Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ISOLATION IN PARADISE - A journey to the Marshall Islands

I wrote this story on a journey back to reality over a year ago. I never shared it and it seemed a waste, so thought it apt to post here. More importantly Simon is one of the most talented artists I know, his photos are incredible and this is a small sample of his work. You can see more of his work at:
www.simoncrowther.com
www.facebook.com/sicsurf
Twitter @Si_Crowther
Instagram Si_Crowther



The Journey Begins
I am jolted awake, startled, as I get thrown onto the wooden side of my bunk. I’m confused, sweating, but mostly petrified. The violent rocking and presence of the bunk bed reminds me I’m on a boat, the engines are loud but I can still hear my breath over them.
“Tanya, are you ok?” I hear Alex call from the bunk above, as I question what the hell is going on and what’s wrong with the boat? He reassures me that this is completely normal, we’ve gone through the pass now and are in open water.

Deep down I’m freaking out because the motion of the boat is so violent I conclude it can’t be safe, but I man up and put on a brave face. For the next 3 hours I am restless, drifting in and out of sleep and partially drugged by the dramamine (motion sickness tablets) I took a few hours earlier. Repetitive jolting and jarring as the boat pitches and yaws makes real sleep impossible, but over time the fear begins to subside and I start to relax.
I get up clutching onto everything around me for stability; I open the cabin door as a wave washes over the side practically drenching me. I gaze horrified outside as the realisation sinks in to where we actually are. There is darkness everywhere, and a rolling swell that pitches well above the side of the boat, if you go overboard now you have little hope of being found alive. We are smack bang in the middle of the Ocean, just west of the date line and north of the equator. Hawai’i is the nearest civilization (that was a 5.5 hour flight when we left Majuro) and for the next 15 hours we continue into the Pacific without coming across any land.


By the time we arrived at the chosen Atoll of the Marshall Islands, we had been travelling for just over 2 days, but as I walked out of the galley I instantly knew that every second had been worth it. I am overwhelmed by the shear beauty of the islands we are passing, uninhabited, and completely untouched. I finally understood the meaning of crystal clear water as I looked over the side of the boat and could see the definition of the coral and fish down below as though there were no water between us. The reefs around each island we were passing generated waves everywhere, and the sand glistened pink in the midday sun. We were completely isolated in paradise.


I had wanted to go on a boat trip for a few years now, but everywhere I researched they were primarily surfing orientated and never any mention of windsurfers. And then in August 2011 whilst sat in Baja, Keith and Alex start talking about this boat trip to a mystery location I had never heard of before. Not surprising really, since the Marshall Islands is the 8th smallest country in the world with a population of 60,000 made up of hundreds of islands, most of which are uninhabited. They didn’t need to say much more, I had instantly made up my mind that this would be the next big adventure.


Home for 2 weeks
We were living on a 1970’s cargo boat called the Indies Trader 1 which has been owned by Martin Daly and used as one of his surf charters for some years. It has done the Quicksilver Crossing expeditions, the Search, and Young Guns trips, and recently been relocated to the Marshalls from the Mentawi’s. Martin has taken this boat round the world many times, she has so much character, so much history, and I grew to love her.
Martin himself is full of jaw dropping stories having spent so much of his life on the Ocean and exploring. Thanks Martin for sharing hours of your mesmerising tales that had me captivated!


We’d wake up in the morning and wonder into the galley. Chef Andy would serve breakfast and before you’ve had time to get a 2nd coffee Martin is on deck directing us to get ready. On the odd day where conditions were best very early then we’d get woken up at day break. Whilst few people have been here, Martin has spent enough time in this remote part of the Pacific to know which breaks to go to depending on swell direction, tide state, and so on. For the first few days I was mesmerized with how many different waves we would get taken to, and they all had the same things in common: They are perfect and there is no one else there! You might think that after 2 weeks the repetitiveness of activity with only the same few friends might get boring, but it doesn’t. You are just left wanting more and more.


Windsurfing
You can wavesail, and cruise around freeriding across the endless flat water in the lagoons surrounded by idilic scenery and super warm water (IF there’s wind).
In terms of wavesailing, I have never caught a more perfect right hand wave, fast, perfectly peeling, and powerful. It was a little daunting at the beginning, and surfing the wave first to learn how to read them definitely helped. But the sets come in like clockwork, and with no one else around, 1 session here is like 2 months worth back home. The wind is cross off making for perfect down the line conditions, but given the shallow sharp coral you want to remain on the ball to make sure you don’t get stuck on the inside. The favourite windsurfing spot has been named Maybe’s: Maybe you’ll make it, Maybe you won’t, so it’s all about picking the right wave for the longest ride, and certainly not hanging around else you won’t make the next section.
After you physically can’t hold onto the boom any longer you can flail back downwind to the boat, tie your kit off the back to save you having to re-rig if you get a 2nd wind. Once you clamber back on board you can just collapse in a heap after grabbing a bevvie from the cool box and reflect on yet another incredible session. One shared with friends, and one which will be etched in your memory forever.
This is not a location with guaranteed consistent wind. You might end up with 14 days back to back of 30 knots, or you might only get 2 days of 15 knots. We were aware of this upfront and decided that being in paradise with a few other toys couldn’t be so bad, even with the absence of wind.


Surfing
The surfing can cater to all levels but this depends on the size of the swell you get: If you are a beginner surfer and a decent size swell comes through then you probably won’t want to surf. The reason the waves are so incredible is because they all break on relatively shallow reefs, generating hollow, fast waves. When it’s small then this is completely manageable by beginners since there is always a shoulder to sit on. Over time you get used to the coral gazing up at you as you paddle in - it looks much shallower than it actually is because the water is so clear. And once you get dialed in this will be the best surfing you’ve ever had in your life. If you are more experienced then this is the place to learn how to get barreled; in fact across some sections, it’s the only way to make it. Even when there isn’t any ground swell you are still almost guaranteed to get something fun and shoulder high to play on. We surfed 2-3 times a day and were still left wanting more and more. Luckily for me, not being a great surfer, we had smaller more manageable swell.


Fishing
Whilst cruising to and from the various reefs, you fish; we caught endless Yellow Fin, Mahi, and Ono (Wahoo) which were our main source of food for the trip. I had never fished before but absolutely loved it and even learnt how to fillet my first catch. This type of fishing certainly isn’t for the fainthearted because these fish are big(!) so you feel like you are killing something quite significant compared to a little mackerel. If you don’t like eating fish then you will struggle surviving in the middle of the Pacific. Si didn’t really like fish before we went but amazingly he grew to really enjoy it! (Having said that, a big fat steak was the first thing he attacked after we stepped off the plane in Honolulu)


As if they above wasn’t enough we managed to find time to swim up to uninhabited islands, pick shells in the sand, BBQ on the beach and generally relax.

For 2 weeks we surfed, laughed, windsurfed, clambered up random islands, explored, fished and generally had the time of our lives. Completely disconnected from the rest of the planet with no phone signal or internet was a breath of fresh air, just each other for company, and a natural playground.

This is a trip for ocean lovers, but if you are looking for a pure windsurfing holiday, then this isn’t it. If you want to go on a journey to what feels like the end of the Earth, and share some amazing experiences with a select number of friends (did I mention perfect waves?) then consider Micronesia. Before I left the UK everyone was telling me that this sounded like the trip of a life time, and it was, but hopefully it is one which I will do more than once in my lifetime! If Martin will have me back that is.



Thank you to Martin, Mango, Andy, Andy and the rest of the crew.
Keith, Alex, Bernd, Si and Lena, I can never put into words just how much fun I had. Thanks :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November gets off to a Windy start too! Big Love to the South Wales Windsurfing Scene

What another amazing weekend! Admittedly Saturday was a little too much; windier than the supposed "storm" last week, and so I was left battling on the same size kit as my 90kg friends! But having had my leaving party the night before, a good dunking certainly sorted my head out.

Sunday was all time Rock Garden conditions. Unfortunately I made a massive error of rigging way too big; something i'm usually good at avoiding. And for anyone who has sailed here, by the time you clamber over all the rocks to get out, re-rigging isn't high on your agenda....aka, I was very lazy.
Luckily I managed to catch the lulls on a few waves and had an absolute blast! Still messing around with the go pro trying to figure out best angle, perhaps time to invest in a mast mount?
Check out the photo with the double rainbow!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Epic October in the UK

Usually it feels like it's windy during the week, and nothing at the weekend; stopping all working people from ever getting on the water. Even more of a challenge now that the evenings are getting darker and darker.
However, the last couple of weeks in the UK have been amazing.

Last Friday we got down to Cornwall to see amazing head high plus sets rolling in to Perran Sands. I had never been here before (which amazed me in itself), and I guess the dramatic cliff route down to water keeps a lot of people away.


Perran Sands

After a little paddle we were in the pub drinking cider by 8 surrounded with good friends.
We weren't aware of just how good the surf would be in the morning....so perhaps had one too many!

Saturday morning surf was even better! I have never surfed Polzeath so clean and fun; it didn't last more than a couple of hours until the tide and wind killed it, but that was enough to be stoked for the rest of the day. It is a well known fact that the quality of the conditions the next day are directly proportional to the amount of fun had the night before. Saturday night was a little raucous so we knew sunday would be epic! A little bleary eyed we headed to Gwithian, where the swell had dropped in size but the wind came through. Bearing in mind I sail port tack about twice a year I was fine with small waves whilst learning how to windsurf all over again!

This weekend we drove to South Wales, and I have been reminded of why the UK is such a fantastic place to live. This little guy cracked me right up en route to Horton:


We had an unexpectedly fun windsurf, cross on, small waves, and super warm! It's nearly november and it's still warm!

Sunday was the the beginning of the storm - the infamous storm on every news channel going.
My aim was to sail early before it all went a bit too crazy. I have never really seen Weston with waves, cross on port tack and tons of fun. I kind of learnt how to jump on port tack....finally, and the sun even came out.

Aside from missing the UK I also remembered how much I love my kit!! Quatro boards and Goya sails are the perfect combination for any aspiring wave sailor. My board turns seemlessly, my sails never feel too big, and even when I "should" be overpowered they just let the gusts out and I can keep on going. I haven't had anyone try my kit and not convert....yet. So if you see me at the beach next time, you're more than welcome to test it out :)



Monday, August 5, 2013

Baja Quatro Desert Showdown AWT 2013

I just got home from another amazing trip, this time to the AWT in Baja Mexico for the 2013 Desert Showdown Wave event. Going back to Baja almost feels like a second home to me now. It’s where I did most of my windsurfing when I was living in San Diego, so returning to the hospitality of Solo Sports is always pretty comforting.
It had been 2 years since I was last there for the 2011 AWT event and to be honest, having windsurfed twice since February, the reasons I wanted to go were to windsurf, but also to hang out with some awesome friends who I haven’t seen in a while. This competition is unlike any other, it has such a family vibe; everyone camps in close proximity so jokes are all shared, nothing is kept secret!
A few days before jumping on the plane the long range forecast showed a south swell of 3-4 foot at 18 seconds, in Baja this often materialises into logo to mast high walls of joy. I didn’t want to get too excited just in case it didn’t come through, but it did, and it was epic. We arrived just before the forecast hit, we were there as it started to pulse through with long gaps in between the sets, and we were there for the peak of the swell where every 10 minutes there came 4-7 wave sets of logo to mast high curling into the point.
I’m sure I must have written something similar to all of this 2 years ago, but it doesn’t get old, and I get equally as excited every single time I’m lucky enough to be back. Rolling out of the tent in the morning to face the Pacific as the sun rises, having breakfast whilst watching the glassy waves turn into texture as the wind picks up. Rigging up surrounded by some of the best windsurfers on the planet, and then being able to sail out and catch some amazing peeling beautiful waves, it doesn’t get old, I don’t think it ever will, and I will never take it for granted.

I’m not going to re-write a day by day account of the event, I already did this for boardseeker and you can find it within the following links:

http://www.boardseekermag.com/news/awt-baja-the-arrival/
http://www.boardseekermag.com/news/awt-logo-high-and-glassy/
http://www.boardseekermag.com/news/awt-day-three-goes-off/
http://www.boardseekermag.com/news/awt-the-final-showdown-camille-rules-the-desert/

Instead I just wanted to write how thankful I am to have such wonderful and fun people in my life. I also feel super lucky to be able to take part in the contest; being back with the AWT crew who all do this professionally (and full time) re-energised me. We all make choices in life, and whilst I made a choice not to windsurf full time I feel truly blessed to still be able to spend time and compete alongside those who do. They continue to inspire me and remind me why I love this sport. There is a healthy number of women now dedicating their lives to windsurfing and as a result the standard has massively gone up in the last 2-3 years. I got to meet Fiona Wylde, Sarah Delaunay, and Kate Barker during this trip for the first time, all of whom I loved getting to know and had a blast hanging out with. Miss Bittner, as usual, did an incredible job of pulling off another fantastic event AND found time to compete too! I finished 4th in the Womens, and also competed in the Mens Ams finishing equal 9th.

Photo Kevin Pritchard

On the water highlights for me were sailing heats at the point with only 2 or 3 other people, hearing the crowd cheering from the cliff, catching some decent sized waves and watching everyone else kill it.

Off the water laughs....there were too many to mention all of them, but Bittner re-conditioning her iPhone down the outhouse certainly ranks near the top. We even managed to laugh the whole way through the 4 hour border crossing thanks to Darin, Chris, and Pete - thanks for making the most mundane 3 miles highly entertaining.
Kevin Pritchard once again not only competed but managed to juggle taking still shots and also filming. I can’t wait to see the final official event video for 2013; Kevin’s videos are always so awesome. Until Kevin posts the video I'm just going to share again the video from the last AWT event I was at: http://vimeo.com/27459461


Andre and his family were in our thoughts the last 2 days as we heard the tragic news, and Sam rightly dedicated this event to him. His legacy will live on with everyone he spent time with during his precious years. He was taken far too soon but will forever be in our thoughts. Just like this photo from Jeri, your energy is infectious and inspires us all in your wake.....

Monday, January 14, 2013

WINDSURF KIT FOR SALE!!

Willing to consider offers because I need to shift it asap....I don't want this poor kit sat here being uneglected collecting dust for any longer! Please e mail me for more info or pics, or to make an offer tanyak297@yahoo.co.uk


2012 JP twinser quad 68 litre - ₤680
In amazing condition, abosultely no repairs or anything. This is a great board, sick for wave riding and really light for jumping

2012 Neil pryde Fly2 4.8 in pink/blue - £300
Used less than 10 times, no repairs or damage. The Fly 2's are a really versatile sail easy to use and they feel great.

2011 Neil pryde Fly2 4.2 and 3.6 in green - £240 & £220
Good condition, no repairs, great sails (as above)

Naish Aeromax mast 430cm 75% carbon - £40
This was only ever used a few times, it's a regular diameter at the bottom which tapers into a skinny at boom height. So you can use your old extentions but get the benefits of a skinny.








Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Marshall Islands

Back safely and in 1 piece! It really was such an amazing trip, there is too much to mention and I'm still a bit overwhelemed thinking about it. We crossed the Ocean and didn't see land for over 15 hours. We surfed endlessly for 2 weeks with only us and no one else around. The water was crystal clear, we fished, we swam, messed around, but most importantly we laughed. We laughed so much and non stop, so more than anything I'm honored to have spent the end of 2012 with such an awesome group of people in such an un-real place. The new kit was amazing, I used a Quatro LS 78 litre and even on the logo high sets I felt like the board had so much control and I could really trust it. Combined with a 4.7 Banzai and the whole set up was unreal!! Will definitely write more specifics in the next few weeks but in the meantime here's a few pics :) HAPPY 2013 to ALL

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The photo that didn't make the press release

Just because this made me laugh and wanted to share it: So when Henry and I went on a little mission to find a cool backdrop in Bristol it was hard not to head straight to Stokes Croft. Bristol is home to some of the most famous Urban Art on the planet. We explored a few different walls but as soon as I saw the Hawaiian flowers I knew it was the one. However, the Hawaiian graffitti was all over the back entrance to a rather unfortunate business enterprise! Take a look at the pic!
(also including some others of the graffitti)