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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.
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….
This was one of those special chaotic times where chasing big waves fell on the same time as a big SUP race. There was a pretty solid Winter swell hitting Hawaii with perfect conditions that I really wanted to chase at the same time as the “Cold Strokes Classic” SUP race that was put on by Jeoffrey Nathan, owner of Coastal Urge in Wilmignton, North Carolina. Kialoa, my paddle sponsor, was the title sponsor of the event and had asked me to fly out and help promote and race in the event as well as teach a paddle and race clinic.
I was torn because I really wanted to do both, but this was a great opportunity to help push the sport of SUP racing and meet a lot of the East coast paddlers who are driving the sport on the Right coast. I had heard that the weather was unseasonably cold with highs in the mid 30′s, so I packed like I was going on a ski trip; “kind of funny to be paddling when it’s cold enough to snow.”
I flew into Wilmignton, N Carolina Thursday night and met up with Dave and meg Chun, Owners of kialoa paddles and Jeoffrey and kat Nathan, Owners of Coastal Urge and visionaries of the Cold Strokes Classic paddle. We all went to a nice dinner and discussed our game plan for the paddle event and race clinic.
work is never done; now I know what writers cramp feels like. ha ha
The next day started with a great breakfast at the hotel with Meg and Dave and 2 box’s of SUP magazines and posters that Coastal Urge wanted me to sign to give away to all the races at the event. Around mid day we visited the Coastal Urge SUP store before going to dockside to set up the Kialoa tent and get ready for my paddle and race clinic. I was so amazed to see so many stoked people from all over, like Florida, S Carolina, new Jersey, Michigan and New England at the paddle clinic because it was so cold and windy. After a half hour of lecturing on paddle stroke and racing tips we all headed to the water for a good paddle. It was great to see everyone so pumped on paddling and eager to take it to the next level.
Later that evening all the racers gathered at the Dockside restaurant for the opening ceremony dinner where we were all treated to live music and a Polynesian fire dance. Shortly after, I showed a quick 10 minute SUP video that Chris Agular from “The Stand Up project” edited for me. and then we ended the night with some great music from a local live band.
“A good nights sleep and ready to roll for race day”. Another great breakfast at the hotel with all the racers and then off to the event site for an 11 o’clock skippers meeting. “Could it be any colder”?? 28 degrees out with a light North east wind, just perfect for a good day of paddling…..
I bundled up in work out leggings, sweat pants, wool socks, 5 mil booties, 2 breathable long sleeve shirts, thick gloves and a beanie. Not having my race board, I decided to paddle along side the recreational racers and share the stoke of racing. The Elite racers started their 7 mile paddle first and the recreational racers started their 3.5 mile lap shortly after. It was pretty awesome to paddle along side so many excited paddlers that were so stoked on the sport. I would paddle hard for a couple minutes shouting words of encouragement to the racers next to me and then I would stop take a couple pictures and paddle to the end of the pack, making conversation from one person to the next; back and forth, the whole time. It was great!! I can remember The huge smile on the last finishers face when he beat me through the finish line. “Paddling along side all of these super stoked people was so refreshing and it really opened my eyes on how lucky we are to be doing what we love to do.”
It was awesome to see my Hobie team mates “Byron Kurt finish 1st and Colin McPhilips finish 3rd behind good friend EJ in the elite race. “job well done, boys…” and a big congrats to Brandi for throwing it down for the ladies..
within a half hour of finishing the race, I was off to the airport to fly back and catch the swell hitting California. “Kind of crazy, but with the epic El Nino Winter we are having, it’s hard to let a good swell go.”
I really want to thank Jeoffrey Nathan and his wife Kat for putting together such an awesome, well run event and to Meg and Dave from Kialoa, for sponsoring the event and flying me over and to all the great East coast paddlers that I met paddling. And a huge thank you to my wife for holding it all together during my crazy travel schedule.
I hope to see you all the next time…
There is a fine art to chasing swell and no matter how prepared you are, Mother nature always throws you a curve ball. This years El Nino pattern has made it a busy swell chasing season, traveling to Hawaii, Oregon, Mexico and up and down the California coast. There is so much work that goes into being at the right place at the right time, but the pay off can be huge. Every swell episode starts with days of consistent studying of swell charts on wind conditions, storm track, swell direction, size of the storm fetch and weather pattern. I also spend hours on the phone getting more educated opinions from several of my weather guru friends and then put it all together at the last minute to pin point the best location to intercept the biggest swell.
Unfortunately this swell hit Hawaii on Christmas day, making it tough to get away; so I decided to catch the tail end of the swell when it hit the West coast. Our plan was to go up North because of the better wind direction and swell size, but we also had our eye on a couple other outer reef breaks that were closer to home, incase the wind switched in our favor. I spent Saturday afternoon packing my truck with all my SUP guns, paddle boards and tow boards; ready for an early morning departure. Just before dinner the phone rang with news that the wind conditions stayed favorable for the outer waters so I quickly called the rest of the crew to change plans and see if we could pull off a miracle and get our good friend’s boat ready to go that night. We couldn’t get a hold of the captain and decided to wait and make the call at midnight to either pack the boat for a 100 mile adventure at sea or drive up North.
Luck was on our side and by 3 am, we were on the boat fully packed with 2 skis, SUP guns, paddle guns, tow boards and a great crew of friends ready to take on the world. We had been waiting for this day for 3 years and finally we were on our way, crossing our fingers that our forecasting would pay off. I had made 3 trips out to Cortez in the past 6 years so this was a dream come true for me. We got a quick safety meeting from the captain “AJ”and good friend and boat owner, Tim Ditty; then decided to catch some much needed sleep as we motored through the night 100 miles out to sea.
Restless, I awoke a couple hours later to see the sun rise through the storm clouds that blanketed the glassy Southern California coast. With another 4 hours to go we cooked a quick breakfast for the hungry crew and tried to get another couple hours of shut eye. Hours later we all awoke to see the first views of the cloud break hitting the Cortez Banks. What a rush, we’re 100 miles out off the coast and perfect 12′-15′ glassy waves are pealing perfectly in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. We see another big boat and notice a couple other skis in the water; could only mean one thing, Team Billabong’s Big wave specialists Greg Long, Twiggy Baker and crew are here.
We rush to get our full suits on, stuff a couple energy bars and protein shakes down knowing it was going to be an all day nonstop session and get the skis ready to unload with the davit (crane) off the boat. We race out to the peak and to our amazement, see 8 guys sitting on their guns waiting for a set. It’s as we suspected; the Long brothers, Twiggy, Kelly slater, Peter Mel, Mark Healy, Nathan Fletcher and 2 others surfing the same dream session that we came to enjoy. After a half hour of scoping the scene, TJ, Bryce, Eric and I zip back to the boat and grab our paddle guns and I my SUP gun and join the fun. “It’s funny how small the world is when your chasing swell; we always seem to run into each other just about every big swell”.
The swell was still building and with 18-20 second intervals it started out pretty inconsistent making it very challenging to find the best place to wait for the sets. The shelf is about 12′-15′ ft deep in a quarter mile + circle and there are 3 distinct peaks that you can surf when the swell is pumping. Most of the guys sat on the last inside peak which we call the West bowl and a couple of us paddled back and forth between the North peak and middles. It was super challenging and took me a good hour before I caught my first wave going because i was too deep for the right. I got super lucky and managed to paddle back out through middles with out getting swatted by any clean up sets. Finally one wave under my belt, now I can relax a little.
The waves here travel about 30 miles an hour, about 5 miles faster then what we usually surf on the coast because the wave energy of the swell comes uninterrupted from super deep and then hits this shallow shelf full force. It’s a totally different kind of wave because when you first get into the wave, it starts out slopey and then when it hits the inside shallower section, it stands up and then just unloads shooting white water sometimes 50′ ft in the sky. When I would paddle for a wave, I would have to stroke super deep and fast to get my board up to speed just to get the glide going fast enough to make the drop because a lot of waves just passed me by like I was standing still.
At low tide there was a long flat spell where we all just sat around laughing and trading funny shark stories to pass the time. It was so cool to see how happy and relaxed everyone was; cheering guys on as they dropped into a bomb and hearing the stories after a great ride or wipe out, Truly Special…..
Later that afternoon, the offshore winds picked up a notch making it even tougher for me to make the drop, witch made for some pretty insane levitating air drops followed by a couple great deep ear popping beatings. One of my good friends, Eric from Towsurfer.com was running safety on the jet ski for us, which really helped everyone get back out especially after a big beating. About an hour and a half before dark, the sets started to pulse with a couple solid bombs. we milked the session as long as we could before going back to the boat to load up the skis for the long journey home. We loaded up, battened down the hatches, so to speak and slowly motored home. Tim prepared an awesome pasta and sausage dinner with his special salad that we all devoured in minutes. It’s crazy how hungry we all were in the middle of our session, but we never went back to the boat in fear of missing a good wave and it was all worth it.
After a good 6 hours of sleep, we finally entered the Harbor entrance and motored to the dock. We all powered as a well oiled machine and unloaded the boat faster then we loaded it 24 hours ago. Tim and the captain and crew were exhausted and all hurried home to catch the last couple hours of sleep before sunrise. I was still buzzing from my Dream trip and could not even think about sleep, so I zipped home, switched out a couple SUP boards for smaller surf, checked the buoys and decided to continue my SUP mission with a 2 hour road trip up North……..
A special Thanks to Tim Ditty for all of his support, photos and the use of his beautiful boat, AJ the captain and his first mate for making it possible and Eric Akiskalian for taking photos and running safety and TJ and Bryce for charging so hard and to my wife Susan for her patience and to my truck “The Road Warrior”…….
“The Day After” TO BE CONTINUED NEXT POST………
Ever since I got a couple Go Pro wide angle water proof cameras, I can’t help but take them with me every time I hit the water.
Today I went for a killer paddle outside the Dana Point harbor to enjoy the sunset and get a couple cool self portrait board mount shots.