Archive for July, 2011

Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a trip that had been on the back of my mind since late 2006.  Heading to this particular surf break is no easy task seeing as you must choose between a 4 + day walk, 60 km motor boat up or down the barren NZ coast, a semi expensive but short fixed wing flight or a very expensive but stellar chopper ride.  This is merely the means of transportation, from there you face an isolated wilderness extremely exposed to weather with little to no contact with the outside world.  This is Fiordland National Park.

Fortunately I was invited by a fellow named Warrick who just so happened to spend most of his childhood in the area.  He grew up buzzing around in choppers, boats, and planes and more recently launched Helisurf.co.nz, a private chartered surf expedition focused on surfing remote waves and experiencing a slice of NZ that few kiwis have ever had the chance to.

The co-pilot to the expedition was James, currently the head guide and safety officer for Heli Park NZ and a general bad ass in snowy mountainous terrain.  Confident in the A-Team, we headed off out of Queenstown for the 4-6 hr drive out to Milford Sound unsure whether or not the road was open or closed to towing vehicles.


With the weather momentarily backing off, we snuck through the Homer Tunnel and were soon launching the 6-meter craft into the deep glacial carved slit, also referred to as Milford Sound.

We made it to the shores of our destination on dusk making wave negotiation slightly technical but we only managed to get our pant legs a bit wet.  We took an arm load of gear each and preceded with the mini slog into what appeared to be solid bush, but slight trails guided our way right to Warrick’s doorstep.  Just as dark fell we had the generator on, whiskeys in hand and the music pumping (not what I had initially imagined either).

The following days were spent immersed in the West Coaster’s lifestyle, which went in a similar pattern to:

Day-break – Fly-fishing / Surf check

Morning – Breakfast (Pancakes obviously)

Mid-Morning – Explore

Lunch – The morning’s catch

Afternoon – Diving for paua, crayfish and kinna, as wel as spear fishing

Evening – Fly-fishing / Photos

Dinner – The midday catch

Beer Time – Story hour

Late Night – Don the wetsuits and haul the boat up the river on the high tide

With variable weather approaching we decided to call the trip a bit early and head back out to the other side…  We managed to drop anchor at one of the breaks before departing and pulled into a couple of fun head high waves before the journey out.

If you’re interested in a trip I would be happy to assist in coordinating.  Whether it be a surf trip, a plain old adventure, or fishing and hunting just drop a line to Warrick at Helisurf.co.nz and he’ll answer any questions.  Jeremy Jones would know!

Flying into Wanaka was a bit of a shocker.  The hills were coated in their typical shoulder season brown-burned-bacon hue and the air was just a bit too warm.  I was mentally prepared for the worst winter ever and was actually quite happy to get back to the old work routine having been gone for about six months.

However, within about three days one of the biggest storms engulfed New Zealand for the following ten days, depositing record amounts of snow.  The never ending trail of low pressure systems boosted up from Antarctica cloaked in frigid cold fronts and the hectopascal scale seemed to lower as the days went by.  I think the deepest low was around 940 HPa!  Seeing as Treble Cone‘s opening day had long since passed, nobody seemed too agitated to wait out the storm.

About three days into it, we got our first glimpse of the hills surrounding Wanaka, but like all ten day storms, NZ was swallowed again, postponing my surf trip due to 150 + KPH winds and 20 meter waves.  Check out the swell chart!!!

About five days later Treble Cone opened with nearly six feet of snow up to the base building, which is located down there somewhere:

This could quite possibly be the most epic drive to the mountain ever, but it is lethal….back in 2006 my mate Nick almost died just hiking around on the raw mountainside about 300 meters down the road on the left, but that’s another story….

Second lap – TC 2011- bottomless…

Yup

I don’t have a Go Pro, but here is some more footage from fellow shredder Mark von Roy from opening day:

http://player.vimeo.com/video/26465106

TC from over the river and through the woods

Three days into the season marked the the first event of the year, the Treble Cone Triple Comp, a compilation of three events, Banked Slalom, Freeride Expression Session and a Norwegian Downhill – winner takes all.  Richie Johnston gave me a good run for the money, but I managed to squeak out the top spot for best snowboarder overall.  Here is some footage of the event:

http://player.vimeo.com/video/26537834

Supplies for the next trip departing in 8 hours

Gone Surfin…

14 hour plane rides are something to be reckoned with; rarely are they comfortable, but as with most things, when you buy the ticket, you take the ride.  After a few complimentary beverages, wack food and bad movies, you arrive at the destination many time zones in the future or the past, causing some to wonder whether or not time travel has actually been invented…

Upon departing the plane, I was greeted with the air born excrement of the Chilean Volcano, Puyehue-Cordón Caulle, also know as ash clouds.  Qantas Airlines determined it was unsafe to fly to NZ, which was total bullshit seeing as Air New Zealand was making the effort to fly throughout NZ over the course of the past month with no safety issues, but that is beside the point.  (Note to future flyers, don’t fly with Qantas!)  Those of us with no intentions of staying in Australia for more than a couple hours now had a different agenda…  Fortunately I had contacted my Irish friends Andy and Helen before departing, letting them know the ash cloud may be an issue and thankfully they opened up their penthouse in Sydney Central for as many nights as I needed.

I also happened to have a sly Australian Visa buried in the passport pages, allowing me to slip into the convict country.  One of the customs agents must have seen me coming as he handed me a get out of jail free card which gave me the privilege of skipping the 300 person line and hour + wait to have your bags searched!   I had been in Sydney just about six months prior, so it was easy to navigate the public transport with board bags etc…  An overnight stay folded into a couple weeks, but it was a blast.  Here are a couple photos from around the city:

I guess I won’t be eating bananas today…

Australia Mate

Saturday morning fritata sessions with the crew

New South Wales Gallery of Modern Art

Dolla Dolla

John Boyd was even there!

Caught some cheeky waves the last night in town with a bunch of dolphins.

Nearly two 1/2 weeks later, I finally made it back to NZ.  

 

 

Flying into LAX has become more of a pleasure than a pain over the years.  Originally I despised LA, hating its congested streets, smog infested airways and polluted water, but as the trips became more and more frequent, I was able to see through the garbage and it grew to become a bit of a humorous retreat in between journeys to and from the country.  Having family and mates in the area certainly had something to do with the appeal, but as a good whiskey, LA has an acquired taste especially for those from NE. 

My partner in crime, Rhett, offered everything a traveler would want: a wooden floor to sleep on, a bunch of zany characters to get along with, communal chores to earn my stay at the LA community agricultural center, namely 4 tons of garbage removal, and lots of vege-blended beverages.  You can always rely on good friends to serve up a good dose of exactly what you need!

I only had three days, so we spent the first moving garbage (sorry I don’t have any photos) and the second waiting mostly for the garbage men to pick up the unconventional pile seeing as the neighbors were not to pleased with the ‘eyesore’.  Luckily, we got off our post early and Rhett took me out on a 20 + mile mountain bike ride into the Santa Monica mountains.  This was certainly a highlight as there was next to nobody out there and you were able to see the entire LA valley almost omnisciently.

Of course it wouldn’t be an adventure between the two of us without getting lost, so instead of taking Sunset Blvd back to the car (LAME), we decided to poach a hiking trail that ‘seemed’ to bisect our present point with the trail head.  This trail deteriorated very quickly into a stream-bed, but we pressed on, hopping the stream every 20 meters, carrying our bikes over sketchy terrain, deeper and deeper into the dark steep canyon.  After about an hour of fun, we decided to conjure up our Greek strength and scale the 45 + degree walls with our bikes.  I don’t know how Sisyphus can put up with this eternal condemnation, but we clearly weren’t cut out for it.  We opted to scale a barbed wire fence in the midst of the climb and drop into what appeared to be like a more forgiving exit route.  Balancing the bikes between barbs and branches we stealthily slid into the compound miraculously escaping the canyon and eventually the creepy compound surrounded by five-meter barbed wire fences.  This was another one of those times I wish I had a GoPro to illustrate the absurdity of daily life, but some things are left for the storybook.

 

I was left to my own devices on the final day and decided to peddle around some of my old haunts around Venice Beach.  Luckily, it turned out to be a Venice Skate Day and the Dogtown Crew was out in force at the park.  If you haven’t heard of DogTown, you should probably google it or bing it or whatever you want, but for a brief synopsis, the DogTown Z Boys were based out of Venice in the 70’s where they launched skateboarding from slalom races and manual contests to handplants and finger-flips.  They basically turned skating on its head and birthed the ramps to modern day skating as we now know it.

The up and comers proved to be some of the best skaters present throwing super smooth airs in between high speed shakas through the bowls.  The 8-12 year olds were some of the most impressive skaters I have ever seen in real life…This kid couldn’t have been older than ten:

I left that night, thrown into the belly of the beast in LAX and off to Sydney Australia in hopes of catching a flight 18 hours later over the Tasman to NZ.  Clearly that didn’t happen, but that’s another story.