November 3, 2011

Lost

There is surf spot on the Northern California Coast  only accessible by bush plane, Zodiak boat or an eight mile, tide dependent, hike in along the coast.  Since traveling through the area a month ago,  I started picking up tidbits about a remote point break nestled in the largest undeveloped section of the west coast.  These tidbits led to research and an eventual plan to backpack in and surf this remote break.

According to lore, locals bury boards in the woods so that they don’t have to schlep them on their back.  In the early 00’s, a few hikers died when they were caught against  cliffs by high tides.  In addition, the (frigid) waters are infested with great white sharks and the shores team with black bears.  Nestled on a point,  the break is exposed to swell from the both the north and the south, meaning that rogue waves three times larger than normal can catch surfers.   “Get hurt out there, and you’re looking at a life flight out courtesy of the US Coast Guard,” a local explained through the window of a Toyota pick up.

These “obstacles” contribute to a deserted point break surfed by few, but known in the Norcal surf community as one of the best in North America.

“If not now, then when?  I just don’t think we will have another opportunity,”  Dan said from his apartment in Arcata. “The swell is building and it’s from the right direction.  The weather will be in the 70’s too, in late October.  We can’t pass this up.”

“I’m down,” I answered into my phone from the side of Route 1 in Big Sur.  “I’ll be up there by Wednesday.  The waves will be better by the end of the week, huh?”

“Yahh,  that should be perfect.”

We arrived at the trail head late the night before, greeted by the site of another Syncro with a few surfboards on top and an early 80’s Westy.  Waking before dawn, we packed our things, hid our valuables and started down the beach.  Racing along as an eight foot high tide chipped away at the narrow beach,  we covered four miles along the beach then scrambled up a hillside.  As the tide recessed,  we sprinted around small rock points between waves.  Cove by cove, we marched ever closer to the distant point.

We dinged our boards and cursed our packs.

After eight hours of watermelon sized rocks, exposed beaches and jagged points, we finally made it to the bluffs over looking the break.  To our surprise we saw not one break but a handful of pealing, uninhabited waves.  A far-cry from Southern California: just a single team of two surfers taking turns riding a wave and driving a jet ski.   With the eagerness of a group of nine year olds on Halloween, we shed our backpacks, changed into our suits and charged into the waves, intent on reaping the benefit of our day’s effort.

For the next three days, we surfed the handful of breaks along the abandoned coast when the tides were right.  When the water was flat, we explored the beach, scavenging for driftwood, and other odds and ends to improve our makeshift home.

Tired from the day’s sessions, we packed it in early each night.  Waking at dawn, we checked the surf.

Water.

Low tide.

Using salvaged marine rope,  we lashed two trees together, creating crows nest.  From this vantage point, we could see breaks a mile down the beach in either direction.

In the mornings, we spotted bear and deer tracks on the trails along the bluffs.

Twilight.

Our shelter,  my LL Bean tent.

A-Frame.

Our planks.

Next time, I will probably come in on one of these.

Deliberation.

An Aran Sweater for the cold nights.

 After three days of playing lost boys, our food ran short and more importantly, the swell died down.  Much to our chagrin,  we broke camp, took one last look at the swell from our crows nest, and hiked back a long the coast.  Motivated by the promise of a convenience store at the end of the beach, we walked in relative silence.  Some things you will never forget.

Here are some more links,

Lost (Picasa).

18 Comments



  • November 3 , 2011

    haha. this kinda reminds me of an episode of Man vs. Wild! Great post!


  • November 3 , 2011

    Such a great story!


  • November 3 , 2011

    I don’t surf, but this makes me wish I did. So fantastic.


  • November 3 , 2011

    Carlos,
    men vs surf.

    Connie,
    thanks for the kind words,

    Cheryl,
    its never to late to learn. you will enjoy it.

    foster


  • November 3 , 2011

    These are one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve seen of California… so wild…


  • Michelle
    November 3 , 2011

    I love what you are doing. The writing, the photography, the life.
    Enjoy


  • uncle john
    November 3 , 2011

    Your pics are very relaxing-thanks for the whole trip!


  • tyler
    November 3 , 2011

    as an architecture student/ fort enthusiast, i gotta say that crow’s nest is wildly impressive.


  • November 4 , 2011

    foster, i had goosebumps when reading this one. the photos and your description are so evocative. unforgettable, for sure.


  • November 4 , 2011

    thanks for the kind word guys. the trip was great. i was running around in swim trunks all the time. the weather was in the 70s all day. it felt like summer not late october. the crows nest was great. we rapped the rope back across itself to make it stronger. all and all you could get about 12 feet off the ground, giving you a pretty good view.

    Brian,
    always pumped when you comment. stoked on the book,
    foster


  • November 4 , 2011

    This is awesome. I camped in the same spot this past July. Although I don’t surf, your pictures bring back great memories.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/philipdrew/sets/72157627485465760/


  • Ilsa
    November 4 , 2011

    Your website is inspiring! Thank you for sharing.


  • Jes
    November 4 , 2011

    honest and eager. awesome.


  • November 4 , 2011

    Don,
    thats the place man. so great. i cant wait to go back.

    Jes,
    honest and eager. theres a lot to be eager about.

    lisa,
    thanks for the kind words,
    foster


  • November 5 , 2011

    have just come across your blog. feel like i came across my favorite kind of novel, a little bit. looking forward to following your journey.


  • November 7 , 2011

    Wild. Did you carry your board in-hand the whole hike? Any ideas how someone might rig up a surfboard-bearing backpack?


  • November 7 , 2011

    Carissa,
    thanks for the kind words. i hope you keep coming back.

    The Outage,
    i carried in a 7’6 mini longboard so strapping it to my backpack was out of the question. on the way back i balanced it on the top of my backpack. that was a life saver.

    foster


  • November 8 , 2011

    […] A second house and study made with rocks from the beach.  Did I mention it is a few hundred yards from that deserted point break? […]