Fall Surf: Half-Day Off Friday!

I had a half-day off this past Friday and it was a great day to take it… a beautiful gray, fall morning with only one other person out! The sun popped out at around noon, just before I got out. I couldn’t find a barrel that stayed open, but there were a few fun ones out there, anyway!

Skating Sugar Mountain

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CwQ6qKDM1nS/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

(You can click on the link above to see our fun Sugar Mountain skating video)

This past August, I went up to visit some buddies that I’ve known since elementary/middle school – just a great group of friends! We spent 4 days at the very top of Sugar Mountain where one of the guys has a place.

There are two things you do on mountains when there’s no snow:

You climb up them … and you skate down them.

This probably wasn’t the smartest thing we did during our meet-up, but when you get together a bunch of old guys swapping stories about their youthful stupidity until late at night, you can bet that the very next morning, they’ll be up bright and early doing things just as unwise to prove that their best days are not behind them! 😂 Good times! No broken bones, car crashes or life flights off the side of mountains were required! 😂

I took a shot at the end holding my iPhone to show you what we were seeing, which was a little tricky, trying to pay attention to the road and not look at the phone while holding it up properly. Surfing on most days is a safer bet!

More of This, Please

A GoPro shot from last summer… We made it through the June gloom and are now slogging through the typical July summer doldrums here in Florida. Thankfully, the heart of storm season, the best time to surf in Florida – late summer and early fall, are almost here! It’s been flat for way too long and I am just dying to catch some good waves. Pray for surf!

Freshie!

My new stick! A beautiful new freshie from Mike Whisnant: 6′ 1/2″, 12′ x 19″ x 14 3/4″ x 2 3/8″, 5 fin, all 4 oz. glass. This board rides so well, and I have not even tried it in surf that will be its sweet spot! It was made to be my everyday all-around, but as Mike knows, I don’t really like grovel waves and tend not to paddle out much in surf below 3′. At this time, that’s really all I’ve had the chance to ride it in. But it flows beautifully, is fast with great acceleration (have only ridden it as a quad at this point), loose and paddles easy. I cannot wait until we get into storm season and we get waves in the 3′ – 8′ + range! I feel like it is going to end up being one of my favorite boards, ever! Here’s a look at how it came together and the final product!

Surfboard Ressurection Art Project

My daughter, Kaelyn’s, latest art project! I was pretty bummed when I broke my 5’11” Whisnant this past December during the East Coast Atlantic “Super Swell” down in Central Florida (I’ve since gotten an awesome new board), but Kaelyn had an idea for the pieces of my old one. She resurrected my board, not to ride, but as art, saving the pieces from the landfill and repurposing them as a canvas. She then presented her art project along with a 10-page paper she wrote on the subject of surfboard toxicity, disposal, and reuse, for one of her college classes. The professor loved her paper and told Kaelyn she’d like for her to submit it to the school’s Undergraduate Research Journal for publication! She got a 100 on her project and I get to preserve my board-riding memories in a really cool new form! Here’s a look at the process. She removed the pieces of shredded fiberglass and used plaster to create a smooth new uniform surface for her artwork.

My Pics from the Dec. 2022 East Coast Megaswell

One wrong wave is all it takes. In the words of Turtle, “When the wave breaks here, don’t be there.”

I’d usually be sharing a few GoPro pics from such an incredible, historic swell like the one that hit the entire East Coast in mid-December. As it turned out, I captured only one pic from that swell (above).

I had so much fun surfing Central Florida during the earlier Ian swell earlier this summer, that I decided to try another strike mission to score the biggest surf I could find, once again, down in Satellite Beach (South Cocoa, actually) behind my buddy Mike Johnson’s condo. And once again, it was firing! The forecasts had been calling for 4′-6′ with OK winds at home in Jax, but 6′-9′ down there with good winds, and that’s exactly how it played out.

I had planned the surf the whole day with Mike and another good friend and Satellite local, Mike Wilhite (originally from Jax/OP). What you see in the photo happened the very first thing in the morning, when I was paddling out through the bombing high tide shore break. (See the image from Raw Surf – that’s the break and we were, just down to the south) I was a little worried about taking my beloved 5′ 11″ Whisnant out in this surf (I really needed to be using a step-up), but I’m a one-board guy, and it had held up nicely in Ian, Nicole, and other large hurricane/storm swells. But these waves were even bigger and stronger.

I was almost through it but got clipped by an insanely powerful wave that broke on top of me while I was duck diving and driving me further down under the surface. I had heard a loud “pop” as the wave broke and when I managed to get my head back above water, I noticed a 3″ crack on the left side of my board. I thought there was a good chance it had buckled and when I saw the gash, I knew I was right. I had just enough time to feel the underside of my board with my palm to confirm that it had indeed buckled before a second set wave exploded on me and finished the job on my board. The whole thing lasted just a few seconds.

With my board/floatation device now on either side of me in two pieces, that wave also held me down for a bit and left me sucking air when I surfaced, which hasn’t happened to me in a very long time. All of it just felt pretty sudden and violent.

Ultimately, however, it felt like I was only in the water for a total of about a minute. and unfortunately, that’s all it took. Mike Wilhite loaned me a 6′ 2″ Epoxy backup, so I was at least able to paddle back out but I was frazzled the rest of the day. Oh well, I had an awesome time seeing the boys and am currently working on getting myself a replacement board. I’ll be back down that way again the next time the waves get big. It is a fun spot that holds big waves well on the right tides.

A little context

Surfing Hurricane Fiona in Brevard County

In late September, we enjoyed a great stretch of surf during Hurricanes Danielle, Earl and Fiona. On one of the last days of the Fiona swell when the winds were set to be onshore here in NEFl, I made plans to head down to Brevard County (Cocoa / Sattelite Beach) area where the winds were expected to be offshore. This is the area where I spent much of time surfing while finishing school at UCF in the early 90s. It is one of my favorite places to surf and gets such great waves! In addition, I was able to catch up with two old friends, Mike Johnson and Mike Wilhite who both live or have places down there. Mike J. has a great break right behind his condo and that’s where we surfed. My buddy from work, Luis Sandoval joined me for the trip and what a great time we had. The waves were epic and the crowds, light! The winds were offshore, as expected and it was sloppy and onshore back at home. Successful strike mission. We scored! Here’s a few shots from that day.

Hurricane Earl Surfing, Ponte Vedra Beach

I was super stoked to finally get a proper hurricane swell about three weeks ago. It had been so long! Too long! I was able to catch parts of 5 of the 8 days of that Hurricanes Earl and Danielle were gifting us and enjoyed a couple of really fun sessions with my buddies Aaron and Ryan inside Guana State Park in Ponte Vedra Beach. I took the GoPro out or “Super Tuesday” during Earl. Here’s a few pics from the morning and the afternoon that day.

Searching for Tom Curren

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

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

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

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

The Flying Ham Fam

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?

Ziplining in Highlands Aerial Park

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.

Hurricane Florence

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

Hurricane Maria, Guana River State Park

A few interesting GoPro shots from the Hurricane Maria swell earlier this year. I’m not sure if you would call this “stuffing in” or “getting stuffed”. At the very least, you can’t call it barrel-dodging!

The capability of the GoPros (in this case, a 4 Black), never cease to amaze me. In the first shot, you can clearly see seaweed flying past my face inside the wave.

Between Irma and Maria, our beaches were packed with all kinds of debris, making surfing sketchy at times. Even after larger debris like pylons, branches, 2×4’s, etc. had cleared, there was still quite a bit of vegetation in the line-ups for weeks following each storm.

These shots were two days after the peak swell size for Maria, but were the peak for overall size + quality.

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Instalove from Radimus Platypus

Radimus Platypus Instagram
A shout-out from the Radimus Platypus Instagram Channel for the recent book review I wrote on their behalf, for The Inertia. The article detailing author Mikey Bondoc’s inspiring story and killer book series earned over 430 Facebook likes!