Pioneers of Scottish surfing celebrate 50 years in the water

Andy Bennetts, Ian Wishart and Bill Batten started surfing in Scotland in the late 1960s. After half a century of riding waves all around the country they tell Roger Cox about the good old days when the boards were long, the waves were empty and nobody wore a wetsuit - not even in December. (The interview was serialised in The Scotsman magazine between 11 August and 1 September.)

Riders approach the competition face at the Lawers of Gravity event on Meall nan Tarmachan,''Ben Lawers Range, April 2015

How the Scottish snowsports industry could harness the backcountry skiing boom

At a recent meeting of the Scottish ski industry’s high heid-yins there was a discussion about key moments in the 2017/18 season – the events that had done the most to help raise the profile of Scottish snow-sliding. As you’d expect, the presence of homegrown athletes like Murray Buchan and Alex Tilley in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang featured prominently, as did the impact of the early March cold snap better known as the Beast from the East, which contributed mightily to Scotland’s ski resorts enjoying their most prosperous season in five years.

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Kelly Slater slides into the green room at the Surf Ranch Pro

Mixed reviews for World Surf League’s artificial wave event

A little bit of surfing history was made last week when the World Surf League held its first ever inland event in the sleepy town of Lemoore, California – a place hitherto most famous, in sporting circles at least, for being the home of Tommie Smith, the sprinter who set a new 200m world record at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City before giving a Black Power salute during the medal ceremony. Unsurprisingly, Lemoore doesn’t have much of a reputation as a surf town – it is, after all, located approximately 100 miles east of the Pacific Ocean – but for a few surreal days in September it became the epicentre of the surfing universe, as the best waveriders on the planet descended for a contest like no other.

William Thomson and friend

Tidal Traveller William Thomson to host “tide walk” at Portobello

William Thomson first popped up on Final Words’ radar in 2016, when he published his excellent tome, The Book of Tides. Stylishly illustrated by the author, it covers all the weird and wonderful ways in which water moves around our coasts – not just tides, but also more exotic phenomena like whirlpools and tidal bores. It is written with a rare combination of authority and immediacy too: Thomson evidently has a good grasp of the science behind his subject, but because he spends much of his time surfing, sea swimming and stand-up paddleboarding he is able to speak from first-hand experience.

CairnGorm on a good day PIC: Stevie McKenna

2017/18 ski season branded “a disaster at CairnGorm and an even bigger disaster for the local economy”

As reported in this slot a couple of weeks ago, even though Scotland’s 2017/18 ski season was a dream – the best for five years in terms of the number of people who went skiing at the nation’s resorts – up at CairnGorm Mountain they still somehow managed to have a nightmare. While the folks at Glencoe, Glenshee, The Lecht and Nevis Range were all basking in the chilly aftermath of the Beast from the East and selling ski passes hand over (gloved) fist, CairnGorm saw its market share decline dramatically, from an average of 35 per cent over the last ten seasons to just 23.6 per cent – a drop of almost a third.

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The Ptarmigan Bowl at CairnGorm Mountain ski resort, with Loch Morlich in the distance

CairnGorm Mountain loses market share in bumper year for Scottish skiing

A few weeks ago, regular readers may remember, this column had some fun with numbers – well, one number in particular: the “skier days” total recorded this year by Scotland’s five main ski centres, CairnGorm, Glencoe, Glenshee, The Lecht and Nevis Range. (One skier day is equivalent to one person buying a day pass or two people each buying a half-day pass.) As expected, the 2017/18 season turned out to be a much-needed good news story, the total of 247,139 skier days being the highest in five years and well above the ten year average, even if you discount the abysmal 2016/17 season as too pitiful to bother with.

The new Folio Society edition of The South Polar Times

Dramatic increase in readership forecast for South Polar Times

It is a testament to our continuing fascination with the polar explorers of the early 20th century that so much of the literature they produced is still in print. Walk into your local bookshop – if you’re lucky enough to still have such a thing – and if you can’t actually find a copy of Scott’s journals or Shackleton’s South or Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World displayed on the shelves, you should have little difficulty ordering one. Chances are your only real problem will be deciding which of the various different editions to buy.

Jottnar gear is tested to destruction by a team of mountain professionals. Climber and skier Tom Coney, pictured in the Alps, is a recent recruit.

Interview: Marine turned businessman Tommy Kelly on taking climbing and skiing brand Jöttnar to the next level

It’s nearly five years now since I first interviewed Royal Marine-turned-businessman Tommy Kelly for The Scotsman. The former Stewart’s Melville and Napier University student had just started a company called Jöttnar, working in partnership with his friend and fellow Marine Steve Howarth – an experience he described as “building the plane while you’re flying it.” Their plan, cooked up while out on manoeuvres together in Arctic Norway in 2005, was to launch a range of high-end outdoors gear that would function more effectively than the MOD-issued kit they were wearing at the time, and which would appeal to people who – like them – took their climbing and ski mountaineering seriously.

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