Thursday, 20 August 2015

Sailing with champions

There are some fun sections to be found at the rock!
(Photo by Trudy Lary)

 One of the highlights of this summer has been the two days I got to sail with former world champion Marcillio Browne and Levi Siver. It was a good weekend forecast, wind was looking solid but not a whole lot in the way of swell.  I’d heard some rumours of them heading for the west coast but I wasn’t convinced, they passed on the epic Cape week so I doubted they would come for this.

(Photos by Trudy Lary)

 The weekend started in the standard way, Thursday night in the car park in Bandon with a morning surf at the South Jetty there. Then I headed down to Gold Beach and had another surf in some small waves at the jetty there with Scott and Kenny.
(Photo by Trudy Lary)
 Saturday was windy from the word go with us getting a morning sail at the jetty before heading for the rock in the afternoon. The wind was solid with me well powered up on 3.7, I was having fun with conditions being typical perfect jumping at the rock with some heavy overhead waves ready to put you in your place if you fell.

(Photo by Trudy Lary)

 All of a sudden I saw a small crowd assemble on the beach and a man with an obscenely large camera set up camp on the beach. As sure as I am of my own brilliance I doubted this was for me, sure enough a minute later two very shiny sets of kit appeared. I’ve sailed with top level pros before but only in Tenerife where it was crowded and rubbish. This was different entirely, plenty of space, just the three of us on the water and it was pumping.
Me being totally schooled by Brawzinho...
(Photo by Trudy Lary)

They were spectactular, there’s no other way of saying it. Massive doubles from Brawzinho, one footed backies from Levi, frankly ridiculous riding from both of them. It was great to sail with them and see how they behave on the water. They were getting big aerials, 360s, just awesome. It was also reassuring to see that sometimes even they get nailed by the savagery that is Pistol River! One moment I remember clearly was being washed around in the shorebreak, above the wave that was about to break on my head I saw Brawzinho fly into an absolutely gigantic double forward. It makes the brain freeze a little less horrible when you've got that to think about!

Impressive stuff from Levi Siver
(Photo by Trudy Lary)
We had two more days of it like this, with me on 3.7 and 4.2. Pistol is such a fun place to sail, the wave seems to jack up as soon as it’s windy. You look from the beach and it looks tiny, then you get out there and realise it’s not. The wave is seriously heavy, you can see from the photos how much water there is behind each of those waves. If you’re underpowered, you die. They’re short period and easily over head- high even with absolutely no swell forecast. The rush when you ride them is awesome, it’s onshore so you need to carry as much speed as humanly possible in order not to get drilled, and then you probably will anyway… It bashes you when you get it wrong but when you get it right, it’s the best onshore riding I’ve ever had.

(Photo by Trudy Lary)
The jumping is similarly do or die, the ramps are big, steep, and really throw so if you time it well you just get rocketed. The trick is to rig big, bear way off the wind till you’re parallel with the beach and try to make it past the whitewater to a clean face. You fly along really broad, totally stacked trying not to trip on the smaller ones and keep your speed to jump or even just escape the big ones. The difference between getting launched and being spat back up the beach is measured in milliseconds here. 

His sail makes my 3.7 look
 like a little toy.
(Photos by Trudy Lary)
My best Brawzinho impression,
a bit higher perhaps next time...

When you go down it’s really hard to recover, there’s a lot of current on the inside and it’s hard to recover the rig. The best tactic seems to be to just accept the washing and brain freeze until by chance the rig is in a good position and then pounce and head back to the shallows. Then, beach start, bear off and the struggle starts again…

(Photos by Trudy Lary)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Living the road life.

I’ve had a ridiculously busy few weeks and haven’t had time to write anything. But now I have a little time so I thought I would write about what I’m actually doing on a day to day basis.

Living in a car has its benefits.
 That day will stay with me for a long time!
(Photo by Jason Diffin) 
For those of you who don’t know, I’m living in my car. She’s a beautiful 2001 Dodge Caravan and I’ve named her Lizzie, after my dad’s old van from when he was young and free. I don’t have a bed, I sleep on a double boardbag with a blanket stuffed inside it, coupled with a $20 walmart sleeping bag. Fully capable of withstanding the significant temperature differences between the coast and the gorge, I’m pretty sorted.  
Lizzie; my trusty windsurf companion.

Another cranking weekend at Pistol.
(Photo by Trudy Lary)

My humble abode for my elective. She even has a hangar for my shirts!
 RRD boardbags; so well padded you can sleep on them. 
As you may expect I had some trouble committing to Lizzie at the start of the trip. Spending the majority of my modest savings buying a car in a country where I’ll be deported if I stay more than three months is definitely up with the scariest things I’ve ever done. Fortunately for me she’s proved to be a worthy steed as I’ve done 5000 miles without incident since I arrived 5 weeks ago. Thanks to some interior rearranging I can fit all my kit inside and sleep comfortably stretched out while still being able to move from the front to the back without getting out. I fit right in with the RVs and campers that pound up and down Oregon’s Highway 101. 
Stay tuned for the video of this...

I have to say that the van life is really doing it for me, my usual routine is to spend the week in clinic in Portland, when I finish I dash out to the Gorge and go for a sail. After that I buy a family sized 1kg lasagna for tea, eat it and go to bed. Fortunately for me I have some friends in the gorge who let me park outside their house and use their shower/microwave etc. Thanks Wyatt Miller and the guys at the windance house for that!
You do not want to be underpowered at Pistol.
(Photo by Trudy Lary)

When Thursday at the clinic finishes I fill up with gas and start driving west. Usually towards Gold Beach/Pistol River as seems to be the most consistent spot. It’s a solid six and a half hour drive and I usually make it about as far as the town of Bandon before I give up and pull over to sleep. There’s a supermarket car park there that usually has a few trucks and RVs there too so I sneak into a corner for the night. This leaves me with about an hour and a half drive when I wake up to get to Gold Beach. If it’s windy, I go windsurfing. If it’s not, I go surfing. This most recent trip I met up with Oregon coast regulars Scott and Kenny as well as fellow Europeans Fabio and Tim along with photographer supreme Trudy Lary. Having a proper little camp going was nice as sleeping alone gets old after a while! 

(Photos by Trudy Lary)
When it’s nearly time to head back to Portland and get my medical student hat back on, Gold Beach locals Steve and Susie very kindly let me have a shower and do my laundry at their place before I hit the road. So after another long weekend of aquatic recreation I head back with lovely clean hair and a freshly ironed shirt so the orthopaedic patients of Portland are none the wiser that the foreign student in front of them is actually a bum who lives in an old minivan.
Saving the planet the american way. 
 As with any trip of this kind there are lows as well as highs, one of the more entertaining lows was when I managed to lose my car key. I’d just sailed at Pistol and couldn’t for the life of me find the bloody thing, I checked the car park, the path down to the beach, all along the waterline and concluded it must have somehow fallen out while I was sailing. At this point I'd had some bank card related issues and had about $100 in my pocket with no way to withdraw more. This was bad as my new card was 350 miles away in Portland but I couldn't afford to both get into the car and the fuel to get me there. Fortunately for me, locksmith extraordinaire Scott Ringenburg was on hand to act as my friendly burglar and break into the car for me. Once Kenny returned from Gold Beach on the quest for a drill, Lizzie roared back into life.

(Photos by Trudy Lary)

Inevitably we found the key almost immediately after that and the entire saga was rendered pointless. But thanks so much to Scott, who stepped in to save me despite ultimately mutilating my car for no real reason. Also Kenny for getting the drill. Cheers guys! Windsurfers are a friendly bunch, when you're at the beach, you're never far from a friend.
The painful drive back to Portland at the end of the weekend.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Pistol River Firing

After a week of being in clinic and sailing in the gorge in the evenings a great forecast showed up for the South Coast of Oregon. The perfect opportunity to visit one of the places I had been most looking forward to; Pistol River. It was a solid drive down that took me about seven hours, as I was constantly stopping to look at the incredible views from highway 101 as well as a very exciting herd of elk.
 When I arrived in Gold Beach (the town near pistol river) the wind didn't seem to be happening yet so I went for a surf at the South jetty in town. I've never been so close to so much ocean life before, I was paddling out literally within touching distance of about four seals. While I was sitting in the lineup I saw an osprey catch a fish about ten meters away. The place is a cauldron of activity in the water as it's one of the main salmon runs in the area. The locals say that when you windsurf it you often see California grey whales on their migration north. 
After an hour or so the wind started to pick up so I headed round to the Cape to meet up with Pistol River local, Dana Miller. I'll take this opportunity to thank Dana hugely as many of the photos in this post are from him. If you want to feel even more jealous have a look at his take on these sessions here: it includes some serious action from Jason Diffin who was on an absolute rampage on the water over these few days.

The first session on sunday was only small but they really packed a punch for their size and it was a good taster for what was to come.
Photo by Tigi

A water shot from Dana on Tuesday
Photo by Dana Miller/Boardhead International
Day two was howling, I sailed three times with a morning session at the Cape, afternoon at the Rock (aka the AWT Pistol River event site) and then back to the Cape for the evening. In the morning I was hanging on to 4.2 but after that rigged 3.7 which was still far too big until the evening session. 
This place is pretty special!

Day three was the day the South swell arrived! I sailed for over six hours, it was amazing, logo high and savagely heavy. Without a doubt the most powerful wave I've ever windsurfed. It would give you a turn or two and then the whole inside section would suck up and throw totally top to bottom in an explosion of destructive violence. As I was to find out to my cost as I lost a mast and an extension as well as it breaking the plastic case for my gopro by the end of the day.
Photo by Max Shredroom/Boardhead International

 It was so tempting to hit it as it jacked up, I did a few times, I got by far the biggest aerial I've ever done in my life, but then had some of the worst crashes I've ever had too. On one I remember being slightly too late, my kit flying vertically into the air as I dropped from the lip all the way down to land on my back out in the flats. I did so much swimming after my kit that day. There weren't many people out on the water, with a lot of the time being just Dana, Jason Diffin (sail designer for Goya) and me. There were a couple of other guys from Canada there, 'Big Wave' Dave and Adrian. Adrian very kindly took a little video of me so maybe I can make use of that later... Cheers for that! 

Photos by Max Shredroom/Boardhead International

Day four was much the same with the sizeable South swell still pounding into the bay. The wind was lighter and it was perfect for me on 4.7 and my 88 hardcore as a quad. Another day of epic sailing and I managed to avoid breaking too much kit this time which was a bonus! I was really enjoying carving open face turns on the waves as we rarely get anything big enough at home to really attack like that. 
Photos by Max Shredroom/Boardhead International
 It was a great few days, amazing conditions, uncrowded and with really cool people to sail with. Couldn't ask for anything more to be honest!

After four days the forecast was starting to favour the Central Coast so it was time to leave Gold Beach and get back on the road. Despite only being there for four days this place is firmly cemented for me as one of my ultimate windsurf spots. Purely on the basis of scenery and nature this place is worth a visit, but throw in the incredible windsurfing too and it really is something very special. More than anywhere I've ever sailed before it makes you feel so utterly tiny compared to the landscape and nature. It feels totally wild with freezing water and brutal wind and waves coupled with the crazy array of really in-your-face aquatic life.
I absolutely loved it, I'm sure I'll be back before the summer is over. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

West coast summer.

This summer I have to do a medical placement, which the medical school kindly allows us to organise ourselves, anywhere we want...
My kit survived the journey and even snuck it on for free! 

Thanks to BWA judge Mike Archer I managed to get in contact with Jeff Albright, an orthopaedic surgeon at Advantage Orthopaedics in Portland, Oregon. 

 As it turns out Jeff is an absolute legend and picked me up from the airport. He very kindly let me stay at his house on the first night and in the morning he declared that we were off to the beach to go surfing!  We went for a fun couple of SUP sessions and caught some crabs for dinner with Jeff's pot. 
The next few days were in Portland both in clinic and at the surgical centre as well as me trying to organise a car on the side too. I was very lucky to be able to stay with Cristin, one of the physician assistants from the clinic. It seems America is literally teeming with really nice people like Cristin and Jeff who were both very patient while I got myself sorted out. 

Wednesday was to be my first experience of the legendary Columbia River Gorge, I got a lift from Jeff and we dashed out to the gorge between surgeries. After an initial lack of wind it kicked in and we had a great sail at the hatchery with me sailing 4.2 and my 75. The gorge is such a weird place to sail, being in big chop with fresh water and mountains all around is just bizarre. 

The next day I finally got a car sorted, 3.3L of American minivan power! Again on Jeff's recommendation I headed three hours down the coast to a place called Florence just in time for a sunset session on 4.2 with some nice shoulder to head high waves. I spent my first night in the car at a deserted horse camp, unfortunately at about half past midnight my sleep was shattered by a couple of pickup trucks driving really fast in circles in the clearing where I was parked. This was rather unsettling but after a while it became obvious that they weren't axe murderers and I wasn't in a horror film and eventually they left. 

The next day I spent the morning taking a short sightseeing trip north up highway 101. I saw some sea lions and checked out some sailing and surfing spots at the same time. In the afternoon it was back to South jetty in Florence for another great wave session with slightly less wind and bigger waves than the night before. I had a great time with it perfectly cross shore and some nice logo high set waves to get stuck into. That night I invested in a pillow and did some rearranging of my minivan to turn it into a palace of luxury! 
Saturday started with a surf, I was already at the beach as I slept there to avoid the scary forest dwelling pickup truck people. The waves were nice shoulder high, really chilled out with just a couple of guys on the water. In the afternoon the wind came in quite light but I wobbled out and caught a few nice ones with 5.2, the wind angle was more cross off and they were bigger than the previous two days. They were walling up seriously fast which caught me out a few times and I got totally dominated as there wasn't enough wind to outrun the sizeable explosion of whitewater. Still it was a lot of fun until the wind suddenly swung onshore and brought a thick bank of fog in with it. 
The plan is to head back to Portland for Monday morning at the clinic, and then see how things pan out. 
I've been here a week and I didn't realise I had done so much until I wrote it all down! Things are definitely lining up to be a great summer! Bring on the next nine weeks.