Skating Sugar Mountain

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(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!

Surfboard Art

Kaelyn’s art exhibit at Bethel Gallery’s recent “Meet the Artist” event for their summer “Anything Goes” show in Ponte Vedra Beach. Her work included my Mike Whisnant surfboard that I broke in a large swell this past December. She salvaged and painted/repurposed it, turning it into a really cool piece of wall art. Here she is with a few of her other works.

Folly Beach, SC

We recently visited Charleston, SC recently and while we were there, we visted Folly Beach. Cool place, a lot like any East Coast beach town! Fun and funky with a mix of tourists and locals. Their new pier is pretty darn spectacular. We enjoyed tooling around the town and had some drinks up on a rooftop bar across the street from the pier.

Charleston, SC Getaway

My wife and I recently took a quick little trip up to Charleston, SC for my birthday! We bought tickets to see one of our favorite old bands – the Hoodoo Gurus, an Australian surf rock band. As luck would have it, Gretcehn’s aunt and uncle had recently bought a place up that way, and let us stay there. It was so beautiful! We had never been to Charleston and didn’t realize how (relatively) close it was – about 4 hours from Jax. It’s an awesome town, and we had a blast! We also went to Folly Beach (see next post). If you haven’t been to Charleston, put it on your to-visit list!!! Amazing food, beautiful historic architecture and laid-back people. It’s kind of like an upscale St. Augustine. Here’s some pics from the trip!

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

Child of Love | We The Kingdom | Florida Theater

I’ll post a couple of more from the We The Kingdom concert live at the Florida Theater this week. This is the first half of one of their hits, “Child of Love”, maybe my favorite one that they sing. Their concert was a literal party! 🎉 Had to get this in two parts as the video accidentally shut off.

Child of Love Part 1
Child of Love Part 2

Holy Water | We The Kingdom | Florida Theater

Enjoyed a date night out at the Florida Theater with Gretchen Wednesday night (yes, smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Nicole)! But Holy Cow, We The Kingdom put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a ton of shows in every different genre you can think of. If you don’t know them, they are a contemporary Christian band with a rock/blues/soul musical style (think Hammond organ, heavy guitars), and a retro-70’s-feeling stage vibe. You may recognize a couple of their songs (Child of Love, Holy Water) which have been big crossover hits. They have what you would call some “epic” stadium-style songs, the kinds you can’t help but get out of your seat, clap, stomp, and sing along with. They are incredible vocalists, multi-instrument musicians, and performers that just kill it live. One of the things that is really interesting about this Dove and Grammy award-winning band is that it is composed of two brothers, and one of the brothers’ daughters, and his son, along with one of their good friends. So, it is a multi-generational family affair, which is just so unusual. Obviously, they all have that musical gene! Gretchen and I had such a great time. The Florida Theater was packed and it looked like they filmed much of the show. Here’s Holy Water.

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.

The Fixx Live – Secret Separation (Extended Version) | Ponte Vedra Concert Hall

Here is the last video I made of The Fixx at their concert on 9/17/22 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. This is a really beautiful, extended version of “Secret Separation”. It has always been my favorite song by the band. Fittingly, they saved it for their last performance as part of their encore. This was a fantastic, sold-out show in an intimate venue. The band was great. The crowd was great. And I think that both sides really appreciated what they experienced from one another that night. Enjoy this last one!

The Fixx Live – One Thing Leads to Another | Ponte Vedra Concert Hall

I recently had the opportunity to catch The Fixx, one of my all-time favorite bands that I only had the opportunity to see once before, 37 years ago at the UF Bandshell, for free! 😃 As luck would have it, a friend of mine had two tix in the second row to their recent show at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL that he could not use, and he offered them up to my wife and me, so I got to see them once again, for free. And, were they ever fantastic! These guys still have plenty of juice! The concert was sold out and the crowd was hyped. I think the band really enjoyed their stop here. Here is the classic, “One Thing Leads to Another” by the Fixx recorded on 9/17/22. Apologies for the lack of focus in the first 17 seconds! It resolves after that! Enjoy!

The Fountain of Youth, St. Augustine, FL

On Labor Day, my wife, Gretchen, and I got our tourist on in Auggie. I have lived in Northeast Florida all my life and have NEVER been to the Fountain of Youth! 😳 I had heard that there was a pretty cool watch tower overlooking the Intracoastal waterway on the property so we decided to check it out, and to be sure, the views were spectacular! Highly recommended! The property is pretty big and there are a lot of other historical attractions on the site. A few peacocks hanging around, too. As far as the fountain, it’s inside a faux cave chamber. They have cups and let you drink from it. They say it’s from a spring but it definitely was NOT 72-degree spring water, more like 80-degree city water, lol 😂! But hey, we had to try! Also, my appearance did not become any more youthful, but ummm… maybe there’s a delay or something… I’ll keep everyone updated! I’m guessing a good, strong cup of black coffee would probably have a quicker, more immediate youth-restoring impact (maybe get rid of the bags under your eyes!) But don’t let my own cynicism affect your decision to give it a shot. You never know. It is a gorgeous place, and a beautiful sight to see. 

Roswell Mill at Old Mill Park, Alpharetta, GA

Here’s another park we hiked while up in Alpharetta, GA, a really cool urban park hidden right in the heart of the city. It seemed like a really great place to just hang out and cool down, in or out of the water. What a wonderful natural amenity for the locals.

Amicolola Falls, North Georgia

The same weekend we went up to Alpharetta, GA to see the Jack Johnson / Ziggy Marley concert, we ran up about an hour north to visit Amicolola Falls for some hiking. We had been here once before and it is such a gorgeous place. This state park features the third tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It’s only about 8 miles from the Appalachian Trail. We were loving the 70-degree temps after a brutally hot summer in Florida! Check this place out if you get a chance! Here are a few shots of the somewhat strenuous hike to the top of the falls. I’ll post some waterfall videos, as well.

Jack Johnson at Ameris Bank Theater – Alpharetta, GA

Jack Johnson, “Home” at Ameris Bank Theater 8-20-22

Woot! Date night! My wife, Gretchen, and I recently made a quick trip up to the ATL (Alpharetta, GA) to catch a Jack Johnson / Ziggy Marley concert. It was an awesome show! Jack was great, as usual! He played new stuff from his new CD, Meet the Moonlight, many old hits, and also threw in some great covers- Jimmy Buffet’s A Pirate Looks at Forty, Sublime’s Bad Fish, Steve Miller Band’s Space Cowboy, and even The Cure’s Just Like Heaven! (Long live the 80s! … and the 70s and 90s, I guess! 😃) . Ziggy Marley was also excellent. He played some of his music and a few of his dad’s songs. Here is an encore acoustic performance of Jack Johnson’s song, “Home“. Below that is a dual shot of the front stage and back lawn of Ameris Bank Amphitheater. Beautiful venue! It holds 12,000 people, I think. The show was sold out.

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?

Crystal River Kayaking with the Manatees

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