Name Chuck PattersonHome Dana Point, CAHeight & Weight 6’2 , 220 lbsEquipment: Hobie 12’6 Elite Carbon Race, 14′ Elite Carbon Race, 18′ Unlimited Elite carbon RacePaddle: Kialoa, Nalu & Shaka Pu’u paddle blades with custom 86″ stiff shaft.Additional: Rainbow Fin co. CWP Race weed fin 10″-12″, OnIt racing speed polish, Watermans sunscreen, Hobie sunglasses, H2O Audio waterproof Ipod music case & headphones, pre & post race nutrition by Nutrition Zone.
I enjoy training in rough, windy conditions on a shorter board then what I would use on race day. Long & short distances, sprints & down winders; I love challenging myself in everything.
Race training and for what kind of race? I like to train in the most challenging conditions, paddling a couple miles longer then the length of the race that I’m training for. I have found that training on a shorter, slower board before the race really helps me with conditioning, endurance and strength for those long races. I like to work in some sprint training and focus on getting into a good rhythm while under pressure because it’s good to be able to push yourself into 5th gear the last quarter of the race and be able to take some guys out and finish strong.Stroke technique and for what kind of race? I’m not very technical, but I have learned a lot about smooth and clean power strokes from paddling outrigger with Team California. I think it is important to have full extension with a clean entree and exit with every stroke of the paddle blade while delivering maximum power going forward. it also helps to have a couple different stroke speeds that you can use while racing; for example – a quick and short paddle stroke really helps keep the board speed up especially during the start of a race. Then, a good strong efficient power stroke that you can get a good rhythm with in the middle of the race and then finish strong with the quick & short stroke to the finish. Changing it up also helps me keep my muscles from cramping and sometimes even helps stretch it out with a longer stroke. Always remember when going hard on your strokes, to dip the blade deep before you deliver the power to your stroke, otherwise your wasting valuable energy and power.
Cross training? Anything in the water; surfing, SUP surfing, prone paddling, swimming, running stairs, mountain biking, and beach workouts along with a good gym routine and a lot of stretching and balance ball workouts. Keep it exciting so you never get bored and you are always challenging yourself so you are always ready for anything.Pre-Race planing and course management? I always make sure my training routine fits for what the race calls for. Make sure you always understand the course, possible changing conditions and what divisions or board class’s the race is offering to race in. I always make sure, my race boards and fins are race ready and that I have all my pre & post race nutrition and hydration packed for consumption and that my Ipod is charged and ready with good energetic music to race with.Knowing the conditions- weather, winds, tides- thoughts? I always look online to see what the wind, wave, tide and weather conditions are doing before and on race day. It can really help if you study the tide currents ebb & flow if the race course is inside a canal, harbor, river, inlet or bay because like in a river, there are always areas that flow slower etc. and in racing every bit of information can help in choosing the right line to the finish. Conditions also play a big part in choosing the right equipment on race day. The better you prepare yourself for every condition; the more energy you save for the race which makes for happy paddling warrior.
Preference in blades, paddle shaft, carbon vs. fiberglass vs. wood? I have been working closely with Kialoa paddles doing constant R&D on many different paddle blade & sizes that we keep evolving as the sport continues to grow. I have found, when paddling shorter race boards like the 12’6, that I like using the smaller narrower “Shaka Pu’u” blade which works great with the quick, short stroke rate and when paddling my 14′ or 18′ unlimited boards, I use the larger, wider “Nalu” blade, that works well in maintaining the board’s speed and glide in long distance paddling. When racing I always use a longer carbon paddle (86″) then when SUP surfing (82″) because you can get a better reach and the race boards are thicker, making you stand higher out of the water. When paddling into rough and windy conditions I will always use a shorter carbon paddle because your body position is more bent over to cut through the wind making it easier to stroke with a shorter paddle. I have used wooden, fiberglass and carbon paddle shafts and really like how much stronger and stiffer the carbon paddles feel, especially under full power whether racing, training or SUP surfing.Hydration- how do you hydrate for under 5, 10 ., over 10, over 30 miles? I hydrate several times during the day and night before the race and again in the morning of till just before the race starts. I have conditioned my body to go with out water for 10 miles, but anything longer, I bring a Dakine hydration pack filled with a mix of coconut milk and a couple endurance carb nutrition powders that really help in keeping my body fully hydrated and energized for long distances. Remember everyone’s body works differently, so when testing something new, make sure you do it a couple weeks before, so if your body doesn’t work well with it, you can still go back to what worked well in the past. Always remember, treat your body like a well oiled race car and you will go a long way…. Happy racing…
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.
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.”
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….
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.
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.
“Nothing like exploring the good and the bad and walking a way with a smile.”
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………
With “El Nino Winter” in full effect, we have had a great run of solid swell over the past 2 months and it keeps on coming. Not even back a week from chasing XXL swell in Hawaii and I’m off again for a quick 1 day road trip up the coast with friends. When dealing with chasing swells, your always making plans last minute making it super exciting because it’s always a gamble and you never know what your going to get.
We made the call last night at around 10:30 pm and were on the road 2 hours later with 2 skis, SUP boards, tow boards and paddle boards. We arrive at the harbor just before light; it’s 4o degrees out with a 20 mph smoking offshore wind and a building West swell. We suit up and do a quick 30 minute jet ski ride up the coast to a fun slab of a wave that breaks over a shallow swiss cheese reef shelf.
As the sun pops over the mountain range, the first sign of the swell pulses a couple gaping A-frame tubes over the shelf that spit like a fire breathing dragon. “It’s on”, with a quick scramble to tie off all the extra boards to an anchor, we race to the outside to pick off a couple sets. “This is what it’s all about; I feel like a kid at Christmas time”…….
it’s like a studio out here, with a couple photographers shooting off the ski and another swimming in the pit; it doesn’t get any better…. We all trade wave after wave, sometimes getting our clocks cleaned and sometimes getting shot out of the tube like a cannon. “It’s the best way to train because we all push each other to go deeper and in doing so, sometimes you cash in the fun tickets for a quick ride down the elevator shaft to the basement of the kelp forest”…. After a solid beating like that, you really feel alive and that is all part of the rush that keeps you going back for more….
40 spitting hallways and a dozen punishing car wrecks and I take a break and swim in the pit to shoot a couple water shots of the boys doing their thing. “It’s the best seat in the house”..It’s such a cool feeling to watch your friends charging and driving in the tube right next to you..
A good hour of swimming in the pit, fired me up to sling into a couple more bombs as the tide slowly dropped out. 4 skis in the water with no shortage of waves, kept the moral peaking all day. By mid afternoon, the low tide created huge staircases to launch off in the tube, making for some unbelievable entertaining rodeo rides. With 8 hours of fun under the sun; hunger and exhaustion set in and we called it a day.
The day ended with a huge feast at a local pub as we all reflected on the days treasure, exchanging stories of wipe outs and stand out tube rides. It’s amazing what punishment you can put your body through and still have a smile on your face. Another great successful stealth mission in the books and a big thanks to my friends who shared this epic day and to photographers Fred Pompermyer and Mike Jones
I have learned in the past, when making travel plans; “Mother Nature” always throws me a curve ball. Six weeks ago, My sponsor “Hobie” made arrangements for me to fly to Australia to help promote Hobie SUP boards and race in a series of down wind SUP races with my team mate Byron Kurt. Sure enough 7 days before I was to leave for Australia; a huge storm began to form just off Japan and after further studying the storm track and wave models, it looked to have all the characteristics of a perfect storm producing solid 60′ ft waves and light winds aimed straight for Hawaii. To make matters worse, I was on call to compete in the Jaws Tow surfing championships on Maui which was in the holding period and set to run on the next huge swell, condition permitting.
I had a tough decision to make and the clock was ticking. Either way, my sponsors were behind me; but I was gambling on speculation, so I decided to wait and see how the storm developed day by day. After 4 days of internet surfing; I decided to go with my gut feeling and fly to Maui in hopes of tow surfing, and possibly SUP surfing Peahi, “Jaws”.
I arrived on Maui with Hobie team riders TJ and Bryce Saemen and met up with good friend and photographer Tim Ditty. The Baxter family had a truck waiting at the airport and within 2 hours we were backing the skis in at Kahalui harbor to get a quick tow session in before dark with the new building swell.
After spending so much time in Maui back when I was competing windsurfing and kiteboarding; I was very fortunate to get to know the Baxter family who sponsored me in and took me in as a part of their family. I watched thier kids grow up and excel at every water sport imaginable. I grew very close to their son Connor who I treat like my little brother and help train to become a solid waterman every time I’m in Maui and now I stay with them every chance i get.
The next morning; Connor and I took TJ and Bryce out to Peahi “Jaws” with the skis to get them dialed before the swell was in full effect. We did a bunch of swimming in the pit and practiced pick up drills as well as drive the skis through the rock zones where lost boards can be picked up when the shit hits the fan on the big days..
That night we spent several hours getting all the boards ready and skis outfitted for an early morning assault. The word on the street was that this swell was so big that all the harbors were threatened to be closed to any boat traffic, so we made a plan to launch the skis an hour before sunrise to make sure our skis were in the water no matter what. That morning, our plan worked flawlessly and we drove the skis up the coast to Peahi “Jaws”. My adrenaline gets pumping the minute We round the last reef point and you can see the spray from the waves breaking at Jaws a mile a way. It was a bit nerve racking taking TJ and Bryce out for their first time because any mistake gets magnified x 10 and you are being watched by everyone. it was all about patience and baby steps for the Saemen brothers.
The morning started out slow because of the inconsistent swell, but by mid day we got into the groove and started getting some good sets and having fun. The swell was out of the West at 20-25′ ft hawaiian (40′-50′ ft faces)with light offshore winds. My boards were weighted pretty heavy which made a huge difference in making the bottom turn with the bumps and the speed to make the west bowl. By the days end, there were 3 to 4 skis and about 15 -20 boards washed up on the rocks.That night we were in bed by 7:30 pm and up at 4 am to do it all over again.
The 3rd day the swell dropped with sets still hitting 30′ ft faces and I decided to bring my SUP gun to give it a shot. You only live once, right!!!!! It was probably one of my heaviest big wave SUP sessions I have ever attempted because the swell was out of the West and 15 tow teams were still going. My first wave was pretty heavy with the bump and offshore winds holding me at the top and then finally pushing over the edge for the roller coaster ride of my life. I was leaning so hard on my bottom turn to hold an edge and just folded my paddle and exploded in an avalanche getting pulled like a torpedo hoping my leash didn’t break. It’s kind of funny when your getting ragged dolled under water; the more you fight the worse it gets and if you just relax, it seems to make the punishment more enjoyable..I caught one more and called it quits to fight another day with better conditions.
We towed for another 2 hours, got lunch and then I took Connor out on his newly weighted board until dark. he really excelled and after every wave, he always had the biggest smile on his face. It was really awesome to see so many new young guns charging so hard.
The next morning I SUP surfed with Dave Kalama, Jamie Mitchel, Slater Trout Kai Lenny and friends at Sprecks and finished with a great breakfast talking story; then we packed up the boards, cleaned and packed away the skis and flew on the redeye home.
I want to thank all my sponsors, friends and family that made this last minute water world trip possible.
Aloha and i hope to see you all in the water soon…………