Web started posting on the surf report a little while ago and laid down one fascinating tidbit of knowlege after another. It soon became evident that he's lived on a sailboat for much of his life and has explored many surf-rich regions throughout the world by boat. Many in the niceness community were curious about Web's adventures. He was kind enough to respond to a few questions. Thanks Web!!!
Hey E. I hope that one or two people get stoked by my little addition to
this sailing/surf world and want to go... It is a pleasure to share
something that is so much fun...
Niceness: Can you give a brief run-down of the places you've sailed/travelled?
Web: It is important for people to understand the distinction between
where I have sailed my own boat, and where I have sailed someone
Getting your own boat ready for a trip is a whole different league from
getting on someone else's boat. And MUCH more of an accomplishment.
Over the years, I have sailed my own boat (all starting from NorCal
ports) up to Canada (Vancouver Island) and the Puget Sound. I have gone
down to South America, through the Panama Canal, and all through the
Caribbean (up to the Bahamas). I have basically
checked out all the surf I possibly could from Northern Vancouver Island to Northern Columbia on the
Pacific side by boat.
I flew over to Australia and ran a boat as Captain (surf/dive charter)
from Oz (Brisbane) out to the Coral Sea and beyond to the South West
Pacific. I then took the boat around the corner and left it in
Indonesia. I have crewed from Hawaii down the line Islands to below the
Societies. Some of that on a sailboat, some commercial Tuna fishing. I
worked in the commercial fishing Industry for over a decade, including
fishing the Bering Sea out of Dutch Harbor in dead winter. So I got to
see some heavy weather there. But, as anyone can see, I have a long way
to go before I can really call myself a "voyager".
Niceness: Have you found a magic, empty, perfect wave while sailing?
Web: I have never found the "Magic" wave in the classic sense. Which ties
into question three. (Why is the sailing/surfing/exploring lifestyle less than idyllic?) I had this vision when I was young and really
dreaming of doing this of finding that "magic" wave on my sailboat, and
riding the barrel into the sunset. The reality is a lot different. Not
in a worse way or in a better way, just different. For example, when
traveling on my last trip in Central America, it was just myself and my
wife. We lived on the boat, and everything we owned was on the boat.
That was our home and sole possession. We did not have any insurance,
because we could not afford it. The reality of the possibility of
losing your boat, all your stuff, and God forbid, your wife, hits home when
you are trying to figure out how/where to anchor off a break that is
pumping double O, you have never been there, your wife is going "this is really
heavy, be careful" with big wide eyes, and you are counting on not
getting hurt and the weather staying the same to pull it off. Not to
mention that your wife is not comfortable the entire time you are in
the water because the boat is just rocking and rolling. After all, it is a
surf spot, not an anchorage. The So Pac ( or any atoll or motu) is a
lot better for that, because you can get in a reef pass and be in calm
water, and have the surf right there. Of course, you also have that
little problem of hitting the reef (remember, you are ON YOUR OWN in
many situations for medical care, etc) those aggressive reef sharks
and, at times, really heavy waves.
So maybe that gives people a small taste of the different factors they
might deal with while preparing for a trip of their own. All that being
said, make no mistake: I have found some epic waves, put the pieces
together, and had a magic day. It just is a little different than the
story might be over a few beers.
Niceness: Have you had experiences with places inhabited by primitive cultures?
Web: Not really. Obviously., there is a huge difference between a village
in the Solomon Islands or the jungle in Panama vs. anywhere in
California. I came across people/villages who still carved their canoes
out of logs and did everything by hand, lived with no electricity, etc.
But I do not think they can be thought of as "primitive". They know
what is up. Yachts (and everyone else) go just about everywhere these days
with GPS. GPS has made a huge difference in opening up the oceans of
the world to the average person. Keep in mind, most sailors are not
surfers. Actually, very few sailors are surfers. Most sailors are older couples
who are still trying to understand the ocean. So GPS is a huge comfort.
They are willing to push limits that they never would have pre GPS.
Before GPS it was Sat Nav, which only had a window to give you a fix
for about twelve hours a day. That is twelve hours of no satellite fix. And
before that, it was Celestial. So the modern voyager goes everywhere.
Really what you get is "primitive" people canoeing out to the yacht as
soon as you get the anchor down, trying to sell you something or trade
something. They know what your gear is. And they want it. That, or they
just wave and pass you by, just another "rich" yachtsman.
Niceness: In your guestimation, are there many Tavarua-like waves yet to be exposed in the South Pacific? (Maybe a few people surfing them, but no media exposure).
Web: Yes. That is not a guestimation, either.
Niceness: Any near-death experiences?
Web: None. I am very cautious. I am not a risk taker. And I have been
Niceness: Favorite wave?
Web: (this is my favorite BOAT wave, not land based) My favorite wave is,
ironically enough, pretty easy to get to by boat, although that is the
only way to get there. There are no roads. Really remote. And it is not
some South Pacific perfect magic, either. It is in Baja, about 2/3
down. It is my favorite, because I go there with my wife, so she shares
it with me. It is an insane right, but easy to surf. The bottom is
rugged, but fairly deep. And the anchorage is spectacular. I can anchor
my boat, launch my dingy, and motor in minutes to the break. My wife
can see me, so she is comfortable that I am alive, and I can be surfing a
double O wave, and she is in flat water. There are no sharks to speak
of. In a pinch, we can get out of there to medical care in about a day.
There is great hiking, so we can do things together, and it is safe
politically. The first time I was there, we pulled in and there was one
boat there, from Montana. There was a couple on board, and I anchored
and rowed my dingy over. The guy comes out, about my age (back then in
my thirties) with a big smile and hands me a cold beer. It turns out
they are river guides in the summer, and sail in the winter. He says,
"oh, yeah, it is going to be good this afternoon. I have been surfing
for three days by myself. Great to meet you, bro". we end up trading
overhead waves for about five days. Finally, my wife forces me to agree
to leaving when we run out of fresh food. I love that place.
Niceness: Places you'd like to sail/explore?
Web: My wife and I are gearing up for a major South Pacific run. We now
have a 8 month old daughter, so we are waiting until she can swim and
is out of diapers, a couple of years. We are selling our boat, and buying
a bigger one. We really want to work the South Pacific hard. I would love
to open up a dialogue with others who have the same plans, especially if
they have kids. I think I have it pretty wired on how I want to do it,
but am always looking to see how others go about it.
Niceness: Crazy/gnarly stories?
Web: I have a lot of experiences that make good stories to those who can
stand to listen. But overall, the same shit that we all go through
groveling our way to that next wave on the horizon.
Niceness: Favorite port?
Web: There are a lot, but probably Bocas del Toro in Panama on the
Caribbean side. The place is happening. Cheap, great day sailing to
little islands, and really good surf to be discovered.(well, sort of
discovered) And almost no crime.
Niceness: Any pirate stories?
Web: There were active pirates on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua when I
was there. A Swedish family was shot about a day ahead of me when I was
going North. I ran at night with no lights,(not that it would have
mattered if they had radar) and hid in the cays during the day and
slept. It was gnarly. My wife was not on the boat at the time, she had
flown back to the States for a bit. I was with a surf buddy, and was
glad she was not there.
Niceness: Advice for an aspiring sailor/surfer of the high seas?
Web: READ all you can. Just read everything. Sailing rags (latitude 38).
Go to the armchair sailor in Sausalito and buy as much as you can
afford. Walk the docks and boatyards, get to know boats. Get to know
the people in the yards. Find a mentor you trust. Decide what you need
in the way of a boat, and figure out the cheapest way to get it. There
are a lot of deals out there. Get by with as little as possible. You do
not need all the bullshit gear. The younger you are, the less you need.
Don't listen to idiots. Especially when they tell you what boat to get.
(that is like telling you what kind of surfboard to ride) Trust your
gut. Taking lessons does not hurt. Enjoy the process of getting ready,
because it is just as much fun as actually going. Most importantly,
your dreams. Don't let anyone stop you. Believe in yourself, because
can make it happen. There is NEVER a "right time". Just do what it
and fucking go.
Niceness: What do you think of the surf and surf-scene in SF?
Web: I don't know. The surf speaks for itself. It is incredibly good. As
for the scene...My family has been in NorCal for five generations. I
have been surfing since I was 14, 1978. The localism thing worries me.
It used to be different. Not so violent. I remember going (I live in
San Mateo County, South West corner) to Ano in the late 70's. The west side
guys (Vince and that crowd) would sort of vibe me, but as long as I was
low key, I was OK. I was not a threat wave count wise to them anyway.
Even in the heart of the West side. Never just random violence. Now, I
have seen guys just go ballistic for the slightest infraction. I
understand it, but do not agree with it. I get left alone, I guess
because I am older and bigger, but I do not like seeing anyone get
hassled, unless they REALLY deserve it. Being a "local" is just not an
excuse to make someone feel like shit, or worse. I think these guys who
pull the local trip are fucking lame. It fires me up, and I will call
them on it. Most of them are not even "local". They are transplants
from SoCal or where ever.(not that it matters) We must learn that the ocean
belongs to everyone, and that everyone therefore has a deep
responsibility to take care of the ocean, and each other, in any way
they can. At the end of the day, what matters is not what we take with
us in our greed , but the beauty we must leave behind for the next
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