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The Creative Process and Life Outside

Grand flakes of snow fell outside of the open garage door. Cold wind blew in and battered the flame that had been keeping my hands thawed. I swept up scraps of sandpaper and fiberglass that were littered across the unfinished concrete floor. The hollow body wooden board I was working on sat motionless on saw horses. I stretched out every last second I could before I loaded it into the back of my packed car.


It had taken months of planning to get to this point, all to result in a hard, final week’s push to have the board finished before we hit the road. Up to this point, somehow everything had gone almost flawlessly. The re-engineered board utilized sustainable materials like cork and had a flipped structure compared to a standard, wooden board. It was my take on what the master shaper Danny Hess is pioneering. Bending, fitting, and shaping were all massive learning experiences, but went smoothly. It was those final details that killed me. Those last three days of grinding it out and getting grinded down along the way. 


Who knows if the final coat was actually dried by the time we strapped it onto the roof. As we drove through the night, I probably had two panic attacks staring up through the sun roof at the floating silhouette of the board in the moonlight. Hours later it was still there, encrusted in snow and ice with a nice frosting of highway nastiness.

In no way could I call myself a surfer. I had only gone out a handful of times in the past couple years, and in each of those I got pummeled. However, this was my first attempt to get back into the game in my design-focused mind. I wanted to shift the direction of my lifestyle, make a better reason to be outside. Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that building and designing a board was the best way to do it.


By the time we made it to the West Coast, the board had made it through rain, sleet, and snow. Overall, it had survived nearly 70 degrees of temperature change, but I had yet to test it to see if it even floated, let alone if it was rideable. 


We had a backcountry site in Point Reyes that night. It wasn’t too far out—only a couple miles—but the 12 person tent we brought for the five of us wasn’t ideal to hike in. On top of that, I had the board with me. 


After getting a late start on the drive north from San Francisco, we arrived to Point Reyes as the sun kissed the horizon. With only a few notes scratched down about how to get to the campsite, we hit the trail. Because of the government shutdown, we couldn’t get access to the maps and rangers necessary to clarify the backcountry route. A short way into that trail, the path spit us out onto the beach with no clues as to where to go next. As we wandered south down the shore, an older couple in floral shirts noticed our scrambling. They had spent their entire life sneaking around the coast and camping in caves, and they knew exactly where our site was. “Make your way south until you hit the juniper tree,” and then with smiles and well wishes the couple went their way. 


About a mile later, a small, bushy juniper tree jutted out from the base of the bluff. The cliff side split and a trail worked its way inland beside the tree. With that, we finally felt a bit of comfort. Blue hour hit and blueberry shades took over the sky. We all took our first deep breaths in a long time. We had not planned well and had far too much gear and weight for the short hike. Sore and tired, everyone dropped what they were holding. Looking at each other, we all laughed. What a wonderful mess we had made of things.

A dirt road led us another mile South. As it curved inland a single path broke off and led into the valley behind the sloping bluff. We wiggled through leafless brush as our clearing presented itself. At this point the sky was a deep blue. The cool tones translated onto the ground and our skin. The shine of our headlamps illuminated our feet and glowed over our faces. In the silent night, the hum of crashing waves rose from beneath the bluff and settled over us like a thick and comfortable mist. We pitched our oversized tent in the dark. Exhausted, we all crawled in and faded into sleep.


The next morning, we awoke to the sounds of the sea. Our surroundings, too, gently bloomed from slumber as the new day’s sun rose. Birds chirped above and below, a school of dolphins swam off the shore, and a couple walked along the water’s edge miles to the north. The horizon glowed peach. It melted into a muted yellow, then pink, and then transitioned to the deep, dark blue of the fading night sky. Floating above where San Francisco hid inside the bay, a crescent moon peered over the open water. 


We boiled water and made a concoction of the same breakfasts we’d had for the last few days, and would have for the next week to come. Waking alongside the water does wonders for morale—especially when it follows a hard day. Reggae music played atop the bluff that morning as we danced with one another; our monotonous breakfasts in hand, smiles on everyone’s faces, the sun peaking above the horizon line. 


Instead of taking the dirt road back we gravitated towards the beach. Once we were down by the water there was no one in sight. As the sun slowly rose, it pulled layer after layer of clothes off our backs. In no time we were stripped down to our underwear in the water. There were no waves at our site, or along the hike back, but it didn’t matter. My constructed board touched the water for the first time and didn’t sink. There will be many more waves in the future to see if the kookbox is worth its own weight.


Going into this I knew nothing. I still can’t believe the log I built survived the 6000-mile loop to the Pacific and back. I may have realized the fin box was set backwards, broken the fin I rigged up for the earlier mistake, and then floundered fixing it again, but damn was it fun. 

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