Big Bender: Tomfoolery in the British Isles

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GB, Jason Bennett

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A surf safari through Great Britain is hardly your bamboo bop through the warm latitudes. Right off the eleven-hour flight from LA, Jason Bennett said he felt like he “wasn’t in a foreign country.” Perhaps this is do to Bennett’s association with the characteristics of the more traditional third world surf destination: pollution, poverty and broken English. At face value, England is none of these. American surfers don’t attract a lot of attention like they do in say Indo or Latin America, and if you are an English speaking American, nobody gives two hoots that you just showed up. At the same time, you’ve entered a world were surfers are a huge minority, a novelty lifestyle. Socially speaking, that is the ground our wholesome bunch of surf stars stood on just off the jet. What follows is an account of these young men as they try to negotiate their way through cold water, castles, hoof and mouth disease, and tangos with tomfoolery. If you are not familiar with Mr. Foolery, go knock the dust off your dictionary, for he plays a very important role in this story.

Liverpool sometime after dark

Etnies Team Manager Brandon Lillard or “The Team Leader” had made a quick decision to get the posse into a large van and head toward Ireland. We had only been on the ground in the capitol city of London for a few hours, and we were already diving into another long trek. Liverpool was five hours to the west through central England, and once there, we had to catch a Ferry across the Irish Sea into the harbor at Belfast, Northern Ireland. This decision was a smart one given our time restraints, but it brooded over the fatigued crew which consisted of Micah Anderson, Jason Bennett, Jermy Heit, Josh Loya, Jon Rose and Phillip Watters. With red eyes and the residual dizziness from an all-night all-you-can-drink flight, we pushed west. [IMAGE 1]The van arrived in Liverpool some time after dark. Tired, cramped and out of substances to abuse, the team spilled out of the van at a supermarket near the port. We needed a few items before we sat at the dock and waited for the ferry. Snacks, beer — that sort of thing. Okay, we just needed beer.

It was at this supermarket in Liverpool where an event took place that would have made the tailors of the original stars and stripes shiver with admiration. Josh Loya is not only a professional surfer and man of the big breakers; he is also an ambassador and devout American patriot. Under the bright halogen lights in the Liverpool market stood mounds of English ales, lagers and pilsners with heritage dating back before your grandma’s brick underwear. Loya, in a manner that was neither rehearsed nor forced, sifted his way through the traditional beer selection and found himself a twelve pack of Budweiser.

“That’s what I fucking drink at home. That’s what I’m going to fucking drink here.”

Spoken like a true statesman.

Ireland

The next morning our ferry came skipping into the Harbor at Belfast. We needed to get to the republic of Ireland which, if your not familiar with Ireland, makes up the southern majority of the island. Just off the boat, we where lost. We meandered down a few alleys and road ways until we found a few police officers socializing on one of the road shoulders.

“Do you guys know where the road to Dublin is,” inquired The Team Leader.

“That’s a hell question for a Sunday morning,” replied the casually dressed Irish law enforcer. “Why ya’s going down there anyways. Last I heard the Guinness Brewery in Dublin went on strike.” Laughter. “Well, ya see, you go ups there about fifty meters until ya see a sign for the M1, and then ya…” Pause. “Ya know what. Just follow me; I’ll shows you the way.”

There has long been a stream of media hype dealing with the conflicts that go on in Ireland. The reality, howeveris that there is a collective moral code and common courtesy that doesn’t need policing. Just like that, we were being personally escorted to the trailhead of the road to Bonduran, a quaint little surf hamlet out on the rugged Irish coast. We gave the police a genuine gesture of gratitude and headed toward the countryside. Once we were out of Belfast, off we went through the green folds of land dotted with farms and old Celtic ruins in search of surf and shenanigans. We found a little of both.

We arrived in Bonduran around midday. In Ireland it has long been said that you can tell the population of a town by the number of pubs it has, and this ratio of pubs to people is remarkably high. For instance, Bunduran has some forty plus pubs and a population of just under two-thousand. Conservatively speaking, that’s about one pub for every fifty residents. Amazing, but more of that later.[IMAGE 3]The day we arrived the weather was a little funky, but the conditions were favorable for surfing. The wind was blowing off shore in town, and a few of the many breaks in the area looked promising. We got settled in, and then Micah Anderson, itching to get wet, jumped out at a wedging left hander near the center of town. “Reminded me of Casa’s,” said Anderson.

Jason and Brandon followed and wound up surfing the ledgy little waves until dark. At the time, many of us felt like these conditions where typical since this is how they were when we stumbled on them. The truth is though, surfing in Ireland is very tricky. With huge tides and extremely fickle weather patterns, you really need to be patient to get waves. We wouldn’t get decent surf again until our last day.

To The Dome

As I have said earlier, a tromp through the British Isles is hardly your traditional surf trip. Surfing often competes with other activities such as seeing the sights and, of course, engaging in local forms of debauchery. If you are planning a trip here anytime soon, it might be a good idea to leave a little extra space in your board bag for things like your number one gear and a jar of hair gel.

To be honest, I don’t remember how the hell we ended up at the Dome Night Club as we had been in Bonduran no more than twelve hours. Walking down the street, we spotted a traditional Irish pub that seemed to suit our needs. We came crashing through the doors and there she stood: a black beauty with a blonde head, and I’m not talking about Beyonce from Destiny’s Child. They say Guinness brewed in Ireland is like no other Guinness in the world. Well, “they” couldn’t have been more right. A few pints got thrown back, and it became very apparent that this particular pub was the warm up for a night club upstairs. It seemed like all at once, the patrons began leaving their seats at the bar and heading upstairs. Like a small heard of sheep, we fell into formation.

As we shuffled passed the bouncer, almost immediately things began to warp. The DJ was playing rock songs from the eighties, and everyone was digging it. Not like I, or anyone else, was too contemporary for this sort of thing, but a whole disco jumping around playing air guitar to ‘Foot Loose’ was a little frickin’ weird. After a few ballads by Winger and Paula Abdul, things began to get pretty sloppy. I looked around and saw couples attached at the face, some one playing air drums, and one of the team members getting head butted by some angry boyfriend. This went on for a while, and then the lights came, the beer stopped flowing, and they kicked us all out.

In the morning we iced down our heads and headed out to a small nine pub town in the south called Essky. Right in front of the old village lay the remnants of an old castle and a wind swept left hander. At the break, we met up with Dan ‘Mole’ Joel, Mike Raven, and UK Etnies distributor Darren Robinson. They were just getting out, and in our late-to-rise state, it was obvious we had for the most part blown this one. So we just played around on the castle for a little while.

Yet Another Traditional Irish Pub

Time plays little tricks on you in this part of the world. It gets dark some time after nine o’clock, and since the sun is always bobbing and ducking behind dense rain clouds, telling time by how much light there is, is almost impossible. Late in the evening on this particular day there where a few things I knew for certain though: 1. Jeremy, Jason, and I had been in the pub since around three. 2. It was now dark out side. 3. I was now shittier than a Lollapalooza port a-potty. The rest of the gang had showed up and were drinking Irish whisky or something like that. Despite my condition, I had a moment of clarity and peace. I was sitting in the back of the pub, maybe by myself, but Jason seems to have a similar story, so he was probably there too. To my left, a few slaphappy Irish men banged on acoustic instruments in perfect harmony. And to my right, a middle aged woman with jet black hair brought up her voice at what seemed like a rehearsed moment: “Summer Time, and the living’s easy.” They were doing a rendition of ‘Summer Time’, and the siren singer let the ‘y’ in “easy” ring for what seemed like an eternity. Maybe it was the fact that I was obliterated on Guinness, but I couldn’t hold back the impulse to contribute. I set down my half full glass tower of black beer and begun playing back up percussion on my knee. I was a pig wallowing in his own shit, and it now makes perfect sense to me why ninety percent of the people I know are some how conveniently Irish. I am no exception.

The small window

Go figure, the next day the conditions turned on. Tara Moller, the English photographer who had been assigned to this salty bunch, had some how successfully revived a solid majority of the cast and was going on about a few reefs at the south end of town. For a few of us, this session would decide whether or not we would be able to legitimately say we surfed Ireland. With long faces and sore livers, we piled into the van and made it down to the beach. The waves, although only a few feet, provided some fun. The sun was shining, there was a castle on the beach, waves were wedging off a shallow rock ledge — now we’re surfing Ireland. After getting wet, we came back to the house and packed up for the long journey to Cornwall, a small county in the southern tip of England. In Cornwall, we would be posting up in the small surf village Newquay. The whole purpose for this leg of the trip was an “Expression Session” being put on by Etnies, and the boys needed to make an appearance.

Newquay

Newquay is an average size town by Cornish standards, a 34 pubber. The ratio between people and pubs changes a little bit in England but not much. It was around midday when the Pirates, as we now called ourselves, came sailing into the small town. Under full sail and with Captain Thomas H. Foolery at the helm, we pulled into port and dropped anchor at a small bed and breakfast near the beach. Much to our surprise, the waves were working. This would keep us occupied and out of trouble for at least a little while.

That evening, Tara, being familiar with the local scene, had thrown together a little agenda. First we had Mexican food at a restaurant called Señor Dicks. From there, the Pirates walked around the corner to a nightclub that was having it’s grand opening. The club was owned by Emily Taylor, a close friend of Tara’s, and to ring in the grand opening, she was serving two drinks for the price of one. Into the night we went making Pirate noises like oyyyy and Arrrr.

I am not trying to glorify this sort of activity. On the not so pretty side of drinking there is puking, poor judgment, long term health threats, and if you’re a surf star, missing opportunities for getting shiny little surf photos for the mag because you didn’t wake up until two PM. In addition to this, consuming large amounts of alcohol leaves you with massive hangovers, unlese for a little while.

Yet Another Traditional Irish Pub

Time plays little tricks on you in this part of the world. It gets dark some time after nine o’clock, and since the sun is always bobbing and ducking behind dense rain clouds, telling time by how much light there is, is almost impossible. Late in the evening on this particular day there where a few things I knew for certain though: 1. Jeremy, Jason, and I had been in the pub since around three. 2. It was now dark out side. 3. I was now shittier than a Lollapalooza port a-potty. The rest of the gang had showed up and were drinking Irish whisky or something like that. Despite my condition, I had a moment of clarity and peace. I was sitting in the back of the pub, maybe by myself, but Jason seems to have a similar story, so he was probably there too. To my left, a few slaphappy Irish men banged on acoustic instruments in perfect harmony. And to my right, a middle aged woman with jet black hair brought up her voice at what seemed like a rehearsed moment: “Summer Time, and the living’s easy.” They were doing a rendition of ‘Summer Time’, and the siren singer let the ‘y’ in “easy” ring for what seemed like an eternity. Maybe it was the fact that I was obliterated on Guinness, but I couldn’t hold back the impulse to contribute. I set down my half full glass tower of black beer and begun playing back up percussion on my knee. I was a pig wallowing in his own shit, and it now makes perfect sense to me why ninety percent of the people I know are some how conveniently Irish. I am no exception.

The small window

Go figure, the next day the conditions turned on. Tara Moller, the English photographer who had been assigned to this salty bunch, had some how successfully revived a solid majority of the cast and was going on about a few reefs at the south end of town. For a few of us, this session would decide whether or not we would be able to legitimately say we surfed Ireland. With long faces and sore livers, we piled into the van and made it down to the beach. The waves, although only a few feet, provided some fun. The sun was shining, there was a castle on the beach, waves were wedging off a shallow rock ledge — now we’re surfing Ireland. After getting wet, we came back to the house and packed up for the long journey to Cornwall, a small county in the southern tip of England. In Cornwall, we would be posting up in the small surf village Newquay. The whole purpose for this leg of the trip was an “Expression Session” being put on by Etnies, and the boys needed to make an appearance.

Newquay

Newquay is an average size town by Cornish standards, a 34 pubber. The ratio between people and pubs changes a little bit in England but not much. It was around midday when the Pirates, as we now called ourselves, came sailing into the small town. Under full sail and with Captain Thomas H. Foolery at the helm, we pulled into port and dropped anchor at a small bed and breakfast near the beach. Much to our surprise, the waves were working. This would keep us occupied and out of trouble for at least a little while.

That evening, Tara, being familiar with the local scene, had thrown together a little agenda. First we had Mexican food at a restaurant called Señor Dicks. From there, the Pirates walked around the corner to a nightclub that was having it’s grand opening. The club was owned by Emily Taylor, a close friend of Tara’s, and to ring in the grand opening, she was serving two drinks for the price of one. Into the night we went making Pirate noises like oyyyy and Arrrr.

I am not trying to glorify this sort of activity. On the not so pretty side of drinking there is puking, poor judgment, long term health threats, and if you’re a surf star, missing opportunities for getting shiny little surf photos for the mag because you didn’t wake up until two PM. In addition to this, consuming large amounts of alcohol leaves you with massive hangovers, unless of course, you are Jeremy Heit who was smart enough to bring along hangover pills. [IMAGE 2]Go figure. The next day the waves were the best they had been in recent history. Right down from the White House Bed and Breakfast where we were staying was Fistral Beach which on this particular day had a decent sand bar and some nice turquoise peaks. Late in the day, the Pirates fought off hangovers and did a few surf sessions. It was a good thing that the winds blew off shore all afternoon or else there probably wouldn’t be any surf photos for this story.

That night the Pirates finally took a night off and went to bed early. Tomorrow was the contest, and secretly each one of the savages wanted the pot which was 2000 Pounds Sterling or about US$3000 dollars.

The Morning of The Final-Final.

You read that right. I don’t remember where I first heard the term “final-final”, but basically it has two definitions. The first one is when you order a final drink after you have already ordered several prior final drinks. Example: “Okay Juan, this is going to be my final-final, and after this, you can close my tab out.” The little games we play with ourselves. I’ll explain the second definition in a moment.

So the Pirates got a good nights sleep. The next day the swell died and the wind turned onshore. The contest, however, went off with out a hitch, and although the conditions weren’t ideal, the waves for the most part cooperated. A whole blend of international talent showed up, and the large parking lot filled up with English surf enthusiast. The good ‘ol classic compo always perks up the spirits, and Contest Director Darren Robbinson did a fine job of putting together a contest that kept everyone captivated. Instead of having criteria that encouraged relentless wobbling down the line, the “Expression Session” rewarded only those who executed risky wave stunts.

“I spoke with some of the contestants and asked them how they wanted it judged. Rather than small consecutive maneuvers, they wanted us to put more emphasis on critical maneuvers,” said Robbinson.

In the end it was Boris Le Texier in fourth, Phillip Watters in third, Dan Joel in second and Jose Gregorio pocketing the 2000 pounds. Phillip won an additional 200 pounds for pulling the trick of the day, a “frountside-ollieoop-shoove-it-type-thing”.

Although only one of the Pirates made it into the final, you could bet your left arm that they were going to celebrate. Arrrrr. The sun went down and off to the trenches of debauchery we marched. Phillip had either gotten a bad feeling about this one or was just plain old spent from surfing heats all day, but as we walked toward town, he made a last minute decision to head home. I wish I had intuition like that.

As I have mentioned earlier, there is this concept of the final-final. The general definition of this term is basically your last drink during any given drinking session. However, this broader definition can be broken down into two more specific terms: 1. the self-induced final-final 2. The involuntary final-final. The self-induced version is the one I spoke of earlier. This one is rare. The latter, however, is much more common. The involuntary final-final occurs when you have just plain run out or have been cut off from the drink. I am going to give you an example of an involuntary final-final right now.

So Phillip turns around and goes back to the bed and breakfast. The rest of the Pirates continued into town. We hopped around at a couple of bars and finally wound up back at Berties, the night club that had the grand opening a few nights prior. Two of the Pirates and I were minding our own business by the bar when we saw some commotion over by the snack bar. There was a bunch of kids with stuffed animals for hats gathered around what looked like the rest of the Pirates. You could tell there was something wrong, but it was hard to tell just what. There was people with looks of distress on there faces standing nexxt to people with smiles on there faces. I was confused. We got up out of our seats and walked over. By the time we got there it was obvious that one of the Pirates had started a fight and several others had now got involved. The brawl got broken up by some people in the crowd, and there were a few moments when it felt like everything was going to be all right. However, the bouncers got wind of the activity and came rushing around the corner. Several of the Pirates got man handled by the buff Englishmen and ejected from the club. “One for all, and all for one,” as the old maritime saying goes. We were all getting eighty-sixed, and little to my knowledge, that fresh pint of Carlsberg I was holding was in fact an involuntary final-final. So it goes.

The next day, the Pirates made a quick and quite retreat from Newquay. Anchor was pulled up, and we headed for the city of London.

London

London is a massive son-of-a-bitch, 5438 pubber; however, the Pirates had had enough. Once in the capitol city, The Team Leader checked the crew into an over-priced hotel near the airport. Late in the evening, the Pirates collapsed in the hotel lobby and reminisced about the voyage:

“Remember that first night in Bunduran!?”

“Arrrrr, that was good.”

“The Dome!”

“Oyyy, har, har, harrrr!”

Eventually, everyone faded out, and in the morning it was time to bid fare well to this land of crumpets, tea and beer without bubbles. It’s been jolly good fun. At the air port The Team Leader returned the pirate ship to the place that rents pirate ships, and the whole lot boarded the mother ship back to America. Although Big Ben, the enormous four faced clock that sits on top of Parliament, would go on keeping exact time for all of England, this big bender had seen it’s final hour.f course, you are Jeremy Heit who was smart enough to bring along hangover pills. [IMAGE 2]Go figure. The next day the waves were the best they had been in recent history. Right down from the White House Bed and Breakfast where we were staying was Fistral Beach which on this particular day had a decent sand bar and some nice turquoise peaks. Late in the day, the Pirates fought off hangovers and did a few surf sessions. It was a good thing that the winds blew off shore all afternoon or else there probably wouldn’t be any surf photos for this story.

That night the Pirates finally took a night off and went to bed early. Tomorrow was the contest, and secretly each one of the savages wanted the pot which was 2000 Pounds Sterling or about US$3000 dollars.

The Morning of The Final-Final.

You read that right. I don’t remember where I first heard the term “final-final”, but basically it has two definitions. The first one is when you order a final drink after you have already ordered several prior final drinks. Example: “Okay Juan, this is going to be my final-final, and after this, you can close my tab out.” The little games we play with ourselves. I’ll explain the second definition in a moment.

So the Pirates got a good nights sleep. The next day the swell died and the wind turned onshore. The contest, however, went off with out a hitch, and although the conditions weren’t ideal, the waves for the most part cooperated. A whole blend of international talent showed up, and the large parking lot filled up with English surf enthusiast. The good ‘ol classic compo always perks up the spirits, and Contest Director Darren Robbinson did a fine job of putting together a contest that kept everyone captivated. Instead of having criteria that encouraged relentless wobbling down the line, the “Expression Session” rewarded only those who executed risky wave stunts.

“I spoke with some of the contestants and asked them how they wanted it judged. Rather than small consecutive maneuvers, they wanted us to put more emphasis on critical maneuvers,” said Robbinson.

In the end it was Boris Le Texier in fourth, Phillip Watters in third, Dan Joel in second and Jose Gregorio pocketing the 2000 pounds. Phillip won an additional 200 pounds for pulling the trick of the day, a “frountside-ollieoop-shoove-it-type-thing”.

Although only one of the Pirates made it into the final, you could bet your left arm that they were going to celebrate. Arrrrr. The sun went down and off to the trenches of debauchery we marched. Phillip had either gotten a bad feeling about this one or was just plain old spent from surfing heats all day, but as we walked toward town, he made a last minute decision to head home. I wish I had intuition like that.

As I have mentioned earlier, there is this concept of the final-final. The general definition of this term is basically your last drink during any given drinking session. However, this broader definition can be broken down into two more specific terms: 1. the self-induced final-final 2. The involuntary final-final. The self-induced version is the one I spoke of earlier. This one is rare. The latter, however, is much more common. The involuntary final-final occurs when you have just plain run out or have been cut off from the drink. I am going to give you an example of an involuntary final-final right now.

So Phillip turns around and goes back to the bed and breakfast. The rest of the Pirates continued into town. We hopped around at a couple of bars and finally wound up back at Berties, the night club that had the grand opening a few nights prior. Two of the Pirates and I were minding our own business by the bar when we saw some commotion over by the snack bar. There was a bunch of kids with stuffed animals for hats gathered around what looked like the rest of the Pirates. You could tell there was something wrong, but it was hard to tell just what. There was people with looks of distress on there faces standing next to people with smiles on there faces. I was confused. We got up out of our seats and walked over. By the time we got there it was obvious that one of the Pirates had started a fight and several others had now got involved. The brawl got broken up by some people in the crowd, and there were a few moments when it felt like everything was going to be all right. However, the bouncers got wind of the activity and came rushing around the corner. Several of the Pirates got man handled by the buff Englishmen and ejected from the club. “One for all, and all for one,” as the old maritime saying goes. We were all getting eighty-sixed, and little to my knowledge, that fresh pint of Carlsberg I was holding was in fact an involuntary final-final. So it goes.

The next day, the Pirates made a quick and quite retreat from Newquay. Anchor was pulled up, and we headed for the city of London.

London

London is a massive son-of-a-bitch, 5438 pubber; however, the Pirates had had enough. Once in the capitol city, The Team Leader checked the crew into an over-priced hotel near the airport. Late in the evening, the Pirates collapsed in the hotel lobby and reminisced about the voyage:

“Remember that first night in Bunduran!?”

“Arrrrr, that was good.”

“The Dome!”

“Oyyy, har, har, harrrr!”

Eventually, everyone faded out, and in the morning it was time to bid fare well to this land of crumpets, tea and beer without bubbles. It’s been jolly good fun. At the air port The Team Leader returned the pirate ship to the place that rents pirate ships, and the whole lot boarded the mother ship back to America. Although Big Ben, the enormous four faced clock that sits on top of Parliament, would go on keeping exact time for all of England, this big bender had seen it’s final hour.faces standing next to people with smiles on there faces. I was confused. We got up out of our seats and walked over. By the time we got there it was obvious that one of the Pirates had started a fight and several others had now got involved. The brawl got broken up by some people in the crowd, and there were a few moments when it felt like everything was going to be all right. However, the bouncers got wind of the activity and came rushing around the corner. Several of the Pirates got man handled by the buff Englishmen and ejected from the club. “One for all, and all for one,” as the old maritime saying goes. We were all getting eighty-sixed, and little to my knowledge, that fresh pint of Carlsberg I was holding was in fact an involuntary final-final. So it goes.

The next day, the Pirates made a quick and quite retreat from Newquay. Anchor was pulled up, and we headed for the city of London.

London

London is a massive son-of-a-bitch, 5438 pubber; however, the Pirates had had enough. Once in the capitol city, The Team Leader checked the crew into an over-priced hotel near the airport. Late in the evening, the Pirates collapsed in the hotel lobby and reminisced about the voyage:

“Remember that first night in Bunduran!?”

“Arrrrr, that was good.”

“The Dome!”

“Oyyy, har, har, harrrr!”

Eventually, everyone faded out, and in the morning it was time to bid fare well to this land of crumpets, tea and beer without bubbles. It’s been jolly good fun. At the air port The Team Leader returned the pirate ship to the place that rents pirate ships, and the whole lot boarded the mother ship back to America. Although Big Ben, the enormous four faced clock that sits on top of Parliament, would go on keeping exact time for all of England, this big bender had seen it’s final hour.