This Is Me: Demi Taylor

Travel journalist and surf afficionado Demi Taylor on journeys, surfing and coming back home…

Interview by Anna Langer

Travel is an investment. You’re investing in new experiences, new people, places, sights, tastes, smells, the unknown, yourself. If you’re a writer, a photographer, an artist, a designer, a rocket scientist or whatever it delivers a catalogue of experiences and memories you can draw on for the rest of your life. I like the whole ritual of travel – packing, hanging about in airports, bus terminals, the anticipation, travel sweets, pitching tents, driving, wrong turns. Getting out there grounds you, shows you a different reality and reminds you how big the world is. But I also like coming back. Driving into the sun, that last half mile and seeing a glimpse of the Atlantic, knowing I’m home.

Getting out there grounds you, shows you a different reality and reminds you how big the world is.

In 2001 my boyfriend and I spent a year on the road traveling from the Orkney Isles that lie off the northern tip of Scotland to southern Morocco. It was a defining trip. We had left our jobs – Chris as a surf magazine editor, me as a PR for a surf brand – and set out to write a book. We didn’t have a publisher at the time, we just had an idea, a computer and a camera and spent an incredible 12 months surfing, exploring and documenting the Atlantic coastline. We came back, found a publisher and started out on a new path.

Growing up in Cornwall the beach was somewhere we sought out – whatever the weather – staying in the sea ‘til we turned blue. When we lived in the desert we’d make the regular journey to the coast, camping-out for the weekend, to clear the dust and dip our bodies into the strange, warm Persian gulf. The sea brought us together and gave us some breathing space, which is how I feel about surfing.

I damaged my back a couple of years ago. I didn’t want to miss out on surfing while it got better so I bought some fins, made a handplane and started bodysurfing. I love how free you feel when you bodysurf, you’re totally exposed and totally connected to the sea. It’s about the whole experience – swimming out into the line up, diving under waves, your low profile in the water and because of it the things you notice – like the sound the rain makes as it hits the surface – as well as sitting inside the pack and dropping into a bomb! I think it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in water so much so that I find it hard to keep to myself. I’ve been making handplanes for my friends and now other people too as Westering Handplanes.

I love how free you feel when you bodysurf, you’re totally exposed and totally connected to the sea.

We set up the London Surf / Film Festival in 2011. There was a surf film festival in New York and one in San Sebastian but there wasn’t anything happening in the UK. We’d been involved in, and writing about, surfing and surf culture for the best part of 20 years so the London Surf / Film Festival felt like a natural progression. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of talented British and International surf creatives along the way – filmmakers, photographers, artists, shapers, artisans – and we wanted to bring them all together in a showcase that really celebrates our unique culture. We screen a handpicked selection of the hottest contemporary releases from across the globe and through The Shorties short film contest we showcase the best homegrown filmmaking talents. Then there’s the Approaching Lines Room where we have a few beers, host gallery shows, music, Q+A’s, workshops and bring together artists, artisans, shapers, inde mags and new brands. It’s a pretty fun four days!

I have a real connection to FinnSurf. It was a bit of an underground film from Finland that I came across and when I saw the trailer I just knew we had to show it at LS/FF, it was beautiful, engaging and so different. The filmmakers came over for the screening – they looked like Viking gods and partied as only the Finnish can. It was the first time the film was shown outside of Finland and I think they were blown away with the reaction they got. It won spirit of the festival at LS/FF and went on to sweep the floor across the world.

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