Category Archives: Travel lifestyle
After a great weekend of SUP surfing and kiteboarding in Santa Cruz; the next morning I followed the swell down the coast and met up with Eric Akiskalian from Towsurfer.com and surf photographer Mike Jones of Azhiaziam.com for a mid morning tow surf session. After my first wave skiing session a couple weeks ago, I really wanted to see how these wave skis worked on a steeper faced wave that had a little punch to it. My optimal goal is to ride these skis in the tube; I just have to find the right wave with a good swell and smooth conditions.
The storm that was pushing the swell down the coast, had a lot of strong winds associated with it, making it a challenge to make the call where to go. We studied the conditions early morning and decided to go for it even though there was a light wind blowing. Sometimes you can wait for days for perfection, but half the fun is about the adventure and you never know what you may find unless you go. After 30 minute of getting the jet skis, boards, wave skis etc all ready to go, we were cruising our way out of the harbor. After a quick bumpy ride up the coast we checked a couple breaks and decided to check a below sea level reef slab that breaks about a mile off shore. Sure enough with the low tide and building swell, there were a couple fun pits to be had.
I towed my partner Eric into a couple nice glassy runners for an hour and then when we switched I opted to give the wave skis another shot in some solid, steep, fast racing pits. Ever since I tried the wave skis a month earlier, I really wondered how they would handle in ledgy fast waves with the obvious consequence of getting plowed and going over the falls with skis on. deep in my mind, I know it’s possible to get a tube with these skis, it’s just how big and can they hold an edge at high speed without blowing up??
This time I was better prepared with biodegradable liquid soap to slip my feet into the tight ski boots. Skis on, life vest and ski poles; hand me the rope, I’m ready to do some major R&D. Eric throttles the ski and pulls me out of the water to the outside, where we wait patiently for a set wave. A couple minutes later, I’m up and gliding into my first bowl of the day. It’s all about getting your timing right with the way the wave hits the shelf or shallow reef. The speed i get from the whip of the jetski puts me in perfect position and I arc a sharp turn down the face, followed by another arcing bottom turn under the lip of the wave. The high speed takes me a little further past the tube section, but gives me a good idea where I can bleed some speed to set up better for the next wave. “What a rush”.
I kick out in the safety of the channel and grab the rope as Eric passes by me and we zip back out for another. Every wave, I get better and better at managing my speed and control over the ever changing conditions. The light onshore wind leaves a slight crumble on the lip making it hard to get a clean tube, but still smooth enough to get some great rides. The great thing about this wave, is that it breaks perfectly almost in the same spot every time and if you miss time the right bowl section, you can still turn hard Left and ride it out the other way. like a perfect A frame.
After about 15 waves, my confidence is peaking and I start to get a little too comfortable and thats when mother Nature gives me a good slap in the gut. I whip into this wide set wave and let go of the rope a little too early making me too late to make the section and as it closes out, I decide to ride around the exploding lip and get gassed where the white water takes my feet out from under me and knocks the wind out of me. I can’t tell you how hard that hit me, but I felt like I could only squeeze a breath in and out of my lungs the size of a ping pong ball. My skis still on my feet ; I lay floating in a little ball catching my breath for a good 5 minutes.
I got off pretty lucky, laughed it off and grabbed the rope to keep my sanity in check. If you don’t get back on the horse, sometimes that might be your last ride. Eric towed me into a couple more waves and every time after a ride, he would sling me into the next wave on our way out. We call this move, the inside whip because you can arc the ski towards the in coming wave and do a super sharp turn whipping the rider into the face, giving the rider a burst of speed banking into the lip straight into a bottom turn. It’s a huge thrill and if your timing is on, you can almost get every wave in a set.
An hour and 25 waves later the wind started blowing a little stronger and we all decided to call it a day. it was a great full day of hard wave skiing R&D and it gave me a new found respect for the unknown which I can’t wait to explore and push further on the next swell.
A big thanks to Eric for towing me into so many waves, to Mike Jones for shooting photos and to Jason Starr and the McDermatt brothers for custom shaping these great wave skis.
Here’ s a look at the new custom big wave skis that the McDermatt brothers shaped for me for the 50′ ft ++ days for next Winter season. Stay tuned…..
Last year I competed in the SUP surf event which was part of the Kayak Surf Festival in Santa Cruz at Steamer Lane and the waves were knee to waist high, making it very challenging to really showcase the sport of SUP surfing. This year’s event had a solid swell forecasted to hit during the event and build on the final day.
I had spent the last couple weeks training for the Catalina Crossing SUP race where I was going to team up with Byron Kurt and paddle our new Hobie Unlimited board, but after looking at the forecast I made some last minute arrangements because I really wanted to get the chance to SUP surf Steamer Lane with some solid size and really give a good showing for the sport.
I drove up early Thursday morning and arrived in Santa Cruz at 6 am and took a short 3 hour nap. Restless, I ate some breakfast and picked up some new race and SUP surf fins from The Rainbow Fin company which has been my sponsor since the early 90′s. I always love going in there and talking shop and seeing what new creations Schad has designed for me for SUP, tow surfing and kiteboarding.
Shortly after, I drive up to the event site at Steamer Lane to test out a couple of my new short Hobie SUP surfboards and make sure I have everything dialed before contest time the next day. The waves were double over head on the sets with a spread out crowd, making it easy to catch a couple waves and get warmed up. Later that evening I drove back to the Broome’s house where I was staying and enjoyed a nice home cooked meal, hot shower and passed out within seconds of hitting the bed.
I woke up super early and drove up to the event site to secure a parking spot and see what the swell was doing before my heat. The swell was still holding double over head, but there was a slight bump in the water from the high tide and the waves refracting off the cliff walls. I wanted to ride my Hobie 8’8 but decided at the last minute to ride my 9’9 mini gun, for stability and the ease for catching waves. We had to wear helmets because of liability reasons, which took a little getting used to because of the muffling sound on the ears and if you fell and had to punch through a wave, your head felt like it would just float off your shoulders.
We had 20 minutes with 5 guys in a heat, so it was important to get a good solid opening ride to set the pace and then keep building on that as fast as you could. The waves were pretty perfect and every now and then you could catch one that would have a South bend to it that would race all the way around the corner for over 100 yards through to the inside. At the blink of an eye the heat was over and you always wished you had one more wave, but when its almost perfect you just have to go with the flow.
The first round of the SUP division was over for the day, so I drove up the coast with good friend Peter Trow and met up with photographer Jarrett McPeek to take advantage of the swell and get some shooting in. We found a nice Right hand point break that had a couple big set waves rolling all the way to the inside with no one out. We suited up and paddled up to the top of the point to see what we could find. The swell was a little raw and unorganized, making it slightly challenging to connect one all the way to the inside. Peter and I traded a couple fun waves along with several close outs which made for some fun paddling. A couple hours later the wind started to work its way down the coast, so we called it a day and got some lunch.
After a small nap, I met up with Dave Broome and a couple of my good friends who own and run Caution kites out of Santa Cruz and went up the coast for a kiteboarding session. The wind was blowing a steady 20-25 mph with good waves and a pretty big crowd: but when your kiting with the local boys, the crowd seems to always disappear. I have to admit that my kiteboarding was a little rusty, but after an hour of battling the crowd in the waves, it slowly came back. I always love changing it up on the water, no matter what the conditions are.
After a full day of nonstop adventure, I went to a BRBQ at one of Dave’s friends house up in the Santa Cruz mountains where they had built an insane mini moto dirt bike track in the front yard. It was pretty awesome to watch the boys terrorize each other as they raced around the track and every couple laps one of them would come flying off the track just short of taking themselves out. Dave let me try out his new 110 around the track. It has been a long, long time since I last rode a dirt bike and after a couple laps, I was hooked. That’s all I need, is another sport to escort me to the hospital even quicker. ha ha. Much respect, I will stick to the water for now…..
The next day our heats started mid morning with a slight drop in swell, but great conditions. I rode my Hobie 8’8 Stinger swallow tail quad which worked insane for driving down the line with speed and doing quick round house snaps in the pocket. Riding this board makes me feel like I’m surfing my short board. I worked my way through that heat, just milking every wave to the inside with as many tight turns as possible. Everyone was surfing really well, which made for some stiff competition.
The next day, they ran the semi finals and then the finals. I was super stoked I made it to the finals. The swell started building and just before our final heat, sets were hitting the outside middle peak with 10′-12′ ft faces pealing perfectly through Indicators. The tide was on it’s way up, making it great conditions for a good final. Everyone was surfing out their heads and with only 20 minutes, every second counted. After each wave, I would kick out and paddle as fast as I could back to the top of the point. The waves would peal so long that you had to force yourself to kick out. It was really tough to tell who was going to take it because everybody kept getting really good waves. The horn sounded and the heat was over. We all congratulated each other with big smiles on our faces. Sharing waves with 3 guys at the Lane was pretty sweet.
I was very fortunate that all my hard work paid off and I was able to defend my title one more time. Congrats to Zane Schweitzer 2nd, Michael Roberts 3rd and to Peter Trow 4th for really pushing the level of competition in the event. It was really great to see guys like Zane Schweitzer, Sean Pointer, and Dan Gavere pushing the short board style to the next level. Everyone has such a unique style and it will be exciting to see where the sport is next year.
I want to thank Surftech for another great event at the Lane and to all the competitors for pushing the sport. I want to thank Dave and Sarah Broome and Rainbow Fins for a great weekend in Santa Cruz and a huge Thank you to all my sponsors Hobie, Ocean Minded, kialoa paddles, Dakine, Rainbow fins, O’neill wetsuits, Reactor watches, Watermans sunscreen, H2o Audio, OnIt extreme cream, Monster paint traction and my family for your support in making this trip possible.
Photos by Jarrett McPeek
I can remember when I was growing up, drawing those huge perfect waves with a surfer that looked like a tiny ant in a massive tube on my binder at school. Back then it was only a dream and now we are doing it. Like Dave Kalama, I grew up skiing and as I got older started racing and competing in the Extreme Free skiing events. I lived and skied in Squaw Valley, Ca and was fortunate to make a good living traveling and competing, filming and getting photos in the magazines. I learned to surf at 13 years old and started to compete windsurfing shortly after. I spent many early season months before Winter training; living on Maui, Hi and got into the big wave scene surfing, kite boarding and tow surfing. I found that the combination of skiing steep lines and jumping cliffs in the back country really helped me with riding big waves.
back in the later 90′s my good friend Shane Mc Conkey, world Champion free skier and base jumper and I were always talking about exploring the idea of taking water skis out into the big waves in Hawaii and skiing the waves like we do the mountains. In 2000, I got a pair of custom jumper water skis and while living on Maui, got the opportunity to tow into a couple big waves and experience for the first time what I had always dreamed about. The skis were a little too big and boxy, which made them hard to turn; but they could glide for a couple hundred yards with ease. I knew it was more of a stunt; something fun to explore, been there, done that kind of thing; so I moved on.
Earlier this year, free skiers Mike Douglas and Cody Townsend spent 6 weeks on Maui trying several different types of water skis on the waves and really pushed wave skiing to the next level. They had been working with Wave ski builder Jason Starr, who designed several styles of wave skis that really worked well in riding and turning on the waves. they had found that using ski boots with ski bindings mounted to the skis really helped control the ski while edging and turning at high speeds.
Shortly after, I spoke with Jason Starr about giving it another try in bigger surf and in February got a box with 2 pair of Starr wave skis. I mounted some old Salomon race bindings and grabbed a pair of my old ski boots and ski poles and waited for the next swell to give it another go. With the great El Nino Winter we were having, I was not sure if in late March we would see anything big enough to give the skis a try. Finally a small north west swell with warm weather was forcasted to hit over the weekend.
I rallied up the Saemen brothers and Eric Akiskalian with surf photographer Rob Keith for a trip up North in hopes to explore another reef slab that had not been surfed for the last couple years because of windy conditions. Mother Nature, once again shut us down with strong outer water wind conditions, so we decided to drive North to find something more sheltered by the winds that still had a little size.
2 hours later we found ourselves setting up the jet skis and suiting up for a full day of exploration on the water. After a twenty minute jet ski drive down the coast we found a small liquid mountain of a wave that broke off a shelf and peeled right and left into a small bay. The wind had shifted, making the ocean surface a little bumpy, but at this point I was determined to try the skis, no matter what. I quickly unpacked the skis and poles and wrestled my ski boots on, which nearly killed me because I forgot to bring soap to make it easier to slip my wet feet into those concrete shoes. I placed the skis down in the gunnel of both sides of the ski and carefully clicked my boots into the bindings. I grabbed the rope and jumped in the water. What a weird feeling it was just floating in the ocean with skis on my feet; as if I had just fell off the chairlift or something…..
Eric started up the jet ski and pulled me out of the water, so I could get used to the glide and see how these things really turned. Finally a mid sized set wave rolled in and he whipped me into the peak from the side and as I let go of the rope I skated across the liquid surface edging lightly, keeping my speed so I could make it through the inside section, kicking out safely in the channel. That was so weird but so challenging, it was addicting. Eric whipped the ski around me and I gripped the rope and we took off back to the outside in search for another moving mountain.
Every wave I caught, the more comfortable and playful it was carving and gliding deeper into the bowl section. Using the ski poles really made it easier to control my balance and keep my body and hands in a natural position like snow skiing.
On one of the bigger set waves, I can remember dropping into the pocket and watching the wave just start to run on me and as I carved back to the shoulder, the white water just engulfed me like an avalanche and I just leaned hard on the tails of my skis and after a couple seconds of blindness, I shot out like a cannon and glided into the channel. I had a couple close calls like that, but luckily never had to take any nasty beatings. The bindings on my skis were race bindings that had a super high din setting (binding release setting), making it just about impossible for the skis to come off even if I got caught by the lip and thrown over the falls. For that reason, I kept within my comfort zone and slowly pushed it more and more as my confidence got better.
Everything was going well, then as I kicked out of a wave, I noticed that one of my skis felt super squirrelly as if I had broken the tail off. I had lost one of the trailing fins from the tail of the ski that helps it track in a straight line. I dropped into another wave, but could not keep the ski in control and decided to count my blessings and regroup for another day of swell in the future. We packed up all the gear and we slowly made our way back up the coast, stopping off at another fun slab for a couple lucky tubes before heading in. My goal, is to get a tube with the wave skis in the near fand this is the place to do it.
I want to thank and dedicate this adventure blog to long time friend and visionary, World free skiing Champion and base jumper, Shane Mc Conkey. “You are and always will be one of my biggest inspirations”.
I also want to thank Jason Starr, Mike Douglas and Cody Townsend for breathing new life in this great new challenge and I look forward to where we take this…..
Thanks to Eric and the Saeman brothers for your support and to Rob Keith for all of the great photos. Robkeithphotos.com
Stay tuned for more crazy adven
Shortly after coming home from my family ski trip up in Lake Tahoe; I received a message that the Kui Kaika big wave SUP surf event at Makaha was going to run that following Monday. It was Saturday morning and I had to still book a last minute ticket, pack boards, make some calls to friends on the West side about a place to stay and above all, make sure my wife was ok with me pulling another disappearing act for another 3 day adventure. Sure enough I got the green light and everything fell into place by that night.
Up at 3 am Sunday morning, quick breakfast shake, hugged my dog, kissed my wife and out the door to the airport like Casper the ghost. I parked at long term parking, unloaded my SUP boards and crossed my fingers that the shuttle guy wouldn’t have a heart attack at the sight of my oversized board bag. The funny thing was, that the board bag wouldn’t fit into the shuttle door. I couldn’t help to laugh, but then got kind of nervous. How the heck am I getting this monstrosity to the airport?? Only a mile a way; I could run with it over my shoulders?? Just then the driver says, “no worries, I will open the back window”. That was pretty lucky… Next stop, playing Russian roulette with the ticket counter attendant with my oversized board bag. Lucky again; I just lifted it up like it weighed 20 lbs and nearly blew my shoulder out.. ha ha.
Travel now a days is totally different. I can remember way back traveling with all my windsurf gear to Hawaii etc. with a 10 ft windsurf board bag that carried 3 wave boards and a surfboard then another huge gear bag filled with masts, booms and sails etc. both bags weighing well over 100 lbs to where you could only drag them on the floor and only having to pay $125 for both. Now a days, you have to cross your fingers in hopes of getting a nice ticket agent that doesn’t give you the run around about opening your bag and counting boards etc. I have been lucky more times then not and found that a super big smile accompanied by the yes sir, yes ma’am attitude works pretty well.
A quick 5 hour flight and I arrive on Oahu, grab my boards and call my good friend Craig Davidson who is a Lifeguard on the West side as well as a stuntman, waterman and one of the most humblest guys I have ever met. We drive back to the West side towards Makaha and I was shocked to see how small it was. The forecast was calling for a solid 15 ft NorthWest swell to start filling in by the evening. As we passed Makaha, the waves were only 2-3 ft; kind of hard to believe that by this time tomorrow the swell would be pumping, but that’s what Hawaii is known for. I quickly got settled in at the Davidson property, met the family, had a bite to eat and set up my boards. Craig and his daughter walked me across the street, down a path to the ocean where he showed me a couple spots in the sharp volcanic reef to dive in with my SUP board and paddle down to the point at Makaha. I watched the waves for a while and decided it was too small to SUP, so I just paddle surfed on one of his short boards till dark. By the end of my session, you could see a couple pulses of the new swell starting to show. I was pretty burnt out from traveling, so shortly after dinner it was lights out for me.
Craig and I woke early the next morning and checked the surf in front of his house. There was definite swell, but still on the small side with a couple good sized sets a little on the inconsistent side. We drove down to the beach and met up with some of the local Makaha boys and competitors to see what the call was going to be about running the event. It was great to see everyone; kind of a who’s who of the Hawaiian water world, like Brian Kealana, Mel Puu, Archie Kalepa and Robby Naish to name a few.
The swell had turned a little North which made it look as if the swell was slightly missing the point with sets toping out at 8-10 ft, still not big enough to give the green light for the event. Glen Mancata of Quiksilver had to make a tough decision and after talking with several of the guys at C4, they all decided that the swell was too small and wait till next year. It was an unfortunate call, but what can you do?? I watched a couple solid sets roll through the point with strong off shore winds and only 3 guys out. I was pretty fired up to say the least, so we ran back to the house and got ready for a long day on the water. Sun screen and a full belly, ready to rock!! I walked across the street and made my way up the reef to study the conditions and look for a safe way out. It was pretty intense to watch the sets march in way up the coast and with in a minute or so it would just light up in front of the reef making it impossible to even think of paddling out. I must have run out to the jump off spot on the reef and back at least 10 times because the sets kept coming.
Finally, a break in the action and I tip toed across the jagged reef for my last time and plunged into the deep blue paddling for the horizon like an olympic swimmer. Safely outside the impact zone, I paddled down to the top of the point and waited for a set. There were only 3 of us at the top of the point and a handful of guys surfing the West bowl. Looking up the coast, I could see another big set starting to hit the reefs on the way down so I paddled out about 20 yards and waited. Sure enough the dark liquid mountains formed perfectly just outside of me. Rule number one; never take the first wave of a set with a building swell because the next couple waves are always bigger. I stroke over the first 2 waves and quickly spin around and aim for the West bowl. As I paddle into the wave, my board speed increases and I start to glide down the face, pumping past every section with more and more speed. The wave starts to bend hitting the West bowl section and I attempt to rebound off the lip, turning back going left and get completely swallowed and driven to the bottom. Still griping my paddle, I get pulled like a torpedo towards the beach and finally break the surface gasping for air. i take 2 more waves on the head and paddle on my stomach towards the safety of the channel. What a rush! what a wave! back out for another I go.
Within the hour, the swell really starts to pulse and fill in with a couple solid 12 footers and bigger. Paddling back out was as good as riding the wave because you could watch all your friends take off deep racing for the channel and sometimes fighting the close out with some great wipe outs. It couldn’t be more perfect; light off shores, hot and sunny with a building swell and only a handful of the best to share the day. Every hour, there was a changing of the guard and a new crew of guys would shuffle into the line up. Later Aaron Napolean joined me at the point and pulled into a bunch of insane close outs with the biggest smile on his face. By mid day he and I had the line up to ourselves for an hour just trading wave after wave. The water patrol sat in the channel on their ski all day, making rescues and pulling us out of the pit every time one of us would got hammered by the end bowl. Later the off shore winds really kicked in heavy making it almost impossible to drop into the wave. One of my worst wipe outs of the day was when I paddled into a solid set wave and just as I was making the drop, the wind picked up the board and hung me on the lip, flipping me side ways, free falling, backwards into the pit. I can remember floating for the longest time wondering when I was going to hit and explode. I wore 3 more on the head and got plucked out of the soup by the guys on the ski, who applauded my crazy effort in flight.
By 3, the wind had increase dramatically and my beaten body was running on empty. I caught the next wave in and ran back to the house to refuel. it’s amazing how long your hungry body will hold out when the waves are good. After a little nap and a huge lunch, I joined Aaron Napolean and the boys at the beach for a beer and listened to Mel Puu and Ekolu play their ukuleles. I wanted to go back out for another evening session, but after 6 hours of good waves and beatings I was pretty content to just sit and chill. That night Craig’s wife cooked a great dinner and then I slowly melted into the pillows for a long, uninterrupted sleep.
The next day the swell had dropped, but still pushed a couple solid sized sets through the morning. I decided to try my new 8’8 Hobie stinger, swallow tail quad and see how it worked with a little of the leftover Hawaiian juice. I got a couple really fun waves off the point that connected with the West bowl and reformed into a really fast racy left. The board really worked well, making super tight turns and rebounding off the section with ease. As the swell slowly faded, we all camped on the middle peak connecting long rides all the way to the beach.
After another great 4 hour session, I joined Sam Pai and his friend for some good Kalbi plate lunch and then a cool drive up the coast to the end of the road. It was great to get a first hand look at some of the hidden beauty and history on the West side. When traveling any where in the world, it’s really important to respect the locals, their way of life and the hidden beauty that makes it so special. “Respect, enjoy and leave it as you found it so that some day you can come back and do it all over again’.
Later that afternoon, I packed up all my boards for my flight back home and enjoyed playing with the dog and watching Craig show is daughter the simple pleasures of flying a kite. I can remember back when I did that with my dad, it was the coolest thing ever.
This West side adventure was truly a special one; making new friends, enjoying great surf with some of the worlds best and exploring some of the hidden gems the West side has to offer. Many thanks to Craig and his wonderful family for sharing their paradise with me and to all the Makaha boys for all the great waves and friendship and to my wife and sponsors for your support in making these adventure possible.
Aloha to all and check back for many more adventures coming soon.
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe
This year has been a nonstop, last minute, traveling roller coaster; chasing swells, snow storms, competing, training and working with sponsors. It has been one of those dream years with endless swell for the last 5 months with no end in sight.
Sometimes you get so immersed in the moment and forget to slow down and spend quality time with family, loved ones and old friends. So I decided to take some time and go to Lake Tahoe to visit my mother for her 73rd birthday and see my sister’s 8 week old son William and of course spend some time on the ski slopes with old friends.
I packed my truck like a boy scout, ready for anything; skis for the snow, tow boards incase the swell got big on the way home, kites and kite board if it got windy and of course my SUP board. As usual, I started driving just before midnight because I can’t stand wasting daylight driving when I could be doing something athletic outside. I arrived in the parking lot of Squaw Valley just as the mountain opened Monday morning. I totally miss this place and it’s great to be back at my old stomping grounds. I grabbed my skis and took a couple runs to warm up to my new ski boots and eased into the ski state of mind. Mid afternoon, I met up with long time friend and ski photographer Hank DeVre and Tom Wayes to get some fun afternoon, late light ski shots in.
“It’s funny, no matter how long you’ve been away from a sport, your memories and mind set are like you never left, but your muscles and confidence are telling you a different story. Sure enough, the reality of new boots and not skiing every day like in the past, took it’s toll and I couldn’t get to the bottom fast enough to get them off. “slipping on a pair of running shoes after that nightmare was sheer ecstasy”.
Off to my sister, Janet’s house on the lake to see my new 8 week old nephew William and visit for a while. It’s so awesome to see my little sister all grown up. I would just get lost staring at William’s eyes and watching him squirm and make funny faces. It’s amazing how perfect his fingernails and eyes were and how jealous I was of his new ligaments and joints; what I could do if I had those again….. ha ha … My sister and her husband cooked a nice dinner and shortly after I was left snoring on the floor next to the fireplace.
I woke up early the next morning to work on the computer and had a nice breakfast with the family. Shortly after, I called to wish my mother a Happy birthday and told her I was still in Hawaii and would not be able to see her for another week. I could tell she was a little bummed out, but happy to hear my voice; which went exactly as I had planned. An hour later I met my sister and surprised her at her house. She was soo happy and completely beside herself. We celebrated with a bottle of champagne and plenty of good laughs. I am so lucky to have such a great loving family.
By mid day the sunny blue sky milked over with the new arriving snow storm. Mom was content to finish some work at home and I raced back to Squaw for a couple hours of free skiing as the snow started to fall. Nothing like storm skiing in the trees. That evening my sister prepared an awesome birthday dinner for mom at the house. My mother still blows my mind how well she skis, windsurfs and stand up paddles at seventy three years young. I hope to follow in her footsteps for as long as possible.
The snow dumped all night and by morning we had 8″ at the house and 18″ on the mountain. I hooked up with Hank deVre and free skier Myles Clark for a morning of shooting. It was a game of peak-a-boo sun light, where the sun would pop out of the clouds for about a minute to shoot and then it would start to snow and then clear up again and so on etc. It’s very trying on your patience as you watch all your friends do laps around you in the fresh powder all morning, but in the end you get the goods.
Around lunch time the clouds made it challenging to get a good shot and we decided to free ski for the rest of the day. Myles and I took the KT22 chair up and hiked up to a steep peak called the Eagles Nest which is a 120 ft vertical rock wall that needs to be caked with a Sierra cement snow pack (wet snow) that sticks to the steep rock walls to be skiable. At the top of the peak, you will see a beautiful black, welded steel Eagle that was put up there last year in honor of Squaw valley’s Shane McConkey; (worlds best free skier and base jumper that was killed in a ski/base jump accident in Italy March 26th 2009)
Shortly after a couple laps on the KT chair, I ventured over to the Headwall chair that was closed all morning do to avalanche control. The snow was pretty insane and after a couple laps down the face and and the Bell Towers, I was lucky to make it on the chair one last time as they closed it behind us because of a major ski accident. We were pretty shocked as we looked to our left off the chair to see about 15 people huddled around someone that had fallen through the jagged cliffs on the lower Bell Tower section. Growing up skiing in Squaw Valley, you always see injuries, but when it’s in an area that only the best usually ski; you hope and pray that it’s not anyone you know. The ski patrol closed off all sections leading to that side of the mountain, so we skied down the face and decided to pack it in for the day. I met up with Hank at the corporate office to see about the next days shooting plans and got word that the injured skier was CR Johnson who had died in the accident up on the hill. We were completely shocked and sick to our stomachs because we had just seen them in the lift line the run before. How could that be? Why? Does not make any sense; all these questions pop into your head and there are no right answers. Another fallen Squaw Valley ski hero who had pushed his slope style aerial skiing into the back country free skiing world. It was and is a sad day for the ski world.
That night was a tough one, good to be with friends and family. Live life to the fullest because life is very precious and you never know what will happen. Be happy, make a difference and make sure to stay close with friends and family.
After a long night of deep thought and prayers for his friends and family, I awoke to sunny, clear blue skies. It was a perfect day to ski powder with CR and enjoy Gods wonderful gift of life. This was a perfect day for shooting at Squaw Valley because there were still a couple parts of the upper mountain that had not opened the day before do to avalanche control. Hank deVre and I met Myles Clark at the top of Squaw at the Silverado chair, where he was scoping a couple cliff drops in the canyon. There was plenty of untracked powder everywhere, so we each picked a couple zones and went to work. Myles stomped a beautiful landing in the trees off a nice 40 ft fall away cliff wall and shortly after, I carved a long drifting turn down a spine drop off into the valley floor. It’s a humbling trip to get back on your skis after a 2 year break and just send it off a rock and hold your composer in the air and stick your landing safely. It was great to ski with Myles and watch him work lines in the cliffs and it also gave me a good act to follow which boosted my confidence back to the way it was when I was skiing every day.
It’s always a pleasure to work with photographers like Hank because we both know each others style and what it takes to get the best shot and in turn he brings the best out in me. We take the chairlift back up and scout a couple more lines on the high traverse where we find a variety of powder turns and rock drop offs. Time passes so quickly when your having fun and sure enough we had milked this run for all it’s worth. It was 3:30, “quiten time” and I still had an 8 hour drive home to tackle; so I said my goodbyes and went to my sister’s to pack up and meet my mother for a quick bite.
After a great steak dinner with mom, I downed a large coffee and started my 8 hour drive back home to Dana Point. Talk radio mixed with Rap music and a couple Monster energy drinks and I was home by 4 am.
As I reflect back on these past few days; I am so thankful to have such great friends and family that have enriched my life. Life is short, be happy and make a difference.
Stay tuned for my last minute trip to Makaha for the Kui Kaika big wave SUP surf event.
Just when I get used to being at home, sure enough another swell is set to hit Hawaii where “The Sunset Pro” SUP big wave event was on call to start the next weekend. I pack a couple 9’9 Hobie SUP mini guns and a duffle bag full of gear to stay for 10 days and made arrangements to stay with my good friend Sean Jenson and his family on the North shore. Leaving my family for more then a couple days is always hard, but I’m very fortunate to have a strong understanding wife that makes it easy for me to stay focused and do these last minute adventures while holding down the home front.
Traveling last minute these days is a lot more of a pain then it used to be and now I find it takes some major creativity when it comes to traveling with a couple board bags. I used to just throw a big smile and a little small talk and half the time, I wouldn’t even get charged; but now it’s a gamble on who you get at the ticket counter and how good you packed your 2 SUPs and paddles in one bag etc… ha ha
A quick 5.5 hour flight to Oahu and I meet up with Dave and Meg Chun from Kialoa paddles and Blane Chambers of paddle Surf Hawaii SUP boards for a nice local style lunch and a couple laughs. Early the next morning l paddled out for a couple hours at Sunset to get my boards dialed before the trials event started later that day. “The Sunset Pro” SUP trials were blessed with 8′-10′ ft glassy perfection. It was pretty impressive to see all the different styles of big wave riding and how the new young generation is really pushing the sport. The clear stand outs of the event were 17 year old Kai Lenny, 12 year old Riggs Napolean and 15 year old Slater Trout who won the trials. After the event finished mid afternoon, several of us paddled out for another super fun session till dark.
Up early with the roosters for another great clean 8′ft morning SUP session at Sunset with Robby Naish, Dave Kalama and kai Lenny. We all shared some fun waves all morning and as the late morning crowd thickened we respectfully paddled in for some food. My favorite thing to do when I’m hungry, is ride my bike to Teds Bakery and get a tuna sandwhich, drink and a chocolate Haupia pie for desert and kick it on the beach while checking the surf.
While waiting for the new swell to arrive, I kept myself busy, paddling every morning and afternoon, went for mountain bike rides, swam, body surfed and and ran the beach every day. I even got to join Bonga Perkins and Billy Watson and a friend and paddle the 4 man outrigger (surf canoe) into a couple waves at Sunset and cammy’s. You have to take advantage of the warm tropical weather, when your in a wetsuit all Winter at home.
finally the swell started to fill in Tuesday evening and by Wednesday morning Sunset was 15′-18′ ft and almost closing out. The Sunset Pro SUP big wave event was on. I paddled out with a handful of paddlers to get a crack at a couple big West bombs before the first heat started. Every so often, a set would close out the channel taking out a couple paddlers to the beach and an hour later, only 3 of us were left standing. It was awesome trying to figure out where to position yourself and wait for the bombs without getting steam rolled. My last wave in, was a lucky late air drop on a pretty big set that pealed all the way across the channel almost connecting with the Left at Cammy’s.
The event ran 3 heats of the first round before calling it off, “due to challenging, dangerous conditions”. I guess some of the competitors got pretty beaten up and pounded by the waves with a hand full of broken boards. I was pretty ticked off to say the least because this is what many of us trained for and dreamed of; to showcase the sport of big wave SUP surfing in some of the biggest, challenging waves you could ask for. We traveled so far, now we had to sit and wait for a smaller more manageable day, while the first 3 heats got the chance to compete and show their big wave skills, completely unfair…………
We spent the rest of the afternoon towsurfing at Backyards and Phantoms and called it a day. sure enough the next 2 days were super windy and stormy, so Jamie Mitchel and Billy Watson and I motored to the West side for some cleaner fun conditions at Makaha. We were blessed with 6′-8′ ft surf and only a handful of guys in the line up. Always a good adventure on the west side.
Woke up early as usual and rode my bike down to check the conditions and see if the event was on at Sunset . The conditions were still pretty messy and the swell had dropped to 8′-10′ ft and with the swell dropping the next couple days the event had to go today. It was a total buzz kill to think how good we had it, but sometimes you just got to go with the flow. The waves were all over the place and you really had to be at the right place at the right time. it was anybodies game. The judges wanted to see you ride the biggest waves yet the small ones were the only ones connecting through to the inside and the bigger sets would just mush out with a couple lucky ones connecting inside. The heats were 30 minutes which went by pretty fast. In my heat posted up outside picking off a couple good sized sets but they never connected and finally I got a good one where i made a couple good turns and did a snap in the bowl section thinking I could ride it out, and dug a rail and got plowed. I noticed that Bonga and the others were sitting more inside getting smaller but good rides and that’s what made the difference. That was pretty frustrating and my worst heat ever; but you have to loose to win and hopefully I got that out of the way for next time. That’s where racing is so much better; first man across the line wins, no politics. etc….. ha ha.. just have to take it with a smile!!! The one thing that really put a smile on my face, was watching my Hobie team mate and good friend TJ Saeman surf so well making it all the way to the semis. Congrats to him and all the other great athletes that really represented the true watermen style so well.
Now, back to paradise and the finer things in life; hanging at the Jensen family house on the hill with the Saemen brothers….
The next morning, the Saeman brothers and I enjoyed some really fun Sunset and got a couple fun ones at Backyards and then early afternoon drove to the South shore to hang with friends and SUP in Waikiki. For how crowded the beach was, we got waves everywhere. Later I hooked up with the brothers and Candice Applebe and friends and had a couple cold ones at the Sunset pro after party at Lu Lu’s. It was one of the most hilarious nights of people watching with the Saeman brothers I could remember. It’s amazing what a little alcohol does to some people.
I love early mornings like this when everyone is hungover and your the only one up and on it. I went for a fun early paddle at Sunset and then caught a couple lefts at Cammy’s and bodysurfed the shore break for a while. A quick ride to Ted’s Bakery for some pastries and maybe a pie, just kidding and then back to the house to see if anyone was actually moving. sure enough the brothers were up making breakfast and talking story about the nights escapades.
It was our last day before going back home and checking in with the reality of the real world. I packed up my boards and bags ready to leave for the red eye that night and then we all went down to Sunset for a surf and some last day R&R.
Another great adventure where I challenged myself and put all my hard training to work to enjoy some solid size surf, compete with great watermen and make new friends. Many thanks to my sponsors and to the Jensen family for sharing their beautiful home in paradise and to Ted’s bakery for all the chocolate Haupia pie…..
stay tuned for another adventure with friends and some more new challenges coming soon……..
We have had our Newfoundland dog for about 3.5 years and never had a chance to take him to the snow. With snow reports showing 5′-7′ ft of new snow in the local mountains, it was time for my wife and I to take the wooly mammoth to the mountains. It’s pretty awesome to watch your dog explore new things, especially when he was running through the deep snow and he kept bottoming out.
A dogs life is pretty good.
After a great day of deep powder, storm skiing, I joined the boys for an early morning wave hunting mission up to Central coast in hopes of getting some good waves on the tail end of the big storm. The rain had finally passed and the storm swell was starting to clean up as it slowly dropped over the weekend. When we got to the harbor, we packed a variety of boards (tow boards and a couple mini SUP guns) ready for a full day of fun. The harbor entrance was closing out completely, so we had to zig zagged our way through a couple set waves to open ocean.
We worked our way up the coast to our favorite deep water slab and noticed that the waves were totally washed out with a heavy bump from the storm. We sat and watched several set waves totally close out and explode into the shelf; making it look unridable, but we decided to give it a go anyway. There was too much water moving as the set wave hit the reef and it was impossible to find the tube, let alone get a clean wave with a good ride.
I caught a hand full of undesirable rides with a couple heavy punishing beatings, trying to find the barrel. After one of the Saemen brothers hit the reef with his back, we decided that it was not worth pushing ourselves to where someone might go to the hospital and we called it a day. With a quick jet ski ride back to the harbor, we were back on the road down the coast hoping to score some better waves before dark. Two and half hours later, we found ourselves perched on the rocks at little Rincon watching double overhead waves break through the pier with only 3 guys out. We all rushed to get our suits on and made the mad dash for the beach. The paddle out was a bit challenging trying to time the sets for a long flat spell; but a good 10 minute grind through some good close outs got the heart pumping again.
We all managed to get some really fun long waves and every now and then one of us got stuck on the inside battling the close out section for a while. It was a good session to see how far i could push my little 8’6 SUP in some solid juice. The board paddled a little slower then my bigger boards, but when you got into the wave, it really lit up like a short board, drawing nice sharp turns and handling speed with ease. Just before sunset, I caught a really nice set wave that wrapped all the way down the point and on my last turn, decided to kick out to catch one more and got steam rolled by the next wave, snapping my leash. “I got greedy and paid the price with a nice long swim in.” ha ha…
As luck would have it, a surfer grabbed my board before it hit the rocks and all was good. We packed up once again and watched another beautiful sunset on the ride back home. I may have made the wrong call to go up the coast, but in the end we scored a perfect point break with only a couple guys out and that’s what a good adventure is all about.
“Sometimes a trip may not go as planned, but if you just go with the flow, you always will have a good time.”
We have been plagued with 4 days of torential rains, wind and heavy waves and of course some great low elevation snow. I hooked up with long time friend Dave Reddick of Powder magazine and drove up early Friday morning to enjoy a good Southern California powder storm day. It was pouring rain all the way to the canyon entrance and as we made our way up the mountain road the rain turned to snow at around 3,ooo ft. I couldn’t believe it; we were an hour and fifteen minutes from home by the beach and it’s dumping snow like an epic winter storm in Colorado.
We cautiously climb the last couple miles to the ski area parking lot and are the first ones there. The great thing is that Mt Baldy is a small family run “mom & pap resort” which is rare to see these days, especially here in Southern California. Who would have thought. As we pull up to park, we see a huge piston bully tractor pushing snow to clear the small parking lot and to top it off he parked his truck with the lights on to light up where he was going. Kind of classic.
I want to thank Dave and company for a great day. It was a great last minute trip, with friends to enjoy another one of Mother Natures gifts and a great reminder of how much I miss skiing and the beauty of the mountains. “Life is funny, just when you get in a groove or a routine where everything is safe and cozy, you get an opportunity to go back and do something you lived for in the past and you find that love for it again and wonder why you ever stopped doing it.” It’s a humbling yet refreshing reminder of how lucky we are to enjoy what we all love to do.
” So get out there and get back to living and enjoying Mother Natures Rainbows.”
This El Nino season has been a busy one with strong consistent swells hitting Hawaii and the West coast almost every week. The hardest part, is choosing the right location to catch the swell and most of the time we have made the call within a couple hours of leaving. This swell was no different; after studying the swell and wind charts, we were still up in the air because every site had a different call on what the winds were going to do. We put our heads together and decided to roll the dice and go with our gut feeling and if it was wrong, we were ok with that.
A couple hours of packing the boat, loading the skis, food etc; we were off into the night with our thumbs crossed. The conditions were a little rougher then the last go out, but still manageable. We woke with one hour to go to partial foggy skies with a little wind chop out of the south. A couple rain squalls passed with super strong winds and as they passed the seas would turn calm again.
Finally, our first site of the reef bank, showed a couple rolling mountains capping with some good sized sets, but due to the high tide, not really doing it justice. We motored around for an hour and decided to wait it out. The wind and rain came and went making for challenging seas to just sit and wait, so we decided to slowly motor one way for 45 minutes and then motor back. Motoring in one direction kept the boat from rocking back and forth and making anyone sea sick. We passed the time watching a couple movies and eating with one eye always peeled at the ocean. By mid afternoon, we passed through a big rain squall and the wind switched slightly out of the South East, grooming the ocean with a slight manageable texture.
We could see a lot more white water off in the distance and with only 3 hours of sunlight left, we quickly got our wetsuits on and skis ready to unload as we motored back to the reef. The ocean still had a little bump on it, but every 2nd wave of the set was super clean, so we decided to tow in and make the most of what little time we had left. You had to be pretty selective due to the wind bump, but every now and then a really nice set would come our way with a nice fast inside race track through the West bowl. We rarely let any waves go by and every now and then paid with a good beating on the inside trying to out run the West bowl.
We had a solid 2 hours of really fun waves and then the onshore wind really kicked in hard making the waves pretty bumpy and blown out. The seas really got rough, so the captain decided to keep the boat moving with the swells while we patiently loaded all the skis back on the boat safely. Once everything was strapped down and secure, we continued our journey South of the boarder to check another set of reefs that might be protected by the wind. The captain motored all night and through part of the morning until we hit one of the off shore islands we had been looking to surf.
Sure enough after an hour of rounding the island and checking each point and cove we found a wave that was breaking on an outside reef and on the bigger sets, would peel all the way to the inside of a cobble stone beach. the wave needed less tide, so we decided to anchor and eat lunch and slowly get our paddle boards together for an afternoon session.
After lunch, the tide got lower and the wave started peeling from the outside section all the way through to the in side. The outside peak still had a bump on it from the wind making it a little challenging for stand up paddling, but when the only crowd in the water is the crew you came with, it’s all good.
We paddled for a couple hours and towed into a few before dark, before loading everything up for the long haul home. the captain motored all night and we arrived back in the safety of the harbor late the next morning. Some adventures go as planned and others are a crap shoot, but if you plan for the worst, it always ends up better.
A big thanks to the captain for keeping us safe and being understanding when we wanted to wait out for better conditions. In our case, patience, paid off even though it was a small swell.
keep posted for what Mother Nature throws my way….