Posted by: smithdavid | October 7, 2012

Dark Fall

It’s dark by the time I leave work. The October evenings have begun closing in quickly. I walk along Hammersmith Road and then past the bus station, The Broadway Centre and The Apollo. I keep on and soon it’s quiet. To my left is a block of flats, to my right an old church. Suburbia has crept right up to the Hammersmith roundabout.

I’m looking for Riverside Studios, venue for the London Surf Film Festival. Up one more side street and there it is – bright and slick and free of corporate logos. I thought, being so far from the ocean, that this would be a subdued affair. But the lobby is full of cool kids with hoodies and jeans with sandals and bright caps. Just what you’d expect from a gathering of surfers. Except the faces aren’t so brown and the hair is not so bleached.

The film I’m watching is Dark Fall, a documentary that follows surfers in New Jersey. The name resonates with the current position in the seasonal cycle in London. There is also something edgy, almost sinister about it. That’s what drew me in.

ireland’s dark fall – part 1

The opening is silent: a white day in the middle of winter, a lonely black, neoprened figure picking his way seawards; New Jersey’s famous pier desolate and covered in snow.

Soon there is an onslaught of heavy metal and vicious drops. There is a fall, probably from ten foot or more. A surfer tumbles, his board tombstones, there is a collective gasp and wince from the audience.

The premise of the film is thoughtful – a series of snippets of this often-overlooked surfing state which follow the arc of the four seasons. Giant, moody winter swell followed by the hot nights and tame waves of summer, followed by the dark foreboding of fall. And then winter and the circle is complete.

But something doesn’t ring true. For me, the moments in surfing that are most beautiful and terrifying, like when you’re looking down a steep wave and you’re know you’re there is only one place to go, contain a slow, almost silent quality. Like you’re looking into something pure. The last thing I would think about then is heavy drums and whaling guitars.

ireland’s dark fall – part 2

Now I’m on the Tube home, wondering – as I will time and again, why I don’t live beside the sea. It’s just touching mid-night when I walk in the door. In a few minutes it will be my thirty-eighth birthday.

Someone, during my childhood, told me that whatever you do on your birthday, you will carry through into the year that follows. It’s impossible for me to surf but there is something else.

So as time creeps past midnight, I lie on my stomach, as I have done ever since I brought Matilda back from Woolacombe, and let my hands explode against the floor and pull my feet in as my torso surges. Pop-up practice. One after another, the motion firing up a duller version of those things I feel when I’m in the sea.


  1. Dave,

    Your post took me back to when Bruce Brown’s “Endless Summer” came out. I was a kid and had just started surfing in Florida where I spent my summers. We had a teeny cottage a short walk from the beach by the Ormond Beach pier.

    Now I live a day’s drive from the coast. I keep my board at my brother’s house. He lives a short ways up the coast from our old family cottage. But finally I am living the dream that you have- building a house on the coast of South Carolina, short stroll to the sand. Not great waves but when the storms come should be good. And will get a sea kayak to be out on the water when no surf.

    Being on, or even beside, the water is a spiritual place for us. You will make your dream happen, Dave.

    This is one of my favorite blogs. Always happy to see a new post. Keep surfing and writing.


    • thanks tom. helps knowing there are appreciative readers out there. thanks also for the snippet from your life – i need to keep believing i’ll be surfing everyday sometime soon..dave

  2. Hi David, really enjoyed reading this wistful blog. Yup, your destined to live beside the sea. I’m feeling the absence of the sea after being so used to it being on my doorstep for all those taken for granted years – it’s 10k away from where I am in Portugal, big deal some people might think. Coincidentally, just listening to Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour BBC R6 which was played on Sun 7th and the theme is the sea.
    V.interested in this notion that whatever you do on your birthday, you will carry through into the year that follows … so I had a think, what did I do on my birthday this year? Hairdressers (could do with one), meal (met with Irish friends today for a meal) & live stand up comedy night in Dublin (could do with one). So one out of three aint bad to be getting on with!
    Hope Craig’s story going well, all the best, Fiona

    • is it your birthday today fiona? if so, happy birthday! mine is on mon – there is almost exactly a year of lag between where i am in the blog and right now. craig’s story – 10 000 okish words done, struggling to find time. you busy with anything?

      • No my birthday was back in March but your comment had me thinking what did I actually do back then … I’ve been writing a bit of a story every day, just trying to get back into the rhythm. Thinking of working on one of my old stories for the Fish Prize. Believe it or not I’m struggling to find time too! I think a desert island is required with no distractions, only pen & paper. Good luck with Craig

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: