PACIFIC COAST ADVENTURES: FROM THE SKIES TO THE OCEAN
6 min readAdventures
Shortly after returning home from the “Tater Hill Open” paragliding event, my partner Kara and I made a mad dash for the airport. This would be a 3-day trip from home, to the heart of Zion National Park to watch two dear friends get married. Although it was indeed amazing to celebrate their commitment to each other and to do so in such epic surroundings, the air was smokey, the sun was unrelenting and the amount of travel to get to-and-from left us both pretty exhausted. We loved seeing the “I do's” and supporting our friends but I must admit, after two trips in quick succession, I longed for some quiet time at home on the coast.
The wedding turned out to be beautiful. Early on the 3rd day we again blitzed to the airport in Vegas, returned the rental car and after landing in Portland, the last hurdle of grinding highway traffic led us to the serenity of the coast and finally, the welcome site of the Pacific ocean. While in the truck, my phone buzzed. It was two of our best friends from Montana and they were quickly closing in on our house during a summer road trip. We'd first met Michelle many years ago through the whitewater kayaking community, and Chris has been my main climbing partner on any objective that I would consider “serious” for the last two decades. Chris is what you might call, “my brother from a different mother”.
Together, Chris and I have been lucky enough to experience culture, suffering, summits and some perspective building challenges in the Himalaya, Alaska, Canada and all over the U.S. The couple of first ascents we've been lucky enough to accomplish in the Himalaya, one in India's Kashmir region and the other in Eastern Tibet, are two of the most memorable and formidable highlights in my climbing-related life. From the time we were in our early 20's and had no clue that we weren't indestructible, to now in our mid 40's where we're positive that we're both very much destructible.... through life and death, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, he's been one of the most consistent forces and influences in my life. So, when they called to say they were 30 mins out, I looked at Kara and smiled, “quiet time will have to wait.”
It's funny, after many years spent with Chris and Michelle on trips in the mountains (sleeping in the dirt) there was some sort of weird domestic pleasure showing them around our new place. You know... the moment you look around and laugh at the amount of adulting going on. We gave them a quick tour, joking about the madness of moving and how we'd nearly lost our minds. But, what I'd been looking forward to most was showing them “why” we'd moved here. The weather and ocean forecasts for the next few days looked perfect, so it seemed appropriate to just welcome them in, head out to the backyard where we could hear the crashing waves through the trees and make a nice fire. Sitting close to the heat while watching the flames jump was just the right kind of mesmerized relaxation we all needed so badly. As the daylight made it clear it was on its way out, the coals glowed and signaled that it was time to roll out the Wolf and Grizzly Grill and fuel up for the next day's adventures. Sleep always comes easy after good food!
Photography: Jeff Shapiro
Being that we'd just moved here, there was still a lot about the area I'd heard about, yet hadn't discovered myself. One of which was, apparently, an engineered mountain bike area. Turns out, 3 minutes from our house is a trail system created by avid riders that consists of a short climb leading to multiple single-track descents, complete with manicured berms, jumps and technical drops. Biking turned out to be the perfect breakfast, complete with echoes of laughter in the trees as we ripped around the tacky dirt. I was so stoked to learn more about such a fun place to train so close to the front door! Adventure #1: check!
Next, I got a call from a local pilot who let me know he was coming into town to fly one of our local launches. Being that Chris and Michelle are both paraglider pilots, we dropped the bikes, grabbed a quick bite and threw the paragliders in the truck. Soon, we were taking turns pulling wings into the strong wind and soaring back and forth across the sea cliffs like the many seagulls who were sharing the air with us. The sun was shining and the ocean reflected the blue of the sky above. Flying with the sound of sea lions barking far beneath us, I figured our afternoon in the air was the perfect way to earn lunch.
Photography: Jeff Shapiro
Fully energized by the day so far, we were pretty satiated but, the flying had taken place right over one of the better waves in our area so, with conditions perfect, we quickly drove back to the house to drop the wings off and grab the wetsuits and surfboards. Chris had done a little surfing in the past but this would be a new experience for Michelle. Soon, we were on the beach with my best attempt at breaking down how to stand up on a surfboard. I walked out into the breakers with Michelle and pushed her into a few whitewater rollers, and stage by stage, she figured out the balance and mechanics of how to get to her feet. When she rode a few into the beach and clearly was having a blast, I swam in and grabbed my own board, paddling back out for some time in the lineup with Chris. Surfing is one of my favorite things to do and arguably, one of the main reasons for our move to the coast. Yet, I'd never had an opportunity to surf with Chris after all these years so, sitting in the waves, waiting for the next set to appear on the horizon and chatting about life, memories and all of the adventures we still “have in us” made the waves we caught that much more memorable.
Photography: Jeff Shapiro
At the end of the day, it felt like we'd squeezed a week's worth into the first day of their trip. But that's the point of trying to be present for each minute, thankful for the opportunities and doing our best to take advantage of the time we have. I feel like when I'm totally present and in the moment, not thinking of later or before but instead, enjoying each moment to the fullest value, every minute lasts an eternity. And in that way, our multi-sport day was another series of life-highlights forming new stories to reminisce about in a future lineup or while sitting around a serene evening fire with food sizzling on the WG Grill. At the end of the day, if I can live each moment grateful for friends, family and the things which bring joy to my life, whether that involves getting after it or, quiet time.... I'd consider it winning.