Vans

Cypress, California: April 28, 12PM

There’s Only So Much To Do In A Parking Lot

 

The late-morning sun’s beginning to cook the black tarmac outside the Vans headquarters in Cypress, where we’ve spent the last hour or so practicing flip tricks, trying stalls on un-waxed curbs. A shiny ‘84 Cadillac Coup de Ville, white and silver, pulls into the lot, a smiling toe-head sporting vintage, oval-shaped sunglasses behind the wheel. It’s longboard style-maestro and Tommorows Tulips’ frontman, Alex Knost: Always fashionable, usually late.

 

Along with Knost, we’re joined by Aussie Wade Goodall, Kauai native Leila Hurst, San Clemente’s Tanner Gudauskas, and Venice Beach’s Chad “Nightsnake” Marshall. We’ll be heading north, surfing and skating our way through California, Oregon, and Washington, eventually making our way to Tofino, British Columbia, for the Duct Tape Invitational. It’s an eclectic lot, to be sure. Well-traveled, too. But even amongst Gudauskas, Knost, and Marshall – all California natives – no one in the group has ventured north of Marin County.

 

Knost parks his whip good and crooked in the last remaining parking spot, grabs a skateboard, and starts pushing around the lot, hucking flip tricks. Members of our caravan had already made casual introductions and small talk, agreed upon the afternoon’s itinerary, and strapped surfboards to the roofs of the two Ford E-350 passenger vans we’d call home for the next week.

 

Knost stomps the heel of his skateboard and snatches its nose, casually moving toward the vans. “You guys ready to go?” he says, smiling. “What are we waiting for?”

Strapped
Knost & His Cadillac

Santa Cruz, California: April 29, 9AM

We Choose Chaos

 

Crowded, wave-rich, and surf crazy, Santa Cruz is essentially a Southern California surf town on the central coast. As we arrive into the town’s west end, it’s clear – from our first view of the right hooking off the rocks in front of a State Park That Shall Not Be Named – that a decent swell has followed us up the coast. Swell lines roll past Steamer Lane’s iconic headland, the famous lighthouse looking over it all. As we pass, four surfers hustle each other for a head-high gem.

 

It’s pretty classic conditions for The Lane, but predictably packed. Some opt for Cowells, the Lane’s inside peeler, which has been working like a dream at low tide, we’ve been told. Goodall and Gudauskas can’t bring themselves to rebuff one of California’s classic points to grovel amongst longboarders and throngs of soft-tops. They head out to The Lane proper, while Knost, Marshall, and Hurst – who’s unsurprisingly light-footed on a log – paddle into the chaos.

 

Knost and Marshall turn and stroke into a long, mellow right-hander, bobbing and weaving through the crowd with Marshall hanging heels behind Knost. It’s unclear whether either of the Southern California log specialists’ feet ever actually touch the chilly Central California water. After trading and sharing waves for two hours, we decide it’s time to get back on the road.

 

Back at the vans, as we begin the process of repacking our cargo, a white Sprinter stops to take stock of our group. It’s artist/filmmaker/record producer Thomas Campbell. We ask him if he wants to jump in. After a long look at our mess of boardbags, wetsuits, and suitcases strewn about, he declines our invitation.

Knost
Hurst
Knost & Marshall

San Francisco, California: April 29, 3PM

Road Games

 

Gudauskas introduces our caravan to a game that helps pass the time during long stretches of driving which unintentionally and simultaneously revives the careers of a whole host of oft-forgotten Next-Big-Things. The game is unimaginatively called “Surfer.” It goes something like this:

 

One player names a famous surfer – say, Wiggolly Dantas. The next player in the rotation could say Damien Hobgood, or Dion Agius, or Dave Rastovich, or even Duke Kahanamoku, as long as (A) the surfer’s first name starts with the first letter of the previous surfer’s last name; and (B) if no one else participating in the game recognizes the surfer, the player must offer some background information to confirm that they are or were once indeed pro surfers.

 

Entertaining and educational! It’s also colossally challenging when playing with the likes of Gudauskas and Goodall, who have both an encyclopedic knowledge of surf history, as well as decades of combined competitive experience against generations of regionally famous rippers from California to Australia and beyond. Ever heard of Rhys Bombaci? Remember Adam Wickwire? I hadn’t, and I don’t. But Goodall and Gudauskas never miss a beat.

 

However, as we crawled across the Golden Gate Bridge during rush hour, many of us distracted by the beautiful hills of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, Goodall offered up Santa Barbara’s Killian Garland. The car was stumped momentarily, having exhausted the list of surfers whose first names begin with the letter “G” back near Año Nuevo.

 

Gudauskas, pausing briefly to take a picture through the passenger-side window, says: “Gerry Lopez.”

 

Duh.

Sunset District
Goodall
Van Life

Northern California: April 30, 8AM

Hulk Hands

 

Nor Cal is gray – both sharky and foggy. The region’s locals have a reputation among their fellow Californians for being “egg-y,” a word which seems to have been made up by Southern California surfers specifically to describe Northern California surfers. As we decided to paddle out at a sunny, empty, head-high right pointbreak in Northern California, we do so with some hesitation.

 

It’s a little soft, but there are a few little power pockets right after the takeoff, which Goodall and Gudauskas take full advantage of, throwing spray toward the point’s rocky headlands.

 

We had the wave to ourselves for nearly an hour before the wind made it almost impossible, especially for the logs. But Gudauskas and Goodall pushed ahead for another hour as the winds increased, turning the formerly warm, groomed lineup into a chilly, disorganized mess.

 

When the two finally came in, Gudauskas’ hands were so swollen from the cold, they looked like a flesh-colored version of Hulk Hands. Without feeling in his fingers for the next fifteen minutes, Gudauskas struggled mightily to get out of his wetsuit.

 

We’d just had a fairly mythical Nor Cal point to ourselves. No egg-y-ness, no complaints. It was the first in a string of sessions in unusually inviting conditions.

Goodall
Tanner Amping
Knost
Rough & Gorgeous
Goodall
Goodall
Gudauskas

California-Oregon Border: May 1, 10AM

“You’re Out There, Right?”

 

As the wheels of our Ford E-350 cross over another set of double yellow lines and come to a stop just a few feet from another guard rail above a craggy cliff, it’s clear that our decision of where to surf has become slightly more complicated. After three days of winding and weaving our way along the perpetually bending California coastline, we’ve worked our way into a routine: Pull over at the first sign of breaking waves, surf, then find a skate park, skate, repeat.

 

But as we reach the California-Oregon border, we watch as an elongated set of ashen cotton swabs moves in from the southwest, turning our California gold – several days of sunny skies and offshore wind – into a windswept mess.

 

Gudauskas, a noted optimist, assesses the situation before declaring, “Welcome to Oregon!” and begins recruiting members of our party to surf with him.

 

“We’re finally here!” he says with a beaming smile.

 

We all avoid eye contact. It’s cold. The waves look like crap. But Marshall, who possesses the most comparable amount of positivity, is an easy target.

 

“Chad Marsh,” Gudauskas says, directing his attention to the First Point Malibu fixture, who is shivering, looking out to the ocean as he zips up the light-blue Members Only jacket that he purchased for $2 at a thrift store the day before. “You’re out there, right?”

 

Resistance is futile when dealing with such enthusiasm. The board bags are off the roofs and our boards are in the water.

Marshall
Marshall
Knost
Oregon
Gudauskas
Goodall
Marshall
Goodall

Eugene, Oregon: May 2, 10AM

Shred ‘Til You’re Dead (Tired)

 

Even when the waves were good, our group took to skateboarding with a religious fervor. We searched for skate parks in every town. Every stop – for gas, food, beer, or a bathroom break – prompted flat-ground flip tricks.

 

Unsurprisingly, there were some talented skateboarders among the group. Marshall and Knost each have a skate style that resembles what they do in the water, mixed with a little skate punk aggression. Goodall was limited by recent leg injuries, but still impressed us with some technical maneuvers. Timid after a long hiatus from skateboarding, Gudauskas caught the fever early on. Meanwhile, photographers Grant Hatfield and Devin Briggs became de facto skate instructors, taking trick requests from the group.

 

The new and gorgeous Washington Jefferson skate park in Eugene is where many in the group reached the peak of their amateur skateboard careers. Marshall impressed many, sticking a smooth backside nosegrind down a long, bending, concrete curb. Knost laced a lengthy layback powerslide, gliding across the concrete, his orange thrift store cardigan flying behind him like a cape. But it was Gudauskas' monster heel flip, which seemed to gain an extra inch of elevation with each passing day of practice, that would take the afternoon.

Skate Park
Knost
Knost
Shoe Customization

Portland, Oregon: May 3, 10PM

Float On

 

It’s hard to imagine Chad Marshall being star-struck. Among the surf world legends and Hollywood royalty that frequent First Point, his prowess on a longboard often makes him the center of attention. Jackson Browne, Blake Mills, and members of The Dawes have jammed at his Venice Beach surf shop. Square-jawed and well-dressed, Marshall looks like Scott Caan’s handsome, more-shredding older brother.

 

All of the above made seeing Marshall turn all fan-boy at the thought of meeting Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock all the more surprising.

 

We were passing through Portland for a Tomorrows Tulips show. Photographer Nolan Hall – who formerly played guitar in the Costa Mesa Indie rock quartet, Japanese Motors– sent a text to Brock, whom he’d befriended while the Motors toured with Modest Mouse years ago. Brock responded by cordially inviting us to visit him at his studio/loft space downtown. Visibly nervous, Marshall recounted the first Modest Mouse show he attended as a teen. His unapologetic fandom prompted all kinds of good-natured ribbing from Leila Hurst.

 

Hours later, with a box full of Modest Mouse’s full catalog on vinyl (as well as some limited releases from Brock’s Glacial Pace label), we left our gracious host in order to catch the Tulips show. But not before Marshall asked Brock to pose with him for a picture.

Knost
Chad Marshall & Isaac Brock
Isaac Brock's Studio

Port Angeles, Washington: May 5, 8AM

Blackballed

 

If you anticipated an uncharted score, or if you sought to escape the crowds of Southern California, road trips, for a time, were a justifiable escape. But such expeditions have fallen out of favor. Cold water, shark stories, and incomplete or unremarkable intel are serious barriers to Northern expeditions. The consensus seems to be: “Don’t waste your time.”

 

As the motors of the Blackball Ferry Line’s flagship vessel turn over, their rumble interrupting our quiet morning, we’re now looking across the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward the snowcapped Olympic mountains of Washington. It’s been nine days since we left Southern California. After a long night in Portland, we’d cannonball-run through The Evergreen State, the trees growing taller with every passing mile. Once we cross this body of water, we’re in Canada, with another five-hour drive to Tofino.

 

After a thousand miles of coastline, naysaying road trips seems pretty narrow-minded. We didn’t score perfect waves, but with some flexibility and an adaptive quiver of boards, our group proved that a fruitful harvest could still be reaped from these wind-swept, northwestern fields.

 

With the shores of Vancouver Island in sight, we pose for awkward photos from the bow of the boat, the sunny, cloudless skies having reappeared after a short hiatus. As the horn sounds, signaling our impending arrival, we all eagerly pile back into the van. It’s unclear whether we’re more excited to reach our destination, or for the 200-mile drive ahead of us.

Cheers