As I write I am sat in the shade of a tree, not a beautiful oak with lush green grass and a cool, temperate climate but somewhere else. The tree is a short stumpy fig, planted in a parched open space within a stones throw of a bypass roundabout and a playground. Roads go West to Santa Ponsa, East to Palma and the other exit delivers the occasional car to the school grounds and temporary village that is the 2017 Traditional Tattoo and World culture Festival. The gates are not open yet so I have time to collect my thoughts. To say that it has been a crazy year would be an understatement and my time in Mallorca is a very welcome break from the day-to-day and one I am extremely grateful for.

This year started with me still awaiting an operation that I thought would stop my UTIs. Last summer we had cautiously waited till the time was right, putting inconvenience above healing. Summer sunshine, children’s laughter and a trip to Asturias helped distract me. October’s Ironman (which I am very proud to say my wife won her age group) and November’s trip to Morocco all helped distract me from the continual presence of Urinary Tract Infections. As the cold winter weather moved in however a feeling of stagnation developed. The need for change but the inability to achieve it haunted me. Christmas came and a New Year triggered a brief period of optimism. Complaint letters were sent. Dates were promised, only to be postponed again the next week. Eventually though it became apparent that February 13th was going to be the day.

My wife drove us to Glangwili, both of us nervous about the operation I was expecting, a diverticulectomy. We understood that the procedure would involve an incision across the abdomen that would allow the surgeon to access and remove my bladder diverticulum. I was anxious about the operation and the healing. We arrived on time and were ushered into an empty day room. We sat waiting till another gentleman in jogging bottoms arrived. We talked about medical matters. I explained my diverticulectomy, he, the various complications associated with his TURP (Trans Urethral Resection of the Prostate; a procedure that involves the core of the prostate being removed in a variety of ways and is a very common operation amongst men over the age of 60). I had heard about this procedure and this man’s experiences only reinforced my fear.

As time went by and more patients arrived nurses started to call names and people were ushered away one by one.

“Patrick Boothman”- My wife and I were greeted by a nurse and taken into a side room where we were met by my consultant and another who had travelled up from London. The visiting doctor introduced himself and then very quickly started talking about operating on my prostate! I was shocked and stunned for a while before i realised they were talking about the dreaded TURP. I interrupted and told him to slow down.

“What about the diverticulum?”

“You need a TURP”

“Where is the evidence?” I countered

He then thumbed through my extensive notes in an attempt to find something , but whatever he found it did not look too convincing to me. He then settled the situation by declaring that without the TURP the success of any diverticulectomy would be minimal. I had to make a decision wether to proceed or not.

“It is important that you make this decision without stress or duress”.

I know nothing about NHS protocol but I bet changing the operation on the day is a bit of a no-no. We had to choose between going home and waiting till we were given another date (another 6 months?), go down the private route or getting it done today without harbouring any negative emotions. We asked for details about possible complications with the operation and went away to talk through our options.

I needed an operation that day. I had been waiting too long and needed some progress. The complications could possibly include i) erectile disfunction; which would be extremely unlikely in a man of my age and could be “cured” with pills. ii) incontinence; should the surgeon damage the neck of the bladder this could result in me wearing nappies for the rest of my life. iii)damage to the urethra; which could cause scar tissue to narrow the tube and create further complications and finally iv) retrograde ejaculation. The main function of the prostate is to direct sperm out of the penis upon ejaculation. With the centre of my prostate removed this would not be possible so sperm would instead enter my bladder leaving me high and dry! Fortunately I have already had a vasectomy so the infertility issue was not one that needed to be considered. What concerned me most was my loss of visible ejaculation. Since my teenage years I have seen that sticky fluid as evidence that I was vital and important. That physically and visually exciting splash of gism would no longer be a part of my, or our, life. Quite a lot to get your head around. After tears and hugs I relinquished any issues I may have had, submitted, got changed into the NHS robes and waited.

Simplified slightly a TURP involves a small loop being inserted into the penis and passed into the prostate. The loop is then manipulated so as to chip away the core of the prostate. The first thing that was needed was some comfort management (anaesthetics). i had elected for a spinal and as the anaesthetist made his calculations and positioned his needle I realised that this was going to happen and there was no stopping. I felt the needle in my spine and gradually felt the oozy slow liquid drip down the various pathways to my legs. Like in a dream I felt my legs slowly filling with lead. A lead so heavy I could not move but at the same time made my legs feel weightless. Once the fluid had reached my abdomen I lay down and anxiously watched the ceiling move as I was wheeled into the the theatre.

Once in position the team introduced themselves and one particularly perky chappy asked if I would like to watch the proceedings on a VDU. I felt that was something I did not need to see and declined politely. A green, fabric screen was quickly assembled infront of me to obstruct my vision. I could feel some sort of movement and was surprised to see my legs being raised in front of me without feeling their weight. A small tent was erected around my less than private parts and something started happening. I could feel pulling, tugging and forces at work but no pain. My mind drifted and as I shifted in and out of awareness. Looking for distraction I focussed on the shadows reflected on the large polished surfaces of the over head lamp. The angles of light and dark seemed to be moving in time with the tugs and pulls. I tried hard to make sense of the movements. A further uncomfortable push and I made out what I calculated to be an arm. My mind now assembled the pieces. If that was an elbow moving then it must be attached to a body. I found the shoulder then the head. Following the line of the back I found another moving shape. Another tug, that must be the other arm. The jolts and the movements now made sense and from the distorted reflection quickly realised the shape I was observing was the back of the surgeons head with his arms moving backwards and forwards between my raised legs….I quickly moved my eyes elsewhere.

After what seemed like an hour I was congratulated and with a scurry of activity all tools, equipment, screens, smocks, gloves and masks were removed and I was once again wheeled away. For a short time I felt relieved but after a brief spell under observation I was wheeled back onto the ward and began to feel stiff, tired and uncomfortable. An indwelling catheter was quickly draining the contents of my bladder, a bright red mixture of blood, water and clotted matter.

I had been told that it might be necessary to have the indwelling catheter remain in place for 10 days after the operation but its presence still upset me. On day 11 I passed my trial without catheter and was greatly relieved but knew I could last long without intermittently self catheterising. The idea of inserting a catheter into my tender body seemed backwards. Over the next two weeks the bleeding and clots became less and less. Then one morning I woke, passed water and immediately recognised the symptoms of another UTI so rudely announced by the foul stench of my urine. Back to normal?

Video Urodynamic Study

Making Plans (Part 2)

A video urodynamic study is a test that shows what happens to the bladder when filling and emptying. I had waited along time for this procedure so was keen that all should go well but also anxious about the outcomes.

Before the appointment I needed to complete a three day bladder diary, detailing input and output so the specialists could see how much I was drinking and urinating. I was also to attend the appointment infection free, another course of Trimethoprim sorted that out but I was already starting to get a little round up. Another pre-requisite was that my bladder be full at the start of the procedure.

Video Urodynamic Study

The day came and as I sat in the waiting room my discomfort and anxiety rose to ridiculous levels. Once greeted by a nurse, directed into a cubicle and changed into a gown and pair of paper pants I began to see the lighter side of life.
“Patrick Boothman” I was called and ushered into a small room filled with some sort of gigantic, chunky looking x-ray machine, 2 nurses, my consultant and an x-ray operator. After pleasantries were exchanged the stages of the process were explained before we started. Step one was to empty my, near rupturing, bladder into a “flow-meter”. The “Flow-meter” looked suspiciously like a digital kitchen scale with a large white funnel balanced upon it. This snazzy bit of kit measured the volume and force with which I passed urine into it. I did so and everything seemed acceptable considering my situation. The next stage in the process would involved my body being laid on the large, flat, grey surface of the x-ray table. I was to have two fine tubes (supposedly containing some sort of pressure sensor inserted into my bladder (via the front) and rectum (via the back passage). The tubes allowed both cavities to be filled with a harmless fluid at a controlled rate and monitored pressure inside and outside the bladder whilst urinating. Even upon visual examination of my abdomen it was clear that my bladder had not emptied properly. My bladder has an adjoining diverticulum. Whilst the bladder is surrounded by muscles that can squeeze urine out, the diverticulum is not. The volume of x-ray visible liquid needed to fill the bladder and adjoining diverticulum would be considerable.

Diverticulum visible using video urodynamic study.

An illustration of a bladder with two diverticulum.

With the tubes inserted I stared up at the ceiling as my bladder was filled up with radioactive fluid that the x-ray operator tried to get a focus on. My responsibility was to let the nurses know what sensations my bladder nerves were conducting. Was my bladder filling up? Was my bladder half-full? Would I be looking for a toilet about now? Throughout the consultant had been observing the image of my bladder and diverticulum slowly filling up. Once full the computer image was adjusted so that I could clearly see the comparative size between bladder and diverticulum. Last year the unwanted cavity had measured the size of a 7 year old shoe. It now looked like it was the same size as my bladder! Had it expanded?

My questions would have to wait, first of all I had to “void” whilst the fluid dynamics were being observed. Which sounds easy but I was lying down on an x-ray table with tubes inside me. How on earth?

With the click of a button the behemoth of a table on which I lay started to whir and very slowly bring itself towards the vertical. With the camera positioned at 90 degrees to my bladder, with my bladder now at 90 degrees to the horizontal, staff would be able to observe what happens inside me when I urinate. Once again the kitchen scales appeared, this time they were not on the floor but held in the hands of the consultants assistant. Upon the given instruction I was to get as much urine a possible into the funnel whilst the consultant observed my inner workings. Ordinarily my aim is pretty good but with a tube inserted into your penis accuracy becomes more a concept to believe in rather than anything you are physically capable of. Urine went everywhere other than the intended target. On a positive note, at no time during the dribbling did urine travel back up my ureters towards my kidneys.

Whilst the nurses mopped up the mess and removed tubes the consultant and I discussed the next stage. The size of the diverticulum was so large that it would interfere with the results of any test. The first thing, note: not the only thing, but the first would be to remove the diverticulum. This would involve an abdominal incision similar to a cesarian section that would involve a short stay in hospital and a long recovery. Making rapid calculations in my head I realised there was no chance of fully healing before my Surf/Yoga trip to Morocco in November. I was just going to have to be patient and wait till the end of the year for my operation.

Plan 2 Achieved.

I felt massively received to have had somebody confirm that I was in a chronic condition and in need of medical attention. My only concern was enduring the time till the operation. With the summer holidays starting shortly I knew the kids would help me keep mind off things.

Plan 5; To get an operation.

More information about Videourodynamics; http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1948113-overview

More information about Diverticulum:

Making plans (Part 1)

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making plans”-John Lennon

At a christmas party last year friends were making plans for sporting events they had lined up for 2016.

“What about you Patrick? Have you got anything planned for next year?”
“Just to get through it without having to have an operation.”

At the time I was uncertain what was happening within my body and a little scared. I felt unable to plan ahead when the future seemed so unclear. Yet the question prompted me to think about what I might be able to achieve.

Unwilling to cope with the discomfort resulting from any running or cycling event I looked for different sorts of events. Whilst I enjoy surfing greatlyI do not believe I have the flair or finesse to cut it at any competition. With my back ground in teaching and confidence in the water I felt a surf instructors was certainly within reach.

Plan1: To achieve a surf instructors qualification.

The previous two years had been spent riding waves almost exclusively on my belly. Speeding down the line on home made wooden pianos had been an immensely rewarding, now I was going to have to get used to standing on a board again. So in the depths of a welsh winter, with the aim of attending a surf instructors course in September, I started “surfing” again.

 Plan 2; To attend an appointment with a consultant urologist.

I have written about my health problems in previous posts and am convinced that sometimes you just need to be seen by the correct person. Getting an appointment is one thing, waiting for the event whilst your chattering mind threats and panics, is another. I have spent a lot of time waiting this year. Sitting in waiting rooms for doctors or nurses, standing in queues to collect prescriptions or pharmaceuticals, awaiting couriers delivering my monthly supplies of single use catheteres. These gather together in the bathroom bin, bundles that mark the passing of time disposed. A slow creep that gradually and regularly introduces familiar symptoms that wake me at night and indicate the imminent arrival of another UTI.

 Plan 3; To get help with my mental health.

After months of this pressure I eventually approached a local counselling service, only to get put on another waiting list! http://www.pembrokeshirecounsellingservice.org
Regular trips to the beach attempting to polish turns and cutbacks kept my mind from health matters and in May I received a phone call inviting me to my first of six counselling sessions.  At about the same time my Yoga teacher announced he was organising a Yoga/Surf holiday in Morocco in November. Still uncertain about my medical situation I decided that this was an appointment that I really needed to make.

 Plan 4; To give myself a break.

I tried to approach my first counselling session with an open mind. The room was empty apart from two chairs and a table furnished with a box of tissues and a box of brightly coloured figurines (for role-play I assumed) “That’s not for me” said a voice in my head.

Once I strated talking I found the process to be incredibly emotional. I opened up fully, dismantling carefully constructed defences and explained as much as i could about my health problems and fears. Having talked non-stop for an hour I felt battered but received. I left, thankful to have had more than ‘a few’ tissues to wipe my tearful eyes on.

On my second visit I became familiar with the plastic figurines as I selected, named and spoke about my support group (family and friends), chose a Tyranosaurus Rex to represent conflicting ideas and a tatty, pink, beat up, spongy rubber bear to represent my bladder. My cynicism had softened and I found I was, once again, able to talk at length about the help I needed and received from those around me.


Naming a group of assorted objects had been fun and liberating but the following weeks task was more challenging and penetrating. I had to label the layers of a russian doll. This represented how I present myself to the world and what I keep hidden. If I look through the scraps of paper, post-it notes and scribbles on receipts that I have kept I am can name my layers (from outer to inner) i) conscientious ii) healthy iii) creativity iv) sensuality and v) intimacy. We talked about what rattles and upsets those inner layers, What weakens those outer layers and creates cracks letting inner light shine through.

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Between sessions life went on and I received a letter from the hospital informing me that my meeting on July the 9th would take the form of a video urodynamic test.Something to look forward to!

Further weeks past in the calm of the counselling room with myself talking about inequalities, raging and developing coping strategies for feelings of anxiety. Whilst I may have found the catheterising and UTI’s upsetting I needed to come to terms with/accept the situation. To be present and mindful, to experience the the moment as it is, rather than how I wanted it to be.

On my last visit I was given a small card with a photograph of a coastal scene on the front. Inside were these words.

  • Accept what is.
  • Forgive.
  • It is OK to be you, you are good enough.

Plan 3 Achieved.

Urinary Tract Infection

I have been hesitant about writing another post since my last. A sudden, unexpected, positive moment that would have satisfyingly concluded what might otherwise be a pretty miserable chapter of my life never really came, in some ways things got worse. Uncertainty about wether to write something miserable yet honest and revealing or to gloss over previous news and post some sweetened vacuous eye-candy delayed me. With time I have decided to write truthfully, if only to gather my own thoughts and feelings.

Urinary Tract Infection

My last post ended with my expectation that I would be taught intermittent self catheterisation (ISC) in a fortnights time. After 4 weeks waiting I called a private clinic just outside Cardiff and within a week was relieved of my indwelling catheter and was instructed how to ISC. A harmless toe-curling affair that involves inserting a well lubricated, sterile tube into my bladder thus removing urine I am unable to pass naturally. The removal of the indwelling catheter triggered an introductory Urinary Tract Infection and an initial dose of antibiotics. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Urinary-tract-infection-adults/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Christmas arrived and I was far from keen to join in the usual excess of drinking and consumption of rich food. I attended an outpatients appointment early in January whilst half way through another week long dose of antibiotics, combatting 2016’s first Urinary Tract Infection. A week or so later the tell-tale symptoms arrived again. The infections became so sustained and regular that I have since forgotten how many doses of Trimethoprim or Nitrofurantoin I have had so far this year. A check up appointment had been made for April 10th and I was growing anxious about it. I knew that my track record of Urinary Tract Infections might kick start the Urology department into some sort of action but also nervous about what the causes may be. Morbid thoughts of blood poisoning from a ruptured bladder diverticulum often woke me at night.

The 10th of April crawled slowly around and a sympathetic, apologetic Urologist informed me that I had intact been referred for a Video Urodynamics Test back in January (first I had heard of it) and that he would refer me again! (Progress) In an attempt to halt the recurring UTI he put me on a  prophylactic daily dose of 200mg Trimethoprim…….indefinitely.


9 days later and once again I felt the familiar symptoms that announce a developing Urinary Tract Infection. A urine sample confirmed that once again  I had an infection thatI was to treat with….another week long dose of drugs. Including the prophylactic I was on 400mg of antibiotics a day for that week. I felt pretty terrible as I realised that without my regular deliveries of disposable catheters ( now 4 times a day, 120 a month) and super strength medication I would be in a very sorry state.


Spurred on by my latest Urinary Tract Infection I attempted to find out how long I would have to wait for my Video Urodynamics test. I phoned the urology secretary but my requests remained unanswered. ” We will get back in touch”.. “There are some tests in May so you should hear something soon” – “SHOULD!”,  “SOON!” I was bought up to be polite, patient and not to make a fuss, so it took me a week or so to gather my thoughts and write a letter of complaint. I put pen to paper, writing to the Health Board and the Public Services Ombudsman explaining my situation. It had been 4 months since my initial referral and despite my own attempts I was none the wiser as to when I was going to receive further help. Printing and signing each letter felt like a positive step. Sending then recorded delivery felt like a definite, proactive advance. A few days later I received a phone call from the heath boards arbitration department with a date and a promise that the hospital will be in touch soon!

The date of my appointment is just under a month away. I have just finished my latest week of antibiotics and am currently on the 200mg prophylactic. I am feeling good and once again cautiously going about life trying to avoid a UTI (No black tea, No coffee, very little alcohol!). I am also aware that in a few days timeor so I may feel a little dizzy, experience pain beneath my lower ribs, feel bloated and uncomfortable, find passing foul smelling urine painful and once again need a dose of drugs. Until that day comes I am being kind to myself and taking things slowly. Everyday a little closer to knowing what is going on inside me.




Indwelling Catheter

On July 26th 2015 my wife used a word I never really thought would be applied to me “disabled”. A bit of a shock. Only two weeks ago I was swimming twice a week, surfing twice a week, doing weights and strength and conditioning regularly and regularly attending yoga class.

I had however also been burying my head in the sand for quite a while as well. Probably about 20 years if I am to be honest. What started as an increasing need to urinate in my late teens carried on throughout my busy twenties and thirties till at the age of Forty I was no longer able to pee standing up. I made an appointment. The months passed with my bladder proving itself to be virtually more and more useless till eventually I was only able to pee by sitting down on and squeezing my abdomen.

Eventually I was asked to attend an ultrasound appointment where I had my bladder and kidneys scanned. My bladder had, for sometime, been creating its own reserve tank. Something called a diverticulum that held about half a pint of piddle even when I thought I was empty. The diverticulum had expanded due to a blockage around my urethra. Urine that could not escape had been backing up into my kidneys causing hydronephrosis. Pretty serious you would think. Once again months passed, bladder complaints continued, the full diverticulum upset my bowels and occasional early morning vomiting added itself to the repetoire.

When the letter requesting i attend the day surgery unit at the local hospital arrived I was relieved and nervous. Ushered into a tiny cubical I changed into white smock and paper pants. I had previously seen a private consultant over an hours drive away who on July 7th 2015 had suggested I have ISC (Intermittent Self Catheterisation) he was willing to organise it but felt it might be easier to make arrangements locally. So that was what I was going to ask for. The specialist I saw clearly explained my situation and managed to convince me that an indwelling catheter would be better in the short term and perhaps ISC might be something considered in 6-8 weeks time. After an internal inspection with a magic eye (front and rear) I was fitted with an indwelling catheter. In a shocked state I sat like a good little boy whilst someone explained how to care for my catheter, how sexual intercourse was entirely possible, where I could get more bags from and where I had to sign.

Somewhere amongst pieces of paper I have a record of that date but prefer not to look incase it upsets me to think that on the 1st of October I still have this indwelling catheter in place.

The think I was in shock for the first few days, not quite sure what I could or could not do. The crunch came on Sunday, July 26th. I had previously arranged to hold a paipo demonstration day for the local surf club at a local beach on the date. The weather had got unpleasant and a strong wind and big swell were looking like they were going to deliver some choice waves. Still not facing up to reality I packed a quiver of boards and headed off to the beach where I waited patiently. Only one couple had said they were going to turn up but was expecting maybe a couple more to arrive with time. Sat in my car  I watched optimistic holiday makers come and go as the rain continued to beat down. The weather forecast confidently stated that the clouds would clear and wind drop just before high tide, this would be ideal. Yet when my mobile rang with the couple asking if it was worth their while coming down I apologised and talked them out of it. Fearing the complications presented by changing into a wet suit with an indwelling catheter attached I fled with my tail between my legs. Back home I collapsed in tears on the kitchen table trying to explain the paralysis and fear I felt and faced up to the fact that I was infact, maybe only temporarily “disabled”.

The kids broke up from school the week after and I had plenty to distract myself from the constantly filling bag of urine attached to my right calf. There were more highs and lows but I had managed to make sense of my emotions by thinking of my immobilisation as a “loss” that I needed to grieve.



The five stages of grief.

Denial- I had spent years pretending that my symptoms were nothing serious. I had ignored the signs and blamed myself for that, I blamed the doctor who I had seen a year earlier for not doing anything or delving further. I avoided the school run and let confused that this was happening to ME. Initially even the kids squabbling could not shake me from numbness.

Anger– All of a sudden I could no longer do the things I wanted to. I became easily irritated by the things that I should be able to control, including the kids. I felt frustrated, anxious and irrational. Before I only had problems peeing now I had UTI’s and paraphimosis. I wore dark boring colours and did my best not to stand out, always conscious that beneath the tracksuit bottom with elasticated waist and zippered ankles was half a pint of piss.

Bargaining– As my confidence grew I was able to discuss what was happening to me with others. I felt that If I did exactly what I was told, take the pills (yesterday discounted as pointless), shower twice a day, and attend further tests then the situation would magically get better. It was a struggle to try and make sense of what was happening.

Depression– Sometimes without warning the perceived enormity of the situation would clobber me. Just the slightest thing would send my off into a little black haze that I wanted to wallow in. I did not care how upset people might be by my moods I wanted to make it perfectly clear that I was not happy.

Acceptance– A lifeline was hand to me by a urology nurse in the form of a Flip Flo valve. This little device enabled me to unplug the bag from my ankle should I wish to do some exercise. Once I had figured out that I had to get a supply of bags and valves from the doctors I was able to go cycling and surfing again. A more positive mood took over. One step at a time I was getting back to normal. My grief however is an ongoing process I feel unable to accept until I know what the next stage of “normality” will be.

Another appointment had been made for my for the 30th of September (Yesterday). For weeks before I had been looking forward to it, I had convinced myself that I would have the indwelling catheter removed and a period of “active observation” would begin. I attended the outpatients appointment with optimism. How foolish.

Yesterday I was told I had 3 options

I have decided that I want to try ISC before putting my name down for a TURP. So the waiting continues and I continue my intimate relationship with an indwelling catheter. I should have an appointment with a nurse to show me how to do ISC in 1or 2 weeks time. I look forward to a return to meaningful life.

Surf Training

Surf training in the UK is difficult. Like all activities, Yoga, baking or swimming skills are developed through the repetition of actions.

Winter surf in the St Brides Bay area.

Winter surf in the St Brides Bay area.

In West Wales the surf consistency, whilst better than a lot of places, is far from perfect. Autumn, Winter and Spring offer the best conditions with Summer eventually making an appearance. Summer offers warm water and sunshine but swells  tend to be small and winds onshore. The early morning dawn surf being the best way of getting clean waves before the wind picks up.

Summer waves at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire.

Summer waves at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire.

In effect this means that the surf year drops off in June only to pick up in September. So the keen surfer has to either travel abroad or content themselves with infrequent surf for a few months. Nothing I have written above is particularly new but this year I have managed to document the changing pattern of the swells as part of my surf training. I surfed, twice a week, more when possible. Documenting each visit with a photograph and GPS data.

GPS data using Garmin showing data from recent surf.

GPS data using Garmin showing data from recent surf.

Whilst this was useful training, and great fun, it lacked direction so decided to use the surf training to add value to training for a very definite goal. I have always found cycling to be very helpful for surf training and last year I entered my first road sportive. Not feeling especially confident I set drew up a training plan and tried very hard to stick to it. Initially I tried to surf twice a week, run once a week, cycle twice a week, include two strength & conditioning sessions a week and rest one day a week. With time this schedule changed and developed.

January's training plan.

January’s training plan.

Each Month I drew up a chart and jiggled my various weekly commitments so that I could try and get as many of the activities done as possible. Most months I managed very well prioritising cycling and surfing was swell dependant.

May's training plan.

May’s training plan.

The event I entered was Velothon Wales, one of a series of European cycle sportives offering closed road cycling over a variety of distances. Typically underestimating my abilities, and not wanting to spend hours in the saddle, I opted for the 50k route and planned my training accordingly.

Initially I just  wanted to get used to doing the distance then introduced hill reps and interval training as time went on, alternating between a long and short ride.

Velothon Wales Route Map

Velothon Wales Route Map

With all this preparation in place the event itself I entered was a pleasure to ride. Leaving Cardiff City Centre the route headed out towards Newport before heading inland going over the tops past Machen to Caerphilly. From the town’s beautiful castle the routed turned south taking in one final hill before dropping back into Cardiff. Eventually the day of the race came round and the train paid off when I came in Fifth place (Fourth Male) on the 50K route.

Finish at Velothon Wales 50K

Finish at Velothon Wales 50K

Once I had finished the event I input my training sessions into a chart and we and up with something like this. (Note; I have only documented the first two weeks of June).

Surf Training Calendar

Surf Training Calendar

My first Impressions are;

  • Rest days increase throughout the year.
  • Surfing remains constant till May
  • Cycling remains constant
  • Running disappears from training in April
  • Strength & Conditioning remains constant.
  • Yoga remains constant.
  • Rest days increase throughout the year.
  • As training goes on I would appear to tire and as the year warms up work and other commitments take priority over surfing.

Surfing remains constant till May.

This would appear to back up the statement in the opening paragraph, with surf still being possible later in the year but swells being less frequent. The number of sessions up till June 4th totalling 37.

Cycling remains constant.

As the training was based upon completing the cycling event this took priority throughout.

Running disappears from training in April.

Running is a high intensity activity, which can cause fatigue if not approached properly. Of all the activities this was the first to disappear from training. In previous years I have ran half-marathons so feel confident dropping this for a few months.

Strength & Conditioning remains constant.

Strength & Conditioning is a term used to describe any set of activities that promote improved performance and prevent injury. Typically this would involve weights, press ups, balance training etc so could be easily performed inside at any time of day.

Yoga remains constant.

Yoga classes repeated weekly started in February. Weekly attendance ensured consistency and commitment.

So post-event where does this leave me? One thing I have learned that might sound a bit cheesy is that if you put your mind to something and commit yourself you will achieve it. Secondly, after about 6-8 weeks training my enthusiasm starts to diminish. Thirdly I need another goal as it would be stupid to come this far and just give it all up. Fourth, I need to get back surfing again.

As already mentioned at the beginning of this piece poor conditions make surf training in West Wales unpredictable. Lack of competitions (not that I have looked) makes training lack focus so any target set should not be dependant on results from a comp or events. Just getting in can be a target in itself sometimes…

A quick scan of the fixtures diary and I find that in about 7 weeks time there is a closed circuit criterium at Aberporth. Target achieved. Next comes the task of drawing up a training plan that also includes surfing.

Using the graphic assessment above I know that I need to build in rest days, surfing in “good conditions” will not be possible twice a week (for surfing read endurance paddling), Cycling needs to remain constant maybe with a focus on power (maximum ride time 2 hours), forget running, use strength and conditioning sessions to focus on developing power, continue with yoga. How is this different to what I was doing before? Well I have included a target to ensure I keep surfing throughout the summer slop. 7 weeks at twice a week =14 session which when added to the 37 up till the 4th of June equals a target of 51.

Surf Training Interuppted….

This post would have ended here had I not been forced to pay attention to warning signs observed at the beginning of the year. That is however the subject for another post…..

Saint Sebastian Slide Icon

The Saint Sebastian slide icon is the third in a series of art pieces combining the fluid lines of early surf craft with religious imagery created using pyrography. Previous images have included buddha and ganesh. A brief description of Saint Sebastian and his role in art and literature can be found here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Sebastian.

Saint Sebastian Slide Icon

Saint Sebastian Slide Icon

The piece is made from paulownia strips that have been shaped from the front and behind in an attempt to question the viewers understanding. With many twists and concave in the outline and a highly polished finish the form mimics aquatic life. Five holes pierce the form referencing the religious story of the subject. Parts of the wood are stained in a faded red, representing the blood of the martyr.

I was particularly drawn to St Sebastian as his homosexual subtext draws a neat line between my own acrylic paint pen work, featuring cross-dressing pop starts, and the more calculated pyrographic imagery. The piece is an attempt to draw together the two divergent threads of my artistic efforts. Traditionally portrayed as a semi nude male I have deliberately chosen to make the subject more androgynous, with bound hands covering facial features, gender and identity are unclear. References to the male body are found in the fin like template and the curved concave that runs up the piece.

Please click on the Slide show below to view more images.




Highlights of 2014

Christmas and New Year is a busy time of year for everybody. For parents, even more so. Our children have been super excited since the beginning of December so it is of some relief that they went back to school this week. Amongst the many tasks that have been shoved to the back of the drawer is a write up of the highlights of 2014. What a year it has been!
At the beginning of last January I remember hearing something about the next 12 month being an exciting, roller coaster of a year. Those whose live were in some way linked to wood were to be particularly effected. What a prediction!  Not far off the mark.

Highlights of 2014 No1:Batch production of Ganesh Slide Icon

The concept of the limited edition of Ganesh Slide Icons started the year before last and was an exercise in assessing the possibility of creating a batch of CAD CAM produced wooden paipo. I know of nobody else who has done this so was especially pleased when it worked as successfully as it did.


In producing these I not only learnt lots of new skills but was also fortunate to meet more highly creative individuals. Many thanks to Martin Bellwood and Karandave!

Highlights of 2014 No2: Doing the Dyfi Enduro again!

Cycling has become an essential part of my surf training. The agility and core strength needed for mountain biking makes it a great training tool on flat days. For the last three years my wife, Celia, and I have attended the Howies Dyfi Endure and last year I was particularly pleased to complete the long leg of the course and to making it to Dick’s bar before my wife! For those unfamiliar with the Dyfi it is “glastonbury of mountain biking”. An epic 60Km bike ride on the best trails in Wales mixed up with beer, music and a comedy festival.


Highlights of 2014 No3: More paipo riding.

This year I have managed to dedicate more and more time to surfing. As both kids are now in school I have been able to get to the beach about twice a week. It feels like my first “proper” year surfing. My paipo riding has got better and I have felt confident pushing my designs to their limits, and on occasions beyond!

GPS data from 2014 Surf Session.

GPS data from 2014 Surf Session.

Beach photograph of 2014 surf session.

Beach photograph of 2014 surf session.

Highlights of 2014 No 4: T-shirts printed.

After a long time putting it off last year I eventually got some T-shirts printed up. Combining my logos with a killer font and the “always head high” tag line I managed to come up with a design that I, and lots of others are happy to buy. Many thanks to Notguilty http://www.ng-press.com  press for their printing and also to all of you who will be wearing them next summer.

Paipo T-Shirt

Paipo T-Shirt

Highlights of 2014 No 5: Photography exhibition at the Queens Hall.

Back in May I hosted my first ever photography exhibition at The Queens Hall, Narberth. Twelve images of the pyrographed paipo shot against sand and stone were on display for two months. As part of the exhibition I also gave a slide talk. By briefly covering the history of surfboard design I gave my practice a context, looked at how my work had developed and speculated about this years work.

Highlights of 2014 No 6: Getting Alaia blanks imported.

Making alaia and paipo without a supply of decent wood is impossible. Eventually I managed to locate a supplier of Paulownia Tomentosa, bit the bullet and ordered enough wood to keep me busy for atleast a year! The quantity means I can, at least for the time being, experiment with different forms and designs without fear of limitation.

Available from the sawboards.bigcartel store.

Highlights of 2014 No 7: Crackington Haven Fish Fry 2014

For the third year running i made the October drive down to Crackington Haven to attend the European Fish Fry. Organised by Rich McGonigal and Michael Pratt this event has been a UK staple for a while now and one that I have always enjoyed attending. Many thanks to all those who took part in the organisation and customers who attended.



Highlights of 2014 No8: Completing 3 Half Marathons

Some how I completed three half marathons this year! The first was at the Tenby Long Course Weekend, followed by the Dale half then finally something very muddy and messy near Chester. The last was something I was dragged into by mates and whilst I was nervous prior to the event I did really well. The combination of off road running, struggling through deep mud, swimming and very steep hill climbing was a full body work out that I had never experienced before.

Brooks Hell Up North

Brooks Hell Up North

Highlights of 2014 No 9: Bristol Surf Film Festival

This year saw the debut of the Bristol Surf Film Festival. Organised by Hugh Johnson the event was a visual treat with an inspired line up. Whilst the films rolled on in the cinema I was busily attempting to complete the Vicar in a tutu in the bar, unfortunately I was perhaps a little over ambitious in my estimations but got it finished eventually. I was unable to see the films on the night but once home watched “Behind the Tide” and was stoked to see so many other creatives within the surf community.


The Highlight of 2014 : The Slyder Cup

And finally…I had just about given up hope the the 2014 Slyder Cup ever happening. I was sure that it would not happen as last in the year as it was. What a surprise. Last minute plans were put in place. Accommodation booked and away I went with the boys for a weekend in Newquayshire. What a weekend it was! The late autumn sunshine managed to make its way to part of the beach at Lusty Glaze but the real star was the swell. The body surfers got the worst of it (I think) with the waves throwing them about the bay. By the time the paipo contest was called the waves had sorted themselves out and were starting to make more orderly lines as the tide dropped. Paddling out was not something I was able to do as much as I would have liked but of  the 5 or 6 waves I did manage to catch from out back some where absolute beauties. Prior to the competition I had decided I wanted to demonstrate riding my board on my knees and competition rules that stated boards must be ridden prone did not dissuade me.

Once again many thanks to all the organisers who helped put together this unique UK event. Look forward to seeing you all in 2015!




So to the future. What does 2015 hold in stall?

Lots more waves and GPS data. Lots more paipo and alias. More surf inspired artwork and the occasional transvestite!

London Surf Film Festival 2014

I had no I dea I was going to be there.

Last weekend I drove all the way down to Cornwall and back for the Fish Fry and was pretty tired.

Having got home I found a gigantic bough had fallen in bad weather, squashed a fence and the sheep had got onto the golf course. To top things off a section of garage roof had collapsed.

Fortunatley our super neighbour managed to get the sheep back in and repair the fence leaving me to deal with the remaining sycamore.
The garage needed a good clean up. No real damage although the workshop was more or less out of use for the rest of the week. A few phone calls were made and a tree surgeon and a handy man both said Thursday they could make good the damage on Thursday. No problems, until..
On Wednesday my Wife finally cracked. “We are going away this weekend” eh! It turns out that since mid August Celia https://celiaboothman.wordpress.com had been planning this weekend away for the two of us. Amongst the highlights, Two nights at a swanky hotel, Friday night at Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant Nopi http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/locationsand Saturday night at the The London Surf Film Festival. http://www.londonsurffilmfestival.com

Luckily for everybody both handyman and tree surgeon turned up on Thursday. We escaped for an early 40th Birthday present without worries. First stop swanky hotel with swanky chair covers. Could be the nose of a paipo with interlocking C shape patterns!!

London Surf Film Festival.

The Festival is one of those events that has been on my horizon for a while but due to its location thought I would never get to. So was very pleased that we had tickets to see all the films on the Saturday night! Cheers Celia (She is amazing).
Spread over four nights selected films where organised into groups.

Thursday- Gala Opening;
Stephanie in the Water; Dir Ava WarbrickInto the Sea; Dir Marion PoizeauStill Swell at 85; Dir Dean Saffron.

Friday- An Evening of Surf Exploration & The Ripples and Bombs double bill.
The hunt for Hipmasama; Dir Oli Adams Cradle of Storms; Dir Bryce Lowe-White, Edge of Sanity;Dir Chris McClean Se7en Sign; Dir Nathan Myers The Ripple Effect; Dir Peter Hamblin

Saturday- A Night of Adventure
Peninsula; Dir Luca Merli What the sea gives me; Pierce M Kavanagh Tierra De Patagones; Dir Joaquin and Julian Azulay. Slideshow by Tim Nunn

Sunday- The Culture Vulture & The Superstyle Double Bill
70 Something; Dir Rafael Mellin Out in the Line up; Dir Ian Thomson Expencive Porno Movie ; Dir Tin Ojeda Groove Moove;  Dir Jack Coleman
After having been treated to a visually seductive tour of Italy and its characters (most notably Dave Pecci). We had a look at the art in foyer. Lines on water was a show were invited artists contributed a piece of work based on a quote from a Surf movie.
London Surf Film Festival

Rich Braham -London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

Leo Stockley -London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

Ben Cook -London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

Chris Dorning -London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

Ricahrd Bull -London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

Nick Radford -London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

Gemma Chalmers -London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

The Lab -London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

Ed Syder- London Surf Film Festival

London Surf Film Festival

Zander Grenfield- London Surf Film Festival

Also displaying work was the talented photographer Mat Arney http://matarney.blogspot.co.uk  and work from Otter Surfboards http://www.ottersurfboards.co.uk.

London Surf Film Festival

Mat Arney & Otter Surfboards at The London Surf Film Festival 2014

 Surf Photographer Tim Nunn gave a very amusing slide talk describing recent trips to cold water surf destinations in Iceland and Canada. Through his determination to face adverse weather conditions, dangerous mountain lions, bears and freezing temperature he was able to shoot backlit waves that had an almost psychedelic quality. Great stuff.
After the wonderfully shot “What the sea gives me” came the inspirational “Tiera De Patagones”. A film shot by two young men as they travelled through the Patagonia region in an attempt to find surf at the very tip of South America. Featuring amazing scenery, waves and wildlife the characters they met along the way were by far the most interesting feature. Watching the film I was intimately introduced to the relationship each had with their unique coastal environment. A joy to watch. The brothers other film Gauchos del Mar is on I-Tunes, as are a few of the others in the line up!!
After an amazing evening we headed back to our hotel looking forward to getting back to Pembrokeshire and our next surf!

A much friendlier bear! Bye Bye Paddington.

Fish Fry 2014

The weekend just gone saw Crackington Haven hosting the European Fish Fry 2014.

Fish Fry 2014

Crackington Haven Friday 3rd October

Fish Fry 2014

Fish Fry 2014

Once again the Coombe Barton Inn http://www.thecoombebartoninn.co.uk/index.html opened its doors to shapers from all over the world. The celtic nations were represented by the Cornish, Welsh, Irish and Bretons whilst from further afield Rich Pavel from San Diego. Rich generously offered advice and talked candidly about other subjects, including marriage, attempting to remember an excerpt from “The Prophet” by Khalil Gabran;

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. 
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. 
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Fish Fry 2014

Sawboards display at Fish Fry 2014

Fish Fry 2014

The Crackington Haven Fish Fry has become a exhibition for artists of all persuassions to display and talk about there honed skills. Surfboard shapers Diplock http://www.diplockphoenix.co.uk, Glide https://www.facebook.com/pages/Glide-Surfboards/201021076577094, Miller Surfboards, http://www.millersurfboards.co.uk Rob surfboards, http://www.robsurfboard.com, Chis Hartop’s Bandwagon boards, http://www.lovefoam.co.uk Fishfeet http://www.fishfeetcustomdesigns.co.uk Cre8tion surfboards, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002563541265 Fluid Juice http://www.fluidjuice.co.uk Black & White http://www.blackandwhitesurfcoltd.co.uk Finshack http://www.finshack.com/index.html and FMP surfboards https:// www.facebook.com/pages/FMP-Surfboards/688958444480942 were all in attendance.

Fish Fry 2014

Diplock Pheonix

Fish Fry 2014

Rob surfboards & Cre8tion Surfboards

Fish Fry 2014

Rob Surfboards & Fish Feet Surfboards

Fish Fry 2014

Bandwagon Surfboards & Fluid Juice

Fish Fry 2014

Faultless work from Glide Surfboards

Fish Fry 2014

Miller Surfboards

Longboards at Fish Fry 2014

Supporting the shapers were other skilled craftspeople with John Eldridge’s CMBL http://www.cmbl.co.uk spanning the gap by bringning boards and a motorcycle, Jeff Sacree from Dirtbox guitars, http://www.dirtboxguitars.com Chris and Eldmar from Aquaries Tattoo, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aquaries-Tattoo/245424112156572, old school barbers skills of http://www.mrnatty.com were there as was Louise Middleton of Gold bear belts. http://goldenbearbelts.com All were supplied with coffee from the ever humerous Bean Surfing Coffee Cart https://www.facebook.com/BeanSurfingCoffeeCart

Fish Fry 2014

CMBL Zedcat

Eldmer & Chris from Aquaries Tattoo, Bude

Bean Surfing Coffee Cart

Fish Fry 2014

The Fish Fry is a unique event in the UK surf calender and always a joy to attend. From the many skilled individuals attending it is always hard to single out one that stands out but this year FMP surfboards did just that, with three “tombstone” shape boards.

FMP Surfboards

My favourite being the stringerless white and blue board, shaped from post consumer packaging foam. Propped against the pub window the polystyrenes large cellular structure was clearly visible and blew my mind. Look forward to seeing more soon.

Fish Fry 2015?

After a long drive back to Wales I was exhausted yet excited about what the future holds. Showing and enthusing about my work is something I always enjoy no matter what the effort. Who knows what will happen next year? Maybe something might be happening a little closer to home!