It’s cold outside.
Excuse my French, but it’s really fucking cold. Like -20 plus wind chill, call it a conservative -35. Vague notions about stores in Tokyo and a yearning for snowboarding (watch this space) has led us to Northern Japan. And where we find ourselves, pathetically hungover and now haunted, nay stalked, by a concerning addiction to Umushe Sours. Whisky sours are so 2021. Times evolve.
Kimi our host looks at us with intrigue as the snow falls steadily, ever heavier outside. We’re the first non-Japanese guests to stay at his establishment, ever.
“You have arrived”
(pauses – takes glasses off)
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks.
We’ve rubbed shoulders, inadvertently with Yakuza gangsters in Shinjuku bathtubs whilst totally naked. Tried our best to be upstanding international business men of great integrity (ahem). Japanese spa culture is quite something—full nudity at all times—but by the end we’re into it. Sincere musings about how ultimately humanity is the same. Any sense of difference is quite literally washed away and the feeling of solidarity, that you’ve only got what you’ve got, reverberates around the Onsen bathhouse. An emotional journey I would not hesitate to recommend.
It’s with this notion of joy, equality and human connection that we approach Vol XII. Yes, we’ve missed our deadline again by months, after 12 of these things it’s a wonder we still bother to set deadlines. But ho hum, journalistic standards, integrity and all that good stuff. And as ever, what a ride it’s been. So here we are, the storm rages as I sit on Kimi’s floor reflecting on the months past, whilst simultaneously trying to arrange flights to Casablanca and strap up a broken thumb; it’s a hell of a time to be alive.
Since our last largely African-based issue, we’ve tried to keep things closer to home…and indeed failed miserably. Well, maybe not that miserably, with Covid now a fly spattered on the rear windscreen (famous last words, I know), we’ve been able to welcome friends from far and wide at home, highlighted by William Allotti and Balaram Stack’s escapades at a rather special day in Mundaka. We’ve dipped over to the Alps, with a deep and profound respect for snowboarding , a curiosity for headwear etiquette and to learn more about one of its leading lights—Mr Arthur Longo. Continuing on European soil, we’ve fallen in love with Greece and it’s niche radio stations, before deciding that Barcelona still has our heart.
We’ve spent time with incredible women once again. We took a trip to West Africa to a place the former British Crown colonisers used to call the Gold Coast, now known as Ghana. There we met Sandy Alibo, the founder and director of Surf Ghana, as we celebrated the first anniversary of Accra’s aptly named Freedom Skatepark, coincidentally reconnecting Chris Pfanner with his roots as a true blooded Ghanaian. We met the latest skateboarding prodigy from Malmo’s renowned Bryggeriets Gymnasium in the form of Vilma Stål. Not just one of the most exciting up and comers in women’s skateboarding but one of the most exciting up and comers in skateboarding, period. And whilst she might not be labelled an up and comer anymore after a career that’s already spanned a decade, Helena Long continues to be one of the most pioneering women in skateboarding today. And hopefully for years to come, now she’s had long overdue surgery on both her knees.
Good intentions will forever be our undoing. We’ve headed back over to Hawaii, where, repenting for the sins of last winter we found excellent company in Kaito and Craig, a formidable DB hauling, former wearing Duo. Deciding that actually island life was really, a big bit of us, we stayed on a little longer for the Pipe Masters, which, while marked by an absence of surf, the cocktails flowed and our filmer slept on a cushion for week. With the fear of aging firmly in our minds after a month long fry up in Hawaii, we nipped over to LA to hang with Christian Maalouf, who despite being on the cusp of officially reaching his mid-thirties, shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, if anything, his pop just seems to get bigger with age.
We’ve checked in with our old friend Shaun Manners to discuss the intricacies of newer sticker placements, father-son relationships and being under the wings of your hero, whilst making new friends in the form of Warren Smith, creative extraordinaire et tour du force who graces our pages for the first time.
But all good luck comes to an end. And we met our end in Iceland. Terrible swell, even worse wind, broken ankles, a slew of lost boards, ripped away, never to be seen again…and some very upset elves. Yet, never to be deterred, we left feeling inspired and connected to the amazing people that define the island they inhabit, who weave through it the fabric of their culture, regardless of the weather.
These things often turn out for the best.
Simplicity, joy and human connection
In the meantime, if you do find four surfboards somewhere off the 60, heading north just past Búðardalur, please let us know. It would bring us great joy.