March 13, 2013

The Sun Also Rises

“Do you hear that?” I asked to no one in particular. “The rain stopped,” I chuckled in surprise and contempt.

Cyrus (Sutton) looked up from the pot of vegetables he was cooking on a stove in the small apartment in Hendaye, France and studied the window.  The squall had subsided, and the trees were no longer shaking like middle school boys at their first dance. “Looks like it,” he said, returning to his afternoon snack.

Since arriving in Bilbao a week before,  the wind and rain had never stopped.  Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and experiencing a fair share of New England’s Nor’easters, the Basque weather caught me off guard.  The storms came in from the North Atlantic, slowed a little bit courtesy of the small speed bump known as the British Isles and then slammed into the southern European coast.  During our stay in the Basque country,  the largest wave ever surfed,was surfed five hours down the coast in Portugal.

James and Ryan looked out the window and nodded in agreement.  Despite arriving in Bilbao a week before, we were still jet lagged and worn out from surfing.

“What time is Sancho meeting us for dinner?”

“We have to meet him in San Sebastian at 7:30.”

Glancing at my watch, it was few minutes before four.  I was restless and jet lagged.  My clothes were damp and sandy from the constant transition from standing on a rainy beach to wearing a wetsuit to standing back on rainy beach.  Rising from the couch, I walked over to the window.  The sun peered through a break in the clouds.  I reached for my bag and jacket.  ”I’m going to go grab a coffee and take a look around. I’ll be back in a bit.”

“I may see you at the cafe, I need to check on the good old internet. You know,  make sure its still there..”

Walking down the stairs of the  comfortable but sparse apartment building, I exited onto the an empty street. The roar of waves crashing against the breakwater at high tide a block away echoed around the Orwellian apartment buildings.  Large puddles surrounded the storm grates and scraps from the various palm trees dotted the sidewalks.  During the summer months,  Hendaye is full of vacationers from inland.  It’s not as fancy as Biarritz or San Sebastian and in the off-season it showed.   Save for the a few surfers scrambling to get their wetsuits on,  the streets looked post Zombie apocalypse.

Heading towards the beach,  I searched the pockets of my jacket for my headphones.   Finding them, I plugged them into my phone and resumed Hemingway’s fabled, “The Sun Also Rises.”  It was nice to be alone and walking in a city, albeit a small, empty one. Back when I lived in New York, I opted out of taking a cab or subway to work and walked instead.  That hour per day was my alone time, it kept me sane.  I slipped into a similar mindset as I wandered Hendaye’s empty streets.

Luc’s Mini Cooper and his hand shaped eleven foot single fin.

Sancho making lunch.



“Should I stay or should I go now?”

Showers at the Mundaka Harbor.

Ryan Burch having a beer and watching waves at Mundaka after the best day of surfing of the trip.

Old-world streets.

The planner in Peta’s shaping bay.

The French and Spanish boarder.

A basement stairway in a five hundred year old castle in Spain.

It’s alive!  That little black speck on the wave is Ryan Burch.

A 70′s style single fin gun, a two plus one gun, and Cyrus Sutton‘s experimental one plus one gun.

Mildew in the making.

Sancho looking out over a thousand foot cliff.

Cobblestone streets.

Red, white and grey.

Cyrus Sutton and my surfboards for the trip.

 Cy and his broken 7’6 gun.

The street lights flickered into action, punctuating twilight.  My immersion in Hemingway’s bullfights had lasted two hours.   I needed to get back to the apartment for dinner. The wind was turning from a straight west to a south. Low pressure in the Atlantic was sucking warm air from Spain’s interior.

“We could score Mundaka in the next few days,” I mumbled to the empty street.  ”With any luck, we might get some sun…” I continued my one sided conversation.

Here are some more links,

The Fun Also Rises (Tumblr #),

Regressing Forward (Cyrus Sutton’s blog).

February 19, 2013

That Wicked Country

“When are you going to that wicked country?  Your father tells me you are heading down soon.  How do you pronounce it? Ba JA?”  my 86 year old grandmother inquired from my cousin’s couch in San Diego.

“Dan and I are leaving tomorrow morning.”

“But it’s Christmas.  You’re not going to stay?  You just got here?”

“I know, Oma, but the highways in Baja will be empty.”

“Isn’t it dangerous?  I hear all these stories of people being found with their heads off.”

“It sure can be.  The border areas around Texas and incredibly dangerous,  but the place where I go is empty.  It’s just fishermen and a handful of surfers,” I explained.

“What do you do for food and water?  Isn’t it incredible arid?”

“Well we bring food and water in jugs, and we spear fish.  Depending on our luck, we buy fish from fisherman”

“So there aren’t restaurants or towns?”

“Think of it like Nevada with waves.  You drive 10 hours on a beat up, two lane road and then turn off and drive a few hours on dirt roads and then you park on the beach.”

“…And then you surf all day?  Sounds wonderful.”

“It sure is Oma.  Especially if you’re into surfing.”

My cousin Becca sat down on the other side of my grandmother, and the conversation shifted away from my upcoming trip.  It was already 9:30, and my jet-lagged relatives from the east coast were starting to wind down.  The fireplace popped away on wood trucked in from the Sierras and the smell of a Christmas tree overpowered the scraps of dinner still lying on the dinning room table.  I was full, too full, and I laid my head back against the wall.  I could fall asleep right now, I thought to myself.   Across the room, Dan talked with my aunt.  Over the chatter, it sounded like he was having a similar conversation with my aunt about the tenets and risks of driving to Baja.

Sunset at low tide in Central Baja.

Para Gringos!

A Taco stand in Guerrero Negro.

Two 10 footers.

Naranjas for sale on the side of the 1 in Northern Baja.

There is a bad moon on the rise.

Home is where you park it!

Dan after a four hour session.

The refrigerator at a road side Taqueria.

Off my wave cook.

Be prepared.

Foot warmers.

Red, white and blue #vanlife.

A gringo dog watching over a camp in Central Baja.

At 5:32,  the standard IOS allarm went off, waking me from my slumber on the couch.  Rolling over, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked out the window.  It was still pitch black.  The street lamps lit the palm trees and a sixty degree Southern California breeze blew in from the open window.  Nothing felt like Christmas morning.  My cousin Nikko’s snore crept under the bedroom door into the living room.  Sunrise wasn’t for another two hours, but we still had to park Dan’s van at the airport and get gas.  Those two hours would go by fast.  Kicking off the blankets,  I reached for my jeans and pulled them on.  Feeling around in the dark, I grabbed my backpack and made sure my iPhone charger was in it.   Being as quiet as possible,  I locked the door behind me and headed out to my van.

Dan was already waiting right behind my van.

“Merrrry Christmas.”

“Happy Kwanzaa to you too.”

“You ready to go?”


Here are some more links,

Out of Reception (Tumblr).

February 5, 2013

The Corner

My lips were  burned and my armpits ached from three days of wearing a wet suit more than clothes.  Surfing encourages greed.  Scarcity explains it.  When the waves are good,  life comes to a screeching halt, and you scramble to satisfy your thirst saved up during the long flat periods.  My thirst wasn’t satisfied, just dulled to the point where I could comfortably pass up a session.

“Ehhhh,  how is it?”

“Really good,  there are barrels all over the place.  I’m suiting up right now and paddling out. Gotta go.” Trevor hung up.

“It’s really good,” Good,  I said to Dan as I plugged my phone back into the cigarette lighter.  ”Trevor is going out right now.  You wanna go?”

Dan was fresh off a cross country road trip, where the closest he got to waves was tanker wake in the Gulf.  ”Absolutely. Nice point break. Longworkable rides.  Are You?” Dan said mimick Keanu Reeves in Point Break.

Looking into the rear view mirror, I stared at my chapped lips and sunburnt face.  I was exhausted and, based on the amount of cars in the parking lot,  I knew I wouldn’t get many waves.  I didn’t feel like scrapping with 300 people for a wave or two.

“Na man.  I’m going to lurk on the beach for this one.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Yah,  the juice won’t be  worth the squeeze.  I’m pooped.”  I said with hint of conflict.


By the time we made it to the beach,  the sun was flirting with the hills of the Channel Islands.  I walked with Dan along the beach to towards the river mouth.  The crowd was emptying out.  Familiar silhouette and boards took off at the river mouth and pumped into the cove.

“You’re blowing it.”

“Yah, you’re probably right.”

Dan strapped on his leash and waded over the rocks.  The current pulled him down towards the flag pole as he started paddling.  Waves kept rolling in with no end in sight. Checking my watch, I looked at the sun.   If I ran, I could get a few.

Here are some more links,

Out of Reception (Tumblr),

@Fosterhunting (Instagram).

January 22, 2013

Nick Dirks’ Van

Mt. Bachelor’s parking lot was empty,  save for a few RV’s and vans parked in the corner of the lot.  Looking for Nick’s van,  I spotted it nestled between two pickup truck campers.  Pulling up behind the group of campers, I parked and walked towards Nick’s van.  Icicles hung from the corners of every vehicle as a result of the mid-teens temperatures the night before. Knocking on the window,  I heard movement in the van, and opened the door.

“Rise and shine,  it’s butt whipping time!”  I said,  drowning out Nick and Alex’s groans as I opened the front door and hopped into the passenger seat.

“You guys stay warm last night?  It’s fucking freezing out.”

“We had the heater cranked all night, it wasn’t that bad,” Nick said from the fold down bed in the back of the van.

“Ha, how was the floor?” I asked Alex.  He lay on the ground wrapped in a Poler napsack surrounded by a few empty 12 ounce beer cans and a bag of chips.

“It was fine.  What time is it?”

“Uhh… Let me check..8:15,” I said checking my phone.  ”It’s dumping out!”


“Yah, you guys are tripping!  I’m going to go get first lift.  They start running in fifteen”

“Uhghh…” Nick rolled over onto his stomach.  ”We’ll see you up there.”

“Have it your way dude…”  I said tracking in snow out of the open door.  ”Give me a ring.”

Ass, Gas or Grass, Nobody Rides for Free.  For the record these empties were from parked activities, not mobile.

Shutting the door, I grabbed my board and headed towards the lift line.  They’ll be up in an hour I thought to myself.

I first met Nick snowboarding on Mt. Hood ten years ago.  Nick, myself and our friend Jarad ripped around Mt. Hood Meadows like we owned the place, cutting lift lines,  going out of bounds and occupying the lodge.   In the winter of 2004, we went on our first road trips by ourselves together in search of snow and hand rails.  When we graduated from high school, I decided to go to college, instead of focusing on snowboarding.  Nick went on to be a pro shredder and has rode his board in places like Lebanon, Russia and Chile.   Whenever I came back to Portland,  I’d meet up and chew the fat with Nick and Jarad.  During college and my stint in New York, these stories of old times, and Nick and Jarad’s current shenanigans, made me question my path.  Seven years later,  we are both living in our vans.

Note the icicles and empty beer holder.

The inside of #vanlife.

The Vantasy’s custom board rack.  Pure Cambvibes.

An hour later, my phone rang in my pocket as I road up the lift.  Sitting on my gloves, I wrangled my phone out of my breast pocket with my slow moving fingers.

“Where are you guys?  It’s going off!” I laughed, tucking my phone under my goggle strap.

“We are at the bottom of Sunrise (a lift).  Where are you?”

“I’m a few chairs a head of you,  see you at the top.”  Shutting off my phone I shoved it back into my pock and checked the zipper.  I couldn’t remember the last time Nick and I took laps together.  It must have been at least seven years.  I hooted in anticipation.

Here are some more links,

The Vantasy Christmas.