Davida and Goliath Wheels and Waves 2015 – Part One.
The Southsiders have done it again, their annual festival of motorcycles, art and surfing has now reached its fourth year proper and, having begun as a grassroots and very familial get together, has grown and grown, this year drawing 10,000 visitors despite regular torrential downpours. Davida were welcomed into the fraternity from the early days, sharing as we do the same take on celebrating a passion for motorcycles, general idiosyncrasy and, in no small part, getting out to some great Basque roads to ride together. The question each year amongst the original family of attendees has been whether it can retain that authenticity that made it feel so special in the early years now that the event has grown so large.
As of last year, the likes of Yamaha and BMW have been welcomed into the fold, keen as they are to benefit from the growing popularity of the new wave custom scene. This year saw Harley Davidson, Triumph and Ducati Scrambler, now an entity unto itself, join in with Wheels and Waves. Like previous involvements, they do so carefully in order to avoid appearing too bombastic about it and compromising what could so easily lose its punk spirit.
This considered approach has been fostered by Vincent and the Southsiders with the aim of keeping the focus on the smaller independents. This approach has allowed Wheels & Waves to keep its independent spirit alive regardless, and none of the original bunch, the likes of artists Nico Sclater & Maxwell Paternoster, bike builders El Solitario, photographer Kristina Fender and indeed Davida felt that it has lost any of its original verve. Conversely, the big manufacturers in the motorcycle world have enabled a far more international group of similarly inclined riders to assemble in one place. The organisers have always been keen to avoid an elitist or purist vibe and thus, as always, all styles of bike are welcome really, the more diverse and original the better though, with an emphasis on creativity and having fun with the conventions.
There is a lot of talk now about how the new custom scene is bringing a new generation into motorcycling as an opportunity to express their individuality, particularly with the older machines and that attitude of the 80’s/90’s Rocker scene, Davida’s ethos as a single-minded Liverpool manufacturer has always resonated strongly with certain defining motorcycling sects from our outset.
Japanese artist Naoto Hinai of Nuts Artworks created this year’s Wheels and Waves logo and Davida were invited to create signature helmets for the event using his design, organiser Vincent has been wearing a Davida for 20 years now so I guess they’ve passed the test. The design that graces the helmet, a rolling, vintage tattoo-esque script, has resulted in perhaps the classiest looking Davida special yet.
The fact that this was the ‘year of the Japanese’ was of particular resonance for us as Japan and particularly its sub-cultural ‘Rocker’ history has been a scene with which we have been integral as far back as the 80’s when our classic ‘pudding basin’ helmets were enthusiastically adopted by the movement both in Japan and with the London contingent. This moment in time was well captured in Davida’s photoshoot at the 1994 Ace Cafe reunion featuring the characters of the London/Japan phenomenon, people like Hiro who was a pattern maker at Lewis Leathers and a big fan of Davida’s helmets, The Mean Fuckers, and Dick Wilson, now renowned in the scene with his Baron’s Speed Shop builds.
This year we specifically created, for the exhibition and Davida stand, posters using those classic Ace Cafe images to celebrate our long history as part of the Japanese and London Rocker scene, plus a classic shot from the 1962 Isle of Man TT of one of the first Japanese teams to take it on. Wheels & Waves was blessed with the presence of legendary custom bike builder Shinya Kimura who spent some time with Davida reminiscing on our experiences and signing a poster or two. His first Wheels & Wheels, he brought with him a recent collaboration with Yamaha, ‘Faster Sons’, it is a classic Kimura ‘sculpture as motorcycle’ with a nod to the Bozosuko scene in the tail, he really doesn’t need to do collaborations like this but he’s always had a soft spot for Yamahas, his first big bike was a Yammie, me too, and he still owns two.
In keeping with the Japanese theme this year we also put together a photoshoot with Davida’s Jasmine, who will be racing at Dirtquake this year instead of being the flag girl, & our photographer Gareth Buddo using some suitably beautiful Japanese bikes. French custom bike builder Jeremie Magri of Kikishop Customs kindly gave us the use of his blue Suzuki 750, originally a 1983 GSXE, only the engine, engine mounts and tank survive on this bike, the rest has been ingeniously sourced, modified and put together following their own inspirations. Jeff Turner of Yamaha, a compadre of Davida’s in the motorbike world for more than 40 years, arranged for us to use ‘The CS-06 Dissident’, a ‘Yard Built’ XJR1300 by Portuguese custom builders it roCkS!bikes commissioned by Yamaha as part of their 20th Anniversary celebrations of the iconic bruiser.
We also got the use of a splendid Harley with sidecar, in builder Stefano’s words: “I live in Bergamo (Northern Italy) and I’m the boss of PDF Motociclette, we build motorcycles, we won the best in show in Eurofestival, Saint Tropez with moto “Barivecchia” and won the first place with the sidecar in old Harley Sidecars. You can see us on Facebook (Punto di Fuga PDF motociclette). The sidecar is a Harley Davidson Electra Glide 1964, when I bought it 12 years ago it was a normal motorcycle, I bought the sidecar and built everything, I normally use it everyday, last year I did the Super-Rally in Estonia, Finland and Sweden with the sidecar, it’s a great friend of travel.”
Not always a great friend of travel by motorcycle is torrential rain and this year it was the weather that could have been the damp squib at the party; some of the riding took place in torrential downpours that were easily as bad as anything any of us there had experienced before and we come from the North of England, green for a reason. “At least it’s warm” we kept saying to ourselves. Riding down to Biarritz we had all the gear to stay relatively dry with but there were plenty of sodden riders, more than once I helped someone improvise some waterproof trousers out of bin bags and duct tape, you had to laugh really. The rain at times gave the W&W tent village at Cité de l’Ocean the appearance of a wild west army camp for the saddle sodden, like at a wet Glastonbury, it all added to the camaraderie.
Organiser Vincent Prat, his wife Valerie and all the Southsiders set the bar very high this year for what they wanted to achieve, it must be a daunting undertaking when they all have day jobs to attend to, what with the politics of making something like this happen in the way you envisage it and then having to deal with the unpredictability of the weather in this corner of Europe, they always manage to pull it off with style and grace but that’s passion for you.
In the next two instalments: The ‘Punk’s Peak races, the ‘Art Ride’ exhibition, what went on at Cité de l’Ocean and Davida’ stand, the ride-outs and lots more on the bikes and people of note.
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