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Surf Camp: Hot Wax Surf Shop

     This summer at Pamlico Sea Base we had a group that wanted to learn to surf. We took our group to Hot Wax Surf Camp in Emerald Isle. Even though the surf was "mushy" we had a great time. The camp had an assortment of boards to fit all the sizes and abilities of our group. They spent a good amount of time preparing us on land for what we would encounter in the water. We talked about managing the board in the water, the physics of water ad surfing, and did some stretches and practicing "popping up."
     I was really impressed with how the organized getting the group into the water. As a sea kayaking guide, I know how chaotic things can get when inexperienced kayakers set off into the water- a place where current, wind and waves can intimidate new paddlers and spread them out all over the place. Hot Wax surf camp got us into the water in a super controlled, safe way that made everyone feel really comfortable.
     We lined up in two lines on the beach. There were two instructors in the surf zone (where the waves are crashing) and two instructors floating on their boards out in the lineup. We already knew how to manage our big boards in the waves from our session on land, but it was great to have someone right next to us encouraging us and giving tips when we struggled. Once we made it through the breaking waves, we were sent paddling to the instructors floating in the lineup.

     Once we were all safely in the lineup, we practicing turing around, paddling, loosing our boards, retrieving our boards and the "nose grab." When it was time to start catching waves, the instructors were really encouraging and took the time to make sure everyone caught a wave. The camp is designed to give participants the basic skills they need to start surfing. You won't be a world class surfer by the end of your session, but you will have the skills you need to go out with a rental board on a nice day.
     In addition to taking posed photos on the beach, one of the instructors (and the owner of the shop) brought a waterproof camera out surfing to take candid photos of us while we surfed.

Hot Wax surf shop is a great place for families, scout troops, and groups of friends to have a great, safe first surfing experience.

First Trip of the Season

    June 19th, George and I set off on the first sea kayaking trip of the 2011 summer season at Pamlico Sea base. This trip was particularly special because it was George's first sea kayaking trip! We had a small tight knit group of 6 which made it really easy for George to learn the ropes.

On the way to Cape Lookout, we stopped at Bird Island. Dustin found this really awesome knife there. If Davy Jones had a pocket knife, this is what it would look like.

Landing at Cape Lookout

George makes an awesome pirate doesn't he?

The aftermath of shoving a square box into a round hole.

On the way to Great Island Camp (AKA Fish Camp 1) Dustin caught a crab, with his bare hands, as he was paddling. Yeah, he's B.A.!

And then at Fish Camp 1, the guys caught even more!

Blue crab for dinner!

    After we reached Long Point Camp, or what we lovingly call Fish Camp 2 on Wednesday, we looked across the sound toward our Thursday destination, only to see a wall of smoke. There were several peat moss and forest fires burning in the area that had completely blocked our view of the land mass we would be heading to in the morning. All we could see was the marsh grass surrounding the ferry landing. Five miles across the sound, through the haze, was our first waypoint for Thursday morning; Cedar Island Point. Four miles beyond it, in Cedar Island Bay, was our final destination; the Cedar Island Ferry landing.

The view looking out onto the sound, only about a mile of visibility.
Typically you can see a land mass across the water.

Time to get out the map and compasses! We took a bearing from our location to our landing point using the map. It was due North. Even if we had no visibility in the morning, we wouldn't get lost.

  Every night the guys built a fire on the beach, which is trickier than building your typical campfire in the woods. It was really cool watching their fire building technique evolve over the course of the week. By Thursday night, they had it down.

   We got up at 4am Thursday morning to cross the sound. We get up this early because the wind isn't as strong this early in the morning, which makes our crossing easier. We put glowsticks on our kayaks so that any shrimping boats in the area can see us. The view of sunrise from the middle of the sound is always different and always magnificent.

The deck of my kayak ready for a pre-dawn paddle. Compass readied in case the smoke moved in as we paddled.

Sunrise that morning was pretty ominous and apocalyptic-looking. I blame the smokey conditions.

One of the scouts in his boat on our sunrise paddle.

Gimme that horizon...

Tim enjoying a well deserved ice cream at the ferry landing, waiting for the boat.

The gang on Ocracoke

Texas Iron Woman Crew 7701

I spent this week with a rockin' all girl Venture Crew from Texas; crew 7701. They did the Iron Woman, which is half a week of cycling and half a week of paddling. Thursday, we paddled to Shackleford Banks for a night on the beach.

Crew 7701 on Ocracoke

Just a mile out of Cedar Island, Pat's tire literally popped.

So I got on Wal-Mart in Morehead city on the phone(thank you Iphone and 3G!!) trying to find a new tire. He had a rental bike with odd sized tires, so he ended up riding with me some of the way back before switching out with another rider.

After a long hard day of cycling 30 miles against a 23knot headwind!

Storms on Wednesday kept us from cycling and kayaking, so we headed to the aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. The jellyfish were mesmerizing.

The pre-kayaking pep talk. Move your body like a belly dancer!

Rebecca and Ivy at our lunch stop on Bird Island

On Brown Island,Chrissy managed to use a scallop shell to catch this tiny fiddler crab, who posed for photos.

Nicole gettin' her protein for the day.

Our kayaks lined up on the sound side of Shackleford for the night

What to do when you forget your bowl? Eat your dinner from a giant shell.

The girls took advantage of the beautiful sunset for some sweet paddling shots.
Can we say Facebook photo!

Banker Ponies! They say that long ago a Spanish galleon wrecked on the shores of Shackleford Banks, and the ponies that live there are the descendants of those marooned horses.

The girls found a sea turtle skull on the beach.

Playing in the waves

Beach art at sunrise

Suck it up and eat a steak!

Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!

Rules of UAE's E30 Truck Road

The "truck road" as we, and I think just about everyone else in the UAE, calls it, is a road that goes through the Emirates, connects Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Whenever we drive from Dibba, Oman to Dubai, we take the mountain road to the truck road and then get on the Emirates Road to go into Dubai. We are all accustomed to the road, familiar with its customs and unspoken rules. Driving on this road can be terrifying, especially so if you have no idea what the unwritten rules are. Without any understanding of the 'rules,' the road seems lawless. Even with the rules, driving this road can feel like Russian roulette.

Primitive conditions

  • No lighting- The vast majority of this road is unlit. There are two places where there are lights at these stations for the big semi-trucks. Last time I drove this road, the roundabouts weren't lit. It can be nearly impossible to tell if oncoming traffic is in your lane until they're bearing down on you. 
  • No barriers- There are no barriers along the sides or between opposite directions of traffic. Piles of sand build up in the lanes during sandstorms and camels wander onto the road.
  • No reflective markers- The center line and lane lines are not reflective. There are no rumble strips to wake you up
  • Rumpled Pavement and Potholes- We took care to remember about how far along the road the really bad potholes were, so we could try to avoid them at night. It takes a strong, steady hand to maintain control if you hit one at high speeds. The pavement at the low point between to hills is rippled, I'm assuming from the heat. They make your car bounce violently for several seconds
  • Wide range of speeds- Large heavy trucks go slow and block passing lanes/shoulders while small sports cars zoom fast at breakneck speeds

The Unspoken Rules
There are no posted, enforced rules, but there is definitely a culture to the truck road. Here is what I've learned from driving on it so far-

  • The speed limit is however fast you want to drive
  • The road is two lanes with giant shoulders on each side
  • Flash your brights if you're going to overtake
  • If you're being overtaken, move onto the shoulder to make room
  • If an oncoming car is overtaking, move onto the shoulder to give them more room
  • Keep your hazards on if you're going over 140kph or under 100kph

Notes on Dubai

Only in Dubai will you hear your American friend yell to his German buddy "Yella Habibi!" Arabic for "Let's go, my love"

Nearly half of the buildings here are in various stages of construction, with cranes and scaffolding everywhere. The skyline is littered with cranes. We play the crane game as we walk through the city- who can spot the most. Do the cranes on super yachts in the marina count? Just construction cranes? I can easily count twenty in view as I walk two blocks.

Dubai lacks a grounded sense of culture. Its like a giant international airport in an Arab country. There are clues to tell you where you are, but everyone and everything is from all over the place. Your taxi driver speaks four, maybe five languages. You can buy groceries with three different currencies.

There is this one section of the main drag, along Sheikh Zayed Road, where the skyline is really weird and ominous. In Manhattan, the skyscrapers form this mass of skyline, surrounding each other to form a dense downtown. Dubai doesn't have that density. So many of the skyscrapers are pretty solitary. It looks really bizarre, a skyscraper surrounded by three and four story buildings. This one section of Sheikh Zayed Road is lined on each side by skyscrapers. But behind them are tiny single and two story buildings. When you drive down the road, its like driving through a gauntlet. I found a photo on the internet that shows how dramatic it is.

You find yourself using words and phrases in daily interaction that come from places you have never been, in addition to the place you currently are. I adopted the following words:
'posh' from the United Kingdom
'braai' from South Africa
'post' from Germany
and my most beloved phrase;
'yella habibi' Arabic.

Exploring the Wadi in the Pick-up

Yesterday Eddie, Ania and I decided to paddle to Smuggler's Bay, a rather large secluded beach about 3 miles up the coast from our house. It typically only takes a little over an hour to get there even in the short sit on top kayaks we have. Unfortunately the sea had other plans for us. It took forever just to paddle to the point (a rocky bit of land we use as a reference point) because the sea was pretty big and the swell unorganized. Before the point, the swell was maybe 2 to 3 feet, but grew to 3 to 4 feet once we reached the point. We would have had an easier time had we had rolling swell, but each wave was covered in its own chop and the kayaks couldn't smoothly float over the swell but were banged around in different directions each time.
Typically, the winds and wave heights grow higher here in the afternoon. Ania fell off a boulder problem a month or two ago in India and injured one of her ribs, which started to ache as we paddled. We decided it would take another 30 to 45 minutes to reach Smuggler's Bay, and then we would have to immediately return knowing that we had rougher seas and a longer paddle to get back. Eddie would probably have to tow Ania back because of her rib. We decided the trip wasn't worth the risk or misery and turned around at the point. Swimming and body surfing on the beach in front of Paul's was much more fun than struggling back from Smuggler's bay.

Then we swapped the van out for the pick-up and headed into the wadi to check out one of the newer climbing spots we take clients and try to get all the way up the wadi before dark. The new climbing spot is pretty cool, a smooth vertical climb up a dry waterfall (it isn't dry when it rains!) and a complete arch to the left. I'll post photos of it next time I go there. We drove most of the way up the wadi, through this really narrow solid rock section that was just amazing. At one point, the rock is just barely wide enough for a truck to get through. It's just solid rock that you can feel and see how the water has sculpted the rock in that tiny passage. The rock is smooth and round. I'm sure it pounds and crashes through there. It's hard to imagine what it looks like full of water, how the rocks and boulders and crevasses shape the rapids.

All of us want to find a safe, dry ledge up high in the wadi to sit out a proper rain storm and watch the chaos unfold below us. We got to a split in the road, by a fenced in mosque and realized we would have to turn around soon to make it out by dark. We decided to drive another three minutes on one of the roads, and had to choose which one. Ania said the one to the left looked new, curvy, steep and more interesting so we took that one. I was glad to have the pick-up with off road tires and 4 wheel drive because I needed it to get up that hill. At one point the road took a hard left and looked pretty washed out and loose on the left hand side, not wanting to dig the left side into a little ravine, we got out and walked to the top of the hill. We were greatly rewarded when we got up there. Almost magically, there were large villages on the tops of the hills, which had surprisingly large flat areas. You would never guess that the tops of the mountains in the wadi were so flat and that so many people lived up there. There are little clues as you drive through the wadi, even in the narrowest, steepest sections there are big white water tanks that maybe hold two hundred gallons or so. The Omani army drops them off with helicopters and trucks so that the villages have clean drinking water. As you drive through the wadi, you wonder where the village is and how on earth they get to the water. I drove up out of the rocky narrow wadi, up this crazy steep, hairpin washed out dirt road, to find a large village atop a flat mountain.
We needed to head back as the sun was starting to go down, and Eddie wanted to drive, so Ania and I jumped into the truck bed to get a better view of the wadi. Going down that crazy steep hill we sat with our feet against the front of the bed to keep ourselves from sliding downward.

At one point Eddie sped up to get up a hill, Ania and I were deep in conversation and not paying attention, rolled backwards and watched out feet go skyward simultaneously. We were sure Eddie did this on purpose and thought he must be having a good laugh. Turns out it was purely accidental and he missed the whole ordeal much to his regret.

Traditinal Rowing in Kalba

A couple of weeks ago, we headed to Kalba, UAE to do some traditional rowing in the mangroves. The whole gang showed up, pretty much the entire company except a couple of people. I chose a seat behind Mike, next to Ania around the middle of the boat.

Our Emirati rowing instructor was a national champion. At first he counted, setting a pace for us and then once we settled in started singing traditional songs in Arabic. He even taught us a short chorus to chime in with when he could hear it coming around again in the song. I mentioned to Mike and Ania that I felt a lot like Sparticus, which started a round of "I am Sparticus" "No! I am Sparticus!" much to my amusement.

We rowed in relative unison into the mangroves and then back. The pace was pretty blistering and we took no breaks but we had a great time and it was a great workout. I had pretty massive blisters on my hands from it. The pattern of the friction in my palm is different from kayaking, so my calluses from paddling did me no good in rowing.

New places to explore

A few days ago, Eddie and Ania arrived. They flew in from India, where they had gone exploring. Before their India trip they worked in China for China Climb, an outdoor education program there. They are great additions to the house and program and I know we’ll have lots of fun together. Today, we took them into the wadi we frequent to show them our established climbing routes and the boulder field named Damian's Boulders. We parked the truck at the base of Damian’s boulders and hopped from boulder to boulder. It was really fun seeing Eddie and Ania’s faces as they saw all the boulders for the first time. Weeks could be spent climbing in that boulder field. They are exited about being here and all the fun things we’ll be doing. Then Micah took us to a different wadi on the other side of the dam, which has a really huge solid wall with lots of climbing potential. Micah, Mike and Jesi found it a month or two ago. It has the potential for multi-pitch routes and a boulder field at its base. It hasn't been developed yet so we hope to begin the process. We parked at the base of a smaller mountain and hiked to the top of it, where there is an abandoned village at the top and a great view of the big multi-pitch wall. Eddie has a really nice digital SLR camera and took loads of great photos. We climbed into the little houses and admired the construction of them. There are loads of pottery shards everywhere all over the ground by the village. Once you get a hang of spotting them, you can hardly take a step without spotting a piece. We found a pile of large shards with patterns painted and carved into them and managed to find matching pieces. There are hundreds of little stone buildings in the mountains and dozens of caves we are eager to explore.

Ania and I in the boulder field.

Showing them one of our climbing spots in Wadi Hilti.

The big wall we hope to develop

A stone hut and the big wall

Checking out the abandoned huts

A grave, with the head and foot marked

Inside another hut with Ania

Ania found a person sized dip in a boulder and we proceeded to fit ourselves into it.

Eddie doesn't fit!

Eddie and Ania, peering out from a hut

Three of us in a hut

What's so interesting down there in the dirt?

We're piecing together pottery shards!

And last but not least, a tree goat!