Archive for category: Family and Friends

Whitewater Crew

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Whitewater rafting family

Our whitewater crew for our 16KM trip up the Navua River in Fiji

The Only Thing Better Than a Trip to Fiji is a Free Trip to Fiji

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Waidroka Bay Resort in Viti Levu

Waidroka Bay Resort in Viti Levu, Fiji Showing Off

Note: The following is an account of a recent trip I took to Fiji, a trip  won from Waterways Travel and The Inertia. The story was originally published on The Inertia. For the original post and complete reactions, visit: http://www.theinertia.com/surf/the-only-thing-better-than-a-trip-to-fiji-is-a-free-trip-to-fiji/  The Inertia published an accompanying photo gallery, and many of those images can also be found on this site at full size, in addition to others from the trip.

 

Fiji is almost certainly every surfer’s vision of Shangri-la… the height of perfection in the heart of Polynesia. Safe to say, it has become idealized as the epitome of tropical bliss by just about everyone – surfers and non-surfers alike – drawn to its promise of white-sand beaches, swaying palms and sparkling electric blue water. We surfers then add to these mental images, perfect 6-foot barrels reeling down desolate stretches of empty beachfront.

Well, I’m here to tell you about the real Fiji…

It’s not perfect… at least not all the time…

But it’s about as close to perfect as you might ever hope to get.

I recently had the chance to visit this surreal archipelago. I won the trip in a contest sponsored by Waterways Travel on The Inertia website. Although I’ve surfed for over 30 years, traveled extensively and have had Fiji on my “bucket list” for years, I can’t honestly say I ever imagined I’d get the opportunity to realize this dream.

I had come close to winning a trip to Fiji once before when I finished near the top of an early season of Fantasysurfer. Following the announcement of the winner that year, I remember cursing, then congratulating the guy (Johnny Correll) on my blog. He later returned the favor by leaving me a note on my site upon his return: “Thanks Tim, Fiji was epic!”

Now I can finally say, “Yes, Johnny, it was.”

(Lesson: Never hesitate to enter online contests. You may just win.)

 

 Have Fun, Will Travel

I’m a family man, married for twenty years with two daughters (ages 12 and 16) and I’ve always believed in sharing my travel adventures with them. When I won the trip (all expenses paid for two to the all-inclusive Waidroka Bay Surf and Dive Resort on Viti Levu), we had been planning a family vacation to Nicaragua. So, we simply shifted gears and decided to bring our daughters along with us to Fiji. They helped to pay their own way, and it was an experience that none of us will ever forget.

Our journey was long: a 5-hour flight from our home in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL to LAX, followed by an 8-hour layover, then another 11 hours in the air as we traveled across the international date line and below the equator, before arriving in Nadi on Viti Levu. Despite the long journey, our flight on Fiji Airways was extremely comfortable and there were positive vibes before ever even stepping on the plane. When checking my boards, the rep noticed we were traveling with Waterways and informed us that we’d only have to pay board fees one way for the entire round trip, a half-price perk that made me grateful to be traveling with one of the globe’s leading surf-travel firms.

We had scheduled our 8-day trip (10 total with travel) on the first day of summer, which happened to coincide with the WSL’s Fiji Pro. While we’d be staying about 3 hours from Tavarua Island (Fiji is made up of 332 islands and over 500 islets), it was exciting just knowing that whatever energy the pros might be riding, I’d be catching, too. Even while Tavarua may be a bit drier and favorably situated for the area’s prevailing winds, the Koralevu area along Viti Levu’s southern Coral Coast where we were staying offered similar wave options without having to worry about paddle-battles against the likes of Kelly Slater, Owen Wright… or… well, anyone, really.

 

Waidroka Bay Resort – A Near-Perfect Setting for Adventure

Waidroka Bay Resort, set on the Pacific Ocean at the edge of a rainforest in one of Viti Levu’s lushest, most tropical areas, was the ideal base for my family. In addition to escaping the crowds of Nadi and providing a wide variety of waves, it also offered a full range of adventurous activities for thrill-seekers. Although my youngest daughter surfs, Fiji in general is not a place for the less experienced. Most waves require access by boat, are quite powerful and break on shallow coral reefs. So, even while I was the only one who’d be surfing, our whole family would enjoy ziplining, whitewater rafting, SUPing, kayaking, snorkeling, visiting Kula Eco Park, a local village school and more. All this, in addition to enjoying the resort’s many amenities.

Waidroka is a dream set-up with special appeal for surfers and divers. A private, casual resort in stark contrast to some of the larger, more sterile properties along the Queen’s Highway, it has a fleet of boats to run you out to the breaks for surfing, fishing or diving; a spacious clubhouse with plenty of places for lounging or socializing; endlessly running surf vids and largest collection of surf pubs from around the globe that I’ve ever seen; a bar; outdoor pool table; swimming pool; and a small surf and dive shop.

We stayed in an oceanfront bure that slept 6 and had AC, although on most days, the breezes kept things plenty comfortable. Every morning we received fresh linens, and each day we feasted on 3 squares of fresh local from banana pancakes in the morning, to locally caught Tuna and Wahoo for lunch and dinner. One of the things I really loved was sitting down and getting to know some of the other resort guests and staff at one of the group-style tables. Although it was never crowded, we still enjoyed interacting with some great people from Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, Austria, Sweden, the UK, Israel and Fiji. It was a fun, enriching experience, especially for my daughters.

 

There’s No Such Thing as a “Lay Day” in Fiji

The first few days we were there, the sun was surprisingly fleeting, the clouds thick with brisk winds and intermittent rain. There was a small pulse of surf on a couple of days in the head high range, but the predominant side-onshore winds weren’t cooperating, and by the fourth day of our trip, Fiji was not only out of sorts, it had effectively gone flat. Over on Tavarua, the pros were dealing with the same maddening conditions.

Of course, as any experienced surf-traveler knows, you take what you get on a surf trip and make the most of your time. There was swell on the near horizon (new swells arrive like clockwork in Fiji, every 7-8 days, year ‘round), and we had already planned to dedicate some of our time exploring the area’s numerous other offerings.

One day, we headed into Pacific Harbor to go ziplining through the rainforest, high above the Wainadoi River Valley. We were in the air for over 2KM, and our guides were a blast! We had all zipped before, but the rules here were a little more… relaxed… Soon, we were letting go of the lines completely and even zipping upside down! We even got in a little abseiling on the course, which none of us had ever done.

Another excursion took us into the deep interior of Viti Levu on a 16KM whitewater trip into the Upper Navua River Conservation area. It was an all-new kind of adventure for my girls, who had never been rafting before, and the class II/III rapids were ideal for them. There’s no way to adequately describe how amazing the scenery was, here. Pristine rainforest… pure, virgin wilderness… steep canyon gorges covered with lush ferns and vegetation and so many waterfalls of every shape and size, all along the way. It was like stepping back into the Jurassic age. Sadly it’s a part of Fiji that so many travelers, who tend to focus almost exclusively on Fiji’s admittedly beautiful coastal areas, miss. Take it from me- if you ever venture to go there, DO NOT make this same mistake. It’s must-see, Chris Burkhard, Nat-Geo kind of stuff.

 

The Surf

 By mid-trip, I was jonesin’ to surf and just as forecast, two new swells were arriving- an initial 3-5’ swell that would be reinforced by a second, larger 4-6’ swell that would peak at just over that on Tuesday, the same day as the WCT finals and Owen Wright’s 20 pt. masterpiece at Cloudbreak.

I first ventured out into the Fijian surf at a break called, “Pipes”. Pipes is a fast, powerful wave that the locals refer to as, “Mini-Chopes” as it rises from extremely deep water and breaks onto a shallow reef in a way that gives it the appearance of breaking “down” into a sub-sea level “pit”. The winds were still stiff and side-onshore, and the weather, overcast. But it was clear there was now a solid swell in the water. Upon getting out, I quickly caught a small one, negotiating the impressive speed of the wave and gaining a little bit of early confidence.

I then paddled for a larger set wave, about head high or a little over. But this time, the wave was traveling and rising so quickly beneath me that I stalled at the top, mesmerized at the sensation and the sight of the shallow reef racing below. All, while being lifted and ultimately, ejected onto that beautiful reef. As added insult, while I was fully expecting extended hold-downs, I was still caught by surprise at the ocean’s ability to hold me below the surface even longer than I was anticipating. After surfacing from that first wipeout (and bouncing off the reef), I had a much clearer idea of what I was dealing with on this powerful, tricky wave.

I was surfing Pipes with two others: Dan, the surf guide from Waidroka, and Jared, a surfer from Hawaii. I told Dan what had happened on the last wave and he noted that you couldn’t linger at the top of these waves, before dropping down. No, you had to get down to the bottom immediately, then start enjoying your ride. A couple of more large sets came through and raced below me, and I thought for a moment that I might need more board than my 6’ Whisnant. But then, Jared offered some additional advice. “You can’t just ‘pop’ into these wave like you’re probably used to at home. Try taking a couple of extra strokes down the face than you feel you need.” I did, and it proved to be a key. Although the onshores seemed to be inhibiting escapable tubes, I was just blown away by the speed and force of the waves. It was exhilarating.

 

 Wash, Rinse, Repeat

For the next two days, we’d check other spots, but would ultimately venture back to Pipes, which seemed to handle the trades the best. The clouds and showers continued to linger, but the surf was fun and the second, larger reinforcing swell was bearing down.

On the day prior to our departure, I was praying for the sun to come out and winds to lie down, but woke to even heavier winds and rain (some locals told us they thought this unusual weather was the result of this year’s continuing El Nino weather pattern). Alas, I had one final day, as our plane was pushing out the next afternoon.

The swell was forecasted to peak that day, with “moderate” SE trades lingering in the morning. This would be the day of the Fiji Pro final. Cloudbreak was forecasted to be double-overhead with 8-12’ faces, and some larger 12-15’ sets in the morning. As a general rule, Cloudbreak and the outer reefs in Fiji break about 1/3 bigger than the interior reefs where I was surfing. For me, this translated into 5-8’ waves with sets in the 8-10’ face range. And that’s exactly what we got… with a bonus.

 

Fiji Turns On

Upon waking the next morning, there was the sun! The clouds and wind had disappeared, and there was the Fiji of the magazines with its iridescent azure water and big ol’ lines of whitewater fringing on the reefs about a half-mile from shore. We sped out to check a spot called, “Serua Rights”. Although I knew Pipes would be phenomenal in these conditions, I was anxious to try some new spots. Upon pulling up at Serua, we looked across the channel and saw even bigger, better waves coming in on the opposite side of the channel at a break called, “420’s”.

As I would learn, 420’s is a spot that doesn’t work that often. It only does so on large swells that tend to overwhelm Serua (which takes medium swells), but when it’s on, it’s really on! These beautiful, steep lefts were breaking at around 7’ with an ample number of 10’ foot faces on larger sets. I was still riding my 6’ board and remembering to take those extra strokes down the faces. On one particularly big set, it felt as if my board got nearly vertical on the drop. I couldn’t do anything but just try to stick with it. It felt as if my toes were just barely clinging to the last inches of my tailpad in freefall. Somehow, at the bottom I reconnected, wobbling precariously, before setting a rail enjoying a good ride, escaping near-certain obliteration.

As the tide backed out, we moved back over to Serua. It was a fun, long unusual wave, more forgiving than Pipes or 420s. It was like riding in a skate park. You’d begin with a medium-sized line on the outside reef, which would then move into deeper water, tapering down into a small foamy section that might normally be your cue to cut out. But, if you just stuck with it for just a couple of seconds, the wave would suddenly hit the inside reef and start jacking up… and up… into a big ol’ peak that supposedly, on smaller days, would provide a backdoor barrel to shoot. As it was, there was too much swell for this barrel to materialize, but the huge bowls that were left were just outright fun!

 

Almost Perfect

 On my final wave at Serua, I made a critical mistake. I had managed to largely avoid the reef for nearly the entire trip, but things were about to change. Our boat was positioned at the back of the reef and it was a lonnnggg paddle back to it. I had just caught a nice ride and had covered a great deal of yardage back to the boat, albeit still with another 100 yards or so, to go.

There was whitewater everywhere and I couldn’t see any exposed reef. So, rather than turning for the channel, I just continued riding in. Almost instantly, the water depth drained from about two-and-a-half feet, to six inches, to “Oh s*%#! And right behind me was another surge of whitewater, propelling me up onto the reef. Ultimately, I negotiated my way back over into the channel and climbed, bloody, back into the boat, sporting a few new tattoos from the Fijian coral.

Still, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

I returned to the resort with about an hour get packed up and ready to head back home. My wife and daughters were just returning from their visit to a local village school just down the road from Waidroka. We felt so blessed to have won this trip and really wanted to return some of the karma while there. We had brought along some Waves for Water filters, school supplies and other fun stuff (punching balloons) for the local kids and I would be leaving behind my 6’ Whisnant and 6’ 6” Joe Johnson Quiet Flight for the “Surfboards for Fiji” project – a joint effort co-sponsored by Waidroka Bay, Wai Tui’s and the Fiji Surf Association. (As you can imagine, getting boards for rising young Fijian surfers can be difficult, so it is a great program).

While waiting for our ride, I checked my phone and saw the epic conditions that the pros had scored at Cloudbreak. On the south side of Fiji, there’s another world-class outer reef – Frigates Passage – that by almost every account, rivals Cloudbreak. The only differences are that rather than being 2 miles from shore, it’s about 14 miles from Waidroka (and 7 miles from anywhere) and as a result, less crowded. Although I was keenly interested in trying Frigates, conditions were such that a good opportunity didn’t present itself until my last day, and then, not enough time. Frankly, as powerful as the waves were where I was surfing, I’m not sure that wasn’t a complete blessing. There’s no skis to pluck you out of trouble out there.

Of course, the flipside to my angst: it gives me the perfect excuse to try and get back to Fiji.

Close to perfect, anyway.

Cold shower

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Under a waterfall

You go by a waterfall, you gotta get in…

Left side! Left side! I mean, right side! …

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Navua River whitewater rafting

Getting into the action of the Navua River…

Yewww!

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Modern Mom ziplining

Gretchen, showing off some good form, here! #ModernMoms

Zipliners

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Mother and daughters zipliners

My crew, getting ready for our zipline / abseil adventure!

Anticipation

11 Jul
July 11, 2015
Kendall, gazing out the hotel window at the hazy LA skyline, prior to leaving for Fiji.

Kendall, gazing out the hotel window at the hazy LA skyline, prior to leaving for Fiji.

Matters of Style

20 Apr
April 20, 2015
stylish surfer

Is great style something that can be learned, or is it something you’re born with?

Since its birth hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, surfboard design has never ceased evolving. From ancient paipos, olos and alaias to modern longboards and shortboards, every new generation of surfers has always looked both forward and backwards in never-ending attempts to find new ways to enhance performance or just have a good time and more unique experience in the water.

These days, experimental boards of remarkable diversity continue to emerge at a breathtaking pace. A glimpse around your local lineup on any given weekend will provide testament to this trend. And for every surfer you might see at home trying out the latest unusual shape, there’s a steady stream of new web clips waiting every time you surf the net to show you how a dozen others are doing it someplace else.

Like most surfers, I appreciate the continuing revolution(s) in board design, including the most recent retro-and post-modern experimentation in shapes and construction. But whenever I witness someone drawing smooth lines on an asymetrical slider, tombstone-style alaia or vintage Steve Lis fish, my focus invariably winds up not on the equipment, but rather the rider and on the transcendent nature and enduring value of great style. And that’s not something you can buy off the rack.

Your shaper can’t imagine or engineer style into you. He can only provide a framework for drawing out your own natural expression of it; an expression fashioned by some inexplicable combination of God, genetics, friends, heroes, the break(s) you grew up surfing and the good or bad memory of 640 different muscles that make up our human bodies.

Great style is magical.

It is hard to define and as unique as our own DNA. At the same time, most of us claim to know great style when we see it, even if it’s served in a thousand different flavors. Clearly, it’s important to us. It’s one reason why an explosive, acrobatic world champion can be criticized for stink stance, while others with air games nowhere nearly as advanced, are routinely recognized as being better overall surfers.

Heck, did Tom Curren ever ascend even ten inches above the lip? More to the point, did he need to? No.

And yet, Curren is still universally heralded as perhaps the second greatest surfer of all time behind only Kelly Slater (witness some of the most stylish tuberiding ever at 7:32), whose unparalleled mix of speed, style, power, flow and explosiveness may never be rivaled.

Great style is transcendent.

It transcends age, gender, body type, wave type, conditions and whatever surf craft it is you might happen to be riding. It typically begins to evidence itself early in our surfing lives and matures as we ourselves do. To be certain, we can all improve our skills and work to refine our style over time, but core style is so ingrained and inherent in each of us that slivers of its true nature will always be revealed, no matter how much time and attention we’ve dedicated to “fixing” our less stylish bad habits.

I can recall two specific instances in my life when the true nature of style presented itself to me in clear, unequivocal fashion–two occasions when I paddled out with different surfers who were regarded as two of the best, most stylish surfers in the area where I grew up. Perhaps not coincidentally, both were pretty decent on a skateboard, as well. Although both were often encouraged, neither had much interest in surfing competitively. They were simply passionate about surfing as an activity and a lifestyle.

Randy, the first fellow, was pretty much an All-American kind of guy–smart, laid back and just a really cool, fun guy to be around. Physically, he was on the short side of average with a compact, athletic build not uncommon to many pro surfers. We agreed to meet out at the Jax Beach Pier one hot summer morning to try and catch a few. But when we arrived, as is the case on so many Florida summer mornings, there was little energy in the ocean, save for the slightest occasional burps from a far-distant SE background swell.

While I almost immediately resigned myself to the fact that there’d be no surfing that day and began weighing our fishing prospects, Randy began waxing up his board saying, “Well, I’m gonna’ go catch a couple. You comin’?”

No.

There was no way I was even going to try–especially being one of only two people who would have in the water at all that morning, trying to ride a swell that was only barely there. But Randy went right about his routine as if it was just another session. He removed his leash from his board and to my surprise, pulled on his baseball cap and sunglasses before trotting down to the water’s edge. And there wasn’t a damn thing pretentious about it.

Randy wasn’t trying to attract attention. He was just trying to beat the blistering Florida sun on a windless summer day. And within two minutes

of paddling out, there he was gliding effortlessly down the line on these periodic, glassy one-and-half-foot bumps; hat dry, sunglasses in place, finding energy where none existed, and turning 360s without displacing a single drop of water, with as much grace and style as you could possibly imagine. It was just all so smooth. I was fully content to just sit there and watch the show. I learned that day that truly great style is unaffected by shitty conditions.

The second instance was with my friend Tony. He was a hipster through and through–a tall (about a full foot taller than Randy) skinny musician / guitarist / vocalist / surfer / skater and independent music connoisseur who oozed charisma. At the same time, like Randy, there was absolutely nothing contrived or self-conscious about him. He was unmistakably, authentically himself and that just happened to be extremely stylish, in and out of the water.

Just like with Randy, Tony and I had decided to meet up for a paddle out, this time a little further up the road at a sandbar behind my dad’s place in Neptune Beach. Tony showed up that afternoon glassy-eyed and ready to have fun. The waves were about 2-3 feet and offering up some really nice peaks.

I was keenly interested in trying out Tony’s board and immediately asked him if that would be ok. I determined to figure out how he could surf so well and learn what his board had to do with it. Was his craft noticeably lighter than mine? Was there something different about his rails that helped make his lines so much more fluid and his turns, so much smoother and arching than mine? Surely, a revelation was at hand. And it was.

Tony handed me what looked to be a standard 6’ thruster- a worn, yellowed beater that I estimated to be about 2-3 years older, a little longer, wider and heavier than my own. In exchange, I gave Tony my board. He wasted little time getting at it, casually paddling over to spot about 15 yards away and beginning to surgically dissect the fun peaks in a manner not altogether different when he was riding his own board.

Meanwhile, to my astonishment, there was no extra “magic” that I could conjure from his board. Nothing helped make my turns look like his, nothing helped me to displace more water or create more symmetrical fans; nothing prevented my dominant right arm from dropping towards my rib cage when I really needed to keep it extended… the writing was on the wall.

Some people were–are–just naturally more stylish than others. Period.

This point was driven mercilessly home when Tony then mentioned the antique longboard hanging in my dad’s garage. I think it must have come with the home when my father purchased it. He certainly hadn’t ridden the thing in years and frankly, I was embarrassed of it, and not curious about it at all.

But Tony was. He wanted to try it out.

I tried to laugh off his suggestion off at first, but he was serious. And so we took it down off the wall. It must have weighed 50 pounds and had faded far past yellow. It was now closer to steam pile brown. I was red-faced as Tony enthusiastically tucked it under his scrawny arm and lugged it across the sand and out into the water.

And just like that, he was up and riding it–his stance and body positioning largely unchanged, like a cat about to pounce as he navigated shifting areas of the waves where opportunities presented themselves to hit open faces, step up to the nose or bend a knee to pull a graceful, flowing turn.

Oh, Tony fell a couple of times. But when he did, it was always with a smile on his face and, well… just a lot of style. He loved riding that monstrous old antique. And he looked every bit as brilliant riding it as he did on his shortboard. Or mine.

I came to the realization that day that great style isn’t necessarily subject to a certain kind of board under your feet. Rather, it is something that lives inside you, and you bring it with you wherever you go and on whatever craft you happen to be riding. If you’ve got great style, it’s going to show up whether you’re on a shortboard, longboard, dick-shaped board, a finless plank, door, or a table. Heck, even with another little human strapped to your back.

And finally, if your style still needs work: Hey, no worries. Just keep on trying, having fun and smiling like the rest of us. After having spent a great portion of the past 30 years in lineups at home and abroad with surfers of every different skill level, I promise you that’s the most effective style-enhancer that any surfer of any ability can ever hope to master.

Note: This post was originally created for, and published on The Inertia. You can see the original, including article response, here: http://www.theinertia.com/surf/matters-of-style-and-the-style-masters/#ixzz3XnthvnWC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Egg Hunt, Florida Style

11 Apr
April 11, 2015
Florida coastal marshlands

Needless to say, we left a few eggs behind…

#Winning

11 Apr
April 11, 2015
IMG_2417

Good for (1) free dinner!

 

Kendall in the Nutcracker 2014, UNF Arena

28 Mar
March 28, 2015
Star of the show!

Star of the show!

Kendall, front and center

Kendall, front and center

Kendall, in the closest foreground

Kendall, in the closest foreground

Kendall, front and center

Kendall, front and center

Kendall on the left

Kendall on the left

Goin’ Nowhere Fast…

14 Mar
March 14, 2015
A kayaker and an SUPer on the Guana River in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

How we roll in the 904. Gretchen, Kendall and Kaelyn taking in the beauty of the Guana River on a lazy Saturday.

Dream Jobs: Bryan Pohlman’s Endless Summer

21 Jan
January 21, 2015
Surfer Bryan Pohlman in the Maldives

Another day at the office for Bryan Pohlman

If you could have your dream job, what would it be? Is it safe to assume it might revolve around surfing? Would you desire it to include heavy doses of travel and adventure, allowing you to surf the world’s best waves in exotic destinations? Would playing a role in helping others realize some of their own dreams help top things off?

Most people never get to live their dreams, because they don’t pursue them. Others, like Bryan Pohlman, do, precisely because they make it a point. His job, as Global Sales Consultant for Waterways Travel, the world’s largest surf travel agency, is a veritable Endless Summer.

In fact, the parallels between Bruce Brown’s iconic surf film, which celebrated the virtues of travel, wonder and discovery by following two surfers–Mike Hynson and Robert August–as they chased summer around the world, and Pohlman’s own life and career, are uncanny.

Pohlman not only spent a significant part of his career shaping boards for August, but also constructing a life to satisfy the deep wanderlust within him and the DNA of pretty much all surfers, that Brown’s film so beautifully conveyed. Indeed, the film’s concept was born at the suggestion of a travel agent who informed Brown that a flight from LA to Cape Town, South Africa and back would cost $50 more than a trip circumnavigating the globe. This inspired Brown’s idea to make the film about chasing summer around the world and to call it Endless Summer.

Pohlman, who began his career with Air New Zealand and also worked for Quiksilver Travel, has surfed in multiple locations around the world this past year alone, all while collecting a paycheck and helping others pursue their own endless summers. I caught up with Bryan to gain some insight about his professional journey, and his current dream job at Waterways.

Tell me a little bit about Waterways, and your own career timeline. 

Waterways is the largest surf-travel agency in the world. We’ll be celebrating our 21st anniversary in 2015. I’ve personally been in the travel business since 1996.  I started at Air New Zealand and worked there for three years, took a break to be a ghost shaper for Robert August, shaped 600 boards, and then started Quiksilver Travel in 2001. I worked there until 2013, before moving over to Waterways.

How’d you get the job? 
I met Sean Murphy, the owner, on a surf trip to remote Panama in 2007. Even though we were competitors at the time, we got along really well. When Quiksilver Travel shut their doors, it seemed natural to transition over to Waterways, since they were the biggest and best at what they do. And I knew that Sean was probably the only guy in this business who I could still learn a lot from.

How great is your job?
I love it. Getting to interact with traveling surfers keeps me stoked. It also keeps me in tune with tour operators all over the world and gives me a unique perspective on global surf patterns. This year alone, I logged tube time in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. Not too bad!

What does a typical day/week look like at Waterways? 
Normal office job from 9AM – 5:30PM, but Sean is the best boss ever. He’s always buying lunch for everyone and we’re looking at photos and watching surf contests. Working at Quiksilver for over 10 years was pretty special and had some insane perks, but I think on a day-to-day basis Waterways is a fun place to work because of the people that work here, not to mention our many awesome clients!

Have you always been a frequent traveler?
Always. I’ve been going to Baja since I was 8 years old. I’m just one of those people that sees a map and says, “I have to go there.” So, that’s what I’ve done.

So, you get to travel and surf a lot for work?
Yes, we all get out to R-and-D our surf tours several times each year. I like that part because not only do we get to know our tour operators well and really evaluate their operations, but we also get to meet our clients. I can honestly say that having been in the business for so many years, that most of my best friendships started as client/agent relationships. I love being able to help others fulfill their own dreams. Obviously, I can relate.

Do you get special rates?
We turn down tour operators all the time that want us to come down to their spots. Everyone wants us to check out their tours, because we are the front line of the sales force. So yes, we do get offered lots of free trips, but we don’t expect free trips. We understand that our tour operators need to make a living and we don’t take advantage of them. Plus, I find it’s better to pay, because then you don’t feel obligated to sell a specific resort if they aren’t up to Waterways’ standards. The old saying “There is no such thing as a free lunch” is definitely true in the travel business.

Where all have you been?
(Laughs) a lot of places, and most of them multiple times. Sumatra, Mentawai, Bali, Sumba, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, Samoa, Hawaiian Islands, Chile, Peru, Panama (Pacific and Caribbean), Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mainland Mexico and the Dominican Republic
.

What’s your favorite destination?
I’ve learned that every destination is unique and different in its own way. But my favorite wave in the world is probably Macaronis.

Some have said that travel is increasingly become a luxury item, a privilege enjoyed primarily by the wealthy. Would you say this is true?
I definitely think having a discretionary income to travel is a luxury. Of course, a lot of surfers travel while they are young and before they have families. And if you’re smart, you can get great value on a surf trip.

Who are your primary customers? Do you work with traveling pros at all? 
Here at Waterways, we’ve been in business since 1994, so most of our customers come back every year or every other year to book their surf trips. I don’t have any official stats, but I think an average age of about 35-45 year old men, some traveling with their non-surfing companions, make up the bulk of our customers. We work with pro surfers and photographers on a regular basis, because many of our destinations offer world-class waves with the best accommodations possible.

Did the recession impact your business significantly, as it did so many others? If so, how did you weather the storm and are you seeing continuing improvement?
Yes, things slowed down some for a while, but we are back on track. Waterways is a niche business with a great reputation and track record. We’ve always offered great prices and work with the best surf tour operators in the world. When you’re the best at what you do, people will buy your products in good times, or bad.

What are some tips for cost-effective surf travel? 
Well, if you have more time than money, you can just go with the flow and show up places. You can meet local surfers and do things on the cheap. But most of our clients can’t leave work and family behind for a month at a time. Most are traveling for 7-14 days. When you have only a few days, you can’t take 3-4 days getting settled in. You need to hit the ground running and be connected with someone who can take care of the other little things like food, transportation and lodging logistics, so you can forget all that, relax and go surfing. That’s what you’re there for and that’s our specialty at Waterways–maximizing the value of your time.

These days, people are increasingly placing value upon “experiences” over “things.” People have realized that you can lose “things” (like homes) and are realizing that these kinds of material possessions can be fleeting or lose their value, whereas experiences last forever. And of course, experiences help shape our identities and define who we are. Have you seen evidence of this in your job?
Absolutely! As a group, surfers have always placed a high value on experience. That’s what surfing really is… it’s an experience. And no one can ever take that away from you. At the same time, you can’t take a wave home with you after you ride it. It’s gone and that particular experience is over until you paddle back out for another one.

I’ve done a great deal of surf-traveling myself and know that sometimes, things can go wrong. Have you seen much of this in your career?
Things can go wrong on any trip, but for some reason, we love to talk about the worst surf travel experiences in our surf media. I don’t know if it’s a “badge of honor” or if people just love to hear stories about trips gone awry, but my motto is, “Expect the best, be prepared for the worst and the trip will probably fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.”

What are some of the trickiest situations you’ve had to deal with?
As an agent, we deal with al sorts of issues from airlines losing bags to guys getting injured and needing to be evacuated, but cancelled flights are one of the biggest headaches for travelers and agents alike. As a surf traveler, I’ve fended off crackheads, walked through knee-deep mud to find waves, super glued my cuts and had to figure out foreign lineups all alone on some really sketchy days.

For readers, of the places you’ve been or promote, where are some of the best destinations for each of the following:

Nothing but hardcore surfing:
Sumatra, Salina Cruz, El Salvador and G-land 

Adventure:
Samoa, Galapagos, Mozambique, Dominican Republic

Couples:
Namotu, Matanivusi, Chaaya Island and Nemberala Beach Resort

Families:
Tavarua, Waidroka, J-Bay, Bocas Del Toro

Best with an unlimited budget: 
Kandui Villas, Chaaya Island, Macaronis Surf Resorts

Best on a tight budget:
Peru, Mexico, Dominican Republic, G-Land, El Salvador

So, do you need some help setting up an East Coast office, so that we can get folks off to the Caribbean, Nazare, Mullaghmore, Mundaka, The Canary Islands and J-Bay most efficiently (hint hint)?
Ha Ha! Maybe some day. But not now.

Ok, well at least there’s still hope!

Where are you personally headed next?
This year, I was in Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, the Maldives and the Dominican Republic. Next up is Teahupoo, Tahiti in March… nothing booked beyond that.

Any words of wisdom for those wishing to pursue their dream of a career like yours?
You know, the travel industry has changed so much since I began in 1996 that it’s hard for me to give advice to newcomers.  I’d just say that if you want to travel the world, do it any way you possibly can, whether that is being a travel agent, chef, boatman or a teacher. Experiencing different cultures and getting to know people that come from completely different backgrounds is truly a priceless, life changing and enlightening experience that will forever shape how you view others and the world around you.

When you hear Kelly Slater talk about his life, he doesn’t brag on world titles. He talks about being a citizen of the world and how many wonderfully diverse friends he has who have taught him valuable life lessons and provided him with differing perspectives… This is because he has been traveling the globe for the past 30 years. The fact he’s the best surfer who ever lived is just a bonus for the rest of us.

Note: I originally conducted this interview and created the article for Waterways Travel and The Inertia. You can find the that post, here: http://www.theinertia.com/surf/dream-jobs-bryan-pohlmans-endless-summer/#ixzz3PPtMnsok

Catty Shack

04 Jan
January 4, 2015

One of Jacksonville’s best kept secrets is the Catty Shack Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary (A 501-3 non-profit) is currently home to 40 BIG cats, everything from Siberian Tigers to Lions, to Panthers and many more! None of these cats were born in the wild. Rather, they were taken in to be cared for by the non-profit from a variety of different owners, for a variety of different reasons, primarily because the original owners were no longer able to care for them properly. They are open daily for tours and on Friday and Saturday nights you can go watch them being fed at night ($15/pp). It’s quite a scene. Lots of roaring and growling!We took our girls there with a couple of their friends, and they loved it! Here, a couple of the cats start getting restless just before feeding time…

Happy New Year

02 Jan
January 2, 2015
Sunset is Barbados

Your possibilities for 2015 are as boundless as your imagination.  Sunset shot of a friend from a trip to Barbados.

2105 is finally here! I hope that everyone rang in the New Year in unforgettable ways! My wife was brought down by a pretty vicious cold, forcing us to cancel dinner plans with friends. Still, as always, we enjoyed ringing in the actual New Year at home with our girls. Every moment spent with them is so special for us. As we all begin to consider what lies ahead for 2015, be sure to remember that a new year itself won’t change anything for any of us, unless we do it ourselves. I’m not sure what it’s worth, but here are a few of my own suggestions for creating a life that you love in 2015:

Spend more time looking forward than backward.

Make decisions with conviction and live without regrets.

Never let fear become a barrier in life. That’s what it is.

Believe in yourself. How far we go in life is not based upon what we can see, but how far we can imagine ourselves going.

Don’t settle for anything less than you’re dreaming of. If you’re not doing exactly what you want to be right now, then it’s entirely up to YOU to change it. You can when you come to grips with this reality.

Mind your Heath! Push to stay young and healthy in body, mind and spirit. Living with a bit of self-discipline, balance and consistency will allow you to enjoy so many more things, so much longer than not. With age comes experience. Maintaining your health now will provide you the best of all worlds later.

Travel more in 2015, regardless of challenges! Explore your world to the extent you’re able, whether close or far from home. Although there’s ways to do it efficiently, traveling can be expensive, especially once you have kids. If you’re like me and believe that family is sacred, then rest assured you’ll want to share all of your experiences with your kids, regardless of costs. What’s this mean? That if you’re under 35 (or any age pre-kids), then DOUBLE DOWN on adventure RIGHT NOW while your obligations are fewer, your time more abundant and flexible. I’ve traveled extensively, and it’s never gotten cheaper or easier.

Make every moment of life count while understanding some dreams take time to achieve. Incremental progress is a beautiful thing. The key is never giving up. Remember that we are all just passing through this life. In one sense, that should encourage you to live your life with a sense of urgency. In another, it should remove all pressures of time.

Most importantly, live your life with a sense of positivity- of optimism, perseverance and gratitude.
Do these things and your 2015 and beyond will always be great!

 

Upside Down

30 Dec
December 30, 2014

Girl performing gymnastics on the beach

Who’s to say
I can’t do everything
Well I can try
And as I roll along I begin to find
Things aren’t always just what they seem

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I’ll find the things they say just can’t be found
I’ll share this love I find with everyone
We’ll sing and dance to Mother Nature’s songs
I don’t want this feeling to go away

– “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson.

I think our youngest daughter, Kaelyn, spends more time on her hands than her feet! : )

Quality Time

30 Dec
December 30, 2014
Girl strolling on Florida beach

79 degrees and sunny on Dec. 29th. What’s not to love about Northeast Florida?

Took a late afternoon stroll with KK, today… A few leftovers from the swell still rolling in… Enjoying the holidays and getting to spend time with my family.

Mornin’ Sunshine

30 Dec
December 30, 2014

Sunrise at Mickler's Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

#FarmLife

10 Dec
December 10, 2014

A few shots from our annual Thanksgiving trek to Hartsville, SC to visit Gretchen’s grandma, who is 96 years young this year. It is always nice to escape the hustle and bustle of work and home and activities to just vegetate and hang with the family. I also love the scenic farmcountry, so beautiful and rustic.

Stand alone tree

This stand alone tree is beautiful in both spring and fall. It’s a perfect tree.

John Deere tractor in front of a corn silo

Life is simple on a farm

Old wooden barn

TEXTURE – The broad side of a barn. Love the character of this old place.

Silos on a farm

5 silos in a row. This is where the harvest is stored until sold

 

Truck on a farm

America’s Growers

Skeet shooting

Mind your momma! Gretchen looks good with a shotgun, y’all!

Hartsville juvenile correctional facility- a few of the inmates. Cousins having fun!

Hartsville juvenile correctional facility- a few of the inmates. Cousins having fun!

This is how my crew spent Black Friday - on a mountain far from flat-screen tv tug-of-wars

This is how my crew spent Black Friday – on a mountain far from flat-screen tv tug-of-wars

Aloha Sunday at Mickler’s

30 Sep
September 30, 2014

Surfer girl

 

Surfer Girl Close-up

A couple of shots of Kaelyn droppin’ in at Mickler’s Landing on Sunday, September 28th. The stoke meter was on high in the 1-3′ surf! No more whitewater waves for this kid! Kaelyn caught quite a few rides with no falls. Nice job out there, Kaelyn! Thanks to Ryan Ketterman who was testing out a new water housing, for the shots!

Sisters of the Sea / Saltwater Cowgirls Surf Contest 2014

20 Sep
September 20, 2014
2014 Sisters of the Sea / Saltwater Cowgirls Surf Contest

Did she get through her heat?

Had a great time at the 2014 Sisters of the Sea / Saltwater Cowgirls contest on September 6th, at the Jacksonville Beach Pier! What a wonderful event this is for all surfer girls / women of every age and ability. The spirit of the event is really supportive, and I would venture to say that vibe does not come altogether easily or naturally for many women, or surfers. But it sure showed on the beach at this event, which has been held for about 15 years now, I believe. Very proud of Kaelyn who made it through three rounds in the most crowded division (the 12U Whitewaters). 1st place in her first heat; 2nd place in her second heat; and 4th in her third heat. She missed making the final by a single surfer! Arrggh, so close! Sorry, honey! Thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors and photographers, including Joey Wilson, who snapped this one.

Below are a few video clips of Kaelyn. There wasn’t much to ride the day of the contest, so Kaelyn’s strategy was just to ride each wave as far as she could. She had quite a few step-offs during the day. In her semi-final heat, I lined her up outside in what had been our sweet spot all day, but the peak had shifted over with the tide and she couldn’t find quite enough good ones. Oh well, next year!

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Backwater Backyard

01 Sep
September 1, 2014
Mother and daughter kayaking in Guana River State Park

Gretchen and Kaelyn in the kayak with Kendall on point on the SUP, exploring Guana River State Park

 

Stand-up Paddelboading in Guana State Park

Kendall taking in the beautiful, natural, peaceful setting of Guana River State Park

 

Yesterday was Labor Day and we had some time, so decided to go explore our “backwater backyard” in Guana River State Park. We went up to North Guana Outpost (check ’em out!), rented a kayak and a couple of SUPs and were on our way (you can launch straight out from the back of the store)! The Guana, as always, was spectacular! It is so beautiful. We saw a lot of fish and birds and could hear gators, but never actually saw any. We went out at high noon, and it was pretty darn hot. An early morning excursion might be even better. But it was awesome and I highly recommend it. Great exercise, too! $25/hr. for board/kayak rentals or $50 for a 1/2 day. We may have to invest in a couple of SUPs for Christmas!

 

 

Liquid Refreshment

24 Aug
August 24, 2014

Kaelyn and her bud, Emily, beneath the waterwall at Adventure Landing

THE ALS #ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE

24 Aug
August 24, 2014

If you live on planet earth and are connected to the Internet, then chances are you’ve heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral social media challenge created to help raise awareness of, and generate funding for, the advancement of a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Disease, otherwise know as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The challenge works by challenging (3) people to either donate $100 to ALS or record a video of themselves getting a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads and donating $10. Of course, most people opt to take the bucket on the head, and the $10 donation. The videos then typically get posted to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites and the challenges continue to spread. The campaign has already raised over $50 million for ALS, a staggering figure and a wonderful success story.

I was recently challenged by my friend Ryan Ketterman, a photographer here in Ponte Vedra Beach (check out his work- it’s fantasic!). You’re supposed to act on these challenges within 24 hours. My mid-week work schedule made this difficult for me, but I finally got around to it this weekend. The challenge has actually been around for a couple of weeks and I feel like that wave has crested, you might say. So, while I wasn’t necessarily going to flood anyone’s feed with one more bucket post, I also wasn’t going to back down from the challenge, which I have to say was fun, COLD and hilarious! I know my daughters, who helped out, sure enjoyed it! Below is sequential documentary evidence of my completion of the challenge. Thanks Ryan!

For more information on ALS, please visit www.ALSA.org

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge... What's the big deal?

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge… What’s the big deal?

Go for it girls! I can take it!

Bring it! This doesn't hurt!

Bring it! This doesn’t hurt!

Oh %@#!, maybe a 5-gallon bucket wasn’t such a good idea!

Dang, how long was that ice in there for?!!!

Dang, how long was that ice in there for?!!!

HA HA HA HA HA! OK, I think that actually may have been more fun for you guys than it was for me! Thank goodness we live in Florida!

HA HA HA HA HA! OK, I think that actually may have been more fun for you guys than it was for me! Thank goodness we live in Florida!

Fish On!

31 Jul
July 31, 2014

Early morning fishing preparations

Good morning, sunshine!

Bluepoints Marina Red Snapper catch

Capt. Dwayne with Trey and myself at Bluepoints Marina

Red Snapper catch, Port Canaveral

My brother-in-law, Trey and myself, with some of the day’s catch

Big Red Snapper

My brother-in-law, Trey holding up one of our many throwbacks

After banning Red Snapper fishing for a long, long time, the FWC recently opened a “season” for just a few short (8) days, to check on the health of the stock. I had the opportunity to go out at Port Canaveral, Florida with my brother-in-law, Trey, and a few of his friends, and we made ’em pay! I’m here to proclaim that the conservation efforts have worked! We must have landed 25-30+ Snapper, all about the size you see here (ranging from 12-19 lbs., with an average of abut 15 lbs.). We spent most of the day throwing back fish due to the catch limits per fisherman. Thanks to Trey and his friends, Dwayne, Grant, Amber and crew for an amazing day! We also had a Grouper, Cobia and several sharks. But mostly, it was just a non-stop Red Snapper frenzy and quite a workout! As a result, the Hamby’s have been eating well this week, and Snapper is my favorite fish! P.S. Don’t ask for the GPS coordinates! They are highly protected numbers.

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