San Francisco’s Ocean beach can be a beast. Even when it’s small and the tide is out, thin waves lay corduroy to the horizon. The place looks harmless, until you paddle out to find a little four foot face that pounds you down and holds you gasping. Now add size, say 15-20 feet, and an incoming tide, that moves water like converging rivers. The rip tide runs parallel to the shore, and has enough teeth to take you south, in a hurry. Toss in twenty-one of the finest Stand Up Paddle Board athletes and what a visual feast for the men, women, and children, all snug and warm on the beach watching. What a feast for the ocean. I’ll take these guys and grind them into so much sand. I’ll swallow them whole and spit them into a sand bar down the coast.
It was a water start, along side two US Coast Guard rescue craft, practicing their skills in thick, lumpy water. The Red Bull horn blew the paddle boarders into action. They road rolling waves on 11-12 foot boards, hit the shore running around two flags stuck in the sand, and turned to challenge the ocean. They were supposed to paddle back out, around a set of buoys, and back to shore. They were supposed to do this twice, then paddle around lands end, under the gate, and into St. Francis Yacht club. Not all of them made it past the ocean’s big fist.
Denmark’s Casper Steinfath, not only made it through, but ran away with first place and made it look pretty darn easy. Check out the video.
My wife and I get a lot of mileage out of our vacations. From pre-trip planning to the embrace of each city as we’d get to explore them, and then basking in the memories through photos and story telling after we’re home and back to business.
This year, as part of our pre-trip planning, we dove into WordPress Reader posts every morning, before going to work. We continued looking at Reader posts during the trip. We discovered things like the giant wooden sculptures outside Copenhagen, or how best to get to Chatres to visit their famous cathedral.
We booked all our rentals through AirBnB and enjoyed getting acquainted with each city through their photos, maps, descriptions, and tenant critiques. The units got smaller as we headed south. The Paris apartment was very small but what it lacked in size made up for in efficiency, proximity to services and the metro.
I’d say the world is a better place than it was 10 years ago though there is strife, in our own back yard. But we found plenty of heart, plenty of light. Now Anaïs Nin might disagree, since she did not like this image displayed in the Irving Penn exhibit in the Grand Palais, but I found the photo engaging, personal, and it was my favorite.
But how on earth did we get to Irving Penn? We stumbled upon him in Paris, the same way we found ourselves in Chartres, laughed with Chinese tourists in Amsterdam, and got a museum recommendation from an Iranian in Copenhagen. Our guides were out there and we kept running into them.
Even in Paris, where it’s big and fast, guides would materialize with a regularity that we started to expect. Paris was the only destination where we saw signs of terrorism. Not terrorists, per se, but the vestiges of anti-terror. Police patrol in groups of four, machine guns at the ready and no-nonsense looks.
The Eiffel Tower was completely fenced off. If you didn’t have a ticket and cleared security, you didn’t get in. At train stations, large parks, and Notre Dame we saw baret-clad police patrolling the grounds. In Chartres and other prime terrorist targets there were large stone slabs around the perimeter to prevent cars and trucks from getting too close.
I just love train stations like Amsterdam, Antwerp, Montparnasse and Gare de Lyon. The symmetry and size of the old stations is worth a coffee and a few photos. The vanishing lines, the repetition of simple themes to adorn large structures that house the likes of all electric trains that can travel 170 k/h. They leave the station, rolling smooth, gaining speed as the city shrinks from view, and accelerating to love-on-a-fast-train speed through the countryside.
I wasn’t prepared for Copenhagen, but I say that in a good way. I’d done research to find attractions like Tivolie Gardens, Nyhavn, and Paper Island for food choices galore. We walked through Nyhavn and it was a vibrating place with boats and outdoor cafes.
The day after we arrived we decided to let our senses guide us and what guides they were. We found photo ops everywhere, a metro system that connected us with lots of exploration, and a city that has made bike riding an art form. There may be more bikes in Amsterdam, but there are more bikes on the road in Copenhagen, and the bicyclists move along as a well-oiled machine.
I had issues with Musee D’Orsay. People with smart phones and cameras were getting selfies in front of Monet, Renoir, and Manet. But it’s still a feast for the senses with all those impressionist paintings in one place. I had an awakening there a few years back, when I started to cry and couldn’t stop. It started as I approached the Renior painting of Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette.
I started to get emotional, like the work meant more than paint on canvas or a name on the painting. I’d seen it in books during college, and never thought I’d see it in person. When I walked around the corner there was an enormous painting of a woman on the hill with a white flowing dress and parasol. It overwhelmed me, in a way that I could not then, and can’t quite now, explain. I’ve recounted the story of seeing this painting many times. When I entered the room this year, I found the painting smaller than I’d remembered and there were two, like it had been a study of the same woman in the same dress on the same hill and then I thought that there’s probably more to the story. BUT, this year, after looking over paintings, I was shocked to find that they were not Renoir paintings, but Monet. MONET.
We spent three weeks on this trip. A good amount of time to be gone without breaking the bank, or overdoing my capacity to play from late morning until ten or eleven at night. We walked between three and seven miles a day. We’d keep my injured knee happy with a stop for a coffee or a perusal in a charming shop; there were plenty of both.
In the countries we visited, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France we felt a sense of unity; like we belonged to each in our own way. In each country I was mistaken for a local. And it was fun to fit in. But as with all our vacations, it came to a close, and we came home to jet lag, stacks of email, and colds. Tune in as I traverse those steps again, with photo and motion pictures. Let me make my vacation last a bit longer and perhaps give you a short one in your office or home.
My wife and I are fond of Tunnels. The last time we were here our 28 year old son, Matthew, was two. We remember him padding along the water’s edge with fins on his hands, a snorkel and mask on his face. He was blonde, tan, and ever so cute. He’s still cute. He’s still tan but the blonde is gone. If he was here, he’d be surfing Tunnels.
Yesterday we parked at Haena park and walked to Tunnels. We had two sessions and found sea turtles as the sun sank low in the sky. The water was an aqua marine color we hadn’t seen all week. Maybe due to the onslaught of trade winds that’s had the ocean choppy and rugged since the day we landed.
With just a few days left, we have more to pack in, including a hike out the Napali Coast, and another paddle boarding session at Hanalei. Check out the two minute video if your gills are dry.
There are roosters in Kauai. If you’ve been here since Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992, then you may know that it blasted the island with 170 mile per hour winds and did some $1.8 Billion in damage. I heard a stat yesterday from a Taro Farming Tour that the wind meter, mounted on the mountains above Hanalei Valley, broke off when the wind registered 200 mph.
Most locals agree that wild chickens proliferated after Iniki destroyed chicken coops, releasing domesticated hens, as well as roosters being bred for cockfighting.
The Roosters are bright and colorful. Startling in their beauty with iridescent feathers. They strut around town with the contenance of a king. They seem to sleep from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. Other than those hours they are active with their loud cock-a-doodle-do. Some of them sound like rooster imitations; like me imitating a rooster.
While the NeNe is the state bird, the Rooser is clearly the most widely recognized. During a visit to Lydgate Beach Park we saw a new family of chickens. The chicks were fresh from the egg, tiny, and following mom in a nice neat line.
The birds have total range of the island. Restaurants, shops, parking lots. Check out the short video of Roosters on the prowl.
Donna and I celebrated on the eve of our 30th. We paddled around Hanalei Bay on the north shore of Kauai. We rented 10-6 Laird Hamilton SUPS. They are big and heavy, but I caught my share of waves at the reef and Donna paddled to the end of the Hanalei River. I took a little break, ate a cookie, then paddled up the river to find her. That’s what I do. Find Donna.
There were fish, turtles, herons, egrets, flowers, rain, and DONNA. I found her just below the bridge. We paddled back in the rain to another stunning sunset. Even caught a few outrigger canoe teams working their stuff. Check out the scene with this 1 minute video.
It’s summer and the living is easy. At least it got that way once I got all my video production jobs out the door. The past few days have had plenty of shapely, little waves to wipe away the woes of work. Not that I mind the work, but this year, for whatever reason, it got a bit overwhelming. Now it’s time to play a bit, and, of course, continue to write.
In the mean time, check out the little surf, set to some street beats, and filtered with a bit of cartoonish fun.
My son, Matthew, and I surfed into sunset on summer solstice. We used to do this every year, but I wasn’t surfing last year, or the seven preceding years for that matter. But then I got into SUP. Then SUP surfing. So Matthew and I planned an outing for Tuesday evening, not realizing that the actual solstice was Monday, but hey, we were close.
We got in the water about 7:30, and got out just before 9. The sun had set, and we had wide grins. My wife, Donna, was there to greet her lads. Matthew, by the way, had never surfed a SUP, but he’s a fitness trainer at Empowered Fitness, has great balance, used to surf a long board with grace and agility, and boy did he take to SUP Surfing like a duck to water. Check it out.