. While I’m home, I usually make a green juice first thing in the morning with kale, an apple, a lemon, and fresh ginger. I’m not into big meals because I can’t be productive during a food coma, so a “second” breakfast follows soon after, along with yerba maté to keep the day moving.
It’s the second T-shirt I’ve seen today that poses this question, a lingering sting of animosity toward France’s three decades of nuclear testing in L’Archipel. France ignored a 1973 World Court request to stop the practice, sparking protest worldwide, including New Zealand’s delegation of a naval ship to the main atoll, and Peru’s severance of their French diplomatic relations.
Relentless global opposition to nuclear testing saw the French drilling bomb shafts beneath the lagoon in 1975. Rather than blasting motus in plain view, replete with ominous, “harmless” fallout, the endeavor cloaked the tests submarine.
After the Australian release of Come Hell or High Water we received this heartfelt message from Coffs Harbour based parents Greg and Donna Edwards. Kyan, their 8 year old son has autism. After watching the film their lives were changed forever.
I would like to share our little breakthrough and in some small way, say thanks for making Come Hell or High Water film possible.
Come Hell or High Water has changed our lives.
Put simply, our 8 year-old son Kyan has Autism. We have had a very difficult time bringing him up and up until last week, we had given up on the idea that he would ever be comfortable at the beach. The bright sunlight, sand and wind create a ‘sensory overload’ for our little boy and most often he will scream and scream when we take him anywhere near the ocean. My wife and I both grew up surfing and we feel completely at home in the water. Some days, the two of us have wanted nothing more than to be able to take our kids down onto the sand and swim.
From “The Five Pillars of Lakshadweep,” Chapter 17
This room is moving. Trevor Gordon’s eyes are open and glazed, his pupils wide. It’s 5:04 a.m. He rubs his belly clockwise, breathes oddly, speaks flatly.
“Don’t let me pass out, man. We’ve got to stick together.”
Outside, pale moonlight glints off the warm Laccadive Sea. The 89-meter M/V Lakshadweep Sea sways from side to side, motoring east at nine knots while Chadd Konig, also in the room, is awakened by the lanky sleepwalker.
“I really need some fresh air,” Gordon slurs.
The two step outside. Gordon’s balance is off. On the bulwark he rests his elbows. His shoulders feel sore. So much surfing lately. So many great waves. With Konig he ponders the universe and watches the sea slide by.
[Above: Patagonia ambassador, Trevor Gordon, eyes wide in Lakshadweep. Trevor also drew the cover art for Crossings (below). Screengrab: Michael Kew from "Laccadive Hollows"]
There, beyond the horizon, Somali pirates prowl for big boats like this. The isolation of Lakshadweep’s palmy atolls has lured the slitted eyes of East African predators who, armed with grenade launchers and Kalashnikov rifles, seek ransom for seized cargo. Can be any cargo, really. Freighters and oil tankers are preferred. Unfortunately the Lakshadweep Sea holds nothing but islanders and Indians, 260 of them, bound for the port city of Cochin. It’s a 21-hour sail.
One would think that the early nineties would be a relatively late stage to discover new surf in Europe. When I set off from Cornwall to Galicia in November 1992 in a van with two mates, all we were expecting to do was satisfy our own curiosity. Nobody we had spoken to in the UK seemed to know about any surf further west than Rodiles but we were sure there would be a thriving surf community west of there. It was just that we had not heard about it. We would start in Baiona, just north of the Portuguese border, and work our way around the coast. We had the whole winter.
Needless to say, with three people in a small van for several months, rain every day and nothing to do between surfs, and a van plagued with mechanical problems, it was a fairly hardcore trip. In the end, the trip only worked through strict military-like discipline and co-operation between team members.
After spending the first two months scouring the coast of Galicia for waves with a fine-toothed comb, all we found were huge close-outs on sandbars half a kilometre offshore. We endured day after day of rain, endless coffees in smoke-filled bars and conversations with crazed Galician fishermen, all of whom warned us not to go in the water along this treacherous part of coast, aptly named La Costa de la Muerte.
[Above: The author rides a different wave on a different day in northern Spain. Photo courtesy of Tony Butt]
How could we possibly give voice to marine mammals and other life threatened by one of the largest industrial projects ever conceived? After all, whales, dolphins and the like – as intelligent as they are – cannot mount their own defense against the oil industry.
Oil giant Enbridge Inc. and its international partners have proposed the Northern Gateway Project, a massive pipeline that would cross nearly 650 miles of Canadian wilderness, hundreds of fish-bearing streams, and dozens of First Nations territories. This oily tentacle would stretch west from the Alberta tar sands to British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest where the raw crude would await transport by tankers to Asia and, potentially, California.
Never before have oil tankers dared to travel along this stormy and largely unspoiled coastline. Most vessel traffic consists of modest fishing boats owned by people from remote aboriginal villages that dot the shores. These people continue to depend on the abundance their ocean provides them. Not surprisingly, their opposition to Enbridge and the Northern Gateway project is fierce.
A friend of mine, Nick Pumphrey, who I grew up with surfing, skating and generally causing mayhem, now lives in South West France. He has called Hossegor home for about six or seven years now. Now turned semi-professional photographer he still works the summers in bars and restaurants and sleeps in his van to save money so that he can head on missions throughout the winter. His van holds this amazing quiver of longboards, single fins, alaias, bodyboards and swim fins. All the wave-riding equipment you could need for whatever one of the best stretches of beachbreak in the world could throw at you.
[Me cruising on my Fark Quad. Photo: Nick Pumphrey]
The drive up the mountain was as thrilling as hearing the “Wild Bull” breathing outside our tent. The sharp turns and steep cliffs with no guard rails looked down onto car cemeteries. With no coca leaves to chew on the altitude was getting the best of me; I closed my eyes and tried to relax. Our whole drive we didn’t see one patch of snow, just dirt. We were all wondering if there would actually be any snow at the top. I was ecstatic to get out of the car finally to discover a white-capped mountain with patches of mud. It had been almost eight years since I’d been snowboarding, a sport that I’ve love to do at least once a year my whole life growing up. I guess I had been so focused lately on traveling to other coastlines in search of waves that I neglected visiting snowy peaks.