Saturday, December 29, 2012

A new year... for me.

December 29th. My birthday, forty-four years of pumping blood and air. Rad.

Just spoke to my media-mogul friend who told me I should be doing these updates in video. Hmmm, maybe someday... could be a good time to try something new.

I took a different route down this time- following a friend who knows where the nooks and crannies with waves are found. I glad we did it this way, I saw places and waves I haven't surfed before. This right is a small but long wave- on a regular surfboard it would be a drive-by wave, on a 10'6 stando it's a playground.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Made it!

The most insanely hot, Mexican girl (who ever invented those tight yoga pants deserves a congressional commendation) just brought me the frostiest Negra Modelo I've had in four days. Jeez, what a trip it's been! Broken axle, side of the road campout, four hundred yard long right pointbreak waves and now the coldest beer ever served by one of the hottest girls I've seen in the last 1000 miles of dusty road. I'm in love... with this road trip! 

Busted axle... made for a great campsite. Beautiful desert, coolers packed with cold ones and a can-do attitude make situations like this a lot more fun- well, the alcohol really helps.

Just a sample of what we found- no you don't know where it is and you won't find it. This one is way out there and it will make you pay.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Paddle Surfing Texas/Tanker Surfing: Chris Koerner's Texas Paddle-Thru

First of all, I've got to apologize to my good buddy, DogPatch local Chris Koerner for taking so damn long to get his story up and posted. I totally blew it. Sorry bro. I had to muck about in the archives and find his piece- it's really cool and even better, it's got me fired up to get down to Texas and chase some barges! Check out his story:

Paddle-thru Texas

I had a fun trip to Texas last month for Team ULI. I flew into Houston and met up with my old compadre Ken Brah from South End Surf n’ Paddle in NJ, and we loaded up our race and demo boards and lit off for Austin for the Paddle for Humanity on Lady Bird Lake. The paddle clinics were just wrapping up and the pre-event party was just getting started as we arrived on Friday afternoon. I expected Lone Star and Texas BBQ but instead they had free Kona Lagers and Wahoos so it was all good. 

This was the last of the five-race series for PFH, and if you’ve never done one of their events they are real fun. This year they ran a couple different races at each event: a 5k, a 10k, a Distance Over Time – something for everyone. The real crowd pleaser was the Chuck Patterson Rally (CPR), which started out at the early season events as a serious paddle/beach obstacle course-type race. However, at the beach-less venues (DC & Austin) it morphed into a cross between a demolition derby & American Gladiators on inflatable SUPs complete with luche libre masked saboteurs in the final. Everybody was getting into the act and some of the heats were pure comedy. 

PFH is all about fundraising, and a portion the entry fee goes to charity of your choice like the Ocean of Hope, Navy Seal Foundation, Best Day, Love 146 and more. They always attract some cool sponsors with lots of swag and Ocean Minded even puts on a beach/river cleanup between events. Anyway, we had some good finishes on the ULI 14s and Austin was a beautiful venue with a great paddling community and lots of good food & live music. I believe out of all the PFH events this year the lowest turnout was in Dana Point – proof of how paddling is growing all around the USA.

Paddle for Humanity:

Next stop was Galveston where the wind was offshore and the surf was a clean two to three inches.
Lucky for us we had a booking in the morning with Capt. James Fulbright at Tanker Surf Charters. He called the night before to confirm and we planned a meet up at dark-thirty so we could get on the water early to catch a very large vessel due to come up the Houston ship’s channel. 

The channel has a series of shoals & small islands formed by years of dredging, and the plan is to catch the wave as it hits the shoal and ride it until you wipe out or when you or the wave poops out, at which point you hop in the chase boat and get in front of the tanker and do it all over again. This can go on for 20+ miles or so and if you’re lucky you can find a ship heading out to sea and ride the waves all the way back to the drop in spot. 

As the sun was coming up we watched a couple mid sized tankers round the Bolivar Peninsula as we sat in the channel but we let them pass. Finally we saw what looked to be a small city slowly moving towards the inlet and we knew that was our ship. I thought we were having a solar eclipse when the behemoth passed and the Capt. ordered us over the side to get ready for the wave. There was nothing but flat water as far as we could see then all of a sudden a chest high wall of whitewater is bearing down on us a hundred yards away. There was a left & a right although at times they’re a couple hundred yards apart but the waves aren’t very top-to-bottom so you can angle off pretty easily. However – they are fast! 

We had a little chop on the first couple rides so we decided to go for distance and a couple of them took us 4 to 5 miles. Later on things cleaned up a bit and one of the shorter waves (3 minutes or so) ran right next to an island peeling perfectly like a point break. This setup is the perfect test lab for board shapers/designers, or somebody that just wants to check out the characteristics of a couple different boards. We used an ULI Lopez and Steamroller model with the new Wikirails and they performed great. 

I was pretty amazed how well Capt. James has the whole place dialed-in as there’s not a whole lot in the way of landmarks out there and other than the depth finder I didn’t see him checking out any navigational aids. He did a great job describing each wave’s characteristics and really shared the stoke if we had a good ride. I’ve surfed a lot of places and paddled a lot of races but I can’t say I’ve ever experienced anything like tanker surfing before, of felt that beat-up after a five or six hour session. Lucky for us we had some of that free beer leftover from Austin. Special thanks to ULI for the great travel boards, Wavecation, Tanker Surf Charters, and Watermans Applied Science.

Check back and I'll pull up some of Chris's photos from the event and the tanker surfari.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Part I Hate: Getting the Tourist Card/Waiting in Line

If you're traveling deep into Baja, you're supposed to have the proper visa. In this case, since we'll be leaving the state of Northern Baja and will be in Baja for longer than 72 hours, we needed a tourist visa also known as a tourist card. Usually, you'll go through the hassle of getting the thing and then never get asked for it the whole time you're there. And then once in awhile, you'll roll up to a checkpoint and the officials will demand your papers. If you don't have them you'll get even more hassled and fined and then you'll be told that you have to get the visa at the next city and then pay for it at the nearest bank. The fine is about a hundred dollars making the whole visa-ordeal cost you about $125. It's not a crazy huge fine and jail time but it can be a stressful situation and you never one give the officials any legit reason to shake you down. 

So I bit the bullet and walked across the border and handled the paperwork. It's easy at the Otay Mesa crossing; you walk over and ten feet past the border is the white Immigracion office. Always bring your own pen- they detest loaning out their ballpoint. I filled the papers out and got my visa officially stamped but would have to pay the twenty five dollar fee at a later date. Here's the problem,  since the Otay crossing doesn't have a bank branch on hand like the much busier San Ysidro crossing I'd have to pay somewhere else (we used to handle this at San Ysidro but since they built a new crossing area, we've had mixed reports of being able to get the paperwork done there).  

In line to walk across the border back into the U.S. - halfway there... wishing I skipped that large cup of coffee.

How's this for a taste of Mexican logic: I was told that I can either pay the fee in Todos Santos when I get there or I could wait and just pay the fee once I got back to the border at any bank in Tijuana. Huh? Then why pay the thing at all? I don't quite understand it all but I'll pay the fee in Todos once I'm down there since it's a quiet, nice bank and I could probably withdraw some pesos there as well. We did learn something too. If you already have a visa and it will expire while you're traveling down there, just throw it away before you ask for another one. If you don't, they might just tell you to travel with it and then to find a place to re-apply for another one while you're down there. This might be a huge hassle if you can't find an Immigracion office or if you just don't want to deal with the hassle while you're on the move. My buddy Kiwi was told his whole family would have to travel on his soon to expire visas and that he would not be issued replacements at the moment. This would be an inconvenience for him- so we did some quick thinking, stepped outside of the office, tore up the visas and caught a cab to the airport. At the airport, Kiwi was able to easily get visas for his whole family, pay for them and be on his merry way in under a half an hour.

In all, it was a simple process. The biggest bummer was crossing back into the U.S., especially since it was a Sunday (I'm no rookie, I knew it would be nasty on a Sunday but we had no other free days to get the deed done). Even on foot, waiting in line it was an hour and a half wait to get to the other side. A couple of words of advice for that: 1. Hit the head before you hit the border, there are no bathrooms and it can be a long wait. 2. Apply for the Sentri card and it's a quick stroll to the front of the line. 

I'm out of here in a couple days, the preparations continue- check back for updates!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Basic Idea: Southern Baja Stand Up Paddleboard Trip, 2013

Well, we've hashed out a basic plan for our trip this year. I've done the road warrior charge across the border so many times that I'm looking for something new this time. Usually, we cross at San Ysidro (Tijuana crossing) early in the morning and make a mad dash through Ensenada traffic, we don't stop until we hit San Quintin which is about five hours south of the border. The idea is to get the sketchiness of TJ into our rearview mirror as quickly as possible. If anything bad is going to happen, odds are it will happen driving through the border zone of TJ/Ensenada so that's why we form up into a caravan, top off our fuel tanks in San Diego and just book it through until we can take a breath of relief further south. 

Our fears are reasonable. It was a group of my friends who, after crossing the border at four in the morning, were boxed in by a two large SUVs, forced from their vehicles at gunpoint and completely robbed of everything they had. This is not one of those, "I know a guy, who knows a guy, who heard about some guys getting held up on the Playas road." This information I obtained straight from the source; talking it over with my friend who shivered as he told me about it two weeks later. He chillingly told me about being forced to walk into the darkness away from the highway by a guy hopped up on drugs, sporting a black mask and the largest handgun he's ever seen in his life. Kneeling in the dirt with his back to the gunman, my buddy thought it was over when the dark figure told him not to look back. He almost jumped out of his skin when a shot cracked in the night, luckily it was a shot fired into the air and when he finally looked back the guy was gone. The story was actually published in a surf mag a few years ago-the guys still won't go into Baja. 

But we will. So it will be, next Thursday night, when we cross over at Otay Mesa (the smaller of the two south San Diego crossings) late in the night (and bad things happen at night along the border) and jam up into the mountains beyond Tecate. Yes, the late night crossing has me nervous, especially since I'll be a particularly plush target with fancy, shiny 4x4, boards on top and cool looking dirtbike hanging off the bumper. But it's the plan we devised and life ain't nothing if not a grand adventure. We're taking a different route, bypassing the big cities and heading up along the Sea of Cortez. I'm looking forward to seeing some new Baja sights- even better, I'm looking forward to getting the hell out of TJ that first night. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Southern Baja Paddle Surf Trip: Watch Fish Die

Check this clip out- it's all about my friend's Southern Baja spearfish/kitesurf/fishing/paddlesurfing resort just outside of La Paz. I'm going to spend a little time here hoping to whack a wahoo with my Riffe (wanna see what that looks like check out 1:57 in the clip), blow up my 10m kite, drink mango magaritas and hopefully get a surf in with El Timbo while I'm there. Tim's actually got the whole stand up paddle surf thing dialed with boards, paddles, trucks and boats at his disposal. Wanna set up a trip? Talk to me! Check his place out:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Southern Baja, New Contributor: Welcome Manny Vargas, Getting Ready for Southern Baja stand up paddle trip!

It's that time of year... my three week long Southern Baja stand up paddlesurf trip is on the horizon! If you've ever dreamed of driving the whole Baja peninsula with a quiver of standos, a DRZ400 dirtbike, kitesurf equipment and a cooler full of beer, you're going to enjoy the next couple of months.  Of course I'll be updating and posting photos and content about the trip the whole time I'm down south so be sure to check back. 

I call this one, "Even the Dog". This is the pointbreak just down the road from my place in Southern Baja... it can get kinda fun sometimes.
Also... Get ready for Manny Vargas to join me here on Manny is a guy you want to tune into- he's always got something going on whether it be a Baja paddlesurf excursion (he organizes and runs paddlesurf tours of both southern and northern Baja), snapping some insane surf photos (check out his site) or flying all around the world as a professional bodyboarder, Manny's always in the mix. And now he's killing it on his 9'4 Stamps stando. Look for a whole new take on the world of wave riding when Manny comes online this week.