By Dr. Tony Butt
Nowadays there are a lot of people making wooden surfboards. Environmentally it makes a great deal of sense. Wood is a natural, non-toxic material that is infinitely less harmful to work with than polyester, epoxy, polyethylene or polystyrene, and that can be assimilated back into the environment once the life of the board has ended. Also, wooden boards are generally made to last longer, which reduces the environmental footprint at the manufacturing end and at the waste-management end. And if the raw material (i.e. trees from the forest or offcuts from other industries) is extracted at a rate that is slower than the rate of natural re-generation of that material, a wooden board can be close to being truly sustainable.
When one thinks of modern wooden surfboards, those that immediately spring to mind are longboards, retro-fishes and single-fins – boards where a little more weight and perhaps a little less speed are not too much of an impediment. Boards for riders whose top priority is having fun without necessarily being able to land an aerial 360.
[Above: Patrick Burnett (left) with his 11’0” hollow wood board and Jason Hayes (right) with his 11’4” agave board.]
Continue reading "Wooden Big-Wave Guns: Two Techniques, Same Objective" »
By Dr. Tony Butt
Sometimes, to find the best solution to a problem, one has to be unafraid of trying out unconventional or seemingly counterintuitive ideas. Sometimes you have to go back and look at the original problem in a different light and think about what you are trying to achieve.
When looking for a place to surf, people often make the mistake of prioritizing the quality of the waves themselves over the quality of the experience of surfing them. For example, you might have a much better time sharing medium-quality onshore surf with three of your best friends, than trying to surf a world-class pointbreak with a 30 hostile locals. Or you might find the challenge of big, ugly surf in cold water more satisfying than perfect, easy surf in tropical conditions.
[Above: Sunset Reef, a stunning wave with a stunning backdrop. Photo: Javi Muñoz Pacotwo
Continue reading "‘Medium-wave surfing’ in Spain and South Africa" »
By Dr. Tony Butt
You are out surfing on your own. Someone else paddles out, comes up to you and says, “How long have you been out here?”
You think as hard as you can. In the end you take a stab at it and tell him about an hour. But the truth is you really don’t know – on one hand it seems like a couple of minutes, but on the other hand it feels like you’ve been out there forever.
If you really have been deep in concentration, your world will have been reduced right down to what you see and feel in your immediate surroundings. Nothing exists apart from you and the waves and maybe the wind or the odd seagull. All that stuff you were doing earlier this morning seems like something in the distant past, almost from another life. Your mother-in-law, the traffic, the bank manager and the shopping have simply ceased to be.
Your surfing is effortless, almost as if the surfing itself is doing it for you. You feel like a passenger just along to enjoy the ride. You’ll be paddling back to the line-up after each wave without the slightest effort, feeling like you could go on catching waves forever. You are living in the moment, enjoying surfing for its own sake.
[Tony, definitely not thinking about his mother-in-law or the bank manager. Photo: Jakue Andikoetxea]
Continue reading "Flow" »
by Dr. Tony Butt
We are constantly reminded that our oil-based consumer society, with our excessive use of plastics, obsession with air travel and inefficient ways of heating and lighting our homes, will eventually lead to environmental suicide in the form of global warming and resource depletion. But for many people, including surfers, global warming and resource depletion are a little hard to grasp; because they are difficult to actually see happening. However, our addiction to oil is one of the ultimate causes of another, much more tangible effect: when oil that is being transported spills into the sea and arrives on the coastline.
Almost exactly ten years ago, the Prestige oil spill occurred off the coast of Galicia, in Spain, very close to where I live at the moment. It was the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of Spain and Europe, and I don’t think it should be forgotten. So I apologize in advance if you find this article a little gloomy.
[Photo: Stéphane M. Grueso]
Continue reading "Black Tide" »
by Dr. Tony Butt
“We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven’t become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man’s attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy Nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself. Now, I truly believe, that we in this generation, must come to terms with nature, and I think we’re challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.”
– Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
Before Charles Darwin came along, it was ‘us’ and the ‘animals’. Now, over a century and a half later, most of us acknowledge that we are actually just another species of animal, with as much right to exist as chimpanzees, cats and dogs, mice and insects. The planet doesn’t just belong to us, it belongs to them as well.
[Above: The author dances with Nature. Photo: Tony Butt Collection]
Continue reading "Dancing with Nature" »
by Dr. Tony Butt
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]
Continue reading "El Berberecho" »