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Friday, February 21, 2014

The wave I should't have come back from.

When I graduated Highschool in Florida, my best friends and I did a surf trip to Nicaragua for 40 days. Our physics teacher had pretty much convinced us that it was the perfect place to escape. Also, this being 2007, one needs to understand that Nicaragua at the time was a country in which the government had just recently been taken by the communist party, the Sandinistas, who defeated the Contras in a civil war 1989. Americans were largely afraid to travel here and most went to Costa Rica for the same price to fly to and better known for its surf. Thus, Nicaragua was a surf gem that nobody talked about. It was perfect.

Well, we lived on the beach for less than $5 a night and woke everyday to ride perfect offshore barrels. We traveled up and down the coast scoring a-frames, point breaks, and hollow reef breaks. We drank and made friends with the locals and expats from other counties. We caught lobster, speared fish, attempted salsa dancing and attempted bull fighting. 

Two of my friends, Josh and Halfy, were with me for the whole 40 days and for a few of those days we lived in a town called Popoyo, which happens to be home of one of Central America's biggest and most incredible waves. The outer reef, which runs about 1/2 mile paddle out can be triple overhead  when it's firing. We decided to go for it and somehow caught it all to ourselves for an entire day. It was 10ft+. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time. Every take off beyond vertical. Every wave beyond words capable of describing. 3 screaming and yelping Florida surfers caught the best waves of their lives that day. But that's not the story.

The story happened the next day. We were surfing the inside wave which also breaks hollow and had lefts and rights, but it was much smaller and crowded. Sitting on my board I could see the outer reef exploding with nobody on it. Josh and Halfy wanted to stay on the inside so I went alone and paddled my way out there. The paddle felt longer that day. As I approached the wave I notice that it was much thicker. The lip must have been three feet thick at least and it was HEAVY! Then I noticed the water around be being sucked towards the wave. It was low tide. The wave had sucked so much water off the reef that a massive jagged lava rock exposed itself dry. It was almost a relief. "Nobody can surf this wave at low tide," I thought, "the bottom of the wave looks like a portal to hell." 

So I sat back and watched.

I must have watched this beast of nature break on the reef for 30 minutes by myself. I just couldn't pull my eyes away from something so beautiful and so violent. Being a half mile out probably helped too. 

Out of nowhere two guys showed up paddling on their guns.(long shaped pointed boards for surfing big waves) Their boards must have been 7ft+. Mine was a mini gun, 6'4". We gave each other the nod. I figured they most likely just realized the low tide wave is unsurfable too.

Then these 2 old guys started surfing. It was unlike anything if ever seen. They would take off fast and when the wave sucked the water off the reef, they just stayed high up on the face, safe above the slabs of volcanic death. Then they would exit from a faultless barrel. I continued to watch them surf. I continued to watch until I convinced myself that I could do this too, even if had a much smaller board. It would mean my take off would be later with more potential of the lip coming over me as I'm standing. "I can do this", I thought. "I just can't fall." 

So I paddled into the line up with the 2 charger old dudes. I waited for a wave that was going to be perfect. Then came my set. 

I paddled hard, really really hard. I stood, up turned down the line. The clear ocean under my board was lifting and bending so fast that it made the reef below it look warped. I had it. I can do this. But the water was sucking up into the wave too fast, too fast for me. I felt my board get ripped out from under me. I fell on the wave's belly.

I can still recall everything from that moment. My heart sank in slow motion. I could feel my body getting pulled up the face. I was going up in the curl. I opened my eyes and saw the dry reef down below and then I realized that what was going to happen next was bad. I had watched the break enough to know. My body was gonna get slammed with the lip downward from about 10ft into the reef, dry fucking reef. I remember praying, "Please Lord protect me." I covered my head with my hands and tensed every muscle in my body to prepare to take the worst beating of my life.

This is where it gets weird. I didn't hit the reef. I got totally rag dolled to an inch of my breath but I didn't hit the reef. I should have hit the reef. I was looking down at it from the roof of a massive wave. I was ready or my maiming.

 I'm not sure exactly how it happened but it doesn't add up to me, and still never has. I don't know if I landed in some small human sized hole that shot me to safety or what. All I know I that I definitely should have hit the reef. 

I was so freaked out that when I surfaced to breathe and cough up water, I took the next wave in to shore. It was a wall of white water from a wave that had just broken afterwards.

I told Halfy and Josh what happened and they were stoked I was okay. I tried to explain how I should be seriously injured and/or dead right now. They laughed. 

Thirty minutes later the two old dudes who were riding outer reef showed up. As soon as they saw me, they yelped with joy! I was confused. They explained that they we're looking for me after I didn't show up from the wave I took. I realized they hadn't seen my fall or paddle in because I took the very next wave. They being further out, had been wondering why I didn't come up. We had a good laugh and I thanked them for looking.

I still don't what to call that day. Was it luck? God? The universe? I like to think it was something unexplainable, like a miracle. I just know I should have hit the reef.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When living life was simple.

Remember when we thought living life was simple?  We had it all figured out. We’d all be neighbors and surf every day. The water was always going to be warm and at night there would be bonfires on every beach, every pointbreak.  We would drink every night and smoke cigars around the fire, sand in our toes. We were gonna live on an island inhabited by groovy natives listening to reggae and salsa. We’d grow up but always be tan and aging only made us look more awesome. Every warm evening we’d surf till past dark, getting barreled under purple skies and gold moons.  Sometime we would have to move. We would get in our sailboat and go all over the world in search of treasure and storms. Friends would join our voyages from time to time and family even came now and then too.  Sometimes we got sick, but we always ate well and everyone took care of each other. We knew we were going to be married to awesome people and eventually have kids. They would all surf together, living a life even better than ours. Sometimes my kid beat up your kid, sometimes yours beat up mine, and then we would sit by the fire and tell our stories, laughing about it all. Do you remember when? Do you remember when we thought life was so simple?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pelican Surfing in Sandy


Thinking back to Hurricane Sandy now.
I know it was rough for the states up north but it remains a bitter sweet memory here. Florida was gifted a swell by her that we will be talking about on our porches long after we get old, if we get old.

Before I begin, I must say that I have written about a lot of swells. When I look back through by rambling in journals and this old blog, I usually try to dwell in words that paint pictures of barrels and long glassy faces that curl over not a drop out of place. Sure this swell had all those things. Some size certainly worth mentioning: double-over head plus. Spitting tubes, offshore breeze, and all the fanciful parts of an incredible swell.

I think for me though, something will stand out this time more than the barrels and perfection. During our second session north of the St. Augustine pier, a certain moment needs recalling. As we just reached the line-up, ducking under a final roaring train to narrowly escape a watery beating something very interesting happened. At least I felt it was. I was resting on my board, tired from the paddle out when off to my left I noticed some pelicans surfing by. Cruising in long beautiful formations that lick face of the waves, arching their wings to ride the air that is being pushed up from aquatic motion. One pelican in particular seemed to want to cut out early though. I was so lost in admiring them, that I was startled when I realized that this unique pelican was flying straight at me like a small airplane whizzing above the water. "Woahh, WOOAHH!" I slammed my face down against by board to duck as low as I could. I felt one of those woooooshing sounds that your friend makes when he tells that story. I could have licked the pelican had I been laying on my back. No contact though. Not even a feather. He must have seen me though? Right? I swirved to see if some pattern in his flight would reveal that this pelican was as surprised as I was. Nothing. Still cruising as if I was just a mere patch of seaweed below.

Kyle laughed at me. He was paddling only a few feet away. Holy guacamole I kept thinking. I deserve some guacamole after that. I glanced down at Donatello, the pelican tattoo on my ribs. "What was that all about Don?" Nothing. He doesn't usually say much at these times.

So yes the waves were amazing. However, I feel I will remember Sandy not only for her gifts but also for certain events synchronized with her patterns. What does it all mean? Nothing most likely. That really isn't any fun though. I try to believe there was some message being delivered, an omen perhaps. A good one I hope but I never want to assume. Further interpretation is to be sought I suppose.
Thanks for reading.

a taste:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reunion

Yann Martel writes a perfect description of a familiar friend floating toward Pi's lifeboat. Super rad.  Excerpt taken from Life of Pi, p111:




Thursday, May 10, 2012

Notes from Joshua Tree


Joshua Tree is an interesting place. Certainly a type of setting I have not experienced much, a place beyond any expectations I could have mustered within my noggin. There are some pretty rad mysterious elements in the desert which provide for endless pondering of things. Things like creative existence and other fancy thoughts where one can use words a bit beyond daily vocabulary. It is fun. For example, while we were their the conversation turned several times to how in the hell did these towering boulders come to dismount in majestically stacked piles of climbing goodness. When one looks around at Joshua Tree, one will notice that almost all the dirt lays on a steady flatfish plain. There is a few mountains off in the distance. For the most part though, it seems as if the only formations are giant rock monuments. Maybe they were built by giants, big rock fellows who wanted something to do, so they made art. Or even better! Perhaps the rock monuments are not monuments at all but the rock giants themselves who have laid down to sleep. They wake up and move about while nobody is looking, standing up first like Optimus Prime waking from his Semi-Truck. It must be true! I am on to something, rock transformers maybe. I would like discuss this further but now while I must go on to other matters.

Our trip to Joshua Tree, which consisted of Ben Sasso, Tony Sasso, and myself, was truly amazing and necessary in every way. I say necessary, because almost all adventuring really is necessary of course. Tony proved to be an awesome guide by having everything already good to go when we flew in. His camping knowledge was adept along with his scrumptious cooking skills. We ate like men. Tony brought us to the rocks and helped us learn how to lead climb and set anchors when needed. Nifty. It was also quite nifty for Ben and I to see that what we learned in our climbing gym back home actually applied to real rock. It was weird at first, but we seemed to catch on quick. We were completing routes from 5.7 and 5.10c and hanging over cliffs of doom, I want to mention that JTree is known for having run-out bolts and having some of "the hardest ratings anywhere", words of the local legend Eric Hires. It seems safe to say that a 5.10 at the gym was about 5.8 out in the dessert. What we thought was a hard V4 turned out to be a V0. It is also safe to say that the adventure was quite humbling. Other things to mention: being naked in the dessert is awesome, delicious burritos can now be made anywhere, no serious injuries occurred, and yes I still struggle to grow facial hair (although it is coming in better now).

I had this other thought I want to share and expand on. Well its more like an absurd imaginative assumption that should only be taken as fact. What if, the rocks really enjoy being climbed on. I know I am personifying these boulders, but seriously I have this feeling that they just love it. I can see the rocks just shuddering with excitement as we gear up to ascend them, like the boy and his Giving Tree. I am sure some are a bit spoiled with too much attention like the beast that contains the Stitcher Quits route. Always getting a good massage. I imagine it must feel something like that. Then there are lonlier giants who stare beggingly at climbers who pass by. Maybe they get attention only in certain seasons, or never, spending most of their holidays alone. "Just one climb please, good sir", I can hear them thinking it in their mysterious rock language. Curious, is it not? 

There will be many returns to Joshua Tree for adventure and investigative purposes.  




  







Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Heading to JTree

I figure this is as good a time as any to mention that some friends and I have become overly addicted to climbing. Last summer, a few of us did some in Alaska and California, in which we experienced this sport on a whole new level. Months later, it is safe to say we are now obsessed. I have even gone as far as purchasing my first container of protein powder, something I never thought I might do.

There are geographical issues though. Florida, if you had not noticed, does not offer a whole lot of mountainous climbing landscape. Most of the state is only a few feet above sea level. Despite this inconvenience, we have found that it does have a few great climbing gyms that act as wonderful supplements, while preparing for the real thing. So this is what Ben Sasso, John Taylor, Sarah Rogers, Veronica Spake, a few others, and myself have been doing with our time. The result has been an exponential level of obsession in the sport.

Now the real reason I have sat down to write at this particular moment in time, is to squeal out a bit of my pre-trip anticipation/excitement for a trip coming up. That jittery feeling that has one visualizing the adventure while making weird faces of emotional frenzy, teeth gritting, eyes widening, and then the person in the room staring at you curiously and concerningly. (ehhem) So, this blog post is currently acting as my outlet for such feelings. A few of us are flying out to Joshua Tree in California, one of the great climbing locations in the US, to get our fix on some real rock, quartzite monzonite, in this case. Joshua Tree National Park is found in the dessert near LA and homes a wealth of giant boulders big and small. It is the oasis to our obsession. 

Among epic climbs on my list of envisionment, I imagine scruffy beards, meandered yodeling, warm campfires, bloody fingers, spicy food, and arguments in caves about the Theory of Relativity. Yes, not much longer now.  Here are a few photos to explain further what I presently can not:







Friday, February 17, 2012

Substitute Teaching

It is fun. At least it is most of the time. Certainly not always easy. Quite difficult actually. Sometimes it is at least. Not knowing all the time what classes I will have. Who will be the students? How will they behave?  Just fine plenty of the time. Definitely now always though. Goofy and awkward the way kids are. Cruel and unusual the way they can be. Listening and attentive verses defiant and rude. All in the job. I enjoy the job. I do. The surprise. What the day will hold. The fire drill, tornado drill, and lock down drill. Back to back. The kid who fell over in his chair. Again. The lessons. The projects. The sarcasm. The good ones. The stories I will have when I am old. Already there are so many. Very unpredictable this work. Making it enjoyable. Preferring it to be this way. Well not exactly. I guess I really want to just to be a teacher. A full-time one. My own classes. But for now, this is fun.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My First Product Review

I was shopping at the dollar store recently and decided it necessary that I indulge in some hair washing solution. I have never been one to be real picky about what hair toxin I use. The bottle of "Scooby-Doo: 2 in 1 Conditioning Shampoo" seemed perfectly reasonable, despite whether or not you think it is dog-shampoo. It is for humans. I checked. Also, "ghostly grape" sounds kinda nice too, like those delicious Flintstones vitamins. Anyway, this decision has left me a thoroughly disappointed consumer. So much, that I now feel inclined to do my first product review.

When I first opened the ghostly grape shampoo, the smell was a bit overpowering. That same smell that we all for some reason have decided to associate with grapes. But have you ever thought about that? What does a grape smell like? If you can not remember, go into the fridge right now and put one up to your nose. There is a lie. The lie being that grapes have a fragrance. Allow me to inform you that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A GRAPE FRAGRANCE. Grapes do not have a smell in the first place, so how the hell did we arrive with a "grape fragrance"? This question could arise long standing debates of theories and hypothesis, however I do not care about that, sort of... All I want to do right now is state that all of our noses have been cheated. Cheated like children brought to a candy shop that only sells broccoli. (No offense broccoli lovers.)

I should also mention that this shampoo was pretty awful for washing hair, even mine. It left my hair feeling like the side of an orange construction cone. If you do not know what that feels like, well then go find an orange construction cone, or just use this shampoo.

Postives: I did not cry when I used this shampoo, thankfully because it is tear-free!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Internship moment

I told my students today in a moment of greatness that truly one day they will grow up and realize that one thing they must always do is simply be ridiculous.

Monday, October 24, 2011

wonderfully brief


"If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either."

Donald MillerA Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dad.


Somewhere in England doing what he loves, and looking good doing it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

This has been in my mind

The photo below is something that I stumbled recently. I wanted to share this because over the last couple weeks it has been my new obsession. I stare at this image so long that and find myself dreaming, dreaming that I am there. That I am one of the divers with the whale. That I am looking into his eye and we are swimming. Swimming next to him as he swims next to me. But we have stopped, and now were just standing together, one hundred feet deep. I can hear myself breathing and then I can't hear it anymore. The world stops.
He whistles a long bellow,  echoing deep from somewhere within him. His great weathered eye focuses on me. Suddenly I can feel that he knows everything about me, my thoughts, my family, my dreams, my heartbeat. The curious beast is looking right through me. For a quick moment, I see him too. But before it goes further he pushes past me. I want to follow. I want to live underwater too, forever. Forever a whale.
He circles once, than turns towards where he came. Slowly the beast wanders off, but he isn't really wandering. His dark tail can be seen moving up and down but soon it fades into the blue. It is so blue He gives out a final bellow. The sound roars past me and into the ocean.
Goodbye.
Now I am awake, wishing I lived underwater. Underwater forever.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Uneasy Sweetness

The waves have been steadily incredible throughout the last couple weeks with Hurricanes, Irene and Katia, sweeping by. The Saturday morning of Irene, out Kyle Linsly and myself paddled out alone in a most beautiful place.  (Where, shall remain mysteriously unknown) It was still dark. Below is a little picture of that morning after the sun rose. We were the only ones out, or at least that's what we thought.

Ten minutes after reaching the empty lineup. I heard some splashing behind us. Turning my head, I saw a thick dorsal fin cruising slowly. It rose 2 feet tall and swam less than 10 feet behind us. Several feet behind the dorsal, followed a tall tail fin, waving slowly, offering a very ominous propulsion My stomach sank. For some reason I uttered, "Kyle don't look behind you...." He did of course, but as he did, the prehistoric beast submerged, into the murky ocean. I remember thinking, "I liked him much more on the surface. At least we knew where he was then." We could only sit quietly and pray he is not interested, or hungry... I'm sure we don't taste good anyway, right? Funny thing about it is that neither of us wanted to paddle in. The swell was too good. It was too perfect. We shakily decided the animal was probably just curious about what who we were exactly. "He probably left...yea?" (These thoughts can help sometimes) We even named him Andy to make ourselves feel better. Andy the giant shark. There, I said it, the S-word. 

We kept surfing for a few more hours. However, neither of us could escape the ugly thought that Andy might be lurking below us in the coffee brown water, trying to guess what our feet would taste like.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teaching

Been back from Alaska for just over two weeks now. I went straight into my student-teaching at Sebastian Middle School. The change feels unusual but it works. Mrs. West, my directing teacher is a fun woman, full of priceless sarcasm. My duty is to slowly take over the 6th grade World History classes. I love the age-group. They're awkward, imaginative, and hardly corrupted by the hormone explosion that is middle school. On the first day a boy named Camren asked, "Where do you keep the flamethrowers?" I paused, the question caught me by surprise for some reason. It took everything in me not to respond with, "Well, there are two in every teacher's desk, three buried outside, and a very powerful one kept with the Principle. Her's has the biggest range of fire." Instead, I decided to calm him by saying that we have no need for flamethrowers. He reacted quite confused, "Then how do you stop the snipers!?" I took a deep breath, and again reluctantly restrained myself from a very desirable facetious response. "Snipers? There's no snipers," I stated. His eyes got big. "Well that's not what my brother told me!," he remarked.

Oh the beauty of sibling mind control. The conversation brings back so many nostalgic memories. This is going to be a beautiful semester.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

funny things and such


Starting to miss home a bit. I wonder whether or not I will regret that statement. Home can be a curious place of ups, downs, and all arounds. I do miss my roommates. They just returned from their own adventure in Iceland and I would very much like to hear about it directly from them. I miss the ocean, the warm Atlantic Ocean. I want to surf in it. I want to swim in it. I want to roll around in it like a dog in their own poop. Where I am now I do get to live on the Pacific, however the water is hardly above freezing temperature. One can only be in it for so long. Being a Florida boy, I have every excuse to be cold. I also miss my family. All my brothers have moved out and we seem to be turning into that strange form of slightly older people who take on real responsibilities and other weird things. My parents are spending more time together though, and that is something very nice to think about. I miss St. Augustine. I miss the bent and broken streets with the Spanish architecture that never seems to get old despite actually being quite old. I miss all the slightly unusual people who live there. I think when I return I will go for a walk, or something.

But hold on. That paragraph should not be taken as anything close to saying that the Alaskan adventure has lost its gleam nor its northern lights. This place is still plenty interesting with all its mustaches, mountain hikes, hysterical bars/bands, sea planes, camping, black bears, eagles, folky locals etc. The sun does not like to set much and its difficult to track where it goes so you never have to worry about there not being enough time left in the day to do things. Also, I am serious about not being able to track the thing. Every time I feel like I can see it going one direction, I swear it turns around and goes the other way just to spite me. It makes telling north from east a bit complicated.

Leading people on the zipline tours never appears to get old either. Every group of tourists is different and even if they are not great zippers and come flying into my platform at 30mph, I get to do things like prussic break them so hard that they launch upwards into the cable. Now how could that ever get old to anyone? Most tourists are good zippers though as long as they get taught right. Kids can be a doozy when they are so light that they can't make it across the lines. This usually results in having a guide having to zip out and pull them in. Grown ups do it too. Just imagine what its like when you get a 250 pounder stuck in the middle who refuses to move. My arms still hurt. It does make for a fun challenge though. Lots of times you get incredible people who laugh at all the bad jokes and even contribute some of their own. These are my favorite. Another fun type are those with the sudden fear of heights who forgot they had a fear of heights. Its tempting to manipulate this fear into humor when you are always working at height. I promise I am not that mean, but when you work with tourists constantly, it is important to always make yourself laugh most. It keeps one's wits about them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Caught My First King


Okay so after months of watching the King Salmon run up our creek. I finally got one. Today I had the day off and walked out to one of the points that extend into our cove. There were several musky dudes fishing near by and I could tell by their behavior that they come out to this spot often. Its a way of carrying one's self I think. Anyway I nestled into my own little spot and started casting. My primal peripherals allowed me to see the glances I was getting from the fishermen and fish on each side of me. I casted my hook. Then I casted again and again.... but that was all that was necessary. As I was reeling in my third cast, I felt an enormous yank down my rod but was hesitant to believe I had fooled a fish. (I am a master of hooking the bottom). We fought for about 10 minutes. She was strong and every time I thought I had her, she would take off again, spooling line from my reel. One of the fishermen came over and offered me his gaff. This made pulling the fish out of the water and beating her to death quaintly simple. All said and done, I am happy to have caught my first Alaskan King Salmon and look forward to eating it this evening.

Note: a female "King" salmon should really be called a "Queen" salmon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

should probably write something

    note: Sarah zippin on the right



Good ol' Alaska. I think I am am getting used to the new way of life out here. Hitchhiking, stumbling, eagle screaming, camping, climbing, singing, and mustaches seem to be the norm out here. There's also plenty of kicking back and enjoying what is around you. I have attempted fishing a few times too but my flyfishing skills could still use some work. I guess the salmon that run up our stream aren't very hungry on account they are only thinking about sex. Weird? The local fishermen all use big womping trebble hooks to snag the King Salmon that make their way in. I have not given up, I still dream of catching "Old Betsy" as soon as I get the right fishing tackle.

I wish I had more to write about right now but the longer I am here, I start to feel like my days blurr together just a bit. Not in a bad way though. I am not sure if its because the sun never fully sets here or that I am becoming rather used to the daily grind. I am not sure if I can even call it a grind though, how about the daily zip? Hmmm never mind. The zipline courses are becoming quite familiar. I can almost tell you how many screws are in each different platform we zip through. I find myself forgetting how high up we are sometimes, and than I catch myself falling off the edge on my lanyards. Comfort can be dangerous. That sounds like a quote in some Hemmingway Novel. Okay well in conclusion of this odd post, I want to add that Sarah and I are certainly enjoying ourselves. Its a different way of living and working out here and its interesting to take in. Have a nice day. Good ol' Alaska.