While eagerly awaiting the all-clear to emerge, we've been catching up with our community. This week we checked in with founder of Yonder Surf, Sally McGee and her young family, to find out what they've been up to in their own Backyard Base Camp.
What’s keeping you inspired, and what is the current source of that inspiration?
In the early days of lockdown it was pretty hard, everything was very unclear and the financial stress was a real concern but we've adapted and diversified things. We've definitely been motivated by the Yonder - We Rise By Lifting Others campaign. Realising that other small independent businesses were struggling and deciding to team up with them to create artwork, screen prints, coffee collaborations, has been a real lift. Starting the Yonder Patreon and staying connected with the rest of the Yonder crew has been great too, Zoom forecasting and surf etiquette sessions and monthly videos to keep people motivated and inspired has in return helped us. I'm also in the process of establishing the Yonder Surf Academy Community Project and we were working with a local school getting girls into the water for the first time just as all this happened. The plan is to do many more projects like this so I guess the lock down has afforded me some time to work on that.
What’s been occupying your time? Is it projects, fitness, or just prep and planning for after lockdown?
Our son Billy, of course, is always at the centre of everything we do. He'd only just started nursery before this happened, so it wasn't a major change at all to have him with us and involved in all our projects. The kid isn't yet two and a half but he can teach you how to "paddle, paddle, pop!" on dry land, just from watching my lessons so much! Anyone who has a toddler will know that you can't get too much done with them around. It's important to just go with it, but it's not always easy. Being a family that pretty much lives outdoors it's been particularly important that we live so close to the beach. I'm not sure what we would have done without it - that and flat land to ride his bike. Surfing has been a strange one through the lockdown and it's hard on your mental health when you spend most of your days in the water to navigate the fact you're no longer supposed to surf. I've been going to a local bay on high tide and swimming a bit to keep a sense of myself. Now we are a little more free, we're surfing wisely and going back to our favourite isolated spots.
Most importantly, we have spent lockdown converting a Sprinter Van into a half-camper, half-surf school wagon. We bought the van after we sold our motorhome and it's been a big thing on the to-do list to get it sorted. The conversion took up five solid weeks of lockdown and has definitely occupied most of our time, we were determined to use this time while we had it. We've done it all ourselves, with the invaluable help of Tom's Dad who was staying before the start of the lockdown. I think it really kept us motivated knowing that the van is so important to the surf school, so though we weren't able to teach we were able to work on something that was moving Yonder in the right direction.
What has been the toughest moment of lockdown so far for you?
Without doubt it's been the uncertainty with work. We're a self-employed working family and both businesses have been hit pretty hard. There's nothing to fall back on as self employed folk especially, with Yonder as a fairly new business. We had so many plans for the year ahead but it's been good in the sense that it's forced us to diversify, think outside the box and think of new ways to keep going.
And what has been the best moment so far?
It has to be getting the van finished. There is no doubt in my mind that had this not have happened we would still have a shell of a van. Under normal circumstances the van is in constant use with the surf school and we would never have had the time to commit to it, especially to give it all the finishing touches that make it so special. We definitely underestimated the project and have spent most of the lock down working on it.
What are you reading? And what should we be reading?
I would absolutely love to say that I'm reading something really inspiring but though I used to read a lot, those days are currently on hold. So the honest response is, I read a lot of kids books. Reading is a big part of our family life and we have books everywhere. I really want Billy to have an active imagination and to be excited by the tiniest of things. We absolutely love the Sibylel Von Olfers and Elsa Beskow series and have been slowly building up our collection. Lock down has combined with our favourite time of year and these books bring all the seasons to life, in particular spring. Reading these books is teaching Billy to appreciate all the bugs, creatures and wild flowers we are discovering outdoors and has felt pretty special.
What music have you been listening to?
We're a family that loves music so we usually have the record player on dancing around to something or other. We've created a Yonder Playlist and sent it out to all the Yonder Patrons, those on the mailing list and broadcast. It's been on repeat in our own house most days. We've been really liking Big Thief and Phoebe Bridgers and Billy's been loving Billy Bragg's versions of Going on a Bear Hunt and the Tiger Who Came to Tea.
Have there been any particularly funny moments you guys have enjoyed?
I'm not sure about the funniest, but the thing that has brought us the most joy and utter stoke has been watching our not yet two-and-a-half year old learn to ride a pedal bike. He's a pretty determined toddler at the best of times but this has really been a thing of total amazement to watch unfold. Few people get to see him without a helmet as he's always on his balance bike but to see that leap onto riding a pedal bike (bypassing stabilizers) has been brilliant. The look on peoples faces as this tiny thing rides past has definitely amused us and entertained so many local folk. Tom's been building me an old 60's BSA into a little cruiser so I'm looking forward to riding bikes with Billy this summer.
What adventures do you have planned for when we can finally travel again?
I think most people are realising that travel abroad might be out of the question for a while. This makes the van so much more important. We have had vans for the past fourteen years and surf trips around the UK have been a huge part of our life, this van will mean that we can carry on this way of life but include our little boy with us and the thought of that makes me really excited about the future and is all I've ever really wanted from life.