In late September, we enjoyed a great stretch of surf during Hurricanes Danielle, Earl and Fiona. On one of the last days of the Fiona swell when the winds were set to be onshore here in NEFl, I made plans to head down to Brevard County (Cocoa / Sattelite Beach) area where the winds were expected to be offshore. This is the area where I spent much of time surfing while finishing school at UCF in the early 90s. It is one of my favorite places to surf and gets such great waves! In addition, I was able to catch up with two old friends, Mike Johnson and Mike Wilhite who both live or have places down there. Mike J. has a great break right behind his condo and that’s where we surfed. My buddy from work, Luis Sandoval joined me for the trip and what a great time we had. The waves were epic and the crowds, light! The winds were offshore, as expected and it was sloppy and onshore back at home. Successful strike mission. We scored! Here’s a few shots from that day.
Tag Archive for: surfing
I was super stoked to finally get a proper hurricane swell about three weeks ago. It had been so long! Too long! I was able to catch parts of 5 of the 8 days of that Hurricanes Earl and Danielle were gifting us and enjoyed a couple of really fun sessions with my buddies Aaron and Ryan inside Guana State Park in Ponte Vedra Beach. I took the GoPro out or “Super Tuesday” during Earl. Here’s a few pics from the morning and the afternoon that day.
I had one of the most surreal experiences of my life last weekend (and I’ve had a few of those) when I got to paddle out for a surf session with Tom Curren, one the most stylish and influential surfers in history, and maybe the only surfer in the world who garners as much or more respect than Kelly Slater. He is surfing royalty, revered not just because of the glory the 3x world champion brought to American surfing during his career, but the way he has always done … well, everything.
Described over the years as “shy”, “private”, “eccentric”, and “enigmatic”, Curren was a professional competitive force with a free-surfer’s soul who never seemed comfortable with some of pro surfing’s rigid commercial trappings, even while he could not help but completely dominate the sport with his prodigious talent.
He retired in his prime when he seemed to simply get bored of the pro grind- an internationally renowned popular cultural icon with too much artistry, creativity and counter-culture DNA to keep doing the same things over and over. With nothing left to prove, he traded in the world tour for touring the world, becoming part of The Rip Curl Search, and putting more energy into his music career (he’s also an accomplished guitarist/musician/vocalist who has released two albums).
Tom never did a lot of interviews and never seemed to let the public into his life too deeply even while countless fans like me still longed to watch his timeless style. In 1995, Rip Curl and film-maker Sony Miller (RIP) produced, “Searching for Tom Curren”, one of the best surf films ever made, that finally let the world get a little closer look at the soul of Tom Curren. I still have a rare, 25-year-old original copy of that VHS that I preserved over the years, that Tom signed for me when I met up with him in Cardiff, CA last weekend.
How this trip materialized was absolutely incredible. Call it irony, serendipity, karma or a just a great blessing … maybe a little of all of that.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an Instagram post about owning that original VHS copy of “Searching for Tom Curren”. The second I finished posting it and returned to my feed, I noticed a post from Rip Curl Ventura. I only follow the California shop (I’m in Florida) because my friend, Ehren Tresher, from New Smyrna Beach, used to manage it and I had visited him out there.
Their post announced that after 25 years, “Searching for Tom Curren” was finally being re-released in streaming and digitally-remastered formats, and noted that to celebrate the upcoming world premiere in Cardiff that week, that they were going to let 5 lucky people enjoy a two-hour surf-session with Tom. They said they planned to notify winners on the following Thursday for the event taking place Saturday morning. With such a short turnaround, I figured they were assuming the winners would be from California. But I also figured that if I had a full day to figure out travel arrangements, I could potentially make it, so I entered my contact information.
Fast forward to the following Friday. I had not received any notices, so I assumed I had not won. Oh well, you don’t know if you don’t go. Then… on Friday at 4 PM, I received a text from Rip Curl notifying me that I had indeed won and to show up at the San Elijo Campground in Cardiff at 9:30 the NEXT MORNING to meet and surf with Tom! 👀👀👀😂.
The folks from Rip Curl would later share with me that they had about 3,500 entries, that I had won entirely at random, and that the one-day delay in notifying me was due to the fact that among the original 5 winners who were selected, one could not make it and another did not surf and thought that the event, called “Camp Shred”, might include surf lessons. Of course, it didn’t, but Rip Curl wanted to fill the slots, and my name came up in the second draw.
Back to 4 p.m. on Friday … I could not believe it when I received the text! I didn’t even know if it was possible to get to California from Jax by early the morning, but I knew that if it was, it would be very expensive and logistically, nearly impossible, at best. I showed the notification to my wife, who was also in disbelief. At the same time, she knows the great value I place on life experiences, on seizing opportunities when they present themselves, and understood exactly where surfing with Tom Curren might fall in line on both of those lists for me.
So, she jumped online and started helping me look up flights. Now, this was the weekend of the Super Bowl, so you can imagine what the prices and lack of options for flights to San Diego and LAX looked like. Worse, I had to make a final decision FAST, also find a hotel room and rent-a-car, and get to the airport 45 minutes away, just to have a chance of making it.
Finally, we found a flight- at $675, the cheapest available, that was leaving in two hours. We are far from wealthy and I knew this was going to set back plans for a trip to El Salvador that I had been hoping to take, but again, I thought about it and realized this was an opportunity that say, at a charity auction, might go for between $5K – $10K, maybe more. Essentially, it was priceless. It is just not something that most would ever get the opportunity to do. So, we pulled the trigger.
I scrambled to pull my board bag down from the attic and threw my wetsuit, board shorts, and a change of clothes into an overnight bag while Gretchen continued searching for a car rental, and a hotel room in Cardiff. Within an hour, we were racing off to the airport and I made the last flight out of Jax, with about an hour to spare.
I arrived in San Diego at about 12:00 a.m. Gretchen had booked me a rent-a-car and a hotel room in Carlsbad, about halfway between the airport and Cardiff. Alas –as most, if not all experienced surf travelers have experienced at one time or another– I went to the baggage claim to pick up my board and waited… and waited… and waited… until one by one, all the people had disappeared… and all the carousels had stopped moving.
My board had not made it.
Livid, I protested with the airline service representatives. They tried to do what they could, but the reality was that there were no more flights coming in from Dallas (the American Airlines connecting city where my board had made it to). They assured me that it would arrive at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. I was due in Cardiff, about 30 miles away, at 9:30 am. It would be razor-close timing.
As a result of this delay, I had to cancel my hotel reservation in Carlsbad and try and find a room closer to the airport. Thankfully, it was a Saturday, so the early morning traffic would at least be lighter than on a weekday. But I still had to go pick up my car rental and try to find an affordable hotel room (an oxymoron in San Diego), that would take me in that very night. And, the clock was ticking.
After driving around downtown San Diego and calling and stopping at multiple hotels, most of which were full, I finally found one that would take me in for a few hours … for $175. I sat outside for a few minutes, pondering sleeping in my car, but I felt I had to get at least a couple of hours of decent sleep which wasn’t going to happen that way. So at 2:30 a.m., I bit the bullet and checked in.
At 7 a.m. the next morning, I got up and made my way back to the airport and at 8:30 a.m., as promised, my board arrived. I threw it in the back of my car and high-tailed it to Cardiff, arriving at the San Elijo Campground at around nine a.m.
Upon arriving, there was no parking to be found. As it turned out, there was an event happening there, a BIG one: “Camp Shred – The World’s Largest Board Demo”. ALL of the top board-makers were there and basically, you could demo any type of board you desired, for free. (In hindsight, I realized I didn’t even need my board – I would love to see one of these events in Florida!) Rip Curl had premiered the remastered version of Tom’s movie the night before and I was told that a lot of industry bigwigs were in attendance. They were also doing a second showing for the two-day event, later that evening.
I didn’t want to miss my session with Tom, so I parked in the only space I could find: a No Parking zone. I made my way down to the Rip Curl tent/campsite. I was greeted warmly with a big gift bag full of all kinds of Rip Curl swag, an invitation to help myself to their cooler, and assurance that Tom was in transit. I told their crew that I was from Florida, and about my crazy journey to get there. They could not believe it, but were super-stoked to learn about it! They told me their drawing was completely randomized and that they had no idea I was coming from Florida. They had only seen that I had confirmed I would be there.
Right behind me, the other four winners showed up, all from California, and not too far away. A couple were my age, a couple a bit younger. All were super friendly, and they also loved hearing that I had come all the way from Florida, with less than 24-hour’s-notice.
At around 10:30 a.m., Tom showed up with his wife, Maki. We had introductions, and after a little chatting, we put on our wetsuits and headed down to the beach. The waves were nice, waist-to-chest mostly, a little soft, but clean with good form. The break, a reef, was beautiful and they said a couple of whales had come through earlier. Due to the event (or maybe just due to it being California), it was packed, with about half of the people on longboards – men, women, and people of all ages.
Tom rode a CI twin-fin that looked to be about 5’5” with a unique pair of cutaway fins. His wife paddled out with us on a bodyboard. Due to the crowds, the good waves were hard to come by. I caught three, maybe going 15-20 yards each time, before cutting out. I had surfed twice all winter and was just happy not to fall in front of the champ.
Tom rode about five or six waves and as you might expect, ripped them all to shreds in a very nonchalant way while riding just about every one of them to the beach, each time. Like Kelly and other elite surfers, he simply seems to know where the energy resides in every wave and uses it to generate maximum speed and flow. His style was as effortless, as beautiful as ever, and a joy to watch. People noticed Tom but did not bother him, and he didn’t dominate the break the way I suppose he could have. Instead, he just found spots and waves, inside and outside, and made the most of each one.
In the water and after the session, Tom was as polite as could be– soft-spoken, and as humble as he always seemed to be from afar. He took the time to interact with each one of us there as a group, and individually. He told me he had just moved into a new home and said he hadn’t traveled much, recently. He perked up most when talking about music.
I mentioned that I had seen him play when he came through Jax years ago (at the Milk Bar), touring with Kelly Slater’s band. He said that was one of his favorite tours and concerts, and that he remembered Jacksonville and Jax Beach in particular, and really loved the area. I asked him if he had been involved creatively with the production of “Searching for Tom Curren” or just the subject of it, and he said it was all Sonny Miller’s creation, with the exception of some diffusion effects that he had suggested (to great effect, I would add).
When we got back to the beach and Rip Curl’s cliff-side camp, I asked him to sign my original VHS of “Searching for Tom Curren”, which I had brought with me for that purpose. He did, and also signed promotional film posters for my wife and two daughters. The folks from Nalu.tv, the company re-distributing the film offered up VIP tickets to the second showing of the film that night, but my flight back was that same evening. I thanked them, Tom, and the Rip Curl team for the once-in-a-lifetime experience, and headed out.
When I returned to my car, there were two tickets on it; one for parking in a no-parking zone and the other for entering the campground without a pass. My expenses were still going up, but honestly, I was just happy my rental hadn’t been towed.
Heading back to Florida, I had to fly Jet Blue from San Diego to New York, of all places, then all the way back down to Florida. There was a snowstorm at JFK, and it caused a three-and-a-half-hour delay on top of what was already a very long trip that spanned all night and well into the next day. I hadn’t traveled since the pandemic began and masking up on the planes and in airports for that long was its own challenge. I think I slept a total of four hours over nearly two days, arriving back home a couple of hours prior to kickoff for the Super Bowl. As you might imagine, I slept through most of the game, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I had just gone “searching” for Tom Curren, and I found him.
On Saturday afternoon in pumping 10- to 12-foot surf at one of the world’s most dangerous breaks, Kelly Slater made history … again. The 11x world champ won the Billabong Pipe Masters just six days shy of his 50th birthday. He took the final against 24-year-old Seth Moniz, a world-class talent, North Shore local and Pipeline specialist.
It was Kelly’s 8th Pipe Masters title and 56th event win of his illustrious career, one that spans 30 years, 832 heat victories and 31 perfect 10-point rides. He is the youngest world champ ever (age 20 in 1992) and the oldest ever (age 39 in 2011). He won 5-straight world titles from 1994 to 1998 and holds nearly every record of significance in professional surfing.
As word spread around the net about Kelly’s most recent – and possibly, greatest and maybe even last professional milestone (he referenced the “R” word) – images of his incredible rides and emotional post-heat interview began popping up on social media. If you are connected to surfing at all, you likely came across a few of them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
On Sunday morning, I even saw a post about it on LinkedIn. It garnered a handful of likes and made me feel good to see it there. But it also gave me pause to consider all those people for whom the post might have seemed trivial on the professional careers network, as well as others who might have noticed it only briefly on various other platforms while quickly scrolling through the news of the day.
For many, Kelly’s historic accomplishment may have been nothing more than a passing headline in their newsfeed, a novel tidbit about a vague personality in a sport that is too often associated with frivolous immaturity. But for those of us who surf, who through some serendipitous fortune have had the opportunity to witness the entirety of Kelly’s incredible decades-long career, it was and is something far more meaningful and consequential.
There is a poem by Samuel Ullman titled, “Youth”. General Douglas MacArthur used to keep a framed copy of it on his wall and often referenced it in speeches. In it, Ullman reflects:
“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life … Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage, and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.”
I am not big on celebrity culture and I have never been one for hero-worship. But what are heroes? In their simplest form, they are people who do something more. They work harder, persevere longer, take more risks, and make greater sacrifices. They inspire us to change and to do more, ourselves.
As a 50-something who still surfs regularly (your average free-surfer, but I’m out there), who remains professionally and creatively inspired, and has never been willing to forsake my physical health, stop chasing my dreams or setting my personal goals one inch lower because that’s the expectation of culture for people my age; that’s what Kelly’s victory in the powerful surf at Pipe, his current World #1 ranking days before his 50th birthday (February 11th), and the entirety of his career, mean to me.
It is about optimism and the challenge of remaining true to one’s ideals.
For the greater part of my adult life, Kelly has been one who has inspired these things in myself and so many others– to pursue life with vigor and passion; set goals based not on what others think, but on terms you set for yourself, and to believe anything is possible, something more – far more – than most others might even be able to imagine. Yes, there will always be wins and losses, but why burden yourself with pre-conceived notions and limitations?
To Kelly, on behalf of myself and millions like me who have followed every step of your remarkable career, I say, Happy 50th Birthday. Thank you for your unyielding optimism and countless messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power played out across so many waves and oceans, and for so many years.
Thank you for your enthusiasm, your unfailing childlike appetite for what’s next, and joy for the game of living. Thank you most of all for a lifetime of inspiration and for holding fast to that wonder that lives in the center of your own heart, and in ours.
I was super stoked to have been a part of Kuti Loftus’s recent successful world record attempt for most consecutive waves caught last month. Kurtis broke the record by catching (638) waves in a single surf session over 31 consecutive hours!
Kurtis previously owned the Guinness World Record for the same, which he set 10 years ago (313 waves in 29 hours) as a fundraiser for the 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.
His record was later broken by a surfer in California, so Kurtis decided to get it back, this time as part of a fundraiser for his own annual “Deck the Chairs” event, benefitting the Jax Beach Volunteer Lifesaving Corps.
A decade ago, I did a night surfing session with Kurtis and friends, as he went for his first world record. I wrote about that experience, here. This time, I served as an official, helping count and record waves until a little after midnight, at which point, local surf/weatherman, Tim Deegan took over.
Kurtis powered through a really pitch black night with the moon not rising until 11:00 p.m. Like last time, we tracked him t night, primarily using glow sticks. At age 60, Kurtis, who had put in a serious training effort to endure the challenge, BLEW past the old record!
Kurtis has been named a Jacksonville “Beaches Legend”, one of only 13 to be so honored. He’s an extremely talented graphic and fine artist/illustrator who also created the old South Swell Magazine, Deck the Chairs, and is now a (2x) world record holder. Legend, indeed!
Kurtis keeps me inspired by never wasting a moment of his time, always living life to the fullest, and doing so with a genuine attitude of gratitude for everything, and everyone. Here’s a couple of more late-night scenes from when I was out there.
A few interesting GoPro shots from the Hurricane Maria swell earlier this year. I’m not sure if you would call this “stuffing in” or “getting stuffed”. At the very least, you can’t call it barrel-dodging!
The capability of the GoPros (in this case, a 4 Black), never cease to amaze me. In the first shot, you can clearly see seaweed flying past my face inside the wave.
Between Irma and Maria, our beaches were packed with all kinds of debris, making surfing sketchy at times. Even after larger debris like pylons, branches, 2×4’s, etc. had cleared, there was still quite a bit of vegetation in the line-ups for weeks following each storm.
These shots were two days after the peak swell size for Maria, but were the peak for overall size + quality.
Ask anybody who has ever stood up on a wave and they’ll tell you there’s nothing like that first time. It’s an incredible feeling you never forget, one that can change your life. The same is true of skateboarding and snowboarding. Mastering these admittedly challenging skills is so exhilarating, not only because of the pure joy we experience when performing them, but the self-confidence we gain as a result. Such moments lead us to believe that if we can accomplish these feats, then there’s likely much more we can achieve from having the courage to try.
Mikey Bondoc understands this concept. A talented surfer, skater, designer, writer and illustrator, he also understands that self-confidence doesn’t come naturally for everyone, especially kids. While all of us are born with unlimited potential and a desire to believe our dreams can come true, those feelings can easily fall by the wayside if not purposefully encouraged and pursued. So Mikey’s using his own unique gifts – some he only recently discovered- to help others understand this concept. He’s created a children’s book series centered around a singularly unique, memorable, character: a blue-billed, web-footed platypus who loves to surf, skate and snowboard.
The Hatch: The Radventures of Radimus Platypus is the first of Bondoc’s seven book series. He has written all seven volumes and published one for proof-of-concept to line up investment to be able to complete the rest (one very well-known, highly respected global brand has already expressed interest in helping Bondoc, based upon the success of The Hatch).
In this first book, the curious, creative Radimus bursts into the world. His mother worries for his safety, but ultimately allows Radimus to follow his heart. Each subsequent book takes Radimus, who expresses himself through his love for board sports, on another surprising “radventure” where he learns new things, discovers what makes him happy, and grows as an individual. In subsequent books, Radimus surfs, skates, snowboards, wakeboards and even discovers yoga.
Parents of all children will enjoy sharing “The Hatch” and its encouraging messages with their little ones. And parents who happen to be into surfing, skating and snowboarding will quite likely want to set this brilliantly illustrated rhyming tale right up alongside classics like, The Cat in the Hat and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. To be certain, Radimus channels the positive spirit of Dr. Seuss and other lovable, iconic characters of youth like Kermit the Frog. At the same time, Radimus’s unique, modern context allows the playful platypus to connect with today’s generation in ways that are more relevant and thus, likely more meaningful to them.
Bondoc’s own story of self-discovery is a radventure unto itself. An accomplished graphic designer, art director and apparel consultant with more than 20 years of experience working for big-named brands, Bondoc moved from New York City to Orange County in 2008, craving more time outdoors and in the ocean than he was getting where he was at.
Once there, he rented a 100-year old oceanfront cottage in Laguna Beach and began practicing yoga to invigorate his creativity while freelancing. In 2009, a friend -an intuitive medium- told Bondoc that when she looked at him, she saw the Sesame Street character, Big Bird, and felt he had the potential to work with children. Exactly one week after that event, the name Radimus Platypus came to Bondoc, along with the entire storyline for “The Hatch”.
Bondoc, though creative, did not envision himself as a writer, nor an illustrator. But he continued thinking about developing Radimus while working, surfing, practicing yoga and meditating. In 2010, while on a weekend juice cleanse, Bondoc wrote volumes 1-3, and completed volumes 4-7 within the next two months. “It is still the most creative experience I have ever had”, says Bondoc. “I never aspired to write anything. The books seemed to write themselves. The words and sentences just seemed to flow out of me. Each storyline came in one shot, and I knew exactly what was going to happen in each subsequent book.”
With stories in hand, Mikey reached out to about two dozen publishers and a handful of agents, but received little response. One agent indicated that he liked Bondoc’s character and stories, but felt he was the wrong person to represent Mikey.
In 2011, undaunted and realizing he had to take the next step, Bondoc commissioned an illustrator to work on the books. But after a year of trying, he terminated the contract because the feeling just wasn’t right. Too heavy. Too much color… It just wasn’t what Mikey was envisioning. He put the project on the back burner for two years, occasionally researching illustrators, but with little money to commission another one. In 2013, with work ebbing in Orange County, Bondoc decided to return to the creative energy of New York City. A few months later, he would experience another transformative moment on his path to personal growth and the development of his book series.
“Through daily yoga and continuing meditation, I was given the confidence to illustrate Radimus Platypus, myself. Since day one, all of my friends insisted that I should illustrate the book. I was the only person who did not believe in myself. I did not think I had the skills and talent to do it.”
“Over the years, I had journaled a lot about my vision for Radimus. I wrote about traveling the world and inspiring millions of children and adults to follow their hearts and be their true selves. After a yoga class that involved journaling and deep meditation, that message came through loud and clear: “I can illustrate the book.” It repeated over and over again, until I heard it, and felt it in my heart. For the first time in my life, I felt fully capable of illustrating Radimus and all of the books. I loved to draw as a kid, but always of things I could replicate– characters, band logos, skate logos- I never drew from my imagination. That’s why I thought that I couldn’t illustrate the books. But it was only my own confidence and self-perception stopping me”
In 2014, with only some sketches of Radimus in hand, Bondoc launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance production of his books. His campaign was selected as a “Staff Pick”, but Bondoc says he set his goal too high, intent on using one of the best eco-printers around. The campaign reached 18% of its goal, before stalling.
In 2015, Bondoc completed illustrating The Hatch. He made his first printed copy and held a few readings around NYC, where he found kids were both stoked on Radimus and enjoyed engaging with Mikey. Bondoc launched a second Kickstarter campaign and was again selected as a “Staff Pick”, but pulled the plug after two weeks, due to a lack of traffic.
Determined not to give up, Bondoc decided to front the costs of a small run of books and sell them himself on his website. In early 2016, he signed with Bookmasters in Ohio to print a limited quantity of high quality hardcover copies and opened sales on his website.
Since then, Radimus has been steadily gaining traction. The character’s made-for-Instagram IG channel boasts over 1,700 young fans and followers, who, along with their parents, are posting fantastic pictures of themselves doing things they love to do– the things that make them unique… and rad! Radimus encourages kids to tag their posts with the hashtag, #imradtoo.
With the groundswell of interest in Radimus rising and the likelihood of finding investment also stacking, both Bondoc and Radimus may soon find themselves living out the very lessons they’re both so committed to imparting: Be yourself. Follow your dreams. And don’t be afraid to go for it. Because all of us are rad in one way or another. And if we’re just brave enough to live that out, we might surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish.
Note: This article was originally written for and published on The Inertia. To see the original article and response, click here.
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.
Another good one here from Portugal- “The Flying Machine” by Maquina Voadora on Vimeo.
The World Surf League kicks off the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour on February 28th at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. There are many plot lines heading into the season, none more heralded than the arrival of the Brazilian Storm. Since last year’s Snapper event when Gabriel Medina, the new Brazilian World Champ made clear his intentions for an historic 2014 title run by taking down hometown favorite Joel Parkinson, the buzz surrounding the rapid ascension of the Brazos over the past 3 years, and more notably, the past twelve months- has reached a crescendo.
This year, with seven Brazilians on CT, Medina returning to make his title defense and some of the current CT elite getting up there in years, will we witness the Brazilian Storm evolve into a veritable force of nature or watch this impressive run-up dissipate into something far more mundane?
Rest assured, I’m not a hater. I admire the Brazilians for their tenacity and passion. I used to date a girl from Rio when I lived in south Florida. She and her friends lived packed together in a tiny little apartment with barely any possessions, but the clothes on their backs. But they were all intelligent, kind people who loved life and weren’t shy about showing it regardless of what may have been occurring around them at any time. Little Claudia and her friends always talked about their home- their deep love for it, as well as the heartbreaking political and socio-economic problems its citizens faced (And that was a long time ago. Clearly things have been too slow to change). But no matter where our conversations went, they always returned to just how special her people and her country were.
So, I’m not here to disparage the Brazilians. Just to offer some balanced perspective in the face of media hype, and before the rest of us Americans, Hawaiians*, Australians, South Africans and Europeans cede the next 10 years of CT glory to the Brazos. Here’s why bustin’ down the door doesn’t necessarily mean Brazil will be taking over the house.
Dantas & Ferreira: Back Seat, Rookies
The Brazilians begin the year with two rookies, Wiggoly Dantas and Italo Ferreira both coming from the QS. Both are very talented with Italo looking particularly sharp in small waves and Dantas with a history of nutting it up in smaller and larger surf. That said, the shift from the QS is still notoriously hard. The CT features larger, more powerful waves than what QS’ers are typically accustomed to.
In addition, the event seeding system pits lower-ranked surfers against the highest, most talented and often most experienced CT ones. So these rookies will be facing not just the best in the world– but the best of the best, right off the bat. This year, that includes Medina who Dantas will face in his very first CT heat. It’s just a tough ladder to climb, although Snapper will give both a fair shot. Ultimately, both Ferreira and Dantas could easily find themselves fighting to stay on tour by the end of the year.
Andre, Pupo and Toledo: Muddling in the Middle
…Ditto Jadson Andre. Jadson is a extremely talented surfer and by all accounts, a great guy. But he has ambled inconsistently along the WCT since arriving with fanfare in 2010 when he finished 13th. Since then, Andre has finished 22nd (2011), 32nd (falling off tour in 2012 and having to re-qualify in 2013), and just making it back this year by securing the final 22nd CT-issued slot by the skin of his teeth (or CJ’s foot). He also qualified via the QS, and may well wind up having to do it again, this year. But, will he ever break away from the lower third of CT performers? He seems to be stuck in the rip as Alejo Muniz, despite Alejo’s valiant year-end effort.
What about Miguel Pupo and Felipe Toledo? I loved seeing more of these guys, here. They’ve been on the cusp of breaking out with Toledo showing a bit more promise both in small waves and larger ones. Felipe finished 17th overall last year (15th in 2013) and also won the QS while at it. He finished with two 5ths at Pipe and Portugal, which bodes well for his future. On the flip side, Toledo himself has admitted that he needs to work on his heat strategy. And head games can often prove to be more of a lingering problem than things like acclimating to larger surf. I do believe Toledo will crack the top 10 and that we may see him end up swapping places with Adriano De Souza, this year.
As for Pupo- I’m pulling for him. He seems determined to keep up with his peers and has had moments, but has been plagued with significant health problems (now corrected). Most of all, he has battled inconsistency with a 36th, a17th and two 19th place overall finishes, including one year off the CT over the past 5 years. If Miguel can just get rid of one or two more of his 25th place event finishes, then he could potentially become a long-term fixture in or around the Top 10. Otherwise, his career begins to look much like Jadson Andre’s and Alejo Muniz’s- promising, without ever really being able to really pull it all together in a way that fulfills that promise.
De Souza: Battle-tested. Battle-weary?
Adriano De Souza is a battle-tested CT elite, a perennial top 10 guy never finishing lower than 13th in the past 7 year with three top 5 finishes, a 7th, 10th and an 8th last year (even while missing Pipe). Adriano has been criticized for everything from a squatty stance to over-claiming. But he’s a plenty stylish, sure-footed surfer who rips in all conditions. Most impressively, he has always risen to the occasion, no matter what was required, including elevating his aerial game over the past years as rising talent levels demanded. But De Souza has a persistent knee problem and a pack of hard-charging young talent hot on his heels. He could easily slip out of the Top 10 this year.
Medina: Under Pressure
Gabriel Medina. He earned his title, even despite Kelly’s seemingly diminishing desire and John John’s late charge. But as one astute pundit pointed out on The Inertia, it’s one thing to win a crown. It’s quite another to wear it. As great as the pressure was on the boy king to win the title last year, will it be any less to repeat with the pride of his nation overflowing, the death of Ricardos dos Santos heavy on hearts and minds, and the global surf media beside itself over the prophesized Brazilian apocalypse? He is still 21, after all.
It is also worth mentioning that two of Medina’s wins last year came by .03 pts each over Joel Parkinson at Snapper and Kelly Slater in Tahiti. That’s not to suggest that luck had anything to do with it, only that they were that close. Slater won his first title at age 20 in 1992, but didn’t win his second until 1994. I believe that entrenches himself in the Top 5, but will be surprised if he repeats this year, given the weight upon his shoulders… again.
Old Guys Rule
Kelly Slater (age 43), Taj Burrow (36), Joel Parkinson (33), Mick Fanning (33) and right behind, Josh Kerr (31) are the core CT elders who continue to clog up the Top 10 each year, making it extremely difficult for lower seeds to make their way up the competitive ladder. And these guys should never be asked to apologize for their enduring health, talent and competitive drive. The question for their competitors is how long does desire last for each? If success equals talent less motivation, then you have to wonder if Kelly’s recent comments in Surfer are indicative of the beginning of the end, as even Slater himself finds it unusual that his losses aren’t bothering him as much these days. And I can’t help thinking that if Slater finally declares himself satisfied, that it might have a domino effect within this group. For the time being, these are the guys who really dictate the world order, year in and year out.
Brazilian Storm: You’ve Got Company…
Finally, Brazil is hardly the only nation with rising young prodigies on the brink of fulfilling their destinies. Although credit goes to Gabriel for being the fastest to punch through, South Africa (Jordy Smith), Australia (Julian Wilson and Owen Wright), America (Kolohe Andino and Nat Young) and Hawaii* (Who da guy?) all have young guns in contention to step into those top rung spots and potentially secure a championship for their respective countries. Every one of these guys are rock solid in big waves or small, all are coming on strong right now and at the end of the day, there are only so many spots at the top.
*Hawaii is America’s 50th state.
Note: This article was originally published on The Inertia
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
Samoa, Galapagos, Mozambique, Dominican Republic
Namotu, Matanivusi, Chaaya Island and Nemberala Beach Resort
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
Love this relaxed edit from Jason Lesh, Justin Buulolo, Aloha Aerials and Ryan Meichtry. Nice work! Beautiful waves and barrel riding…
Any wonder why they call this spot the Mentawai Wavepark? The man in the video getting barreled over and over is Christie Carter, official MD for Mentawai Wavepark. Not a bad place for an office.
Well, the 2014 Association of Professional Surfers’ 2014 World Championship Tour ended with the culmination of the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii, yesterday. The ASP crowned a new World Champion, Gabriel Medina- at age 20, the youngest world champion since Kelly Slater. Medina narrowly beat out Slater and Mick Fanning for the title, which would have been Kelly’s 12th. The best surfer to ever walk the earth may possibly retire, or not. At age 43, he still has the ability to win it all and it is only his interest level and motivation that will likely determine whether he comes back or not.
I completed another year of Surfer Magazine‘s Fantasysurfer.com competition (a fantasy surfing league where you have a $50,000,000 budget and select and manage a team of surfers), where the men’s side winner wins a trip to Hawaii. It’s a fun game. Just like all fantasy leagues, you need to know a great deal about all of the surfers, their abilities and tendencies, the breaks and what kinds of conditions each surfer performs best in, etc. I’ve cracked the top 50 in the men’s side previously, and had another good year this year.
On the men’s side, I came in 453rd this year out of 33, 907 teams- finishing in the top 1%! On the women’s side, I came in 250th out of 22,189 teams, also in the top 1%! Unfortunately, Surfer Magazine does not give out a prize for either the women’s side or for combined performance. If they did the latter, I think I’d have a great shot of winning the whole thing. Oh well, maybe one day they’ll at least let me fill in for Shea Lopez and/or Ross Williams to write for their Fantasysurfer.com blog!
Yes, that’s right! I just won an 8 Day / 7 Night all-expense paid trip to FIJI!!!!!!!!!!!! The trip is courtesy of Waterways Travel, one of the most experienced and renowned surf-travel outfits in the world, based out of Santa Monica, CA; and The Inertia, one of the action-sports world’s highest-profile web-publishers, focusing on surfing and mountain sports, also based out of Santa Monica. It includes EVERYTHING. Airfare from LAX; round-trip transportation to and from the airports; first-class accommodations (oceanfront bure) at Waidroka Bay Resort; 3 meals per day; hotel taxes; and daily boat rides to the surf breaks! Needless to say, I am stoked out of my mind!
Fiji is a true “bucket-list” destination for me and any surfer (or anyone, really). We have decided to also take our girls, Kendall & Kaelyn, ages 15 and 12, with us. We were planning a family trip to Nicaragua for next summer and that trip for all of us would have cost almost as much as carrying two extra to Fiji! So, we are now looking forward to traveling halfway around the world with them, further broadening their minds and perspective, while introducing them to Fijian culture. I understand that the Fijans are some of the friendliest people on earth. I know that Fiji is one of Kelly Slater’s favorite places on the planet, and I am guessing that his world perspective is as broad and deep as anyone’s.
The contest was promoted through The Inertia, a website I have written for fairly extensively in the past. It was well-promoted both on their website and within various social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ect.). I originally saw it on Instagram. On some channels, and on the Inertia Website, all you had to do to enter was provide your email address. On Instagram, the Inertia asked entrants to state why they felt they should win the trip and to tag their posts with the hashtag, #GoThere.
Here is my post. As you’ll see, I did a few key things. I came up with not one, but multiple reasons I should win. I also offered to WORK for the prize by promising to write 12 articles for the Inertia in 2015, including 4 for Waterways. I also promised to report back about my trip on The Inertia and in social media, and offered to dedicate a full day of our trip to the service of the local people, something I am passionate about. I also tossed in a little humor, which always helps, generally.
My post, while written to entertain, was also at its core, sincere. This is truly a dream come true for me. When I saw the opportunity, I simply used a little creativity to come up with a Win-Win-Win proposition for myself, the publisher and the advertiser. I love writing generally, and love writing for The Inertia in particular. And I am stoked to get to work more closely with Waterways Travel, because my surf-tripping won’t stop at Fiji. I consider traveling (and traveling for surf, specifically), core to my being, even if it had become more challenging financially for me, recently. Below is a copy of my post and a few pics from the Waidroka Bay Resort website showing some of the waves in the area. We are leaning towards traveling in late May or early June and hope to catch it good!
Why I should win the Waidroka trip:
1. I’m a goofyfooter
2. FIJI’s on my bucket list and I’m not getting any younger
3. I haven’t been able to travel for surf outside the US for 5+ years due to tight budget
4. …I’m willing to work for it
If I win, I will commit to:
1. Drop in on ANYTHING FIJI throws at me, including purple-blob swells at Frigates
2. Post social media updates 2x per day during my trip on both The Inertia’s and Waterways Travel’s FB, Twitter and IG accounts
3. Provide a multi-media wrap article detailing my full experience (I’m handy with an iPhone and hoping Santa sponsors me with a Go-Pro for Christmas. If not, I’ll borrow a friend’s!)
4. Write (1) feature article per month for The Inertia in 2015. These will alternately be more compelling than Reid Levin’s, “40 Foot Jelly Fish Attacks Anastasia Ashley on a 100’ Wave” pieces; funnier than Alex Haro’s tall tales (but with improved syntax); or more insightful and culturally significant than Zach Weisberg’s meaningful social commentaries
5. Become Waterways Travels’ top advocate for hard-working, surf-addicted, middle-class families for whom surf-travel is economically challenging, but necessary
6. Dedicate a full day of my trip to the service of the locals
#sohelpmeJesus #GoThere #Fiji #giveaway #surftrip #surfsomething #everybodysripping
As a third-generation native of Jacksonville, Florida, I’m not much of a cold weather guy. I start shivering when the water drops below 72. That said, winter surfing does have its appeal, as does the natural beauty of places like this in Vancouver Island. How beautiful is this? Enjoy!
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!
I’m continuing to do pretty well in Surfer Magazine’s Fantasy Surfer competition this year. With 6 out of 10 events down for the women’s side, I am currently in 100th place out of 20,559 players! I’m definitely in great position to win the whole thing with 4 events remaining! For the men, with 6 of 11 events complete, I am in 2,000th place out of 31,329 teams- not as good as the women’s, but still pretty decent (about 94th percentile). The winner of the men’s side gets a free trip to Hawaii! The winner of the women’s side gets… nothing (a mention in the mag). I think it’s a real (sexist) shame that Surfer has it set up that way, but hey. I think they should award the overall winner (men’s + women’s) with one trip; then the winners of both the men’s and women’s sides getting trips, as well. I think I’d probably be in the Top 10 if they were combining the performance of both sides.
Wow- what can you say about this? This is why I surf. It’s not what most of us experience, but is what most of us chase relentlessly, physically or emotionally. It certainly lends some pretty strong gravity to the feelings that can be achieved gliding on water in the middle of nowhere- someplace tropical, beautiful and empty, save for a few good friends. I love the drone photography here which like the RED cameras and Go-Pros, have and do continue to transforming video into a whole new medium.
Heaving straight up vertical slabs in the middle of nowhere. I love this.