Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

From the Top of the Wave to the Bottom - Flea


Nearly dying is a specialty of Darryl "Flea" Virostko.

The surfer, who won the first three monster-wave contests at Mavericks north of Half Moon Bay, almost drowned there once when the leash that attaches his ankle to the board clung to an underwater rock.

So epic was a plunge down a 50-foot wall of water at Hawaii's Waimea Bay in 2004 that Surfer magazine dubbed it the "Wipeout of the Decade."

But Virostko was never closer to death than when he decided to get sober last year, several days after terrified relatives and fellow surfers staged an intervention.

Closing out a final bender, he smoked a pipe of crystal meth, then chugged a half-gallon of vodka as he drove from Santa Cruz to a Pacific Grove rehab center.

"I didn't care about my life at all," Virostko said recently, talking about his rise to stardom and near-fatal descent. "I wasn't being Flea."

Being Flea means pushing the limits of mortality on freakishly large waves, not dry land. Now, he said, it means celebrating 14 months of sobriety, teaching addicts to surf in his FleaHab program, and training to become a drug and alcohol counselor.

"If I can do it, anyone can do it," the 37-year-old said of quitting drugs. "Because I went to the edge of the earth."

Virostko's comeback is an undercurrent of this season's Mavericks Surf Contest, an event that once seemed designed for his audacity. The five-month contest window opened Nov. 1, meaning Mavericks can be held the next time giant swells roll in.

If Virostko wins, he'll own four of seven titles. He could also use the $50,000 check. He recently had to sell his house to pay off $150,000 in back taxes and stay out of bankruptcy.
'You can't go any lower'

Mavericks made Flea's name. But the first time he paddled into it in the early 1990s, he said, he was on acid. In later years, he often visited on meth. At this year's contest, he will be surrounded by surfers who hope he can channel his intensity into his recovery.

"I've never seen anyone who was in that deep turn it around," said Joey Thomas, 61, a Santa Cruz surfer and friend. "You can't go any lower."

"Going from one extreme to the next - that's how he has negotiated his life," said Virostko's 39-year-old brother, Troy. "Now it's opening a new door."

Virostko said drugs never helped his performance - just the opposite, he said - and had nothing to do with his famous fearlessness. That came naturally.

He grew up relatively poor, in a neighborhood on Santa Cruz's west side known as "the Circles" because of the layout of the streets. "West side, best side," he said, flashing a "WS" tattoo.

His mother was a nurse and Jazzercise instructor, his father a high school art teacher who taught him to surf at age 4 at Cowell's, a spot just north of the Boardwalk where many a child has caught his first wave.

He always felt at home in the water. Richard Schmidt recalled an 8- or 9-year-old Virostko knocking him off a wave at another spot known as Rivermouth. Schmidt, a big-wave pioneer who runs a surf school in town, was 12 years older.

"No apology or nothing," said Schmidt, who is now a friend.

Virostko was always a bad boy, said childhood friend Joshua Pomer. In junior high, when a bigger kid bear-hugged Flea - who is now 5-foot-10 but got his nickname because he was tiny until a late-arriving puberty - Virostko hit him in the face with a juice bottle.

"The guy will never back down to anyone," said Pomer, 36, who is finishing a documentary called "The Westsiders" on the life of Virostko and his friends. "He's been in a lot of fistfights and he's lost a lot of them, but he's won a lot of them as well. It's that same bravado he took to Mavericks."

Virostko won the inaugural big-wave contest in February 1999. He celebrated by renting a room at Santa Cruz's Dream Inn on a bluff just north of the Boardwalk, where he and his friends dropped acid and tossed furniture onto the beach.

After he beat world champion Kelly Slater the next year, Virostko was surfing royalty. He won his most recent Mavericks title in 2004.

Read the rest here.

Pic of the Day - Rio


Be sure to click the pic for a bigger look.

16 Years Young and Off to Conquer the World

 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Big Storms Hit the Bay Area


A series of four major storms have hit the bay area and beyond. Since Sunday we have seen some impressive rainfall totals. In Tahoe they have received as much as 6-8 feet of new snow. The rain is falling all along the west coast and a tornado touched down yesterday in Socal. They say this is the result of an El Nino in the Southern Hemisphere. We need the rain badly as we have been in a drought for the last three years and the reservoirs are down around 75%. With all the rain, I went up to the boat to check on her between storms. I took a tour of the Addiction and was surprised how dry she was on the port side. We have been battling a leaky chain plate for years and after another round of rebedding the chainplate, it looks good. The bilge was fine, the ports were all locked and tight and the batteries in good shape. I tightened up the dock lines and secured the kayak. Right now winds are out of the south at 50 and building. She should ride out the storm and be good to go for a weekend sail.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Grateful Dead


I have been a Deadhead since I saw my first show in August of 1978 at Red Rocks in Colo. When I moved to the Bay Area in 1981 they were playing all the time and I went to see them a bunch. Since Jerry died in 1995 the band has had a few incarnations with different players trying to fill Jerry's shoes. Many shows have been disappointing but only because the expectations were so high. I went to see the band in San Francisco for the New Year's shows and was blown away by how great they sound now. The band is now called Futhur (after the famous bus) and they added a fey new players including John Kadlecik playing and singing the Jerry parts. When I closed my eyes during some of the songs, it seemed were were back in the days of old. What a great show! Check the show from 12-30 below, the sound is pretty good. Visit their site for upcoming dates and Phil's birthday back at the Civic in SF on March 12th. Hope to see you there!

You can listen to the entire show here.


Wave of the Day - Tahiti

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rescue on Lake Heron


Here is a great rescue story from Michigan. The first post is about what the rescuers did right and what they could have done better. Start reading at the second post to see what transpired during the rescue. What's so cool about the post is that they have the radio transmissions between the CG and their boat Time Machine. If you go to the bottom of the second post you can hear all the transmissions in one place. The crew also received the Hanson Award for their rescue. When the rescuee asked the rescuer if he could give him a reward for saving him, the rescuer replied, "Just seeing you and your son, alive and here aboard TIME MACHINE is the biggest reward I could possible get. Helping you is what sailors do for each other". What a great line! Read the full story here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Tragic Story of Moonduster


Lat38 has published a through account of the tragic loss of Moonduster on a Fijian reef during a cyclone. Read the full story here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1000 Days At Sea

Reid Stowe will hit the 1000 days at sea mark on January 16, 2010. Congrats to you for having the grit and determination to see this thru. Reid start the trip with his girlfriend of a few months. They were hit by a ship in the first month and had to deal with repairs. Then the girlfriend was always sea sick and had to be taken off the boat. Turns out she was pregnant. A few months ago, his boat was hit by a rouge wave in the Southern Ocean and he had to scramble to save her. On one of his passages, he steered the boat in such a way that his breadcrumbs formed a giant heart in the middle of the ocean. He has now lost all his on board computer and communication to shore has been limited. He has had quite an adventure and has nurtured a love of the sea and all the things that go with it. He has decided to keep sailing until it stops being fun. Here are some of the highlights from 2009:
The year 2009 began on Day 619 with Reid facing gale winds in the Southern Pacific ocean as he made his way to Cape Horn. He safely rounded the Horn as the best sailors in the world raced right by competing for the Vendee Globe. Shortly after on day 661, as Reid sailed through heavy seas in the South Atlantic, a wave briefly capsized the schooner, leaving Reid safe, but shaken and more cautious than ever. Despite these challenges, he found the inner strength to continue on into the calmer waters of the Atlantic where he drew the shape of a heart with the course that he sailed. It was a creation inspired by Reid’s love of life, the ocean, the divine, and humanity.

Months went by until Day 800 was reached and Reid found himself in a place where he could rest for a while, not sew sails all the time, and engage in painting more. Another hundred days flew by filled with schooner maintenance and spiritual contemplations. Then he had a curious visitor, a blue heron. Most blue herons are shore birds, but one had found its way hundreds of miles from land. The blue heron, it seemed, wanted company and landed on the Anne. A short, but beautiful friendship blossomed between Reid and the heron. However, ten days later it died, and Reid sailed on.

Reid existed in a timeless place. He often said so and we on land knew it must be true since he always made a point of double-checking with us to see if the day or hour he thought he had was correct. On Day 964, Reid broke the record for the longest non-stop solo sea voyage in history. No one past or present, accompanied or alone, has been at sea without stopping or re-supplying for this long. Fortunately, he was able to share his experience with the world almost every day until Day 970 when the last working computer broke down. Now Reid will have to send his blogs in the spoken form through satellite telephone. On the positive side, we are still in regular communication with him, though it is limited due to the high cost of phone minutes.

As 2009 gives rise to 2010, Reid’s goal of staying at sea for 1000 Days is looking like an inevitable reality. Day 1000 falls on Jan. 16, 2010, but Reid will be staying out longer due to the fact that returning to NYC in winter weather makes for tricky sailing. Instead, he will return in the middle of June propelled by calmer winds.

We hope to see you there as Reid makes his return from the ocean back to civilization and we hop that you continue to follow this amazing voyage as Reid voyages beyond 1000 Days at sea.

Check out his site here.

Awesome Underwater Pics


National Geographic has published some great underwater pics. Take a look.

Monday, January 11, 2010

America's Cup-in One Month!

Ady Gil RIP


In an unprovoked attack captured on film, the Japanese security ship Shonan Maru No. 2 deliberately rammed and caused catastrophic damage to the Sea Shepherd trimaran Ady Gil.

Six crew crewmembers, four from New Zealand, one from Australia, and one from the Netherlands were immediately rescued by the crew of the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker. None of the crew Ady Gil crew were injured.

The Ady Gil is believed to be sinking and chances of salvage are very grim.

According to eyewitness Captain Chuck Swift on the Bob Barker, the attack happened while the vessels were dead in the water. The Shonan Maru No. 2 suddenly started up and deliberately rammed the Ady Gil ripping eight feet of the bow of the vessel completely off. According to Captain Swift, the vessel does not look like it will be saved.

“The Japanese whalers have now escalated this conflict very violently,” said Captain Paul Watson. “If they think that our remaining two ships will retreat from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in the face of their extremism, they will be mistaken. We now have a real whale war on our hands now and we have no intention of retreating.”

Captain Paul Watson onboard the Steve Irwin is racing towards the area at 16 knots but still remains some five hundred miles to the north. The Bob Barker has temporarily stopped the pursuit of the Nisshin Maru to rescue the crew of the Ady Gil. The Japanese ships initially refused to acknowledge the May Day distress of the Ady Gil, but ultimately did acknowledge the call. Despite acknowledging the call, they did not offer to assist the Ady Gil or the Bob Barker in any way.

The incident took place at 64 Degrees and 03 Minutes South and 143 Degrees and 09 Minutes East

Ady Gil rammedUntil this morning the Japanese were completely unaware of the existence of the Bob Barker. This newest addition to the Sea Shepherd fleet left Mauritius off the coast of Africa on December 18th and was able to advance along the ice edge from the West as the Japanese were busy worrying about the advance of the Steve Irwin from the North.

“This is a substantial loss for our organization,” said Captain Watson. “The Ady Gil, the former Earthrace, represents a loss of almost two million dollars. However the loss of a single whale is of more importance to us and we will not lose the Ady Gil in vain. This blow simply strengthens our resolve, it does not weaken our spirit.”

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is requesting that the Australian government send a naval vessel to restore the peace in the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory. We have 77 crew from 16 nations on three vessels, six of them were on the Ady Gil. Of these, 21 are Australian citizens: 16 Australians on the Steve Irwin and five on the Bob Barker. Sea Shepherd believes that the Australian government has a responsibility to protect the lives of Australian citizens working to defend whales from illegal Japanese whaling activities.

“Australia needs to send a naval vessel down here as soon as possible to protect both the whales and the Australian citizens working to defend these whales,” said Steve Irwin Chief Cook Laura Dakin of Canberra. “This is Australian Antarctic Territorial waters and I see the Japanese whalers doing whatever they want with impunity down here without a single Australian government vessel anywhere to be found. Peter Garrett, I have one question for you: Where the bloody hell are you?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Better to Stay in Bed?

Fire authorities in California found a corpse in a burned out section of
forest while assessing the damage done by a forest fire. The deceased male
was dressed in a full wet suit, complete with scuba tanks on his back,
flippers, and facemask. A post-mortem revealed that the person died not from
burns, but from massive internal injuries.

Dental records provided a positive identification. Investigators then set
about to determine how a fully clad diver ended up in the middle of a forest
fire. It was revealed that on the day of the fire, the person went for a
diving trip off the coast some 20 miles from the forest. The firefighters,
seeking to control the fire as quickly as possible, called in a fleet of
helicopters with very large dip buckets. Water was dipped from the ocean and
then flown to the forest fire and emptied.

You guessed it. One minute our diver was making like Flipper in the
Pacific, the next he was doing the breaststroke in a fire dip bucket 300
feet in the air. Apparently he extinguished exactly 5'10" of the
fire. Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Joys of Sailing


Found this article and wanted to share it with you. Sometimes we forget the simple pleasures of sailing or just being on the water. Enjoy!

Sailing is both a recreational as well as functional activity for millions of people around the world. Often, when we think of sailing, we think about the massive ships that cruise the oceans, the yachts that race in competitions, and about the money it takes just to own one, let alone having enough friends or family who might be interested in going out on the water on any given day.

But sailing is so much more than that. It is about connecting with nature and being surrounded, and powered, by the forces that encompass us on a daily basis. It's often easy to forget that such wonderful things are all around us when we drive to and from work, text on our phones, or merely walk through the grocery store to find something to eat. The world is abundant with the basic necessities and the promise of reconnecting with it.

Sailing doesn't have to be a process requiring five, six, or even a dozen people to be successful. Small sailboats require only one person to cruise around calm waterways, such as rivers and inland lakes. Of course, whenever you have help, and company, the entire day can open up so many more possibilities.

Imagine bobbing gently in the cool water, the air calm, waiting for it to take its next breath. The sail ripples gently but you're in no hurry and there's not another boat or person in sight. All you hear are the distant sound of life and nature moving about in its perfect symbiotic way. You don't concern yourself with gas prices, work problems, or difficulties in a relationship. Out here it's only about relaxation.

Then the wind begins to build. It tugs on the mainsail or the jib and slowly the boat beneath you cuts through the water. The boat leans up gently and your hand is on the wheel, steering straight ahead. Soon the wind is in your face, brushing past you and that's the only sound you hear aside from the occasional splash of water against the hull.

You move across the lake, catching every puff of breeze in the sails and you begin to laugh in delight. If you're alone, you are loving every minute of it. If you're with someone, you two share a special bond, knowing that this day couldn't be any better. Sailing helps people to reconnect with not only their inner child and the joys we once embraced on a daily basis, but also with the world around us.

Sure, it takes some skills that can be learned relatively easy before launching for your first voyage, and they can also be discovered through the natural course of trying. Sailing has been a part of human culture for thousands of years and while in its infancy, sailing was more about function than recreation, there's a reason why millions still enjoy taking to the water to await the next breeze to guide them through the silky glass waterways.

The art of sailing is open to everyone and if you haven't tried it, you're missing out.

Did you know that less than 1% of the population in the US sails in a given year? Time to change that. Take a bunch of friends out next time you go. My plan for the new year is to send out an Evite each month to all my friends and invite them sailing. First come, first serve. I'll let you know how it works out.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Speed Dream


In 2008 world-renowned adventurer Richard Branson tried to break the current transatlantic monohull sailing record of 6 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes, 39 seconds on his 100’ Super-Maxi yacht Virgin Money, but had to abandon his attempt when the boat started to break apart in the middle of the ocean.

So, is it possible to beat what Branson calls 'one of the greatest records of all'? Can a sailboat reach speeds in excess of 50 knots in stormy open-ocean conditions? Is it possible to cover 1,000 miles in a single day under wind power alone? Can the performance gap between offshore monohulls and multihulls be bridged?

Radical boat designer Vlad Murnikov believes the answer to all of these questions is yes and is assembling a new international team of designers, engineers, adventurers, and sponsors to prove it. 'The SpeedDream Team,' says Murnikov, 'will comprise specialists with diverse expertise in offshore racing yachts like Volvo 70 and Open 60, multihull and powerboat design, hydrodynamics, structural engineering, and advanced composites.'

The team's two-year quest is to build the fastest monohull sailboat on the planet. 'Not simply to beat the existing transatlantic record,' Murnikov says, 'but to shatter it by more than a day! And then we'll go on to challenge other world records like the transpacific and nonstop circumnavigation records.'

Continue reading.

Almost Run Over


Listening to the slap-slap of wavelets against the hull, my eyes were just starting to close when I began to hear a disconcerting but vaguely familiar hum. I lay ensconced in my bunk in the forward cabin, wrapped in nothing but a sweaty sheet, smelling the mildew on my pillow that has marked the homey smell of boats since I was a boy. Ian had just started the first watch of the night and his 21-year-old girlfriend Hilary lay reading a book in her bunk in the aft cabin. The three of us were sailing down the Brazilian coast on my 40-foot ketch Condesa. The wind was light, the weather was calm and clear, and the coffee was on. Just another night at sea.

“Hey Clark, get up here, fast.”

I was a little irritated because Ian tends to be overcautious, but I slipped out of my bunk and wrapped a beach towel around my naked body. I sprung up the companionway and saw Ian’s worried face in the greenish LCD glow of the cockpit gadgets. But Ian wasn’t looking at the depthsounder, the GPS, or the VHF; he was looking up at the new lights that were entering our world. Against a backdrop of lights from dozens of fishing boats and faraway lights on shore, Ian pointed to the two mast head lights and the red running light of what I knew to be a gigantic freighter on our starboard side.

“Oh shit, he’s close.”

“He’s been weaving all over the place. First he was taking our stern, now he’s turned to starboard again.”

I then knew the source of my hum. The configuration of the lights made the ship seem sure to cross our bow a hundred yards or so ahead—still too close for comfort–but it took me a few seconds to get a feel for the ship’s motion. After these few seconds I could see that yes, it was at the right angle to cross our bow but was turning to port again, towards us.

“Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit!”

We turned on our spreader lights, which light Condesa up like a Christmas tree.

We had turned down the volume on the VHF because the hundreds of Brazilian fishermen in the area were driving us crazy. It was a few days before the start of the World Cup and channel 16 was a cacophony of chants, singing, music from a commercial radio station, and confused chatter in Portuguese.

Continue reading.
Be sure to checkout some of the other cool stories on Clark's blog as he circles the planet. They are on the right side of his page.