Cornwall surfer and artist Bryn Hall chats conquering wave-riding, scribbles, self-esteem and the joys of living in Sennen.
How would you describe yourself?
Down to earth, outgoing, focused, always up for a challenge and keen to learn.
Have you always loved watersports?
I’ve always enjoyed sports in general, but surfing was my first water-based sport.
How did you get into surfing?
As a kid I was always outside: in the woods, on the beach. But I had a phobia of open water, and would often suffer from panic attacks. Surfing was something I started at age 11 to overcome the fear I had. It was something I needed to do, and I’m so happy I tackled it when I was young. I still feel uncomfortable surfing in big or messy conditions, but I know my limits.
Do you surf only for fun or would you like to become a pro surfer?
Competitions aren’t really for me. I surf to have fun, and I don’t find the pressure of comps enjoyable. I am confident in my ability and feel I’m at a good competitive level. But I don’t feel the need to prove it to myself or friends. It’s not important to me.
What’s your favourite surf spot?
My favourite surf spot has to be my home break, Sennen-Cove. It’s unpredictable at times, but on a good day there’s lots of choice. In the winter it’s just as good – if not better – and deserted too! My best ever surf was at Double Island Point in Noosa. I was surfing a new board and doing turns I never imagined I could do. I kept messing up my late take-offs, some guy paddled over and gave me some tips and was whooping when I got a good wave. It wasn’t until later in the day I realised it was Dean Morrison. Pretty stoked!
Who do you like to surf with?
I usually surf alone. There’s a great crew at Sennen, so almost always you end up sharing waves with friendly faces. I have the most fun when surfing with my best mate Tegen Wilson. We just mess about, act like idiots and crack-up the whole time. She’s a legend.
How did you get into painting?
I’ve always loved art – all through education, every school book was covered in scribbles and drawings. One teacher even started laminating my books, so I wouldn’t ‘de-face’ them!
When did you start to take it seriously?
By the end of college, I was contacted by a guy called Seth Peralta from Blue Lava clothing company in Santa Cruz. We started off doing simple logos, fonts, shirt designs and developed an awesome partnership and friendship. We have similar tastes and know what will/won’t work. We just bounce ideas off each other, and get so excited thoroughout the whole process. We call it dancing. We’ve become good friends and keep close contact over the phone. We’ve just finalised a design thats selling like hot cakes in the States, and rather popular with the Hawaiians!
What does painting mean to you?
Everything. It’s my release. When I’m drawing or painting I get so absorbed: it’s like surfing, you just get into a zone. It’s my past, present and most definitely my future.
What does painting teach you about life?
To just be yourself. When I was younger I had extremely low self esteem and confidence. I didn’t know who or what I wanted to be. I found it difficult to share my artwork with people, it was like ripping out a diary page for them to read. I started getting really positive feedback and that helped my confidence. I then realised that I wasn’t trying to be/draw/act like anyone else and nobody was judging me. You’ ll never regret being yourself.
You paint not only on paper, but also on surfboards, skateboards, clothes, canvas… and even people! Do you like to experiment with different mediums?
I designed a tattoo for a close friend of mine who was very bold and stylised. Friends who saw it then started asking for commissions. When I feel creative, I’ll use whatever I have to hand: scraps of paper, drift wood, clothing, anything!
Who or what are your inspirations?
I’ve never been interested in modern or historical art, nor the theory behind it. One artist who has a great influence on me is M.C.Escher. I love all aspects of his work, style, subjects, dimensions, detail and the sheer planning and dedication that goes into them. I could stare at his work for hours. He’s an absolute genius. Love it!
How would you describe your paintings?
Flow, a visual extention of my train of thought. I try to evoke the feelings I have when surfing, which are generally freedom and beauty.
Who do you like to paint with?
Drawing is very much something I do alone. I need to be in control of my environment and space, otherwise I am too easily distracted.
What’s your favorite painting memory?
When I was in Morrocco, I stayed with a local family who ran a little hotel. The area and the building itself were very basic and run down. One day when the surf was flat, we got out the paints and came together to paint a beautiful, colourful mural on the walls. The family were so grateful, it really made a big difference to the atmosphere.
You love surfing and painting, so you must have the best job ever…
Yeah, I’m very lucky. Things are always tight on the money front, I work as a surf instructor in summer and a kitchen porter out of season… One day I’d love to get by purely doing what I love.
What do you do when you’re not painting or surfing?
I love to travel. Everything I do between trips is saving up for the next one. I love music, exercise, collecting things from beaches, seeing friends, and volunteering with the local surf club (Sennen Surf Club).
Can you give us a run down of your average day?
My days are generally very slow! But I’m lucky enough to see the surf from my house, so that’s the first move. If the surf is not good enough then I’ll crack on with some drawing. I’m a notorious ‘potterer’; I love to potter. So usually there’s a bit of cleaning and organising (many people find me strange, but I love tidying!). In the evenings I usually have something on, whether surf club, boxing, yoga, and then home for more work. I work best late at night.
What are your plans for this winter?
I’m currently escaping the UK and spending a month in Thailand. I’ll be home for Christmas, then in the New Year I have plans to visit Seth at Blue Lava in the States.
You seem to be on the road quite a lot…
Yes. When I travel I truly feel alive. This trip to Thailand has really helped my confidence and self-esteem, as I’ve been doing a lot of things and going to places on my own – something I’ve never done before. I love to experience new cultures, environments, cuisines and to just meet people from all walks of life. I like to hear people’s tales of where they’ve been, where they’re going. It inspires me to branch out and visit places I’ve never heard of.
Where is the place you’d most like to live?
I’m very lucky in Sennen, it’s beautiful and unspoilt, but whenever it comes to returning home from somewhere, I never want to leave. I wouldn’t want to live in one particular place, I would be happy travelling the world, doing work here and there to fund the next stop.
What are your suitcase essentials when you’re on the road?
I travel extremely light. Essentials have to be sketch book, pencils, camera, and an overdraft!
Do you do your bit for environment?
I recycle, I often collect litter from the beach when I go for a run, walk or surf. I don’t drive, and I eat as much local produce as I can.
What have your greatest achievements been so far?
Probably working with Oxbow. I designed for ‘The Artworks’ collection. I started by doing some graphics for their Spring/Summer ’09 collection, plus a longboard decal. They then asked me back to work on their women’s Autumn/Winter ’09 collection. The clothing is looking awesome, and I can’t wait to see the final products on sale! It was great being contacted by such a multinational company. But personally, I prefer working with smaller, local businesses.
How do you relax when you get the chance?
I find all the things I do in my average day pretty chilled. I like going for long walks, spending time with friends and family.
And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include?
An early start. 3-4 ft and glassy, peeling lefts. Surf for hours with friends. Down to the local for a Rattler as the sun goes down, and possibly a walk on the beach with a gorgeous bloke! Ideal!
What would you change about your life?
To take more risks and not to let my fears dictate or over-ride my goals.
What’s up next for you this year?
The plan is to save all year to do a six-month world trip. Work hard, surf hard and to hopefully set-up a website for my artwork.
Before I die, I want to… Have a place of my own in Cornwall.
Words by: Elisa Routa