Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Dave Barnwell right hander
db stylin' off the bottom on a nice right at G-Bay.

Anyone who has surfed in the south west of Cornwall in recent years will probably have come across Dave Barnwell's smiling face in the water, and clicked onto his popular SurfHog website. Always a positive presence and guaranteed to bring a good vibe to the line-up, I thought I'd try and get a bit of an insight into what keeps him stoked.

Dave, where are you from and when did you start surfing?

I was born in Bristol, but I've lived all over; the Midlands, the South East, and for a few years Arizona in the States. I started surfing in Brighton, in the late nineties, but didn't get hooked until I started coming down to Cornwall regularly to get in at more consistent breaks, well more consistent than Brighton has to offer anyway! I've spent a lot of my life on or around the water/ocean, thanks to my parents owning several small boats over the years.

Do you remember your first green wave?

My first green wave was at Godrevy in front of the lifeguard hut, I remember looking down and seeing a few sand eels accompanying me too, I don't think anyone forgets that moment. It's when the obsession truly starts.

What keeps you coming back for more?

Surfing for me is about relaxing, having fun, it's one of the few things I've found where you totally empty your mind of everything, it's not a conscious thing, it just seems there's no room for anything but the moment when riding a wave, that's pretty special; the rest of the time I'm just soaking up the scenery and the company of friends, or watching other folks grab a good wave.

Dave Barnwell surfing
Nice & clean and goin' for the nose.

You must be the smiliest person I've ever come across in the water - big grin, always happy to chat etc - what keeps you so stoked?

I always try to be positive, it's a conscious choice. If I chat to someone heading in for a session I always make a point of wishing them a good one. I'm a firm believer in a positive attitude rubbing off on folks around you. I did have a period of low times for a couple of years, and if anything getting through that taught me the value of embracing the good, and not beating yourself up about the bad times; surfing's one of those good things, to be embraced.

How do you cope with the inevitable crowds these days?

I hate crowds, I find it does take the edge off a surf, as you have to go into competition mode to ensure you get some good waves, rather than relax and go with the flow. In the summer the easiest way to avoid the crowds is simple, get up for the dawny or wait for the sunset session. I was getting in at 4.45am mid summer last year when the conditions were good. Plus just going to breaks that involve a bit of effort to get to cuts down the crowd rapidly.

I know you love to surf all over Kernow - any other places that you rate?

I'm a huge fan of Central America, I fell in love with the place the first time I went, it is being spoilt in places by Americans that treat parts of it like we treat parts of Spain, but I'd recommend it to anyone.

Any other surf destinations you've still got on your list?

Believe it or not I've not been to Indo, so that's on the list, but I think New Zealand is next, oh and the Scottish Isles (but not in winter).

Dave Barnwell portrait
Dave, lookin' moody in a hoody.

You were all set to pull the plug on SurfHog last year, but 'due to popular demand' (and I was one of many who encouraged you to keep going) you decided to keep it up - what was the story?

I felt SurfHog had got a bit stale, and I guess maybe I'd got a bit fed up with things at the time as I was busy with work. So with plenty of other forecast sites out there I just decided it was time to close the site down, I was even thinking of taking a month or two off from surfing to concentrate on other things. I couldn't believe the amount of stick I got when I said it was going, it gave me the kick up the arse to keep things moving forward. I am planning to open the site up a bit more in the future, to allow others from the local area to contribute.

Surf culture books are becoming very popular, and you have an online bookshop. Any personal favourites spring to mind?

I tend to love the more photographic surf books like The California Surf Project, LeRoy Grannis's Surf Photography, or Sipping JetStreams, if you're a photographer I'd particularly recommend the last one, although it's pricey.

Boards in your quiver?

I do tend to collect boards, although I always end up surfing only two of them on a regular basis, the quiver currently contains; 6'6" McTavish Micro Egg 2+1, 6'8" Hobie Egg Single fin, 7'6" McCoy Nugget thruster, 8'0" Bob Cooper 2+1, 8'0" Cord Acid Drop Single fin, 9'0" Takayama Noah Kai comp 2+1, 9'4" Morning of the Earth Single fin, 9'6" Dano Pignar Breadbasket D-fin.

Do you like experimenting with different boards?

I love riding different boards, admittedly I spend most of my time on logs, but simply swapping from traditional, to progressive versions, reminds you of the different riding styles required for each, and when I drop the length to 8'0" or less it opens up more possibilities and I reckon improves my surfing all round. I reckon everyone should have at least one progressive and one more traditional board in their quiver whatever length you choose to ride.

Dave Barnwell surfing left
It might be chilly, but Dave's happy it's offshore.

What does 'style' mean to you?

Style to me is about smoothness, making things look effortless, that doesn't mean you can't have a powerful style, or pull off fast snaps on a board for instance, it just means everything should flow, one manoeuvre to the next. Most folks I reckon spend their life chasing the flow once they've got the basics nailed. There's nothing worse than seeing someone riding a wave poo-stance, or jumping/shuffling around a log, or hacking a wave on a shortboard.

I know you're a keen photographer, are there any particular photographers whose work you admire?

I don't tend to idolise anyone as a photographer, I tend to be a magpie in terms of what I like, loving different styles, a good picture is a good picture, bit of a cop out answer I know, but it's where I'm at.

Are you interested in any other art form or artists?

I love art, whether it be a beautiful landscape, a painting, sculpture, or architecture. If I had to pick a visual style it would be abstract art, someone like Wassily Kandinsky.

Is music important to you?

I'm a huge music lover, I learnt to play piano, trombone, and a little violin when I was young and used to play in several orchestras and bands, at the same time I was getting into heavy rock, go figure. Over the years I've built up a large music collection of 1,500+ albums, music like surfing I find hugely rewarding. Music can be both a background thing, but personally I love to listen and engage with it on a more active level.

Best gig?

Picking one gig as a stand out is hard, but I have some great memories of seeing Kathryn Williams play to a crowd of about 20 people in a tiny pub; the mayhem of the Monsters of Rock, Castle Donnington, and having my trousers almost vibrated off me because the bass was so deep at a Fun Loving Criminals gig. I'm surprised my ears still work with all the damage I did to them in my teens and twenties.

Surfer, photographer, web designer etc, what's next?

Not sure, to be honest I do tend to bimble through life rather than plan things, I believe in spontaneity. But I do think I might take some time out to travel for a bit, and put together some kind of surf travelogue... we'll see.

Thanks a lot Dave.

All photos courtesy of Dave Barnwell

1 comment:

  1. Top chap! I avidly follow his tweets, eyeballs always beat MSW!