Category Archives: Tow surfing
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…..
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
Just when I get used to being at home, sure enough another swell is set to hit Hawaii where “The Sunset Pro” SUP big wave event was on call to start the next weekend. I pack a couple 9’9 Hobie SUP mini guns and a duffle bag full of gear to stay for 10 days and made arrangements to stay with my good friend Sean Jenson and his family on the North shore. Leaving my family for more then a couple days is always hard, but I’m very fortunate to have a strong understanding wife that makes it easy for me to stay focused and do these last minute adventures while holding down the home front.
Traveling last minute these days is a lot more of a pain then it used to be and now I find it takes some major creativity when it comes to traveling with a couple board bags. I used to just throw a big smile and a little small talk and half the time, I wouldn’t even get charged; but now it’s a gamble on who you get at the ticket counter and how good you packed your 2 SUPs and paddles in one bag etc… ha ha
A quick 5.5 hour flight to Oahu and I meet up with Dave and Meg Chun from Kialoa paddles and Blane Chambers of paddle Surf Hawaii SUP boards for a nice local style lunch and a couple laughs. Early the next morning l paddled out for a couple hours at Sunset to get my boards dialed before the trials event started later that day. “The Sunset Pro” SUP trials were blessed with 8′-10′ ft glassy perfection. It was pretty impressive to see all the different styles of big wave riding and how the new young generation is really pushing the sport. The clear stand outs of the event were 17 year old Kai Lenny, 12 year old Riggs Napolean and 15 year old Slater Trout who won the trials. After the event finished mid afternoon, several of us paddled out for another super fun session till dark.
Up early with the roosters for another great clean 8’ft morning SUP session at Sunset with Robby Naish, Dave Kalama and kai Lenny. We all shared some fun waves all morning and as the late morning crowd thickened we respectfully paddled in for some food. My favorite thing to do when I’m hungry, is ride my bike to Teds Bakery and get a tuna sandwhich, drink and a chocolate Haupia pie for desert and kick it on the beach while checking the surf.
While waiting for the new swell to arrive, I kept myself busy, paddling every morning and afternoon, went for mountain bike rides, swam, body surfed and and ran the beach every day. I even got to join Bonga Perkins and Billy Watson and a friend and paddle the 4 man outrigger (surf canoe) into a couple waves at Sunset and cammy’s. You have to take advantage of the warm tropical weather, when your in a wetsuit all Winter at home.
finally the swell started to fill in Tuesday evening and by Wednesday morning Sunset was 15′-18′ ft and almost closing out. The Sunset Pro SUP big wave event was on. I paddled out with a handful of paddlers to get a crack at a couple big West bombs before the first heat started. Every so often, a set would close out the channel taking out a couple paddlers to the beach and an hour later, only 3 of us were left standing. It was awesome trying to figure out where to position yourself and wait for the bombs without getting steam rolled. My last wave in, was a lucky late air drop on a pretty big set that pealed all the way across the channel almost connecting with the Left at Cammy’s.
The event ran 3 heats of the first round before calling it off, “due to challenging, dangerous conditions”. I guess some of the competitors got pretty beaten up and pounded by the waves with a hand full of broken boards. I was pretty ticked off to say the least because this is what many of us trained for and dreamed of; to showcase the sport of big wave SUP surfing in some of the biggest, challenging waves you could ask for. We traveled so far, now we had to sit and wait for a smaller more manageable day, while the first 3 heats got the chance to compete and show their big wave skills, completely unfair…………
We spent the rest of the afternoon towsurfing at Backyards and Phantoms and called it a day. sure enough the next 2 days were super windy and stormy, so Jamie Mitchel and Billy Watson and I motored to the West side for some cleaner fun conditions at Makaha. We were blessed with 6′-8′ ft surf and only a handful of guys in the line up. Always a good adventure on the west side.
Woke up early as usual and rode my bike down to check the conditions and see if the event was on at Sunset . The conditions were still pretty messy and the swell had dropped to 8′-10′ ft and with the swell dropping the next couple days the event had to go today. It was a total buzz kill to think how good we had it, but sometimes you just got to go with the flow. The waves were all over the place and you really had to be at the right place at the right time. it was anybodies game. The judges wanted to see you ride the biggest waves yet the small ones were the only ones connecting through to the inside and the bigger sets would just mush out with a couple lucky ones connecting inside. The heats were 30 minutes which went by pretty fast. In my heat posted up outside picking off a couple good sized sets but they never connected and finally I got a good one where i made a couple good turns and did a snap in the bowl section thinking I could ride it out, and dug a rail and got plowed. I noticed that Bonga and the others were sitting more inside getting smaller but good rides and that’s what made the difference. That was pretty frustrating and my worst heat ever; but you have to loose to win and hopefully I got that out of the way for next time. That’s where racing is so much better; first man across the line wins, no politics. etc….. ha ha.. just have to take it with a smile!!! The one thing that really put a smile on my face, was watching my Hobie team mate and good friend TJ Saeman surf so well making it all the way to the semis. Congrats to him and all the other great athletes that really represented the true watermen style so well.
Now, back to paradise and the finer things in life; hanging at the Jensen family house on the hill with the Saemen brothers….
The next morning, the Saeman brothers and I enjoyed some really fun Sunset and got a couple fun ones at Backyards and then early afternoon drove to the South shore to hang with friends and SUP in Waikiki. For how crowded the beach was, we got waves everywhere. Later I hooked up with the brothers and Candice Applebe and friends and had a couple cold ones at the Sunset pro after party at Lu Lu’s. It was one of the most hilarious nights of people watching with the Saeman brothers I could remember. It’s amazing what a little alcohol does to some people.
I love early mornings like this when everyone is hungover and your the only one up and on it. I went for a fun early paddle at Sunset and then caught a couple lefts at Cammy’s and bodysurfed the shore break for a while. A quick ride to Ted’s Bakery for some pastries and maybe a pie, just kidding and then back to the house to see if anyone was actually moving. sure enough the brothers were up making breakfast and talking story about the nights escapades.
It was our last day before going back home and checking in with the reality of the real world. I packed up my boards and bags ready to leave for the red eye that night and then we all went down to Sunset for a surf and some last day R&R.
Another great adventure where I challenged myself and put all my hard training to work to enjoy some solid size surf, compete with great watermen and make new friends. Many thanks to my sponsors and to the Jensen family for sharing their beautiful home in paradise and to Ted’s bakery for all the chocolate Haupia pie…..
stay tuned for another adventure with friends and some more new challenges coming soon……..
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….
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…………
When you don’t get the big waves at home, you have to go find them. Anytime the buoys are showing 15′ ft or bigger with light to offshore winds, I’m out the door on a mission.
my phone is ringing off the hook and I’m glued to my laptop studying weather and wave models on the internet to make sure I know where to go to get the best conditions and the best waves. Sometimes it’s a gamble, but that’s what makes it an adventure.
On this particular swell, we had a ton of wind and rain moving down the coast, but there was a small window showing a break in the weather with promising conditions. My partner in crime, Eric from Towsurfer.com and photographer Fred Pompermyer.
We left at 3 am in poring rain and wind all the way up the coast and about an hour from our final destination the weather broke and everything got super calm. We had our sights on a mini slab that always gets super good with a West swell.
We got to the boat ramp, set up the skis with rescue sleds and packed our tow boards and my SUP surf board and paddle, suited up and off we went. Conditions were so perfect, we couldn’t believe it. We got to the off shore slab wave and I will let the pictures show the rest of the adventure and yes, I took a good couple beatings this day; making it that much better.