Roughly 10 years ago the Madeiran government gave the go-ahead to seawall project that was built to protect the village of Jardim do Mar. This seawall put an end to the best big-wave right point in Europe. The wave that breaks there now is a shadow of its former self. The huge concrete boulders they installed as part of the seawall means the wave is just full of backwash, and according to local surfers is pretty dangerous to surf. Many of the people who supported the seawall originally are now complaining about its size and lack of asethetic. Jardim do Mar, once considered one of the most beautiful villages on the island of Madeira, has been vandalised by a government wanting to line its own pockets with EU money, and a wave that was once considered one of the best in Europe is now lost.
[Above: Patch Wilson dropping into a glassy morning wall. Photo: Mickey Smith]
I always notice the sea birds when I’m out in the lineup, waiting for waves. On the south shore of Oahu, where I bodysurf most, I see manu o ku, or white terns, doing their aerial acrobatics. I see iwa, or great frigates, hovering almost motionless high above. But the birds that I really like to see are the kaupu — the brown boobies who fly fearlessly through crowds of surfers. Kaupu love to ride waves, and they get everyone’s attention as they skim through the lineup, wings spread wide, surfing the air currents along the face of a breaking wave. Native Hawaiians called their flight kaha, or gliding, and this is the word they used for bodysurfing: kaha nalu, wave gliding. To me this is the essence of bodysurfing: gliding across the face of a wave. Bodysurfers are wave gliders whether they’re making a death-defying drop at the Wedge, powering through a perfect barrel at Pipeline, or just cruising with their kids in the shorebreak at Makapuu.
This was my fourth time up to Vancouver Island to surf and camp along its coastline. I’ve sort of made a pact with myself to visit this place at least once a year after first falling in love with it three years ago. The beauty and power of Canada captures you, and it keeps me coming back. Each time I’ve been up there, I say, “It’s so close! Next time, I’m going to drive up!”
I have a maroon 1988 VW Vanagon that would likely meet its death if I attempted the trip aboard it. My vagabond buddy Foster Huntington has been living in his van for more than 16 months. His is the mature, accomplished, big-brother version of my van – a 1987 4WD Vanagon with an Audi motor.
I had a window of 12 days to make my trip to BC happen before I had to be back. After that, I couldn’t make it work until spring and by then conditions for surf are even less favorable. I asked Foster if he was around to take a road trip up to Vancouver Island and before I could finish he insisted we take his van. “I’ll get a tune-up tomorrow!” he said.
[Above: The van charging north through patchy fog in Humboldt County, California.]
Kohl Christensen's life balances the search for the biggest waves with building and farming at home in Hawaii. Deep Water, a new short video series, follows Kohl and his friends as they chase huge surf around the world.
We are constantly reminded that our oil-based consumer society, with our excessive use of plastics, obsession with air travel and inefficient ways of heating and lighting our homes, will eventually lead to environmental suicide in the form of global warming and resource depletion. But for many people, including surfers, global warming and resource depletion are a little hard to grasp; because they are difficult to actually see happening. However, our addiction to oil is one of the ultimate causes of another, much more tangible effect: when oil that is being transported spills into the sea and arrives on the coastline.
Almost exactly ten years ago, the Prestige oil spill occurred off the coast of Galicia, in Spain, very close to where I live at the moment. It was the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of Spain and Europe, and I don’t think it should be forgotten. So I apologize in advance if you find this article a little gloomy.
Groundswell features world-class surfing of Patagonia’s Trevor Gordon, Dan Malloy and Chris Malloy. Canadian phenomenon Peter Devries also joins Raincoast aboard their 70-foot sailboat to discover what the remote coast of British Columbia, Canada, has to offer – and why it must be protected. Together with local indigenous leaders, this group gives voice to a coast in peril from a proposed Tar Sands pipeline and associated oil tanker traffic.
Update 2: The full-length version of Groundswell is now available at The Surf Network. Profits from the sale of this film are being donated to Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
Update: The tour is almost over (photos after the jump) but you can still be a part of this amazing project. Take Action through the Raincoast website and add your voice to the Groundswell of opposition against oil tanker traffic on the Great Bear Sea. We hope to have news on a digital viewing option from The Surf Network soon.
In the last month I have learned more about the people and places along the California coast than I had in 34 years and a thousand trips by car.
Maybe slow is fast.
We have been on the road for five weeks now and we are thoroughly convinced that we have found the fabled confluence of old California and new California.
The bummer is, it’s not a physical place and the only way we seem to be able to track it down is by bike. I don’t really understand why. Every time we hit the road pedaling good things just start happening, strange coincidences, random happenings, happy accidents and all-around ridiculous stuff. If I tried to explain it you might think I was on something. So, I’ll save the explanation of this epiphany and post a few photos from the most recent leg of our trip, San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. [Editor's note: Get caught up with Slow is Fast, part 1.]
After being on the road for a good part of the last 15 years, I have a lot of catching up to do at home. The truth is, for about ten of those years I didn't think twice about California, never felt home sick or that I was missing a thing. Well, that time has passed. I am not sure if I'm just getting older or whether I've figured out that there are a 100 lifetimes worth of adventure here at home.
A while back I had an idea that seemed like a really fun way to see our coastline – like I do the far away coastlines that I have visited over the years. I mentioned it to two friends and they were all in, planning and packing, and all of the sudden the trip was on.
So, three weeks ago, Kanoa Zimmerman, Kellen Keene and myself jumped on a train headed north with bicycles, a surfboard, wetsuits, flippers, a microphone and a couple cameras. The idea was to surf down the coast by bike, staying with friends, family and acquaintances, poaching camps when we had to, doing our best to earn our keep and to learn from folks that are doing good work and getting by along the California coast.
Here are a few photos from the trip so far.
[Above: Dan Malloy and his rig. All photos by Kanoa, Kellen and Dan]
There is something I love about recording a voicemail greeting that says I will be out of the country, with no cell phone access, for a few weeks. Usually included is the customary, “You can try to reach me by email…” but even that was questionable. This time, I’d be traveling somewhere so remote it’s basically be off the grid. And that “something” I love about the voicemail? It actually has more to do with everything that leads up to the point of making the recording.
The weeks of pre-planning and packing were over. The hours and hours of watching swell charts on the Internet, hoping to see a solid blob of swell pop up in the proper direction, and the incessant studying of wind graphs and forecast sites to determine what size kites and boards to take had all passed. The stresses of showing up late (as always) for the airline check-in, the roulette wheel of excess baggage fees and the long security lines had faded into faint memories. I sent my last farewell texts to family and friends, and finally, switched my phone and my contact with the everyday world… OFF.
[Jello-blue lagoon, Ninamu. Photo: Jason Slezak, GoPro]