Sam Bleakley

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Sam Bleakley
Portrait of Sam Bleakley, Barbados.jpg
Sam Bleakley
Born 1978 (age 35–36)
Cornwall, United Kingdom
Occupation Travel Writer, Author & Academic
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Sam Bleakley
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Sam Bleakley – Professional Surfer
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Sam Bleakley – book signing, Surfing Brilliant Corners, 2010

Sam Bleakley (born 23 October 1978) is a travel writer, author, academic, surfer and presenter from Gwenver beach, Sennen, Cornwall, UK. Sam is Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator in Cultural Tourism Management (BA Hons) at Falmouth University. His first book, Surfing Brilliant Corners (Alison Hodge Publishers,[1] 2010) details a decade of extreme global surf travel and research in geography and cultural tourism, illustrated by renowned photographer John Callahan. The sequel, Surfing Tropical Beats (Hainan Publishing House, 2011 and Alison Hodge Publishers,[2] 2012) is the first surf travel book translated into Mandarin Chinese.[3][4] Sam has an MA in Geography from the University of Cambridge, is researching a part-time PhD in Travel Writing with Falmouth University, and has been a multiple British and European Longboard Surfing Champion.[5][6][7] Sam specialises in surf exploration projects with the surfEXPLORE team.[8] He has undertaken trips to Haiti, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Algeria, Liberia, Kenya, Oman, South Korea, Hainan, Palawan and the Maluku Islands, and published illustrated articles on these projects in over seventy publications worldwide, and primarily with The Surfers Path magazine.[9][10][11][12]


Sam was born in west Cornwall, and attended Trythall County Primary, Mounts Bay Secondary school and Penwith College, Penzance (Geography, Geology and History A-Levels). Sam gained a place to study Geography at Pembroke College, the University of Cambridge. He graduated with an MA in 2001 and has worked full-time as a professional surfer and travel writer, initially sponsored by Oxbow surfwear, Vans[13] and Surftech.[14] followed by Biomimetics Health UK, Chapel Idne surf shop and Swami's Surf company. Sam is married to Sandy Bleakley, and their daughter, Lola, was born in 2007.


Sam started surfing aged 5 at Gwenver, Sennen and Perranthnoe beaches in west Penwith, Cornwall. He rode shortboards until aged 15 when the longboard renaissance arrived in Europe in the early 1990s.[15] Sam won his first European Longboard Championship Title whilst studying at Cambridge (Praia Grande, Portugal, 1999).[16][17] He retained the title shortly after graduating (Le Penon, France, 2001).[18] While publishing travel features has been Sam's primary focus in professional surfing, he also competed extensively both nationally and internationally. Sam has won two European Longboard Titles and eleven National Longboard Titles. He has won four International Longboard Events and twenty-eight National Longboard Events. He has made it to twenty-four International Longboard Event/Title finals (with a top four finish) and ninety-four National Longboard Event/Title finals (with a top four finish). He has also won National and International Paddle Race Titles. Aside from competing on the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) Oxbow World Longboard tour, Sam has worked closely with Oxbow surfwear reporting on events for websites and international magazines.[19]

Surf Writing[edit]

Sam's relationship with publishing has defined his career in surfing. Whilst Sam was studying at Cambridge former Carve magazine editor, Chris Power, recruited him as the editor of an annual Carve Longboard Special from 1999. Sam's BA dissertation explored the relationship between Southern Californian surfing subculture and landscape. Studying Geography, Sam was interested in the travel element to surfing, and sought to explore remote places as a surfer and writer. Meeting photographer John Callahan opened these doors. John Callahan, a highly regarded and well-established surf travel photographer, was driven to explore alternative and uncharted surfing areas. This matched Sam's passion for studying culture, landscape, people and waves in off-the-beaten-track places, and his interest to share this through writing and photography. Upon graduation Sam started to work with John as a surfer and writer. This fuelled both his professional career in surfing and his development as a freelance travel writer.

Sam's passion for geo-graphic (‘earth-writing') projects of exploration and travel became less about classification and mapping, and more about telling stories – of the connections between people and place – not as place determining identity, but as place being a strong element in shaping identity. Sam's articles began to focus upon issues much wider than surfing, including geography, ecology and cultural studies, cultural tourism, marine science, geomorphology, politics, environmental issues and ecocriticism, post-colonial coastal developments and identity, emerging surf cultures, neo-colonialism, music and jazz music. His writing was about understanding the relationships between land, sea, surfing, music, coastlines and cultures.

The surf and travel work has led Sam to visit sixty countries. Sam is widely published and featured in international magazines and newspapers. His magazine articles have been translated into Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Chinese, Japanese, Bahasa and Russian. Sam has written for and/or appeared in over seventy publications. These include Action Asia (PRC), The Financial Times newspaper (GBR), The Guardian newspaper (GBR), Gulf Life (OMA), i-D (GBR), The Independent newspaper (GBR), Men's Health (GBR), National Geographic Adventure (USA), The Observer newspaper (GBR), Outside (USA), On The Board (JPN), Pacific Longboarder (AUS), La Repubblica (ITA), Resurgence (GBR), Surfer (USA), The Surfers Journal (USA), The Surfers Path (GBR) and Time Out (USA).[20]

A decade of travel work contributed to the formulation of Surfing Brilliant Corners (2010 Alison Hodge). The sequel, Surfing Tropical Beats (2012 Alison Hodge) has been translated in Mandarin Chinese with the Hainan Publishing House, Haikou. Sam has also edited the first detailed history book on a European surf nation, The Surfing Tribe: A History of Surfing in Britain (by Roger Mansfield, 2009 Orca Publications).[21] Sam has contributed to The Surfing Yearbook: Presented by Surfersvillage (edited by Phil Jarratt, 2009 Gibbs Smith – UK and Ireland Report),[22] Global Surfari: The Surfer’s Travel Atlas (2007 Aurum – Western Europe and Africa chapters), Soul i-D (edited by Tricia Jones, 2007 Taschen – Safe and Sound contribution) and September (edited by Michael Fordham, 2007 September Project – Fish & Bird poem).[23]

Sam has also appeared in Surf Nation: In Search of the Fast Lefts and Hollow Right of Britain and Ireland (by Alex Wade, 2007 Simon & Schuster – The Legions of the Unjazzed chapter), The World Stormrider Guide: Vol 2 (by Antony Colas, 2004 Low Pressure Publishing – Northern Ecuador section), The World Stormrider Guide: Vol 3 (by Antony Colas, 2009 Low Pressure Publishing – Central Atolls, Maldives section), Surf Food: The Ultimate Surfers Cookbook (by Nava Young, 2009 Pandanus Productions Angourie – a recipe contribution – Fruit Salad with Honey Spiced Yogurt), Switch-Foot II (by Andrew Crockett, 2009 Hodaddy Australia – Russ Pierre/Cornwall Section) and Ultimate Surfing Adventures: 100 Extraordinary Experiences in the Waves (by Alf Alderson, 2010 Wiley Nautical – China, Oman, Ghana, Liberia, Panama, Algeria, Mauritania and South Korea chapters).[24]

Sam has presented, produced, co-edited and written surf travel films in Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados and Liberia. He has appeared on various magazine covers, company adverts (including the Digital UK switch-over campaign), posters, and in mainstream newspapers, notably The Guardian, The Observer and The Independent. Sam has featured in over twenty action sport DVDs, documentaries and television programmes about surfing and travel. These include the BBC's 'The Perfect Wave' (Ecuador 2001) and 'Grandstand' (World Surfing Games, South Africa 2002), Channel 4's '360' series (Indonesia 2001) and ITV's 'Surf's Up' series (Cornwall and South Africa 2002). Sam worked as a consultant, writer and interviewer for Mengejar Ombak – Chasing Waves – The chronicle of Dede Suryana's rise to surf stardom (Indonesia 2009).[25]

Sam has edited Longboard specials in Carve and Wavelength magazines, UK, and been a surf columnist in The Cornishman newspaper, UK. Sam's most frequent contributions have been for The Surfers Path magazine. Editor-in-chief Alex Dick-Read explains. "Sam Bleakley is one of a select few professional surfers whose talents go even beyond his mastery of board and wave. He travels with a clear eye and writes with a crisp, thoughtful voice that never fails to evoke the sense of a place, the flavours of its landscape and cultures, and the thrill of exploring new frontiers in the surfing world. Sam Bleakley's travel writing offers our readers regular doses of irregular intelligence, humour, insight and adventure."

Exploring surf and travel writing through metaphors of jazz became a central element in Sam's work. This is highlighted in Surfing Brilliant Corners. Framing surfing through metaphors of jazz, the book celebrates genius bop pianist Thelonious Monk's 1950's album Brilliant Corners. Monk's album was famed for its outrageous, groundbreaking compositional originality, and Sam explores how talented surfers think like great jazz musicians, using invention, complex rhythm, timing and spontaneity to turn impossible wave scenarios into beautiful but challenging music.[26]

In Surfing Brilliant Corners Sam journeys from the living vodou of Haiti, through vibrant African highlife, to a serene Buddhist oasis in communist China, looks deep into the jet black eye of a surfacing shark in Kenya and faces a stacked set of foaming lips during storm surf in South Korea with bemused lifeguards waving him and his companions in from the beach to point out that surfing is banned. Sam explains, “’Jazz' is not just a kind of music – the primary African-American art form – but a way of thinking and doing (based on improvisation, syncopation, timing, rhythm and beat). Surfers and travellers can be jazz players without ever liking or knowing jazz, where they have that jazz feel that takes them away from the straight line and the standard moves."

"Surfing is about improvising in brilliant ways that utilise the sea's surprises. And surfers who travel with sensitivity to local cultures will act like jazz musicians, quickly getting an ear for the rhythm of the moment and showing facility for improvisation. These performances demand a stage – a place – which is the main player and shapes the performance.".[27]

Sam was appointed Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator of Cultural Tourism Management BA (Hons) at Falmouth University in 2013/2014. He is also researching a part-time PhD in at Falmouth University on Haiti, surfing and new modes of travel writing.


surfEXPLORE is an international team led by John Callahan, Erwan Simon, Emiliano Cataldi and Sam Bleakley (with regular guest surfers such as Holly Beck, Randy Rarick, Tristan Jenkin, Phil Goodrich and Baybay Niu). surfEXPLORE specialise in researching and producing groundbreaking exploration projects to cultural tourism frontiers, creating surf travel photography, writing and film, and conveying environmental and social messages. The team speaks English, French, Italian and Spanish, and maintain contributor relationships with more than fifty surf and travel publications worldwide in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese (Brasil), Japanese, Chinese, Russian and Bahasa Indonesian, ensuring worldwide awareness and multiple international publication of each surfEXPLORE expedition.[28] John Callahan remains one of the most widely published surf photographers in the world, renowned for his stunning contemporary images, filled with vivid colour and unique framing. Editor-in-chief of The Surfers Path, Alex Dick-Read, explains: “John Callahan’s expeditions are always original, adventurous and professional. As an editor who has been running his features regularly for over ten years, I can say in all honesty that he is our finest contributor. The teams he gathers, the places he goes, the methods he employs to make the journey shine above and beyond the pedestrian, and of course the photographs he returns home with, are quite simply of the highest quality we see.”


  • Bleakley, S. (2010). Surfing Brilliant Corners. Penzance: Alison Hodge Publishers.
  • Bleakley, S. (2011). Surfing Tropical Beats (Chinese edition). Haikou: Hainan Publishing House.
  • Bleakley, S. (2012). Surfing Tropical Beats. Penzance: Alison Hodge Publishers.
  • Mansfield, R. (Editor Bleakley, S.) (2009). The Surfing Tribe: A History of Surfing in Britain. Newquay: Orca Publications.


  1. ^ Surfing Brilliant Corners. Alison Hodge Publishers (15 August 2010).
  2. ^ Alison Hodge Publishers, Sam Bleakley, Surfing Tropical Beats. Alison Hodge Publishers (13 August 2013).
  3. ^ 海南日报数字报刊. (29 October 2011).
  4. ^ 首本中文冲浪书籍《热带冲浪天堂》万宁签售 – 海网宽频.
  5. ^ Cornwall – Surfing – Cornsih longboard ace wins British title. BBC.
  6. ^ Cornwall – Surfing & extreme sports – Bleakley Claims Title. BBC.
  7. ^ Surfers let it rip. Alex Wade (30 July 2006).
  8. ^ SurfEXPLORE Taps Into The Philippines. The Inertia.
  9. ^ Discovering India. The Inertia.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Bleakley, Sam. (14 August 2010) Five more secret surfing paradises.
  12. ^ Surfing From A Sinking Ship | Eco Warrior | Surfers Path. (28 June 2011).
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ Sam Bleakley – Men – UKPSA. (23 October 1978).
  15. ^ Blog | Adventure Activities Cornwall.
  16. ^ Cornishman Sport Down Memory Lane September 17. This is Cornwall (17 September 2009).
  17. ^ Contender | Sport | The Observer. (26 February 2011).
  18. ^ John Buchorski wins UK WKD Lizzard expression session.
  19. ^ Sam Bleakley writes from Oxbow World Longboard final in the Maldives. (26 October 2009).
  20. ^ Resurgence • Article – Guardians of the Ocean.
  21. ^ [3][dead link]
  22. ^ Surfing Yearbook most comprehensive ever published. (15 April 2009).
  23. ^ the september project.
  24. ^ [4][dead link]
  25. ^ Serene agility. YouTube (19 November 2008).
  26. ^ Extract: Sam Bleakley's Surfing Brilliant Corners | New music reviews, news & interviews. The Arts Desk (19 September 2010).
  27. ^ Surfing Brilliant Cornersd, By Sam Bleakley, photos by JS Callahan – Reviews – Books. The Independent (9 July 2010).
  28. ^ Sam Bleakley. Alison Hodge Publishers (13 August 2013).

External links[edit]