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Searching for Tom Curren

22 Feb
February 22, 2022
Surfers chatting in the ocean in Cardiff, CA
Hangin’ with Tom Curren in Cardiff, CA

I had one of the most surreal experiences of my life last weekend (and I’ve had a few of those) when I got to paddle out for a surf session with Tom Curren, one the most stylish and influential surfers in history, and maybe the only surfer in the world who garners as much or more respect than Kelly Slater. He is surfing royalty, revered not just because of the glory the 3x world champion brought to American surfing during his career, but the way he has always done … well, everything.

Described over the years as “shy”, “private”, “eccentric”, and “enigmatic”, Curren was a professional competitive force with a free-surfer’s soul who never seemed comfortable with some of pro surfing’s rigid commercial trappings, even while he could not help but completely dominate the sport with his prodigious talent.

He retired in his prime when he seemed to simply get bored of the pro grind- an internationally renowned popular cultural icon with too much artistry, creativity and counter-culture DNA to keep doing the same things over and over. With nothing left to prove, he traded in the world tour for touring the world, becoming part of The Rip Curl Search, and putting more energy into his music career (he’s also an accomplished guitarist/musician/vocalist who has released two albums).

Tom never did a lot of interviews and never seemed to let the public into his life too deeply even while countless fans like me still longed to watch his timeless style. In 1995, Rip Curl and film-maker Sony Miller (RIP) produced, “Searching for Tom Curren”, one of the best surf films ever made, that finally let the world get a little closer look at the soul of Tom Curren. I still have a rare, 25-year-old original copy of that VHS that I preserved over the years, that Tom signed for me when I met up with him in Cardiff, CA last weekend.

How this trip materialized was absolutely incredible. Call it irony, serendipity, karma or a just a great blessing … maybe a little of all of that.

 A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an Instagram post about owning that original VHS copy of “Searching for Tom Curren”. The second I finished posting it and returned to my feed, I noticed a post from Rip Curl Ventura. I only follow the California shop (I’m in Florida) because my friend, Ehren Tresher, from New Smyrna Beach, used to manage it and I had visited him out there.

Their post announced that after 25 years, “Searching for Tom Curren” was finally being re-released in streaming and digitally-remastered formats, and noted that to celebrate the upcoming world premiere in Cardiff that week, that they were going to let 5 lucky people enjoy a two-hour surf-session with Tom. They said they planned to notify winners on the following Thursday for the event taking place Saturday morning. With such a short turnaround, I figured they were assuming the winners would be from California. But I also figured that if I had a full day to figure out travel arrangements, I could potentially make it, so I entered my contact information.

Fast forward to the following Friday. I had not received any notices, so I assumed I had not won. Oh well, you don’t know if you don’t go. Then… on Friday at 4 PM, I received a text from Rip Curl notifying me that I had indeed won and to show up at the San Elijo Campground in Cardiff at 9:30 the NEXT MORNING to meet and surf with Tom! 👀👀👀😂.

The folks from Rip Curl would later share with me that they had about 3,500 entries, that I had won entirely at random, and that the one-day delay in notifying me was due to the fact that among the original 5 winners who were selected, one could not make it and another did not surf and thought that the event, called “Camp Shred”, might include surf lessons. Of course, it didn’t, but Rip Curl wanted to fill the slots, and my name came up in the second draw.

Back to 4 p.m. on Friday … I could not believe it when I received the text! I didn’t even know if it was possible to get to California from Jax by early the morning, but I knew that if it was, it would be very expensive and logistically, nearly impossible, at best. I showed the notification to my wife, who was also in disbelief. At the same time, she knows the great value I place on life experiences, on seizing opportunities when they present themselves, and understood exactly where surfing with Tom Curren might fall in line on both of those lists for me.

So, she jumped online and started helping me look up flights. Now, this was the weekend of the Super Bowl, so you can imagine what the prices and lack of options for flights to San Diego and LAX looked like. Worse, I had to make a final decision FAST, also find a hotel room and rent-a-car, and get to the airport 45 minutes away, just to have a chance of making it.

Finally, we found a flight- at $675, the cheapest available, that was leaving in two hours. We are far from wealthy and I knew this was going to set back plans for a trip to El Salvador that I had been hoping to take, but again, I thought about it and realized this was an opportunity that say, at a charity auction, might go for between $5K – $10K, maybe more. Essentially, it was priceless. It is just not something that most would ever get the opportunity to do. So, we pulled the trigger.

I scrambled to pull my board bag down from the attic and threw my wetsuit, board shorts, and a change of clothes into an overnight bag while Gretchen continued searching for a car rental, and a hotel room in Cardiff. Within an hour, we were racing off to the airport and I made the last flight out of Jax, with about an hour to spare.

I arrived in San Diego at about 12:00 a.m. Gretchen had booked me a rent-a-car and a hotel room in Carlsbad, about halfway between the airport and Cardiff. Alas –as most, if not all experienced surf travelers have experienced at one time or another– I went to the baggage claim to pick up my board and waited… and waited… and waited… until one by one, all the people had disappeared… and all the carousels had stopped moving.

My board had not made it.

Livid, I protested with the airline service representatives. They tried to do what they could, but the reality was that there were no more flights coming in from Dallas (the American Airlines connecting city where my board had made it to). They assured me that it would arrive at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. I was due in Cardiff, about 30 miles away, at 9:30 am. It would be razor-close timing.

As a result of this delay, I had to cancel my hotel reservation in Carlsbad and try and find a room closer to the airport. Thankfully, it was a Saturday, so the early morning traffic would at least be lighter than on a weekday. But I still had to go pick up my car rental and try to find an affordable hotel room (an oxymoron in San Diego), that would take me in that very night. And, the clock was ticking.

After driving around downtown San Diego and calling and stopping at multiple hotels, most of which were full, I finally found one that would take me in for a few hours … for $175. I sat outside for a few minutes, pondering sleeping in my car, but I felt I had to get at least a couple of hours of decent sleep which wasn’t going to happen that way. So at 2:30 a.m., I bit the bullet and checked in.

At 7 a.m. the next morning, I got up and made my way back to the airport and at 8:30 a.m., as promised, my board arrived. I threw it in the back of my car and high-tailed it to Cardiff, arriving at the San Elijo Campground at around nine a.m.

Upon arriving, there was no parking to be found. As it turned out, there was an event happening there, a BIG one: “Camp ShredThe World’s Largest Board Demo”. ALL of the top board-makers were there and basically, you could demo any type of board you desired, for free. (In hindsight, I realized I didn’t even need my board – I would love to see one of these events in Florida!) Rip Curl had premiered the remastered version of Tom’s movie the night before and I was told that a lot of industry bigwigs were in attendance. They were also doing a second showing for the two-day event, later that evening.

I didn’t want to miss my session with Tom, so I parked in the only space I could find: a No Parking zone. I made my way down to the Rip Curl tent/campsite. I was greeted warmly with a big gift bag full of all kinds of Rip Curl swag, an invitation to help myself to their cooler, and assurance that Tom was in transit. I told their crew that I was from Florida, and about my crazy journey to get there. They could not believe it, but were super-stoked to learn about it! They told me their drawing was completely randomized and that they had no idea I was coming from Florida. They had only seen that I had confirmed I would be there.

Right behind me, the other four winners showed up, all from California, and not too far away. A couple were my age, a couple a bit younger. All were super friendly, and they also loved hearing that I had come all the way from Florida, with less than 24-hour’s-notice.

At around 10:30 a.m., Tom showed up with his wife, Maki. We had introductions, and after a little chatting, we put on our wetsuits and headed down to the beach. The waves were nice, waist-to-chest mostly, a little soft, but clean with good form. The break, a reef, was beautiful and they said a couple of whales had come through earlier. Due to the event (or maybe just due to it being California), it was packed, with about half of the people on longboards – men, women, and people of all ages.

Tom rode a CI twin-fin that looked to be about 5’5” with a unique pair of cutaway fins. His wife paddled out with us on a bodyboard. Due to the crowds, the good waves were hard to come by. I caught three, maybe going 15-20 yards each time, before cutting out. I had surfed twice all winter and was just happy not to fall in front of the champ.

Tom rode about five or six waves and as you might expect, ripped them all to shreds in a very nonchalant way while riding just about every one of them to the beach, each time. Like Kelly and other elite surfers, he simply seems to know where the energy resides in every wave and uses it to generate maximum speed and flow. His style was as effortless, as beautiful as ever, and a joy to watch. People noticed Tom but did not bother him, and he didn’t dominate the break the way I suppose he could have. Instead, he just found spots and waves, inside and outside, and made the most of each one.

In the water and after the session, Tom was as polite as could be– soft-spoken, and as humble as he always seemed to be from afar. He took the time to interact with each one of us there as a group, and individually. He told me he had just moved into a new home and said he hadn’t traveled much, recently. He perked up most when talking about music.

I mentioned that I had seen him play when he came through Jax years ago (at the Milk Bar), touring with Kelly Slater’s band. He said that was one of his favorite tours and concerts, and that he remembered Jacksonville and Jax Beach in particular, and really loved the area. I asked him if he had been involved creatively with the production of “Searching for Tom Curren” or just the subject of it, and he said it was all Sonny Miller’s creation, with the exception of some diffusion effects that he had suggested (to great effect, I would add).

When we got back to the beach and Rip Curl’s cliff-side camp, I asked him to sign my original VHS of “Searching for Tom Curren”, which I had brought with me for that purpose. He did, and also signed promotional film posters for my wife and two daughters. The folks from Nalu.tv, the company re-distributing the film offered up VIP tickets to the second showing of the film that night, but my flight back was that same evening.  I thanked them, Tom, and the Rip Curl team for the once-in-a-lifetime experience, and headed out.

When I returned to my car, there were two tickets on it; one for parking in a no-parking zone and the other for entering the campground without a pass. My expenses were still going up, but honestly, I was just happy my rental hadn’t been towed.

Heading back to Florida, I had to fly Jet Blue from San Diego to New York, of all places, then all the way back down to Florida. There was a snowstorm at JFK, and it caused a three-and-a-half-hour delay on top of what was already a very long trip that spanned all night and well into the next day. I hadn’t traveled since the pandemic began and masking up on the planes and in airports for that long was its own challenge. I think I slept a total of four hours over nearly two days, arriving back home a couple of hours prior to kickoff for the Super Bowl. As you might imagine, I slept through most of the game, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I had just gone “searching” for Tom Curren, and I found him.

Panoramic image of the ocean at San Elijo Campground, Cardiff, CA
San Elijo Campground, Cardiff, CA
Sign for Camp Shred, The World's Largest Surf Demo Event in Cardiff, CA
This was one cool event. Wish I could have stayed one more day or that they’d do something like this in Florida.
Group of surfers on the beach
A couple of the other guys who paddled out.
Surfer getting ready to head out into the surf
Curren was riding a Channel Islands twin, 5′ 5″ I think, with cutaway fins.
Surfer pointing out to the line-up in the ocean
Tom, breaking down the break.
Surfer riding a wave while another paddles out
Tom coming down the line. He still has that great flow and rode most waves he caught to the beach.
Surfer cuts back on a wave.
This wave was only a foot-and-half, but you see what he did to it. 😃
Tom Curren showcasing beautiful form on a small wave cutback
Timeless Curren style … arms, hands, legs. A couple of smooth pumps then blasts like this.
Looking at a surfer from the rear of the wave
Crusin’
Surfer cutting back on a wave
Classic Curren cutback. 2′ to 20′, the same beautiful thing.
The Rip Curl tent at Camp Shred, San Elijo Campground, in Cardiff, CA
The Rip Curl tent at Camp Shred, San Elijo Campground, in Cardiff, CA
Fan with pro surfer
Post surf at Rip Curl’s camp
Portrait of a young Tom Curren
Quintessential 80s’ California | Photo: Tom Servais
Tom Curren
The People’s Champ, forever. Photo Credit: Tom Servais

Thank You, Kelly

10 Feb
February 10, 2022
Photo: Brent Bielmann for WSL

On Saturday afternoon in pumping 10- to 12-foot surf at one of the world’s most dangerous breaks, Kelly Slater made history … again. The 11x world champ won the Billabong Pipe Masters just six days shy of his 50th birthday. He took the final against 24-year-old Seth Moniz, a world-class talent, North Shore local and Pipeline specialist.

 It was Kelly’s 8th Pipe Masters title and 56th event win of his illustrious career, one that spans 30 years, 832 heat victories and 31 perfect 10-point rides. He is the youngest world champ ever (age 20 in 1992) and the oldest ever (age 39 in 2011). He won 5-straight world titles from 1994 to 1998 and holds nearly every record of significance in professional surfing.

 As word spread around the net about Kelly’s most recent – and possibly, greatest and maybe even last professional milestone (he referenced the “R” word) – images of his incredible rides and emotional post-heat interview began popping up on social media. If you are connected to surfing at all, you likely came across a few of them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

 On Sunday morning, I even saw a post about it on LinkedIn. It garnered a handful of likes and made me feel good to see it there. But it also gave me pause to consider all those people for whom the post might have seemed trivial on the professional careers network, as well as others who might have noticed it only briefly on various other platforms while quickly scrolling through the news of the day. 

 For many, Kelly’s historic accomplishment may have been nothing more than a passing headline in their newsfeed, a novel tidbit about a vague personality in a sport that is too often associated with frivolous immaturity. But for those of us who surf, who through some serendipitous fortune have had the opportunity to witness the entirety of Kelly’s incredible decades-long career, it was and is something far more meaningful and consequential.

 There is a poem by Samuel Ullman titled, “Youth”. General Douglas MacArthur used to keep a framed copy of it on his wall and often referenced it in speeches. In it, Ullman reflects:

“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life … Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage, and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.”                              

 I am not big on celebrity culture and I have never been one for hero-worship. But what are heroes? In their simplest form, they are people who do something more. They work harder, persevere longer, take more risks, and make greater sacrifices. They inspire us to change and to do more, ourselves.

 As a 50-something who still surfs regularly (your average free-surfer, but I’m out there), who remains professionally and creatively inspired, and has never been willing to forsake my physical health, stop chasing my dreams or setting my personal goals one inch lower because that’s the expectation of culture for people my age; that’s what Kelly’s victory in the powerful surf at Pipe, his current World #1 ranking days before his 50th birthday (February 11th), and the entirety of his career, mean to me.

 It is about optimism and the challenge of remaining true to one’s ideals.

For the greater part of my adult life, Kelly has been one who has inspired these things in myself and so many others– to pursue life with vigor and passion; set goals based not on what others think, but on terms you set for yourself, and to believe anything is possible, something more – far more – than most others might even be able to imagine. Yes, there will always be wins and losses, but why burden yourself with pre-conceived notions and limitations?

 To Kelly, on behalf of myself and millions like me who have followed every step of your remarkable career, I say, Happy 50th Birthday. Thank you for your unyielding optimism and countless messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power played out across so many waves and oceans, and for so many years.

 Thank you for your enthusiasm, your unfailing childlike appetite for what’s next, and joy for the game of living. Thank you most of all for a lifetime of inspiration and for holding fast to that wonder that lives in the center of your own heart, and in ours.

Supergirls

25 Nov
November 25, 2021
Sage-Erickson-and-Fans
Sage Erickson, taking a moment for a shot with Kaelyn following her heat win in the Round of 32 at the Supergirl Pro in Jax Beach, FL.


My daughter, Kaelyn, with Sage Erickson at the recent SuperGirl Surf Pro in Jax Beach a couple of weeks ago. What a treat it was to see the world’s best female surfers here for a WSL-sanctioned contest!

Kaelyn and I went and watched the contest on Saturday and made it a point to catch up with Sage.

The very first board I ever bought for Kaelyn happened to be one of Sage’s used boards. It was a 5′ 7″ Channel Islands that we found at the Surf-Station, which is a CI distributor. As a result, they occasionally get in old team rider boards. The one I bought for Kaelyn was beautiful, and featured some of Sage’s own hand-drawn butterfly art (Yes, Sage is a talented artist, as well- see the pic, below)!

At the Supergirl Pro event, we caught up with Sage and shared a pic of Kaelyn with her old board. She gasped, smiled, and put her hand over her mouth, then just stood there silent for a few moments gazing at it. She couldn’t believe it and seemed to get a real kick out of it! She said to Kaelyn, “Oh my God, where’d you get that? Who is that in the picture? Is that you?! That’s back when I used to ride for O’Neill!”

Needless to say, it was a thrill to get to meet her and share this memory with her. Apparently, the board was a good memory for her, too. Sage won her heat that day, but eventually went down in the Round of 16. Again, super stoked to see this event in Jax. The pier was producing, and the ladies were absolutely ripping, then entire event.

Young surfer with surfboard
Kaelyn with her first surfboard, one of Sage Erickson’s old boards with her own hand-drawn butterfly art

Marathon Surfer 2021

25 Nov
November 25, 2021
World-Record-Celebration
Kurtis crushed the waves caught record … again!

I was super stoked to have been a part of Kuti Loftus’s recent successful world record attempt for most consecutive waves caught last month. Kurtis broke the record by catching (638) waves in a single surf session over 31 consecutive hours!

Kurtis previously owned the Guinness World Record for the same, which he set 10 years ago (313 waves in 29 hours) as a fundraiser for the 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.

His record was later broken by a surfer in California, so Kurtis decided to get it back, this time as part of a fundraiser for his own annual “Deck the Chairs” event, benefitting the Jax Beach Volunteer Lifesaving Corps.

A decade ago, I did a night surfing session with Kurtis and friends, as he went for his first world record. I wrote about that experience, here. This time, I served as an official, helping count and record waves until a little after midnight, at which point, local surf/weatherman, Tim Deegan took over.

Kurtis powered through a really pitch black night with the moon not rising until 11:00 p.m. Like last time, we tracked him t night, primarily using glow sticks. At age 60, Kurtis, who had put in a serious training effort to endure the challenge, BLEW past the old record!

Kurtis has been named a Jacksonville “Beaches Legend”, one of only 13 to be so honored. He’s an extremely talented graphic and fine artist/illustrator who also created the old South Swell Magazine, Deck the Chairs, and is now a (2x) world record holder. Legend, indeed!

Kurtis keeps me inspired by never wasting a moment of his time, always living life to the fullest, and doing so with a genuine attitude of gratitude for everything, and everyone. Here’s a couple of more late-night scenes from when I was out there.

Marathon-Surf-Session-Sunset
Sunset. Time to break out the glow sticks.
Midnight Surf Break
Glow sticks lighted the way for Kurtis on a dark, cloudy, night when the moon didn’t even rise, until near midnight.
Kurtis Loftus, Marathon Surfer
Kurtis Loftus, Marathon Surfer

Florida Alligator in the Ocean? Yep.

03 Jul
July 3, 2021
Sharks, jellyfish, and now one more thing to look out for in Florida’s oceans…

Only in Florida … Yes, gators like to go to the beach, too!

My daughter, Kaelyn, and I had considered paddling out to catch a few waves on this day (6/30/21), but the tide was dead low and swell fading after work, so we bailed and I decided to go for a run on the beach, instead. It was probably a good thing we skipped our session because when I got to the beach, someone else was paddling out at our local spot inside the Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Research Reserve in South Ponte Vedra Beach, between Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano / St. Augustine – a real-life ripper / shredder!

This was about a half-mile south of the northernmost entrance to the park. I felt conflicted. I wasn’t sure who the real “local” was in this case. I’m a 3rd Gen native of Northeast Florida, but this guy still wins! In all my years here, I have actually seen gators on the beach a couple of times and even a little one in the water. But I’ve never seen one this size (a medium-sized junior) just go waltzing into the ocean like this. If Florida wildlife makes you nervous or you’re planning a beach vacation here, soon, you don’t want to watch this video… but I’m guessing you will anyway, so enjoy!

Quick Update: So, it appears my gator video went viral. Shortly after posting it on IG, I started getting DMs asking about reposting it or in some cases, just tagging me. Coastal Republic was first, followed by a slew of others. Within the first week, I could easily see nearly half-a-million views on just the major channels, themselves, and not any of the thousands that mentioned friends to share it with them. Tim Bonython, the acclaimed Australian cinematographer who produces Swell Chasers, made Biggest Wednesday and is currently producing The Big Wave Project, who has captured some of the most amazing big wave footage ever at places like Shipsterns, Chopes and the Right, among others, message me to use it in his IG story. Discover Sharks (over 245,000 views!) posted it, Beach Grit, Reel Life Fishing, Everglades Holiday Park (production home of the tv show, “Gator Boys“), NSB Inlet, Reel Life Fishing, Sustainable St. Augustine, Memol Wildlife, among others. Big shout out to NSB/NCFL ripper and Creative Director/Digital Marketer, Matt Dayton for letting me know what was happening with the video, which was quickly getting reposted without attribution in some places, and speaking up to make sure I was properly credited when he saw it. Appreciate it, Matt!

Kelly Slater Tuberiding | Surfers of Fortune

03 Jul
July 3, 2021

For friends who surf, I thought you might enjoy this clip from Surfers of Fortune, a vintage 29-year old VHS surf film by Brian Bleak. You can no longer buy it. It’s not on DVD. You might be able to find it on YouTube. It featured the Quiksilver crew tooling around Indo. It is one of the films that inspired my own surf travels through the years. Incredible surfing. Amazing soundtrack. Beautifully and creatively filmed, and edited.

A few years ago, my precious copy of Surfers of Fortune got jammed up in an old VHS player. I tried everything to get it out or just get it to move but was unable to do it. But in my eyes, that tape was way more valuable than the player, so I took the machine apart, destroying it in the process to salvage the tape.

Recently, I hooked up another old VHS player to watch it for the first time in many years, and yes- it is as brilliant as ever.

I wanted to share this extraordinary clip of a young Kelly Slater surfing one of the most incredible waves anywhere in the world – Lance’s Right (aka Hollow Trees or HT’s) because it is still today, the single greatest display of tube riding I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It is complete mastery: entering, exiting, slotting, positioning, sitting, standing, drop knee, even critical drop-ins … switchfoot. Incredibly, 29 years later, at age 49, he’s still performing professionally in world-class, Tom Bradyesque-style. He may not be his 20-year-old self (shown here), but he’s still remarkably close. But enjoy this! (P.S. You may have to turn up your volume. This is a decades-old VHS that was subsequently recorded straight off my television set, so not the greatest quality).

The Flying Ham Fam

12 Jun
June 12, 2021

Here’s another fun adventure we enjoyed over this past winter, during Coivd… skydiving. After going parasailing, the girls had mentioned how the “fear-factor” was no biggie, and that they’d like to try skydiving sometime. So, I called them on it and booked a tandem jump at Skydive City in Zephryhills, FL. Coincidentally, about 28 years earlier, it is where Gretchen and I had gone for one of our first dates while students at UCF in Orlando. Back then, on a total whim, we jumped in the car and headed over with a couple of friends. It was such a blast! Although we had not been skydiving again since then, we remembered how awesome Skydive City was! Their safety record is (still) spotless, their facilities fantastic, and their instructors are super cool, highly skilled and very accomplished. Best of all, they take you up higher than most places – over 13,000 feet so that you get to experience over a full minute of freefall at 120 miles per hour. The day that we went this most recent time was in January, and it was bitterly cold by Florida standards (40 degrees?). Not the norm! But it was also sunny, clear and beautiful! Gretchen didn’t go up this time– just Kendall, Kaelyn, and myself. Needless to say, the girls did great, just as they always seem to do whenever I challenge them. They had a blast and I imagine they’ll be headed back with friends, soon! This was an awesome Father/Daughter experience, one I’m sure they’ll never forget. I know I won’t!

Father and daughters after skydiving at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, FL
After the jump… Super proud of these two! Fearless, after all!
Family taking skydiving class, getting ready for a jump
How to jump out of a plane for no good reason: The Ham Fam, gettin’ prepped by the pros at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, FL
Two girls pointing to a "Danger" sign before skydiving at Zephryhills, FL
Yeah, it’s all fun and games BEFORE the jump…
Father with daughters headed up in plane to go skydiving
Going up!!!… Way up… Over 13,000 feet up!!!
Skydiver about to exit airplane on a tandem jump
The moment before the jump: Ready or not!… Don’t be laughing back there- you’re NEXT! See ya’!!!!!
Girl laughing after just exiting the plane on a tandem skydive as plane turns away above the jumpers
Here… We… GO!!!!…..
Skydiving girls falling, as plane above them turn away after exit
Hey, we’re not inside the plane, anymore!
First time jumping from an airplane
You can keep your eyes open and your mouth closed, or your eyes closed and your mouth open. Either way, you can’t beat the feeling!
Girl screaming, falling at 120 miles per hour on a tandem skydive at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, FL
What??! We’re only going 120 miles per hour!!!
Girl about to exit airplane for a skydive, standing at the door looking down
Not so tough, now, are you?!!!
Skydivers free-falling on a tandem jump
Above the clouds, and flying high! In the words of the great Tom Petty: “Now I’m freeee… freefallin’!!!….”
Two women skydivers on a tandem jump in Zephryhills, FL about to deploy their parachute
What goes up must come down… and yanked back up in 3… 2… 1…
Women on a tandem skydive jump at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, FL
Once below the clouds, the ground starts coming up pretty quick, but it’s a nice view…
Tandem skydiving at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, FL
Major G-Forces right here.
Skydiving in Zephryhills, FL
Not having any fun at all…
Freefalling for over a minute - Tandem skydiving at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, FL
Freefalling for over a minute – 0ver 13,000 feet up
Watch with heart monitor quickly rising from 52 to 120 BPM rate
Can you tell when the jump happened?

Crystal River Kayaking with the Manatees

07 Mar
March 7, 2021

Looking for a fun Florida “staycation” getaway? Check out kayaking with the manatees in Crystal River during the winter months when the manatees head into Florida’s springs to keep warm. Super inexpensive adventure and a chance to experience some pretty interesting Florida wildlife up close and personal. You can even jump in and snorkel with the gentle giants if you like (but no touching, of course). We used Get Up & Go Kayaking for the outfitters. They have crystal clear see-through kayaks and great guides who put you right on top of the manatees. Check ’em out!

Manatee Crystal River
Family kayaking
Young people kayaking
Two manatees in Crystal River
Kayaker and manatee
Woman and manatee
Two manatees
Manatee
Manatee

Picken’s Nose

07 Jul
July 7, 2019

Here are a few pictures of Picken’s Nose in North Carolina. This was a fairly challenging, spectacular hike through a bear sanctuary. There weren’t many people there and the quiet hike through a truly enchanted-feeling forest was really something special. Eventually, you pop out into an area where there are some dramatic rock outcroppings with incredible views of the area. This place was great!

Family on a mountaintop rock outcropping at Picken's Nose
Sign points the way to the Picken's Nose trailhead
Sign on tree on Picken's Nose trail warns of bear sanctuary
A footpath leads through a quiet green mountain trail at Picken's Nose
A interesting, dramatic path through a tunnel of thickets on the Picken's Nose trail in North Carolina
The beautiful forest trail through a bear sanctuary at Picken's Nose in North Carolina.
Two women hiking along the forest trail at Picken's Nose.
Beautiful yellow flowers along the thickly wooded path through the woods at Picken's Nose.
Father and daughters on the trail at Picken's Nose
Mountain vista at the top of Picken's Nose
Dramatic view of green mountain range in summer at the top of Picken's Nose in North Carolina

Up, Up, Up…

07 Jul
July 7, 2019

On our trip to Franklin, NC, we visited a place called Picken’s Nose, which is a demanding hike through a bear sanctuary, but also one of the most beautiful places in North Carolina. One thing we didn’t realize before we went was that the entrance to the trailhead required an 8-mile drive up a winding, narrow gravel road, which would be fine in my Jeep, but not in my wife’s car, an Azera with a low-set base, which is the one we took on the trip. It was well worth it, but be aware should you ever decide to go.

Rock Sliding in Tallulah Gorge

07 Jul
July 7, 2019

So, if you go to Tallulah Gorge State Park and show up early enough in the morning to get one of the 100 daily permits that are issued to go beyond the end of the regular trail all the way to the gorge bottom, and you make that difficult hike, this is your reward. It’s a pretty unique experience and a fun one!

Rock Sliding in Tallulah Gorge State Park

Hiking Tallulah Gorge

06 Jul
July 6, 2019

On our trip to Franklin, NC, we ventured down into northern Georgia for a very special adventure – hiking Tallulah Gorge. This is a 3.4-mile hike down into the very steep 1,000-foot gorge. This was a serious hike, extremely difficult in parts, with a lot of boulder climbing. There’s a regular (fairly easy) trail that ends at a suspension bridge, but if you get a special permit (they only issue 100 per day, so you have to arrive early), then you can proceed off-trail and continue all the way on down to the gorge bottom, navigating along unmarked rock walls and trails along the river. Eventually, you come to a big sliding rock formation that dumps into a refreshing pool of water at the very bottom! You have to climb back up a ridiculously steep boulder trail to get back to the top, but it’s well worth it! My daughters, Kendall and Kaelyn led the way for our crew! Here are a few pics from the hike. I’ll post a video of the rock slide, next.

Warning signs about hiking in Tallulah Gorge in north Georgia.
Tallulah Gorge with waterfalls between steep large canyon walls
Heading down the stairs into Tallulah Gorge
Suspension Bridge inside Tallulah Gorge
Family standing on the suspension bridge in Tallulah Gorge in north Georgia
People walking across suspension bridge over Tallulah Gorge
Watering Hole at the bottom of Tallulah Gorge
Hiking up the steep trail in Tallulah Gorge
Hiking bear crawl-style up to the top of Tallulah Gorge
Top of trail looking down through forest in Tallulah Gorge
Couple - selfie in Tallulah Gorge
View from top of Tallulah Gorge looking straight down into rivier and boulders and rushing water.

Highlands Aerial Park Adventure

06 Jul
July 6, 2019

Highlands Aerial Park bumps up next to the Nantahala National Forest. The property has some beautiful scenic nature trails, worth exploring if you happen to go! Here are a few pics from our day there.

Suspension Bridge in Highlands Aerial Park
Girls walking across beautiful field with rolling hills at Highlands Aerial Park in North Carolina.
Beautiful Forest at Highlands Aerial Park in North Carolina
Ziplining family at Highlands Aerial Park near Franklin, NC

Ziplining in Highlands Aerial Park

06 Jul
July 6, 2019

On our trip to Franklin, NC, we went to Highlands Aerial Park and went zip-lining through the Nantahala National Forest. I highly recommend it. We’ve been zip-lining in Florida, Costa Rica and Fiji, and this place was as fun and beautiful as any of those places. Here’s a video of one of the zips.

Little Cabin in the Woods | Franklin, NC

06 Jul
July 6, 2019

We recently took a fun trip up to Franklin, N.C. and had a great time hiking, zip-lining and enjoying Mother Nature’s beauty. Here are a couple of pictures of the cabin where we stayed. The next few posts will document some of our adventures.

Mountain view from the deck of a cabin in Franklin, NC
Cabin in Franklin, NC
View through the forest to the mountains from the deck of a cabin in Franklin, NC

Easter Sunrise Service at Mickler’s Landing

06 Jul
July 6, 2019

Nice pic from earlier this year at Mickler’s Landing for PVPC’s Easter Sunrise Service.

Backyard Bobcat – Twenty Mile in Nocatee

06 Jul
July 6, 2019

Check out this great video! Not long ago, Gretchen saw a large bobcat in our backyard and got a pic of it from inside our screened porch. Not long ago, we saw another one. This one was a little smaller (perhaps a female or a junior?) but really beautiful! I walked outside to video it, about 15 yards away. It saw me and stopped and looked right at me. It wasn’t a bit scared! I, on the other hand, had one hand on my phone and the other feeling back behind me towards Gretchen, making sure she was holding the door open in case this thing decided to spring! 😅 Fortunately, it relaxed. This is in The Crossing at Twenty Mile in Nocatee. Apologies for the shaky start! I was tiptoeing!

Guana Reserve State Park

14 Dec
December 14, 2018
Guana-State-Park
Here and below are four beautiful images from the same location (northern entrance) in Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve in Guana State Park in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. The views are from the (top to bottom, in order) east, west, north and south.
Guana-State-Park-Marshside
Beach-Boardwalk-in-Guana-State-Park
The Florida Coastline from inside Guana State Park in Northeast Florida

Bobcat Out Back

14 Dec
December 14, 2018
Bobcat behind home in residential neighborhood
Here Kitty, Kitty! My wife photographed this beautiful bobcat behind our home from inside the safety of our screened porch. The bobcat came and sat on our outdoor porch and pergola next to the grill. Guess my burgers must be pretty good!

Brands Must Evolve

27 Sep
September 27, 2018

 Coca-Cola Classic Brand

The following is a post I wrote for the Creative Kinds agency blog. Creative Kinds is a consortium of independent creative professionals that operate remotely as a full-service agency. I was a partner in that firm before accepting a role as Creative Director at Beson4.com in Jacksonville, FL.

No, this isn’t another blog post about Millennials. I imagine they are as sick of being exploited for clicks as we are of clicking on stories about them, for the simple reason that, “there’s nothing else on”. And while not focused on this extraordinarily well-documented generation of tastemakers and trendsetters, it is about evolution– specifically, the evolution of brands.

You see, just like everything and everyone, brands must evolve. Not just the bad ones but also the good ones. Especially the good ones. This subject is on my mind because our team here at Creative Kinds is currently in the midst of refreshing a great brand.

Harrell Construction is a 41-year-old commercial construction company based in Jacksonville, Florida that is one of the country’s most trusted general contractors and builders of pre-fabricated metal buildings. Their footprint is especially strong in the southeast. Because they are so good at what they do and have been so well-trusted by so many, for so long, they barely have to worry about marketing at all. Large, global companies know them well and simply call on them when help is needed.

Heck, they don’t even promote some of their highest profile work out of courtesy and confidentiality, but we’re talking about BIG jobs for BIG clients like various appendages of Uncle Sam, one-time medicinal companies that have evolved into soda companies, and one of the world’s most beloved organizations based here in Florida that is headed up by a mouse.

This is what things like quality, integrity and great people, products and services beget when all are delivered with consistency over time. But even the greatest companies cannot afford to rest on their laurels, not with respect to their products and services (looking at you Kodak, Blockbuster, Xerox), nor their brand identities.

Why is the evolution of brand identity so important? For all of the same reasons that product evolution is so critical: for relevancy with respect to the latest consumer and cultural trends, and market tastes.

Logo Evolution Explanation

Logos are, of course, the most recognizable visual symbol of a brand but they are just one component of the overall brand identity which also includes visual and verbal elements such as colors, fonts, positioning copy and taglines, imagery, graphic layout styles, and website.

All of these elements need to work together seamlessly in concert to express the core attributes of the brand and foster an emotional connection with targeted customers who themselves evolve over time.

A brand that allows itself to become tired and dated runs the risk of sending a subliminal message to consumers about the other facets of their company, messages that can lead their prospective customers to ask, “If they’re this behind-the-times with respect to their marketing and branding, what might I expect to be the case with their products, services and methods?

On the other hand, a company that stays on top of their branding communicates a message that says, “We’re on top of trends and technology, connected with our customers and we care about details. We’ll never rest on our laurels or stop pushing for continual improvement.”

We’re excited to be helping Harrell Construction update and upgrade its brand identity to one that is befitting of its work and longstanding industry reputation for quality and integrity. We’ll share a few before-and-after’s with you right here, once we complete our work later this fall.

Until then – if you know your brand is due for a refresh, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We can discuss where you want to go and how we can help you get there.

Now, we return you to your original programming. (If you have to read another article on Millennials, here’s a more thoughtful and entertaining one.)

Hurricane Florence

17 Sep
September 17, 2018

A few GoPro shots from the recent swells generated by Hurrican Florence. After a long, hot, flat summer, it was great to get back into the water and catch some good waves. Prayers to all of those who were negatively impacted by the effects of this storm, including my own relatives in South Carolina.

Hurricane Florence Surf

Hurricane Florence Surfing

Surfing lip blast in Hurricane Florence

Surfing down the line in Hurricane Florence

Dropping into a wave

setting up and stalling on a wave

Dropping into a wave backside

Surfing backside on a wave

surfing off the top in the whitewater

Give The People What They Want

12 Sep
September 12, 2018
screaming boy

Power to the People

The following is a blog post I wrote for the Creative Kinds blog. Creative Kinds is a consortium of independent creative professionals that operate remotely as a full-service agency. I was a partner in that firm before moving to a new role as Creative Director at Beson4.

“Everybody’s a genius…” – Albert Einstein

What started out as pro-bono work for an upcoming local stair climb event turned into something much larger and more exciting for the Creative Kinds team. It also provided a great example of how to avoid a common creative trap: assuming that your professional (creative) opinion, based upon years of experience should always outweigh the client’s because “they don’t do this for a living.”

In actuality, the single goal of every agency should be one thing: Delight the client.

But more on that in a minute…

Sharon Baroncelli, Director of Development for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) was originally looking to brand an individual regional 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb event with a new logo. The events, held in various locations throughout the country, raise funds that help the NFFF create and maintain programs that support fire service survivors.

This includes providing assistance to the surviving families and co-workers of the 343 firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001. Each participant pays tribute to an FDNY firefighter by climbing or walking the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.

In a day and age where Americans seem to increasingly have trouble agreeing on anything, I think it’s safe to say that most in our country still hold our firefighting heroes in the highest regard, and recognize the importance of honoring and supporting those who gave their lives to protect our own. Naturally, we were very excited to help.

Subsequently, via karma, great creative, or some combination therein, the work we submitted to the NFFF was deemed so strong that it was forwarded to the national Board of Directors who voted to use one of our marks for the NFFF’s new national logo for its 9/11 National Memorial Stair Climb events.

The only problem: Which one to choose? There were many great options and the Board loved all of them! 🔥🔥🔥

Here are a few of our original concepts.

NFFF Logo Concepts

NFFF Logo Concepts

Of course, being the creative experts, we felt compelled to voice our own opinion about which mark we felt should be selected. We decided that #9 (L to R, Top to Bottom), the mark with the American flag-themed stairs would be the best choice. The rising stairs perfectly portrayed what the stair climb events are about, both physically and spiritually.

The shield form made for a perfect patch (which firefighters love) and the logo felt crisp, light and modern while simultaneously classic and timeless. We’d need to sharpen the feathered edges of the stairs for vector art applications but overall, felt this was the mark that needed to be selected and that would be.

Until we asked our client and an audience of, ahem…non-professionals.

You see, to confirm our flawless instincts, we put $5 behind an Instagram carousel post (a great survey tool, by the way) targeted to our firefighter audience, and quickly racked up over 400 “Likes” and dozens of positive comments. People loved the marks, all of them, and many noted that it was difficult to choose a favorite.

But ultimately, by an overwhelming margin, our test audience chose their preferred mark: option #5, the silhouette of the kneeling firefighter. In short order, the NFFF agreed.

At this point, we might have strongly encouraged the NFFF to reconsider our preferred mark, the one we wanted to see promoted on their highly-visible national platform. After all, as design professionals, we’re often told by our peers that we are obligated to steer our clients in the “right” direction.

Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody’s a genius…” But he finished that statement with “…but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” In other words, we’re all great at different things. Non-profits are great at organizing events and raising funds. Firefighters are great at fighting fires. And designers are great at design. Ergo, we, the designers, really needed to push our client and their audience to make the “correct” choice.

Right?

Wrong!

Because who’s to say which design was the “right” one?

We wouldn’t have presented any marks to the client that would have been wrong.

Design, you see, is subjective and quite frankly, logo design can sometimes be overrated, with more importance placed on it than what might sometimes be merited.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Great logo design is not easy. They take a lot of time and surprisingly few graphic artists are really good at it. The best logos can become foundations for iconic brands and be relevant for years with only occasional evolution for the passing of time.

At the same time, the great thing about design is the unlimited nature of ideas. There’s always more than one right answer, always another possibility. We provided the NFFF with several. Their first choice was our second choice. But theirs was the only one that mattered.

Take it from someone who’s been there. Don’t ever assume there’s only one best answer and that only you are informed and insightful enough to understand it.

Remember that there is only one imperative in business and it doesn’t take a genius to understand it: Delight your clients.

North Access, Guana River

28 Jul
July 28, 2018

Guana River Reserve

Expansive view of the Guana River Reserve as shot from the northern-most public access.

Up the River with a Paddle

28 Jul
July 28, 2018

Guana River Kayaking

Even on overcast days, the beauty of the Guana River Research Reserve inside Guana River State Park is evident.

Fish On!

28 Jul
July 28, 2018

Big Mahi

Fun day fishing with my brother-in-law, Capt. Trey and his buddies off Cocoa Beach.

Sailfish

This was my catch on the day- a beautiful sailfish that we released.

Giant Mahi

Man, that Mahi was big! Trey, holding up the giant.

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