Hotel Aqualuna, Mexico

6am alarm call. The heaving waves out front are already sending shockwaves through the entire town. After a good-morning welcome, from Bali the coolest Dalmation you’ll come accross, you head up to the roof terrace to get a gage on how big Playa-Zicatela is this morning.

The sun hasn’t unleashed its fury yet, but it’s soon to be in the 40’s. After watching a couple of sets unload you decide that, today, you’re going to give it a shot.
Down as much water as possible, grab a snack and head down to the water to give it a crack.hotel-aqua-luna
No matter the size, Zicatela will kick your ass, so you want to come back to somewhere that can look after you. Aqualuna hotel, Puerto Escondido in Mexico is just the place. The joint is run by Australian bodyboarder, Clive Richter and his Mexican wife Adrianna. These guys will look after you, you’ll feel welcome and looked after and you’ll meet some of the coolest likeminded travellers that you could ever wish to.

You know after a full-on work out session out at Zicatela, you need to replace the food you just burnt up. A cooked brekafast or burrito wipped up by the staff should sort that out.  You can now sit back, recover, hide from the midday sun or chill and watch movies in the best hotel in Puerto Escondido. A big clean pool is the ideal place to try and relax your aching muscles from this morning’s session and the spacious air conned rooms are perfect for a cheeky siesta before attacking the evening offshores.

It’s no surprise that the Quiksilver team book the whole place out every year for the ASP event at mex-pipe, or that the entire IBA crew take over the hotel for the Bodyboarding Grand Slam event in July.

For more information check out: http://www.hotelaqualuna.com/

Winny Takes out the 2012 Chilean Challenge

Australia’s Dave Winchester has been crowned the winner of the 2012 Stealth Arica Chilean Challenge at El Gringo which saw glassy 6ft conditions.

Winchester took out lasts year’s winner, GuilhermeTamega, with a huge invert followed by a tight spin and close out roll awarding him a score of 9.84 in the dying seconds of the final heat.

photo – ibaworldtour.com

This is the second win at Arica for the 30-year-old from New South Wales who has had more success here than at any other wave on the Grand Slam Series.

“I am so happy to beat Tamega today. I just wanted to get him back for beating me in the final here last year. It was even better that it all happened in the last few seconds, because he thought he had it,” said Winchester in today’s IBA press release.

The Chilean Challenge presented by Bodyboard Surf Co is the third stop on the IBA World Tour Grand Slam Series. The competition is a firm favourite for many of the athletes as-well as spectators. “It’s the biggest stop on tour as far as the crowd goes,” said current world number 2 Tom Rigby.

With huge waves breaking so close to the rocks it is never a surprise to see some of the riders take a hit or two in Arica. Former world champ Ben Player describes the wave as “pretty bloody scary,” but said that “most of the competitors would rather be hurt than knocked out.”

With two third place finishes, today’s win sees Winny take control of the 2012 IBA GSS rankings, 900 points ahead of number 2 seed, Jeff Hubbard from Hawaii.

“I would have to say this is the highlight of my career so far, I’m pumped. And I can’t forget to thank Lester and Hardy for the carry, good blokes.”

A Breath of Fresh-Air

Photos by Kaelan Sizemore

An interview over the internet is never ideal. So much is lost without meeting face to face. I caught up with Sampu Samantary or Sanjay Ray as he’s more widely known, after he returned from a trip full of discovery to the “wild and virgin” region of the Bay of Bengal, where he said he found some “world class waves.” However, sat on Facebook chat late at night I can sense his beaming smile as the symbol indicating his reply returns to the bottom right hand corner of my screen, and it’s becoming infectious.

“Waves, culture and spiritual journey, make a unique surfing journey,” says 41 year old Sanjay, who hails from the Orissa region of India. I’ve never really considered a surf trip to India, but as he describes his love and passion for the country I find myself wishing myself away from a wet and currently wave-less West Cornwall.

“In India, one has to dig a life from shortage and struggle in the mass. It took 20 years from my first beach adventure, for me to settle my bread butter house to come back to the beach and to start the surf things. It was a big challenge for surf to be in India due to lack of experts, equipment and the surf culture. Yet I had plans, to use the power of internet as my tool to organise the hurdles.”

Sanjay is the founder of Rangers Adventure Foundation who has been facilitating camping on the beaches of the Bay of Bengal since 2002. “SurfingYogis operate from our campus at the Puri -Konark marine drive with a secret beach break behind our forest,” he explains.

“Our team, Surfingyogis was recognised by our state tourism department which opened the official surf history of India and we started taking expeditions along the coast to search for waves.”

Unlike so many companies that focus purely on wave quality, Surfingyogis, place a heavy emphasis on keeping a healthy balance between the sport and the country’s natural beauty, careful not to pollute or damage the beaches or any of the surrounding ecosystems, offering its customers more than just waves.

“We try to provide such trips to open minds, or those who are ready to open their mind for possible spiritual elevations within scientific justification.  Surfyogis is about living to the fullest in joy, love and service.”

The company offer healing beach practices, organic life styles and yogic mind management alongside great waves. “It has a taste, smell and colour of green and unpolluted scenic India,” says Sanjay.

In February of this year, Ramachandi Beach, on the Puri-Konark Marine Drive in Orissa played host to The India Surfing Festival (ISF). With Orissa State Tourism Department and Chilika Lake development authority being the only companies getting behind the event, Surfingyogis took it upon themselves to provide a unique experience and they didn’t disappoint.

“We worked hard to bring all this without corporate sponsorship and yet we showed to other festivals to adopt an artistic approach to avoid high tech pollutant plastic. It all came out good. India is Surf ready now.”

Super keen Bodyboarder, Kaelan Sizemore, from San Clemente, California is currently working with Sanjay, promoting the surf industry in India, and tasting the various fruits India has on offer.

“My work is kind of random,” he explains, “talking to different companies and government officials here to promote our different goals.”

To many people surfing in India is still a strange concept. In a country widely associated with poverty and disease people overlook the wave potential of the forgotten coast line.

“There aren’t many people that know about the surf scene here”, says Kaelan, “that’s the problem, and so much of it has gotten lost in translation with Indian journalists.”

Sanjay describes Kaelan as “King cool,” and I’ve got to admit, after spending some time with him in Mexico in 2010, I can see where he’s coming from. The length of his hair and beard along with his laid back approach to life has to be admired, regardless of his ability on a bodyboard.

He names a Mexican wedge and South Straddie in Australia as his favourite beach breaks but claims to have found India’s answer to these waves earlier this month.

“A heavy inside sandbar, breaking like a wave back home in Cali that’s considered to be pretty good.  I got one of the most aesthetically pleasing photos I’ve ever captured Bodyboarding, super glassy wave with my reflection in it. It’s very trippy. And about 2 weeks ago we had really good beach break it was like a left and a right with a channel in between and ramps at the end of each wave but, the surf would be comparable to a much smaller version of Mex-pipe on a blown out afternoon almost every day. I’m definitely having a blast.”

To many people surf tourism is becoming a stale industry, sometimes it feels like every corner of the world is being raped for waves and good times. But it seems India is introducing a much needed breath of fresh air back into the surfing world, far from the pretences of popular destinations.

Being a Coastguard: “It’s just helping keeping people safe when they’re at sea”

Its 6.20 Am on the 27th October 2010. It’s been a long quiet shift for those manning the HM Coastguard operation centre through the night, and the thought of retiring home for the day is beginning to sound very appealing.  Just 70 minutes to go. The team receive  a distress call from a factory fishing ship that has set alight 230 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean with over 100 people on board. The responsibility of making sure these men and women get off the burning ship safely now lies in the hands of the Coastguard.

Maggie Howell has been a coastguard for over 7 years. She was one of the crew members responsible for safety of those trapped on the burning ship: “We decide what help is needed and how best that can be achieved and who is best person or best unit to go out and do that.”

Falmouth Coastguards cover a huge amount of shoreline stretching round the coast of Devon and Cornwall. However, what many people won’t know is that the team are also the first point of contact for anyone in distress within this half of the Atlantic.

“People coming down from up North don’t even know the tides come in and out… let alone that it happens twice a day”

“We cover half way across the Atlantic, and the other side is picked up by Canada. Most of the time we get the information in and if it’s not near us then we pass that onto the relevant country, but sometimes, Countries like Liberia don’t have the adequate rescue organisations so we would have to do it. We would have to arrange a rescue in the middle of the Atlantic by using satellites and all the stuff that we have available to us.”

But it’s not just major boat incidents out at sea the Coastguards have to deal with, the everyday issues of large tidal movement and rip currents, usually associated with the lifeboat team also become a major concern for the Coastguards. “People that come down from up country, they know the lifeguards and they’ve seen the lifeboats, but they wouldn’t know what we do, and it’s us that gets the 999 call to go and help them.”
During the summer months, the Cornish coastline attracts millions of tourists unfamiliar with the area, and it’s up to the coastguards to ensure everybody stays safe.
“People coming down from up North don’t even know the tides come in and out let alone that it happens twice a day”

“As much as you can tell people and give them advice on checking on the tides and boat users checking that their boat is in good condition and checking they know how to use their radio, things do happen that are outside your control. The weather is its own animal, it does its own thing, and despite the forecasts, it can suddenly in seconds do something different.”

Being part of any emergency services team, despite being stressful, can be extremely rewarding. Especially when you’re working twelve hour night shifts. Maggie puts her as well as her colleagues love for the job down to the fact that she is helping to keep people safe on a daily basis: “It’s just helping keeping people safe when they’re at sea,” Maggie explains hosting a warm smile. “That’s our bread and butter really isn’t it, that’s what we do, is help people and rescue people, and if it weren’t for that, then we wouldn’t be here.”

During the summer of 2011, the station was close to becoming a daylight-hours only operation after plans were put forward by the Marine and Coastguard Agency. This sparked an outcry in the town, with the local paper collecting a petition of 7,459 signatures – a quarter of the population of Falmouth – calling for the coastguards to remain open 24 hours a day. Government were forced to reconsider this proposal. However, coastguard stations all over the country are in danger of closure with 8 stations across the UK expected to have closed by 2015.