Loften Island Beyond Norway
Thursday, 21 October 2010 00:44
Photos Courtesy Margareta Engstrom/ Starboard
It’s funny how one little picture, seen more than a decade ago, had me
crossing the Arctic Circle in search of a remote wave. Surely there are
warmer options. However, such was the case on a recent trip to Lofoten
Island in the far north of Norway, which is to say far, far north.
That one image of a reeling left-hander was etched into my memory. I
knew nothing more about the place, though, and flying into Oslo didn’t
hint at what was ahead. Nice city, Oslo, if you don’t mind absolutely lunatic
prices for alcohol. I probably should have carried a board with me, because
exploring its waterways and outlying islands would have been pleasant,
I’m sure. But I didn’t, hence the hefty bar tab.
Things became a bit clearer as we flew further north toward Bodo
Airport. From the air, the ground was looking very white. As we walked
out of the heated airport into a stinging cold rain, photographer Margareta
Engstrom and I exchanged mutually shell-shocked glances. What in the
blazes were we doing?
A four-hour cruise on the good ship Hurtigruten was next, and we
finally pulled into Lofoten’s Stamsund Harbor. Even dressed in gray, the
place was stunning: snow-capped mountains morphed into majestic cliffs
plunging into the sea every which way we looked. Meeting us at the port
was our host, Kjell Vaskell, Lofoten resident and surely the last Viking.
Within minutes we were in his comfortable home.
Back in Oslo I got a funny feeling when a mate, Fritjof Opsal, insisted
that the wave of my dreams really isn’t sailable, due to the sea cliffs. I hoped
he was wrong, of course, and when local surfer Ola was more sanguine and
offered to escort us to Unsted, Lofoten’s premier surf location, I was sure I
I wasn't. The surf was a ramshackle, unremarkable head-high,
definitely not my picture. The cliffs indeed prevailed, and the wind
would have a tough time getting in there. Advantage Fritchof.
I went out anyway to see what 7 mm rubber feels like and to
shake the travel with a bit of a paddle. Due to the Gulf Stream,
winter temperatures in Lofoten are very mild, given their Arctic
Circle location. It’s bloody cold, but it could be worse. And it is
when you fall on your face. Avoid it if you can.
With ten days to go, I wasn’t real worried about my wave. We
were on an island deemed one of the world’s “three most beautiful”
by National Geographic, with everything in sight a source of
amazement. It would happen.
OK, our ten days: Every morning we got up hoping to see the sun
shine, but mostly it didn’t. We never witnessed daybreak, per se,
even if we rose at 4 a.m., because it arrived hours earlier. In fact,
from May 25 to July 17, the sun never sets. (From December 9 to
January 4, it never rises.) Every time wind or surf was forecast,
we checked out Unsted for a surf or sail, but it just didn’t happen.
Further up the coast seemed promising. The wind was almost
there on occasion, but that might have been wishful thinking. There
were some waves, but few and small. Driving along, however, we’d
see a stretch of water so appealing that we just had to go for a
flat-water cruise. We’d head down fjords, the wind accelerating
through a mountain pass. Or for a paddle in a protected spot where
the water was sheet glass. Gliding silently over reflected images of
the exquisite landscape was profoundly moving. There were just
so, so many waterways and expanses of water with islands or rivers
perfect for sailing or paddling. Sunny or bleak, it didn’t matter.
Even bitterly cold, this is a place that makes you want to go out
and experience what you can, who you are.
One thing that was pretty cool was to be dropped off at
a certain point and go for a downwind coastal cruise. It’s
super pleasant, a part of windsurfing that I’d pretty much
Snow on the beach, me launching into ridiculously clear
tropical green water mirroring snow-capped mountains: it was a
whole different reality. In fact, it’s like everything is just a little
out of whack with the rest of the world up there. That includes
its inhabitants, self-admitted and ascribed to the climate by
Kjell. It takes a certain hardy type of character to survive out in
After varying shades of gray for about a week, the sun finally
broke free for our last few days. Now the place was even more
beautiful. It sound cheesy saying this over and over, I know, but
the fact is that many times I uttered “bullshit,” purely from what I
was looking at. Unfortunately, the swell never materialized. Like
many a Viking tale, the Unsted left remains somewhat of a myth.
To travel so far and get skunked for waves normally would
devastate me. However, I came away from this trip totally fulfilled
by doing things I’ve never really done, or haven’t done for a long
time, in locations that were a privilege to behold.
Thank you, Lofoten.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 October 2010 01:48
Japan Land of The Rising Sun
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 00:42
Vienna, Austria: 1989
I am cruising around my school in Vienna’s 1st precinct, where the Vienna Opera House, St.
Stephen’s Cathedral and other historic buildings and monuments are located. It is Spring and the
city is full of people reveling in the end of a cold and gray winter.
A bus stops and a huge group of Japanese tourists flows onto the sidewalk. A Japanese guide in
a colorful hat leads the group toward the inner city. In fact, everyone in the group wears the same
colorful hat, and the lady herds them like sheep. I wonder why the tourists don’t just roam around
and explore the city on their own.
Tokyo, Japan: 2009
I’ve always wanted to go to Japan. Now that I’m here, I have no clue where
I really am, where I am going, or what any of the road signs actually mean.
I cannot order food without help. I understand the Japanese tourists in my
homeland 20 years ago.
Fortunately, I do not need a hat. As planned, my good friend Maro-san
comes to the rescue, and he proves to be a worthy guide for me and my
photographer wife Julia. I have no need to fret. My only job is to enjoy the
ride, and I do.
Our first stop is the seashore north of Tokyo. Famous for its role in Japanese
surfing culture, Chiba is an endless stretch of beaches peppered with tiny
houses and shops. During winter months, offshore winds create beautiful
beach breaks. In summertime, typhoon storms feed the surf. Regardless of
conditions, people in Chiba live to surf. I love that part of this culture. When
Japanese are into something, they are into it heart and soul.
We have some good sessions at various spots in the Chiba area. Surfers
at most beaches offer no negative vibe at all, possibly because we observe
universal protocol by keeping out of their way, paddling to places far from
the pack. The best part turns out to be meeting Narita-san from Hokkaido,
partially paralyzed but loving the ocean nonetheless. We take him out on a
standup board and he catches waves lying down. Awesome.
After a night in Tokyo, we head for legendary Mount Fuji and Lake
Motosuko, known for its mirror image of Fuji on clear mornings. Drab
weather gives us only a brief blink of the mountain, but we make the most of
the day, grabbing our boards and cruising on glass. The low clouds and thin
rain deliver a silence and tranquility that seem rare in today’s world.
We barbeque on the beach and spend the night in one of the little cabins
that dot the lakeshore. Awakening early, we savor one more standup session,
including some fishing off our boards. Then we’re off for Tokyo again,
taking the scenic route along the Shonan coast with its Kamakura and Shuzi
beaches. To a certain extent, the culture of this area resembles what we found
in Chiba. Surfing, windsurfing and standup paddling are all very popular,
and the beaches are easily accessible by car or train from southern Tokyo.
Regrettably, a brisk onshore wind denies our chances to ride the sizable
Ah, Japan. Land of contrasts. Into the heart of the city we go. Julia had
been looking forward to it the whole time — the lights, the action, the famous
high fashion districts of Shibuya and Harajuku. Unloading our gear at the
hotel, we head out with Tokyo-born and raised Maro-san, who glides easily
through the busy streets. We are less agile, and again I think of the guide
in her colorful hat. Leaving the main drag, we weave through side streets
framed with little restaurants and end up having dinner at a kushiyaki eatery
with absolutely exquisite beef served in a variety of Japanese styles. The
notorious fugu (blowfish) is also on the menu, but we take a pass. One wrong
cut while cleaning this delicacy releases poisons that can do some major harm.
I’m sure it was alright, but…
The bed in our hotel room on the 18th floor feels marvelous after our trip
and the excitement of downtown. I am sleeping soundly when Julia wakes
me up in the middle of the night, asking what’s going on. It takes me a minute
to figure it out. The whole building is shaking. I hear creaking sounds and open the curtains and can see that we are actually swaying. We open our door, expecting to find everybody running out of their rooms, but the hallway is empty. The hotel rumbless and groans for a while longer, then the movement slows and everything returns to normal. I peer through the window again
to check for signs of alarm, people running around or anything out of the ordinary, but still there is nothing. Everyone seems to be used to this — a 6.6 magnitude earthquake, as we learn the next morning.
Julia finally achieves nirvana in the fashion district, where all the top international labels vie for our time and yen. What really draws our attention are the styles in the Harajuku district, where young people dress confidently in outfits beyond the imagination of a shorts- and t-shirt-wearing Maui resident.
On our way to the airport I experience another flashback thinking about us taking so, so many pictures of everything we saw, to keep our impressions permanent and to be able to share them… exactly like the Japanese tourists in Vienna.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 01:25
Friday, 15 October 2010 02:38
The Black Canyon, just below the Hoover Dam and “Lake” Mead”, is a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of life. Not far from the historic town of Boulder City, Neveda, which is about 33 miles from Las Vegas, we started at Willow Beach and made our way upstream. With Dan Gavere behind the camera, the two of us (and my dog, Nui) paddled and explored the quiet meandering section of the Colorado River, a nice break during some of the long drives between stops of my SUP Fitness Boot Camps this summer. In the canyon you’ll find beautiful scenery, big horn sheep, hot springs, and side canyons which one could easily take several days to explore. The air temperature is brutally hot in the summers, but it’s nothing a quick dip in the cold water can’t fix!
NRG Lifestyle Fitness Training Boot Camps
By Dan Guvere
Nikki Gregg, owner of NRG Lifestyle Fitness Training, based on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii has developed the world’s first traveling SUP fitness boot camps to promote her meaning in life: helping people look and feel better while having fun. “There’s nothing worse than a boring workout”, she explains. “It’s really that simple. Committing to a healthy lifestyle with proper eating habits and exercise doesn’t need to be complicated and dreadful. Nobody should feel miserable while they are getting into shape and
losing weight.” From the shores of Hawaii to the lakes in Utah, Nikki has taken her program on the road to help people all over the country and soon around the globe. Not only are people seeing the physical benefits of her boot camps, but for many the combination of working out in the outdoors, having fun, and learning a new sport is a life-changing experience.
Nikki started stand up paddling nearly 2 years ago and quickly realized for herself the benefits of the sport which had a profound effect on her own body and mind. From surfing the waves in the ocean, to paddling through beautiful canyons, to even running whitewater while standing up on her paddle board, “Stand-up paddling has done far more at improving my physique than any gym work I’ve done. Plus, it happens to be fun.” She explains, “Naturally I began incorporating SUP into my workout programs with success.” Nikki began introducing her clients to stand-up paddling as a way to keep her outdoor fitness training interesting and fun. Her clients loved it and instantly saw the results. These results were not just physical, they also felt a transformation of the mind as well . Spending quality time exercising outdoors and on the water has been a great way for her clients to way to wash away the everyday stresses that life can bring and ultimately made her clients feel incredible.
Nikki’s professional stand up paddle technique instruction combined with years of experience as a fitness trainer and SUP knowledge gives her program a unique edge to help and expose people around the country to the life changing opportunities that her programs offer.
Last Updated on Friday, 15 October 2010 09:26
Monday, 07 June 2010 01:29
Nestled along the panhandle of Florida, the small community known as the Beaches of South Walton offers a veritable playground for
paddlers of all skill levels. There’s the obvious choice of a visit to the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where visibility is generally
so good that paddlers can clearly see a variety of sea creatures, from dolphins and sea turtles to stingrays. On an especially lucky day, paddlers may spot the
occasional Gulf visitor: the manatee. The Beaches of South Walton consists of a string of approximately 12 small beach towns linked together by the two-lane
Scenic Highway 30A. Each boasts its own personality and architecture style. Public beach accesses are scattered throughout the area, and many have
lifeguards during the peak season.
What really differentiates the Beaches of South Walton from other paddling destinations is the presence of coastal dune lakes. Coastal dune lakes are extremely rare;
the only other known locations in the world are in Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar. Remarkably, the Beaches of South Walton is home to 15 of these
coastal dune lakes—the highest concentration in the world. The coastal dune lakes of the area differ from other lakes and lagoons due to their intermittent
(photos: Jake Meyer)
connection to the Gulf of Mexico. Other popular paddling locales in the area include the Choctawhatchee Bay and Choctawhatchee River, along with Morrison and Vortex Springs,
all located north of the beaches. A cypress swamp and a thickly wooded floodplain surround these freshwater springs, and the crystal clear waters
make the springs a popular diving spot. —Madra McDonald
On most days, visibility is so good that paddlers can clearly view a
variety of sea creatures.
KIngs Beach, North Lake Tahoe
Friday, 04 June 2010 00:57
Kings Beach, the recent site of the Ta-hoe Nalu Stand-up Paddle Classic, is a favorite local spot. Set against a vibrant blend of colors, flavors, and textures, it’s the epitome of a laid-back Sierra Nevada mountain/beach town. Located on the north side of Lake Tahoe in Northern California, it’s also affectionately known as the north shore’s banana belt because of its extended sun exposure. The beautifully long and wide white sandy beach is also a fabulous place to launch your stand-up paddle board. And if SUP isn’t the only thing on the agenda, check out the assortment of activities like kayaking, jet ski, water bike, paddle boat, and parasailing that make this a popular family getaway.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine freshwater lake, measuring 22 miles long by 12 miles wide, and boasts 72 miles of sprawling shoreline for your paddling pleasure. Standing at 6,225 feet in elevation, summer temperatures range from a comfortable 72-85 degrees. Looking to rent a board, take a lesson or pick up some SUP gear? Tahoe Paddle & Oar is located right across the street. Just ask for Phil and he will take care of all your stand-up paddle needs.
LOCAL QUICK TIP
Tahoe Paddle & Oar
8299 North Lake Blvd.
Kings Beach, CA
Last Updated on Friday, 04 June 2010 01:37
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