The Beautiful Island of Bali

Being in Bali this time is great not only because we are super stoked to be going surfing and playing in the warm blue ocean, but also because my Mom is here with her fried Nancy. They were exploring the remote jungles of Borneo to see wild orangutans and came to Bali to chill for a week before going back home to BC.

Our first stop in Bali is to visit my mom in Ubud. It’s a land locked town known for it’s arts and yoga scene rather than it’s surf. We spent our time eating at amazing healthy restaurants, shopping in the many boutiques and markets and visiting the monkey forest. We had a great time catching up and seeing the sights together as both my mom and Josi and I had been on the road for a while. After four days in central Bali it was time to go in search of somewhere with less traffic and more importantly with surf. We took a speed boat/ ferry from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan which is a small island just off of Bali. What makes it so rad is that it’s a small island with no cars and it’s home to three great surf breaks right out front of the main village. Two of the breaks are shallow hollow reef breaks and one is more of a beginner wave called Playgrounds. Unfortunately Josi split her toe when climbing the ladder to get onto the roof of the ferry so she wasn’t able to surf for a week. Turns out that she didn’t miss out on much though because for the week we were there the swell was small and next to nothing. At least it’s super beautiful and we had a great time regardless of the small waves.

From there Josi and I went back to Ubud to meet up with our good friends Eion and Insiya Finn at a yoga event called Bali Spirit Festival, and my mom left to go in search of more adventures. Josi and I went to the festival for one of the 5 days and while we had fun checking it out, it wasn’t our vibe so we left early so that we could find some surf.

We chose to stay in a town called Seminyak because it’s close to Desa Seni which is a resort where Eion is having a week long yoga retreat that Josi and I are stoked to be taking. I haven’t done much yoga since Eion lived and taught classes in Vancouver about 7 years ago so I’m a bit rusty. Josi used to be a yoga instructor and is going to be doing it again when we go back to Vancouver so this was a perfect opportunity for both of us to get back into yoga.

Searching for Surf in Vietnam

Just so that I’m not misleading those of you who are hoping to read about epic surf in this post, I feel that it’s necessary to let you know up front that we didn’t score great waves. What we did discover was the really cool little town of Han Oi which is the perfect place to explore when the surf is small and crappy.

Watching Apocalypse Now as a kid, the scene that stuck with me wasn’t so much the violence of war but more rather the fact that they went surfing. While I don’t know anyone who has actually surfed in Vietnam, I do know of a lot of people who have been and they all have great things to say about it. As such we chose it as one of our many destinations on this adventure. When researching surfing in Vietnam all arrows point to China Beach which is right in the middle of Danang and Hoi An and is also in part where Apocalypse Now is meant to be based out of. Lots of the links mention a guy called Hoa who, with his wife, runs a small hostel/hotel called Hoa’s Place.

Being somewhat unadventurous we booked a third rate, somewhat rundown room in a resort on the beach for three nights. It was meant to be close to Hoa’s Place and I figured that if I could track him down he would help us with finding the best surf spots in the area.

The weather was much colder than we were hoping when we got there and the ocean was stormy. My first though was that at least it isn’t flat and that hopefully when the storm blows over there will be some fun waves to ride.

The storm did blow over and after a few days of searching we were finally able to find Hoa. Hoa’s so classic that he deserves his own blog post, and had we been staying at his hotel I’m sure he would have one.

Right when we got to his place I asked him if he knew where the good surfing was and he said to me in a thick Vietnamese accent “The surf is Shit man” followed up by “Sit down man, grab yourself a drink”. his broken english is part surfer, part hippy and part hard to understand. Like most Vietnamese, he’s slim, short and only weighs about 100lbs on a wet day, but he has a big personality. When I told him that he was loosing a lot of business because his place was really hard to find (all of online maps have his address on the wrong side of town) he said to me “If they can’t find me man, I don’t want them here”. He continued on by saying that he only recently got a phone and that in the old days you had to just show up. He liked it that way and being one with where he is at in life, he’s happy to keep it that way. I really enjoyed his quirky vibe . We stayed for lunch which was really tasty and it only cost about $7 for both of us. After the meal, we were going to pay up and he said to not worry about paying now, just to write our meals down in his note book on the counter and that we could pay later. We weren’t staying there, he had never met us before and he wanted us to pay another time. This guy is at one with things that’s for sure.

Hoa was right, the surf was “Shit” but the sun was out, the water was warm and our boards hadn’t been in the water in a while so we went anyway. After a short surf in soft little shoulder high close out wind waves in a sea that was full of jellyfish brought in from all of the onshore winds, I had had enough. We checked the surf report and talked to Hoa, and both had little in the way of good surf news in the near future.

When I told him that we were going to leave Vietnam early to go to Indonesia to surf he said “I totally understand man, you gotta go because you gotta surf”. I’m not sure if he’s actually a surfer himself, but either way, he gets it.

The best thing about going to China Beach was discovering the small and romantic town of Hoi An. My pictures don’t do it justice, but I can say that it’s super cute. Roads actually closed off from the traffic was enough for us to love this town more than any others in Vietnam, but this was only one of it’s many charms. Amazing restaurants, lots of cool shops, a little river that runs through town, lots of brightly painted boats with eyes painted on their stern’s, bright Asian style lanterns that light the town at night, the list goes on and on.

Our next stop is Saigon so that we can apply for our 60 day visas for Indonesia.

Jeffery’s Bay & Addo Elephant Reserve

Jeffery’s Bay is one of those places that every surfer dreams of going. The mystique of Africa combined with an epic right hand barrelling wave in the cool sharky waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s considered to be one of the best right hand point breaks in the world and all of surfing’s legends have surfed it. I wasn’t expecting to rip it up like a pro, but I knew that all of my years surfing the southern part of Vancouver Island and it’s many right points that I was well prepared.

As we drove into this clean little beach town sprinkled with surf shops and ocean views we knew right away we liked it. It still had a little of the sketchy feeling that one gets from South Africa, but it’s laid back vibe made it much less of a worry. We booked a room on the hill overlooking the main surf beaches and I was amped to head down to one of the more famous breaks called Super Tubes to check the surf. It was the weekend and unfortunately the swell that I had been watching online had yet to show up so it was small and a little bit too crowded. Monday was sure to be less busy and I figured that if I’m going to put on my wet suite to surf a super shallow reef break in famously sharky waters I want to be able to at least get a wave with out having to battle for one. The week that we were there the big swell that was forecasted never showed up, but I made the most of it and caught some fun little waves. My brother Jason would have ripped it up here even when it’s small, but for me on my back side I really needed a little more size to surf it with any real style.

Other than getting to surf one of my childhood dream breaks, the highlights from this trip were eating daily at a great little restaurant called Nina’s and driving up to Addo Elephant Reserve on Valentines Day.

Nina’s Restaurant was so great in fact that we ate there twice a day for the entire time we were there other than missing lunch the day we went to the elephant reserve. If our hotel had not come with breakfast included I’m sure we would have eaten there three times a day. For about $12 both Josi and I could eat a great healthy dinner and be fully stuffed. They have old surf boards and locally taken surfing photos on the walls and the staff were all really friendly which we found to be rare in SA.

The Elephant reserve was super cool and if you are ever in the area you have to check it out. It’s a huge National Park that you pay to gain entry and then you drive yourself around while checking out all of the wildlife. The only advice they gave us was to not get out of our car. Within a few minutes of our drive we started seeing animals, big and small, everywhere and we were stoked.

At one point we were driving along a skinny dirt road and around the corner came a heard of about 15 elephants. There were big ones, baby ones, old ones, ones with huge tusks. At first we thought that it was really cool as they marched slowly towards us. As you can see by the photos that I was happily snapping away, they took up the entire width of the road. They came closer and closer until Josi told me, with slight urgency in her voice, to stop taking photos and to start backing. They were coming right at us and our little rental car with no sign of clearing out of our way. As I started backing up another huge bull elephant came out of the bushes directly to our left. I watched in surprise as he got closer and in doing so I backed into a bush on the side of the road and got us stuck. I’m blaming the backing up into a bush 20% because I wan’t used to driving on the wrong side of the road and 80% from the shock of being ambushed by the massive tusked elephant coming out of the bushes to our left.

I would have pulled a little forward and corrected myself, but by this point the big heard of elephants was really close to us and they were pissed. Right about the time they started nodding their heads up and down and shooting their ears out to their sides, which made them look even huger and meaner than they already were, Josi went into a panic. Every few seconds between her hyperventilating Josi was able to squeak out “I’m scared”. Shit, I was too, but I wasn’t going to let her know it because I think that she would have passed out.

Josi had visions of them not veering from their path and walking right over us or getting really pissed off and tossing our car around and smashing it to pieces. It was like a scene out of a bad horror comedy where the couple get trampled after the first few minutes. If there was a shower near by I’m sure that she would have gotten naked and jumped in.

They were visibly pissed off that we were in their way, but rather than going Rambo on us they decided to avoid the blood bath and pass us by. They were so close you could smell them as they pretty much brushed the car as they walked by. As the last one finally passed us by he bent his big old head down so that he could give me a stinky, eye to eye, look of disapproval.

It’s not every day that you get to be so close to the largest, wild, land mammal in the world. The rest of our drive through the park continued to leave us in a perpetual state of wonder as we saw one strange and exotic African animal after another.

A big thanks to Skip and Paula for the great recommendations in and around Jeffery’s Bay.

We loved our time in Jeffery’s Bay and it’s surrounding areas, but seeing all of the crazy animals at Addo makes leaving lot easier knowing that we are on our way to bush camp in Madikwe Game Reserve in Northern South Africa.

Goodbye Costa Rica, thanks for the laughs.

Another wonderful year has come and gone and I’m stoked for what’s to come in 2013.

A few of our many goals for 2013 are:
– Search out new fun and profitable business ideas
– Continue to grow FreeBird Agency
– Buy a house
– Build my photography business
– Start a new business and or launch a new product

The reports I’m getting from back home is that the snowboarding has been great this season, but when I’m able to jump into my board shorts and surf every day I haven’t missed it in the least. I love never being cold and for me surfing is my meditation. It’s where I can clear my mind and focus only on the the surf. It enables me to turn my brain off and in those moments I gain a deeper understanding of what’s important and a clearer outlook on life. While I’m stoked to be going to Argentina and then eventually back home to Canada, I know that my soul will always long to go for a surf each and every day.

We have just finished packing our bags and are ready to leave to San Jose tomorrow morning. We will stay there for the night before starting the next leg of our adventure in Argentina. More of that story to come as it unfolds.

It was great having Josi’s parents join us here in Costa Rica for Christmas. I’m pretty much with my mom and family every Christmas so having them here made it seem a little more like home. They brought a small plastic Christmas tree with them from Montreal and when we had our Christmas dinner we lit it up and placed it on our table over looking the bright orange setting sun and the surf far below. Mixed seafood grill replaced my usual turkey dinner and the warm breeze off the Pacific was a welcome change of scenery from the wet snow that I’m used to. If only my whole family would have been there it would have been perfect.

We went on a hike the other day and had our good friend Jesse not lent us his prized Swiss Army knife for our world adventure I likely would have had to carry Josi for 6K out of a snake and panther infested jungle. Salt water and lots of walking had gotten the better of her old leather flip flops and they were in bad shape when we took off on our quad in search of adventure. We drove toward the edge of Cabo Blanco National Park along a small dirt road when we stumbled upon the park’s visitor centre at the foot of a trail head that leads through the jungle to a remote beach. I always knew that there were monkeys, huge Boa Constrictors and poisonous spiders in the area, but at the park we learned that there are also panthers, other big cats, a number of poisonous snakes and lots of strange furry animals that I had not heard of or seen before. We didn’t see Panthers or snakes, but we did see lots of pretty much everything else. As you can see I’m not a National Geographic photographer in any way shape or form, but I did manage to snap off a few shots of the wildlife that we saw along the way. The trail we took was about 8k in and 6k out which was a lot more than we were planning considering we hadn’t intended on hiking at all. Right when we started to come back along the 6k trail Josi’s stubbed the toe of her flip flop and the soul was all but removed from it’s thin top. I had some bright pink string that I had found some time back and kept because I thought that it might make a good fly for fishing. Jesse’s knife was perfect for puncturing through both the soul and it’s upper which enabled me to bound them back together. Why I say I would have had to carry her out is that there was no way she was going to walk back with bare feet. One of the photos I posted is of a spider. You can’t tell in the picture, but that thing is huge! To get an idea of how big it is, in the picture you can see a really small spider behind it’s back two legs. That little spider is about the size of a typical spider back home. I asked Josi to stand closer to it so you could get an idea of it’s size, but she wasn’t interested in that idea and there was no way I was going to give her the camera so I could get close to it.

The only thing that I didn’t do was catch a fish on my fly rod! I lost one, had a few other chase my fly, but that’s it. At least we had a great time fishing with Dougy and we all caught a lot. I love fishing and I love eating fish. Lots of time over the next month for catching fish on the fly in Argentina. San Jose tomorrow and Buenos Aries the day after!

Loving the Adventure of Life

Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Being here has provided a great opportunity to shut my brain off and to relax after working so much during the last six months prior to the trip. I find it amazing what one is able to put them self through with regards to long long hours of non stop work, and what one is able to accomplish, when you are working toward a goal. With out something to look forward to I could have never put in the hours that I did.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 22 days since we left home, crazy how time flies. Our days have been going something like this. Wake up really early and surf for two or three hours. Shower and go for breakfast. Come home and check emails and then possibly do a bit of work. Eat a light lunch. Go fly fishing in the surf or adventure around a little and check things out. Then go for an evening surf, shower up again, go for dinner and go to bed early.

The Surf:
The waves have been smallish, but have been consistent and the mornings have been a lot of fun. My late takeoff on my backside drop in’s have been touch and go. I got totally rocked today on a wave that I normally would have caught with out much problem. I’m happy that I’m working it out a mellow beach break rather than on the razor sharp reefs of Indonesia. My goal for this trip is to get back into shape and to catch airs on my surfboard again. In truth, I have only ever landed a few and that was years back. I’m confident that I will be sticking them by the end of this trip. I was stoked the other day to ride out of a little frontside barrel which is always a good start to a surf trip. For the most part there haven’t been much in the way of barrels to be had, but there have been lots of fun waves. The water is crazy warm and I could stay in it all day with out getting even the slightest of a chill. I’m also stoked that Josi is getting the hang of her new board and is catching lots of waves. I keep hoping that the swell is going to pick up a bunch so that we can surf some of the many great point breaks in the area, but I din’t think that that’s going to happen. Not to worry, lots of opportunity for great waves over the next 6 months.

The Food:
Lets just say that as long as you love delicious seafood, or chicken for that matter, then you will love Costa Rica. For dinner, a huge main course consisting of a protean like fish (mahi mahi, yellow fin tuna, snapper), chicken, or beef with rice, beans and a salad costs about $10 to $14. It’s a lot of food and it tastes really great. For breakfast we have a traditional Costa Rican meal consisting of eggs, rice and beans, a corn tortilla and a protein (Josi usually has the fried local cheese and I usually have bacon). Breakfast is about $5, but when you add in coffee and fresh fruit smoothy it costs a little less than $20 for both of us including a decent tip.

Fly Fishing:
There have been huge amounts of sea birds diving into the surf every day as they feast on small silver bait fish. The locals are fishing from the shore every day using two hand lines, one for catching bait and another for catching the larger fish eating the bait. As the pounding surf comes at them they throw their line over the wave and then quickly duck under it. Normally on surf trips I bring a casting rod but because we are spending a month in Argentina and I plan on doing a lot of fly fishing in Patagonia I only brought a 6 weight, 4 piece Sage rod. i have had a less then easy time learning to cast through the surf as it pounds you over again and again. Prior to yesterday, the closest I got to catching a fish was seeing some fish chase my fly as I retrieved it in quickly. I haven’t seem many locals actually catch fish, but I have seen a few which is enough to keep me coming back again and again. I keep experimenting with new flies and yesterday was the first day that I used a fly that looks like a white minnow. I still didn’t catch anything, but I had one one which is a start in the right direction. I saw the fish come out of the water as it hit the fly and I think that had I not been worked around by the surf I would have set the hook sooner and would have had caught it. I’m not sure what they are called, but I have seen them as big as 8 pounds and the locals say they taste great. Hopefully in my next blog post I will be able to tell you first hand how it taste.

Our Adventures:
I’m not sure that I mentioned it in my first blog post, but the adventure starts even before you land in Tambour. As you are flying in you see a tinny little gravel airstrip that drops into the ocean. Coming in you are thinking to yourself, are we really going to land here? It’s the type of air strip I imagine being used by drug lords rather than tourists. When you take off out of San Jose you fly over some pretty poor neighbourhoods with all of the houses having bars on all of the windows and old tin roofs. Makes me glad for what I have and for how blessed I have been in my life. I like to think that if I were really poor I would live by the sea and not in a city.

Having been to Mal Pais so many times in the past we have seen pretty much all of the sights, but this is Josi’s parents first time so we are seeing it all again which is great. With every corner you turn there is another beautiful beach, lush tropical jungles, beach side restaurants serving up fresh food and delicious blended fruit drinks, huge lizards scurrying across hot and dusty roads, and all sorts of other cool and wild things. The other day we watched as they released endangered baby turtles into the sea. It’s super cute watching them scurry across the sand as they make their way into the surf to live a life at sea. We collected clay rocks on the beach that we took home and crushed up in warm water to make a mud paste. Josi, her mom and her dad and I went down to the beach and we all gave ourself’s a home made luxury mud bath. It was pretty funny as we caked it on ourself, face and all, which made for some great photos. After it dried in the hot sun we washed it off in the open ocean. The end result was perhaps the softest my skin has ever been.

Most of the locals wear Jobbies hats and shirts that I designed for his surf shop. It’s neat traveling so far from home and into a remote beach side community where everyone is wearing creative that you created. I’m hoping to be able to take photos of some of my new creative that is at the print shop now. I’m expecting that it will be done before the new year, but it is Costa Rica so who’s to say?

This is only that third Christmas I have ever spent away from home. Once I was in Tokyo, once I was surfing in Australia and this year I’m going to be here. Lets start by saying that I have always loved Christmas. While it won’t be the same as being at home, people have put lights up in cactus’s and there are a few fake Christmas Trees up so it feels just a little like the holidays. It’s also great that Josi’s parents are here. Family, even if they are my new family, are great to have around over the holidays. And I think that I would much rather the sun and a surf than snow and a toboggan ride on Christmas morning.

Happy Holidays and I look forward to updating you again soon.

Papaya Colada and Mud Baths

Finally my cold is gone and I can do stuff again. I found it less than easy to stay in bed while everyone was having fun. Since I’ve been feeling better, I am packing my days with activities and enjoying as much sunshine as possible.
Most of our mornings are dedicated to surfing. Noel had warned me that it would take a while for me to get used to my new 6.0 board as it is much shorter than my 7.0 that I am used to. The beauty is that I am now mostly able to duck dive and I can get past the break way easier and much faster. Duck diving is an art. My board is super floaty and I’m not so big so whenever I don’t get it perfect the white water hits me and I end up riding the wave backwards and getting worked. I’m sure that it provides much entertainment for the people on the beach! The surf has picked up and the shapes of the waves are way better. Today was my best day so far as I caught quite a few decent waves and rode down the line. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow morning!

My folks are in town and it’s been a real pleasure hanging out with them and touring around. We recently rented a car and went to Montezuma, a village on the tip on the Nicoya Peninsula. Our friends Jobbie and Veronique joined us and we had a great time shopping, playing on the beach and enjoying some delicious cocktails. I had the Papaya Colada and I have been craving it again ever since. We’ve also used the car to visit playa Manzanillo and Playa Hermosa which were both beautiful and so peaceful. Noel put his line in the water, but no luck. Still, it was super fun.

Another thing that kept us all entertained today was our mud baths that we took! We collected a bunch of clay rocks on the beach at low tide, crushed them with boiling water and made two big containers of mud. We then went to the beach where we proceeded to spread the mud all over ourselves. We couldn’t stop laughing as we started snapping photos. Once you are done spreading it, all you have to do is to let it dry. It feels like your skin is going to crack and it sure gets people’s attention as they walk by! Once all dried, we jumped in the ocean and washed it all off, leaving your skin soft like a baby. There is nothing like a free homemade day at the spa!

I should go to bed soon as we are getting up at 5:50am tomorrow. A lady that we met on the beach will be taking photos of Noel surfing first light in the morning. It already sounds like the best morning ever! Exercise first thing as we get up and then after go enjoy some delicious Costa Rican coffee made by my lover and then go out for a yummy breakfast.

Mal Pais, Costa Rica

We flew out of Bocas Del Toro to San Jose Costa Rica and then connected to Tambor which is an airport with a super sketchy little small gravel airstrip on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. On the plane we sat in front of a guy who lives in Santa Teressa who knows Jobbie so we shared a cab with him to Mal Pais with saved us a couple of bucks which was nice. Having spent a lot of time in Mal Pais over the years it felt as though we were back to our home away from home. While there is always swell here, it’s not the waves that keep us coming back, it’s the people and the laid back vibe. It’s super chill with great food, decent surf most of the time, and lots of fun things to do.

Our good friend Jobbie, a fellow Canadian who I met down here 12 years ago, has a surf shop and surf school in Mal Pais. If you are looking for the perfect get away from the winter rains and want to learn how to surf, relax, and have a blast, be sure to look him up. And if you are wondering why his logo and all of his apparel graphics are so dam cool, it’s because I have been doing all of his creative since day one. A little ruthless self promotion. What’s cool is that yesterday I also designed up some shirt and ball cap designs for Product C, a local fish market and restaurant that totally rocks in exchange for free meals.

Josi had caught a cold in Vancouver just before we left and it never quite left. Over the last week she was hit pretty hard and she even had to take a couple of days out of the surf. She has been riding her now short board and was stoked to find out that she can now duck dive, something that she always wanted to do. Now that she is starting to feel better I’m sure that she will be in the surf every day. I have been waking up between 6 and 7am for an early morning surf but today I took the morning off because I paddled through some jellyfish yesterday and my arms are marked up pretty good. It hurts a bit when you first get stung, then feels like a mild burn and the next day it swells up and gets itchy. Your only defence once you have been stung is to pee on it right away, then pour vinegar on it when you get home and after that to scrape it with a credit card. The scraping is meant to get out the stingers. It doesn’t help that I’m more susceptible to jellyfish stings than some and because of it seem to get stung more than most.

Jobbie hooked us up with a killer apartment right by the beach which is so great. Two bedrooms, AC, full kitchen and 24 hour security so you don’t have to worry too much about things getting stolen which is good. While it’s super beautiful here and the locals are all super nice, you hear stories of things going missing all the time.

Josi’s parents have joined us here from Montreal and are staying through Christmas which is really great. For them this is a big adventure as they have only been out of Canada a few times and usually it’s at an all inclusive. It’s pretty rustic here with only gravel roads and the restaurants are often open walled huts where they cook on open fires. They are great sports and I think that they have been having a good time so far.

Yesterday we went fishing with our friend and local fisherman, Dougie ( $150 gets you a boat that can sit 6 people out on the open ocean for 4 hours. Dougie is a great guy and as far as the local fisherman go he is the best. If you are ever down here I highly recommend that you send him a message and have him take you out. Josi caught a big Amber Jack, Luke caught a huge Mahi Mahi (Dougie is holding it up in the photo below, I caught a super tasty Yellow Fin Tuna and the rest of the team caught nice size Amber Jacks as well. We saw dolphins, huge sea turtles and lots of fish. Needless to say, we are all going to be eating lots of fresh seafood for the next few days!

Well, it’s hot and I’m itching to go for a surf so I’m out of here. At some point I will pull out my good camera and will take some nicer photos. And if the surf gets big then we will be sure to get some surf photos as well.