Cortez Banks Dream paddle session

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

There is a fine art to chasing swell and no matter how prepared you are, Mother nature always throws you a curve ball. This years El Nino pattern has made it a busy swell chasing season, traveling to Hawaii, Oregon, Mexico and up and down the California coast. There is so much work that goes into being at the right place at the right time, but the pay off can be huge. Every swell episode starts with days of consistent studying of  swell charts on wind conditions, storm track, swell direction, size of the storm fetch and weather pattern. I also spend hours on the phone getting more educated opinions from several of my weather guru friends and then put it all together at the last minute to pin point the best location to intercept the biggest swell.

Unfortunately this swell hit Hawaii on Christmas day, making it tough to get away; so I decided to catch the tail end of the swell when it hit the West coast. Our plan was to go up North because of the better wind direction and swell size, but we also had our eye on a couple other outer reef breaks that were closer to home, incase the wind switched in our favor. I spent Saturday afternoon packing my truck with all my SUP guns, paddle boards and tow boards; ready for an early morning departure. Just before dinner the phone rang with news that the wind conditions stayed favorable for the outer waters so I quickly called the rest of the crew to change plans and see if we could pull off a miracle and get our good friend’s boat ready to go that night. We couldn’t get a hold of the captain and decided to wait and make the call at midnight to either pack the boat for a 100 mile adventure at sea or drive up North.

bringing all the right equipment is so important because you never know what you will find...
So much prep work goes into making a trip like this happen. Loading the skis at 1 am.
We are so fortunate to have a great friend like Tim Ditty take us on his beautiful boat; all packed and ready...

Luck was on our side and by 3 am, we were on the boat fully packed with 2 skis, SUP guns, paddle guns, tow boards and a great crew of friends ready to take on the world. We had been waiting for this day for 3 years and finally we were on our way, crossing our fingers that our forecasting would pay off. I had made 3 trips out to Cortez in the past 6 years so this was a dream come true for me. We got a quick safety meeting from the captain “AJ”and good friend and boat owner, Tim Ditty; then decided to catch some much needed sleep as we motored through the night 100 miles out to sea.

Getting some much needed rest on the way out to sea..
first light as we pass one of the islands 50 miles out.
A magical sunrise over the Pacific with 4 hours to go.

Restless, I awoke a couple hours later to see the sun rise through the storm clouds that blanketed the glassy Southern California coast. With another 4 hours to go we cooked a quick breakfast for the hungry crew and tried to get another couple hours of shut eye. Hours later we all awoke to see the first views of the cloud break hitting the Cortez Banks. What a rush, we’re 100 miles out off the coast and perfect 12′-15′ glassy waves are pealing perfectly in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. We see another big boat and notice a couple other skis in the water; could only mean one thing, Team Billabong’s Big wave specialists Greg Long, Twiggy Baker and crew are here.

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

We rush to get our full suits on, stuff a couple energy bars and protein shakes down knowing it was going to be an all day nonstop session and get the skis ready to unload with the davit (crane) off the boat. We race out to the peak and to our amazement, see 8 guys sitting on their guns waiting for a set. It’s  as we suspected; the Long brothers, Twiggy, Kelly slater, Peter Mel, Mark Healy, Nathan Fletcher and 2 others surfing the same dream session that we came to enjoy. After a half hour of scoping the scene, TJ, Bryce, Eric and I zip back to the boat and grab our paddle guns and I my SUP gun and join the fun. “It’s funny how small the world is when your chasing swell; we always seem to run into each other  just about every big swell”.

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

The swell was still building and with 18-20 second intervals it started out pretty inconsistent making it very challenging to find the best place to wait for the sets. The shelf is about 12′-15′ ft deep in a quarter mile + circle and there are 3 distinct peaks that you can surf when the swell is pumping. Most of the guys sat on the last inside peak which we call the West bowl and a couple of us paddled back and forth between the North peak and middles. It was super challenging and took me a good hour before I caught my first wave going because i was too deep for the right. I got super lucky and managed to paddle back out through middles with out getting swatted by any clean up sets. Finally one wave under my belt, now I can relax a little.

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

The waves here travel about 30 miles an hour, about 5 miles faster then what we usually surf on the coast because the wave energy of the swell comes uninterrupted from super deep and then hits this shallow shelf full force. It’s a totally different kind of wave because when you first get into the wave, it starts out slopey and then when it hits the inside shallower section, it stands up and then just unloads shooting white water sometimes 50′ ft in the sky.  When I would paddle for a wave, I would have to stroke super deep and fast to get my board up to speed just to get the glide going fast enough to make the drop because a lot of waves just passed me by like I was standing still.

At low tide there was a long flat spell where we all just sat around laughing and trading funny shark stories to pass the time. It was so cool to see how happy and relaxed everyone was; cheering guys on as they dropped into a bomb and hearing the stories after a great ride or wipe out, Truly Special…..

everyone was super stoked to be there..
The offshore winds add to the beauty and the challenge.
Pushing my SUP gun over the ledge, what a rush......

Later that afternoon, the offshore winds picked up a notch making it even tougher for me to make the drop, witch made for some pretty insane levitating air drops followed by a couple great deep ear popping beatings. One of my good friends, Eric from Towsurfer.com was running safety on the jet ski for us, which really helped everyone get back out especially after a big beating. About an hour and a half before dark, the sets started to pulse with a couple solid bombs. we milked the session as long as we could before going back to the boat to load up the skis for the long journey home. We loaded up, battened down the hatches, so to speak and slowly motored home. Tim prepared an awesome pasta and sausage dinner with his special salad that we all devoured in minutes. It’s crazy how hungry we all were in the middle of our session, but we never went back to the boat in fear of missing a good wave and it was all worth it.

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

After a good 6 hours of sleep, we finally entered the Harbor entrance and motored to the dock. We all powered as a well oiled machine and unloaded the boat faster then we loaded it 24 hours ago. Tim and the captain and crew were exhausted and all hurried home to catch the last couple hours of sleep before sunrise. I was still buzzing from my Dream trip and could not even think about sleep, so I zipped home, switched out a couple SUP boards for smaller surf, checked the buoys and decided to continue my SUP mission with a 2 hour road trip up North……..

A special Thanks to Tim Ditty for all of his support, photos and the use of his beautiful boat, AJ the captain and his first mate for making it possible and Eric Akiskalian for taking photos and running safety and TJ and Bryce for charging so hard and to my wife Susan for her patience and to my truck “The Road Warrior”…….

“The Day After”   TO BE CONTINUED NEXT POST………

Christmas Ride

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

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

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

Thomas hoping it doesn't break.... ha ha
Some bridges where long and super sketchy...
great riding all over this place..
I have learned that you always check yourself for ticks after every ride; you don't want the sickness....

Man’s best friend

Those of us who have pets, know the feeling all to well; when you leave for work and you look back at your fury buddy to say goodbye and they give you that look, you know, that look. As if they could talk through their eyes, saying “can’t I go with you today??” or “why do I have to stay here all day again??”

So, every chance I get, after work I like to take my dog for a run down to the beach or at the very least a good drive in the truck so he can just hang out of the passenger’s side window like a gorilla in a tree and let the wind blow through his hair. It’s kind of funny actually; to see him hang his whole head and front paws out like he’s a human. I will pull up to the stop light and the driver in the car next to me does a double take because he looks like a black bear or gorilla.

Today, I thought it would be funny to capture  a couple shots of him hanging out of the window while driving with the GoPro HD camera mounted to my windshield. It’s amazing how happy dogs get when they put their heads into the wind. Pretty classic….

All about the hair....
we have lift off....
Deep concentration and loving it.....

should i stay or should i go??

Woke up early to the sound of wind chimes going crazy and my cell phone ringing off the hook. The word was out that the wind was blowing 30 and the swell was still well over head making it a promising day for a good long downwinder kiteboarding down the coast. I got a quick work out in, finished a couple errands and then met a friend to drop a car off in San Clemente and then continued up to Laguna beach, where we started our 10 mile downwinder.

“There’s nothing better then living in a place where you can do it all; it’s no Hawaii, but for my lifestyle, it’s perfect”. “Every sport helps me train for the other”..

We worked our way down the coast, hitting waves all the way to the Dana Point harbor and then again just before the San Clemente pier. We only get a weeks worth of cranking clearing winds with good surf, so you have to take advantage of it when it’s on. we finished the run with an hour of riding pounding shore break before our hands went numb. Ha ha

We hustled and got a quick bite to eat and made plans to hit up Trestles for an afternoon kite sesh, after a little work. We rallied kind of late as the wind was already starting to die down.

should I stay or should i go????

What do you do; rig a bigger kite, decide to call it because the morning session was all time, or just waist time talking about it on the beach as the wind gets even lighter??? I fall victim to the peanut gallery in the parking lot and rig up my bigger kite, with short lines and work my way up wind to Trestles. Sure enough most of the kiters are on there way in, but at this point, I’m wet and just powered enough to get a couple waves. I get a couple good long set waves through the inside where the wind shadow starts and quickly kick out before getting too underpowered. The wind keeps getting lighter, but I’m greedy; just one more wave, that’ all I want. Sure enough, my greed gets the best of me as I ride my last wave through the inside and on my last turn, my kite drops out of the sky right into the shore break. What an idiot… I can’t remember the last time I did that.

GoPro (POV) kite boarding

I quickly swim in and run down the beach and grab my kite and board before I risk trashing my kite. “I knew I should have just went with my gut feeling and called it a day when the wind started dropping off, but Nooo, I had to have the double session and get one more wave”…… too funny…

looking on the bright side, I got off easy... ha ha..
Days end…

The best thing about the day was watching the sunset on the way back to the truck.  “my lesson for the day; listen to your gut feeling and be thankful for what you already have because greed only gets you into trouble”……

Can’t Sleep, Lets ride

It’s a peaceful Sunday morning; a perfect day to relax and just unwind after a long week on the go, if your normal… The problem is, I can’t sit idle for more then 10 minutes without going crazy. I did the gym thing early, surf is flat and I need some kind of solid punishing workout that wipes me out completely so I can “relax”……

So I call a couple good mountain biker friends (Alex, Kenny and Darren) who planned to take the mountain bikes down South and hit some new challenging terrain. I love it when a plan comes together!!  I grab my bike and all my GoPro camera stuff and build a quick camera mount that comes off the front of the frame with an 8” inch arm off the right side, with the camera on the end pointed forward looking just past the front fork and tire. “I don’t know why, but ever since I got a couple of the Go Pro cameras, I’ve been super addicted with building funky camera mounts for all my sports in the water and on land.

Alex giving the tutorial....

An hour later, we all meet and load up the truck and head a half hour South to a really cool mountain range covered with single tracks, from technical to intermediate with a bunch of great climbs and a couple long techy downhill runs that have several rock drop offs and double ups. We gear up in our riding garb and start on a solid grinding 3 mile climb to the top. We take a quick minute to enjoy the epic view of the glassy ocean and then do a series of fast zippy, flowing downhill runs, with a couple solid climbs. After 2 grinding loops, we hit one more good climb and decide to finish the day with a really fun, fast, technical downhill run.

Kenny, Alex and Darren on a Sunday ride..

“I used to ride a lot about 12 years ago and just got back into the grind with a great group of athletes that really push you to ride at their level and I love challenging myself like that because it always brings the best out in you”.

Alex on the charge..

This last downhill run was filled with a bunch of technical rock drop off sections, roll overs and finished with a series of double ups. Half way down, we hit a couple fall away drop offs that were “super mind blowers”, where I had to really stop thinking mentally and just ride. If you look more then twice at something, that’s when your going to get hurt. I really get a good idea of what line to take when riding behind these guys because there is no time to think and your first reaction is probably the best anyway.

Kenny floating the lower section..

We got in about 12 miles of fast pace hill climbs and downhill runs and I finally hit my wall of total satisfaction, making it easier to get that sleep we all look forward to. Thanks to my good friends for the great challenging ride and to In and out for those well deserved double doubles cheese burgers.. ha ha

it's all about the workout however you get it.. ha ha

I hope you all had a great weekend and remember, sleep is over rated so get out there and enjoy Mother Nature any way you can……….

Go Pro video camera (pov) hit link below,

Last Minute Slab Hunting

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.

Early morning buzz, gearing up for an epic day with all the toys.
Early morning gold....
Your chariot awaits.....

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”…….

Gliding in to set up for the pit. "what a rush".....
This is what it's all about and well worth the stress and last minute circus getting there.

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….

Do you feel it???

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..

Another freight train......
Pato, gliding into a bender..

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 Saemen brothers, home bound..

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

The crew, (from L-R) Bella, Pato, Mike Jones, Bryce Saemen, Eric Akiskalian, TJ Saemen, Ed Guzman and yours truly, Chuck P

Mother Nature Calls

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..

"Peahi" quiver
Early morning drill

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.

almost there..
Peahi, line up
Kemper on the first wave of the day
making the fins work over time.
inside bowl
one of many skis that got totaled on the rocks, Monday...

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.

Racing for the West bowl

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.

SUP stress session and finally getting the goods....

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.

It's not all fun in the sun, water time while traveling...

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…………

Mavericks swell road trip

Another solid Winter swell that looks like it will be bigger and better up North. I called Brazilian surf photographer “Fred Pompermyer” and we decided to do a 2 day road trip up North to Mavericks in Halfmoon Bay, Ca. We drove all night and got to Mavericks at 6 am and met up with Jeff Clark at the boat ramp. We drove the skis out in the pea soup fog and as we got to the inside bowl at Mavs, the sun broke and we could see 25 guys sitting on the peak waiting for sets that would come every 20 minutes. jeff was over the crowd, but i opted to stay and give it a try and see how my new big wave SUP gun was going to work.

The tide was super high and there was a major bump in the water that made it super challenging to stay balanced on my narrow gun, but it all worked out. It was a humbling experience to say the least; because my board was so narrow and flat making it hard to keep the nose from pearling at the bottom of the wave. I caught a couple waves and called it quits because the wind started to blow everything out.

We decided to hit up Santa Cruz and get another session before dark. We stayed at my good friends and fin sponsor from Rainbow fins and the next morning after a quick tour of the Rainbow fin company office; we drove the coast down from Monterey through Big Sur then Morrow bay all the way home. We stopped at a couple fun waves on the way and got some cool shots.

Another great 2 day “hit and run mission” to get the blood moving and ready for an active El Ninjo Winter…..

all photos by Fred Pompermyer

Paddling out at Mavs on a SUP is a whole new challenge.
testing the waters on a small one at Mavs.
the fog slowly lifting as we waited patiently for the sets.
Sunset SUP surf in Santa Cruz
On a SUP mission.
A Mysto point was firing with a nice long Right hander that peeled for almost a mile.
Central coast off the lip
Another great SUP surf session at a new wave on the way home.

My dog’s knee surgery

Those of you who have pets, know the feeling when man’s best friend is going under the knife. It’s like your child getting surgery and you hate to see them in pain and hope they understand that it’s for the better and hope they don’t hate you for it. Our dog “Wade”, a 3.5 year old Newfoundland has had a rough childhood with 2 eye surgery’s, one knee surgery and constant vet visits.

You just want your pet to have a good healthy, loving life, and that’s all that matters. Fortunately his ACL surgery went great and he was off his pain meds in 2 days and eating like a horse. with 6 weeks to go, he is doing great.

Poor Wade not stoked to go in for knee surgery....
Wade, in a deep sleep of pain meds, but looking good.
Wade on his way to recovery....
The knee surgery went well and Wade is finally running around and working on building his leg muscle back.
Wade is all healthy and happy. Back to being a dog again.