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Atlantic Diversions

I grew up with an atlas on the wall. A globe on the shelf. Friends that travelled, stories from safari’snin Zimbabwe, friends that passed through the Berlin wall, Māori hunting weapons hung in hallways. Geography was my favourite lesson, an atlas always held much mystic to me I spent hours pouring over pages held within.

Yet as kids we never left the British isles. I was 18 when I first got on a plane, gripping my armrest tightly all the way to Fuerteventura, I felt like Shackleton on his way to Antarctica.

Sixteen years later and I’ve lost count of the places I’ve been, I dread to think of my own CO2 footprint. Fergal Smith who I stayed with in Ireland has just stopped all air travel for those reasons, a tough decision for a pro-surfer who’s livelihood depends on sponsors who pay you to chase swells across the globe. He’s looking at buying a new boat, whilst I’m there, and talking about a train trip across Europe and Russia. I get the feeling for Fergal his shutting of the aeroplane door is the opening of many even more exciting ones.

In Lanzarote I visited Chiara and Fico owners of boutique hotel – La Jallo, growing their own vegetables to feed guests in the unyielding lava landscape. Chiara tells me how great it feels to reap the benefits, her joy is apparent when she collects some eggs from the hen coop. It’s the simple things that make the difference. The surf pumped on Lanzarote and Jose Maria Cabrera my host shared some amazing spots with me, I saw a side to Lanazote I never expected. Far removed from the package holiday hell you hear about, or the gnarly locals the surf media warn of. I guess a smile goes a long way and although reluctant to give waves for free, I was told where to paddle out, shouted into waves and guided in when I spilt my head open on a big day.

In the Faroes we felt the full force of the ocean, it’s a pyrotechnically unstable climate and I can’t begin to the describe the raw-ness of the elements felt daily by the islands, it’s an incredible place and we all felt lucky that tucked away on deserted beaches beside plunging cliffs we found fun indigo coloured barrels groomed by arctic gales. The Faroes isn’t for the faint hearted, the start gate to this adventure and off we set cantering at breakneck pace.

Island communities might seem full of strange customs and even backwards at times, but surrounded by monotonous, insurmountable walls of an ever present sea it could seem like a prison, islanders need to be savvy and frugal just to survive. It’s apparent sustainability and forward thinking is key. Fergal shares a film called the Coconut Revolution with me an incredible story about the inhabitants of Bougainville Island, who cut off from the world by Papa New Guinea and Australia when they refused to accept a mining companies advances and ruination of the landscape. Subjected to a marine blockade they have survived against all odds since 1990 on pretty much just coconuts – powering cars, curing illnesses and even producing electricity all from the humble fruit.

This project for me is about visiting corners of the Atlantic that intrigue me, corners that I’ve wanted to visit, islands spotted on those atlases as a teenager, I purposely picked corners I’ve not been to. We will see how it pans out, so far so good. I’ve met incredible people, been told incredible tales and scored amazing waves.

Chiara overlooking her vegetable garden looking towards the sea sums it up ‘Islanders are aways looking towards the ocean, to an a islander the ocean means freedom, we have a different perspective’.


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