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© 2018 by VanillaGorilla Paddle Surf.

  • The Vanilla Gorilla

My First SUP Surf Photo Shoot!

About a month ago, I was “volun-told” that I would be heading down to Costa Rica for a Hobie Surf trip. Out of all of the things I’m volun-told to do, this was by far the most exciting to date. Jason and I were to head down with Colin McPhillips and his two sons Kai and Dax for photos with the nice folks at Blue Zone SUP. And, even though, they would be getting PLENTY of pictures of the McPhillips super surfer gene pool, additional snaps were needed of “a chick” and “your average Joe.” With that, Jason and I were in. I didn’t know what to expect, but Jason said we’d be working pretty hard. I brushed off the notion of work, thinking only of warm, crystal blue waters and perfect waves poised next to beautiful geography to look at whilst riding.

I met Jason at his house at 2am for the first leg of our journey, a two-hour drive to Raleigh. There we hopped on our first plane to Atlanta where we caught our connection to Liberia, Costa Rica. We landed at about the same time as Colin and the two boys. We piled our boards, all unscathed, onto a few very rugged looking SUVs for a white-knuckle two-hour ride to our final destination in Nosara. After 12 hours of travelling we threw our bags, unpacked, into our room and grabbed our boards to head straight out to the water: nothing beats diving into warm, salty water after a stuffy travel day. As we walked to the water Colin said, “How do you like your board?”

I froze. I had the chance to see this board being shaped in California when I was there for BOP. It was beautiful. But it had just arrived in North Carolina less than two weeks ago while I was out of town. He shaped this board. I was embarrassed to say that I hadn’t even surfed it yet! Being a crap-tastic liar, I just went ahead and said, “It’s really cold in NC, I haven’t had the chance to get it out yet.”

I felt like such a kook! I left that feeling behind, just happy to get in the water and try the board out. It was perfect! For a 7’6” x 26.5” at 82 liters, it was incredibly stable. Compared to my older 7’11” model, I found it easy to stand on and easy to catch waves. Then, when it came time to cut back, it turned on a dime without sacrificing any speed. The board is far more advanced than the rider, but I was still having a blast getting to know her! We surfed until it was pitch black. This would be the pace for the next 6 days.

Although exhausted, we woke up at the crack of dawn to find the best break and then surf it for four hours. We were all starving after surfing for so long, but were rewarded with pipas, or tiny coconuts, to drink before travelling to brunch. Immediately after finishing up with the food we headed out for our noon session at Guiones, the most popular surf break in Nosara. Although, we were warned to not surf the main break on SUPs, we got there in the heat of mid-day and found that we had the break to ourselves. This was my favorite break out of all the spots we surfed because it was a little slower and I had time to think about what I was doing! I think the photographer liked this one the least, though. That evening, our last session was a little more relaxing with a quick flat water paddle in a river, which may or may not have been home to a few crocodiles. The idea of “work” that Jason had mentioned a few weeks ago crept back into my mind. At dinner, Dax fell asleep on the dinner table. I envied him. Day one was in the books.

We surfed in the mornings. We surfed in the afternoons. We surfed in the evenings. Somewhere around day 4 the photographer said that they thought they had enough pictures. We continued to surf more. Every time the kids would mention being tired, Colin would say something about not being “such a chick.” To which “the chick” never said anything because “the chick” wanted to surf more even though it was exhausting. Heck, it was warm. All the motivation I needed to get in the water each and every time was a thought of what the water in North Carolina probably felt like. It was fun “work” if you could even really call it that. I loved every minute of it even though every muscle in my body ached. I was dropping into bigger waves, pulling into closeouts just to get the shot, and practicing my more aggressive turns. We ate and surfed some more. Colin and his boys surfed long boards, SUPs, and short boards. These guys were fun to watch, and excellent all-around watermen. “Average Joe” was surfing anything but average. But there was something fishy about his style: every wave Jason caught was ridden with a puffer fish face of intensity! Replacing his nickname of “Average Joe” with “Puffer.”

The day before we left, the photographer had gone and we were hanging back to play and surf with the Blue Zone SUP crew. I know we were tired, but these guys had to be ready to drop. Not only were they making it out to surf with us at some of the sessions, but they had organized our accommodations, they were driving us around, and then arranging our meals. Our last morning session, they brought their families out to play on the beach and surf. It was a great vibe and a friendly wave. Short boards, long boards, and SUPs were in the water while kids played on the beach and saw baby sea turtles make their way out to sea for the first time. The waves were firing; it was probably the best session of the entire trip.

That afternoon the winds came up. Colin, Kai, Dax, Jason, and I drove over to Guiones to see heavy on-shore winds on small waves. Kai had been wanting to take a nap for two days. When he saw the water he lamented, “Why do we have to surf?” Without hesitation Colin excitedly said, “Because we’re surfers! Now get your gear and get in the water!” Anyone else would have taken one look at the water and let the exhaustion of the week take it’s toll and skipped the session. Not Colin McPhillips. I have NEVER met someone who likes surfing as much as he does. Even though it was a tiring week, his enthusiasm for getting in the water regardless of the conditions was motivating to say the least. He kept us all going strong. It’s not hard to see why he’s a champion. When you truly love something it isn’t hard to practice, train, or play. Each moment is a gift, and you live it.

The blown out session ended up being our last time on the water before we all spent another grueling day travelling home. It was some time during the flights that everything started to sink in. My legs were covered in mosquito and noseeum bites. My ankle had been annihilated by a jellyfish. My shoulders were stiff. My scalp was burned. And I was as happy as a pig in poo.

For your own SUP surfing adventure, I have trips coming available through the Winter with some great fellas down in Costa Rica!

If you want to shred on an epic board you should seriously check out the Colin McPhillips series from Hobie: Hobie.com

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