I was invited by Ben Gulliver to shoot photographs alongside his filming of The Seawolf, his cold-water, high performance, surfing masterpiece. I also made a little book about this trip which can be purchased HERE. The foreword for said book was also written by Ben Gulliver and can be read below.
It turns out, there’s a chilly little town beyond the mountains at the northwestern tip of the U.K. that’s riddled with every sort of wave you could imagine. We knew it was isolated and temperamental so it didn't seem foreign from our lives in Cascadia, other than the fact that the surf was rumored to be shallow and heavy. Too many trips trying to score mythical slabs and reefs shortens ones patience. And when you’re trying to make a film, fickle locations are maddening. But this journey was to be different since we knew there was plenty of opportunity to score.
A couple days in and we had already sniffed out eight spots within two hours from our lodging, which was tucked in behind a church/schoolhouse. We had our bearings and groveled for a couple days waiting for some swell from the north to arrive. When it did, it was a frigid paradise. Half the spots we looked at were barreling, with no one out. We moved to the most popular wave and met some local fellows who were suiting up. They greeted us with smiles and a dialect we couldn’t decipher. As our stay lengthened, each interaction was refreshingly pleasant; down to the two elderly ladies that served us coffee three times a day every day at the local grocery. I’d be a liar if I said I didn't enjoy their questions about surfing and our lives at home.
It was always windy. It was more like a hurricane that everyone seemed to be ignoring as if it were normal. It was normal. The North Atlantic is a fierce beast that takes no prisoners during the winter. I went for a walk with my camera one afternoon to film some bluffs and got hammered by the relentless gale. The wind pushed me around in a muddy field for an hour before I scrambled back to the car. We moved around the tip of the island where the wind would be favorable and surfed beneath a 1000-year-old castle teetering over a 1000-foot cliff. The wave was garbage, but the moment was exactly what we were after. There are many times on trips where it’s easier to stay in and wait for the waves to get better rather than go and explore a little, but we never fell victim. It seemed every time we went exploring, we found something incredible and different. I had no idea that on the West Coast there were mountains and islands with untouched white sand beaches and waterfalls spilling to shore. As they say, you get what you pay for and we got pure gold in exchange for long and exhausting days navigating the coastal nooks and crannies of this raw and rugged land.
After a couple hundred cans of Guinness, five bottles of scotch, four broken boards, and three terabytes of data, we had to move on. I have never enjoyed a trip quite as much as this one based on the crew, but also the atmosphere and history of Alba. Something about a place where there is no law against trespassing is wonderful for a couple hungry fellas looking to bounce off of some old – and very jagged – rocks.
Surfers: Pete Devries, Noah Cohen
Placement: Assets from this trip were used as a full-screen feature on Surfline which can be seen HERE.