I have been stand up paddling for the last 5 years traveling the world chasing waves, paddling long distance ocean channels and coastlines and racing. The sport of stand up paddling gives you such a great view of marine life as you stand on top of your board paddling through the oceans and lakes. I think that is one of the most intriguing beauties that makes stand up paddling so inviting. “You are your own captain of your ship, exploring the waters of the world”.
Ever since I have been stand up paddling, I have witnessed some unbelievable moments of mother Natures creations paddling in the ocean. I have had a Blue whale breech in front of me, startled a huge Marlin sunning itself on the surface, paddled along side dolphins, Grey whales, Whale sharks, Thresher and Mako sharks and in the last 2 years several Great White encounters.
For someone who rarely paddles in the ocean; this could be pretty scary, but for someone like me who spends almost every day in it, It is magic.
San Onofre beach has been known for hundreds of shark sightings; in my opinion because of the Power plant that sits just South of the beach park that uses the salt water for cooling and the warm water that flows back in attracts big numbers of fish and marine life and this coastline has been a known breeding ground for several sharks for over a hundred years.
For the last couple of years paddling that stretch of beach, many of us have had Mako, Thresher and Great White sharks swim under and around us while SUP surfing in the line up. The sharks have always been there; it’s just until now because we are standing up on our boards paddling, that we have a better view of what lurks below. Most of the sharks we have seen vary from 6′ to around 10′ in length with a couple rare sightings of 12′ and bigger. With a huge abundance of fish, these sharks are fed well and have only been curious of what else shares their waters.
It’s become a normal occurrence where someone has seen a shark just about every other day. The more you see them, the more comfortable you get which in turn can be a mistake, being that these kings of the sea are still very wild and unpredictable. In the past 2 years I have had some very long encounters where I have had a shark swim around me off and on for a couple hours. I would paddle around chasing down waves and like a puppy dog, it would be waiting for me just outside the surf zone. Kind of creepy, but it has always captured my own curiosity as well. It’s like being in Africa and stumbling across a lion or tiger in the bush or even fishing in Alaska and seeing a grizzly bear catching fish in the same river your fishing in.
I have always wanted to take a photo of these sharks that swim along side us, but every time I took my water camera with me, I would never see one. Then finally, after SUP surfing with a couple good friends one afternoon where we had a 7′-8′ shark circle us off and on for a half hour, I was determined to get a photo the next day. I rigged up an extension pole with one of the new GoPro HD HERO water proof cameras and paddled out on my 12’6 Hobie SUP race board to the same spot we saw the shark the day before and within 5 minutes there he was.
It was a little freaky because I was looking forward and as I was scanning the horizon I accidentally startled the shark which was just behind me and as it took off, it’s tail hit my board bringing me to my knees to keep myself from falling in the water. After a moment of confusion and clarity; I stood up and set up my camera rig to take photos. A couple minutes passed and shark was no where to be seen. I had blown my only opportunity to capture a rare moment and then he appeared about 4o feet off the nose of my board. I’m not quite sure if this was the same shark or a smaller one. He made a couple wide passes and then came pretty close to where I could follow him swimming past with the pole cam. I shot a couple shots and then changed the setting to Video mode and was lucky to capture a couple really cool clips of him circling before taking off. I paddled around searching for him and caught a couple more waves and paddled in.
Finally, I had some photos and video that I could study and share with friends. When I got home that night, my wife and I went over the photos and video and were blown away at what we saw. It was a 7′-8′ juvenile Great White shark that looked pretty Gurthy around his mid section. Totally stoked on my find, I put my video on Vimeo and posted it along with a couple photos on my Face Book to share with my friends. To my surprise; the next morning I was bombarded by phone calls and emails about the video.
I had no idea that this was so out of the ordinary because we see these sharks almost every day. I was completely shocked at the mayhem that ensued shortly after. The shark video went viral world wide and by the next day had over 1.2 million views. I was contacted by several Shark specialists and marine biologists along with the whole alphabet of world wide news like CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, you name it.
Long story short it has been a major learning experience for me with a lot of good and also some frustration. While most of the world seemed totally shark crazed and happy there were the few who didn’t approve. My mother and sister was one of them who made me realize that yes I was very lucky to come away from that experience alive and that perusing the shark is not a good idea. I also got an ear full from the local surf schools that were losing business because the parents saw the video and did not want to send their kids back in the water. I totally understand their frustration but can’t take the blame for filming something that has been going on for over 50 years. It’s basically what I call ” out of sight, out of mind mentality “. The video went world wide because everyone shared it and it turned into a whole new animal.
That being said, I have learned a great deal on how precious life is, our curiosity can, down the line get us into trouble, with every action there is a reaction, listen to your elders, and if your passionate about nature and life itself; be grateful and share it with everyone.
Words of wisdom – I was lucky and the next person may not be. Leave the shark exploring to the experts and divers of the world and Shark Week. Respect and protect nature and it’s surroundings from a safe distance and keep the ocean and our world clean.
Thanks for listening to another one of my eye opening adventures.
After a great weekend of SUP surfing and kiteboarding in Santa Cruz; the next morning I followed the swell down the coast and met up with Eric Akiskalian from Towsurfer.com and surf photographer Mike Jones of Azhiaziam.com for a mid morning tow surf session. After my first wave skiing session a couple weeks ago, I really wanted to see how these wave skis worked on a steeper faced wave that had a little punch to it. My optimal goal is to ride these skis in the tube; I just have to find the right wave with a good swell and smooth conditions.
The storm that was pushing the swell down the coast, had a lot of strong winds associated with it, making it a challenge to make the call where to go. We studied the conditions early morning and decided to go for it even though there was a light wind blowing. Sometimes you can wait for days for perfection, but half the fun is about the adventure and you never know what you may find unless you go. After 30 minute of getting the jet skis, boards, wave skis etc all ready to go, we were cruising our way out of the harbor. After a quick bumpy ride up the coast we checked a couple breaks and decided to check a below sea level reef slab that breaks about a mile off shore. Sure enough with the low tide and building swell, there were a couple fun pits to be had.
I towed my partner Eric into a couple nice glassy runners for an hour and then when we switched I opted to give the wave skis another shot in some solid, steep, fast racing pits. Ever since I tried the wave skis a month earlier, I really wondered how they would handle in ledgy fast waves with the obvious consequence of getting plowed and going over the falls with skis on. deep in my mind, I know it’s possible to get a tube with these skis, it’s just how big and can they hold an edge at high speed without blowing up??
This time I was better prepared with biodegradable liquid soap to slip my feet into the tight ski boots. Skis on, life vest and ski poles; hand me the rope, I’m ready to do some major R&D. Eric throttles the ski and pulls me out of the water to the outside, where we wait patiently for a set wave. A couple minutes later, I’m up and gliding into my first bowl of the day. It’s all about getting your timing right with the way the wave hits the shelf or shallow reef. The speed i get from the whip of the jetski puts me in perfect position and I arc a sharp turn down the face, followed by another arcing bottom turn under the lip of the wave. The high speed takes me a little further past the tube section, but gives me a good idea where I can bleed some speed to set up better for the next wave. “What a rush”.
I kick out in the safety of the channel and grab the rope as Eric passes by me and we zip back out for another. Every wave, I get better and better at managing my speed and control over the ever changing conditions. The light onshore wind leaves a slight crumble on the lip making it hard to get a clean tube, but still smooth enough to get some great rides. The great thing about this wave, is that it breaks perfectly almost in the same spot every time and if you miss time the right bowl section, you can still turn hard Left and ride it out the other way. like a perfect A frame.
After about 15 waves, my confidence is peaking and I start to get a little too comfortable and thats when mother Nature gives me a good slap in the gut. I whip into this wide set wave and let go of the rope a little too early making me too late to make the section and as it closes out, I decide to ride around the exploding lip and get gassed where the white water takes my feet out from under me and knocks the wind out of me. I can’t tell you how hard that hit me, but I felt like I could only squeeze a breath in and out of my lungs the size of a ping pong ball. My skis still on my feet ; I lay floating in a little ball catching my breath for a good 5 minutes.
I got off pretty lucky, laughed it off and grabbed the rope to keep my sanity in check. If you don’t get back on the horse, sometimes that might be your last ride. Eric towed me into a couple more waves and every time after a ride, he would sling me into the next wave on our way out. We call this move, the inside whip because you can arc the ski towards the in coming wave and do a super sharp turn whipping the rider into the face, giving the rider a burst of speed banking into the lip straight into a bottom turn. It’s a huge thrill and if your timing is on, you can almost get every wave in a set.
An hour and 25 waves later the wind started blowing a little stronger and we all decided to call it a day. it was a great full day of hard wave skiing R&D and it gave me a new found respect for the unknown which I can’t wait to explore and push further on the next swell.
A big thanks to Eric for towing me into so many waves, to Mike Jones for shooting photos and to Jason Starr and the McDermatt brothers for custom shaping these great wave skis.
Here’ s a look at the new custom big wave skis that the McDermatt brothers shaped for me for the 50′ ft ++ days for next Winter season. Stay tuned…..
Chuck’s Pre Race Nutrition
Pre race prep nutrition has always been very important to me, whether I’m racing, training, paddling long distance or SUP surfing; I always make sure I’ve fueled the machine.
During a normal week of training, I get all my nutrition supplements from Nutrition Zone and I have 3 stacked protein shakes a day, Blended ingredients – (High protein/carb matrix powder, glutamine powder, Amino acids, multi vitamins, fish oil tablets, 2 bananas, strawberries, blue berries, egg whites, Flax seed oil, bee pollen, honey, scoop ice cream and non fat milk) around 1500 calories each along with my regular 3 meals a day.
The day before a race is where I stretch and take it easy and boost my carb intake with pasta, potatoes, rice and bread. I also make it a point to over hydrate with lots of water all day long.
The morning of the race, I wake up early and have a big bowl of oatmeal and a protein shake. it’s really important to eat food that digests easily so that you don’t have a full stomach and get a cramp while racing.
An hour before the race, I will drink a high potassium, electrolyte filled pre work out shake and half a protein bar, followed with another 22 ounces of water. As long as I’m completely hydrated, I can paddle a 10 mile race without taking any water with me. If I’m paddling long distance like the Molokai crossing, I will eat a bunch of Hammer gels, drink pure coconut milk and have a bag of plain pasta or a carb/protein drink to keep me fueled for the long haul.
At the end of the race, I will run to the car and drink another high protein/carb shake and a bottle of coconut milk to help replenish my muscles and help with quick recovery.
I have this ritual that I share with another racing competitor “Thomas Shahinian” that after every race we both eat a huge piece of Claim Jumpers double chocolate cake and a tall glass of milk. I have a huge sweet tooth, so to me that is the same as an ice cold beer. ha ha
The most important thing to remember when choosing your pre race and post race nutrition; is to stick with what works for you and if you want to change and test other products, make sure you do it with plenty of time before a race, so that if it does not agree with your body, you can always go back to what worked in the past. Many times, racers will try something new while racing without testing it before hand and then they get sick or hit the wall or bonk because their body reacts differently then what it’s used to when your pushing it at a high level.
Train hard, eat often, remember to rest and on race day, never look back the race is in front of you, but always remember to smile when it’s over. Happy racing and I hope to see you on the water.
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
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe
This year has been a nonstop, last minute, traveling roller coaster; chasing swells, snow storms, competing, training and working with sponsors. It has been one of those dream years with endless swell for the last 5 months with no end in sight.
Sometimes you get so immersed in the moment and forget to slow down and spend quality time with family, loved ones and old friends. So I decided to take some time and go to Lake Tahoe to visit my mother for her 73rd birthday and see my sister’s 8 week old son William and of course spend some time on the ski slopes with old friends.
I packed my truck like a boy scout, ready for anything; skis for the snow, tow boards incase the swell got big on the way home, kites and kite board if it got windy and of course my SUP board. As usual, I started driving just before midnight because I can’t stand wasting daylight driving when I could be doing something athletic outside. I arrived in the parking lot of Squaw Valley just as the mountain opened Monday morning. I totally miss this place and it’s great to be back at my old stomping grounds. I grabbed my skis and took a couple runs to warm up to my new ski boots and eased into the ski state of mind. Mid afternoon, I met up with long time friend and ski photographer Hank DeVre and Tom Wayes to get some fun afternoon, late light ski shots in.
“It’s funny, no matter how long you’ve been away from a sport, your memories and mind set are like you never left, but your muscles and confidence are telling you a different story. Sure enough, the reality of new boots and not skiing every day like in the past, took it’s toll and I couldn’t get to the bottom fast enough to get them off. “slipping on a pair of running shoes after that nightmare was sheer ecstasy”.
Off to my sister, Janet’s house on the lake to see my new 8 week old nephew William and visit for a while. It’s so awesome to see my little sister all grown up. I would just get lost staring at William’s eyes and watching him squirm and make funny faces. It’s amazing how perfect his fingernails and eyes were and how jealous I was of his new ligaments and joints; what I could do if I had those again….. ha ha … My sister and her husband cooked a nice dinner and shortly after I was left snoring on the floor next to the fireplace.
I woke up early the next morning to work on the computer and had a nice breakfast with the family. Shortly after, I called to wish my mother a Happy birthday and told her I was still in Hawaii and would not be able to see her for another week. I could tell she was a little bummed out, but happy to hear my voice; which went exactly as I had planned. An hour later I met my sister and surprised her at her house. She was soo happy and completely beside herself. We celebrated with a bottle of champagne and plenty of good laughs. I am so lucky to have such a great loving family.
By mid day the sunny blue sky milked over with the new arriving snow storm. Mom was content to finish some work at home and I raced back to Squaw for a couple hours of free skiing as the snow started to fall. Nothing like storm skiing in the trees. That evening my sister prepared an awesome birthday dinner for mom at the house. My mother still blows my mind how well she skis, windsurfs and stand up paddles at seventy three years young. I hope to follow in her footsteps for as long as possible.
The snow dumped all night and by morning we had 8″ at the house and 18″ on the mountain. I hooked up with Hank deVre and free skier Myles Clark for a morning of shooting. It was a game of peak-a-boo sun light, where the sun would pop out of the clouds for about a minute to shoot and then it would start to snow and then clear up again and so on etc. It’s very trying on your patience as you watch all your friends do laps around you in the fresh powder all morning, but in the end you get the goods.
Around lunch time the clouds made it challenging to get a good shot and we decided to free ski for the rest of the day. Myles and I took the KT22 chair up and hiked up to a steep peak called the Eagles Nest which is a 120 ft vertical rock wall that needs to be caked with a Sierra cement snow pack (wet snow) that sticks to the steep rock walls to be skiable. At the top of the peak, you will see a beautiful black, welded steel Eagle that was put up there last year in honor of Squaw valley’s Shane McConkey; (worlds best free skier and base jumper that was killed in a ski/base jump accident in Italy March 26th 2009)
Shortly after a couple laps on the KT chair, I ventured over to the Headwall chair that was closed all morning do to avalanche control. The snow was pretty insane and after a couple laps down the face and and the Bell Towers, I was lucky to make it on the chair one last time as they closed it behind us because of a major ski accident. We were pretty shocked as we looked to our left off the chair to see about 15 people huddled around someone that had fallen through the jagged cliffs on the lower Bell Tower section. Growing up skiing in Squaw Valley, you always see injuries, but when it’s in an area that only the best usually ski; you hope and pray that it’s not anyone you know. The ski patrol closed off all sections leading to that side of the mountain, so we skied down the face and decided to pack it in for the day. I met up with Hank at the corporate office to see about the next days shooting plans and got word that the injured skier was CR Johnson who had died in the accident up on the hill. We were completely shocked and sick to our stomachs because we had just seen them in the lift line the run before. How could that be? Why? Does not make any sense; all these questions pop into your head and there are no right answers. Another fallen Squaw Valley ski hero who had pushed his slope style aerial skiing into the back country free skiing world. It was and is a sad day for the ski world.
That night was a tough one, good to be with friends and family. Live life to the fullest because life is very precious and you never know what will happen. Be happy, make a difference and make sure to stay close with friends and family.
After a long night of deep thought and prayers for his friends and family, I awoke to sunny, clear blue skies. It was a perfect day to ski powder with CR and enjoy Gods wonderful gift of life. This was a perfect day for shooting at Squaw Valley because there were still a couple parts of the upper mountain that had not opened the day before do to avalanche control. Hank deVre and I met Myles Clark at the top of Squaw at the Silverado chair, where he was scoping a couple cliff drops in the canyon. There was plenty of untracked powder everywhere, so we each picked a couple zones and went to work. Myles stomped a beautiful landing in the trees off a nice 40 ft fall away cliff wall and shortly after, I carved a long drifting turn down a spine drop off into the valley floor. It’s a humbling trip to get back on your skis after a 2 year break and just send it off a rock and hold your composer in the air and stick your landing safely. It was great to ski with Myles and watch him work lines in the cliffs and it also gave me a good act to follow which boosted my confidence back to the way it was when I was skiing every day.
It’s always a pleasure to work with photographers like Hank because we both know each others style and what it takes to get the best shot and in turn he brings the best out in me. We take the chairlift back up and scout a couple more lines on the high traverse where we find a variety of powder turns and rock drop offs. Time passes so quickly when your having fun and sure enough we had milked this run for all it’s worth. It was 3:30, “quiten time” and I still had an 8 hour drive home to tackle; so I said my goodbyes and went to my sister’s to pack up and meet my mother for a quick bite.
After a great steak dinner with mom, I downed a large coffee and started my 8 hour drive back home to Dana Point. Talk radio mixed with Rap music and a couple Monster energy drinks and I was home by 4 am.
As I reflect back on these past few days; I am so thankful to have such great friends and family that have enriched my life. Life is short, be happy and make a difference.
Stay tuned for my last minute trip to Makaha for the Kui Kaika big wave SUP surf event.
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.”