Deer Island, Taveres, FL

Recently, Gretchen and decided to pull the trigger on a jaunt to Grandma and Grandpa Chapman’s down in O-Town. It had been a long while. We got to take out papa’s new canal cruiser and relax in the beauty of old Florida, from Apopka to Mt. Dora and Tavares. It was quiet, breezy and beautiful, and a welcomed change of scenery from our own backyard. I think the only things missing were our nephew, Blake, and a couple of his 7-pound bass he’s so good at catching.

Check out the third pic by the fence line. Happened to catch this Bigfoot out of the corner of my eye! Definitely squatchy country out here, and this thing had to be 8′ tall. Skunk Ape for sure! You could smell the musky odor from the boat. If my girls and all the cousins were there, we could have done a full proper investigation with footprints and hair samples. As it was, we’re just going to have to let the photo evidence tell the story.

Supergirls

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Sage Erickson, taking a moment for a shot with Kaelyn following her heat win in the Round of 32 at the Supergirl Pro in Jax Beach, FL.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Hurricane Florence

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

Hurricane Florence Surf

Hurricane Florence Surfing

Surfing lip blast in Hurricane Florence

Surfing down the line in Hurricane Florence

Dropping into a wave

setting up and stalling on a wave

Dropping into a wave backside

Surfing backside on a wave

surfing off the top in the whitewater

Payne’s Prairie

I recently took a trip to Payne’s Prairie to hang out with my oldest daughter, Kendall, for Dad / Daughter weekend with her sorority at the University of Florida. Kendall and I decided to go for a hike in this spectacular state park and came across a lot of wildlife (although we didn’t run into any wild horses or bison -yes, bison- that live in the park). Nonetheless, it was an awesome time adventuring with my daughter, who’s always up for exploring with me.

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Sidewinding

 

 

My daughter Kendall and I came across this fellow while hiking in Payne’s Prairie in Gainesville, FL recently. Ironically, I had literally just finished telling her seconds before, about how the area reminded me of other places in North Florida I’d explore as a child, and that we’d occasionally find rattlesnakes living in abandoned gopher tortoise holes. Then lo and behold, as soon as I finished that sentence, we came upon this good-sized rattler splayed out right across the trail. Great experience! You don’t see these guys as often as you used to.

Plus Sized

The view from behind a large cargo ship in Jax, FL

I took an airboat tour (Crazy Fish) with the family out at Mayport recently, and it was indeed crazy! Quite fun, actually! Among other things, we got right up behind this massive cargo ship leaving the channel. The picture can’t even begin to effectively communicate how big this thing was. Amazing that these things can actually float.

Hurricane Joaquin Swell

A few GoPro shots from the recent Hurricane Joaquin swell. These were all taken in the Ponte Vedra Beach area and inside Guana River State Park on October 3rd and 4th, 2015. Good times after an unusually long, flat summer due the global El Nino weather pattern that brought waves to most of the rest of the world, but which inhibited tropical storm development this year in the Eastern Atlantic. It seems all of that stored up energy was released in a single storm which provided some pretty epic Florida conditions.

Hurricane Joaquin, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL October, 2015

Hurricane Joaquin, Jacksonville, FL October, 2015

Hurricane Joaquin, Northeast Florida, October, 2015

Hurricane Joaquin, Guana River State Park, October 2015

surfing in Hurricane Joaquin in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL October, 2015

Surfing in Guana River State Park in Hurricane Joaquin, October 2015

UBER

A small bird catches a ride on the back of an easy-going Pelican
It’s the era of the sharing economy. And everyone’s getting on board.

So, I’m not sure what was happening here. This pelican was fishing behind Aunt Kate’s down in St. Augustine, minding his own business and this other little guy just flew in and sat right down on his back. Then he went for a little ride, just chilling. The pelican didn’t mind a bit. #water taxi #commuters #share-a-ride #partybus

Catty Shack

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…

June “Gloom”, Florida Style

Guana State Park, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Well, “gloomy” only in the respect that June traditionally tends to be pretty flat- not a lot of waves for surfing around here at this time of year, although we just enjoyed a nice multi-day run of swell to kick off the month. A pleasant surprise! But, Northeast Florida is beautiful year-round!

Guana River State Park

Guana River State Park
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Guana River State Park between Jacksonville, FL and St. AugustineGuana River State Park ocean side, between Jacksonville, FL and St. Augustine

Above are a few images of 12,000-acre Guana River State Park in the Greater Jacksonville, FL area, between Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine. Even on a cold winter day in December, her beauty shines through. The park runs from the Atlantic Ocean, across dunes, marsh and over to the Tolomato River. The place is gorgeous, loaded with hiking and biking trails, and lots of wildlife (bird sanctuary, calving ground for Right Whales, among many other species). I asked my wife to marry me here at the northern entrance to the park. I love to surf at Guana because it breaks well, handles larger swells better than most places around here, and is typically uncrowded. Gretchen thought that I was stopping to check the surf on the way out to eat one evening when I popped the question to her on top of the highest observation deck in the park. We later built a home right on the edge of the marsh in Guana and lived there for about 12 years or so. We ended up moving, but not too far- just about mile down the road off A1A. Guana River State Park is an excellent place to run, surf, fish, kayak, hike, bike, look for sharks teeth, or just explore and relax. If you’re looking for something to do in the Jax area one weekend, try to check it out. There’s also a great research center with some pretty cool displays at the southern entrance near Vilano Beach.