North Shore “Sunset Pro 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

Blane Chambers showing me his training secrets to riding Hawaiian Juice.

Blane and his daughter and Dave Chun, full bellies and happy..

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.

Aaron Napolean giving words of encouragement to his son, Riggs who stole the show"

Casey Trout and the Paddle Surf Hawaii crew watching as Slater wins his last heat of the day.

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.

My kind of lunch break. "so good, you could have 3"; and the Haupia pie, done already.........

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.

Always good fun paddling the 4 man canoe in the surf with the boys. Thanks Bonga..

enjoying the view above Sunset and backyards after a good mountain bike ride.

A view of small Sunset from the hill.

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.

catching a bomb on the morning of the Sunset Pro SUP event.

A perfect day to test the true watermen of the sport.

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.

Looking back at the top of the point at Makaha.

hitting the West bowl section and having fun...

I always love hanging with these guys.. Really great watermen. Billy, Jamie and I at Makaha

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.

Sunset Pro SUP final day

frustrated with the conditions and my choice of wave selection, but all in all it was fun.

Congrats to Kai Lenny for surfing so well and winning the Sunset Pro

Now, back to paradise and the finer things in life; hanging at the Jensen family house on the hill with the Saemen brothers….

Sean Jensen, singing his favorite Hawaiian love song.... ha ha

nothing like wild bore at your finger tips. ha ha

You always have to take time to smell the flowers. ha ha

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.

Waikiki

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.

You know your on the North shore when you see these flags.

What an awesome fun group of friends to enjoy the North shore with.

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……..

“Wade” first snow adventure

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.

Too much fun with mom.

Ok, kind of tired already and what a great way to cool off....

on a mission

what a stud..

ok ready for a nap...

Powder one day, fun swell the next.

going on a mission, might as well take it all......

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.

sets were closing out the harbor entrance.

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.

The one that got away.

no where to go

looks are deceiving....

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.

what a fun line up

fun juice for my 8'6 SUP

banking off the top

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…

alway fun to kick out with some speed.

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.”

Another epic sunset to cap off a great wave hunting mission...

So Cal storm Powder day

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.

snow was dumping on the way up the hill to the mountain.

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.

who needs snow plows, when you got old faithful.

family operation with a lot of snow to clear before the masses hit the slopes.

it was just dumping snow. I get the same stoke when the offshore winds start to blow with a new swell in the water.

This is the warming hut and ski patrol office at the base of the mountain. "kind of cozy"

they had to dig out the chair by hand for a couple hours and finally got rolling mid morning.

so stoked to get steep and deep so close to home; it's been 15 years since i last skied here.

it was dumping all day and reminded me of skiing a good storm day at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

frozen Southern Cal pine.

riding the chilly old slow wooden bench seat chair to the top. I think my butt is pretty numb by now......

Dave Reddick of Powder magazine shooting deep pow, storm shots.

It's been 2 years, I can't believe I still remember how to ski or at least keep from hitting the trees. ha ha

nothing like really getting back into the swing of things after about 10 turns. ha ha

Low elevation snow covering century plants and cactus on the way home.

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.”

“A Lucky window,” Cortes Banks, take 2

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.

West bowl runner.

one of the few inside West bowl waves that had a nice pocket.

This pilot buzzed by us several times, checking the waves.

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.

I got a lucky set that connected from the outside and raced through the west bowl.

racing the bowl section

Bryce laying down a nice gouge.

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.

so close, yet so far away. still motoring.. "are we there yet?"

it's always exciting when you find a new wave and get the chance to surf it.

Another treasure of surf exploration.

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.

getting ready for a good paddle session.

nothing like a good game of cat & mouse.

Days end.

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….

jet lag swell chasing

early morning glory....

Still buzzing and a little jet lagged from a great trip to North Carolina; I hurried home from the airport while on the phone pin pointing where it would be best to catch the last day of the swell. After a quick pit stop at the house, a little quality time with my family and I was back on the road headed North to meet up with fellow photographer Dave Puu. Dave’s artistic vision brought us to a secluded cobblestone point just before sunrise.

All suited up, with my 8’6 Hobie SUP and kialoa paddle; I quickly navigated my way through the  6′-8′ ft pounding waves just as the sun started peaking over the coastal mountains. The strong offshore winds and the golden glow of the sunrise made every wave look like a priceless work of art. The long period swell made the big sets inconsistent enough to squeak back out before the next series of waves came marching in. The great thing about stand up paddling is that you can see sets way before they get close and then you can chase them down like a hunter, picking off the best one of the bunch. The angel of the swell was so perfect that you could get some rides down beach over a hundred yards long.

After 3.5 hours of nonstop surfing and paddling, the wind turned onshore enough for us to call it a day and get some food and move to another location with a better protected point at low tide. A quick bite and a half hour of scoping waves, we found ourselves scoping a couple dredging rock point breaks a half hour South. The swell was hitting these uncrowded points perfectly. The only thing making it questionable was that the wave would hit the shallow sand bar and bowl into a racing, dredging sand barrel about 1o’-15′ ft off the rock wall. One mistake and you were getting a rock tattoo.

one mistake and your rocken it!!

dropping into the sandy wedge

Nothing like a different kind of challenge to fuel the fire of another adrenaline rush. I paddled out along the rock wall studying the waves as they peeled by. As i got to the top of the point, I caught the last wave of a 5 wave set and barely made the air drop, high lining it in the pocket and just escaped getting denied at the end bowl. What a rush!! i paddled out with a little more confidence and decided to wait for a bigger set. Before I could even pause another wave reeled my way. I quickly turned my board down the face, sliding into the pocket with ease as it hit the inside shallows I could see the roof of the wave close over me, pumping as fast as I could go, I blast out of the first section about to kick out, but I roll the dice and push on back dooring the next sand bowl and find myself trapped with no place to go. The end bowl slams the door tight spitting me into the rocks. I gain my footing on the shallow sandy bottom only to delay the inevitable. I pull away from the rocks and try to dive under the next wave and get smashed on the bottom, breaking my paddle in my hands. Luckily there is a break in the waves and I gather my garage sale together and paddle on my stomach to the safety of the deeper waters. “wow, what a great way to experience both sides of the spectrum and still get away with minor bruises. I humbly paddle inside and call it a lucky day.

locked inside.

uncrowded perfection

Always the best way to end an epic day of surf.

“Nothing like exploring the good and the bad and walking a way with a smile.”

2nd annual Cold Strokes Classic

leaving warm California for the East coast.

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.”

Nothing like a frozen fountain

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.

going over some paddle technic before hitting the icy waters of North Carolina

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.

Polynesian fire dance at the opening ceremony.

“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…..

Kialoa team mate Karen Wrenn, sharing the love..

Elite race start.short course racers about to start.

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.”

Racers paddling under the first bridge of the race.

on the way to the finish line.

Byron Kurt, 1st place Elite finisher "Team Hobie"

Team Hobie stoked on the East coast.

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…

Aloha…

The Day After (swell chasing)

I was still buzzing from my Cortes Banks 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……..

offshore and empty....

I called my good friend, renowned surf photographer Dave Puu as I was driving into Ventura around 5:45 am . He never misses a sunrise with a swell in the water. We met up at one of the local beach breaks to check the conditions of the surf and 5 minutes later had a game plan and hit the road. When shooting with Dave, your always searching for artistic perfection and when the conditions don’t seem to be all time, you  still hit the water knowing that Dave’s keen eye always finds the magic.

from Cortes Banks to freight train heaven.....

home sweet home...

So many tubes, i still can't sleep... ha ha

We checked a couple more spots and finally settled on what I call “the studio”. Surf was a couple feet over head with a bone chilling 15 mph offshore breeze. I suited up and grabbed my 8’6 Hobie SUP board and hit the water. We worked a dredging Right handed sand bar that offered up a couple long draining spitting tubes with it’s fair share of close out beatings. Three hours later we were ordering breakfast at The Cajon Cafe exchanging stories of the morning goods and setting up for the afternoon plan of attack.

With the tide dropping and the swell slowly on the decline; we took a gamble and headed South towards Malibu. The boys shared a local low tide sand spit that throws a backwash wave into the in coming set creating a super steep, square , grinding, wedge of a tube that peels right down a rocky point. Dave suited up and swam out with his water camera to get a different view of the action. We managed to beat the crowd and score a couple really fun back wash bowls before the welcoming comity swarmed the peak.

setting up for the take off was super challenging, but well worth the rewards..

We dried off and headed South once again checking several points on the way and finally stopped shortly before sunset at a small point beach break. Nothing really enticing to motivate the crew, so they called it a day as Dave and I contemplated one more go out in hopes of capturing some of the mystical sunset that lit up the inside section of the point. I quickly raced down the rocky cliff and paddled out catching wave after wave as the sun slowly set behind the dark ominous clouds. I rode my last wave in  with the biggest smile on my face, knowing we had scored once again finishing the day with another epic sunset. There’s nothing more satisfying then hearing Dave say “that we really killed it today”. “What a great way to end my 48 hour wave crazed treasure hunt.” I packed up my truck, said my goodbyes and started my long journey home.

still going...

epic shore break closeouts.

what a great way to end the sleepless wave marathon....

Home at last; my wife, my dog, a hot shower and dinner and the rest is history……

Stay tuned to another wave filled adventure coming soon…..

Cortez Banks Dream paddle session

"It has always been my dream to come back and paddle this wave, what a great feeling to be here".

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.

bringing all the right equipment is so important because you never know what you will find...

So much prep work goes into making a trip like this happen. Loading the skis at 1 am.

We are so fortunate to have a great friend like Tim Ditty take us on his beautiful boat; all packed and ready...

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.

Getting some much needed rest on the way out to sea..

first light as we pass one of the islands 50 miles out.

A magical sunrise over the Pacific with 4 hours to go.

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.

Adrenaline pumped and ready, we unloaded the skis to take on the day...

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, too small to tow, but perfect for a full day of paddle. TJ and Bryce Saemen study the line up..

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.

Adrenaline pumping the butterflys out of my system as I drop into my first wave of the day..

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…..

everyone was super stoked to be there..

The offshore winds add to the beauty and the challenge.

Pushing my SUP gun over the ledge, what a rush......

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.

What a great ending to one of the best paddle adventures of my life.......

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………

Christmas Ride

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy holidays on another great Southern California Day in paradise……..

Having grown up celebrating Christmas with the family up in Lake Tahoe; I sure miss the White Christmas living in Southern California, but the alternatives are endless…

Mountain biking is one of the best ways to really push your training up a notch especially after  eating all the cookies, chocolates and Christmas goodies. I went for a great Christmas ride with good friend and Team California outrigger paddler, Thomas Shahinian. A perfect crisp, clear day with a light breeze, making for awesome riding conditions in the back hills of San Clemente. I love riding back here because all the single tracks are maintained by the riders and there are several bridges, great climbs and fun tight down hill runs.

Thomas hoping it doesn't break.... ha ha

Some bridges where long and super sketchy...

great riding all over this place..

I have learned that you always check yourself for ticks after every ride; you don't want the sickness....

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