Matt Button - 100 Journal
I first met Matt Button several years ago in the Kathmandu Palace, a Nepalese restaurant in Truro. We had several mutual friends but had never actually met. I clearly remember him giving me a massive hug and I felt like I’d known him all my life already and was just waiting for him to show up somewhere along the way. Since then we’ve stayed in touch, talked about the finer points of photography, discussed travel plans and he even shot my portrait on his beloved Hasselblad for his own project.
I photographed him for my original 100 portraits project near his home at Holywell Bay. He really didn’t like his portrait at all! So I was glad to have another opportunity to hopefully put this right. On this particular occasion, I found him in a quiet corner of a Starbucks off the A30, after a brew, we headed a little way up the road towards Pedna Carne for a walk up and around an old clay tip which had been returned to nature. Visibility was hazy but the views were still astonishing. It was good to catch up with Matt for this project and find out what adventures he’s been on and what he has planned.
What’s changed in the last two years for you?
“My dancing has got better…”
“No. But as Shakira says, the hips don’t lie. No seriously, I paddled from Plymouth to Bude, along the Cornish coast, alone, unsupported with about 4 hours preparation and a big bag of naivety.“
How was it?
“Hard work! I wouldn’t recommend it. Periodically I get a bee in my bonnet about something and this was a combination of loving the Cornish coves and wanting to explore them, particularly the ones more difficult to reach. Also, I’ve long wanted to do the South West Coast Path. One day I found myself down in Marazion with my girlfriend at the time and we did a stand up paddle board trip. After that, these three ideas coalesced and I thought to myself, why don’t I don’t I take a SUP and do the watery equivalent of the South West Coast Path? I could go fishing, sleep under the stars, eat seaweed and fresh mackerel… some of which I did. I contacted Finisterre, Red (SUP company) and Kenalu paddles and they agreed it was a great idea and they all sponsored me. The idea was to raise awareness of marine plastics along the way. So every time I camped, I did a beach clean and I took that bag with me to the next town to dispose of it. At that time I was only aware of one other person that had done this trip, they were an athlete and had waited for perfect days and conditions. If I’d known how difficult it was going to be, I’d never have done it, I found myself in some dangerous situations.”
It was a particularly stormy summer in 2016 wasn’t it?
“Yep. I was a little bit unlucky and the idea was to go down the South coast into the prevailing winds, so I could get my sea legs and build up muscle. Come round Lands End and have the prevailing winds behind me and deal with it. Although I came round Lands End, and wind turned North and out of twenty-one days paddling I had a headwind for twenty days. I had just one day without a headwind, which was a little bit unfortunate. I had two storms, one at Land’s End and another a Holywell and I had to stay out of the water for a week. In the five-week period that I did the paddle, 5 people were killed in Cornwall including three fairly experienced fishermen that were swept off rocks. I found myself rushing for the finish line in Bude as there was another storm coming in.
I had enough knowledge of the tides and I’d been to see Glen Eldridge about the idea of the paddle. He’s a superb athlete and waterman, I went and spoke to him and explained the trip I was planning and he said, “yeah you can do that!” To be honest, I was really counting on him to say no! I’d already mentioned to a few friends about this trip and they’d all said I was an idiot. After that, I didn’t have an excuse not to go!
I pushed off on to the Tamar at 4 am, my brother sent me off, he was incredibly worried, my mum was incredibly upset. And yeah… it was hair-raising. I did find some of the secret coves that I wanted to, but I didn’t stop as much as I thought I would, because of the weather I just had to keep pushing on. Getting in and out of bays in the swell with bags on the board was quite dangerous. When I tried to come out through Constantine, I thought I’d broken my wrist, I had to head back to the beach. But I did find some beautiful coves and there were some evenings where I fished for mackerel for dinner and had open fires but I hadn’t taken in to account just how exhausted I’d be at the end of each day, I had nothing left. It was an amazing experience but it was pretty sketchy. Probably the most dangerous, continuous thing I’ve ever done. “
Any other adventures on the cards?
“I don’t know, I’ve always got ideas. I went back to Tokyo recently for the first time in ten years and I got talking to a friend of mine and thought that maybe I’d get a Honda Cub which is a little motorcycle. The Honda Cub has supposedly made the biggest difference to transportation around the world more than any other single vehicle. So I was going to see if I could get an old one from Honda and drive it from the northern tip of Hokkaido all the way through Japan and finish in Okinawa. That sounded like quite a good plan but I haven’t decided. All the other trips have been a photo project or for producing a book and that puts an immense amount of pressure on the trip. I’m not great with the social media side of things and trying to drive, navigate, think of stories, film and create content, it starts taking a little bit out of it for me. So I might just do it for the journey and share it only with family and close friends.
I’m just back from six weeks in India and I had another idea for a paddle trip on the river… simply because once you stop paddling on a river you’re still moving forward. Whereas in Cornwall, you stop paddling for a moment and you're going backwards! I haven’t quite decided yet, I’ve always got hairbrained schemes so I’m sure something will come up.”
You can follow Matt's adventures & beautiful portraits over on Instagram @matt_button