Ten years ago London was rocked by the events of 7/7. I wrote this in response at the time…
Writing a column for a surf mag is a fun thing to do, surfing is fun, the whole deal is fun. Fun can be a bit selfish.
As surfers we can sometimes be accused of having our head in the sand when it comes to the rest of the world. Looking towards the oceans and skies all the time, shunning the real world and real issues, more intent on looking for our next fix of wave-sliding natural bliss. Sure, we have a proven environmental conscience we can be proud of but generally the rest of the world can carry on with its petty disputes, underhand politics and oil wars without ruffling our feathers.
That all changed with the bombing of the Sari Club.
9/11 was shocking, disgusting and an appalling event, but it was outside of our sphere, it seemed hyper-real, like some mad action movie, in a remote, cartoon version of New York. The Sari was a different ball game, sure it was no closer to home geographically than downtown Manhattan, but the Sari and the bright lights of Kuta were a place that many of us had been, or would have ended up at some point in our surfing lives.
Which is when it hits home.
All the carnage, the murder and mayhem could have happened to any of us, or any of our mates. When the smoke cleared most people that have surfed for a while and have a network of surfing buddies knew someone that was there, someone whose life unfortunately stopped or altered irrevocably that day.
Friends that even now are still haunted by unthinkable images which we can never hope to soothe or understand.
I knew two, one from Ireland and one from Cornwall, one got minor burns and survived the blast in Paddy’s Bar, the other was unscathed by the bombs but heroically pulled people out of the chaos in the Sari with no regard for his own safety.
Getting caught up in a conflict that was nothing to do with us, perpetrated by people with a horrifying disregard for human life and an elastic understanding of their own faith (a faith which condemns murder as a sin) is not something that you fit into your head easily.
The link between terrorism and surfing is a tenuous one, but it’s hard to write about an activity, which is in essence entirely frivolous when there are innocent people getting blown-up on trains and buses in London.
That really is our backyard.
As I sit here typing I’m still wondering if friends of mine, friends that live surfing, love life and have never uttered a harsh word about anybody are okay.
The mobile phone network cannot cope. The rolling news footage is still in disarray, no one knows how many people are dead or who the hell did it.
People are trapped in tube stations. There was no warning. But why should there be? It always seemed awfully polite, British even, of terrorists to warn the authorities of the impending terror.
As the terrorism game mutated (and it became about slaughter and media impact not getting a political message across) the new trick of warning the police the bomb was in one place so they’d herd the public nearer to the real bomb site (as used to horrific effect in Omagh) made any warning an impossible thing to trust.
Thursday the 7th of July, a day when most people were still glowing with joy about the previous day’s news London had won the Olympics in 2012, still revelling in the memory of the historic Live8 gig the weekend before, and for our subculture, rubbing their hands in anticipation of some small but sunny waves at the weekend.
The world, it seems, is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s not a lot we can do about it. Or can we?
The tsunami made a right royal mess in our extended Indian Ocean backyard and the response from the surfing world was immense, both in financial and personal terms.
Little people, that’s you and I, did something about it on an unprecedented scale, so much money was raised the charities had to say, ‘Stop! We’ve got too much cash!’
Aid, funds, supplies, clothes and love were sent, without condition, to affected areas. Christian, Muslim, Hindu or none of the above. An outpouring of love that says far more about humanity than the evil perpetrated by a tiny minority of mentalists.
Surfers are well travelled, we’ve been to Muslim countries: Morocco, Indo, the Maldives and the like, we know that the hype is wrong, there is no East v West religious war, this isn’t the eve of destruction.
Our Islamic brothers are just like us, they love their families, they love their lands and they have the same hopes and dreams for the future as we all do.
They like to have fun. They also love the waves. We have more in common than what sets us apart.
Which is something we need to remember.