Let the trip begin……Please?

      The bags are packed and the swell and winds are big.  This is the first time ever I have wished the swell to drop. At least just a bit …Please? 

Early scout from out in front of our house,  will give us the answer if we go or hold.

The seas are large enough to put the Mavericks contest on stand by. All eyes around the World are focused on the very coast we will be paddling as soon as the morning.  

 I sense everyone in this house feels very alive. 

 

Mike

 

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Scouting Mission 9/26…1 week out

An overview of a section we will paddle our 2nd day.

An overview of a section we will paddle our 2nd day.

 

As our launch date approaches I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather and swell forecast. When I saw an early NW ground swell was due to hit one week before our trip, coupled with high NW winds, I knew it was a great opportunity to scout with conditions as bad as we would ever consider paddling in. The swell was a solid 11′ – 12′ at 15 seconds, and the winds were 25 kt to 30 kt, gusting to 40+ kt. While there were sections that were manageable, like the picture above, there were many that would be questionable too. Even the photo above is pretty misleading, taken from high up on a Hwy 1 turnout it doesn’t do the size of the swell justice…those are 5′to 7′ bumps visible, and even where the coast was more sheltered, the ocean was like a bathtub with two 3-year olds playing in it.

There were gems for sure, even in the blasting conditions, but overall I’m really glad the actual forecast for our trip is much better, with the swell to be just a third the size and the winds half what they were yesterday!

Pt. Sur was surprisingly calm. We plan to round it in the morning to avoid rougher, afternoon conditions, but of all the exposed places yesterday it was the best looking…if it is like that when we get there our first day, I plan to vote to push on!

The kelp beds will help smooth out rough water if our conditions deteriorate, making a good kelp fin immensely important.

Piedras Blancas remains the biggest concern. In the conditions yesterday it was, by far, the most challenging. Piedras BlancaThe angle of the wind and swell meant to have a good downwind run which clears the point, it’s necessary to be at least 3 or 4 miles offshore from where I took this picture. That would be really difficult this day, paddling across all this wind. Of course, the other reason for concern is the large population of elephant seals that hang out just south! But, once we round this point, it’s a straight shot through well known waters. Arroyo Laguna is just 3 miles south, I surf there a fair bit, and then San Simeon, Pico Creek, Cambria, and Home!

Definitely a wind sports day...

Definitely a wind sports day…

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Matt Hudgens

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Matt moved to Cayucos 4 years and 2 months ago. It is the longest he’s lived anywhere in his 45 years, so it must be a pretty special place. Ever since he moved there, he’s been eyeing the Big Sur coast and wanting to SUP it’s length. It took a while, but he finally rounded up a crew crazy enough to tag along and it’s ON!

For 26 years, much longer than he will ever live anywhere, Matt’s had a paddle in his hand. After cutting his teeth on  the rivers of the Pacific Northwest he’s ended up on the coast, standing up, with just half a paddle. And loving every minute of it. He owns and operates Central Coast SUP in Morro Bay, and with his wife Haley is raising two incredible boys who love the ocean just as much as they do.

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Scott McGuire

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 Scott McGuire has packed more experience into fewer years than anyone else I know. He is a recovering dirtbag, forgoing life in the back of a truck for a family, a house and a a”real job”. Like all in recovery, slips are possible and you may still occasionally find him stubbled, creekside, sleeping in a worn out down bag, on the dirt and smiling. Just let him sleep. After all, when he wakes, he probably has to go back to an office and a conference call. 

 
In addition to leading the brand development group The Mountain Lab, Scott has paddled, climbed, skied or biked in 35 countries on 6 continents and been a Director with some of the most iconic brands in the Outdoor Industry including The North Face, Keen, Teva and Ahnu Footwear, and most recently Klean Kanteen.
 
Welcome aboard Scott….Thanks!
 
 
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The Lonely Coast

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Tide Pooling in the Estero Bluffs

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When it’s good, it’s good.

Heading north from Morro Bay one goes back in time as much as one travels in distance. First there is Cayucos,   the last true California beach town, and as of 2009 the #1 Coolest Small Town in America.  The beach breaks between Morro Rock and Cayucos are our normal stomping grounds, since it’s along our commute, but north of there is where it gets really interesting. Past the Cayucos Pier there are several miles of easily accessed beaches and bluffs, with reef breaks in the right conditions and protected from the prevailing northwest winds by Estero Point. On calm days the paddling along this coastline is superb, with kelp forests, sea stacks, and private beaches! The crowds, such that they are start thinning out here, but just keep going north if you’re tired of crowds.

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Gotta look the part to surf in Big Sur…

Highway 1 leaves the coast north of Cayucos at Villa Creek, going through Harmony and up to Cambria before it returns to the ocean for it’s hourney through Big Sur. Hearst Castle still presides over this stretch of the California coast, and cowboys are just as comfortable in wetsuits up here as they are on a horse. This is where you can find Epitomies of Rugged Individuals…in fact, one has to have some rugged individualism in their persona to really spend much time up here. Once you drive past San Simeon heading north into Big Sur the rest of the world is left behind. This is the land of empty beaches, Image where waves go unseen, let alone unridden. Another surfer in the lineup is a welcome sight, but not all that common. And if your rugged individualistic side is uber-dominant there is always an empty break in Big Sur you can have completely to yourself. Except for the Elephant Seals and Sea Lions…and let’s not forget, to a White Shark an Elephant Seal

Imagerepresents a weeks worth of groceries.

So maybe we’ll see you up there, but probably not. Just each others cars, lonely at a trailhead to our own secret spot, wishing there was another human out surfing, but going out anyway.

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Whitewater Stand Up Paddling, Kern River, California

It’s been a whirlwind of a spring, and there’s been a lot more water time than blogging time! One trip we got on recently was a return to the river,  but on our feet, not our butt!

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Obligations at the shop kept me from attending the actual Kern River Festival, I had to be back for the weekend here. But I managed to get up there the Thursday and Friday leading up to the festival, met up with some old friends, made some new friends, and then proceeded to exponentially increase the number of swims I’ve had on the river! Seriously, I swam 4 or 5 times more in one run on the Limestone Section than I have EVER swum in 20+ years of kayaking. But I also enjoyed myself immensely! Besides simply being on the river again, after a 3 year hiatus, the best part was the new challenge of staying on my feet through the rapids. Among the old friends I met up there was Corran Addison. He’s kayaked even longer than I have, much longer, and he summed it up well when he told us that with SUP on the rivers he realized that it wasn’t the rivers he was over, but kayaking on them. I concur….for me it was even more. I’ve been missing something in my coastal life. I assumed it was kayaking, but really it’s rivers. The ocean is great, don’t get me wrong, but it seems I need time on, and in, both.

Back to the action though! First off I tried a few different boards, all designed by Corran at various stages and entities. Early Friday morning I woke up at Frandy campground right on the left bank of the slalom course. Eric Disque, of Imagine SUP, had pulled in late, late night and had, very kindly, set an Imagine Rapidfire out easy for me to get and take on a couple of runs down the slalom course. I tried it first with no fin, then with a small fin, I didn’t notice the difference one way or the other between these set ups.

rapidfireThe Rapidfire is a rotomolded plastic SUP, one of the first such boards to be designed and produced expressly for running whitewater. My impressions, on easy class 2, was that it was ultra stable, turned on a dime yet could track well enough with good paddling, and that it was pretty forgiving. It was a little edgy, and it had a little “pop” to it when it was recovering from catching an edge. It was also heavy. But that equals tough…all things are a compromise. All in all a Rapidfire is a great performing board that is very economical and tough. It will improve your rapid running skills for sure though, if for no other reason than it’s too heavy to portage!  rapidfirecarry

 

The next board I got to try was a prototype Imagine Spitfire. This board is to the Rapidfire as a modern shortboard is to the logs of yesteryear. In fact, I would hesitate to call this craft a SUP…it is really a Stand Up Kayak, but that acronym is unfortunate, because these….er, SUK’s don’t suck. Anyone familiar with whitewater kayaks design for running challenging rapids will recognize many of the design features on the Spitfire. A high volume bow with a crowned deck for predictable resurfacing. Totally different chines, or rails, than other boards, with a softer edge-to-edge transition. A rocker profile that has more in common with a creek boat than any board. It was also mercifully light, being handmade of Carbon and Kevlar.kern Limestone run4 19 1655 Corran rigged one of his drop skegs on the stern, but as most who know me know, I’m hard on gear. So I paddled this board, er, boat with no skeg, and once again it was okay, with good paddling technique! This trip was on the Limestone section, above Kernville, and we had low water. While that meant the moves were pretty easy to make, it also meant the lines were tighter, the rocks closer to the surface, and possibility of some good bruises were high! Fortunately Corran had an extra full face helmet for me to borrow…highly recommended!

The last bit of the run, and on the lower run, I paddled one of Corran’s latest SUK’s. The Streetfighter, by Corran Addison Designs, is the next step in the evolution of WW Stand Up design. This board was super smooth, cadillac style. The edge to edge transition was flawless, initial stability wasn’t bad, and the secondary stability was like a rock!

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It was balanced, the deck was thoughtfully designed for a way more secure stance than I would have imagined possible, the flexy drop skeg worked well, and the Boof Buddy (a little foam hook you put your leading foot under to lift the bow on a boof stroke!) works! Standing boofs are badass! These boards are only available in custom Kevlar layups now, which rock, but bug Corran enough and he will make some plastic ones…that will put some legit river running, while standing up, well within the means of most aspiring paddlers!

All in all WW Stand Up Paddling was both as silly as I thought it would be, and way more fun than I thought it would be. I’m definitely planning to do more, and it was quite a bit easier than I had imagined it would be. And it does have one big advantage over kayaking…once you swim, you can climb back up on the board and start paddling again, so self-rescue is much quicker and easier than with a kayak! That siad there are hazards inherent to moving water, so don’t just go jump into it with taking some time to learn how to safely navigate rivers, please.

 

 

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It’s been a GREAT spring!

It's been a GREAT spring!

Whitewater SUP….without the board!

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