Sunday, November 19, 2017

Life is Precious


Guadalajara, Mexico

I am back in the big city of Guadalajara, Mexico. Almost a month has gone by since I have been in work mode down here in Mexico.  We have been bouncy from a few different cities installing snow machines for the upcoming Holiday season. The team is pretty close to being finished and now I am based here in Guadalajara for the next 2 months running snow shows at the Mall.

A few weeks back I said goodbye to beautiful fall in Baja, with a nice run of waves on the horizon. I dropped Kanami off at the airport, drove my van back to my parents, packed my bags and bought a big bag of dog food and left Charlie with Joel and Moses. As I boarded the plane on my way south, not for an adventure but for work, I asked myself, “Is this worth it?”

I leave behind everything I love, all in pursuit of putting money in the bank to pursue a future dream. Sometimes I just put my head down and work hard and realize that in life we have to work hard. Days will go by and I feel content with the work and with the paycheck that comes along. Then like a sudden car crash, it all changes.

A few weeks back as we left the hotel in Queretaro, for the short taxi drive to the mall, traffic came to a slow stop. I was in the front seat and as we drove around the accident, I noticed something no one else in the car had seen. The pickup truck looked as though it ran into a man trying to cross the street with his vendor cart. As we slowly drove by the scene, reality struck. There was a man lying on the ground surrounded by a pool of blood and his body was violently convulsing. Was he in shock? Was he taking his last few breaths? Would he survive? Was I first hand watching a life slowly come to an end?

These are questions to which I have no answers.

My heart was in pain.

For the rest of the day the question, “Is this all worth it?” ran through my mind.

Life is so precious, and sometimes I forgot this. Sometimes I feel as though I am living so free and adventurous and then like that sudden car crash, it all stops.
This summer I was working on the Kern River, in what was said to be the best year for water levels since 1984. While things started off great and amazing I remember a text message I received early on in the season: “Please call it is important!”

In a text you can not hear the tone of voice, feel the anxiety or the pain. I walked away from what was happening to make a phone call. 

Life is so precious.

As much as I didn't  want to hear those words come out of her mouth, they did.

“Andrew I went to the doctor, I have breast cancer.”

I am scared, the anxiety is a bit overwhelming, the pain is real, why? Why?
These are my thoughts, then it struck me hard, how is she feeling? The conversation seems a bit blurry now, it was all so hard to concentrate on the reality of life. All I wanted to do was be with her, drop everything and be by her side. A week or so went by before I went to San Diego. While the doctors may have said that it may not be the worst case scenario, it is scary as hell to think of a young 30-year-old with Breast Cancer. And that person is one of your best friends and family.

On my drive to San Diego, I had waves of emotions that swept through my mind and heart. When something fucked up happens, it is hard to be positive, to think the best, to trust that all will turn out well. I went for a visit, the whole family was there, kids, husband, what seemed like any normal visit. The anxiety, the pain seemed a bit departed, maybe because she had to manage a household as if everything was normal.

Before I had to head back up to the river, I needed to make one more visit. This time the house was a bit quieter, it was just the two of us. I didn't know what to say, and I am sure everyone shared their own “Miracle Story” of some friend, relative or co-worker that went through the same thing and it all turned out okay. We share a real relationship, no bullshit conversation. I had no answer or positive words, I just sat there and held her hand. Tears came out, the pain was real, the anxiety, the thought of life ending too quickly.

My heart hurt. It still does.

To watch someone in pain, especially someone you love is terrible. It is even more terrible to not be physically present with that person you love.

I got through that day of work in Mexico, physically tired and also a bit mentally tired as well. During the rest of the install in Queretaro, I had moments that seemed a bit down. Maybe it was watching that guy lying in his pool of blood that had my thoughts run wild. We were working on a lift, 60 feet off the ground, fixing some of the lights that had been installed a few years back and also cleaning off the equipment. I found myself with the feather duster, being the guy who dusted off the light fixtures.

A smile came about, but one of those smiles that also reminds you of something heartbreaking. A long time ago, god maybe close to 15 years ago, a wildfire wreaked havoc throughout San Diego. As a result, my dad’s company received an overload of fire restoration work lasting close to 6 months. They had to hire probably close to 20-30 laborers to help clean up houses with extensive smoke damage.

My dad has always been someone who has wanted to help out others. So for him, it was a time to hire anyone willing to work and who needed the work. The memory that popped up in my head while I was the dust master up on that lift was of a friends dad. At the time he was not working, so he took my dad up on the offer to work. I remember later laughing with Alise, probably with a beer in hand, about how her dad’s designated job was to be the guy on the latter with that bright feather duster cleaning every nook and cranny in these million dollar homes.

The sad thing about this story and memory is that I wish I could be with Alice and her dad, and have a good laugh about our professional dusting days.

He is gone. My Heart Hurts.

Life is so precious.

I wish fucked up things didn't happen to good people and people whom I love. I don't have the answer to why they happen. 

We all suffer in some way, feel alone, tears fall.


I try and remember the good days. The laughter, the love, the beauty of life.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Well it has been quite awhile since I have taken the time to write. Most of my posts have been about life, travel, and adventure. Though the posts have become slim, the adventure of life has not. Sometimes I feel like there is no need to write and express  stories of life because the reality is probably only a handful of people actually read my stories. But then every now and then I get proof that someone actually enjoyed my writing.

The most recent proof is a random visit from a good friend Matt Paffhouse. It is awesome how life brings and makes connections at the most unplanned times. I am not working on some amazing river in some far away country or traveling in my van somewhere tropical. Nope, I am making fake snow at one of the larger malls in Guadalajara, Mexico. How did Paffhouse know I was in Mexico? Well in this day in age where something like writing a story has changed to the easier route of just posting the photo with no story, "Instagram”, Paffhouse noticed a photo that was uploaded a week ago of a “day at the park in Guadalajara.” Though we as a society may waste countless hours swiping away at photos on Facebook or Instagram, just sometimes it turns into something better than a "like" or a comment of the photo.

My case of Facebook providing something positive is my good friend, Matt Paffhouse realized I was in Guadalajara and came for a quick visit. He is currently living in Chiapas, writing a book and was on his way home for the Holidays and the best flights had a layover in Guadalajara. So sometimes Facebook or Instagram can provide a beautiful re-connection of friends. During our short reunion of cold cervezas, Paffhouse asked if I was still writing?

"No, not really, it has been quite some time since I have written or posted a blog."

"Well, I have always enjoyed reading about Tour De Suenos and the post have always kept me very captivated."

"The one about the big waves and gnarly hold-downs, fucking crazy."

"In fact I am using the idea of Tour De Suenos in a part of my book right now."

It hit me that maybe I should write more.So here I am staring at the computer screen, trying to figure out what this post will be about. Or where my words and thoughts will take me...

But like my friend Paffhouse said, he enjoyed reading my blog so I should try and express a bit of my life or thoughts. 

Right now I am working for a company that does snow shows at different malls throughout Mexico. We provide the general public with magical shows that makes both adults and children feel as though they are having a beautiful white Christmas, even down here in places like Guadalajara, Mexico. The job itself is pretty chill, I have mornings and early afternoons free and then I show up for 3 shows in the evening and am back at my hotel before 9pm. It is a great way to save money because essentially I am down here working everyday for 2 months+. The downfalls are if I don't occupy my time with something healthy or productive, loneliness can set in quite easily.

I first heard about this job about 4 years ago when some friends I worked with on the Toulumne river in California offered me a spot. Since I spoke Spanish and was comfortable living in foreign countries, they felt like I would be a great fit. At that time of my life I was more interested in traveling, working on the river, than spending 2 straight months with no days off in a big city in Mexico. Saving money was not high on my list. So why I made the change this year?

Well I feel as though my dream has shifted a bit. In 2008 I attended guide school on the Kern River and from that first summer my newfound love for the river took me around the world, more than once. I was literally living my dream life every single day. My job was to take people on river  expeditions  in places like the Sierra Nevada of California, the mighty Zambezi or the far north of Africa in the Atlas mountains of Morocco. I would work a North American summer than chase summer to the opposite hemisphere, making enough money to fund the next trip on the river or maybe chasing some surf in between seasons. During all these travels and adventures I have found my best friends.

The shift has slowly come the last few winters when I did not travel to do a rafting season.  Am I slowly growing up?? Whatever that means. I got a dog last year, I have an awesome girlfriend but the other thing that lacks is a permanent home.  This is where the dream is shifting. This past summer we took a vacation to Oaxaca, Mexico for a month and a half. In this trip the idea of settling down a bit soon became the focus.  

Mexico, I have always loved Mexico. The people, the food, the waves, the beaches, and mountains. And now I find myself working in Mexico, saving for that dream home that may be near a beautiful beach, rivers and mountains in the state of Oaxaca. In order to chase our dreams, sometimes we need to sacrifice a bit of our time. I am thankful I have this opportunity to work in Mexico, save money, but there are those moments when I feel all alone.

Like I said before I have plenty of time in the day that I am not working. I have found a great routine to keep my mind off negative things like being alone. I start my day off at  a great yoga studio where the teacher truly cares about her students. Then I try and get another form of exercise whether it be running at the local park, riding a stationary bike or go to the gym for a swim and some weight lifting. Besides my active routine I do find myself going back to the worldwide Internet, sometimes browsing useless information but also trying to learn. I have been taking some Permaculture courses and slowly trying to learn how important it is that we not only take care of ourselves but also the world around us, Nature.

Being somewhere new for only around 6 weeks is kind of hard to break into a new group of friends. When those days or moments came when I started to feel lonely, I feel like something positive seemed to come just as quickly as those negative thoughts.

I was sitting by myself drinking coffee at the small restaurant and the owner comes up and starts a conversation. Just as I was feeling down, he takes time to chat about his time he spent in California and then as I pay and am about to walk away he says, "Aqui estas en Casa."

Then I was able to visit some old friends in Puerto Vallarta.  Like the past they welcomed me with open arms. I was welcomed with that warm genuine Mexican greeting of great food and conversation, then as it was time to hit the bed for the night I was given the owner's bed both nights. No need to sleep on the couch, this time we give you our very own bed.

Back in the city, all I want to do is to share a meal with someone and have a real conversation. I get treated to some great yoga and instead of just heading back to the Hotel breakfast, I get treated with a tour around town doing errands. Then a stop off at the tourist old town of Tlaquepaque and have a wonderful meal. The simple things in life matter.

What do all these experiences have in common? Good People, real conversations,
a positive world.

I want so badly to try and see the positive things in life. I do not want to dwell on the negative but it was a bit hard to travel down to Mexico the day of the elections and arrive to find out the results. I would hear first hand from folks down here how they felt, some angry, some in fear, most not happy.

For a long time, maybe as long as I can remember, I have never had that feeling that Mexicans being in the United States was a bad thing. Even to this day I do not feel okay with the way minorities get treated, such as Latinos. Why do I believe all of this? Maybe it was the way I was raised.

Mexico was our second home, literally. Since early childhood my parents would take us on vacations to Baja and also to Mexico. My dad's first Baja trips were when he got his license and would head off to find empty surf. In his early twenties he went down to Mexico in search of waves and I think he found something much more important than good surf. He discovered that the beauty of this country lies in the people. He created a relationship with a family in Nayarit that he has kept for more than 30 years. He even gave Jose and his brothers the opportunity to come to California and work for his company when he was first starting.

These are stories I hear firsthand from Jose, as he tells how they swam out into the Tijuana sloughs to avoid “La Migra” and how he used to babysit, so my parents could go out on date night. I first  truly heard these stories about 10 years ago when I started to learn Spanish and would travel to Mexico and stay with Jose and his family. I was retold this story and others just a few weeks back when I went to go visit Jose.

So do I feel angry when our President elect speaks negatively about Mexicans, yes. I have never been a person who is super into politics but it does hurt when I hear about the ideas and feelings that the new government of the United States has towards our neighbors. I don't know where I am going with all this, but maybe I feel this way because of the experiences I have had in life. More than once was I allowed to go to a country other than my own and work, live and be treated fairly. So maybe this is why I understand the reason people from other countries want to come to the United States and work and live. But I don’t understand why they get treated unfairly.

So here I am, December 25, in front of my computer screen on Christmas Day all alone. My family is not with me, my friends are in all parts of the globe and I spend the day by myself. I try to take a moment and look at the good in life. While most restaurants are closed on Christmas day, I can be thankful that a co-worker invited me to his family's house on Christmas eve and like any true genuine Mexican mother would do is, not only provide a delicious meal of tamales but would send me home with a bag full of tamales. So even though restaurants are closed today, I had a meal.

I am grateful for my life, for my health, for work, and for the family and friends I have. Today I may have spent Christmas alone, but by no means am I truly alone. I want to see the good that is in this world, and I want to be a part of the good. In a few weeks I will head back to Oaxaca in search of the perfect piece of land. I will continue to believe in this life of “Suenos”, and I will do my best to find the positive things in life.

Merry Christmas and all the Best for 2017!





"Healthy plants and trees yield abundant flowers and fruits. Similarly, from a healthy person, smiles and happiness shine forth like rays of the sun." - Inyengar

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

El Nino provides

Journal Entry

2-26-16


So no shit there I was paddling as hard as I could out to the deep blue sea. “Viene un set” was all I heard as a friend Vicente paddled hard past me as I was keeping an eye out for an un-ridden wave slightly on the inside of a crowded day at Todos Santos. As I paddled hard I realized that this time I wasn’t going to make it up and over one of the bigger sets of the morning. The motions and nerves took over as I paddled. For the past month I trained for this moment. Spending the entire month in Baja, surfing 2-3 times a day, pushing myself during every swell that came my way, yoga in the morning and the evening and already with 2 solid sessions in at Todos under my belt during the past month I felt ready. I am no pro, I have surfed my whole life but the draw towards big waves felt strong this year.



My first session at Todos gave me the bug or addiction for more, for another big drop, another big wave. With the insight of some fellow big wave surfers I realized that my 8ft-6 inch gun I bought back in December wasn’t going to cut it for solid big waves. A buddy Quinn said, “Go big, at least a 9-6, but if you can why not just get a 10 foot gun?” The goal, to paddle into a giant wall of water, make the drop and hopefully come out standing in the channel. With Quinn’s help I was hooked up with Legendary shaper Gary Linden and he had a beautiful 10 foot gun that was slightly used. The board was shaped for recent Mavericks champ, Nic Lamb so it seemed light the right choice.



I picked the board up in Ensenada 2 weeks before this last big swell and eager to give it a test headed towards the docks in hopes of finding some guys heading out to Todos Santos Island. I knew that there was a crew of local guys camping on the island, so at very least maybe I just buck up and pay for the whole panga ride myself. To my luck there was a couple who were interested in checking out the famous big waves of Killers. We split the cost of the boat ride out through the fog, not sure what the surf, weather and conditions would be like. When we pulled through the channel I could see there were some solid sets, at least 15 foot. No one was out, maybe the crew had an epic day prior with a bit bigger surf. A bit nervous paddling out alone, I made my way into the line up. The day ended up being epic, surfing solo for about an hour or two before Vicente and another Mexican surfer paddled out. The conditions were not prime, but with no one out I could choose wisely and carefully which waves to take and had a fun safe session with no wipeouts.



Now back to my last session. Vicente invited me on a boat with a solid crew of chargers as we headed out to what was looking like an epic day of big solid surf. When we pulled up to the channel we saw the first set, beautiful 25foot face waves, with big wave surfer Rusty Long dropping into a bomb. The crowd was big so it was a bit harder getting a wave than my first few sessions with almost no crowd. My first wave was shared with Gary Linden, pretty special to share a wave with such a legend. 66 years young and still charging hard. Another wave after that than all I see is Vicente paddling as hard as he can towards the deep blue sea.


This is the “Oh Fuck” moment.



Go, paddle hard. When I realized I wasn’t going to make it my body and mind started going through the motions. Instinct took over. I paddled until that last moment then climbed on top of my board and dove as deep as I could. I kept my eyes open as I submerged deep and noticed I just barely made it under the explosion of chaos. But attached to my leg, by a strong 12 ft leash (Thank God for Stay Covered leashes) was my board. The leash went tight as the dragging started. It pulled me back quite a ways as I tried to stay calm. The life jacket I wore under my wetsuit slowly kicked in as I finally made my way to the surface for that beautiful breathe of air and the sight of the blue sky. As I got that first breathe of air I noticed the 2nd wave of the set was heading right towards me. For a moment I got a glimpse of a rescue jest ski and felt a relief. But then I noticed he wasn’t coming for me but instead for another surfer who had a broken leash and was a bit deeper than I was.



I tried to slow my breathing and calm myself as another wall of whitewash, maybe 30 feet was heading directly towards me. This time because of spent energy I didn’t get as deep of a dive and I was dragged for what felt like an eternity. In my past 9 seasons as a whitewater kayaker I have taken some big swims, one of the most notable being on the Zambezi River on rapid #9, commercial suicide at high flows. When the Zambezi ripped my body from my kayak and I went into the black unknown, I eventually re surfaced and made my way through the rest of the rapid. This beating at Todos felt like a step above that one. As that second wave dragged me all I could do was try and stay calm, knowing that I was wearing a PFD and that it should eventually bring me to the surface. When the PFD seemed like it was of no help and my lungs where burning I clawed my hands toward my lower leg and leash which was attached to my board. When the rinsing cycle slowed a bit I was able to climb up my leash to the surface for a breathe of air.



Thank God. But as sets go there is usually more than two waves. I took another 2 wave smashing, pretty much just lying there and letting them push me further and further towards the inside. Not wanting to get pushed into the rocks on the inside I did my best to climb back on my board and stroke towards the channel before the next one hit me. When I made it safely to the channel I sat there and caught my breathe and realized that this is a very true cost of surfing big waves, Big wipeouts and Big Hold downs. But like all athletes that push a sport, the rewards are beyond description sometimes. I took a break on the boat and as the crowd slowly thinned out later in the day I made my second go and got a handful of beautiful waves. I was stoked to be part of an epic crew and a special day of waves, also pretty happy to come back to the casa and have little Charlie excited to see me. My Life in February: Baja, Friends, Family, a puppy and some epic surf.


First Session








Quinn Campbell, RIP to a great board. Broken in 2 after this big one.

La Isla

Quinn and I happy to scratch over this one.

2nd wave of my last session

JoJo Roper on a bomb



Afternoon beauty. Photo: Chris Corona
Vicente on a gem


Thanks Chris Mumford for Iphone photos










Offshore days at the Casa

The point in a beautiful offshore morning

Charlie and the catch of the day


Scotty and Birthday beers

Yep the little guy likes fish

Christmas in February, Hand shaped by Gary Linden 10 footer


Iphone video of first session with new board



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Photos of Road trip south

A view from the road south from BC. Coastal Oregon, kayaking fall releases, good living.

First view of the oregon coast










Burnt Ranch race


Tobin Race
Pitt Falls


Another Summer

Another Summer has come and gone. A full circle that started last spring in Mexico then the road trip North to BC and now back south. Here are some photos and Journal writing of some of the adventures.

Journal entries

April 26, 2015
Rio Nexpa, Michoacán Mexico

Back at Rio Nexpa after a few years. It felt really good to board that plane in TJ and land in Colima a few days back. After finishing up an amazing trip on the Grand Canyon, the following week was a bit emotional. My Grandma Riggs waited until I returned to take her last breath and let me say goodbye. It was nice to see her one last time and hold her hand and say farewell even though she couldn’t respond. She was such an remarkable lady and truly loved her family. The week in San Diego was a special time of remembering family and paying tribute to a lady who loved me so much. I will always be grateful for the relationship I shared with my Grandma. She always stood by my side and supported me in any endeavor I choose.

So now I sit on the top floor of our room, coffee by my side, journal in hand, with nothing but the beautiful Pacific out front. I am back at a familiar place, but this time with Kanami-chan. The feeling I get when I am in Mexico is overwhelmingly warm. I feel back at home, comfortable, happy to eat tacos, drink licuados and sleep to the sound of the ocean.

The first few surfs have been in the fun 3-4ft range and today picking up a bit. It is great to be back on the “Chorbel” pace of Mexy life. Wake up late, cafesito, surf session and then a big brunch at Chichos. Good livin in Mexico.

April 20, 2015

Rio Nexpa, Mexico

I sit here in Paradise, one more morning, one more cafesito and one more journal entry. I love how traveling brings you to meet new faces and to see old familiar ones as well. The other day when Kanami and I were taking a walk up the point, I noticed two vans pull right up to the edge of the river mouth and park. I looked over to Kanami to tell her, “I think I know who is in that van.” Jono Slade and his crew pull out and we walk up and embraces are exchanged. Jono is a rafting buddy from the Kern River who is on a six month journey to Central America and we happen to cross paths. Small beautiful world we live in. Beers and good food are had at Mary Jane’s Restaurant. Talk of the Road and travel fills the night. The next morning we all pick off some fun lefts and then have breakfast at camp.

I get so stoked when friends are out there living the dream. The work was put in, they prepared the vehicles and the journey is in place, this makes me happy.
\



May 3, 2015
Manzinillo Bus station

It is 11:20pm and we are waiting to board our bus for Puerto Vallarta and on to Scott and Vanessa‘s epic wedding weekend. Our last stop was my lovely Pascuales. With the rising swell and  lack of rooms at Nexpa, we headed north. On arrival Kiwi Dave received us with open arms, cold cervezas and talk of the largest swell of the decade. We met a group of guys who are down for the big summer surf. I didn’t leave getting the barrel of my life, but I did paddle out on a borrowed 9ft gun in some massive surf. I managed to catch one wave and made it to the bottom before bailing and then have to swim in after my board. It felt like I was swimming the Zambezi with no life jacket, scary shit. The three other guys that did paddle out that day all had some sort of PFD or floatation device. After I made it back to shore I decided to call it a day.

Over the weekend we were able to witness some massive waves and barrels. The whole pro scene of surfers were all using jet skis and doing step offs. But a few brave warriors gave a go with solo paddle power. The ocean was producing a crazy amount of energy, easily 25ft waves.

The force of the giant swell and the high tides also brought quite the destruction to some of the local establishments of the area. Yesterday after our morning surf we all pitched in at Dave’s place to build a barrier in front of the property. We dug trenches, piled tires and sand bags to make a blockade so we could deflect incoming tide and waves. All of us waiting around for the high tide to peak at 5:00pm and it appeared that our work was saving the place. Then later on in the evening while we were down the road eating at Freddy’s Hambergesa stand, Nature made her big push.

The increasing swell brought waves and water through most of the beachfront properties, including Dave’s place. The water knocked straight over our wall with the push of one big wave. There were a few of the Kiwi surfers around and Pols, Daves son, as one 4ft wall of whitewater washed all through the property wreaking havoc. Luckily the guys all sought refuge while jumping and hanging from the beams of the cabana as the wave washed under them. By this time the whole town is on high alert, incoming pro surfers and their entourage are leaving hotels and seeking safer options in the city.

Dave comes back to the Hamburger shack, which is in a safe zone, and just says “It’s Fucked.” Mother Nature was in full swing and she did not seem to be letting down. We ran back through the police blockade towards Dave’s to try and save what we could. We did our best to salvage what we could, putting boards up on the platform, then Juj came back with the truck and we loaded all the most valuable; fridge, tools, cables, fishing gear, jet ski on the trailer, anything we could quickly grab before another rogue wave would come. It was absolute chaos what the ocean was doing. It was sad to see the damage down to the town, but impressive to see the force of what the ocean can do. Respect.

Photos of Mexico:





Summer time goodness in BC: