Bude in pictures: an interview with Cornish surf photographer Clive Symm
Clive Symm is a talented Cornish surf photographer, who also captures weddings, landscapes and portraits, and over the years he’s taken some fantastic pictures in and around Bude.
We caught up with him recently to find out a little more about the man behind the lens, providing insights into what motivates him, his thoughts on Bude’s fantastic surf scene, and why he loves Bude Sea Pool.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into photography?
I’ve loved photography since I was at school, way before digital cameras were available. I worked at a local supermarket for the whole of the summer to save up and buy my first “proper” camera, a Ricoh KR10 Super and a 50mm lens. I’ve never stopped taking photos since then really. I’ve had a lot of sales jobs with some pretty big companies and being a photographer has always helped to build my profile within these. When I was at JVC I was often given their latest video cameras to take home and test.
You’ve taken some incredible pictures of the surf in and around Bude. What is it that motivates you to take pictures of surfing in particular?
Having surfed myself since the age of about 14 it’s a great way to enjoy two of my passions at the same time. Also taking the odd surf shot has helped me stay focused on the sea when I’ve been unable to surf due to injuries or ill health.
What’s your favourite thing about shooting around Bude?
Bude has a great “vibe” about it, it’s one of those places that always feels welcoming no matter what the weather’s doing, the scenery is stunning and the people are, mostly, friendly. I love just going for an unplanned walk with my camera and seeing what images I can come up with. It’s not often I get home disappointed with the results.
Bude has produced some of the best professional surfers in the country in recent years. Why do you think that is?
I think there’s loads of factors that have attributed to the success of our local surfers. Obviously we have some quality waves within a few miles of Bude and depending on the tide our local beaches can be surfed at almost any size. There aren’t that many days when there’s no surf. I’ve been doing this a long time and seen the amount of time and effort these athletes spend in the water improving their skills. They’re training constantly which makes a huge difference to their performance. There’s a great community spirit locally.
Bude Wave Riders, run by volunteers, offer a great introduction into surfing for very little outlay. Also our more experienced surfers seem quite happy to share their knowledge with the young, up and coming, super keen, groms. We have some excellent surf schools, some of which run “elite” clubs for the up and coming kids that show potential. They can even get one-on-one coaching from British and European champions if they want it. Obviously media coverage is a huge part of everything these days. Luckily we have some great local photographers and videographers who spend a lot of time, in and out of the water, capturing images and footage of these guys helping to show the world of what they’re capable of.
Do you surf yourself, and if so, where’s your favourite spot?
I do and my favourite local spot has to be any one of Bude’s three beaches. I live a couple of minutes away by foot from Crooklets and like being able to just wander down, check the conditions, get changed at home and be in the water within 10 minutes.
Your portfolio features some beautiful landscape pictures. Where is the most photogenic place you’ve come across in Cornwall?
Thank you, that’s a tough question, the whole of Cornwall is beautiful. I don’t really have a favourite. I’ll check the conditions, the time of year, when the sun sets, etc. and decide where to go on the day, could be anywhere…
We’ve also noticed Bude Sea Pool in lots of your images, and we’ve even shared a few of them ourselves. What do you think the pool brings to the local community?
I think it’s a fantastic facility, one of the best ocean pools in the country, definitely a great tourist attraction which brings people into town. I really enjoy capturing the different moods it seems to have, very photogenic and just 5 minutes from home.
What’s the most memorable or favourite image that you’ve ever taken?
I don’t really have a favourite but this image (below) always comes to mind. It was taken just down the coast from Bude on a very stormy winter day a few years ago. I just love the energy and movement, not to mention the timing of that wave breaking against the cliff in the background…
What would your ideal day in Bude consist of?
It would be warm and sunny with light offshore winds and the surf at first light would be about 4ft and clean. That’s when I’d get in for a wave. After a couple of hours I’d get out look back and see the surf building to 8ft. I’d check my phone for messages and see that the Ash brothers (two of my favourite local surfers) where going in for a wave. I’d grab my camera and shoot them until they got out. Have a quick look at the photos I’d taken and then head down to the sea pool for the sunset and maybe stay a little later to photograph the stars reflected in the water. Then on to The Beach for a drink at the bar.