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Interviews, Originals February 15, 2021February 24th, 2021

In Conversation with Noah Lane

Interview by Robin Pailler | Photography by Matthieu Glemarec | Video by João Tudella

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Noah Lane, you’ll know he’s one of the most down-to-earth humans on the planet.

A humble soul from the Sunshine Coast, Noah now resides in Bundoran, Ireland, and having opened his own cafe in the form of Foam in recent times, seems pretty settled with life on the Emerald Isle.

Sadly we’ve not seen Noah since our little jig in County Donegal back in 2017′, when he and his fiancee Tara, kindly hosted us whilst we were out shooting fellow local Gearoid McDaid for DAGDA

We were hoping for a long overdue visit sometime soon, but with trips out the window for the time being, we settled on checking in with our favourite Aussie expat through the worldwide web, to discuss lockdowns in Ireland, his recent video series Variety, the polarising effects of mainstream media and rediscovering Star Wars.

Hey Noah, how’s it going over in Ireland? Is it still full lockdown over there?

Yeah, they just extended it to the start of March over here.* So it’s still tier five, which is the strictest, meaning you can’t go more than five kilometres from your home. You can still exercise and surf. Well, officially, probably not. But yeah, it’s not actually all that different to a normal winter in Bundoran to be honest, just less people and pubs. It is what it is. *Likely Easter now.

Well, at least you can still surf!

Yeah, exactly. I mean it is kind of getting a bit tedious, but I think as opposed to the first lockdown, where there was a lot more uncertainty and fear and I think people were a lot more scared and anxious. People were getting angry about really silly little things. So, it felt like there was a lot of social shaming. But now everyone kinda knows what they have to do and it’s a lot less militant, I guess.

So, what’s your day-to-day vibe at the moment? I take it you’ve had to close down Foam?

Yeah so, we’ve been closed since October. But you know, we’re trying to take the positives out of it, I guess. Like this time of year, sort of from now through to March, is always pretty quiet in Bundoran. It’s kind of like Hossegor. It’s a pretty safe little joint anyway. So, the last few years, we would have closed probably for a month or so during this time anyway. So, we’ve kinda just been trying to make the place better for when we reopen. Little renovations and stuff.

Do you get government support to help you during this time?

Yeah, I haven’t been anywhere else so I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but the Irish government is really good. Almost immediately in the first lockdown, over the course of a couple of days they’d set up a pandemic unemployment payment. There’s loads of business support, and they’re offering heaps of free online learning. If you’re proactive and motivated to do it, there’s plenty of good stuff.

That’s good to hear! How hard is it looking at friends and family back home in Australia? Because they’ve kind of reopened now.

Yeah, it’s mad! It’s such a good way of shifting your perspective, it’s weird. Like I call my brother and he’s in the pub having a beer! But then I see these ridiculous anti-mask protests in Sydney and I’m like, ‘there’s people all over the world who can’t leave their houses and you don’t wanna wear a mask?’

Yeah, some people are crazy! Anyway, tell us about this Variety series. How did that come about?

I suppose it was kind of a result of the lockdowns and the pandemic. João and I thought it’d be great to make something that’s obviously kind of surf/ocean focused. But in a way that’s trying to inspire or motivate people to get off their phones, as much for ourselves as other people. In the current climate, it’s so easy to tune out by just looking at what’s on your phone. So, it kind of came out of that and just wanting to make a little film series, a little experiment and see if we can show other ways to get outdoors even if the weather’s shit or whatever. So that’s kind of the general idea behind it. The first two episodes were a little bit broader, there’s some free diving and bodysurfing in there but the last one is pretty much surfing.

And did you keep it local or have you been venturing into other areas a little bit further?

To be honest, it’s pretty much all shot around here. Pretty much all within about 15 kilometres.

Who’s your crew out there? Who have you been surfing with during the pandemic?

Been surfing with Gearoid a fair bit and I see the boys from the shop a lot because we’ve been in there making handplanes out of milk bottles from the cafe, so that’s been good fun. I mean there’s a local crew that surf all the time round here, so you end up seeing the same people.

And how’s the waves been in the last month or so?

Most of December through January was pretty shit.* It’s a small complaint really. There’s been waves and there’s been one or two good days but by winter standards here it hasn’t been amazing. But we’ve had really nice weather so everyone’s kinda been out hiking in the mountains trying to make the most of that. *February has been really good again.

How’s your lady Tara? All good?

Yeah, she’s been baking loads. She kind of started a little baking business at the start of last year. Like half the world got right into sourdough. But she’s gotten really good at it. So yeah, on top of her full-time job, she’s basically making sourdough bread for half the town. She’s been making some crazy doughnuts too!

What have you guys been binge watching during the lockdown?

I actually got really psyched on the whole Star Wars series again. So, we’ve done the full rundown. We started with the new ones and now we’re watching the originals so we’ve kinda gone top to bottom Star Wars at the moment.

Have you seen The Mandalorian?

Yeah, we watched a few of those and it was cool. But to me, it didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. But it did kinda get me keen on Star Wars again and watching the old ones, fuck they’re amazing! But yeah, that’s it for movies really. 

And have you been reading much?

Yeah, I just finished a Tim Winton novel. Pretty epic Australian writer. He wrote a pretty famous book called Breathe. But I just finished another one called The Shepherd’s Hut. I saw him speak in Penzance a few years ago and been meaning to read it since. It’s quite heavy, but it’s pretty good. I read The Pearl by John Steinbeck. That’s a pretty good one. Good fable. I kinda like going back to Hemingway and Steinbeck.

Always. I’ve just started Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Have you read it?

I haven’t.

It’s the book that inspired Apocalypse Now. I’m only 10 or so pages in but it’s great so far.

I went deep on (Leo) Tolstoy a while ago which was pretty tough going. I read Anna Karenina. It’s basically like 1800s Russian Coronation Street (laughs). It’s pretty good, but it’s a tough slog. I’m pretty fascinated with Russia so it’s pretty interesting.

Yeah, Russia’s fascinating. I went to Moscow last year and the architecture alone! Have you ever been?

I haven’t but have you ever read the German mag Pulk? Those fellas did like a road trip around the Baltic Sea, and they went through like a bunch of bizarre places near St Petersburg. And it just sounded really interesting, exploring different surf cultures and stuff.

Yeah, hopefully we can travel again one day. How are you sort of envisioning this year for yourself with work and surf stuff? 

Well with Foam it’s a pretty small coffee shop so we’re all pretty hands on. Because of the pandemic we kinda landed on the right side of fortune last year. Being in a small coastal town when the whole country couldn’t go abroad in the summer, everyone wanted to go to the coastal towns to escape the cities. We just happen to be one of those places that sort of went crazy. So that was last summer, and I feel optimistic that it’ll be the same this year, hopefully. Because I don’t imagine the vaccine will be rolled out quickly enough that people will be bombing away to Spain or whatnot. So, for us that’s the hope, that we have another busy summer at the shop. I guess my year is almost compartmentalised with full commitment to the shop in the summer and then like, spring and autumn is a bit of both in terms of surf and the shop. And then winter is pretty much surf.

Did you at any point consider going back to Australia?

We were actually really fortunate in that last year, Tara and I went back from February through to March and we got back pretty much a week before lockdown. At that point it had sort of escalated within three weeks from being ‘that thing in China’ to like, ‘Oh Fuck! We’re all doomed!’. So, we had to quarantine anyway because we’d flown through Singapore. And halfway through that the country kind of just closed down. So, we were really fortunate. We got to go home and see my family and catch up with all our friends and then we had a week of full vacation in Bali before coming back.

Perfect timing really. It looks super hectic to go back now with all the hotel quarantine procedures.

Yeah there’s a few friends here that have tried to go back. I mean if you’ve got money, you just go on a waitlist, wait for a flight and then basically pay for a really expensive hotel quarantine. It’s an investment for sure. You definitely don’t wanna be going for a short amount of time.

Talking about Australia I read this article earlier by an Australian writer called Richard Flanagan. He won the Booker Prize in 2014 and he wrote this pretty a scathing attack on Australia Day for The Guardian.

Yeah great! That’s good! The Australian Embassy here are often in touch and they gave me a shout about doing something on Australia Day. And I mean the shop’s closed and a mess anyway with renovations so we couldn’t do anything even if we wanted to. But morally and ethically I don’t know if I could support it. I believe in celebrating the country but on a date that both first nationers and non-indigenous can appreciate. 

Do you feel Ireland has become home for you now?

I’m definitely settled here. You never have those nostalgic, youthful memories because, I haven’t been here forever. All that kind of stuff from when I was younger, is obviously still attached to Australia. So, in that respect it will always be home, but I definitely feel settled. I mean I’ve been here for a while (laughs). Eight years now! It goes pretty quick. The Bundoran bubble gets ya!

Have you had any mental health wobbles being in such a remote bubble?

I think I’ve been pretty fortunate to be honest. Personally, it hasn’t been too bad for me. Like in the past, for sure, but not because of COVID. What I’ve found is that, for me at least, we’ve just been so fortunate with where we live. Being in a rural, coastal place actually turned out to be way better than being in the city. So, in that respect it’s been a great sort of recalibration, in appreciating what you have when suddenly everything gets flipped upside down, realising it’s actually really good here. You look at everything in a new light when you know that, like other people have it really tough. So, we’ve been pretty lucky, and it hasn’t manifested into any kind of dark thoughts.

I wanted to ask about your local scene and if there’s any up and comers we should know about?

I mean he’s not really an up and comer, but Gearoid has really gotten good in the last couple of years! I guess, he’s just a product of his environment. He’s really well rounded in everything. From super big waves to kinda small grindy waves. As a kind of performance, competitive personality he’s really good.

Is he still driving the big pickup around?

Na, he’s got a family car (laughs). He’s got a really efficient Hyuandi i-something.

Haha, he’s all grown up.

Yeah, but otherwise there’s actually a really cool crew between 10 and 14 year old kids that are just super buzzing to surf all the time, which is kinda rare to see here, particular in the winter because the surf community is pretty small. And so that’s, you know, you might see the odd kid here and there, but now there’s like, probably like ten of them. It’s really cool, because it’s tough for a kid to surf here in the winter.

Anymore projects in the pipeline following Variety?

Yeah, so like I mentioned, we’ve been making these handplanes through Foam. Sea swimming kinda boomed here and they’re quite inclusive; like an accessible way to get people into the sea. So, kind of just going to work on trying to do stuff with those. Maybe chat with a local organisation called Liquid Therapy that do a lot of stuff for young people with additional needs. Just to stay active and productive.

Dude helping the community! That’s rad!

Yeah, trying to! But yeah, as far as actual films, stuff like that. Nothing like specific.

I re-watched Beyond The Noise recently and had forgot just how epic it is.

Yeah A.K. is such a wizard, he’s fucking great. It’s so good, I call him and he’s like, wearing a big wide brim hat with a mosquito net in the middle of the desert somewhere in Oz shooting wildlife. 

Sounds amazing. I just feel like I’m living in Groundhog Day. You chat with friends and no one really has anything to say.

And then you inevitably end up talking about the news.

Right! And obviously the news can be so negative it’s all about finding that balance between staying informed without being overwhelmed by the world falling apart.

I listen to The Intelligence a lot. It’s a podcast by The Economist. It’s like a half hour show every day and it gives a broad snapshot of the news but quite often it’s interesting, and somewhat less extreme versions of what’s going on. They’ll be a feel-good story in there or whatever. 

Yeah, it always feels mags like The Economist, The New Statesman, TIME etc. do a pretty good job in articulating the facts in a more coherent and less biased manner than most mainstream outlets.

Yeah, I generally resonate with most of their stuff, but I’ve found even The Guardian’s getting a little extreme at times. I listened to a politics podcast from Australia that’s run by the political editor of The Guardian and it can get pretty gnarly. If you push too extremely either way, it just polarizes people. 

It’s great to see people becoming more politically aware though and using their platforms to spread awareness. It was dope to see Dion and Epokhe share John Pilger’s documentary Utopia about Indigenous Australians.

Yeah, I keep meaning to watch it. There’s also a recent film called In My Blood It Runs. It’s an independent film about an Aboriginal boy in Alice Springs. I’ve yet to see it completely but apparently it paints a really good picture of what’s going on.

Shane Fletcher got me on The Nightingale recently. It’s a Jennifer Kent film set during The Black War and it’s so brutal. But it gives you such a raw insight into what life during that time was like in Australia.

If you’re interested in Australian history, you should check out a book called Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. It’s about reframing Aboriginal culture and cites evidence of pre-colonial agriculture. Because I guess in European history that’s one of the big benchmarks of a developed culture, y’know, so it’s a really well researched and interesting read and really focuses on the positives of their culture.

Noah, thanks so much for your time mate. Hopefully we can cross paths again in the near future and hang out in real life.

Yeah man let’s see if things start to ease in the Spring, I’d love to get out to Hoss and see you boys if the opportunity arises. 

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