Greg Martin worked in the British surf media for 10 years, with a varied career spanning a variety of roles including staff photographer and editor for the now deceased Pitpilot, and of course this fine rag. We’ve mined Gregs archive for some of the best shots and stories, which feature British surfing (and it’s peripheries) in what many would consider to be its hay day, and each week we’ll be brining you 10 of these shot/ story combo’s.
This week features wave hunting in Essex, a one legged charger and proof that there are still secret spots in England if you’re willing to wait long enough and search hard enough.
Greg’s currently works as a photo-journalist for the Cornishman, You can see Greg’s recent work, which is a bit like Humans Of New York, but for the depths of Cornwall, on his Facebook page here.
Click the first image to enter full screen, then click on the image to make the caption appear, then scroll through the gallery with your arrow keys.
October 2007 – 9 years ago I was seeing why Thurso East is considered one of the best waves in the UK, when the charts aligned for the UK Pro Surf Tour. The UK’s finest are back there on tour this week, hoping, like Alan Stokes here, to arm-stall into some Scottish perfection.
May 2010 – This is Essex. I started a project at Wavelength Magazine once to try and score waves in every UK coastal county. When I saw a potential chart for Essex, the only way I could get Gary and Danny Wells to go was by lying about where we were going. When we arrived it was flat, so we drove up to Suffolk to meet the waves and Gordon Brown by coincidence. The swell building, we decided to give Essex one more try on the way home – this is what we saw when we drove up. The guys were in their wetsuits in seconds and I set up to shoot on the beach. It was only when they walked along the groyne that I realised they looked a lot bigger than I thought they might next to the wave.
July 2011 – Rik Ebilgarr Bennett, AKA ‘Peg Leg’, was born without an ankle and had to have the lower part of his leg surgically removed. I interviewed him as part of a feature on people who, despite what life has thrown at them, refuse to stop surfing. However, in his mid-forties and with only one leg, Peg isn’t just still surfing, he’s absolutely charging. He told me his false leg only came off once in the surf, after a huge wipeout at Uluwatu. When he finally came to the surface, his leg popped up a few metres away from him… much to the horror of all the onlookers.
March 2008 – The last time there was a big storm like the one we’ve just had, I decided to go hunting to try and find something new working in the huge swell and 90mph winds. I stumbled upon this, in the middle of nowhere, with no phone reception and no board… all I had was a camera. I swore to myself that the next time there was a storm like that I would return. I think it would have been cooking today, but I just couldn’t resist surfing at home.
October 2007 – ‘Only a surfer knows the feeling’ – I think that’s how the saying goes. Like a lot of the surfers up in Scotland for this trip, this was Josh Knowles’ first date with Bagpipes, a super hollow slab that is as beautiful as it is unforgiving. Most surfers will never know what it feels like to come out of huge pit at this spot, but being so in awe of an empty wave that you instinctively salute it as you paddle back out… every surfer knows that feeling.
September 2012 – In my last couple of years at Wavelength Magazine we were lucky enough to move our offices back to where the magazine began; John Conway’s house at South Fistral. Every morning I’d drive to work and park up to check the surf, get a photo, and figure out how productive the day in the office would be. This was not a very productive day in the office.
January 2009 – A freezing winter morning, I remember thinking I’d get frostbite on my fingers if the sun didn’t come up soon. Shooting from the pier at Porthleven is a popular angle, and photographers tend to stick on a long lens to look right into the barrel – nice when it’s big, but a bit boring when it’s small like this day. When I saw the fishing boat heading out, I just hoped that someone would get a wave at the right time… the fact that his mate stood on the inside and claimed it for him was just a bonus.
October 2009 – This photo of Russ Winter was inspired by a Surf Europe cover of Andy Irons in West Oz. With the corn field, blue water and heavy slab, I knew we had a good chance of recreating it in Cornwall, if someone managed to get a bomb. Russ did – and it became my last ever cover of Pitpilot Mag. That’s Tony Plant on the inside getting the water angle, wearing a floppy hat because he promised his kids he’d wear a helmet and forgot to bring it (…I think!)
November 2012 – This was for the piece we used to do in Wavelength on surfers’ cars. James Parry in his very stylish Austin complete with single fin on the roof. These days it’s always nice when surfers turn up to the beach in something other than a VW T5 or an Audi estate… only cos I’m jealous of course.
December 2012 – This is Alan Stokes in Portugal doing a lofty ‘slob’ air. At least, I think it is a ‘slob’ air. Since leaving the surf industry, the bit of my brain used for storing names of technical tricks that I’ll never be able to do is starting to fill up with new, more relevant stuff. Anyway, if anyone deserves a hangover this morning it’s Stokesy, having won the British Nationals and the UK Pro Surf Tour yesterday. But knowing him, hangover or not, he’ll probably still have been up at the crack of dawn today drinking coffee and checking the surf. Slob air this may be… but slob he ain’t. (Written 4th Nov, 2013)