Archive for category: Family and Friends

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.

Flat Day Family Fun – Stand Up Paddleboarding

18 Jun
June 18, 2014

Looking for something really, really fun to do by yourself or with your family? Try Stand-up Paddleboarding with H20 Generation! My good friend, “Chickie” Dimain, perhaps better known locally, regionally and internationally  as, “Da Buh” for his DaBuh.com surf forecast, has opened a new business providing lessons and guided tours for H20 Generation Paddleboards. Chickie offers tours inside Swimming Pen Creek, launching from Whitey’s fish camp on Fleming Island.

Currently, for just $25 per person, Chickie will provide a lesson and the tour (about a 2 mile round-trip paddle), where you’re likely to see a great deal of wildlife including manatees, turtles, blue herons and other species. If you prefer a shorter or longer distance, Chickie will accommodate you. Of course, if you prefer to paddle alone, you can do that too.

Chickie can also drop the boards off at any location and give you private lessons at your place. This is also great for groups, birthdays, corporate and team-building outings. Think, the baseball team or cheerleading squad! Chickie also sells his beautiful H20 Generation Boards. They are all MADE IN AMERICA! (NYC) and they are epoxy, which makes them incredibly durable, light and bouyant! They regularly retail for about $1,000, but he is providing deals right now while in start-up (great deals!) Check him out for rentals or sales at 904-444-2149.

I took my wife, 15-year old daughter and 11-year-old daughter this past weekend. They had never SUP’ed before, took a brief 10-minute lesson and none of them ever fell the entire day. Not once! The two miles were the perfect distance for all of us. My oldest daughter is now already asking for her own paddleboard for Christmas! I cannot recommend it highly enough. Chickie and his beautiful daughter, Ella, are great guides and will make you feel safe and right at home in the water, no matter your level of experience. If you’re surfer and  it’s flat, you’ll love this, I assure you. I particularly enjoyed being in the water with my entire family, the light workout and just enjoying the scenic beauty of our natural surroundings. Speaking of natural surroundings, I won’t speculate on what kind of bush that is growing there in the parking lot at Whitey’s in the photo, below.

H20 Generation Paddleboards- Jacksonville, FL

H20 Generation paddleboards are beautiful! Bouyant, lightweight, durable, affordable & MADE IN AMERICA!

H20 Paddleboard Instruction

Chickie and Ella provide Gretchen with some SUP instruction prior to our tour

Children love stand-up paddleboarding!

Kendall and Kaelyn were up within minutes, paddled almost two miles and never fell!

Fathers and daughters

Our day of SUPing was a Father’s Day gift from my daughters- a perfect choice! Thanks girls!

 

Madison, Kendall and Kaelyn

08 Jun
June 8, 2014

A few of the Hamby girls- sisters, Kendall (middle) and Kaelyn (right), along with cousin Madison (left). Madison is my older brother’s (Rob’s) daughter. He has two more missing from this photo- Abby and Caroline. We are from a family of three boys, with no girls. My mom always wanted a daughter, but finally gave up trying! Naturally, I assumed that my brothers and I would (likely) only be able to produce boys when we had kids.  Instead, we have (5) girls with no boys between us! Talk about a flip!

My mother is in heaven and I have to admit- I love it, too! I remember how much trouble my brothers and I got into growing up and I’d just assume not return there, as a parent! Girls are soooo much easier- at least so far, with these girls! This picture was taken at Aunt Kate’s near Vilano Beach. We were out celebrating Kaelyn’s graduation from elementary school. It’s crazy to think that there are (5) Hamby girls prowling the halls of the local elementary, middle and high schools in Ponte Vedra these days.They are good kids and great friends, which is something special.

Over the Edge: Sports Parents Who Push Their Kids Too Hard

04 May
May 4, 2014

This happened.

And pardon my use of the word, “push” in the headline. What I should have said was, “kick”. As in “kick in the ass”. Because that’s what you’ll see in this video. The parent of a six-year-old kicking his child off the ledge of a 13-foot skate ramp because the boy couldn’t muster the courage to drop into “Big Brown”, the intimidating half-pipe at legendary Kona Skate in Jacksonville, Florida. A young teenager at the park filmed the scene because he claimed it happened three times earlier that day.

I’m sorry- but if this isn’t child abuse, I don’t know what is.

The images and sounds are extremely disturbing. The little boy –a local skateboarding prodigy- seems to look up at his dad for some reassurance and/or to express anxiety over not being able to gather the courage to make the drop. Clearly frustrated, his father sneaks behind him and literally kicks him in the ass, sending him flying and landing on his tailbone at the bottom of the pit. You can hear the child crying in a mix of terror and pain when he hits the bottom. It’s the kind of fall that can leave a person with broken bones, paralyzed or even dead.

Worst of all, the little boy never even had a chance for a proper knee slide. His father kicked that opportunity right out from underneath him, before quickly fleeing the scene. Never mind that many skaters with years of experience at Kona regularly avoid this particular ramp, or that what might seem like 13 feet to an adult, probably seems more like 26 feet to a six-year-old half his size. Simply put, the father took out his anger and frustration on the child, physically.

Thankfully, the teenager who was smart enough to video the incident reported it to park officials, and also gave it to a friend to post on Instagram. The local area Instagrammers Club (#Igersjax) quickly picked up the clip and called out the father, harshly criticizing the act and exhorting its members and followers to re-share the post, help identify the dad and report it to local authorities and media. A social media firestorm quickly ensued, as the video went viral. The father was identified and was reportedly being dealt with by the Department of Children and Families. At the park, Kona officials had already asked the man, who reportedly skates often at the park with his son, to leave immediately.

In ensuing social media posts, one or two skaters, who seemed to be acquaintances tried to defend the father’s actions, but most, including both amateurs and pros were quick to point out that such actions had no place in skateboarding, or anywhere else. The father reportedly expressed remorse, saying he was, “caught up in the moment”. But such an event sure makes you wonder what a normal day at home might be like for this little boy, when father and son aren’t out having, “fun”.

While it is unknown if the father will lose custody of his child or be charged with a crime, he will no doubt pay the price for it due to the digital legacy of the shocking video and whatever emotional damage he may have caused his son now and in the future.

While this video is particularly distasteful due to the callous nature shown by the father to his son, it is ultimately one of countless episodes of hyper-competitive parents pushing their kids to extremes to excel, to satisfy their own egos. Skate dads, dance moms and bloated beauty queens who exploit their toddlers in tiaras- they’re all the same people. Selfish parents yearning to live vicariously through their kids at just about any expense.

Bad doses of reality.

Pushing children too hard, too young, runs the risk of inflicting permanent physical and emotional harm upon them, and burnout before they ever near their true potential. Remember that most kids, even veritable prodigies who may achieve truly significant accomplishments at an early age, are likely far less interested in competitive domination, and much more in simply having fun, and connecting with their parents. And by that, I don’t mean by way of a foot in their rear end.

Note: This is an article that I originally wrote for Seshn.com, an online magazine for a variety of creators with a strong emphasis on arts and action sports.

Changing Conditions

04 May
May 4, 2014

 

Photo, courtesy of Pat "Tupat" Eichstaedt

Photo, courtesy of Pat “Tupat” Eichstaedt

Author’s note: This is a story I originally wrote for The Inertia, billed as, “surfing’s definitive online community featuring news, opinions, photography, videos and art from many of surfing’s most talented figures.” 

Transformation, reinvention and evolution are rarely easy. Yet they are a part of life as ancient as the ocean and constant as her rhythms. Life is a series of crests and valleys. And our conditions are ever-changing. When we embrace the concept of evolution, we not only learn to roll with life’s changes, we begin to recognize the opportunities they present. At the very least, we overcome our fears of them. I know because I was forced to evolve following a sudden, deep and unexpected period of change in my life recently. And turning back wasn’t an option.

I’m sharing my story for a few reasons: One was a remarkably timely email that I received from The Inertia a few weeks ago, informing me of some changes coming to their website. The note also asked if I might consider writing about a “significant moment of change” in my own life, something that led to “personal growth and transformation” in conjunction with their re-launch. “Ideally,” the email read, “it could relate to surfing, but also just to life in general.”

My experience certainly relates to, “life in general,” and, as for “surfing,” to me those two things are inseparable. After God, family and friends, surfing has probably been the most significant influence in my life since first standing up on a wave at age 15. Most major decisions I’ve made in my life – where I’ve lived, who I married, how I’ve spent my time and money, have almost always been linked to surfing in one way or another. Isn’t that the all-consuming nature of the sport (activity) that so many of us have freely surrendered to?

Interesting is the role that The Inertia itself played during my period of evolution. I don’t even know if Zach, Alex, Ted or anyone else was aware. Another reason I thought it an ideal time to share. Most importantly, I thought there might be others out there navigating similar times of unexpected change in their own lives who could find some value or encouragement in my experiences.

My “transformation” began in late 2007 when the collapse of the housing market struck a devastating, and ultimately fatal, blow to my 11-year old real estate marketing firm. The business I had launched with one friend out of a small apartment a decade earlier had grown into a 27-person, full-service integrated marketing agency doing about $5 million-a-year, every year.

Until the housing bubble burst.

Understand that there’s a reason people use this specific language when talking about sudden market collapses. When “bubbles burst,” by definition, they cease to existAnd that’s exactly what happened to our industry and our business. One day, we were working 20 or so large accounts. Then, seemingly overnight, all new development just… stopped.

All of it.

The next four years would become a steady series of layoffs of people I considered family, and for whom I felt responsible in much the same way. I delayed every cut for as long as I could while methodically feeding the company with all of the resources my wife and I had worked hard to accumulate over 15 years of marriage.

We liquidated our savings.

Our real estate investments.

Our 401K’s.

And finally, our home, which we were forced to sell to tap its equity. Thank God it sold when it did, or the bank may well have taken it from us.

Now, I have never been materialistic and can be as happy with nothing as I can with abundance. But, the fact was that my life had turned upside down, and the changes were painful. The home my wife and I had built eight years earlier was located directly across the street from the ocean with private access to a beautiful empty beach, with three extremely consistent sandbars within 150 yards of each other. For years, I could walk right out my front door and go surf anytime I felt like it.

As owner of my own business, I rarely missed a swell.

When my boards lost their pop, I ordered new ones.

And I traveled… Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Barbados, The Dominican Republic, Mexico (Mainland and Baja), Costa Rica (over and over), the Bahamas (over and over). But those days had come to an end.

Breaking down our 10,000 s.f. office was physically and emotionally grueling. My partners and I had invested $425,000 building it out to create a one-of-a-kind environment. Now I was selling designer furniture and high tech equipment for next to nothing on Craigslist.

I remember a revelation I had when boxing literally hundreds of local, regional and national awards we had won over the years for just about every creative marketing and design category you could imagine.

You know the saying, “You can’t take it with you?” I get that now. At the end of the day, what value do these things really hold? I wondered then, and do still today, if Kelly Slater feels the same way about his collection of awards which must certainly far outnumber those we had accumulated. I have to believe that he must.

Still, stubbornly, I packed every last one of them with care, lugging five God-awful heavy boxes home with me. My justification: this was for my daughters – so that one day in the future they might pull these things down from the attic, brush off the dust and discover, “Damn – Dad was pretty good.”

A few weeks later, I reconsidered.

I realized that my daughters already know exactly who I am, and everything that is truly “important” about me, and to me. My values. My beliefs. The things I feel are important to stand up for. And what they might understand or think about my professional accomplishments one day in the future… well, that’s the last thing I’d ever really care about. Even at the pinnacle of my career, my work never defined me.

And it never will.

And I hope the same is true for them.

Following the four-year unwinding of my business, I spent the next full year trying to figure out, “What next?” By now, the rest of the country was gripped in the recession, and I was on the front lines with millions of others trying to find a job.

My circumstances were less than ideal. If you think it’s tough trying to find a solid job out of college, try doing it when you’re 40-something with an extensive resume, a reputation as a “specialist,” and you’re a life-long entrepreneur. Employers interpret this as “expensive,” “one-trick pony” and a guy who “can’t work for others,” regardless of what the truth may be.

The one thing that was genuinely vexing, however, was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had been doing the same thing for 15 years and that industry was now dormant. This is when I really began to embrace the idea of “transformation” and the opportunities it presented.

While a significant chapter of my life seemed to have simply vanished into thin air, I couldn’t repress my inner desire to get on with something new– to dedicate my considerable experience and passions to new challenges, whatever lied ahead. It was the feeling you get when paddling into large surf you’re not certain you’re equipped to handle, but that you’re committed to dropping in no matter what – a mix of nerves, fear, anticipation and excitement. During this time, I continued to rely upon those same foundations I always had during challenging times in my life – God. Family. Friends…

…and surfing.

Yes, my travels had come to a halt about three years earlier. But during my year of career transition, I had plenty of time to get out in the water, and I did. Often. I used this time to try and decompress, focus my thoughts and figure out exactly what it was I wanted to do. I also began teaching my 9-year-old daughter how to surf. I relished the opportunity to share time with her in the ocean for that entire year, and I would never give one second of that time back. Those are days I will never, ever forget.

To keep my creative metabolism flowing, I began to write more and, in late 2011, stumbled upon The Inertia. I loved the website, admired Zach’s vision and reading posts from so many intelligent writers and surfers on subjects that weren’t being addressed in the mainstream print surf pubs.

I submitted a few of my own articles and received an incredibly warm reply. Before I knew it, my first piece was published. By coincidence, happened to share the home page with Kelly Slater’s first post to the site, lending a high number of views to my own article and a great response as a result. This would happen again just a few weeks later.

These were comforting distractions during otherwise stressful days. For a time, I considered transitioning into the surf industry full-time. But ultimately, I wasn’t ready to relocate to Orange County to try and do it. With limited resources and a family to support, the risks just didn’t make sense.

Instead, after months of searching and sending resumes into the black hole of online recruiting sites, I came across a notice for a position that perfectly suited my experience and passions for surfing, travel and marketing. The Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority needed an Executive Director to lead tourism marketing for New Smyrna Beach and the surrounding area. New Smyrna may be the most consistent break on the east coast and I knew it well because I had spent much time surfing there while finishing college at the University of Central Florida. I applied for the position, made the list of finalists, and eventually won the job.

I then began commuting to work from my home in Ponte Vedra Beach– 90 minutes each way, every day. While this was less than ideal, I was ecstatic just to be working again in a role I was perfectly suited for.

Not long after starting, I realized that our office needed a content producer – a photographer/cinematographer who could capture New Smyrna in the way I knew it needed to be represented: beautifully honest. Unpretentious. Pure and real. One of my team members suggested long-time local Patrick Eichstaedt. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. “You probably know him,” she said. “He surfs. And, he writes for that same website you do – The Inertia. But, he goes by the name ‘Tupat.’”

“Ah, Tupat!” Yes, I knew Tupat, who was an active contributor not only forThe InertiaSurflineESM and others but who had worked for …Lost Enterprises for many years. I asked him to come in and ended up hiring him to help with our NSB re-branding efforts. Tupat would pull in local surfing icons like Shea Lopez, Lindsay Perry and others who graciously helped us create a series of marketing videos and other promotions.

During this same time, I conceptualized a new events festival for NSB I called, “Beach Weeks.” It would consist of seven straight weeks of coastal-themed events incorporating new events with existing ones in early summer. Beach Weeks included surfing and SUP contests, Reggae and Blues festivals, fishing tournaments, movie nights and many family-friendly events. We even brought Bethany Hamilton to town to help kick things off. The festival was a hit and Beach Weeks since expanded to include both Summer and Fall versions.

Although my fortunes had turned and I was doing something I loved, my transition was not yet complete. The commute had begun to wear upon me. I was rarely home for dinner with my family and we realized if I was going to stay, that we’d have to relocate. As much as I love New Smyrna, I am a third-generation native of Jacksonville, Florida, and our city has a lot going on in its own right. The surf scene is thriving from St. Augustine to Jax Beach and the home we were living in (and still do now), while far more modest than our last one, was still within walking distance of one of our area’s best breaks. My kids enjoy great schools and all of their friends, and so many of my own, are here.

As decision time approached, I was contacted by a former employee of my agency, who began recruiting me to come back to Jax for a position at a large public tech company where she was now working. The role: Director of Social Media sounded interesting and I was only weeks from having to make a decision on moving prior to the start of a new school year.

I live by the motto, “You don’t know until you go” and so decided to investigate it further. The more I learned, the more appealing the thought became. No moving. Short commute. Better hours. Better compensation. Better benefits. This included generous stock options – the type of benefit that, more than just a good salary, can truly help to build long-term financial stability. The perfect fit for someone starting over on rebuilding their retirement.

I accepted the job.

Looking back today, I am at peace with the changes that occurred in my life. I’ve continued to grow personally and professionally. I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend in New Smyrna Beach and stoked to see the programs we put into place there, producing positive results for the area. I’m grateful for the full year I was able to surf with my daughter, and for the fact that after 15 years, I was able to try something brand new with my career.

For those who might be going through similar periods of change, I would encourage you to never give up, never lose hope and never lose confidence in your own abilities. Recognize that no matter your circumstances in life, there are always countless numbers of people navigating greater challenges than your own. I reminded myself of this fact every day during my period of transition and never fell into the trap of feeling sorry for myself. Recognize that life truly is a series of ups, downs and changing conditions. Embrace those changes and enjoy the ride. Remember that it is always the most difficult conditions that provide us the greatest opportunities to learn, grow and evolve, and facing them that provides our highest levels of joy and satisfaction.

 

 

Kickin’ back in Cali

03 May
May 3, 2014
Tim and Kendall in La Jolla, Ca -  Good times!

Tim and Kendall in La Jolla, Ca – Good times!

Tim and Kendall in San Diego, CA

03 May
May 3, 2014
Tim and Kendall on a Daddy/Daughter date at "Skybox" for Dan Rice's wedding in San Diego, CA

Tim and Kendall on a Daddy/Daughter date at “Skybox” for Dan Rice’s wedding in San Diego, CA

Alex and Reid from The Inertia

03 May
May 3, 2014
Tim and Kendall with Alex Haro and Reid Levin at The Inertia's new offices in Venice, CA

Tim and Kendall with Alex Haro and Reid Levin at The Inertia’s new offices in Venice, CA

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