Why I ride

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 September 2009

Why I ride
When people ask why do I like to ride my bike, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is fun. The fact that it is economical, healthy, environmentally friendly etc are all just (big) bonuses.

I think back to my daily commute on London’s public transport, (especially during summer months) and it’s enough to make me want to ride to work everyday. 

After 8 hours on my arse in front of a computer, I am excited to ride my bike home. Every journey is a little adventure. I interact with the city and I never know what might happen or what or who I might see.

I ride a fixed gear bike, which I think makes cycling even more enjoyable. As well as being a great bike to commute on, you can try tricks on it. I remember when I was younger, hanging out with boys that skated and rode BMX, watching them play at Southbank and wishing I could do the same. I’m not sure what stopped me but I guess I was intimidated because it was so male dominated and aggressive.

I love the fact that fixed gear bikes are accessible to everyone and I see more and more girls on them all the time. There’s nothing quite like riding through the streets of London with hundreds of people from all different walks of life, from the age of fourteen to forty-plus. All brought together by their passion for riding these bikes. 

Now, at the age of 29, I still hang out at skate parks with my friends, but instead of sitting on the sidelines watching, I’m actually riding with them… Which is way more fun!

www.fixedgearlondon.com

Learnings from a chicken shed

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 September 2009

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Learnings from a chicken shed

Learnings from a chicken shed
1. They like simple. Up at dawn. Roost at dusk. Eat all day long.

2. They like regular. Food and water each morning, come rain or shine.

3. They respect each other. The cockerel waits for the hen to eat first. No matter how hungry he is.

4. They like sunshine. They don't like the rain or wind so much.

5. They value their freedom, second only to their food.

6. Apart from the small omission of a date stamp, the egg is a perfect piece of design.

7. Put their food away each night. Don't feed those that want something for nothing.

8. They like to roost up high. It keeps them from harms way.

9. They lay less in Winter than they do in Summer.

10. Don't walk under the chickens when they are roosting. You will only make this mistake once.

These are the days

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 June 2009

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These are the days

These are the days
Come rain (and there will be), come shine (here’s hoping). Even if our knees have knobbles and our calves are like sticks, we’ll be hunting through our wardrobes for our favourite shorts. Because just a few hours of sunshine is all we need to remember those summers when we were kids. When the sun shone for longer, the days were endless and our only deadline was tea on the table. And when we got up in the morning and threw on our shorts and t-shirts, grabbed some toast and our bikes or skateboards and left for the day we knew that one day in the future the sun would be shining and we’d be putting on our shorts and remembering that feeling.

These are the days and they always were.

Technology is not the enemy

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 April 2009

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Technology is not the enemy

Technology is not the enemy
Whenever my Dad fills up his car with petrol he notes down how much he put in and his latest mileage in a little notebook. And, every now and then, he sits down and works out how the car’s performing. He’s an engineer. That’s what they do. They pay attention to things. And it strikes me that attention is going to be very important in understanding, and doing something about, the size of our footprints on the planet. Because you never do anything about things you don’t notice.

And that’s what’s rather exciting about technology at the moment. Oh, I know, all us econutters are supposed to be against technology and its relentless inhuman crushing of the little flowers and animals, but that sort of knee-jerk silliness won’t get us anywhere. There are technologies out there that’ll help us monitor our footprints – and therefore get us doing something. Look at a website like www.walkit.com - stick in a couple of locations and it’ll show you the best walking route and tell you how much carbon you’re not using if you walk it. Or a device like Wattson will keep an eye on how much electricity you’re using.  And then you can feed that into a site like www.pachube.com and start to share your data with the world (though you have to be a bit geeky at the moment).  Even RFID chips – those little tracking tags that generate so many privacy worries – could be a great help here. They could give each item we make, buy or consume a unique identity – allowing us to measure it, monitor it, make sure it’s energy responsible.  Even that little camera in your phone is a potentially world-changing device – the best first step to improving the world is noticing, capturing and sharing the way it actually is, in all its tiny lovely detail.

Technology is not the enemy. Inattention and waste are the enemy. If you don’t notice your footprints you won’t clean them up. So remember to take notes and use whatever tools can to keep you paying attention.
 
Words: Russell Davies
Illustration: Nic Burrows

Footprints

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 April 2009

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Footprints

Footprints
You can still find dinosaur footprints if you look hard enough. They've stuck around, in old riverbeds and slabs of sandstone. They're a good thing to go hunting for when you've got a spare afternoon. And they're a useful reminder that nothing lasts forever.

So I wonder who's going to be finding our footprints in 100 million years time?

Hopefully some really smart humans. Or something that evolved from humans. People of some description.

Of course, the saddest thing would be if they couldn't find our footprints.

Because the planet has become a strange flooded world, where fish are the boss.

Or because Earth is now a too hot hellhole, noxious and gassy.

Or because they can't find the riverbeds. They're buried too deep underneath the shopping trolleys and bargain buckets.

Or because there are no people left to do the finding.

Now that would be a shame.

Words: Dan Germain, aged 35

Illustration: Dan Germain, aged 7

The Wind of Change

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 April 2009

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The Wind of Change

Winds of Change
Portugal’s international reputation usually orbits such things as wine, port, olives, fish, cork, and holidays. Being half Portuguese, to me it also means cold beer, Catholicism, gossipy old women in black, beautiful young women in bikinis, and the Azorean islands. In all, a fairly traditional picture. However, my work in renewable energy makes me proud of the moves the nation has made in the direction of a low carbon energy system.

The country is blessed by geography and climate, having a long, windy coastline, strong rivers and hot sun, giving it a huge natural endowment of wave, wind, tidal and solar power. They now have a target to produce 45 per cent of their electricity from alternative sources by 2015, and facilitate it with various incentives, including a guaranteed price for the energy fed into the grid (a feed-in tariff), investment subsidies and tax reductions. That it has no fossil fuels of its own, nor expertise with nuclear energy, is becoming the best thing that ever happened to the country.

The world’s biggest solar park is found in Amareleja, in the Alentejo region, which will be nearly double the size of Hyde Park and supply energy for 30,000 homes. The world’s largest wind farm is under construction in the hills near the Spanish border, and when currently planned wind farms are all completed, they will power around 750,000 homes. Wave power is expected to supply energy to around 450,000 homes when planned investments are deployed along the coast. New technology (made in Scotland) is currently being tested in the Porto area.

The clean energy transition in Portugal is expected to create around 10,000 jobs, jobs which should stay in the country. Germany, Spain and Denmark are all world leaders in renewable energy, but we can expect increasing competition in global markets from China, Japan, India and the United States. The election of Barack Obama came with the promise of five million new ‘green collar’ jobs in the coming years. When leaders lead by example, and profit, others follow.

The kind of revolution that we need, on a global scale, will be led by examples of what works. Portuguese focus and determination on renewable energy – and on energy efficiency – is just such an example. They pulled out the stops, and that is what it will take. The faster we make climate and environment protecting activities normal, everyday things, the sooner we will get the snowball effect – everyone is at it, because society has chosen that path. Think of the industrial revolution, or the telecommunications revolution. Societies around the world are able to use the latter to share ways of overcoming the multiple problems created by the former.

The year 2009 is likely to be another breakthrough year on all these fronts. There are now too many people around the world working on solving these problems for it to be otherwise. When the solutions create jobs and industry too, that speaks loudly to voters and politicians. Watch this space.

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Document falls victim to the credit crunch

Document
Well yes, the current economic climate’s over-eager scythe did have a good slash at us, but in the past ten years of making skateboarding appear on paper our sturdy legs have been kicked from under us more times than you could ever bear by various forms of monetary tree felling, and yet until now nothing ever got to us.

Why?

Well I guess essentially we were always small enough to duck a good shot and skinny enough to wriggle free of a tight chokehold. Our problems were always our own, we got ourselves into them and we again sorted them out!

As the years progressed people wanted more from us and so we gave them more, swelling in pages, readership and distribution. We soon began to notice that our size had made us an easier target and we started getting pulled on certain comments we’d made & articles we’d done, or rather not done.

People were paying more to be a part of the magazine and so I guess they had a right to voice an opinion. But when it came down to it, we stuck our backs against the wall and fought hard to do it the way we wanted, the way we as skateboarders thought was right.

Document was never going to be a promotional pamphlet for the people who had the deepest pockets; it was the news source and core opinion for the skaters who were lining those pockets.


That’s where people still get it all wrong, the industry doesn’t dictate the market, skateboarders do and without sounding patronizing we felt like we were voicing the delights and concerns of what skateboarders in the scene were feeling. We felt that was the essence of our role.

As I struggle to remember my life before skateboarding and now struggle to see my future within it, I start to doubt myself. Maybe we should have changed the way we did things, maybe we should have pandered to advertisers a little more. Maybe our priority should have been to appease those forty year old guys who sit in offices, sweating into their lattes over Power-point presentations on why something they don’t do isn’t selling.

Maybe we shouldn’t have kept ignoring all those calls from PR girls trying to place some faddish junk in the mag and maybe then it would still be going, maybe we could have been surfing high on a wave of marketing and the adulation of all those ex-skateboarders.

Fuck that… I’m glad its done, I’m glad we never bowed, I’m glad real skateboarders read it and called it their own and I’m glad the memory of Document is always going to be clean.

We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Percy Dean

An ode to a surfer's soul arch

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 April 2009

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An ode to a surfer's soul arch

An ode to a surfer's soul arch
The soul arch is seen by some as a functional element of style, and is dismissed by others as a flamboyant indulgence. I see the soul arch as a functional expression of a surfer’s joy. I believe it helps the surfer connect with the soul of the wave as well as sections of a ridden wave itself.

Dawn patrol. Hump backed pulses of energy are moving toward you from the horizon. All is calm. Sound is muted. You push through the faces of one, two – three waves and they spill and track behind you. The trail of the low sun finds form in the water, colouring it golden to purple.

The curvature of the swell reveals itself as you spear through three more unbroken faces into the wilderness beyond.

You’re alone now at the point where the clear water meets the foam on the surface of the water, directly above where a rock nestles unseen in the nub of a gently sloping bank of sand. You sit and breathe and stretch.

Questions cloud your perception of the morning. Does the soul exist as an observable phenomenon? Is it a phantom – a cipher for the essential element of everything?

Does the fact that it is possible to conflate the words ‘soul’ and ‘surfer’ mean that what you are doing is something truly special?

What is a soul arch? Does it connect the body with the wave via the soul? The horizon darkens again. The questions fall away and you make some instinctive calculations. You dig in hard with your right hand; sit upright for a moment, swinging the nose ninety degrees toward shore.Paddling quickly now toward the beach you are falling and the board is lifting beneath your feet and spray is distorting everything but the speed of the wave. Weighting your inside rail you thrust your hips forward and arch your back. The bowl-like area of water around you steepens and morphs to a liquid wall the colour of honey.

You stand tall like this for a fraction of a moment – before you race down the line tucked into trim. That moment, the first ridden instance of the morning, is burned into your cortex like a bull’s brand. An answer to those questions settles into your being as you paddle out again. Even if the soul does not exist, the soul arch exists in itself.

Words: Michael Fordham
Illustration: Nick Radford

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