The pains of the land-locked city surfer.
As publisher of KooK – an independent surfing newspaper that documents the current creed of creative shreds – Daniel Crockett is able to combine his love of writing and surfing. He may have grown up on a farm and spent the majority of his life in the great outdoors but now the poet and artist lives in London. Here, he explains how he's still coming to terms with this.
For many years I surfed constantly, mapping the week by tide. I wrote a bit for surf mags, worked my ass off online for some mad Sikh guys and built a fine quiver of boards. I travelled, always to waves and the closest I got to the city was a nip round the M25 on a good Norfolk chart.
London was a distant evil. I’d seen my surf-crazed friends depart only to end up rotund, lifeless bores who discussed house prices in Clapham. Gradually, the things I’d held in common with these people fell away. I guess they viewed me as a sort of child, unable to escape the harness of the sea. I couldn’t have been more delighted.
An extended sojourn to California threw me off course. A messy breakup, a summer of festivals and I was signing the lease on a flat in Hackney, ten years after I’d entertained and discounted the idea. Why? I ask myself daily.
Here’s how I’ve rationalised it: for creative minds rurality and isolation have a cost. When I lived on a farm by the beach I stayed awake at night wondering about this city and the myriad urban faces of the world. What were they all doing up there, those people?
The adversity in these constructed thickets creates a drive and the boiler room of creativity is so diverse here it can’t help but inspire. I penned the first book of a trilogy Shineland earlier this year and am in the process of selling it. You’ll know it worked when you see the plastic figures in McDonald’s. I’ll be with some girlfriends in the Lakshadweeps.
The place is good food for poetry too; money-as-mecca versus the ultimate impoverished profession. Way to go to make… nothing. A film narrated by a poem called Uncommon Ideals cleaned up on the festival circuit, went to SXSW, and got shown on Channel 4 who just commissioned a sequel.
The newspaper I run, KooK, has just hit its third issue and is more diverse, independent and analogue than ever before. I’m working on a recorded volume of poems and figuring out what to do with all the writing I never submitted. My next newspaper, The Shoestring Gazette, is unfolding. I get to paint sometimes. The urgency goads.
I’d be lying if my body isn’t gradually disintegrating. Hatha and bikram and lapping Vicky park and the mind-numbing dullness of the gym are poor substitutes for paddling out every day. The office chair mutates you. There’s a point at which mental keenness, still believing you are getting better, gets overruled by creaking knees and knackered shoulders. I pick times to hit the coast, when freak charts light up odd spots in Northumberland, the Vale of Glamorgan, Somerset, Suffolk – to fight a constant losing battle with inconsistent shores.
Perhaps my wave tally will drop, or I’ll make even less tubes, hit the lip slightly softer. All of the encyclopaedic knowledge of dozens of coastlines and their variables will fall idle and useless. I’ll look back and say, ‘I used to surf a lot, before I came here,’ between puffs of a smoke and the pull of a pint.
My gills aren’t completely dry. Sometimes, with a boat on course and the light in the right direction, the view east from London Bridge up the river tricks the mind into seeing lines of marching swell. There’s wind west of Norway due and no luxury to be jaded. The sessions I get now are like a paradise of moving water and light by comparison. Yet I can dress it up all I want – this fantastic city is just a shitty place to be a surfer and crave nature. I’m moving to Berlin.