Cinnamon Island

Half way between Galle and Welligama along the southern coast of Sri Lanka lies a lake of islands.

On an afternoon of small swell and easterly winds sweet Kalana took a break from his Nokia and loaded us into his beloved tuk- tuk to brave the coastal highway traffic.

Passing colonial ruins, fishermen on poles, coconut groves and surf spots,

we arrive to a boatman waiting along the bank, in hope of trade. We provided him with his afternoon’s income and he provided us with a gentle ride across the expanse of water, past Temple Island, Spice Island and Bird Island,

to the docking point at Cinnamon Island.

If the mood takes, a fish pedicure is on offer at a makeshift cleaning station on a  raft floating at the waters edge. Declining we head up a clove- tree lined path to the shelter at the top, where the Island Keeper and his family live.

The welcome is hospitable and seating provided under the shelter of the homestead stoep with Cinnamon tea served as we await the demonstration. The Cinnamon Man’s smile is shy but firmly consensual when I ask if I may take pictures.

With the confidence of a showman that contradicts his shy demeanor he assures me that this is no problem. His photo has traveled far and wide…

I have no doubt it has…. tourists flow steadily through this lovely space over the seasonal months.

It is easy to understand why. The tea is delicious and the atmosphere  gently hypnotic.


Calmly we watch as The Cinnamon Man works his tools to remove one curled layer of cinnamon bark from a branch – to be dried in the sun.His wife smashes and sieves dried cinnamon out in front of us, leaving swirls of pungent and exotic aromas floating in the air, which we carry away with us as we head back down the path to the waters edge…….


First Quarter, 2016 – Celebrating the Spices of Life… Lanka Style!


The Making of Watermen


Close on five years ago the Unstressed Surf School was formed. It was named after a young surfer who died in a car crash. He went by the name of ‘Unstressed Erik’. No matter the conditions, according to Erik the surf was always on and the waves ‘cooking’. This positive energy was the grounding of the Unstressed and continues even today.


The Unstressed Surf School is a youth development programme. It has many agendas as these types of programmes do. It is also one of a number in our area attempting to address issues around inequality, health, poverty, education and living conditions, all of which add value.


But this one has stolen my heart.


Perhaps it is the innocence of the kids that holds me captive –

their energy and continual resilience despite circumstance. These kids have never known the bright sparkle of a chlorinated swimming pool nor had access to water wings, pool parties and the season’s latest swim wear.

Perhaps it is the joy of watching the teaching process kick in as splashes, kickers and sinkers become swimmers, paddlers and surfers.


Or perhaps my attachment is grounded in my personal fears and desperate hope for the future of our area and country,

and my belief that cross-cultural engagement is fundamental to the healing process and that sport has no borders.

Certainly all of these ideals play a role but at the end of the day,

another agenda is met, one that allows me to spend hours on end in a beautiful place,

with fabulous, energized kids, doing cool stuff relating to the ocean.

And I get to watch as these kids grow into fine, strong watermen.

 Celebrating the Success of the Unstressed – Dec 2014 /Jan 2015

Current Unstressed Update:  Over the summer the Unstressed Seniors spent time on Chintsa Beach under the supervision of Marc Fennell: Surf Photographer, Instructor, Life Guard Trainer and Superb Waterman. They assisted the Wild Coast Life-guards as a means of introducing these young men to Life-guarding as a potential career. They trained hard, learnt how to use surf ski’s, knee boards and other life-guard equipment and grew in stamina and confidence. This year we plan to continue with this and assist them as they start working towards obtaining their SPA’s (Surf Proficiency Award) – This will allow them to pursue careers related to water safety and training.  















Fish Tales II

As the fishermen of Tofo Beach head out to sea in their wooden boats, just around the corner at firing Tofino Point,  the swell is small on this winter morning and the sea calm – perfect for the youngsters to venture out at this legendary spot for the first time. While they do that, three local fishermen appear on the beach. They too are keen to take advantage of the low tide and gentle conditions.

From my perch on the hillside I watch as they strategize and arrange their net.

Heading out onto the rocks they slip into the water with confidence and ease.

The lead pulls the net around the selected area,

while the ‘fish flapper’ swims, slapping the water with his arms and legs in an attempt to get the fish into a confused tis which will hopefully result in their capture.

Once the slapping and flapping is done the net is dragged ashore.

Slippery, silvery fish – shimmering in the net,

from which they are gathered and bagged for the trip back up the beach towards The Market.

Celebrating more of the Magic of Mozambique – Winter 2013

Rich Kids

Warm up run

Steady rain throughout the Easter Weekend,challenged those of us spoilt by the amazing autumn weather that we have been having this year.

All over it!

However when one lives amid the poverty of an informal settlement like many of the kids of The Unstressed Surf School this level of rain can result in general unpleasantness, disorder and chaos.


But then yesterday, the last saturday of the Easter holidays, broke out balmy and bright –

The full wrap

a perfect autumn morning on Chintsa Beach.


Ready for a bit of sunshine  and with still wind and small waves the conditions were just right for a boat ride and perhaps a dolphin sighting or two.

Warm up yoga with Ash

THis isn’t the first time that the kids have been taken out on the boat and they are starting to become familiar with the wrap as their exposure to the sea and its vessels expands.

Girl TeamWhile teams of three went for a cruise,

Big Jump

others took to the surf,

Wave hunting

rounding off the morning,

Girls Back

with a spat of beach touch rudgy in true South African style.

Beach Touch

As Mike of AHJ, Surf School project co-ordinator and leader said to me this morning while reflecting on yesterday’s session – ‘It was a rich day for kids’. And indeed it was. It is good to be reminded that wealth comes in many disguises.

Celebrating Wealth – Easter Holidays in Chintsa April 2013

Denver and the Shark

Loyal friend, social development project manager, surf instructor, collector and curator of a beautiful bonsai forest, lover of nature and since young, a surfer – always a surfer; gentle and soft-spoken, strong of spirit, an unassuming strength in our community: This is the Denver that we know and love.

Last winter was a good season for surf, and on this particular day, one year back, the waves as we say – ‘were cooking!’. As it goes on days like these all the surfing folk who could had spent the morning in the sea making the most of its gift.

Thinking about heading in to join the others already chilling on the beach, including Denver’s new wife Kristy (also a surfer), Eric heard D yell and turned around expecting to see a good set coming through.

The dark form brushing against Denver was no wave-set or friendly dolphin and Eric watched in horror as it turned around, pulled D off his board while simultaneously  shredding through the leash. Eric started to paddle towards him, not sure what he would do when he got there, but rapidly repeating an anti-fear mantra in his head to keep him moving, – before he had the chance to face the reality of his question the shark had grabbed Denver again and disappeared back under. Both guys at this point  claim to have been thinking, ‘it’s over’. Denver also recalls wondering how long it was going to take…..

Miraculously though after a very long 15 – 20 seconds, he resurfaced. The shark having tossed him about a bit on the ocean-floor had lost interest. Perhaps D wasn’t the right seal flavour….or perhaps it had simply chosen that moment to send out a shark-size reminder that this was its turf too. With the additional help of Murray, another mate still in the water, Denver was placed back onto his board and assisted to shore where the guys began first- aid while waiting for the ambulance to arrive from town, some forty minutes away.

Shark attack victims often die from blood loss and shock. The shark hits an artery and you bleed out before reaching shore. Denver’s wounds were horrible but they were fortunately not fatal and after plenty of surgery and TLC from Kristy, he was back on the beach within a few months checking out the swell and grappling with his fears. Not much longer after that with wounds on the mend, he embraced his passion and the ocean once again, surfing out on a new board with lovely Kristy and his church pastor by his side. Funds had been raised to help with medical bills and D elected to use the surplus to start a fund to support similar incidents in the area. He also provided an emergency medical and rescue box on our beach.

It has been a year to the day since the attack and the guys are back in the water surfing whenever the weather and ocean feel benevolent, and we are so grateful to be celebrating a life living rather than a life lived.  But the question that continues to challenge me is this – how does one find the courage, after an incident like this, to face your fear and manage the recurring images that must rush through your head over and over? How do you get back in the water to continue to do what you love?

How do you do that?

Perhaps you chose to embrace the challenge partly because if you don’t it is almost as if the shark attack was infact fatal and you end up loosing a huge part of who and what  you are…. Denver is no fatality.

Without doubt it is a choice of huge magnitude requiring  reason to override fear and demanding enormous courage.

A courage that I find unfathomable  – but one that continues to inspire me daily.

Celebrating a Year of Great Courage – Chintsa East 22 July 2012

Saturday on Chintsa Beach

There was a time when my perfect Saturday was one spent in my restaurant kitchen prepping for the evening seating and the Sunday rush. Apron, knife, fresh veg and the weekend menu. Heaven.

Now that I am on a little restaurant break my Saturdays are spent on Chintsa Beach with family, friends and the kids of The Unstressed Surf School. A different kind of heaven, but heaven none-the-less.

 Chintsa Beach is different to the beaches that I spent most of my time on as a child. Chintsa Beach is just the right amount of wild.

 This beach is not tropical enough to draw a  regular crowd. It has no super-wave to be called a surfers paradise, nor provides enough man-made entertainment for the townies. So wild it remains. These benefits are well understood and we don’t complain. The peace and the sea-scape holds us.

Saturdays on Chintsa Beach come with regular surprises. Recently Tom The Clown honoured us with an ad hoc visit after his Saturday morning surf.

 He took the kids through their circus moves.

 Surfing requires balance and focus but sometimes it requires circus acts…

On any given Saturday, even now with the season’s change and the winter west blowing its chilling off-shore breeze – the locals are out.

Taking it in.

Seeping it up.

Making it their own.

Chintsa Beach, A Saturday in May, 2012 

Transkei Daze

Arriving at our favourite spot along the Transkei Coast on a bright, summer’s day – (Read more about the incredible Transkei here) –  in search of wind, waves and wonder, we encountered this beautiful scene….

Three herdboys on their horses,

cooling themselves and their beasties down, as they played in the waves together.

A quick game of footie on the beach to help dry off,

and they were gone.

Magical Transkei Trip – March 2012