top of page

Surfing's Not Cool - Hot Wax

When I was in my late teens come summertime I used to to hitch down to Cornwall to spend the season with my friend Ricky (see many previous posts). He and his brother Henry were surfing fiends, as crazy about it as only surfers can be. Occasionally, when driving somewhere, like say the Black Hills in Wales, I would suddenly be aware that they had gone quiet and their eyes were sparkling like the eyes of puppies that had just sighted a rabbit, and when I'd ask them "what's up?" they'd utter breathlessly "white water" and I'd look out of the window and catch a glimpse of a tiny rapid in a nearby rivulet. They were that crazy about it.

I used to stay with them and their parents in a village near Truro, in their seventeenth century cottage, with walls and a central hearth that were allegedly much older even than that, and according to their mother haunted by a "benevolent" ghost. The mother, Susie, was an amiably eccentric Cornishwoman who, when she sighted a magpie, would volubly utter "onetwothreefourfive, you'll never catch me alive" and then hawk and spit noisily and disgustingly on the ground, before carrying on as though nothing had happened.

I was something of a cult hero amongst the surfing fraternity of their favoured beach St Agnes, or Stagness to the cognoscenti, as whenever I appeared on the scene, the surf got really big, which they attributed to me. In those days there were no surfboard leashes attaching the board to your leg so that you had to swim all the way back to the beach to collect it every time you wiped out, which resulted in me getting very discouraged in my attempts to learn the sport. And which also meant that I'd often make my way back to the cottage in the middle of the day when everyone was out. I knew where they hid the key, so was able to unlock the heavy door, which opened into their front room. Every time I entered, the rocking chair by the ancient fire place would be rocking back and forward, not slightly, but vigorously, as though just suddenly vacated by someone. I'd check the place thoroughly, but there was never hide nor hair of anyone or thing in the house, and my blood would run cold. I told Susie and she nodded sagely and said in her Cornish vernacular: "ahrrr, that's the ghost alright. Friendly chap innee?". I would also hear odd noises, or feel sudden cold drafts, and this, on the occasions when I didn't feel like cavorting with the ancient spirits, no matter how benevolent, meant I went for a whole lot more solitary clifftop walks than I'd originally planned. One day towards the end of my first stay, when I knew everyone was out, the key wasn't in it's normal hiding place, so I checked the side window to see if someone had come back early after all, and noticed that a large ginger cat was fast asleep on the rocking chair. I rattled the window and it leapt up, skedaddling upstairs. A second later I was able to see it above me, exiting through a first floor bedroom window and onto a nearby tree. The cat was not a member of the household but no-one made any provision to keep it out once I had told their them of their daytime intruder. And Susie still maintained that the rocking chair was agitated by their resident phantom, even attributing the the cat's presence to the fact that they were "probably friends".

The surfers there were a mad lot. I remember a party being interrupted once at around 2 pm by a surfie running in and crying out "surf's up!" whereupon everyone headed out to the beach. There they donned lightweight neoprene mining helmets with built-in headtorches and coloured gels attached to the lamps, and took to the waves, under a new moon. A young woman kept a list as they went writing their names against corresponding colours: Ricky red, Henry yellow and so on; checking them in and out, and soon there were nine or ten colours shining beautifully and crazily from atop the breakers. As I said, mad as March hares at a custard pie throwing contest.

This a real snorter of a track by Hot Wax, and proof that at least some Americans do get irony after all.

bottom of page