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“A Lucky window,” Cortes Banks, take 2

This El Nino season has been a busy one with strong consistent swells hitting Hawaii and the West coast almost every week. The hardest part, is choosing the right location to catch the swell and most of the time we have made the call within a couple hours of leaving. This swell was no different; after studying the swell and wind charts, we were still up in the air because every site had a different call on what the winds were going to do. We put our heads together and decided to roll the dice and go with our gut feeling and if it was wrong, we were ok with that.

A couple hours of packing the boat, loading the skis, food etc; we were off into the night with our thumbs crossed. The conditions were a little rougher then the last go out, but still manageable. We woke with one hour to go to partial foggy skies with a little wind chop out of the south. A couple rain squalls passed with super strong winds and as they passed the seas would turn calm again.

Finally, our first site of the reef bank, showed a couple rolling mountains capping with some good sized sets, but due to the high tide, not really doing it justice. We motored around for an hour and decided to wait it out. The wind and rain came and went making for challenging seas to just sit and wait, so we decided to slowly motor one way for 45 minutes and then motor back. Motoring in one direction kept the boat from rocking back and forth and making anyone sea sick. We passed the time watching a couple movies and eating with one eye always peeled at the ocean. By mid afternoon, we passed through a big rain squall and the wind switched slightly out of the South East, grooming the ocean with a slight manageable texture.

West bowl runner.

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

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

We could see a lot more white water off in the distance and with only 3 hours of sunlight left, we quickly got our wetsuits on and skis ready to unload as we motored back to the reef. The ocean still had a little bump on it, but every 2nd wave of the set was super clean, so we decided to tow in and make the most of what little time we had left. You had to be pretty selective due to the wind bump, but every now and then a really nice set would come our way with a nice fast inside race track through the West bowl. We rarely let any waves go by and every now and then paid with a good beating on the inside trying to out run the West bowl.

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

racing the bowl section

Bryce laying down a nice gouge.

We had a solid 2 hours of really fun waves and then the onshore wind really kicked in hard making the waves pretty bumpy and blown out. The seas really got rough, so the captain decided to keep the boat moving with the swells while we patiently loaded all the skis back on the boat safely. Once everything was strapped down and secure, we continued our journey South of the boarder to check another set of reefs that might be protected by the wind. The captain motored all night and through part of the morning until we hit one of the off shore islands we had been looking to surf.

Sure enough after an hour of rounding the island and checking each point and cove we found a wave that was breaking on an outside reef and on the bigger sets, would peel all the way to the inside of a cobble stone beach. the wave needed less tide, so we decided to anchor and eat lunch and slowly get our paddle boards together for an afternoon session.

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

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

Another treasure of surf exploration.

After lunch, the tide got lower and the wave started peeling from the outside section all the way through to the in side.┬áThe outside peak still had a bump on it from the wind making it a little challenging for stand up paddling, but when the only crowd in the water is the crew you came with, it’s all good.

getting ready for a good paddle session.

nothing like a good game of cat & mouse.

Days end.

We paddled for a couple hours and towed into a few before dark, before loading everything up for the long haul home. the captain motored all night and we arrived back in the safety of the harbor late the next morning. Some adventures go as planned and others are a crap shoot, but if you plan for the worst, it always ends up better.

A big thanks to the captain for keeping us safe and being understanding when we wanted to wait out for better conditions. In our case, patience, paid off even though it was a small swell.

keep posted for what Mother Nature throws my way….

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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.

Go Pro camera wave shots

I’m driving back home from working in Laguna on a super hot and glassy afternoon and drive by the beach, only to see perfect little 2 ft tubes breaking right on shore. I get this hair brain idea to go swim with my Go Pro camera and shoot some fun tube shots and see what this little camera can do.

Here are a couple fun back lit shots…..

Aliso creek sand bar.

Throwing wide in 12 inches of water..

Inside out tube shot

Sun beam throwing wave..

Hobie Hennesseys International Paddle board Championships, San Francisco

 

The Hennesseys International Paddle Board Championships were held in San Francisco at the Aquatic park on a beautiful warm sunny 80 degree day. Team Hobie drove up a few days early to train and enjoy the city life with friends.

 

Full story and photos soon…….

 

The Golden Gate bridge in all it's glory.

 

The event site at Aquatic park, SF

 

 

 

Testing my hobie 7’11” SUP in the surf

I always like doing R&D and exploring how much smaller of a board I can ride and still paddle efficiently in the surf. Today I tested a 7’11” and it was a fun challenge. I feel I need a little more length to help glide into waves and make paddling easier and a little more thin and sharper rails to help control the board during sharp turns etc. All in all, it was a fun ride….

My little toy.

almost like riding my surfboard

this board was a little more challenging going backside because of the thicker rails.

 

 

Tahoe-Nalu SUP race

I spent much of my life living in Tahoe when I was competing in skiing and snowboarding. All of my family lives up here, so it’s always great to come and visit and get away from Southern Cal and relax in the mountains. I always stay at my Mothers hotel “Holiday House” which is right on the lake in Tahoe Vista and is a great place to take your dog.

For the past 3 years there has been a really great SUP race on the lake and SUP paddlers from all over the West coast come to compete and enjoy the beauty of Lake Tahoe.

This years race was one of the biggest with about 150 paddlers and a cool set up on the beach where SUP industry companies had demo boards and paddles for all to try.

This years 7.5 mile race was kind of challenging because of the South East winds and boat wakes that made paddling and balancing on your race board a major chore. Competition this year was solid as I battled it out with my Team California outrigger team mate Thomas Shahinian the entire time. We traded places the whole time and then I managed to keep him behind me to the finish. Great race!!

 

Drove up at 1 am with my dog "Wade" and my road soda that kept me buzzing till day light.

Home sweet home at my mom's beautiful hotel "Holiday House".

"Wade" was in the water all day long living in dog paradise.

"Wade" loves to swim forever.

The event site in Kings beach, Lake Tahoe

The finish line at the beach.

Hanging with Thomas Shahinian and Jimmy Terrel.

Team Hobie killed it in every category.

Holding the lead in bumpy, choppy conditions around the point.

!st place overall on a new Hobie 18' unlimited SUP race board

 

 

 

 

Dana Point 9-man outrigger race

I always like changing it up and doing everything I can that encompasses water. This year I have been very fortunate to train and paddle with Team California outrigger team. We all train super hard at everything OC1, surf ski, SUP, surf, swim etc. and then we put it all together in the 6 man outrigger canoe and race.

This 9-man outrigger race was out of Dana Point Harbor up the coast to Laguna beach and back down past the harbor and in. This is part of the 9-man series where each team of 9 guys traded out 3 guys every 10-15 minutes in the 6-man canoe thru out the entire race which was about 11-12 miles.

These races are super exciting and what we all look forward to each year. We placed 1st in the Masters and 3rd overall.

Team California in 1st at the Bell buoy

here we are just outside Aliso, paddling hard.

Still cranking up to the Laguna upwind turn buoy.

making our last change before the last turn buoy to the finish line.

Team California, all smiles and stoked on a great race.

 

 

rainbow sandals “Molokai crossing” hawaii

After the Outdoor retailer trade show in salt Lake city; I flew out to Maui to train and get ready for the Molokai Crossing. I always stay with my adopted family, “the Baxters” who have 2 super talented waterman kids that compete windsurfing, SUP racing, surfing, and tow surfing; you name it they do it.

I trained for a couple days on a couple race boards on loan from Dave Kalama and Naish. The day before the race, we drove a boat over to Molokai from Maui with all of our race boards and gear.

full story coming soon.

on the boat to Molokai with the Baxter family

my team partner, Mike Fields, Jenny Kalmbok and Thiebert Lucia before the start.

my little brother, Connor Baxter, ready to be the first 14 year old solo paddler to ever cross the Molokai channel

Prone paddlers started before the SUP paddlers.

Mike Fields grinding it out in the channel.

Mike getting some good rides.

You can just start to see Oahu off in the distance.

After I rounded Portlock Point, The wind turned into a 25 mph head wind, making it a super brutal finish.

I'm almost there, but still grinding.

Mike and I enjoying a great tasting beer after a great day of paddling.

Connor coming in and still smiling, what a super stud....

 

Got to love coming from California and finishing 8th overall.

What an awesome event, hanging with great friends, thanks Sparky!!

 

 

 

Outdoor retailer tradeshow, Utah

I went with the Hobie team to Salt Lake city, Utah for the Outdoor retailer trade show . The day before the show, there was an on water demo at a lake near Powder mountain where the public could demo SUP boards and kayaks and ask questions etc. After the demo was over, the Hobie team decided to do a river run on the way back to Salt Lake city.

Story coming soon.

The Hobie team ready to paddle the river after a long day doing demos.

 

cruising down the mellow part of the river.

Just cruising with the boys, about to hit the rapids..

Tree tube on the way down.

Hitting the rapids and feeling like a beginner again. ha ha...

 

The river SUP pros ready to get rolled..

cool light box at the Hobie booth at OR