The Chook Journal – capturing WA’s special windsurfing moments with Tom and Ollie Pidden

Words and pics: Tom and Ollie Pidden

From December ’16 – January ’17 Tom and Ollie Pidden left the UK and travelled to Margaret River, Western Australia. It turned out to be an epic trip, in a season that will be remembered for exceptional conditions in the southern hemisphere. If you have seen it, you will know their video is not about crazy action, it’s about what it was really like, with great cinematography and editing to capture what went down as it happened. Here is what they had to say about the trip and the video.

‘The trip started a few weeks before we left the UK when we travelled down to South Wales and collected some brand new kit from Jim at Puravida. He hooked us up with 2017 Simmer gear and O’Shea wetsuits. Steve from K4 also sent us some fins so we were all set. Travelling to Oz always feels like going home for us as our parents still own the house we grew up in as kids. We were lucky enough to be out there from mid-December until mid-January at which point we sadly had to return for school/uni. Whilst we were in Margies we wanted to make a little video about the trip and WA6285: Home of the Chook is the finished result!’

‘The logo and name of The Chook Journal, which is what we call ourselves, was inspired by the ‘chook’ (Australian slang for chicken) that is silhouetted in the sand dune opposite Rivermouth Beach, inside the main break, Margaret River. Rivermouth is the beach that we basically grew up on learning to take a pounding from the waves and is where we really first learned to surf as kids. Our Dad meanwhile would be sailing the main break and as we have gotten older naturally we progressed into sailing it with him! This trip was Ollie’s first time out there and it’s fair to say he was nervous while rigging up and navigating the keyhole. But he enjoyed it once he had a few waves under his belt.’

‘We both learned to wave sail on the south coast of the UK when we moved there six years ago. I guess it’s fair to say we sail with a slightly strange style. It is a little more old school with drawn out, wide arc bottom turns with flowing top turns. As a result our videos are never the typical montage of epic moves. We try to capture the true essence of our trips. Not just the windsurfing either, the travel and time spent doing non-windsurf related activities finds its way into our edits because this is the full the story which we want to represent. We believe strongly in filming only what is really happening, we don’t enjoy fabricating clips to make our trips or windsurfing look more impressive. We like to try and find different camera angles, film from different spots and then bring the footage home and turn it into a meaningful video. Each edit we try to up the level and with this latest one we felt we managed it. Neither of us have any cinematography nor editing qualifications. Everything we have learned is self-taught through trial and error. We are already looking forward to the next trip and trying to up the quality again.’

‘When filming we don’t exactly have the latest and greatest equipment. Instead we use budget video gear that we have purchased second hand over the last few years. Little mirrorless camera bodies costing less than £100 each and basic cheap DSLR lenses. We actually broke our lens mount so the camera was stuck to the lens with epoxy quick dry putty and duct tape. The cheap tripod we got four years ago also broke for the umpteenth time so we fixed it with another layer of epoxy putty and cable ties! We try to make do with what we have and use our creativity to tell a story. Sharing our experiences with anyone watching is then the next step.’

‘Margaret River’s main break is an intimidating spot, especially if you don’t get to sail it that often. Even the launch is a little nerve racking if you haven’t done it before. With inch deep reefs either side of a sandy channel only two board widths wide it looks gnarly. We both lost a fin or two this year. Once you’re past the keyhole you have some more water to play with, but that does not mean the hard part is over. If the wind is blowing its regular south westerly direction then you will have enough wind in your sail to plane (or chug at a reasonable rate if you chose a smaller size). But if it has swung south east then you’re going to have very little wind to play with until you’re at the main reef. It’s important to stay on the board at this stage because if you find yourself in the water you may not get back up! The rip off the ‘Surgeon’s Table’ will drag you towards the river and it could be a while until you can get going. Once out back all you have to do is catch a wave! Again this isn’t easy either. The waves in WA move very fast and because the water is deep up until the reef the swell is only a fat lump but moving like a freight train. You might have to bare off to keep on the wave. This is OK because you can jam upwind when it jacks up. Be careful about going too far upwind if it’s a small day. The reef is very shallow and you can end up grounding out in the bottom turn at low tide. When we were there one of the locals landed an aerial into the flats, hit the slab and snapped his fins clean off! When the session comes to an end you can relax – only joking! Trying to get back to the keyhole in a south easterly is something that comes with practice. A decent wave is required and once you have passed the main reef you have to pull upwind, staying with the white water until you are through the keyhole. If you don’t catch a wave you will most likely end up swimming in. Even local legend Scott McKercher was spotted swimming this trip!’

‘This was our first video since sailing with our new gear, and almost a year since the start of The Chook Journal project. It comes with a certain responsibility being a ‘team rider’. You think that people are going to expect you to be better than them or throw big moves. Neither of us have big moves to throw and at the main break there is a huge amount of talent – especially within the local community. Jim first approached us about riding for Puravida because of the Chook Journal project. We do offer something different as young team members because we are not only aspiring windsurfers we are aspiring storytellers. To hear that Simmer Style and O’Shea wanted us on their kit, with K4Fins offering continued support and Jim Brooks-Dowsett’s enthusiasm for upcoming projects, really shows what we have achieved in a year. Stay tuned for more!’

 

 

 

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