ItÕs raining, and we had a slow morning with lotÕs of ŌLa VidaĶ and sweet pastries at a coffee house on Lonsdale which is the hub of activity in North Van. The street is several kilometers long, four lanes wide and packed door to door with businesses. ItÕs a multi cultural extravaganza, of Thai, Greek, Italian, Chinese and North American markets and restaurants, mixed with an array of shops selling furniture, hardware, appliances, electronics, cameras, skateboards, and anything else you could want. You name it; itÕs on Lonsdale.
Z has bought a new skate and he is fired up to use it, but he will have to wait, as we are off to check out the famed riding on the North Shore in the hills behind North Van with Jordan. The sickest mountain bike movie I have ever seen was from the North Shore. The riders had constructed a myriad of ramps, bridges and seesaws several meters above the ground, in the naturally unrideable environment, connecting the old growth stumps and boulders scattered about in the woods. Jordan takes us to a section of old logging road with a series of ramps and landings. The jumps catapult him and his specially constructed 20-kilo (45lb) bike that looks like a motorcycle without the engine, to heights and distances I have never seen before. He is launching over ten meter gaps two to three meters in the air, all in this radical environment that looks as if you would have trouble walking through it on foot. He finishes off by riding out a twelve-meter bridge mounted to the top of ten-meter stump, clearing the logging road from five meters above it and landing into a transition on the other site. The stunt is quite the ŌSide Show Ōwhich happens to be its name.
Rain! Rain! Rain! Rain! We spent the last two days in the North Van library, while it, guess what, rained. It has cleared up today and we got to go skate in the morning. We are hoping for dry weather tomorrow and the next day so there will be good climbing on the solid ŌdryŌ granite of Squamish.
The trip has taken an interesting turn for me. I am in a different headspace. Looking inward to see outward. I am feeling calm and solid yet a little awkward like I am in a new situation.
Zack and I had a bit of a blow out. I released a lot of built up tension and frustration I had about a lot of different things and I think he did as well. We talked it out and I feel I have grown from the experience. He is a great friend. Traveling, although rewarding, exciting and fun can be tough. Nowhere to call home, and always working, weather its finding a place to camp or finding a place to get water, itÕs work and if you worry about it all the time you will go mad. Also, when the only personal space you have is a refrigerator-sized cube that youÕre sharing with someone, you have to find personal space inside your head.
We spent the weekend bouldering in and around Squamish. ItÕs a beautiful, powerful place. The pure awesome beauty of nature is amazing. Squamish is a logging town that claims the title Outdoor Recreation Capitol of Canada. It sits along Howe Sound and is over shadowed by the Chief, a large monolith of granite 650 meters (2132 ft.) high with a base that spans several kilometers. The whole area is littered with craggy outcroppings and house sized boulders. Inside the forest it is quiet, the trees are tall and it is dark with beams of direct light peering through in spots. The downed logs and boulders are covered with thick coats of moss, and the forest floor is a soft bed of needles. For me itÕs humbling and enlightening to be in this environment of enormous rocks and trees and to be there climbing. Just being here in the forest is an experience of itÕs own. Climbing here is a bonus. I feel refreshed and ready to move on. Tomorrow morning we leave for Tofino.
Its funny the picture I create in my head of a place before I go there. My picture of Tofino was rugged coastline with not many people surfing, small logging town, no tourists. I was way off. The coastline here is different than I have seen before. The tall coniferous forest comes right to the waters edge and the treetops are spindly, creating a rugged silhouette against the changing colors of the sky. Tofino is CanadaÕs surf mecca. There is a vibrant surf scene with a posotive attitude. Growing up in California I was accustomed to the Ônose on the toesÕ rule of thumb: keep your nose pointed at your toes because if you make eye contact with someone that you donÕt know they will probably take offence and try to fight you. The scene here is mellow. ItÕs a small town vibe every one waves and says hello.
We are hanging with one of One of CanadaÕs most talented young surfers, Peter Deveries. We are camped in the parking area outside his house. He is 20 years old and flat out rips, surfs really well. He is also probably one of the nicest people I have ever met. Z called him out of the blue and told him what we were doing and he was stoked to hang out with us. When we arrived he was working but after work he found out where we were out surfing paddled out, introduced him self, shook our hands in the water and then proceeded to catch wave after wave with acrobatics like I have only seen before on film. He is totally motivated and every morning, at first light he taps on the window of the Cruiser and wakes us up bearing cups of coffee prepared individually the way we like them. HeÕs got a big smile says ŌHere you go boys, letÕs go check the surf.Ķ Today and yesterday we surfed with Pete and I am sure at 6am tomorrow morning, Ōtap, tap, tap,Ķ and then we will surf with Pete again.
We have left Tofino, which was not an easy thing to do, as it was a great place to hang out. Tofino time is slow and I donÕt want to shift to a higher gear. So I wont. It felt good to surf and surfing in Tofino has gotten me excited to be in Mexico. The last day there we hung out with a young woman named Dawn. She, like so many other young Canadian surfers that live in Tofino, works here in the summer and travels during the winter. We might run into her in Chile.
We are now with my old friend Chris Gill in Nanaimo. Chris teaches analytical chemistry at Malaspina College and lives with his girlfriend Janet. Chris and Janet took us windsurfing today. And it was difficult. I spent the day on the beach It felt good to do nothing. Or I should say no working to find camping or get water.
The transition from the Canadian Interior to city life is strange and rather difficult. Upon arrival at Jordan WrightÕs North Vancouver home, both Scott and I are tired, a bit grumpy and few days removed from showers. I am sporting a full beard. Jordan is super relaxed, and willing to put us up in his living room for the next week. Our first day on the town we explore some local scenery, and have a much needed session of all you can eat sushi. Two hours later, beyond full and very satisfied, we are off to explore the city. Vancouver is divided into different regions by bodies of water. The different parts of the city are interconnected with a ferry system, an above ground train system, and huge suspension bridges. We hop on the Sea Bus, a high-speed ferry that zips us over to the city from the North Vancouver suburbs. Vancouver as a city is really clean, spacious and uncrowded, which gives it really relaxed feel. We see all types of people, hear all types of languages, and smell all types of foods. The Vancouverites all brag about the wide variety of food that is available in the city due to the large representation of immigrants from different parts of the world. While in Vancouver we eat wonderful Thai food, sushi, Chinese food, and purchase groceries from a Persian market that smells of exotic spices and Turkish coffee.
Day two in North Vancouver, Scott sets out on bus to retrieve the long lost (but not forgotten) 4 Runner in Seattle, and I head up into the mountains to shoot some mountain biking footage North Vancouver style. When I say North Vancouver style, I mean it. These guys are doing a different sport as far as I am concerned. Equipped with full padding, motorcycle helmets, and full suspension bikes, these guys resemble motocross racers more than mountain bikers. No spandex and clip-in peddles here, just full on downhill aggression. The beautiful thing is what the riders have done with the trails. In a rainforest of cedar and fur trees, you find finely constructed bridges made from fallen lumber sometimes 15 feet above the forest floor. Huge rock drop offs intermixed with tabletop jumps and teeter-totter bridges allow riders to access normally inaccessible terrain. Jordan proves to be fearless as well as extremely talented as he drops down 12-foot boulders and launches huge jumps. He says he has only been riding seriously for 2 months. Although we came to film him climbing rock, I am excited to capture what he is doing on a bike. The only down fall of the afternoon is that before leaving, I ate only a Cliff Bar, not anticipating the 24 kilometer hike. (Do the math!) Up and down the mountain on foot takes it out of me, and sleep is welcomed even if I have to share floor space wit h Wiley, JordanÕs dog. Scott is equally as tired after a long, uneventful day of public transportation and border crossings. We go to sleep as the rain begins to fall, thinking of warmer climates and sun.
Day three in Vancouver is spent transferring gear from the 4 runner into the Cruiser. It repeatedly amazes me of how much stuff we have. It takes all day to relocate all the gear, but come evening our new home is complete. Again I find myself dreaming of warmer climates as we hide from the rain. We came here to climb rocks with Jordan, but like skateboarding, outdoor rock climbing is impossible in the rain. We hole up in the library where we work on stuff for the trip, and the angst begins to set in. Apparently this is typical weather for the area, and although again I feel like I am in California in February, we are promised the sun is just around the corner.
Finally the sun appears, and we are off to Squamish, the outdoor activity capital of British Columbia. Accompanied by Jordan and his friend Darla, we end up at a beautiful spot next to a stream that is surrounded by apartment-sized boulders. Although Jordan is out of practice due to not climbing for two months, (remember when he started mountain biking?) he still manages to climb a boulder that is easily 20 or 25 feet high with out the aid or protection of rope. I am a newcomer to the sport, and find myself most comfortable bouldering, a training technique of rock climbing that has developed into almost a separate sport. Climbers find routes, or ÔproblemsÕ on the rocks, which are graded by difficulty in order to set a standard. A bit confusing, all I know is that I climb V0 or V1 maybe, and Jordan climbs V12 or V13. The hardest problems ever to be put up and done are V14, and climbers like Jordan are pushing this limit constantly. V stands for Vermin, the nickname of a guy named Sherman who was one of the first people to explore bouldering as a sport rather than just a sub activity of climbing walls. As a skateboarder, I see bouldering like I see technical street skating, practicing tricks and technique on the same object, rather than just cruising around.
So bouldering is what Jordan does best, and he is most well known for highballing, or climbing huge boulders without the aid of rope. While he climbs the forty foot ÔhighballÕ, we stick to the mortal climbs of anywhere from 6 to 12 feet or so. We have a good time, get some great shots, and spend the evening in the local pub.
The next day, Jordan takes us to a climb he put up a few months back. He calls it ÔThe TragedyÕ after a guidebook had dubbed this mammoth rock as tragically unclimbable due to the lack of holds on it, claiming that no one would ever climb it. Jordan proved them wrong. There is no way my words can illustrate what this climb is all about, so just think of the name and picture why falling off of a 30 foot high boulder into a bed of smaller boulders would be tragic. I get shivers trying to imagine Jordan climbing this route, as well as falling off. He tells us that after weeks of cleaning the rock and preparing mentally, he climbed it in four tries. Maybe to you four tries doesnÕt sound like many, but three of those tries ended as falls from up around 30 feet or so.
A full week with the Wright family comes to a close, and we bid farewell and are on a ferry headed for Tofino, a small beach community on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island. We luck out as we hit the coast during a fall heat wave combined with some early winter swell. The surf is fun, beachbreak everywhere, and the water temperature is mild, not what you would expect for Canada. I am really happy to get in the water, but having a hard time due to my knee, which is becoming more painful everyday. Eventually I decide to give up and spend time filming on the beach. We have hooked up with a young man by the name of Peter Deveries, a surfer born and raised on the beach in Tofino, who blows me away with his surfing ability. Obviously driven and extremely motivated, this guy surfs really well. Watch for him.
Although Peter doesnÕt know us at all, he invites us in for showers, and lets us camp in the car park at his house. He is humble, friendly and a generous person, who takes pride in his roots, and is keen to talk about surfing and the surf culture of Tofino. He wakes us up at 6:30 every morning with a fresh cup of coffee and takes us to surf. I am most satisfied shooting film of Peter from the water, getting some up close perspectives that one normally doesnÕt get to see on purpose. We get fun waves, and I get some good shots. Peter explains to us that the small, sleepy town of Tofino wakes up in the summer months with over 1 million visitors from all over the world. Peter also explains to us that although an image of him surfing appears on a billboard on the main highway going to Tofino, where over 1 million people will pass by and see him displaying his sponsors logos in full view on his surfboard, he canÕt seem to get his main sponsor to give him a photo incentive. American surfing business has absentmindedly failed to see the popularity of surfing in this country, and hopefully this can make way for some Canadian companies to build a name in a very popular sport that is growing exponentially in Canada.
The main surfing beach in the Tofino area is called Long Beach, and it is a Mecca for Canadian surfers and water enthusiasts. I cannot believe the amount of people in the water. Mostly folk in their 20s and 30s, the water is filled with beginners trying to stand up on soft top surfboards, or battling the whitewater on kayaks. It reminds me of maybe what Malibu was like in the 60Õs. Beach goers everywhere with surfboards dressed in surf clothes, talking surf story, surfing Canada! I guess my jaded view of surfing after 20 years causes me to be a bit sick to the stomach with the overload of surf culture, but the attitude is refreshingly laid back amongst the people, and everyone is so nice and friendly, I canÕt help but smile and feel at home in the surfing capital of Canada.
Our last day in Tofino is spent hanging out with a young woman named Dawn who takes us surfing, and shows us the secret chocolate factory of Tofino. We trade stories of Central America, and Dawn tells us about her endeavors over the last 6 years traveling by bus from Mexico down to Chile, teaching herself to surf, speak Spanish, and see the world. It proves to be hard to leave Tofino, as we watch the sunset and the end of another beautiful, windless day on the Pacific Ocean. Next stop, Nanaimo to visit ScottÕs friend Chris Gill, and then back to the USA!