Mental health is a subject close to my heart. I've had my own battles in the past, and thankfully I sought the help, and made the changes needed to avoid the desperation that can comes as a result. For a while I was in at odds and found myself in some pretty dark places and I do know that, It is good to talk, and I do believe men especially are talking more than ever. I'm a builder and we do talk and we do listen. When I came through my journey I trained and took all the experience I had gained and continued to work with military veterans, the wider community, and sports people to provide the tools needed to manage their challenges, so in some ways I have tried to make a difference, which is what my old friend and mentor always believes in. Make a Difference, and what I'm sharing today on this blog surely will Make a Difference, because of the bravery of this one man to speak out.
I've followed The Ride Companion podcast for the past four years, mostly since lockdown, and this latest episode with Rob Warner just has to be shared. Rob Warner is a legend of the Mountain Bike world. One of the greatest sports commentators of any sport, if not the greatest. His enthusiasm is wild, his passion and knowledge all infectious. He's also very funny bloke and when you watch his own Youtube Channel you'll see just why.
But, all this aside, behind this huge character lies a man who's been fighting his own battle. To many, the name will mean nothing, but to the millions of people across the globe who ride mountain bikes, Rob Warner is our legend. A legend who lost his rightful place commentating on the Downhill and XC Racing of the World Cups, when coverage was taken over from Redbull by the Discovery Channel. A move which led to fans across the world screaming for the powers that be to 'Bring back Rob', Our sport of Downhill, our formula one, lost it's voice and tight now, it's just not the same. Thankfully we still have Crankworx and Hardline events, and Redbull TV.
This episode will touch so many people. His honesty about his recent diagnosis with Autism is both moving and inspiring. If you know of Rob Warner, have a listen. Its made me really reflect and in many aspects I completely resonate and has set me on my own path to find a few personal answers and I'm sure it will with you too. I'm also sure that the The Ride Companion followers and the fans of Rob Warner, that include the best riders in the world, this episode will be remembered. Thanks The Ride Comapnion, thanks to Davi and Olly, the presenters and thanks to the bravery of Rob Warner, I reckon more men will speak out about the own health. Take and hour or so and have a watch, or listen. Just go to yuor favourite podcast platform and follow The Ride Companion.
I wasn’t sure whether to post this, but I’m sure it will be fine and those who ride will be able to relate. If you’ve never picked up a shovel and spent a day digging, raking and grooming trails, painfully dragged a few fallen trees to make way for a new line; or if you just turn up and ride, then you're really missing out on an essential element of the riding experience. I don't do much these days as we live in a land of private land, and few places to hide away and dig. Our local hill is also best kept to low impact riding so we tend not to touch whats already there.
My limited trail building really began when I returned from travelling, surfing and working abroad in the late 90’s. I knew I wouldn't be surfing as much so I bought myself a DMR Trailstar and hit the hills, above where we grew up. Pushing up and tearing down was the order of the day and not much has changed really, I still do that now. I was lucky to have grown up below the South Downs and had always ridden around the Steyning area, and always just enjoyed the gravity fuelled riding. I began making trails, looking at lines, moving trees, making turns and generally sessioning a few areas. I was working part-time as a College lecturer and was really riding on my own. During the days when I wasn't teaching. I’d head up day after day building a little, only to find my work destroyed by walkers the next day. I’d put them back, and ride again, I wouldn’t give in but it was pretty soul destroying. The same problem exists in so many places today, but where I was building all those years ago, there now lies a whole network of legal trails under the local scheme with the permission of the landowner and managed by volunteers. Now, when I return to Sussex to see the family, I ride there as soon as I get home.
When I left to travel overseas in ‘97 we’d just closed the doors of our BMX shop. The unit was taken over by DMR/Upgrade Bikes, who were originally set up in the back room of the shop, and after 27 years later they're a global brand. I jumped on a plane to OZ, leaving bikes behind for a couple of years but when I returned, the riders who had been our loyal customers at the shop, and had helped us build some pretty standard jumps, had become seriously great riders, team managers for DMR, and even better trail builders than I could imagine.
They had a mini digger on hand, a pile of shovels, water supply on tap, and a corner of a field out of sight of anyone. Underneath the South Downs, the boys who we'd watch grow into great riders had built the field of dreams and after two years of travelling and surfing, I rode those trails as much as I could.
I’m sure if you’ve ridden a set of trails, stoked and buzzing after a clean run, you might feel in awe of the creation you’ve just ridden. The hard work, the effort, blood, sweat and dedication, and the fact that trail riding and dirt jumping has played a major role in developing some seriously stylish and smooth riders. I remember leaving the country and seeing these local lads committed to riding bikes, and on my return they just blew my mind.
Building Trails whether gravity focussed or dirt jumping, is a skill to be admired. If you have never pondered on the fact that ‘trails don’t build themselves’, then maybe it’s time to take a moment and ask what made you smile when you reached the bottom. What made you and your mates scream with stoke as you follow each other down the hillside, mountain or bike park. Who built that trail, who are they, why do they build trails? Trail building and maintenance can be a thankless task, but one that is often necessary for many reasons other that just to satisfy our simple needs.
Some trails need little work, they are just naturally super fun, like those forged by walkers, with rocky gulleys where the water has run, or paths scattered with sharp granite edges that have scraped many a leather walking boot, and the enemy of even the best double down enduro tyre . Spend a few moments watching the Zermatt round of the Enduro World Series in 2019 or 2020 and you’ll see riders on natural walking trails. In Italy and Spain, many trails are built around the old trading routes that would head up and over the mountain passes, both rocky and narrow, the riders carefully choosing the better lines. These trails have two things in common with purpose built mountain bike trails, they follow the contours of the landscape, and whether walking or riding, they offer overwhelming feelings of positive well-being.
On my local hill here in Cornwall the trails we ride are built by horse power, literally. Home to five Dartmoor ponies, who spend their days grazing with views of the Ocean and West Penwith, the Wild West of Cornwall. At a height of only 625 feet above sea level, the ponies have found the paths up and down through the gorse, the ferns and the brambles. In the summer when the fern is high and bright green, the trails are hard to spot, but fun to ride; In the autumn and winter the opportunities present themselves, the fern has begun to die and fall back to the ground to begin its journey into LOAM. There may be a little gentle clearing to be done, but we've never found a need to cut or dig, maybe the occasional ‘bramble redirection strategy’, but we just need to find a line and ride the trail in. The ponies might climb around a granite boulder, but add this into the run and you have a perfect drop. I suppose my point is that it’s important to ride what you have, and what presents itself. Local trails are a perfect place to develop and progress, don’t get all caught up in always needing to ride the best spots, or the biggest mountains. We have about four great trails, not more than 40 seconds long but all natural, and these trails are a great place to practise and develop skills like braking, and line choice. It’s our own little gravity training ground, and working with the environment that we have, these local trails can be full of positive energy and flow, and flow equals happiness.
It's also amazing now that alongside the development of bike parks, Trail Building is a legitimate employment opportunity. Those that are skilled and have a vision, are being paid to create lines down the side of mountains or hillsides. Some build trails for personal reasons, it provides respite and escapism and when they get to share their creation with others, they gain a sense of pride and achievement. Trail Building means so much to so many, it’s such a personal pursuit when we look closely.
Sam Bowell is the Manager of Rogate Bike Park in West Sussex. The trails frequently shown on YouTube with various top riders like Brendon Fairclough, Olly Wilkins and Bernard Kerr, all riding there as much as possible and home of the DMR line built by Sam.
I met Sam at the Freedom Ride in 2020, just after lockdown had eased in July, and this was the first real day where the park had opened and friends could ride together. Sam was stoked, as the Freedom Ride was the brainchild of himself, Davi Burkes and Olly Wilkins, and was a celebration of riding with friends again. I got to speak with Sam, as he’s a rider, a coach of ten years and a trail builder. Sam spoke so eloquently about his role as a full-time Trail Builder.
“I see it as Land Management, it's mapping the Landscape”, and as he went on I was already hooked listening to Sam. “It’s Organic Architecture”, he continued. There it was, a chapter title right there when I eventually get to finish my book. Organic Architecture was such a beautiful way of wording the pursuit of trail building. His passion was so evident I spent twenty minutes smiling, and listening to Sam speak of ‘Growing Art’ or facilitating riders enjoyment, by asking the trail "what angle is lying to you?" He often thinks he has Autism or OCD, seeing things within the landscape. “Riding teaches you to look at the big picture, considering the next thing, with a desire to be better, getting in a zone and being proud of what has been created".
I completely understood this ‘What angle is lying to you?’ I’d found this at home on our trails. Following the pony trails, looking for options to veer off, through the fern or utilising a tight turn to get to the next granite drop. You ride it but the turn just doesn’t work, there is no flow, just a flow stopper. So yes, angles do lie. It takes time and hard work, but the positive side for Sam is that his mental well-being takes a boost when he creates legitimate trails, adding legitimacy to being a trail builder. When family or friends ask him what he does, he replies “I’m a trail builder”. When questioned further he adds “this is what I do, it’s Land Management”.
But, before these trail building heroes reap the rewards of riding a trail they have built, at times they have found themselves digging, carving, shaping and sweating for their own personal well-being. At times trail Building has become a saviour to what might have been a dark future.
Whether riding or creating natural enduro style trails, or purpose built bike park features, the landscape plays the key role in what it will allow you to develop. Build properly, get permission and consider other riders abilities too. Trail building is about giving back to the community, so respecting the trail, the trail builder, and showing thanks by showing enjoyment. Trail Building is not all fun but hard work. Rewarding yet frustrating, an escape but also a saviour, and one day I'll post about my good friend, for whom trail building is a really personal journey, one that literally saved him.
Volunteering is a worthy, but often thankless task, but one that is filled with reward and arguably a humbling experience. Depending on where and how you decide to volunteer your time can provide such a positive transformation in your own self, that it is often the positive change that you may need. Volunteers freely give their time to benefit another person, but also develop personal skills, intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life, which in turn helps the volunteer to feel happier and healthier, mentally and physically.
Whether paid or voluntry one thing is common amongst the trail builders, it is a shared vision, a kind of generosity building for others to enjoy. I'm always humbled by the trails I ride, and take this opportunity to thank you all, they really are “Organic Architecture”.
Maybe this is another instalment on the theory of never growing up, or a filthy way to end 2023 with a big splash. In my mind growing up does not mean reducing playtime, that is not an option. Bodywise, that is a different phenomenon altogether. At the middling age of 54, I’m at that age when asked 'if I’d like to ride flat out through a deep puddle and see if we can get a rad shot', I’m all in. In fact, if anyone wants to take the time and effort to take photos of an old fart riding a mountain bike down a trail, as fast my fear of consequence will allow, then who am I to argue.
After a few laps of Grogley Woods, being lapped by endless people half my age on over-priced E-bikes, reminding me with each passing lap that I’m now riding what are apparently known as ‘analogue’ or even an ‘acoustic’ bike. Slogging our way up the fire roads, I did have that feeling of being a little lethargic after too much Christmas fare. But that said, lap after lap we dropped into another gravity-fuelled descent, dodging trees and sleeper roots, trying as hard as I could to keep up with my friends Josef and Tom. It soon became apparent that being in their early twenties, and both great riders, I would lose sight very quickly. Keeping up was a futile effort and although I continually bolstered my smashed ego with the excuse of not riding much of late due to a previously dislocated finger, the result of a stupid crash on my local hill. Throw in a nagging bad back, a dodgy ankle, an aching foot and wrists, I was understandably off-pace. I said to myself ‘Surely I’m never that slow’. I convinced myself that more time back on the bike would have me snapping at their youthful heels. Not a chance, who am I kidding, I’m 54. They both ride XC, enduro, road racing, and if it weren’t for the fact that Tom had to leave early, which took the pace of things considerably, being an absolute trail beast, I’d have been waiting for the air ambulance with spare oxygen, and a dose of performance enhancing mince pies not long after his departure.
Grogley Woods is full-on enduro riding. It’s rough, steep and technical in places, but I love it. I actually got a podium there in 2021 in the Super Veteran 50+ category at the South West Enduro. The climbs are steady, and the wide fire roads meander back to the trail heads. Unfortunately, my idea of steady is a lot slower than two young twenty something steady. But, riding downhill, I would argue all day long that I have the same passion, the same excitement and drive to go as fast as I can, not as fast as they can, as fast I can, I do race my own race these days. I’ll absolutely enjoy it as much as anyone, and when I reach the bottom, maybe way behind, I’ll arrive having equal amounts of stokedness (if that's even a word). At 54, I’m never going to be as fast, but I love it, and riding with these young ‘whippersnappers’ is too much fun. I would also add here that ‘Fist Bumps’ before and after a run, are a shared energy, not exclusive to the younger Gen Z, and as a firm member of the Gen X fraternity, many of us are well accustomed to the ways of the young, so never leave me hanging....Tom!!
When it comes to tapping into my inner child, the same one who used to jump his tracker bike off scaffold plank jumps, bunny hop people in the park, or ride a BMX through endless mud tracks all day, and coming home covered in muck, to the annoyance of my mother, I’m all for keeping this feeling alive.
I’m not ready for armchairs, pipe and slippers just yet, so I say this with all the humour I can muster, but when I get a chance to imagine myself as a professional mountain biker on a photo shoot, with a camera pointing my way, helping a friend get a few great shots in the woods, it’s an opportunity you don’t turn down. A shot of myself, trying to look like I’m OK on a bike, riding through a deep puddle of brown water, as deep as my hubs, knowing I’m getting soaked and covered in filth, and trying to add as much style as I have in my limited bag of style, again, I’m all in. Over and over, lap after lap, one shot after another, I love it.
I know Josef gets amazing shots. As a semi finalist in the 2023 Red Bull Illume photo contest, Young National Landscape Photographer of the Year, or even the South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year, to name a couple of accolades, Josef knows how to get a shot. In a dark monoculture woodland, with sporadic sunlight, winter browns, bright green moss, and pops of rustic ferns, there were options, but it was always going to be a tough shot. I know Josef desperately wanted the sunlight that beams through the tall pines as he showed me a shot from the previous week. In this case the highlights were going to be the puddles, the stars of the show. We’d done a few shots on a section of trail above, using a smaller puddle, but it was the final puddle on a turn that connected two parts of the trail and this was the one that counted, especially before my energy went altogether. But in situations like this my inner child will take over, and I worry about the physical implications later.
Josef set to work with the choice of lens, the position of the fern, deciding to shoot wide or bring it in tight. I simply became the model, and did a damn fine job too, I might add. I cleaned my goggles, checked my outfit, scrubbed some dirt off my bike, and just waited for his instruction. The truth is that both myself and Josef love doing this stuff and It's proper fun. For me, riding flatout through a puddle is just pure childish indulgence and everyone should do it. For Josef, I’m sure it’s the end result and chasing that shot in not ideal conditions that he loves and that’s the challenge, and reckon he nailed it.
As long as I’m riding a bike, and as long as Josef wants to get some shots, I hope we keep doing stuff like this. Maybe for now there’s no other reason than to accompany a blog post, that a handful of people might read, witha few totally sick shots. Maybe we might get an article out of it this coming year, that would be a bonus. But there’s no better reason to keep doing stuff like this. The sheer fun of it and feeling like a kid, and secretly ‘feeling like a pro’!
An Old bloke and a Dirty Puddle actually represents a lot more than riding bikes. Apart from the obvious, behind that crash helmet, and the goggles, is a bloke who represents every grey haired bloke, or women riding bikes in the woods, covered in muck, with a grin on their face, and feeling like their 12 again. These shots represent being ageless, never giving in, and continuing to do what you love for another year that passes. Go and find a puddle, ride through it over and over and get covered in mud, and while you're doing it, be mindful of the fact that, beyond any shadow of a doubt, I bet you're smiling.
Happy New Year everyone. I hope you enjoy my ramblings and keep the comments coming. There is so much more planned for 2024, and some really exciting plans that I’ll begin to put into place in January. For now, have an amazing New Year.
Photos by Josef Fitzgerald Patrick
Seven days until the winter solstice. Described on Google as midwinter, the shortest day, or the longest night. Seven days is not long to wait for an event that changes the mindset and emotional feelings for so many like minded outdoor enthusiasts, restricted by what seems an eternal darkness. It can feel like we’ve waited that same eternity to get the 21st December in our sight. I say an eternity, well since June really, when the clocks went back and the glorious summer evenings reached the longest day. From then on winter draws closer, winter is coming. The evening light reduced in an ever depressing timed pattern. Only a matter of minutes each day, but it begins to cramp our fun, squeezing our play further into the dark. For those of us who work full-time, we begin to think about only riding at the weekends, we dig out and charge the lights for the odd spot of night riding, and visits to the bike park at the weekend become more frequent, as the hills are sodden with rainfall. Surfers amongst us begin to feel the chill of the winter in the ocean, and the thickness of rubber increasing a millimeter at a time, until we’re covered in a thick restrictive coating, struggling with numb, cold and damp hands, and cursing the time it takes for our vans to warm up.
As the nights become darker we head off to work and return home in blackness, the weather changes frequently like our moods, and often winter seems even more gloomy unless we get our fix of weekend fun, riding wheels or waves. This is winter, and we’re in the thick of it, and to alleviate the grimness, holidays are booked, spring events are planned and Christmas seems like the only hope for some. But another celebration gets nearer and forces our spirits to lift a little. I can nearly relate to the Pagans celebrating the end of the descent into darkness, and the beginning of the return of the light. Now seven short days from the shortest day we’re not far from driving past bright yellow fields of daffodils in full bloom and that lightness that brings us post-work joy; and although the 21st will pass quickly, we still have some dark nights to battle through and we have to remain strong.
Excitement mounts though. Christmas will pass with a little more time off to have some fun with our mates, either side of family commitments, and then New Year strikes. Resolutions are made and quickly broken by the less committed, but we, the outdoor enthusiasts, are ready. Bikes have been prepped and serviced, new tires and christmas bling has been added to our steeds, trails have been cleared and our new clothing, mostly bought as a treat to ourselves will be laid out and ready to wear. New surfboards are ordered and due for delivery in time for spring and the 4/3mm wetsuit is dry and ready for action. As the light returns to our evenings, so does the warmth. The hope of a quick surf after a long day, or a few laps of the hill become reality. Getting home at five with light until six brings options and opportunity. The power hour is back on, and as sunset draws back out, the evening light is something that we look forward to more than others, at least that's what I think. Being a weekend warrior just isn’t enough and maybe that’s why we dream and crave an endless summer.
This film is the epitome of what I love about the idea of adventure, and exploring a radius thats beyond a comfort zone. When I was younger I travelled, surfed a few far off places and had some amazing adventures. I even sailed with my father when I was in my early teens, so film that combines both, I'm all in. This film features Torren Martyn, a peoples favourite, a stylish surfer that seems to have influenced an entire movement of fellow surfers now riding twin fin pintail surfboards. I'm yet to follow the trend but knowing myself, I will at some point, probably when everyone else has moved onto the next trend, I'm always a bit late.
Anyway, this beautiful film has just been released by wetsuit company Need Essentials and is well worth grabbing a beer or two, some snacks, jump on the sofa and chill for an hour or so, and think about your next adventure. Enjoy.
If you surf or not, you might ride lots of different types off board, then this film is probably the best ever made. The focus on so many amazing surfers and different equipment will inspire you too. I'm not writing anything, only that I watched this last night, didn't pick up my phone or get distracted for a single second and I've seenn this film hundreds of times now, but not for a couple of years. Enjoy,
There is something I love to watch and thats dirt jumping. Maybe as an ageing rider, a mid fifties bloke, who, as I've posted about before, refuses to grow up; watching the youth of today is really a pretty special thing. They ride with more style and finesses that I could ever, ever dream of or never even had. Maybe bikes are better, but steel is steel and Dirt Jumping has always been rad. Whether BMX or Mountain bike, watching riders flow through a set of trails, where the digging has been endless but the results are one hundred percent fun, dirt jumping will always float my aging boat!!
This edit just dropped by Commencal Bikes features their young British rider Finley Davies. Wow, this kid can ride a bike, and whats great is the support of his parents. Have a watch, leave a comment, and lets all look forward to Spring/Summer.
Check out this superb film by a favourite rider of mine, Kilian Bron. There is a behind the scenes edit too below, featuring the travel and logisitics of putting this incredible film together. If you ride bikes, enjoy, if you like fantastic scenery, enjoy.
Is there anything more stylish than the noseride? How about a cheater five? Even the faded bottom turn is an impeccably beautiful thing. But there is one move that in the eyes of many can be both graceful and powerful. Surfers like Joel Tudor do it with an understated style, hands low, almost sublime in the ease of executution, and used just when it's necessary. Master craftsman Tyler Hatzikian has the power, his arms thrown into the swing and often raised, but being a big chap, the weight of a solid mass moving the board into a turn that pushes all the power through the front thigh, is an impressive sight. CJ Nelson does them so bloody well and both CJ and Miles Doughman move thier bodies and board to achieve the perfect result, Matt Chojnacki is rooted in the classics too, and Devon Howard is a peoples champ and thanks to him this move is now firmly back in the jugdes handbook of must have traditional elements. The Godfather of Soul, Aussie Ray Gleave is a master and I once watched him surf his home break of Cabarita throwing in a series of these impeccable moves.
There are many images of Icons like Billy Hamilton, captured on one occasion redirecting on what would seem to be a closeout. A classic shot in black and white, framed by the legendary photographer Ron Stoner. Leroy Grannis captured Dewey Weber, also a master, Phil Edwards too both with their own unique style. Nat Young in the ‘66 Worlds, throwing traditional surfing moves which began to look progressive. These photos all caught the moment where the back knee is dropped behind the front, and the back heel raised. The shoulders are open and arms raised, both movements following the eyes of the surfer as he looks to where they need to be next. The upper torso follows the weight on the front quad, driving the board.
The drop knee turn is all about tradition. I've heard it being coined as a novelty move, which would suggest it’s not really functional, yet those that have mastered the art might strongly disagree. It can be done with move power when needed, but when surfers like like Summer Romero or Soleil Erico use it, it's done with the subtlety it deserves, setting up for the next section, and an easy graceful walk to the nose.
The drop knee turn is one of the most beautiful moves to watch in longboard surfing. Aesthetically, from the purist point of view it could be comparable to the ‘smith grind’ of skating, or the 360 table of BMX, or the ‘method air’ in snowboarding, or a solid whip on a Motocross bike. These moves are the ones the lovers, the purists of that particular genre love to see. For traditional longboarders, there is just something special about the rotation of a drop knee. Just watch the best perform, the body language, the arms raised of lowered, the depth the back knee is dropped, the simplicity of the turn is just a joy to observe, but add some power and nothing feels better.
Functionally, the drop knee can put so much power into a turn it’s unreal. I remember Tyler Hatzikien saying once that his power is put through the front quad, driving the rail deep into the wave whilst I suppose the back foot kind of directs the tail.
The drop knee is not just a frontside move either. I'm going to put my neck out there and say that on the back hand it has an even better feeling, almost deepening that functionality, tightening the turn with a lovely but necessary unweighting of the board as it's brought back to trim on the face of the wave. The position of your back foot as you come out of the turn, lends itself to start walking, the first of a few cross steps to the middle board. In the high performance arena of longboarding, many surfers doing a back hand roundhouse would choose to hit the white water, bringing the board back down through the white water and ready themselves to head to the lip on the next section, simply smashing the white water as it approaches. The more traditional longboard surfer will rarely leave the green wave and the backhand drop knee is performed in the curl of the wave, and that’s where the power lies. The roundhouse turn flows straight into a drop knee, and the dropknee flows directly into the cross step and trim. If you choose to go to the nose, that's a bonus, that's up to you, but it's not required, sometimes it’s nice to just stand there.
Learning the drop knee takes time and a lot of waves, unless you're a grommet who just does them straight off the bat. I remember wanting to always learn them, convinced I would paddle out and try them on every wave, but I never did. Probably too worried about wasting precious waves. When James Parry was young and first picked up a longboard, to my annoyance, it seemed like he was doing them within days, and yet some really good surfers don’t do them, but excel in other areas of longboarding and thier cutbacks that are just as impressive.
It was the elder statesman Charles Williams, a man with a regal posture and a gracious drop knee, who taught me. I think he was reading it at the time, but would refer to methods used in the ‘Way of the Samurai’, which, in the most basic form is, I suppose, learning to perfect somethng by repetition and endless practice, Charles taught me just that. Repetition is key, and if you don’t want to waste too many waves, do what I did and use a skateboard, it’s the best tool. After being shown in the car park at Sennen, it took me a solid winter of practising them on a longboard cruiser. Over and over I would ride up and down the promenade, or streets of Brighton (when I was still living there) until I had them dialled. Using a skateboard is fantastic as you can emulate front and backside, and incorporate learning to cross-step, and noseride too. You don’t even need a long deck, I've taught my son on an old slalom deck, it really is just placing the back foot and knee in the correct position, opening the shoulders and letting rip. My son just needs to transfer this to the water, and he will.
After a winter of practice, I returned to Cornwall the following Easter. I paddled out into ta perfect looking two foot longboard day in front of our beach cafe, and on my first wave , I did my first dropknee turn. I did it without even thinking. My brain had been trained, muscle memory took over. As the Samurai would learn to fire their arrows at targets from horseback, whilst their master would command them to perform the skill ‘Again!’ I too had learnt a skill through repetition, practise, commitment and Charles Williams telling me to do it again and again..
As for equipment when you get in the water, just go with what you have. Personally I prefer a pintail longboard, but that is because I have been surfing only pintails for twenty years. I just love the clean lines and the design just lends itself to smooth turns. However, this isn’t to say that square tails don’t, they absolutely do. In fact, my newest longboard, at 9’9” is a square tail as they have that versatility of being able to pivot, stall, and with a nice bit of concave and tail kick, the shape I’ve chosen for better noseriding. But even though I love this new board, I will always love the flow of a pintail when doing fluid dropknee, and when it gets bigger, that is when I feel I love the pintail is a perfect combo for dropknees. Either way, use what you have.
If you’d like to know more them I suggest you look up some of the names above and invest some time on Youtube. I've attached a couple of videos below. If you would like a little coaching then please drop me a line, i'd be happy to help. If you're in Cornwall and happen to be passing Sennen, then drop me a line, bring your skateboard and we can get started, then it’s all up to you. Remember dropknee turns take time to learn, and you might waste a few waves, but once you've got them, you'll never stop.
Note. That's me below, shot by James Parry back in 2012 riding a 9'4" Pintail Single Fin (I only have about 10 photos of me surfing)
Check Tyler below at 2.45' and 5.55' seconds, watch Ray Gleave on every wave, and Ben Considine's instructionals are excellent.
I got up this morning and just started writing. After three weeks I got back on my bike after a disolcated finger. Although still not 100%, it was OK, I could hang on. Being back up on the hill made me refelct a little too. Through riding we can connect to many things, so I wrote a little about a few simple ways to feel a connection.
When we ride we can connect with elements of ourselves that others might not be able to reach. We might not want to show them or even share. Anger, Fear, and Anxiety can often be linked to our past, they can eat us up, take over our lives and destroy us internally, but also massively affect those around us. Riding bikes can help us understand and manage these emotions, and we can use riding as a tool to help conquer them in the present and future.
When we ride alone we can express our vulnerabilities. It doesn’t matter what level of rider you are. If you imagine your riding aggressively it’s a fantastic way to take out some anger on a trail, really attacking the turns or the sections ahead of you. Beating a climb by never giving in. If there is a technical section ahead of you, attack it, if it beats you, attack again and again, and if you can’t be heard scream as loud as you can. Many times I have been surfing, and dived under the surface and released my anger. I've also stood on the hill, just before dark, alone with my bike and just screamed. If we can let some anger out, it means we don’t take it home, we don’t let others see this until we’re ready to open up, and avoid the transference of these emotions to those around us and the ones we love.
If you happen to be reading this and in search of a release, get a bike, find a hill, and try screaming, it might not be a solution but I guarantee it’s a means to manage an unwanted emotion. Riding bikes is a perfect way to release this negative energy because it’s such a positive experience.
Fear can be frustrating and often linked to limiting beliefs; ‘I can’t do that’!! But riding helps us work and connect to our fear because we can learn to progress. Whether it be jumping, speed, steep drops, climbing, endurance rides, or general bike handling, the more we progress, the more we understand our own relationship with fear, the more we can use the emotion in our favour.
Fear of what others think of us is often a massive barrier to entry. If you’ve grown up worrying what others might think of you, then this will carry over into other aspects of life, including sport and riding bikes. I hope many others would agree that within the MTB community, I’m convinced that no one cares, they just love to see people progressing. At any bike park you will find all levels of rider, and personally I’ve never witnessed anyone laugh or mock someone who is trying. A foot of air on a tabletop is a huge thing to some, the first time clearing a huge gap is another, and if any other rider catches you doing either, they’ll be there to congratulate you or offer words of support. It’s similar to the fear of going to a skatepark and feeling embarrassed because you're not very good. From experience of being that person, I’ve only ever been the recipient of another person's stoke and support. Some sports just seem to have that built into their DNA, some communities want others to progress and in turn this helps alleviate fear in others.
These are the communities that you can connect with, these are the communities that offer support and will help you also conquer any insecurities. It might be a long work in progress, but using the endless sense of achievement through riding, these lessons can then be translated to managing any fears you might have in everyday life, whether it's jobs, relationships or personal battles. Connection to the MTB community has so many benefits. The club rides, the social chatter, the shared experiences, the events, competition, and the feeling that you are not alone. Remember one in four people will suffer from some form of mental health, and joining the MTB community means you're likely to find someone to talk to, someone that will relate to, and understand your feelings.
There are organisations now like the Trail Therapy Project in Plymouth who are helping people through riding MTB and offer organised group rides. But if that is not your thing, most areas have clubs and groups who meet regularly and are open to new members and riders and provide a range of rides from week to week.
The connection to nature might often be the most talked about draw of riding a MTB. Getting away into the hills or mountains is hugely beneficial for the mind and dating back to the birth of the MTB itself, it was a way of climbing up, and accessing the highest parts of the wilderness. Fast forward nearly sixty years and riders are still drawn to the benefits of being outside, breathing freshair, riding alone or with friends, being in Nature has to be better than being stuck in our own minds. My local hill is probably one of the smallest in the country. It’s the First and Last Hill in the UK, but I call it ‘My mountain'. Downhill runs of thirty seconds, and steep climbs back up. The views look out over to the ocean and an unbroken 360 degree vista of real beauty. I can sit up here and watch nature, listen to nature and really become mindful. I spend a huge amount of time on this hill and why I call it ‘My Mountain’. Beside the ocean where I surf and swim, this hill is very precious. Finding your mountain, your slice of wilderness, your escape when you need it, will connect you to nature that is both powerful and hugely beneficial.
If we can make a connection to these elements then the connection to your well-being and your mental health will become stronger. An unbreakable bond will be made, and once committed you’ll find this very hard to ignore.
Surfers have a relationship with Mother Ocean that is very powerful. Immersing yourself into the ocean and feeling the power of a wave, and riding that wave. Energy that has travelled thousands of miles, provides an unfathomable sense of connection and joy. As a surfer myself this might sound all ‘right on’ and ‘duuuude’ but just ask World Enduro Champion, Jack Moir, or World Cup Winner, Laurie Greenland, where they go when then home, they head to the ocean.
But if you’re not a surfer, then we are surrounded by Mother Nature. I’m no hippy, but being outdoors with my bike is good for the body and the soul, mind and matter. My Mountain is as important to me as the ocean and I’m lucky enough to immerse myself in both realms. When one is not welcoming, I escape to the other. Both have helped me to heal through some rough times mentally and physically. That old phrase ‘the power to heal’, it’s true, if you embrace it. Find your space, take your bike, ride, sit, observe and be open to being mindful and you will feel the benefits. On those days when you haven’t got the motivation; I beg you to find it. Ask yourself a simple question. ‘If I go riding now, how will I feel in one hour?’ The answer will only ever be positive. Or ask this. ‘If I don’t go riding, how will that serve mentally and physically?’ . I'm Sure the answer would be ‘It doesn't’.
You don’t have to do training laps or conquer any fears if you don't feel like it. You might find that turning the pedals is enough. Look over some hedges, climb a hill, sit for a while, take it all in, get some mud on your face, get wet, watch some people walking their dogs, do a lap and ride home. One thing is certain and all the greats can't be wrong. Riding you bike will make you feel better and you will feel connected to whatever it is your looking for.
Hi, I'm Russ Pierre, a Cyclist, Surfer and outdoor enthusiast. Please join me as I have some fun on my adventures and write about all the stuff that makes me tick.