“The waves are so hard to catch, like lassoing freight trains while trying not to get run over. Out of the thirty surfers that day most only caught a couple waves.”
There are three things that I know about myself:
1 – I love my family
2 – I love to surf
3 – I love to travel
My art is a mere side effect of these three loves.
Knowing what you love and what you want is everything. From this point of view, anything is reachable. You just have to push yourself over the edge and go.
An epic swell marched across the Pacific Ocean last week. From Hawaii to Mavericks and Southern California, surfers went into a flurry of activity.
Where to surf? For most surfers, surfing the local break on the best day of the year will do.
But for professional big wave riders, their careers are made on such swells, being at the right place at the right time and getting paid to risk their lives.
And for a few of us, dreams of giant waves inspires us to dust off our big guns and call friends to line up a good, old fashioned surf trip.
The Island of Todos Santos off Baja Mexico would be the best place to go.
Such trips are what fuel my art, out-of-the-way places and giant waves that only appear every few years.
This is where most people get stuck; even me.
I wanted to go, but I had things to do, a ton of reasons not to go. The clock was ticking and the waves were on the way, either I would be there to meet them or not.
The waves would be the biggest at Todos. Only the surfers who want it the most will be there. The surf spot is called Killers, a deep water cobalt blue boiling monster.
Todos Santos (Mexico) is a three hour drive from San Clemente. Once there, you have to hire a boat and it’s another hour to the island and Killers.
Just like anything else in life that you want really bad; there are roadblocks, difficult decisions and logistics to overcome and make it happen, not to mention money.
I knew there were surfers just like me doing the same mad rush to figure it all out, to be there on the magic day.
I made one phone call to my friend Gary Linden. Gary’s a master surfboard shaper and adventurer. He’s a 60-something year old surf stoked grom who loves to RIDE BIG WAVES. He answered the phone and said “we got a spot on the boat for you, get down here!”
I packed my gear, dusted off my 10’6” gun and kissed Maria and Dylan goodbye and drove South to the border in rush-hour traffic.
Once I crossed the Mexican border, the roads were empty, and the sky was black. I pulled into Gary’s place at San Miguel. There were figures around a fire, cooking in the darkness. A welcoming voice called to me “you made it, just in time for dinner.”
The next morning before dawn we began our voyage to Killers. The dock was cold and still with groups of fishermen huddled together, hoping to rent their boats out to traveling surfers. We were the first to arrive, and then other groups who had also made the journey showed up. All of them had to push through their own roadblocks and logistics to be there, too.
The sunrise over Baja was intense. Instantly, we felt the huge swells and Todos Santos began to grow on the horizon. White water slammed and exploded on its point. Slowly Killers came into view and dreams became reality.
The flotilla of boats took their places in the channel and surfers suited up for the ultimate challenge. With no one out it was hard to tell how big it was; just massive blue swells in an endless sea.
My friend Rusty Long was the first in the lineup and the first to catch a wave. It is amazing that a man can paddle a ten foot surfboard into such huge waves and actually ride it. With this first wave the session began.
Everyone knew that this was going to be a magical day.
As I paddled out I realized that I know or have met almost everyone there. We all share a similar love for surfing and the big waves seem to call to us.
As surfers, you have one of two reactions when it gets really big:
*Either you can’t wait to get out there because you’ve been waiting for these kinds of waves your whole life;
*Or: it strikes the fear of God in you and there is just no way in hell you would even consider going out.
There is no in between, you are one or the other.
Of course every surfer has his limit; it’s soulful to push yourself and inspiring to see others pushing even further. At forty years old I am stoked to still be pushing.
That day at Killers many great waves were surfed. It was pure glass all day with sunny skies. Time melted as the hours went by. I surfed from 8:30 to 4:30 nonstop, as did most of the other surfers.
I only caught 3 waves in those eight hours, but that was my goal. I was lucky to get that many. The biggest waves came late in the day and huge set came right to me, it would have been my forth wave, but my first love flashed in my mind (my wife and son) and I had to let it go and be content.
The waves are so hard to catch, like lassoing freight trains while trying not to get run over. Out of the thirty surfers that day most only caught a couple waves.
Really all you needed was one wave to be able to experience the ten seconds of taming a giant, and to feel the pure joy of achievement and bliss that you were there.
I watched as my friends charged over the edge of huge waves, knowing they were feeling this same joy. It made me feel good about myself that I was more like them. We push over the edge and we go.
The group of guys that were there, they are the rarest of surfers. The most soulful. They live for these moments and I’m proud to be amongst them.
In the end, I am just a guy from South Carolina who always dreamed of surfing big waves. Those dreams have taken me all over the world chasing them, meeting adventurous people and fueling my crazy art career.
I will just keep showing up and pushing myself over the edge, Just like I always have.
You should, too. It makes life worth living.
Life is good – Drew
PS: (Except for my sunrise photo above) Photos courtesy of Captain Lonnie Ryan, a photographer who pushes himself over the edge, too. Check out his website here: http://bajatiempos.com/
PPS: A great article written by my friend Jason Murray about that day can be found on ESPN here: Topping it off at Todos.
At the start of every new year, me, Maria and Dylan sit down in the living room and reflect upon the year that just passed. We write down our highlights and then we plan out what we each want to accomplish in the new year.
Below are my highlights of 2011:
THE START OF 2011 – we were nervous & worried about the future and the economy. But we decided to make The Paint Shop TV show a focus for the year. We received the good news early in the year that our show was going to air on local So. California tv, and so we gave it our all.
TURNED 40: I turned 40 in March. Sold a lot of my old surfboards and took my family to Hawaii. Surfed Pipeline on my birthday – the waves were great!
TV SHOOTS: Took a road trip to Santa Cruz in spring – filmed The Paint Shop there. It was awesome. Made good on my promise to Escape Campervans and put them on one of my episodes. It’s funny – I promised them a spot on my tv show in 2009, two years before we got the show on the air!
Paddled 225 MILES OF COLORADO RIVER: Over 16 days in May, I lived in the wild and stand-up paddled the rapids of the Colorado River with whitewater expert Seth Warren. It was the trip of lifetime! (The Orange County Register wrote about it and put a picture of me on the cover of the front page!) The trip was also written about in Stand Up Journal’s March 2012 issue and the current issue of Stand Up Paddle Magazine. Haven’t seen the copies yet…..
MT. WHITNEY: Maria hiked mountains all over Southern California and I was so proud of her when she hiked Mt. Whitney in August, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states.
DYLAN TURNED 10: And we transformed our house into a Star Wars scene for his party!
MYRTLE BEACH & HURRICANE IRENE: Threes weeks this summer was spent with family in Myrtle Beach. Maria and Dylan had a blast playing in the ocean and the swash at the Dunes Club. I caught great waves courtesy of Hurricane Irene!
PUERTO ESCONDIDO SURF TRIP: Right after Myrtle Beach I flew to Puerto Escondido, Mexico, where I surfed in a Stand Up Paddle contest at the Mexican Pipeline. Maria helped make the trip possible by lining up sponsors Hinano Tahiti and MegaFood. The waves were so powerful I broke two paddleboards and got many tubes.
MARIA WROTE A BOOK: It’s called HOW TO UNDERSTAND ART LICENSING CONTRACTS – she co-wrote it with art expert Tara Reed. I am stoked for her – she worked hard on it.
COLORADO ROAD TRIP: In early November we drove to Boulder, CO for a film festival. Dylan and I were in Seth Warren’s film called Playgrounds Re-imagined.
Dylan narrated the film, as you can hear on the movie’s trailer here.
On the drive out, we camped at Virgin River, we drove Southern Utah to Moab, went to Arches National Park and followed the Colorado River into Colorado.
While at the film festival, Dylan was given the first ever award given to a child at the Boulder Film Festival.
He was named “Most Likely to Save the World.” He gave a hilarious acceptance speech – you can watch it HERE!
NEW GREETING CARD LICENSE: While in Boulder, we met with Leanin Tree greeting card company and toured their sculpture gardens and their printing facility. A few weeks later, we signed a licensing deal for my art in their greeting card line! (My greeting cards will hit the market in summer 2012.)
OPEN HOUSE ART SALES: We tried something new this year to sell more art at Christmas time – we had 4 open houses in the studio in Nov/Dec and we sold dozens of original paintings and sketches and met a lot of new fans that came in to meet me. It was very rewarding in many ways.
CHRISTMAS: In December we had our niece Mia come visit for Christmas and New Years. We had to get bunk beds for her to sleep in Dylan’s room. We set up the Christmas tree, and I surfed great waves on Christmas eve. Having Mia with us during the holidays was a definite plus – it was fun watching two happy kids tear open presents on Christmas morning!
Mia wanted to see Hollywood, so we took a 3 mile hike up to the Hollywood sign – packed a lunch and ate out there on the trail. Oh, and we saw Lenny Kravitz while driving up the Hollywood Hills – he flashed us the peace sign as he passed our Dream Machine on his motorcycle.
JOSHUA TREE: We spent the last few days of 2011 camping at Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree. The kids said it was like being on the moon. We went rock climbing and found some cool caves.
Driving home from Joshua Tree on New Years Eve, we had no plans for that night, until we got a text from our good friends the Whelans to stop by at their house. We spent the last hours of 2011 with good friends, wine and food!
I hope you’ll look back on 2011 and remember all your highlights, too.
Write them down, make a list, you’ll be surprised at all that you did in a year!
Life is Good – Drew
SURFED OUT is sized 20″ x 30″ mixed media on Canvas, mostly using Uni Posca Paint Pens and Createx paint for the background.
SURFED OUT is what it’s like on a surf day when the waves are so good, you surf all day. Finally, you get so hungry you have to come in and eat. Then, you pass out on the beach next to a fire. It’s the best feeling in the world, being Surfed Out.
This painting was a commission for Spencer, a nine year old surfing dynamo!
His mother commissioned this painting as a gift for him. Spencer’s been a longtime fan of mine, and I’ve painted a lot of surfboards for him and his brother and sister, all from a surfing family.
This artwork is available as a giclee print so you can put SURFED OUT on your wall, too. You can find it in my store here.
You can watch me paint SURFED OUT on The Paint Shop Episode 3 “Crusin’ to Santa Cruz” Full Episode in HD from The Paint Shop on Vimeo.
Everyone should have a Surfed Out day. Life is good – Drew
I have been surfing in Puerto Escondido for over 20 years. I first made the journey from South Carolina so that I could learn to surf big waves at the Mexican Pipeline. Instantly, I felt right at home in the waves, in the town and with the people I met there.
My longtime friend, Puerto local Angel Salinas, does a lot of good for the community there. Angel owns Central Surf, the first surf shop in town and he started hosting surf events many years ago. Now he puts on invitation only contests for stand-out surfers. I was stoked when he started his SUP contest three years ago, and I was on the invite list. Angel may be the first guy who was doing stand up paddling in Mexico.
Even with the difficulty of traveling with big, ten foot surfboards, I always cannot wait to get there to see my friends and the giant waves. It’s not about winning a contest; it’s a meeting of the tribe!
Some people do not understand the allure of Stand up Paddling; it’s much harder than regular surfing, and at the Mexican Pipeline, it’s borderline insane….
Chasing 12 to 15 foot waves on a ten foot paddleboard feels like hunting mountains of moving water. You see the waves coming from way out at sea, then you race to meet them just as they are standing up, looking their meanest. You dig in with your paddle against the hard off-shore wind as you teeter on the top of the beast, then free-fall into the tube.
Stuffing yourself, a paddle and a ten foot board into the tube is no easy feat. The bigger the wave, the better. You either get a 10 point ride, or, chunks of broken board and paddles as the wave detonates over you.
All of the contestants of last week’s Central Surf Pro caught epic waves and got their turn at hideous wipeouts. The joy of surfing the event with old friends and new is what it is all about. Showing the spectators and surfers what we can do in the waves on our stand up paddleboards felt really good.
Stand up surfing and paddling is sweeping the world. It is a fantastic way to experience any water, lakes, rivers and ocean. Water is water and SUP gives you access like nothing else. We don’t go anywhere without our paddleboards.
Even though I just turned forty, this year I’ve been more active than ever. I celebrated my big birthday by surfing Pipeline in Hawaii, then in May I paddled 225 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. This summer I paddled uninhabited islands in South Carolina. I am in the best shape of my life.A lot of people start to physically decline when they hit their forties and fifties. I plan to be active well into my 100’s. Besides paddleboarding and surfing, to stay in shape I eat healthy, organic foods and have a full, daily regimen of premium MegaFood whole food vitamin supplements. I want to continue to live the life of my dreams, charging big waves and having adventures.
With age, I feel wiser and I can see the impact of actions from my distant past. For over 20 years, I’ve been going down to Puerto and have painted surfboards for the local kids.
It’s not easy for locals to earn money down there, and so the kids’ surfboards are always old and damaged. The only new boards you see on the beach are those of travelers from out of town.
A little Uni Posca paint pen painting on an old board makes it look new again, and that does magic for the morale of kids in a small Mexican town.
I’ve watched people grow up here, and some of the guys, now grown up, tell me that when they were a kid and I painted their boards, it left them feeling pure joy. Now, they give me waves and they run the place. They are my friends. It’s more than just art; it’s giving each other your time.
This year I sat in the grass with my Uni Posca paint pens and painted surfboards while a crowd surrounded me. We all spent time together, kids, parents, contestants, lifeguards and tourists. We made something out of nothing. It was the place to be, there in the grass. The energy of joy everywhere.
Those young kids got to see how simple life can be. Plus I just earned another ten years in the Puerto line up!
We are all a part of each other’s stories now.
Life is Good – Drew
Special Thanks to:
MegaFood – I’ve never felt healthier. I am strong and fit, giving me the confidence to do anything! And, their sponsorship enabled me to be there for the contest.
Hinano Tahiti – For my great clothes, the legend board shorts are awesome. And, their contribution to my travel to Puerto also allowed me to be there.
Kialoa Paddles – Only the best will do in these waves.
Keen – My Keen Waimea toe guard flip flops rule – no more stubbed toes!
Ocean & Earth – My leash never broke, thanks to the world’s strongest leash.
Hoven Vision – Boy I needed good shades the sun is always bright in Mexico!