Monday, December 29, 2014

Best Surfing Year....ever

I cannot say why, but this year had more days than I can count of when there were waves and we made sure we were there...and that might be the reason by itself. This photo is from Sunday, 12/28/2014 and it was a day out of a dream. Sure the waves weren't perfect and the weather wasn't perfect...but, in December? A few days ago we were freezing our butts off and we were hoping the wind would just let up a little bit..and then, this. I had to go back and get more. I spent all day today surfing as well. The beach is packed, I assume that nobody is home up in New England right now, but who can blame these people! I mean, our summer days aren't this nice..
Another huge change was me finding out that I could ride a smaller paddleboard in waves, one that turns like a surfboard...the only downside to paddlesurfing in the bigger surf is if you get caught inside, you really get've never seen a mainic paddler like me when I'm just inside the outside break and on my knees paddling to get out when a set is coming in...I need video of That!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The 80's Hairband Pivot

It’s hard to believe where I am right now, writing this. It’s 8:30am, 45 degrees out and I’m sitting on a campstool in front of a fire in the woods. I know, I brought my laptop on a camping trip and I’m writing instead of exploring….but this trip has been MUCH stranger than that. First thing is, I’m in Anastasia State Park, in Saint Augustine, Florida, in the middle of December. What with my extreme amount of free time available to me recently, Ed’s Eco Adventures needed little excuse to go out and find the nature in Florida. I have been waiting and waiting for good weather and suddenly we have some. I didn’t expect a lot out of this trip, except that Pam wanted to see the Christmas lights in Saint Augustine and my Dad offered to loan his camper so we wouldn’t have to sleep in a tent in the cold. The Aliner camper is great and my truck pulled it like it was just a bigger kayak trailer. We took a leisurely drive up A1A, seeing beautiful glassy waves and occasional groups of surfers. We got into the campground and I was immediately amazed at how nice it was. A lot of privacy in our space and I backed that trailer right in like a pro..except Pam wanted it moved over 5 feet to the right, 15 minutes later, yelling and moving to and fro, I finally got the trailer right…next time she’s backing it up.. We had the perfect campsite for me: deep in the woods and yet only minutes from calm, serene blue waves, clear pristine sky and only a short drive from the scenic old town of Saint Augustine and a night of slowly walking hand in hand, thinking how far away we were from the rats-in-a-cage life of the city. Suddenly I heard, “Ayup, Test 1, Test, Test, Test” from what seemed like the PA system from a large outdoor concert arena. I’m going what the hell, is Woodstock next door? I then read the fine print on our campground paper that said we hope you don’t mind the occasional concerts at the amphitheater nearby. Then they started testing the drums, and then the guitar…dude, that guy was good at lead guitar. Next the band does a sound check with “Paradise City” and I realize, this is a very good cover band. I get on the smartphone to check this all out and sure enough, PaperCutt, a local 80’s lipstick and makeup band is performing at 8pm. Starts at 8pm?! When I’m out camping in the woods to get away from the city noise? Hmmmm… When confronted with this situation you: A) go buy some earplugs B) go complain to the management C) go to the concert and rock out D) none of the above There is only one correct answer, C. Pam and I became headbangers for the night. The band was great and I loved some of their over-the-top antics like repeatedly using a can of hairspray on their wigs, but the music was solid, good music, and the crowd just roared like an audience twice the size. We stayed for the first 3 encores and then went back to the camper and to sleep with the sound of the band performing one last rendition of “Paradise City”. And if that isn’t the definition of a Pivot, I’m not sure what is…..

Monday, December 15, 2014

Too Cold? Nah!

To cold to surf? Well, that is a relative thing, as I found out earlier this year in California. Saturday was a beautiful day, but it started out cold enough to keep us Floridians indoors..except for a few of us. I somehow convinced Pam and Carmen to take a trip to the beach. Even with the sun shining bright and the waves looking inviting, Carmen wasn't sure it was worth it, but once she was in, we were both getting some decent rides and having a good time. The best part is that we could both remember a few years ago, when Carmen was really getting into surfing, where she had to coax me out into a day of surfing in colder weather than this. That is what surfing buddies are for: to get you to go when inertia tells you how nice it would be to just pull the covers over your head a sleep a little bit more.
Pam cheered us on from the her bleacher seat on the beach and even complained that we didn't stay in the water long enough when we finally had enough. It was time to head to Our Deck Down Under, the little eatery under the South Daytona bridge.
The food is really good, and the view is better. In spite of all their efforts to keep the birds away, we had plenty of sea birds walking around our feet, looking for handouts. If you are a bird lover, it's an extra treat to come and see the variety of beggar birds we have in Florida. Speaking of that, for some reason, the sandpipers on the beach are getting very tame. While I was taking off my wetsuit, I about had two of them walking up on my feet. I merely looked at one and he came running up. For all of my travels, Florida is the birdiest state of all.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Flager Beach And The Ill Wind

A Sunday trip up the east coast of Florida took us by wide expanses of beach with nobody but Kiteboarders out in the water. Overcast, cold and windy, this was not the normal nice day at the beach we seek, but for the kiters at Flagler pier, this must have been a great day, because I have never seen so many of them in one place before.
The way the sails were flying, I fully expected to see one of them thrown up into the parking lot. Up between Saint Augustine and Ormond there of plenty of small cafes and we stopped for a bit for a coffee. I saw at least 3 bands playing to empty parking lots and it truly changed my mind about the glamor of getting a band gig "on the beach". I'm going to head back this way on a nice sunny day just for comparison...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

First Fish From a Paddleboard!

I never thought it would be fresh water, and I never thought it would be in Lake Maitland, nor two fish in ten minutes. It was all a surprise today. I was out for the morning paddle and decided to bring along my cheapo shakespeare ultralight rod, which I'm pretty sure has never landed a single fish before this day. It was small and I had low expectations. I had a similar issue when I first started fishing from a kayak. You had to bring stuff, and you had to stop paddling to fish, and you really needed to put in somewhere near the place you wanted to fish. Today was totally random: overcast, cool, no wind, and me with nothing but 2 pound test line and a purple worm on a weedless hook. The funny thing was I was using a fishing technique from back when I was a kid; cast into the shallows and just let it sit there for a while, then slowly drag back in and see if something takes a swipe at it. The first fish took about 3 attempts before I hooked him, and the second fish I caught after I saw him splash and cast right on top of him. I was lucky they weren't larger bass, because my rod is so soft, that it was enough to get them in and get my camera out, while keeping the fish on the board and not falling Lake Maitland! The hardest place for me to fish, and I'm poor at freshwater fishing in general....but I'm working on that.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kayaking Bokeelia, FL - Where To Launch?

Pine Island, in southwest Florida, is a great place to kayak. It is just west of Fort Myers and just an easy 40 minute drive from town. We have always called Pine Island the 'Redneck Sanibel', as it seems to be way more about fishing than letting rich folk relax in the sun.
But, the population on Pine Island is growing. I'm pretty sure that most of the people living there now were not born there. The problem is that it must be troublesome trying to make a living from fishermen. The result is that it is about impossible to get into the water without paying somebody for the opportunity. As as November 2014, I could not find a single place to launch a kayak that didn't have a sign wanting money for that.
Pineland Marina, in the middle of the island (picture above) is a great place to launch, with a large parking lot and a nice ramp. From here, you can do some serious paddling. A trip to Cabbage Key for a cheeseburger in paradise is about a 2 hour paddle one way, and Cayo Costa is about 4 hours one way (good place to camp). The two dangers are wind and the boat traffic. Pineland Marina wants $8 to launch your kayak (or $13 for two kayaks) or $10 just to park your car there. A few years ago, you could launch for free about 1/2 a mile down the road, but that now has a chain and a no trespassing sign.
Bokeelia is on the northern tip is the island and this is my favorite spot. Unfortunately, all of the free launch spots are gone here as well. Even the old secret spot shown here, now has a sign. There are several boat ramps and all of them either charge for parking or for launching. Bokeelia is pretty famous for not being friendly about this stuff. Remember, we are dealing with the descendants of commercial fishermen that lost their jobs when the government got a little bit picky about how they were decimating the fish population with their inshore netting methods.
The best bet for the kayaker or boater is to rent a place to stay that is on the water near where you want to paddle. For us, one great location is the Beach House in Bokeelia. It rents for about $100-$140 a night (cheaper in the summer) and is a perfect place to launch your kayaks. It is right on Charlotte Harbor, a short paddle to Jug Creek, adventurous paddle to the sandbar and the Oyster bar is a nice long fishing trip. There are many other places to stay where you can easily keep your kayak right on the beach and see the water from your window.
The Beach House also has a couple of kayaks that you can use. They are just cheap plastic 10' kayaks, but we used them this weekend and had fun. I caught a few fish and Pam just relaxed out in the water. The problem with kayaking in the winter here, is that a North wind can kill your thoughts of boating and there was a lot of north wind this weekend. It would have been better to kayak around Pineland Marina, but I choked on the launch fee. Just being here is great, and you can walk to two restaurants nearby: The Lazy Flamingo (sportsbar/diner) and Captain Con's. Both places have good food and can get busy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ed the Possum Trapper

We got a new member of the family last week. An opossum moved into our garage. He didn't cause a lot of fuss, but when my garage door quit working because SOMEBODY chewed up the wire, the list of suspects was quite small. I wasn't sure, until I started noticing things knocked off my workbench and then decided to clean the garage. I discovered him while picking up a dogbed and thought it was pretty heavy for an empty bed. A quick look inside and I see these innocent-looking eyes saying 'wassup?'. I'm thinking what big teeth possums have, so I dropped the bed and he ran for cover. After that nothing would coax him out where Pam could snatch him up by the tail, so I bought a trap. Don't worry, no possum's were harmed during this story.
We found out that opossums are one of the few marsupials in North America (that means they have a pouch like a kangaroo), and that they are not aggressive in spite of the sharp teeth. They are nocturnal, so I was pretty worried that I would be waking up at 12am in the morning with an animal going crazy in my garage. Instead, my daughter woke me up and I went out to see a forlorn-looking animal holding onto the sides of the trap (possums have opposable thumbs!), seeming to say to me, "I didn't do nuttin!'. I see how it is. Them dogs and cat can do whatever they want, but I knock over one small can of WD40 and I'm doin' time". My wife begged me to drive him to Ocala and release him into the wild. Me at 12am? I made it to the big tree in the front yard and said, "Tell it to the squirrels, Possy!" and released him into the general population.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Different Sort Of Kayaking

This a view from our stop of the Outfitters at Nantahala. It was a beautiful, clear November day and I was surprised to see kayakers going out to practice on the rapids. I mean, this water is cold in the summer! I suppose if this is where you live, this is what you are prepared for. I noticed that each of the kayakers would get totally covered with wetsuit and spray skirt on their kayak and then, at the last minute splash riverwater on their face as they slid into the water. My idea is that this is to wake them up and make it so that the first surpise in the trip is not how cold the water is. It was amazing to see what you can do with those little kayaks, even just finding an eddy where you can sit still while the water flowed around you, looked like it took serious skill. This is the kind of sport where I'd rather watch!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

If You're Comtemplating Complaining about the Weather

Morro Bay is a nice tourist town in California. It is pretty far away from the large crowds and you hit while traveling to Big Sur. What I noticed is that the photo here is the surfing beach. The day we arrived was weather was just about like it is right now in Florida, cool and sunny. The waves were like the waves we get here as well, except they had a dirt beach and full rubber on in September. Yep, this was the really cold water, not the stuff I surfed in down south. There were plenty of surfers in the water, on a weekday and in 2' shorebreak. Surfing is definitely the kind of thing that you take what you get, and not everybody gets nice warm water. So when you start to complain about the waves in Florida, think of the surfers in other parts of the world, even California, that get what we get for waves, only they have to wear big wetsuits to get in the water in the summer...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Beautiful Waves, The Ship, and the Brown Stuff

Big waves at the beach bring other things besides an opportunity to surf. We get the seaweed and this year there was more seaweed than I have seen in my lifetime. The seaweed is okay and probably provides extra food options for the birds, but the jellyfish? No, it wasn't the worst kind of jellyfish, just the big pink ones, the kind that break into pieces and become what we know as 'sea-lice'. Sea-lice, you can't see 'em so you can't avoid 'em. Nothing like falling off your board into the water and having parts of your body feel like an electric shock. The only thing worse is when you feel that in your pants!
Seaweed and jellyfish are part of nature, so we accept it for the price of having the waves...but the ship that sat out there at the edge of the horizon for weeks, what is that? And what is the brown foamy stuff we could see at times in the water? You can't help but think that something is either leaking or getting flushed. My wife noticed the brown stuff the most when she had her polarized sunglasses on, just chocolate colored sections of water with brown foam. You really do not know the origin, but when you see cruise ships going by with 5000 people on them and freighter after freighter marching into the horizon, you start to wonder if they really dump their waste far enough away and if they don't, who's going to stop them?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Finding the Excitement

This is a shot from the morning we had to leave Cocoa Beach and head back home. Is this normal Cocoa Beach surf? No Way! But whenever a hurricane strolls by and stays at least 300 miles away, we get surf like this. What made this swell better in my eyes, was that we did not seem to get the long lines of closeout waves that we sometimes get. For me the best days were Wednesday and Thursday, before the crowds descended, but I'm sure that the waves continued through Sunday. I'm all beat up and so is my board, but I would not have it any other way. I definitely learned that you don't have to be in the best spot, you just have to figure out how to get the best out of YOUR spot...something I might to apply to the rest of my life!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Week of Relaxing Turned Into Something Else

It started off with a cold, and then the weather was going to be not so great, and then on top of all that, a possible hurricane. But what happened after that is the real story. Pam's home remedy of Vitamin C and Zinc got me back on my feet quicker than I could imagine and the one day of howling wind and unsurfable waves gave me the time I needed to recover. The rest of the time has been surfing more than I ever had before. I've been out on the largest waves on a paddleboard ever, and it has been consistently waves that rivaled my recent surfing adventure in Southern California. Thursday, I was out on and off until 6pm and I am still sore in places I didn't know about. Sea Lice are in the mix and now the crowd of surfers. I actually got to where I was taking it for granted that I could have any wave I wanted until yesterday afternoon, when the water became full of surfers that were hoping to get some of the hurricane swell. Today is supposed to be the big day, so I can only assume that the crowd will grow. If there is one feeling I have had on this trip, it is a growing sense of wonder. That I can do this, that we have surf like this, it all just blows me away. Pam has her umbrella on the beach and a good book and has become my cheering section. I feel like I am that soccer kid that is looking in the bleachers to see if they saw his goal...and she always says that she did!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Beach Always Has Something, Even When You're Sick

This adventure has more twists and turns than usual. Getting sick right before was not in the plans, a great family get-together and excellent surf further kept me from deciding if this was the worst or best week ever. Even now, the wind is howling on shore for the second day and a whirly girl is cooking down in the islands. I could be there for the epic waves of the year, or clinging onto the remaining stanchion of the condo as a storm returns us to the Stone Age. No matter, I have definitely learned that this time is not just one thing, and even as I walk in the largest pile of seaweed I've ever seen, there can be beautiful sandcastles up ahead.
Regardless, I'm going out to walk the sand and admire the storm clouds building and know once more that the adventure is still on!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lest We Forget...

Yes, there are many beautiful things to see and do in California, but if there was one thing I took home from that trip, it is that we need to guard our environment. Although many people speak of the west coast as a hotbed of liberal tree-huggers, the oil platforms that looked spitting distance from the beach begged to differ. What California has is a bounty of nature and an over abundance of people. The photo here is what I saw on the beach at Fort Cronkite park just north of San Francisco. The water was a nice clear blue and people were all about, surfing, jogging or just getting sun. I'm standing there looking at different kinds of dead animals and wondered just what it would have taken to kill them all. I've never seen anything like this in Florida, except for after an oil spill. Is this what Florida is destined for? Environmentalists have been worrying about the Florida ecosystem for over 50 years, and I'm not sure they slowed things down much at all. To think that John D. MacDonald was bemoaning the beachfront condos back in the 1960's. If only he knew what was coming after...or perhaps he did.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cali - Some things that left me slack-jawed..

One morning last week, we were driving up the southern California coast and I felt like I hadn't seen the ocean in a bit and pulled down a side street to get a look at the conditions. It was a short drive down a little neighborhood road to a dead-end and I saw a couple of cars with surf racks there, so we parked to get a look at the break. The photo here is what we saw. What's more difficult to convey is how the people there saw it versus how we saw it. I saw these as epic waves in an unknown spot with few surfers. In front of us were a few people in their 30's and 40's, some pausing mid-jog for a look at the surfers and one 'soccer mom' sitting there with her paperwork on her lap, cellphone to her ear, talking about how she dropped three kids off for a photo session and now she has one out in the water. To our right is a gazillion dollar glass and concrete 50's mansion with a young teenager with a towel around his waist, wondering if it was worth getting wet..
I have heard jokes that you could always spot a Florida surfer in California, "because they will paddle for anything". I'm beginning to think that is not as much a joke as I thought it was....

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cali Trip 11: Oceanside

One of my must-see spots was the Oceanside pier and we made it there on our first day. By the time we got there, the wind was on the waves and we felt like we may have already seen the best of the day down at WindandSea in the morning. But...the waves were still big and there were some expert surfers out of the pier taking on these giant (to my Florida eyes) waves. What it looked like to me from the pier was getting through the waves and mastering the takeoffs was the skill part. Once on the waves, the break seemed very predictable, the guys were pumping their boards to gather speed and I didn't see a lot of fancy manuvers.That takeoff however, was tricky and more than a few of these guys would be bounced right out of the wave on takeoff. I felt the adrenaline rush just watching the swell pop up right next to the pier. Some of the guys surfing were older and didn't even look in shape enough to get out, but they knew HOW to get out and they didn't look worried. Oceanside had a nice vibe to the pier area. Buskers, crazy people, skateboarders, plenty to keep you entertained. The water was cold, but no worse than Rock Springs here in Central Florida. I did have many locals tell me that the water was much warmer than usual..."like bathwater, mate," said one guy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cali Trip - 10: Morro Bay

Morro Bay is a little town on the side of the road between LA and San Francisco. We passed through many small towns and they all seemed to have a distinctive flair. The strange claim to fame here is a easily recognizable landscape. There is a giant rock sitting right there on the edge of town and three giant smokestacks of a power plant nearby. There are T-Shirts that say "3 Smokestacks and a Rock" for sale in the town. We caught the place early in the day on off season and got to enjoy the scenery without a crowd, but from the looks of things, they are very used to crowds of tourists. There is a great surfshop and many gift stores and eateries on the main drag, which looks to be made for parking your car and walking the rest of the day. This is all right on the water of a small harbor with fishing boats, rental kayaks and paddleboards, and your pick of seals to gawk at. We almost immediately upon arrival heard the signature barking of seals and had to go take a look at a extra large one that was posing for photographs. I started getting very interested in the social life of seals as it seems like most of them will fight for rights to the best rock in the middle of 100 seals, and then you find one or 2 seals just laying by this something similar to people? And the big ones that come right up to the edge of the dock with people all clustered around and then just strike poses. Wanna-be movie star seals? I don't know enough yet, but it's hard to watch them for any length of time without wanting to know more...meanwhile, the local people give them about as much attention as we give squirrels...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cali Trip - 9: Big Sur

Big Sur was a bit of a surprise for me, because I expected it to somehow suddenly begin and end, and it doesn't really do that. You are just driving along seeing great stuff and after a while you realize that you are in the middle of this 90 miles of road. The parks aren't really much better than just driving along the highway, although we did stay the night at Pfieffer state park. The cabins were expensive compared to a hotel along the interstate, but you don't get deer hanging around your back door on the interstate! I'll have to give a plug for Fox Car Rentals here. This was the 4th time I've used them and we always end up with a good, fun car. This time we started off looking for an economy car and found ourselves with a Camaro convertible. We almost always had the top down and the heater on. AND...this was during a California heatwave! I got to the point where I forgot about trying to not look like a tourist and just let myself admire nature's beauty. So many miles of the clearest blue water and mountains, and the least congested part of the state that I had found. We did go the week after labor day, so I'm not sure how bad things are with crowds in the summer. Most places near cities seemed like they had people circling for parking spaces, so I'm guessing that we were fortunate to be there when we were.
We took a week to drive from San Diego to San Francisco, just stopping whenever we wanted and that felt just right. We had plenty of time to enjoy everything, even though you could spend a whole week in any number of places we drove through. Unfortunately, California's popularity also leaves them with some ecology issues: The persistent drought was bringing wildfires to the national parks nearby and a constant concern about water usage everywhere we went. Although the water was clear and blue, at one beach I saw 4 dead birds, all different species, all laying near each other. Californians are worried about their water quality and the dead birds gave me pause. I had only seen that before with oil spills. The parks seem to struggle with money enough to keep them up and this is an area where Florida can be proud, but will we someday end up with the problems California has now?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cali Trip - 8

San Francisco was not the kind of place that I was excited about traveling to, but it turned out to be a blast. The only thing that we did wrong was hiking too long. We started off learning how to use the mass transit to travel from our hotel in Oakland to the waterfront in San Francisco. Even just figuring out how to get the tickets was a challenge. Then, we started the walk along the docks and decided to have lunch up in Chinatown. We hiked up the streets, while just about everyone else rode the trolleys. It wasn't long before I was winded.
The night before, we had driven into town and actually found a parking place near the fisherman's wharf. The driving I did was only possible because of the woman's voice in google maps...I'm driving straight up into the sky and she says "turn right in 500 feet" and I just obeyed. I still amazed that people can ride bicycles up and down these hills.
We stopped for lunch at a random Chinese place in Chinatown. Most of the stores we went by were similar to our dollar stores, only with much nicer stuff. I really enjoyed the walk and seeing the stores. The lunch we had seemed like it was going to be more expensive than I'm used to for Sweet and Sour pork, but once the food came, we were spoiled for good. It seemed like every time I've had Chinese food before was just a pale imitation of this. Even the rice was something special. I'm still remembering how good that was...A trip to Chinatown just for the food was worth it!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cali Trip - 7

Thursday morning, we arrived at Santa Cruz and walked out onto the pier early, before the crowd showed up. Nothing much for waves, but we did see a few seals playing in the water. Then, off in the distance I saw a wave breaking against a cliff and suddenly the figure of a surfer on the wave. We jumped into the car and drove off to the cliff. There we found a a large group of surfers and onlookers, many with dogs and jogging outfits. The group of surfers in the water was small and the situation looked dangerous.
There was a statue and a memorial to all of the surfers who lost their lives surfing this point. I saw one guy about my age trying to get out of the water with his longboard and saw how just getting out could cost you your life. There were jagged rocks all along the store and the only way out appeared to be weaving your way through the rocks between waves. If a big wave came while you were there, I'm not sure how you would survive it. The waves, however looked great and the surfers put on a good show, especially one older woman on a longboard that made it look effortless.
Once again I asked a surfer for the name of this place that I accidentally came across...Steamer Lane, was the of the famous spots I had heard of as a kid..and that's what this trip seems to be, us just finding these cool places!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cali Trip - 6

Why do we take photos? For me, it's the only way I'm going to remember anything. Plus, it's exciting to capture what you see. This day at Blacks, was the only way I was going to do anything but look. It was a 30 minute climb down the cliff, ignoring signs that said DANGER do not do this! The waves looked scary and huge even from this distance. I was happy taking pix and then walking over to the glider center and watching the parasailors glide up and down the cliffs. This was yet again an accidental stop. We were just driving along and saw some cars parked in the middle of nowwhere at a college on a weekend. First we saw the glider stuff, and then started noticing kids with surfboards jumping out of their cars and heading down the cliff. One thing I learned on this trip, many people just go surfing for a short time. I think this is how they deal with the cold water. They don't really plan a whole day surf trip, maybe just an hour in the water is all they want. I even heard of people that just go out to be social and don't even try to catch waves...I cannot imagine that!

Cali Trip 5

We keep calling this, the trip of happy accidents. We made almost no plans, except to fly into San Diego and fly out of San Francisco. The rest was going to be just whatever happened. And some really cool stuff happened. Avery, my surf guide had told me we would have a hard time making Big Sur in one day if we stuck to the coast and he suggested we stop at Pismo Beach, a kind of college break town. We ooohed and ahhhed at the coastline until Pismo beach, where it pretty much looked the way Avery described. We found a reasonable hotel room and Pam got the girl at the desk to help us find a good place to eat. She spoke of a pizzeria about 10 minutes down the road. We went and almost didn't get out of the car. It didn't look like much and wasn't crowded. 40 minutes later, we were stuffed with some of the best Lasagna either of us have had in our lifetimes. Del's Pizzeria in Pismo Beach, check it out...I'm not even gonna talk about the rolls....mmmmmmmm.
We pulled out of Del's and Pam suggested we drive down a side street to take a last look at the ocean before hitting the hotel room. We came to a tiny park in a subdivision of ordinary houses and saw the view you see above. 4 couples were sitting there on benches watching the sunset. I remember one young woman saying, let's make like a tourist and take a photo! And I'm thinking, the day I know my life is over, is the day when I can look at something like this without wonder....

Cali Trip - 4

On Monday morning, we found ourselves in Ventura. We stopped to check the waves, and once again, got the last good parking 7:30 in the morning on a weekday! The waves looked doable for me, but the crowd looked tight and I didn't feel like this was something I wanted to try without good local knowledge. I called a company called Ventura Makos Surf Camp and they offered me a guide, wetsuit, and board for 2 hours for $100. This seemed like a great deal, especially since he showed up at my spot in about 45 minutes. He told me where the rocks were, how to find the channel, and most importantly, guided me into the lineup to get some waves. Even with the big crowd, no one seemed unhappy that I was there or kept me from getting waves. The scary part for me was the waves seemed to popup at the last minute. I mean every ride was a late takeoff. First wave was one of the biggest I had ever ridden and I immediately flipped out..I saw rocks on the shore and it was high tide! We then moved a few feet over to where Avery said we could pick off waves all day long instead of waiting for the occasional big set. This was more like my element, and I started having real fun. Now I know how my clients feel. When you are in a strange environment, not only are you doing something different, you have an adrenaline rush the whole time. This was truly an unforgettable experience and Avery was someone that made it seem easy...I would definitely use that company on my next trip here.

Cali Trip - 3

Truthfully, I was fully prepared for a big disappointment. Instead, everything has been off the chart, as if California wanted to prove to me what the big draw was..why property is so expensive, why gas is so expensive. If there was ever a reason for foreigeners to come to the states, California seemed to have it.
One thing to know is that parking is a premium. Everywhere we went, we were surprised if we found a parking space. As east-coasters, our big advantage was that we were still biologically 3 hours earlier than the locals. We were both up and at 'em way before anyone else. So it was that when we arrived at Huntington pier Sunday, even though we had to pay $15 to park, we had one of the best parking spots. From what I have seen here, I'm sure people were waiting to get in later in the day. The waves were big and not perfect. The guys had a hard time catching the waves and I noticed that almost everyone was riding boards that were so small that they were about a foot underwater when they were sitting still. Lots of older men and some guys that didn't look in great shape were out, even though the situation was way beyond my abilities. I noticed some young people trying to get out that looked like they had no business in the water that day. I had a hard time understanding that. We sat on the pier for hours, people watching and watching the surf action up close. Then we took to the beach and it was then Pam spotted two guys on SUPs doing crazy stuff, like shooting the pier. This shot is of one of the two, and I'm pretty sure it is Laird Hamilton!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cali trip - 2

Sometimes in life, the really interesting things just happen. On Saturday, we decided to drive around the boat harbor in Oceanside. We had stopped earlier in a park in La Jolla that had a big place where sea lions hang out..what the photos don't show is the smell...which is about as bad as a zoo.
I thought that was it until late in the day, when we stopped to take a sunset photo, and heard that same familiar barking sound and saw this sea lion, striking a pose. He was fending off any other sea lions that tried to come on to the dock with him, and they kept trying. About two dock over there were a pile of sea lions just snoozing, but one of them would bark, and the big guy would bark back. The people that had boats there were laughing and telling us that the big guy comes up on the dock for a photo really did seem like that with about a dozen people snapping pix and trying to get their best shot while the sea lion preened to show his best side...this trip is just plain full of happy accidents...

The Cali Trip

This is one of those trips where you just go and see what happens. So far, it has been amazing. There is a hurricane down by Baja, and it is causing sizeable waves up and down the coast. Our very first morning, we thought to get up from our hotel room in La Jolla, and just drive to the beach. It was almost 7am and this little street was lined with cars and people getting boards off the cars. We found the very last empty parking spot and sat on a park bench for an hour watching the most incredible waves and surfers. I found out by asking someone that this was actually, WindandSea, a famous surfing spot. Far from worrying about localism and getting beat up for trying to surf looked like a place where you don't get in the water unless you know what you are doing...I get that feeling a lot here. There are places like Huntington Beach park, where it looks like you could learn to surf, and then there are places like this where it looks like you could die out there. Sometimes taking photos sounds like the best thing to do!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Florida And The Whirly Girl Season

What's it like to be a Florida surfer? On a day like this, you are just hoping that the leftovers from the latest hurricane will send us swell for one more day so we can benefit. If, like me, you live far from the surf spots, you count on the webcams and weather reports. With hurricane weather, it's more difficult to predict, so a day like today that was supposed to be washing machine conditions turns out to be nice and semi-glassy with hundreds of surfers out...but not us landlocked folks, we find out too late. Then there are the other times, when you drive for an hour and a half only to find the prediction to be wrong and it's unsurfable. We shall find out soon, and what it does mean is that in spite of all of the technology produced in the last 40 years, you still get excited about what it might be like once you climb out of the car and mount the steps of the walkway to the beach. It could be anything, but it's never boring....

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Days We Wait For

In Florida, the thing you want for the outdoors are those summer days when the water feels great and the sun shines bright. Not much fun for going to work with a coat and tie, but just what you need for the beach. We are in the middle of it now, every weekend calling out to me from Tuesday, promising that it will be as much fun as the last. Someday in the future, it will be cold and windy, but for right now, I shake off the sweat and think about the next trip to my favorite place...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Just Another Beautiful Summer Day On The Water

We hit the water at 7:30 am yesterday and made a leisurely trip to Dog Island on Lake Maitland. It's a great way to enjoy a summer day before it gets too hot and too many ski boats on the lake. It seems like no matter how many times I do this, it just feels like the right place to be. You don't have to be a millionaire to be happy, you just needs moments like this...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When Tuesday Turns Into The Best Day Of The Week

Unexpectedly, I got a call from one of my surf buddies and was invited to go with them on dawn patrol for some tropical storm Bertha waves. The hype was that Tuesday morning was the day the wind would swing around. It was difficult and exciting..and that was just getting there before sunup! The waves didn't look small, but they didn't like it was going to be difficult until we got in the mix. The water temp was perfect, like bathwater, but the sun was stuck behind some early morning thunderheads, which gave bit of a creepy look to the morning. We headed out into the water, doing our best not to think about sharks feeding in the early morning hours and proceed to wind our way through the sets. I thought I had it timed just right and got outside without anything to complain about when a cleanup wave came and carried me all the way back to the beach. That is part of the problem with my 10' 6" Mickey Munoz board. It paddles very fast and loves to catch waves, but a cresting wave is likely to take me a long way back in. I finally got the nerve to take off on what looked like a closeout and got a good ride. I was stoked because I have spent so much time on paddleboards lately, that I was getting concerned on being able to get to my feet on a wave.
I was starting to feel more at home as the sun came up and boldly stayed a little too long in one wave. I got munched, and then realized that I could not even reach my board and hang on to it. I was smack right in the middle of the closeout zone and took 4 waves in a row before I could get my board back and right then, I decided it was a good time to take some photos!
Great friends, a beautiful morning, and pix to prove it all happened...going to work after? no problema....

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Morning Trip To Dog Island

We had a great morning and managed to get to Dog Island and back before the heat became too much. Today marks the day when I first saw more paddleboarders on the lake than I could count. Our group was 5, but there were larger groups out on the water. Alex had her first experience on the board today and she took to it like she was born in the water.

We mixed it up with paddleboards and kayaks and that turned out to be a good thing for someone to switch off if their legs got tired or they just wanted to use some different muscles.
The wind was light and there weren't too many ski boats out yet, so we were able to take our time and see the sights along the way.
Dog Island was quite popular this morning and we also got to say Hi to some friendly dogs that went boating with their owners.
All in all, the day was enjoyable for all of us. Next time, drinks and snacks!

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Sunday Special!

I'm trying out something new this weekend. I will take out two people for a two hour excursion through the Winter Park chain of lakes. We will leave at 7am to beat the boat traffic and will enjoy the peaceful canals and stop for a snack on Dog Island. All of this for $100 for two people. I'm trying out my new ability to use Square payments online, so Pay here to get the special price and then we will get together on the launching point and how far you want to go. I'm really looking forward to showing you this really cool nature spot...Just click on the image below to reserve the tour for you and a guest.
Order Online

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Back To Reality

Well, we have a tropical storm brewing off the coast, all kinds of wind and plenty of reasons to think that this 4th of July will not be spent on the water, but I think we will find a way. Less than two weeks ago, I was out in this water near the Sunglow pier in South Daytona Beach, FL, surrounded by dolphins and beautiful light green water. It's a short work week and somehow I think I will be soon finding my way back to that reality...

Friday, June 27, 2014

We Will Be Back

It was hard to say goodbye to South Daytona Beach, but I knew that we'd be back soon. Sometimes you have to go back to work just to give your body a chance to rest up from all of the fun. There are so many exotic places to go in this world and I realized that to some of our fellow visitors, this was an exotic vacation. I had more than a few people ask me about the paddleboard and what I was doing out there on the waves. I'd like think that I inspired at least a few people to get out there on the water and have some fun. One thing that is still new to me after all these years living an hour's drive from the ocean, is night walks on the beach. About the time I'm normally heading for the couch and a TV set, the beach is full of people in groups just walking up and down the sand. It was about as peaceful as you could imagine.
It's Friday now, and I'm rested up and ready for more....

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunglow Pier - even when there are no waves...

This is from Saturday June 21, 2014...a day of strong offshore wind and small waves. I got a workout trying to catch the waves and another workout paddling back to the truck when the wind shifted to NW and gave the biggest headwind I'd seen all week. I broke my carbon fiber paddle the day before and was feeling very fortunate when Sandy Point Progressive Sports took pity on me and gave me a hefty discount on a new one...take good care of those things! Mine snapped like a twig in my hands while I was paddling in one foot chop!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ponce Inlet: The Inlet Harbor Restaurant

A day at the beach and we start looking for good places to eat. I love going to South Daytona and the Sunglow pier area. It's close and easy access for me. When we stay at the beach, we expand the search for food down to Ponce Inlet and one well-known spot is the Inlet Harbor Restaurant. You have to hit this place at the right time or you will have a long wait for a table. We tend to go at 5pm to miss the crowds. This place has live music, an outdoor covered bar and air-conditioned dining on the riverfront. The food and service are very good. From the food I see going out to the tables, it seems like everyone but us is splurging. We tend to get fish sandwiches while others are getting giant seafood dinners. I can say that even the less expensive fare is worth the trip. One thing special is their keylime butter for the rolls. The bread was just average, not what I remember from the past. If you are seeking something different, I would recommend visiting Ponce Inlet and stopping in for a bite.

Friday, June 20, 2014

South Daytona - The Boondocks

There is no better way to end a day at the beach than going to a good Mom and Pop place to eat. I saw quite a few local ads for the Boondocks and thought that it has to be an overpriced tourist spot selling frozen fish sandwiches, but I was wrong. During our week stay, we went there two times and on both occasions the food was excellent. Pam got the buffalo chicken tenders (hot) and I went for the burger. We also tried the fish. The food was great and the ambience is just what we wanted, unless it is really hot with no wind. It is semi outdoors, right at a marina on the river. Lots of ceiling fans and picnic tables. My recommendation is to hit the place at off hours. We tend to go to places frequented by tourists EARLIER. For example, going to eat at 5pm might mean no wait where going at 6pm could mean an hour wait. It seems like everybody but us had the crablegs...