quarta-feira, 26 de outubro de 2011

Contestants dream vs Locals Nightmare

Usually we would be out there... Photo: Sandra Stubenvoll - Baleal Surf Camp

It is now the third consecutive year with the World Cup Tour in Peniche and, for the third consecutive year, conditions have been good to epic. That’s the pro’s talking not me.
I heard that it was the very first time a WCT event was completed within two and a half days strait and even rarer I guess, with barrels left and right from start to end.

When the news spread about the 2009 Search event we were all excited with the prospect of seeing the top surfers in the world surfing on our backyards. We know the surf we have here, but the world did not. Now the world knows and despite the cliché: things will hardly be the same.

Personally and being a person within the surfing business it would be ridiculous to claim this event is not good for the present and future of this area. But I would be a liar if I were to say that as a local surfer this makes me particularly happy. After three years, the point proven beyond any doubt is that Peniche is indeed one of the most consistent surf locations in Europe, with the extra of having world class waves to go along with swell exposure second to none in Portugal.

This is the sponsors, brands and contestants dream scenario and at the same times the local’s nightmare... Firstly 3 days in a row with perfect Supertubos, not accessible. Secondly; the crowds will grow more and more and that’s just it. What used to be a quit low key atmosphere during most of the best surf season will become increasingly more impacted with the surfers both national and foreign. Good for business perhaps, not so good for vibe in the water, but you can’t have it all, right?

The typical selfishness of the local surfer is a normal and reasonably easy to understand phenomena. You can’t build waves as you build a skate park or a ski pist. What nature has to offer is all there is and, on top of that, surf spots won’t work as often as we would like, so localism is a natural part of the sport itself.

Here in Peniche localism is a very mild version of what you can find in other places in Portugal not to mention the world. However and more and more frequently, this mellow attitude and forgiveness to wrong doing in the lineups is misunderstood for inexistence of locals at all. This is visible firstly with the surfer tourists that paddle strait out to the outside of the lineup, this we can even understand as the folks have so much surf culture as we have recycling habits. But now, and second to the point above, we start to see Portuguese surfers from elsewhere coming over to our peaks, paddle strait outside and start barking at everyone in the lineup, trying to pass as locals the impostors!

This is one of the not so pleasant consequences of the WCT success. The area is becoming a magnet for reasonable surfers who think they will get more than their fair share of waves if they try to make an impression of what a local behaves like around here. The problem is that they don’t know who the locals are and how we behave. But we all know who is who in the water and the “wanna be” locals will have to learn too. Because if they don’t learn how to behave around here things are going to get nasty for everybody, and nobody here really wants that.

Text: Marcos Bairros

quarta-feira, 31 de agosto de 2011

XXI century must...

Friends, former guests, future guests and surfers.

Baleal Surf Camp in Peniche - Portugal is proud to announce yet another revolution within our micro but super company; The Facebook Fan Page, hurrah! Did not quit hear that roar, but its ok

As you all know, probably better than we that keep our eyes and ears on surf forecast websites and news rather than online social networks, being present on Facebook is important these days, a must of the XXI century I would risk saying. Bill Gates said 10 or 15 (or was it 20?) years ago; “In the future, companies will either be in the online business or out of business”. It turned out to be a particularly accurate statement, and; despite the inevitable fans of the fax machine and mailed brochure who proclaimed the failure of the new technologies like the e-mail and internet, the same way people before had laughed at the idea of space exploration; the fact is that all of those “things” are a part of life, banal and important at the same time as drinking water…

So, and to cut short the historic background, here at Baleal Surf Camp we have decided it was time to quit writing letters to our beloved fans, a small step for Mankind but big one down here, and so here it is. The “people” page that was our face on Facebook won't be updated anymore with content about Baleal Surf Camp. All our Facebook activities will take place on the Fanpage.

This will be the "place" to keep your eyes on updated content from us such as; photos, videos, news, special promotions and where you can refresh your memory about how great your time with us was and how much you would like to come back, soon!

By the way, do you "Like" it?

Baleal Surf Camp Team September 1st, 2011
Text: Marcos Bairros Photo: Facebook Fanpage Screen Capture

quinta-feira, 17 de março de 2011

Major force reason

One powerfull reason.

Just saw the date of the last post, doesn’t say much about consistency on writing here. But as it is not a professional obligation there is no real need to post just because a deadline is around the corner. Actually it is a really fortunate circumstance that I just have to write when there is something to write about, like now: writing about why I’m writing what I’m writing.

So February was a total blank. To understand why some investigation was in order; as for within the reasons for such long silence there should be, amongst others, some of major force like: “(…) war, political unrest, strikes, acts of God, epidemics, natural and technical disaster, closure of ports and aircraft (…)”. My thorough despite brief research did not bring any results. Did I mention that I forgot to include one of the reasons a surfer can claim? The inevitable:
“- Surf was classic...”

The quote I mentioned refers to a contract for a holiday and there is no mention to “classic surf” as one of major force reasons for a cancellation. This despite the fact that the location for the holiday to which the contract's cancellation policy refers to is a stone throw away from a world class surf break. The obvious conclusion is that the resort has none or very few surfers working there, how would you run the place with your crew in the water?

The photo is from February 24th, Supertubos was as it is shown and this particular wave happens to be one of the many great sets that hit the sweet spot that afternoon.
On one hand several major force reasons I could use to justify an absent afternoon and on the other the inspiration to write a few words about it.
A week went by with these conditions consistent throughout, a silent week easy to explain.

Words: Marcos Bairros Photo: Sandra Stubenvoll

terça-feira, 4 de janeiro de 2011

Forecast that…!

Waves are not so easy to understand.

The date was one easy to be remembered, I certainly will for a long time. The night before had not shown promising conditions after a thorough look at surf forecasting websites. Changing wind directions and even more erratic, apparently absurd, hourly swell direction changes. The forecasts did not know what to show, Mother Nature has been here a few billion years and you don’t just figure it out in the last half an hour.

The morning surf check at Baleal revealed a too low tide, slightly crossed shore winds but some decent lines coming in. The sets just seemed to lack that extra punch to avoid the too many inside closeouts. Looked like just a little bit of this or that would be enough, what exactly is the difficult part to forecast. Still it was enough to send me in and try and catch a good one in between a lot of mediocre other ones. The feeling during the morning session was of a sessions that could be good if the conditions would have been slightly different.

Later that day about 3 hours before the longest night of the year started, I checked the same spot. Again the conditions were not looking special, by then a too high tide seemed to be the problem. But the feeling of an underlying potential was obvious when a set rolled over, so I went in. First hour was annoying, too many surfers for too less waves. Lots of not big enough sets with an occasionally too big sweeping the lineup, again the feeling that something was missing to make it all come together. I nearly came out when a longer ride took me closer to the beach. Perhaps because most of the crowd was meanwhile leaving or because that particular ride made me think that classic surfer thought, “just one more wave…”I stayed and paddled out to enjoy that last hour of light.

By then the tide was nearly halfway and going down. The wind just aligned perfectly and what was too much side shore turned into the perfect light offshore breeze. The sun went down and somewhere the light of a nearly full moon was now obvious on the sky and the clouds all around. Maybe the alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth was now the best. The gravity influence over the development of a swell is known but perhaps a process too complex to put in a model. Maybe the right tide and wind together, wind and currents have great influence on the wave’s propagation, oceanic rogue waves are still a mystery oceanographers try to understand, seems that part if not most of it is just about large swells against incoming currents.

For the next hour each 15min delivered a solid set with some 4 or 5 waves with the later one just hitting the reef absolutely perfect; right size, period, direction. Right wind direction, right wind intensity. Each set better than the one before, with silky smooth rides from takeoff to kick out, perfect. No crowd. I just had one of the best sessions ever on that spot, totally out of…nothing. Meanwhile it was dark and time to leave but in my imagination I could not ignore that in the water a classic session was still on.

Will I ever understand what happened? No. But perhaps I will keep an eye on those not so special days when forecasts don’t tell you much. You never know what reward Neptune might have for dedication.

Text: Marcos Bairros Photo: Sandra Stubenvoll

sábado, 27 de novembro de 2010

I was never a fan of Kelly Slater

I was never a fan of Kelly Slater. Until a few years ago I must add for the sake of honesty. I don’t remember when I came to admire Kelly but, as sure as getting older should be a path for minimal wisdom; becoming a nearly 40 year old surfer had the unavoidable consequence of realizing that I do admire who he is and represents. I guess it won’t be foolish to say: without any doubt he is one the best surfers ever and surely the greatest professional surfer of all times, with an importance to the sport itself at the same level of the Duke someone pointed to me not long ago, coincidence or not one of the first foreign surfers to have surfed Peniche, older and wiser than me.

My undisputed teenager idol was the great Tom Carrol. I was (still am…) a goofy footer and liked those bigger days. I even changed my skateboard stance to improve my goofy skills and try to emulate his power rail to rail surfing. I still remember those issues from the Hawaiian winter report where he would always be featured somewhere, either dropping some bomb in Sunset, always on focus at the Pipeline Masters or like Brad Gerlach (if my memory does not betray me) once described: “doing a full cut-back under the lip at Backdoor, no one does that!”. This I appreciated the most; he is not exactly a big guy and would tackle Waimea, Sunset and Pipe as any veteran Hawaiian would, this was my dream, to surf Hawaii like Tom Carrol. Tom Curren never surfed Hawaii like Carrol, and that was why I admired Carrol the most.
I guess I never really appreciated the competitive surfing as much as I did the free surfing especially in the place of birth of the sport of kings. I knew who Eddie Aikay was, and Renno Abelira, and Bobby Jones, and Mark Foo and Sunny Garcia, Jonny Boy Gomez and Brock Little and so many others. They charged Hawaii and kept my big wave riding mystic alive, but Tom Carrol was my idol.
Then Kelly Slater came along and that’s when things got complicated. He just was the best surfer now (then an now..), but like any “fanatic” it was not easy to admit it, I didn’t admit it, period. I did not like Kelly because now my idol was no longer on the spotlight. I have to say that I lost some interest in competitive surfing.

Last year I moved to a new house. While I was packing boxes I found an old pullout poster from Surfing magazine maybe from 1987, I can’t tell for sure but it is definitely from the 20th Century, the wetsuit was an O’Neill… This was a two page poster that featured a teenager Kelly on a backside bottom turn and said: “Kelly Slater has it made: travelling all over the world, surfing the best waves on the best days, breaking competitive records – his pro career plotted before him. But he pays the price, and that’s going out and ripping like a champion, regardless of his moods or fancy. And there’s no turning back – he’s in the limelight to stay.”

I remembered this poster but this was not the side I had showing on my teenager walls. I turned it around to see what I wanted to see and there was him! Tom Carrol somewhere in France on a backhand arm stall about to be behind the curtain, it said “Anticipation: sweet, divine anticipation. There is none more sublime in surfing than the anticipation for the tube.”

I was amazed to discover an almost relic item with both of my idols today. Both quotes are still valid today. The one regarding Carrol about an experience that only surfers know what it means, the other about Slater reminding us why he, more than 20 years after that poster, became the best surfer ever.

Two sides of a changing passion

Text and image: Marcos Bairros
Surfing Pullout Poster Date Unknown, mid to late 80's.

sexta-feira, 8 de outubro de 2010

To change the tone, some lecturing… or maybe not

Yes, it’s that time of the year when everyone, including the posh boys and girls that never set foot in Peniche, is comfortable in town and wants to see and be seen… The pro’s are in town, Dane Reynold’s in town, the TV’s are in town, the crowd is in town…

It’s definitely a special moment during the year. We can understand all the hype and some fancy clothes inclusive. We can also understand that some surfers who can hardly make a decent takeoff will be in Lagido barking at some pale faces, pretending to be locals. We do understand that some of that socialite, who on a normal basis despise Peniche and what it represents, suddenly have this overwhelming urge to make the hour drive up here, even if they just hang around the VIP tent adding some extra fat to the wannabe slim figures.

What we don’t understand is that while free surfers and some pro’s at Supertubos are putting on a show like last October 6th these people will still rather do what they usually do…but then again, who cares?

Photos: Sandra Stubenvoll @ www.balealsurfcamp.com
Words: Marcos Bairros

quarta-feira, 15 de setembro de 2010

It's alive! It's alive!

Like Dr. Frankenstein when he first saw his creation come to life, I had to shout out loud the very same words. Besides the somewhat scared look from the occasional surfer tourists at the beach, the local crew new I had no serious mental problem and in fact it was a perfectly reasonable behavior considering the recent past. Perhaps the lunatic look in the eyes could have been avoided.

The reason for the awkward scream was the vision of a surf spot that had been hibernating for such a long time (I'm a liar, I just wasn't there...) that for a while I thought it had passed away. But it hadn't. In fact the vision before me was of a very alive creature, one that already had claimed a victim, half a surf board left behind by the unlucky challenger.

Later that day I saw a local body boarder going for a double up. As it went onto the shallower part of the sandbar he free felled halfway through the drop. It threw a square barrel over him and he made it out. Later I paddled by on the way back from another wipeout on the shallow Supertubos, his face still had the same words written all over: "It's alive, it's alive!!"

Supertubos is not dead, September 2010
Photo: Sandra Stubenvoll Words: Marcos Bairros