Cooler magazine

The Lowdown on Longboarding in Cooler magazine

By Sam Bleakley

Piano rolling, sax, bass and drums in synch, the trumpet sets loose on a snaking improvisation. The timing is perfect, syncopated, just behind the beat: invention, not imitation. If the pulse of jazz is the ocean swell, then the trumpeter is the longboard surfer improvising against that backdrop, not by stating the obvious, but by creating space through style. Good longboard surfing on 9 feet boards is a mirror of good jazz – the pauses, the tones, the beats, the walk. Most importantly, don’t get fussy – understatement with precise timing always beats flashy overstatement. Smooth flowing longboarders like Californians Joel Tudor and Kassia Meador do not just play the tune straight, but hint at it with sideways glances, subtle intonations, moves away from the beat, long arcing silences punctuated by perfectly timed clusters of blue notes, or just a single shimmering note suspended in space, like hanging ten.

Nose riding is what sets longboarding apart from other forms of surfing. It involves walking up the board in crossed steps to hang five, or role all five toes over the front of the board. The ‘hang ten’ is the defining dance, the finest statement of balance. Similar to riding the tube, time on the nose seems to expand and happen in slow motion. “Noseriding gives you a perfect sensation of weightlessness,” says Australian pro Belinda ‘Bindy’ Baggs. “It reminds me of how a bird rides the back draft of the wind, gliding.”…

About Sam Bleakley

I am a freelance writer and professional surfer from Sennen, West Cornwall, in the UK. I specialise in surf exploration projects with renowned surfEXPLORE photographer John Callahan. I have undertaken groundbreaking trips to the likes of Algeria, Liberia, Kenya, Oman, South Korea, Hainan, Palawan and the Maluku Islands. Surf writing has led me to visit sixty countries. My roots, however, remain in Penwith, where I live with my family above Gwenver beach, close to Land's End, the westernmost tip of Britain - next stop Novia Scotia. I have an MA in Geography from Pembroke College, the University of Cambridge, and I am currently researching a part time PhD in Travel Writing with Falmouth University. I am the author of two illustrated surf travel books, Surfing Brilliant Corners and Surfing Tropical Beats (Alison Hodge Publisher, Penzance). I have been a multiple European and British Longboard surfing Champion, and former competitor on the ASP World Longboard Tour. I am widely published and featured in international magazines and newspapers ranging from Resurgence to Action Asia to The Cornishman, and a regular contributor to The Surfer's Path. I have studied and taught travel writing courses and guest lecture on aspects of surfing, travel, writing and geogrphy in further and higher education. I edited The Surfing Tribe: a history of surfing in Britain, and have edited Longboarding supplements and specials for Carve and Wavelength magazines. My first book, Surfing Brilliant Corners, details a decade of extreme global surf travel, illustrated by John Callahan. Surfing, jazz, geography, ecology and cultural studies mix as I journey to Mauritania, locked in political strife, where landmines litter access to some of the best waves on the planet; and Haiti, which captures my heart and makes it race as if falling in love. My second book, Surfing Tropical Beats, follows our surfEXPLORE team on a rollercoaster ride from Haiti to Gabon, through Algeria, India, Vietnam, China and back to Haiti.
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