I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I bought this old foamie surfboard for $20 and then personalized it with a few cans of spray paint.

Wow.  What a trip.  After one year, six months and three days of traveling I have returned to San Diego.  On the one hand California feels extravagant, luxurious and a bit like another world, while on the other hand it almost feels like I never left.

Let's see. I have been home for over one week now and driving on the right side of the road still trips me out, as does people driving 80 m.p.h. on the freeway.  The fact that so many people go running - just for fun - is bizarre.  The water is a freezing 68 degrees but the waves are soft and friendly, as are the reefs.  The Target Superstore is insane and probably has a higher GDP than all of Tonga.  Burritos are the best food ever, alcohol and surfboards are incredibly cheap and, in spite of being very urban, San Diego is a beautiful city.

However, the best part of being home (by far) is spending time with friends and family.  It was even fun to see Mom and Dad because after living with them 24/7, two weeks apart was giving me separation anxiety.  For the past week I have been spending time with aunts, uncles, and of course my sister Caity and my brother-in-law to be, Danny.  It has pretty much been a non-stop party and we have no intentions of stopping any time soon.

Spending quality time with my sister in preparation for her wedding!

I am pretty sure I have the best friends in the world because they do not hold it against me that I have been gone so long, show up and expect them to go surfing with me.  It is awesome to get home, call up the amigos, and go surf my favorite wave on (some of) my favorite surfboards.  Also, apparently there are people who actually read this blog - for better or worse - and it has been really fun to expand on stories that they have already read about.  The fact that people have some idea of what I have been up to for the past year is surprisingly comforting.

That is really the best part about being home: the familiarity of everything.  From the root of the word in "family" to the fact that I know where I am going most of the time to seeing people I know everywhere I go, is really freaking cool.  Although I have wiggled my way into communities around the Pacific, it is something else to spend time with people who have known you for years.  I had kind of forgotten what that was like.

The other thing that blows me away about being home is how easy everything is.  This goes hand in hand with familiarity, but seriously, you can do almost anything with an iPhone.  Need directions?  No problem.  Want a pizza delivered to you on your couch?  Easy.  Want the newest, latest, most bitchin' model of anything?  Hand over the cash and you got it.  Try living in a third world or industrializing country for a few months and you won't take all that for granted (for a few days anyway).

Yes, life is good here in California.  Of course I am on "vacation" so I am completely ignoring horrifying political mudslinging, the impending environmental disaster that is southern California and astronomical gas prices, but regardless, even for people who live here permanently, life is good.

And so, I will be mucking around CA for the next few months.  If you live between San Diego and San Francisco and want to hang out, hit me up!  Tomorrow a few friends and I are headed up to San Onofre for a little camping/surf adventure - my first since New Zealand.  We will see if Lower Trestles compares to Shipwreck bay.... although there are 4 million people in the city of Los Angeles and 4 million people in all of New Zealand, so that might influence the crowd factor.

In the words of Jerry Garcia, "What a long strange trip it's been."  And what a long strange trip it will continue to be.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ka Pai - "Sweet As"

Water patrol out at Cloudy ready to rescue surfers caught on the inside.

I believe we left off last time with a teary departure from Mom and Dad as they headed off to California.  I was truly inconsolable there for a few minutes and had to drown my sorrows with a cocktail at Cardos.  Fortunately, my friend Laurie – a cool French Canadian surfer chick who I met in New Zealand – showed up the next day and we have been having a rocking good time ever since.  Well – almost – there have been a few low points, I will admit.

Laurie and I were both keen to get out Tavarua to check out the Volcom Fiji Pro (the contest that I told you about) and to get in the water.  I had been putting my feelers out for people who were going to be out and around Tavarua surfing and watching the contest, and had a few leads.  I called my mate Ritchie - an Aussie guy who single hands his 47 foot catamaran “Ka Pai” (which means “sweet as” in Maori), loves to surf, and cruises around looking for waves.  He was up for having two girls on board for a few nights as paying crew.

Thursday morning Ritchie came by and picked us up with all our gear – guitar, ukulele, surfboard, snorkel gear… I never said I pack light.  After off-loading we headed to the market where we bought heaps of papayas, pineapple, mint, limes and other delicious fruit.  No joke, Ritchie bought more than 30 papayas.  We made it back to Ka Pai just in time to avoid a huge rain shower, stowed the provisions, and headed off to Tavarua where we would anchor for the next three nights. 

It is a pretty incredible thing to wake up, look out the port hole and see Restaurants (the wave) firing.  Unfortunately, Friday morning Restaurants was not firing so we had a mellow morning with live music, fruit smoothies and a swim.  In the afternoon we hopped in the dinghy to check out Cloudbreak.  It was pretty windy so we did not know how the surf would be, but as we rounded Tavarua I could see huge waves feathering across the reef. 

Cloudbreak was a scene.  There were people out in small dinghies, big tenders, on surfboards, in air-conditioned mega yachts and everything in between.  We watched the best surfers in the world pull into mean, huge barrels and get rescued by the water patrol on jet-skis when they didn’t make it out.  The waves were massive and every set seemed to grow in size.  Just when John John Florence was about to surf his heat, the judges called off the contest, saying that the waves were too big.  John John then proceeded to paddle out and catch one of the most ridiculous barrels I have ever seen.  As the contest was called for the afternoon all the pros paddled out and free surfed the huge waves for the rest of the day.  They were calling it “the best paddle session ever surfed” and things like that. 

After bouncing around in the dinghy and the sun and the wind for a few hours, Ritchie, Laurie and I were pretty beat so we headed back to Ka Pai and back to Restaurants, which was now firing.  The wave was solid overhead, low tide shallow and fast.  I opted not to surf but dropped Ritchie off at the peak and then proceeded to drink a few mojitos with Laurie as we watched people get nutty barrels from the comfort of the catamaran. 

We were all burned out after a long day in the sun, a few drinks and nice meal, so the evening was mellow.  However, as I lay in the cockpit watching the stars my stomach started to churn and - sparing you the intimate details - I will say that I was violently ill for the next eight hours.  Apparently there was a stomach bug going around Tavarua which Kelly Slater had contracted, therefore I am sure he gave to me when I shook his hand last week (WORTH IT).

Needless to say, I had a rather unpleasant night and did not feel like sitting in the dinghy the next day to watch the contest at Cloudbreak.  Fortunately the contest directors – the considerate guys they are – decided to move the contest to Restaurants so that I could watch them surf comfortably from Ka Pai.  Either that or because Cloudbreak was insane and Restaurants had 6-8 foot perfect barrels (also insane) and was much more manageable.  Regardless, we watched awesome surfing all day and in spite of my weak condition I still managed to hoot and holler for a good barrel.

On Sunday we headed into Musket Cove for a BBQ at the Bula Bar marking the “opening” of yachting season.  It was quite a party but in spite of the free rum punch and a live band, I kept a pretty mellow night.  Plus, Ritchie told everybody coming out to watch the final of the contest with us to be at Ka Pai by 5:30 AM to catch the morning session at Resties.  Of course everybody else partied hard all night, and I felt rather smug when I woke up as we cruised out to Tavarua feeling great, while everybody else was very hung over.  However my smugness turned to guilt when Laurie started to get sick with the very same flu I just finished with.

She was a trooper though, and managed to get up to see Kelly smoke the 19 year old Brazilian Gabriel Medina in the final and win the Fiji Pro.  After watching Kelly surf for over a week there is no denying it – he is the best surfer in the world.  At least the best surfer of our time.  And one hell of a competitor.  After the contest was over we headed over and dropped anchor at Namotu island and spent the afternoon snorkeling, drinking beer, playing music and watching massive waves roll through Namotu Lefts and Wilkes Right. 

A sweet as afternoon hanging out at Namotu on Ka Pai.

Alas, all good things must come to an end and Laurie and I had to catch the ferry from Musket Cove back home to Denarau.  Ritchie pointed Ka Pai towards Musket and we had a nice sail back.  Unfortunately, as we were going in to the cove the water was so glassy we couldn’t see where the reefs were and ended driving right up on one cruising at about 5 knots.  Oops.  The tide was going low, the boat was stuck good and our ferry was leaving in 20 minutes.  “Well Ritchie, sorry to leave you high and dry but… we gotta go!”  Haha, very funny. 

Ritchie is a kind and generous host and took us into the ferry where Laurie (poor girl felt terrible) and I plopped down on the boat, ready to be taken home… But not before we picked up the entire Scotland rugby team who just so happened to be hanging out at Musket Cove for the day.  We spent the whole ride home chatting with ridiculously good looking, fit as Scottish rugby players.  Of course I couldn’t understand a thing they said, but it didn’t matter.  I considered inviting them all over for a boat party, but I am pretty sure if we had the whole team on Rutea she would sink.  And if you invite one you have to invite them all, and beautiful and friendly as they were, I took the responsible route and told them I would cheer for them when they played Fiji on Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, I fly back to California on Saturday!  Holy sheeeit!!  See you there, no?!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Living the Dream

 Jamming at Cloudbreak

Pardon my language, but this shit is off the hook.  For the past few days I have been going out to Cloudbreak to watch the best surfers in the world surf the best wave in the world, and I am (nearly) at a loss for words to describe the experience.  But I will try.

As you might know for the past few weeks Mom, Dad and I have been working very hard to get Rutea in ship-shape.  On Wednesday we had more or less finished all of our projects and I heard that Kelly Slater had just flown into Fiji and was surfing Cloudbreak, so I was very keen to get out there.  It is a 14 mile boat ride from Denarau to Tavarua - too far for our little dinghy - but I had arranged a ride with my friend Che to go out there Wednesday morning. 

Unfortunately Che got called into work and just as my heart sank at the prospect of spending another day on the dock I heard Dad yell to the fishing boat next to us, "Hey!  Are you guys headed out to go surfing?  You got room on your boat for one more?  A pretty girl?"  I nearly died of embarrassment.  I wanted to yell at him to shut-up, but my jaw dropped open and I was speechless as Pat Gudauskas - a pro-surfer from San Clemente, CA, walked up to the boat and said, "Sure, we always have room for a pretty girl." 

I am not so sure I fit the bill, but I grabbed my board, food, water and sunscreen, and bolted.  Pat introduced me to his twin brother Dane (also a pro-surfer but not on the Tour) as well as Jordan and Luke, two Aussie boys who run "The Salty" - a 28 foot fishing/surf boat.

I couldn't stop smiling as we planed at 25 knots over sheet glass water that reflected a mirror image of the scattered clouds in the sky.  The whole way out I chatted with Pat and Dane about life on the Tour.  For those of you who are not familiar the world tour of surfing is a tour that consists of 12 contests around the world for the top 34 surfers in the world.  The stops include Fiji, Tahiti, South Africa, California, Australia Hawaii and so on.

I expected a pro-surfer from California (or wherever) to be a bit conceited or shallow or totally bro-ed out, but Pat and Dane were incredibly polite, nice and interested in my travels, as well as cool about answering my numerous questions about life as a pro.

The half hour boat ride out to Cloudbreak seemed to take a few short minutes.  Everybody had said that the surf would be about head high so I thought I might be able to handle it, but as we pulled up to Cloudy ten to twelve foot bombs were exploding on the reef.  I don't have a death wish so I was definitely not surfing.

"Oh, there is Kelly!  Oh, look at Mick Fanning on that one! Ohhh, gnarly barrel John John just pulled in to!!"  Dane and Pat yelled.  "Dude, we gotta get out there!"  The each pulled out a board from a stack of fifteen and jumped in the water.  Jordan, Luke and I cheered them on from the boat as they pulled into barrel after barrel, along with all the other top surfers in the world.

This is the part that I have trouble describing.  Imagine the thing you are most passionate about.  Then imagine hanging out with the people who are the best in the world of said passion.  Then imagine those people having the most perfect canvass in the world on which to express said passion.  Maybe it would be like an extremely devout Catholic hanging out with Jesus in the Vatican or something like that. 

Don't get me wrong, I am not comparing Kelly Slater to Jesus - although I am sure some people could come up with a few similarities - but you get the point.  The vibe out at Cloudbreak on a good day is amazing.  There is so much energy in the air; the waves sucking up into a perfect barrel and exploding on the reef; the whitewash shooting up 100 feet into the air and creating a salty mist over the entire reef; and of course the surfers who throw themselves - their insignificant little bodies - into the vortex of a most powerful and chaotic force, only to stay calm and focused and shoot out at the end unscathed and so, so stoked.  It makes all of us shout with joy every time somebody makes a critical wave.

Of course even the pro surfers don't make every wave.  Even the best in the world get worked sometimes, and this is very comforting to me.  In fact, my favorite part of this whole experience could be that I have realized that even the best surfers in the world deal with the same issues I do - taking waves on the head, arms too tired to catch another wave, even getting scared... Of course their level is so much higher than I will ever be at, but it is all essentially the same.

It is pretty funny to see how much pleasure everybody gets from seeing Kelly Slater eat it on a wave.  I mean, he is the best surfer in the world, but give the guy a break!  While we were watching there were maybe thirty guys out, and we were anchored in the channel well clear of the swing wide sets, so we were a bit far from the waves.  It was hard to tell who was who, but you can tell Kelly every time because his lines, the way he rides barrels, everything about his surfing is at a higher level.  It's nuts.

I would have loved nothing more than to paddle out and catch a few waves with my idols, but decided it was not worth probable death (or at least a serious beating) so I hung out with Jordan and Luke on the boat - which is still super fun.  Finally I mustered up the courage to paddle into the channel on my surfboard (you never know about those swing wides) to get a better view.  As I was watching I noticed Kelly get picked up by a boat.  I drifted over toward the boat and, as they were just hanging out watching the waves I paddled over. 

At first I was too shy to talk to him, but finally after a minute of telling myself that I would regret not meeting the most legendary surfer of our time for the rest of my life, I paddled up.  "Hey Kelly," I said softly.  He turned and looked at me with those intense green eyes.  "Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to shake your hand."  I said, nearly losing my cool.  "Oh yea, no problem.  Where are you from?"  He said.  I don't remember much after that, just that I paddled around in a daze for a few minutes before I came back to Earth.

The rest of the day was just as epic - well - almost.  I saw a hammerhead shark jump out of the water, a mahi-mahi chasing its dinner, and the best waves being surfed I have ever witnessed.  As the five of us cruised back to Denarau on The Salty we all had the silly stoked smile plastered to our faces.  I asked Dane and Pat if they minded if I tagged along with them the following day and they said "Of course not, but we have two more friends coming in - Freddy P. and Yadin Nicol, both pro-surfers - if you don't mind hanging out with them as well."  Oh gosh, what a bummer, but I think I will manage.

I ended up cruising out with the guys two more days, one of which was windy and gnarly but fun, and then today which was another day of perfection.  The actual contest starts tomorrow and I plan to go out again with a local surf company because Luke and Jordan are taking a much deserved day off. 

This evening when I got back to the boat Mom, Dad and I went for one last meal at Cardo's before they hopped on a flight back to San Diego.  They should be boarding right about now.  I fly home in two weeks, and I must admit that with this swell and contest starting tomorrow, Fiji is the place to be.  Thus I will be holding down the fort for the next two weeks and staying totally and completely out of trouble.  I may or may not blog about it.

P.S. For more photos of Cloudbreak last Wednesday hit this link: 
The pictures are better than mine!