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Five Least Likely Surf Spots to Consider

If you are any kind of surfer, you understand that crowds have been and still are an increasing factor in your wave search. Some have quit surfing all together (NEVER!) while others play hookie in hopes to score two-foot mini-drainers. Those “sick days” no longer apply as more kiddos are now home-schooled and groomed to be the next Slater or Reynolds. Midday lunch session escape? Nah–you’re surfing with your boss and the marketing team on their Wavestorms and funboards at Creek, if you are so lucky.

“Hey, can you teach me how to surf?! I just got this 9-foot board and I don’t know how to duck dive it.” *bangs head against desk repeatedly*

Good luck, buddy ole pal!

Within the last decade, surfers have really pushed the limits to reach out to the corners of an otherwise round globe in search of their perfect ride with minimal crowds. If it has a body of water and some form of wind, there is wave potential, right? After my experience with the latest wavepark craze in Texas and coming out the other side mostly healthy, (albeit slightly worried–see ‘amoeba’ and ‘BSR Cable Park’),  I recognize that not everyone needs Trestles to feel satiated…well, except for me and 50 of my best friends on a Saturday morning.

I want to believe and know for a FACT there is a secret adventurer in all of us aqua wanderlusts…someone who’s been cooped up since the Endless Summer days and so desperately needs to get out of the park-pay-surf routine. If you’ve got the bengies, balls and/or brains, below is a list of options you might consider when scanning the discount travel interwebs.

Now, I wonder if Germany charges for board bags…Is your surfing mission to solely avoid all people and/or crowds? While I might recommend an easier remote Baja trip, this blog is not about the typical and the easy, but more focused on the “WTF mate?!” reaction. If you’re hell-bent on being completely antisocial with a frigid ‘tude to boot, the approximately 11,000 miles of Antarctica’s icy coastline is your best…friend? Crowds will not be a problem here. If it ever becomes one, I quit. Even with my crappy screen shot here, you can see major point break potential. Chilean pro surfer Ramon Navarro was the first pro to brave the freezing waters of King George Island in 2014. If you’ve got the grapes (assuming you don’t mind frozen ones), I challenge you to surf the sub-zero temperature ranges while I venture to warmer parts unknown comparatively.

Not exactly balmy. Great Lakes for the win! Photo: secondwavemedia.com

Not exactly balmy. Great Lakes for the win! Photo: secondwavemedia.com

The Great Lakes are nothing to sneeze at–they hold 6 quadrillion gallons of water and are considered one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. First: have you ever even heard of anyone using ‘quadrillion’ outside of space travel? I haven’t. The lakes also offer more than 10,000 miles of shoreline, which, according to magicseaweed.com, is more than the U.S. West and East coast combined! Because of the Great Lake’s size, the fetch produces large, surfable waves–with the right conditions. Often requiring lots of neoprene and vasoline (protect that mug!) as well as patience and an interest in surfing in the snow, the Great Lakes can have good waves, but do you have the balls? Someone did and I wonder where he got them–The first Great Lakes surfer was a G.I. with a longboard, who was returning from Hawaii in 1945. According to the same site, the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and northeastern shore of Lake Erie saw more surfers combing their shores throughout the 60’s and it now exists today–remember that part in Dana Brown’s “Step into Liquid” movie back in 2003??

See also:

Vans’ “Weird Waves Season 1

Surf Shop’s “Unsalted: A Great Lakes Experience

Red Bull’s “Surfing in the Great Lakes“In the most landlocked of European countries, it turns out surfing is a thing in Munich, Germany–namely ‘River Surfing.’ The mile-long man-made Esibach (aka: “Ice brook”) river is a side arm of the Isar River. Although at this point crowds MAY be a factor since pros like Mick Fanning have given it a go, the wave is not exactly ‘friendly.’  Also known as “E1,” the wave was specifically created to be ridden by experts. Folks literally sit in line and take turns (imagine that!) for waves, so dropping in on someone is completely unacceptable. Not gonna lie: I would absolutely LOVE to hear an errant tourist get bitched out by a German local.

Germans mean business about not just beer. Photo: Riverbreak.com

Germans mean business about not just beer. Photo: Riverbreak.com

According to this website, the concrete baffles that support the wave’s flow can break your neck and the fast-moving current combined with a rocky riverbed will gladly take out your board that probably you paid a hefty travel fee. Is there ding repair in Germany? The wave and the crowd may be tough, but getting to the lineup isn’t: Throw your board in front of you and use the river’s momentum. But, beginners be warned: according to the site, if you’re a beginner, “just forget it.” However, there is a spot named “E2” that is supposedly more approps–not sure how the Germans view the Wavestorm crowd or how they define “beginner” while they nonchalantly slug “Das Boots.”

Clarks Fork River–Missoula, Montana

My longtime friend Sean Jansen wasn’t planning on moving to Montana, or planning anything that does not involve being outside and in nature. The San Clemente local-turned Montana resident is no stranger to thinking outside the box or shall we say, wave? With the nearest wave being over 2,000 miles away, Jansen has taken up river surfing in the icy waters of Clarks Fork River. Just as in any kind of wave, there is a science and adventure to river surfing and Jansen is no stranger to either. See his river surf explanation below:

Brennan's Wave in the Clark Fork River, Montana. Photo: Sean Jansen

Brennan’s Wave in the Clark Fork River, Montana.
Photo: Sean Jansen

The same winter storms that hit Washington, Oregon, and California keep marching inland after they hit. Once in Montana, those storms land as snow, coupled with storms from Canada. Once spring hits and temperatures rise above freezing, snowmelt happens and floods the river, hence the brown water. And river surfing is born.

Brennan’s Wave is the name of the wave and it is an artificial wave created by concrete submerged.

Silver Dragon–Qiantang River, China

I hate to disappoint, but this is NOT Game of Thrones…or were you already disappointed by that anyway? :) However, maybe I will take my cool braided locks and my future …Lost board, which will have Drogo painted on it, to China to surf the elusive and rare Silver Dragon -Qiantang River Tidal Bore. A tidal bore happens during specific conditions–the spring or fall tide and full moons. There’s even a festival dedicated to this occurrence known as “The Tide-Watching Festival” held on the 18th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar. The festival brings 170,000 people and has been celebrated for hundreds of years. The break is named the Silver Dragon because it is first seen from a distance as a stroke of silver on the horizon along the Qiantang River located in East China. The river and Hangzhou Bay are known for the world’s largest tide bore. As you can see here, the wave is really nothing to snub. It’s got some juice.

Reminds me of a certain man-made wave in kicker country. Photo: npr.com

Reminds me of a certain man-made wave in kicker country. Photo: npr.com

 

The Top Three Eco-Friendly Wetsuits

Winter is coming…

No really, winter IS coming and so are the chilly waters of the North Pacific.

It’s that time of year when the wind kicks up to offshore mornings and onshore afternoons and west/northwest swells cool down the water, much to the tourists dismay. A time where kelp forests become bushier and the fish escape to warmer waters–it’s wetsuit season!

Yay??

All things in this picture are necessary in Humboldt, Calif.

Among the plethora of brands, almost all of them come with a signature flex, feel and performance level. But what some might consider, as of late, is the touted term “eco-friendly.”

I originally wanted to find seven companies, but had to whittle it down to five that I thought used eco-friendly materials. BUT- based on my searching and many inquiries, I could only find three wetsuit companies who’s materials are eco-friendly.

Ironically, many of the products we use as surfers are, in fact, NOT good for the environment and yet, we have been cached into a ‘hippy-esque’ category. Everything from our sunscreen, to our surfboards and even our wetsuits somewhere down the processing line has a negative effect on our environment…until the last five years.

Eco-friendly is the new black and many marketing and branding campaigns have fallen into step with this attractive trend. There’s a lot to be said about this most hashtagged term when it comes to our marine environment and personal health.

But what does that mean when it comes to wetsuits?

To sum it up, wetsuit materials are most commonly comprised of closed cell neoprene, which basically translates to foam rubber. Their materials and processing tends to have an impact on the environment, and, thankfully, more surf and dive companies have been incorporating more environmentally-friendly processing and products into their suits.

Below are my top three wetsuits, which I based on overall production/processing and materials, wallet-friendly price and surfable functionality.

 

Patagonia

Patagonia's Yulex wetsuit

Patagonia’s Yulex wetsuit

Based In: Ventura, California

Mission: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

Price Range: $129-$500

About: What started as a small company that made climbing tools is now one of the household names for environmentally-minded products for a wide range of outdoor activities like climbing, surfing, snowboarding, fly fishing and trail running. Patagonia’s goal, as a whole, is to reduce if not eliminate, pollution as a by-product of their business. They have successfully created a wetsuit by replacing non-renewable neoprene with a plant-based polymer, Yulex, a natural rubber from heva trees, which reduces CO2 emissions by 80 percent.

 

Picture

Photo Courtesy: Picture Organic Clothing

Photo Courtesy: Picture Organic Clothing

Based In:  France

Mission: Organic, recycled and bio-sourced products since 2009. The best possible environmentally-friendly and unique product designs that stand out for fresh colors and valued for good quality.

Price Range: $48.93-$352.88
*I did the math & converted euros to dollars–does not include shipping*

About: Their entire brand is dedicated to second-life and end-of-life products, which ranges from clothing, snowboard and skateboard gear and now, wetsuits and surf gear. It all started with their first recycled polyester boardshorts collection, which was derived from their snowboard outerwear and grew into European & international distribution, which includes the United States. Worried about carbon footprints? There’s an app for that, of course. Picture also has a carbon footprint calculator that allows you to trace your own impact when you buy their products.

There are currently no shops in the U.S. that offer this wetsuit brand right now. So, if you are interested in purchasing a suit, you might have to google around. In 2018 Picture’s clothing will be available in Confluence Kayak in Denver and Moose Joe and Paragon Sports in New York.

Everything is priced in Euros and don’t panic when you see a comma for pricing…it typically means a decimal. :)

Here’s a site that sells Picture Organic Clothing.

 

Vissla

ECOSEAS-DETAIL-3

Photo Courtesy: Vissla

Based In: Aliso Viejo, California

Mission: Advanced environmentally conscious materials designed and constructed for colder water.

Price Range: $99.95-$595.95

Just so you know: Vissla only offers wetsuits for men, for now. For ladies, their sister company, Amuse Society, features women’s suits and beach clothing, but the suits are not considered ‘environmentally-friendly,’ yet.

About: Vissla is a forward-thinking company who bases their designs and concepts around creative freedom–“a surf-everything, ride-anything mentality.” In terms of wetsuit-ery, they offer four different lines: 7 Seas, North Seas, Eco Seas and Premium Japanese. The Eco Seas wetsuit rubber is harvested from the rubber tree as opposed to neoprene and instead of solvent-based glues, Vissla uses a water-based glue that is completely solvent-free. Recycled plastic bottles serve as their interior and exterior jerseys–each wetsuits uses 45 recycled bottles.