Images: Martin Jackson // Scroll below for image details – the names are almost as awesome as the watercraft themselves!
Martin Jackson has the kind of stoke for waveriding that is infectious to be around. In a culture where creativity is increasingly funnelled down an already well trodden path, his originality is inspiring. He’s wading out into the long grass and not looking over his shoulder to see who’s following. Martin’s on a mission – and the ultimate goal is to have as much fun in the line-up as possible. Through ‘Adventures in Lo-Fi’ he’s crafting a quiver of beautiful and out-there wave craft from recycled materials sourced from skips, bins and the strand line. His creations are a high tide line in what’s possible when you push off from the shores of conventionality and let your inner child run free. Not only is he prolific in the workshop, he also finds time to capture images from in and around oceanic fringes of Cornwall. We managed to catch up for a few lessons in Lo-fi.
What’s your connection to the sea – what was it that drew you to the ocean and why surfing?
I grew up in the Midlands so surfing just wasn’t on my radar, but thanks to my Dad’s passion for the sea my abiding memories of childhood are framed through the lens of a snorkel mask. When I came to Cornwall to do a photography degree I really got into scuba diving but it wasn’t until I moved to the North coast that surfing dug its rails into my life. I guess I have arrived pretty late to the party so I’m playing catch up like some middle-aged grom, always up for a dip no matter how ropey it looks. Surfing does good things to my soul and stoke is my trusty shield against a world gone mad. Sliding along on borrowed energy surrounded by gorgeous landscapes and nature, what’s not to love?
How did you get into design and making?
A rare bone disease as a child has left me with a dodgy hip and even dodgier pop up. Between that and the reduced flexibility of winter wetsuits meant I started having more fun riding prone in the colder months. Foam bodyboarding never really did it for me but riding a wooden bellyboard or a handplane in a sizeable swell was nothing short of an epiphany.
Plywood has completely redefined my relationship with surfing, there were times when I used to check the waves and would turn my nose up at a messy swell, realising my skills on a surfboard would leave me frustrated, but with a bellyboard and a pair of swim fins I have yet to see a wave that is unsurfable, big or small, lumpy and dumpy or clean and firing, every wave is doable and has the potential for FUN.
I rode a shop bought wooden bellyboard for a while that stays in my car always on call for those mad dash soul saver sessions that bookend your working days in the darker winter months. But after seeing Ryan Burch riding an unshaped piece of foam in the film Stoked and Broke I was inspired to simplify my surfing, so I turned up to the World Bellyboarding Championships with a large sheet of plywood, shaped it 10 minutes before my heat and somehow scraped into the coveted top 100.
‘Adventures in lo-fi’ was born and the jury is still out on whether my subsequent shaping misadventures have descended into madness or radness.
So what is the idea and ethos behind ‘Adventures in Lo-Fi’?
I make stuff for the love of making stuff, my surf craft are just simply accoutrements of stoke, the things I take into the sea to facilitate fun. There seems to be several strands to my projects but a back-to-basics approach has underpinned all my bungling experiments so far. I have a fondness for leftfield creativity, working with whatever material I am interested in at the time and I am definitely a bit ply-curious, but fun is the main watchword when I have my wood butcherer’s apron on.
I am also a bit of a Womble at heart and love to find new uses for discarded objects, scrumping in skips for nuts and bolts, ply-foraging the strand line or snorkelling for broken leashes or webbing while picking up litter off the sea bed.
My job as a photography teacher is to nurture creative potential in others, I just don’t like waste, whether it’s the potential of a student or in the potential of discarded materials.
Adventures in lo-fi is just an extension of that, recognising the potential of stuff to find a type of value that isn’t measured in pounds.
That piece of wood dumped in a skip, fly-tipped in a hedge or washed up on the strand line, the fact that someone is getting some fun out in the waves on a handplane I made from it; only good things can come from this.
Who do you most admire?
I admire people who carry with them a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world, creative tinkerers like Greenough and Burch deserve a nod for sure as do many a back yard shaper and eccentric inventor. I like creativity in many forms and people who don’t compromise on their vision or are swayed by opinion. Great polymaths like Fox Talbot and John Herschel who explored many fields and had the breadth of knowledge to see all the pieces to the puzzle, look from a different perspective and join the dots to create something new. Inspiration is everywhere and I genuinely don’t remember the last time I was bored, there is just too much to see and do. Every day is a school day.
What would be your dream session, where would it be and what would you ride?
Dreams are for people who sleep through epic dawnies. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to see a dolphin off the bow of my V.Bowls every once in a while.
Image 1: (Top) – The Pencil Plaice. Part of the Leftfield Grandplane collection. Carboot sale coloured pencils and pencil case zip for hand strap. Ideas are never stationary. (Bottom) – The Slide Rule. Part of the Leftfield Grandplane collection. Vintage ruler veneer on double marine ply sandwich and camera neck strap. Varnish dried under the penumbral rays of the 20/03/2015 solar eclipse.
Image 2: (Top) – The Jenga Fish. Part of the Leftfield Grandplane collection. Carboot sale jenga sets, inspired by the shapes of pavement patterns and wooden Parquet flooring. (Bottom) – The Pallet Cleanser – Part of the Sustainable shredding collection. Driftwood pallet, surf leash found on the strand line.
Image 3: (Top) – The Bland Planes. Back to basics, “shaped” very quickly because less time in the shed equals more time to shred. Varnishing is a bourgeois concept. (Bottom) – Bellyboards. The Cheap date (shop bought ply sheet). The Swell Whisperer (car boot ply sheet). Fruits of the Sea (driftwood ply sheet).
Image 4: Slyder Cup Radness.
Image 5: MJ with the Building Swell Handplane, part of the Leftfield Grandplane collection. Lego handplane