Nearly two decades ago, I moved to the mountains to be a ski bum, chasing snow. I was a stereotype—an East Coast kid pulled west by the promise of bigger adventures and higher mountain ranges. I was also part of a counterculture that rejected social norms in favor of 100-day ski seasons.

In ski towns in western Colorado in 2005, risk was everywhere, but in a way that felt exciting. I liked the brag of drinking too much, and I was too naïve to notice harder drugs. Climate change seemed theoretical, and no one I knew had died in the mountains yet.

Corporate entities were just starting to binge-buy resorts while I somehow thought that living in my car was cool and I could exist like that forever.

But myths are complicated things to keep alive, and I eventually left ski towns to work as a writer, already seeing the ski-bum dream changing. I saw friends struggling to build careers, families and community while still chasing the fragile dream that a powder day topped almost everything. 

So recently, I went back to see what was going on, to try to track the evolution of what had been my own obsession. I looped through mountain towns across the West, from Aspen, Colorado to Victor, Idaho and Big Sky, Montana, to assess the current state of ski bums.

What I found was that everyone trying to build a life in those towns was struggling, from my old colleagues who had stuck around and wished they’d bought real estate to “lifties” fresh out of school.

“A lot of people here are living a fantasy I can’t obtain,” said Malachi Artice, a 20-something skier working multiple jobs in Jackson, Wyoming.

At the most basic level, the math just didn’t work. In most mountain towns, it’s now nearly impossible to work a single full-time service job, the kind that resort towns depend on, and afford rent. The pressure shows up in nearly everything, including abysmal mental health outcomes like anxiety and depression. 

Ski towns have some of the highest suicide rates in the country, and social services haven’t expanded to meet demand. Racial gaps are also widening in an industry that often depends on undocumented immigrants to fill the poorly paid, but necessary, jobs it takes to keep a tourist town running.

On top of all that, abundant snowfall, the basis of a ski resort’s economy, is getting cooked by climate change.

And sure, you can argue skiing is superficial and unimportant, but ski towns—some of the most elite and economically unequal places in the country—are microcosms for the way our social fabric is splitting.

Ski towns face crucial, complicated questions: Can they build affordable housing and also preserve open space? What happens when healthcare workers or teachers won’t take jobs because they can’t find a way to live in the community they serve? Will a town willingly curb growth when that’s what supports the tax base?

There are no easy answers because the problems are entrenched in both that slow-moving nostalgia that stymies change, and in the downhill rush of capitalism, which gives power to whoever pays the most: The housing market always tilts toward high-end real estate instead of modestly priced homes for essential workers. 

What we value shapes our lives, and so I think we must hold the ski industry to higher standards. If these rarefied places can find ways to support working as well as leisure-based communities, they could serve as lessons for change elsewhere.

During my tour, I saw necessary workers in the ski industry facing hard economic choices, but I also saw positive, community-scale change. In Alta, Utah, for instance, the arts nonprofit Alta Community Enrichment added mental health support when its employees reported an urgent need. 

If ski-resort towns are going to survive, the lives of their workers need to matter, and that means caring about them—from affordable housing to accessible mental health support.

By Heather Hansman 

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First, the indescribable view. Earth, many miles below, twinkling blue, whorls of white and grey clouds. Home is down there somewhere, familiar faces, too, but everything you find comfortable and safe is hidden beneath a blanket of impossible distance. No way to reach any of it but to jump. The silence of the stratosphere is stunning. Nothing but the sound of your own anxious breathing in a sealed helmet. Now, it’s time. Gather yourself, take a deep breath, a hard swallow to settle the void in the pit of your stomach, a last look down at the earth below, a turn of your head to wonder at the impossibly bright stars, a brief moment to appreciate the beautiful absurdity of it all. Then you step into the void.

Joseph Kittinger’s job for the US Air Force in the late 1950s was making that leap. During his career he set records for highest balloon flight, longest free fall, and fastest speed achieved by a human being under their own power (well, under gravity’s too). Kittinger also had a decorated career as a fighter pilot, retiring as a Colonel and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“I said, ‘Lord, take care of me now.’” Kittinger later recalled. “That was the most fervent prayer I ever said in my life.”

When his records for jumping out of the stratosphere were finally broken in 2012 by Austrian madman Felix Baumgartner, Kittinger was right in Baumgartner’s ear during his jump, literally, as the mission’s supervisor directing things over the radio.

“Felix trusts me because I know what he’s going through,” Kittinger said at the time. “And I’m the only one who knows what he’s going through.”

Kittinger was the sort of person who has a flash of what they want their life to look like as a child, then seemingly without any second guessing or hesitation, realizes that dream. He was born in Tampa, Florida, in 1928. As a kid he saw a Ford Trimotor parked at a nearby airfield (the sorta plane Indiana Jones liked to jump from in films). It sparked a lifelong love of aviation, and was the first step on a ladder Kittinger eventually climbed 102,800 feet into the sky.

An Air Force pilot of experimental aircraft in the 1950s, Kittinger was recruited to take part in Operation Man High and Project Excelsior, a series of experiments that kicked off America’s nascent age of space exploration. The Air Force had no idea what the human body could tolerate when it came to acceleration, deceleration, exposure to the thin upper reaches of the atmosphere, or, crucially for Kittinger, what might happen to a pilot if they were forced out of an aircraft at the furthest fringes of the atmosphere.

Kittinger made 3 jumps over 10 months from 1959 to 1960. They went like this. He piloted helium-filled balloons to a predetermined altitude riding inside a pressurized gondola-like car. Once there, he’d jump from the gondola, free fall for a time, then a series of parachutes automatically opened. Kittinger’s first jump nearly killed him when he became tangled in the cords of his stabilizing chute immediately into his jump. He plunged nearly 66,000 feet until his primary chute opened at 10,000 feet.

Undeterred, Kittinger jumped again a month later, before making his record-setting plunge in August, 1960. Aboard the balloon craft Excelsior III, he rose to 102,800 feet, an altitude record in itself. Kittinger’s right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, painfully swelling his hand to twice its normal size. He prepared his body and mind for the jump.

“I said, ‘Lord, take care of me now.’” Kittinger later recalled. “That was the most fervent prayer I ever said in my life.”

He free fell for 4 minutes, 36 seconds. At that altitude, Kittinger was effectively in space, a vacuum. He reached terminal velocity after 20 seconds of acceleration, hitting 614 miles per hour.

Kittinger later told Florida Today:

“There’s no way you can visualize the speed. There’s nothing you can see to see how fast you’re going. You have no depth perception. If you’re in a car driving down the road and you close your eyes, you have no idea what your speed is. It’s the same thing if you’re free falling from space. There are no signposts. You know you are going very fast, but you don’t feel it. You don’t have a 614-mph wind blowing on you. I could only hear myself breathing in the helmet.”

That would be enough for most people, in terms of high-flying excitement. But it was just the beginning for Kittinger.

After his final jump and another high-altitude balloon flight, Kittinger entered active combat duty in the skies above Vietnam. He served three tours, was credited with the kill of a MiG-21, and was shot down near Hanoi in 1972. For 11 months, Kittinger was a POW at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, fiercely observing military discipline to keep himself sane. He retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1978.

Joseph Kittinger next to the Excelsior gondola on June 2, 1957. Note the sign: “This is the highest step in the world.” Photo: US Air Force

Would you be surprised to learn Kittinger later became the first person to pilot a hot air balloon across the Atlantic? In 1984 he took off from Maine and drifted 3,543 miles over 3 days before alighting safely in Italy.

In his later years, he ran the Rosie O’Grady’s Flying Circus, in Orlando, Florida, taking people up in hot air balloon rides. Did his customers know the avuncular man at the controls had once leapt from a balloon at the fringes of space? Whether or not they did, they were in expert hands.

When Kittinger’s father watched his son at age 13 scale a 40-foot tree to pick coconuts, he was said to exclaim, “Everybody wants coconuts, but nobody has the guts to go up there and get them.”

Those guts earned Kittinger a Distinguished Flying Cross, high-altitude records that stood for 52 years, and the Smithsonian’s highest honor, the National Air and Space Museum Trophy. More importantly for Kittinger, who always pointed out his balloon trips as part of Operation Excelsior were not meant to break records, but to gather data, he experienced the kind of grand adventure only a handful of humans have ever known—charting a part of the Earth, or the envelope of it, nobody else had ever seen.

“Life is an adventure, and I’m an adventurer,” he told U.S. News and World Report in 1984. “You just have to go for it. That’s the American way.”

By Justin Housman

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Living on Easy

A trip to Amami Ōshima, Japan, transports Gerry Lopez to a familiar feeling on a distant land.

Living on Easy
Gerry Lopez’s first surf in six months. Unsurprisingly, he put himself right back where he belongs: in the pocket. Amami Ōshima, Japan. Photo: Hideaki Satou

I was born in Honolulu in the late 1940s, before Hawai‘i was a state. In those early days, the living was easy. It was called “island style,” and that was the way everyone lived … well, at least everyone we knew. The beach across from the zoo was where we spent afternoons after school and on weekends. There were tourists down near the hotels and at the Sunday lū‘au at Queen’s Surf, but otherwise, the rest of Waikīkī Beach and Kapi‘olani Park was mostly locals only. My mom took my brother and me surfing one day at Baby Queen’s, and none of us, Mom included, had any idea that life going forward would inexorably shift to another path. We’d both been bitten by the surf bug that day, but it was Victor who felt it first.

Living on Easy
Gerry and Pipeline go together like peanut butter and chocolate—great on their own, but much better together. North Shore, O‘ahu. Photo: Jeff Divine

His school buddy, Stanford Chong, and his whole family surfed together, so before long, Vic had his own surfboard and was surfing with them all the time. They owned a country house on the beach on O‘ahu’s East Side between Crouching Lion and Chinaman’s Hat (Mokoli‘i), and often I’d be invited to spend the weekend there since Stanford’s sister, Marlene, and I were classmates.

They had a large house with a big yard and some sprawling hau trees around an outdoor barbecue and firepit. We would drive out from Honolulu town, over the Pali, through Kāne‘ohe town, along the windward side—the ocean on our right and majestic Ko‘olau Range on the left. The East Side gets rain almost daily, so everything is green and growing. In the morning, we’d walk the beach to find any Japanese glass floats that may have washed ashore, although the grown-ups always got the jump, waking earlier and knowing where to look. After breakfast, sometimes Mr. Chong would take the boat out with all the kids and fish a little or explore Chinaman’s Hat or spearfish the reefs in front of the house.

Somewhere along the line, and without even understanding it was happening, I developed a little boy’s affinity for this side of the island. It was like falling under a spell … there was its special feel, look, smell and idiosyncrasies. Like when the trade winds blew, I learned to be on the lookout for Portuguese man-of-war and so avoid its painful sting. Or noticing how vivid and bright the stars were on dark nights, without the town lights to spoil them.

I had no idea at the time, but later on, when older and looking back, I realized how idyllic that was—life at that young age is full of questions, uncertainty and finding oneself on shaky ground. But those times on the East Side were like putting aloe vera on a burn; there was a very distinct, soothing ahhh about it, and I looked forward to each time we got to go.

In a way, life is a little like Dad’s car … it takes us down the road, and at some point, a stop at the service station is needed to keep going. The weekends at the Chongs’ beach house were that gas-station stop. Then things changed. I began to run on another kind of fuel; surfing started to rear its head and fill my tank. I don’t think I even realized that one had replaced the other, or if replace was even what it did. Surfing, as the complete endeavor, inevitably takes not just some of one’s time—it takes it all. A deep passion develops, and while it’s all one wants to do, at the same time, it stokes a great fire down inside that drives a person to … well, to be insatiable for even more of it.

Living on Easy
The scenery that made Mr. Pipeline feel right at home, once he got back into his slippers. Amami Ōshima, Japan. Photo: Hideaki Satou

Perhaps that earliest harmony at the Chongs’ had something to do with it, but I found myself living in Kahalu‘u, way out on the East Side, and spending a lot of time in the car driving: either to town for my surf-shop business, Ala Moana for summertime surf or the long haul to the Country in the winter for the waves there. Sometimes if I was a passenger, I would look at the Chong house as we zoomed by. I never saw anyone; a couple of times I stopped, but it was empty and the sweet and tangy awareness that I used to have was no more. But surfing was keeping my gas tank full, so I guess I didn’t miss it.

Life happened and the years flew by. In 2017, the film crew at Patagonia suggested a documentary film project that must have been meant to be because it unfolded like a spinnaker sail does when a stiff wind blows—not that it was without a few wrinkles—but by spring last year we were ready to premiere it.

A tour ensued throughout the US, Europe, Australia and Japan. The director, Stacy Peralta, did most of the stops with me except for Japan. He was busy, so I went alone. In the undertaking of this assignment, we never thought that something like COVID-19 would have such an effect, but it surprised the entire world and certainly put up some hurdles for our movie tour. Japan had only just opened its doors to visitors when I got there. We had showings in Kamakura, Sendai, Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka: all cities where I had been before, with old friends in all of them, and the film showings went like clockwork.

The final stop was Amami Ōshima, one of the little islands near Okinawa that I’d heard about but never visited. The monkey wrench was that a typhoon with an unpredictable trajectory was aimed toward the same place we were bound for. For most people, a typhoon warning is usually a good reason to reschedule one’s trip. For a surfer, however, this is a sure sign of surf coming and serves as an attraction rather than a deterrent, and our entire Patagonia Japanese crew were surfers. Of course, we went.

Living on Easy
Gerry stops to smell the roses (or plumerias, in the case of Amami Ōshima). Photo: Hideaki Satou

As we flew into the airport, the ocean looked spectacular from above, deep blue with strong trade winds blowing whitecaps and swells toward the islands. Staring out the window, I was mind-surfing those waves on a downwind SUP or a wing foil.

We landed still in our city clothes, long pants, shoes. But all our friends in the terminal were waiting for us in shorts and slippers. Yeah, man, at a glance, I could tell they were all living on easy. I couldn’t wait to change clothes and join them. As soon as I walked out the plane’s door, something happened … a feeling, a smell, the green hills. I don’t know what it was, but I felt like I was back to some place I had been before. I looked more closely. The plants and trees were familiar, the ocean had a windswept look I recognized and waves were breaking in crystal-clear water over coral reefs, sandy beaches; it felt like I should know it even though I didn’t.

Living on Easy
Dreamy tropical lefthanders made Gerry’s surf career, and they never get old. Photo: Hisayuki Tsuchiya

We were greeted with leis by some old friends and many new ones who had an easy, friendly, familial excitement. Driving in the car back to our host’s home and surf shop was eerily déjà vu, too. When we stopped, I quickly changed into my shorts and slippers and just that made me feel more at home in these surroundings.

A quick walk down to the beach to connect with the sand and the water, touching them and seeing the weathered siding on the homes that comes from living on a windward shore, gave me an astonishing revelation for the strong sensations I was having. I was back at the Chongs’ house on the East Side from 65 years ago—that loving feeling had never left. It just needed the right coaxing to come rushing back like it always had before. Good feelings are strange and powerful. We usually take them for granted as we revel in them, never thinking how deep they go or how long they’ll last. The rest of our trip was totally smooth and seamless, as one would expect with family and friends. We drove to the other side of the island. For me, the whole way looked and felt like Hawai‘i. We surfed excellent waves with dear friends, ate great food, talked story—life was very good.

Living on Easy
Gerry and Patagonia Surf ambassador Hayato Maki from Okinawa, Japan, paddle back out for one more “one more.” But even that won’t be their last. Photo: Hisayuki Tsuchiya

The next day we showed the film to the local surf community. They were an awesome audience. That evening, with the hurricane hovering just over the horizon, we flew out, arriving late into Tokyo. The typhoon hit Okinawa, but maybe all the good vibes were strong enough to cause the storm to veer away from Amami Ōshima.

It was a wonderful trip, “island style” the entire way and one I won’t soon forget. I left the little island and its tight surf community with an absolutely full tank of premium-grade fuel. I’ll just bet that everyone else was topped off, too.

By Gerry Lopez

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The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru

A friendship built between waves becomes a powerful alliance for the protection of surf breaks.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
One of Peru’s best waves, Cabo Blanco. This was taken over 30 years ago, before the construction of the fishing pier impacted the wave . Photo: Steve Wagner

Carolina Butrich loves to read and hates mangoes. She uses Microsoft Excel for everything, including designing her house. She gives abundant affection but is claustrophobic and can’t handle hugs. Above all, Carolina is a flame that does not go out.

Although we went to the same school in Lima, Peru, we never met there. The first time I saw her was in the waters of the Cañete River in 2010. She showed up with her long hair dancing in the wind and tan smile lines, the kind that indicate a life spent near the sea. I was suffering to keep my kayak upright while she paddled for two hours straight with ease. We didn’t talk, and I didn’t ask her name. Years later we realized that was the first of many sessions together as our friendship built around protecting surf breaks and nature in our homeland bloomed—a task for which I could not have asked for a more ideal partner.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
Carolina Butrich at home in Peru. Photo: Cristina Baussan

Peru is generally known for Machu Picchu, mysterious Nazca lines and its flavorful ceviches. What most don’t know is that the first law to create a legal system of protecting waves was born here. In the ’80s, the mayor of the Chorrillos district started the process to build a road that many say changed the ocean’s landscape dynamics and destroyed the now mythical La Herradura . Years later, when a poorly planned pier almost destroyed the perfect wave of Cabo Blanco, the surfers organized themselves. They formed a conservation association and left no stone unturned until the Peruvian Congress approved the Ley de Rompientes (Law of the Breakers) in 2000. It took 13 years for it to go into effect and became the legacy of a new generation of Peruvian surfers committed to saving waves. In 2016, Chicama, famous for being the world’s longest wave, was the first to be protected. Today, there are 43 protected waves in Peru thanks to thousands of people who’ve joined the Hazla por tu Ola campaign, an effort that fueled the surf community with purpose and welded my ironclad friendship with Carolina.

After we first met at the Cañete, I started a project called Conservamos por Naturaleza, an initiative of the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law that invites and facilitates anyone’s involvement in nature conservation. We promote a voluntary conservation movement because we believe that conservation must be ingrained in the culture of everyday society. Today, we have over 250 initiatives supported by families, communities and organizations that protect almost 500,000 acres of natural ecosystems in Peru.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
Carolina and Bruno Monteferri enjoy a morning session at Los Órganos, a wave that they helped protect in Peru. Photo: Cristina Baussan

While I dedicated myself to Conservamos por Naturaleza, Carolina traveled the world, with water being the sole constant in her life. She competed in windsurfing racing until she saw a video of legendary windsurfer André Paskowski riding waves at Ho‘okipa in Maui. She decided that within a year she would be riding those same waves. So, she started taking the bus nearly 400 miles (640 kilometers) north from Lima to Pacasmayo every weekend to learn how to ride waves while pursuing a degree in environmental engineering.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
Carolina takes flight at Zarate Beach, Peru. Photo: Walter Wust

Soon, windsurfing Ho‘okipa became a reality, and just two years later she was competing against the best in the Professional Windsurfers Association world tour. Maui in Hawai‘i, Paracas and Pacasmayo in Peru, and Jericoacoara in Brazil became usual stops. At each location, Carolina found an extended family. Before finishing her degree, she got offered her dream job in Jericoacoara as the head windsurfing instructor at ClubVentos. Carolina didn’t want to miss the opportunity, though she did sign a contract with her mother, who helped her finance her studies, promising that she would return six months later to finish college.

That decision would alter the path of her life because in Brazil she met André Paskowski and they fell in love. André had a terminal illness, and they would only get a year together. But they were determined to make memories. Between therapies, they traveled to film the windsurfing documentary Below the Surface, which focuses on former Professional Windsurfers Association World Champion Victor Fernandez and his friends. André passed before finishing the documentary, but Carolina completed it. The process helped her get on her feet again. They had the goal of presenting it at a film festival in Sylt, Germany, and she knew that’s what André would have wanted. “We had everything to be happy together: love, trust, fun, common interests, respect, admiration, everything … except time,” Carolina wrote in a farewell letter.

We saw each other in 2013 at an environmental event, and I told her about Conservamos por Naturaleza. When she came back to Peru two years later, she visited our office and said that she had returned to, “give something back to the sea for everything it has given me.”

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
The author holds baby Aulia before heading back for a few more waves. Photo: Cristina Baussan

I told her that our organization was created precisely for people who wanted to generate a positive impact, and that her timing was spot-on since we were about to launch a campaign that would allow us to protect the waves of Peru. When I mentioned that we had no budget and needed to raise over $500,000 in the next 10 years while uniting a very dispersed Peruvian surfing community to protect 100 waves, Carolina asked, “When do we start?”

A few weeks later, we found ourselves in front of a crowded room to launch Hazla por tu Ola. Carolina, terrified of speaking in public, stuttered due to nerves but against all odds—and encouraged by a couple of pisco shots—explained that if we wanted to protect our waves, we had to be organized as a community and not rely on the government. Today, Carolina handles herself with ease when she gets on stage. A key part of our organization is to inspire citizens and private companies to take action for nature conservation. Her dedication and leadership toward this goal earned her the Carlos Ponce del Prado Award in 2019, and the Latin America Green Award for Hazla por tu Ola in 2020.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
Protecting your wave is as simple as a three-step process and as complicated as getting it passed through the Ley de Rompientes . Photos: Cristina Baussan

There are a few different approaches when it comes to protecting surf breaks. In countries with strong institutions and more mature ocean governance structures, surf-break protection usually falls under marine spatial planning regimes. These processes allow governmental agencies to navigate the different interests over a particular marine area and set the rules for its use. For instance, countries such as New Zealand and Australia have coastal management plans, where recreational uses are prioritized in wave zones and activities that may affect those zones are limited. In Australia, there’s even a surf management plan for the Gold Coast and millions of Aussie dollars are invested for its implementation.

But in many other countries, marine spatial planning is nonexistent and the communities that are committed to protecting marine ecosystems are in constant dispute with other stakeholders to make conservation a public priority. This is the case in Peru, where, for example, the Navy receives several requests to grant permits for the construction of ports, pipelines, piers, coastal defense structures and more.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
Carolina and Bruno’s partnership has proven to be successful. There are 43 protected waves in Peru today, thanks to the work of Hazla por tu Ola and its extensive network of collaborators. Negritos, Peru. Photo: Cristina Baussan

The Law for the Protection of Surf Breaks created a formal process for citizens to put conservation before other potential uses. The way it works is if you can prove there’s a wave in a potential area of protection, you must submit a technical file and a map of the area to the Peruvian Navy. These documents need to show the existence of a wave and its physical features through a seabed analysis and a swell record. The Peruvian Navy then validates the information, and once the wave is registered in the National Registry of Surf Breaks, the government can no longer grant rights for activities that may affect the waves—meaning no new breakwaters, docks, piers, underwater pipelines and more. Basically, all construction that could affect the window and path of a wave are avoided.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
With swells coming in from the north, west and southwest, Máncora is a wave and tourist magnet. This is one of the surf breaks that Hazla por tu Ola helped protect. Talara Province, Peru. Photo: Cristina Baussan

Led by Carolina, Hazla por tu Ola identifies and works with community leaders to raise the funds needed to hire specialists. The specialists then prepare the files and follow up with the authorities so that the waves are registered and stay protected. It costs $3,000 to $6,000 USD to get the research done and submitted to the Navy for every single wave. To date, citizens in Peru have raised 90 percent of all funds needed for wave protection.

In 2018, we were invited to the Global Wave Conference organized by Save the Waves Coalition (SWC) in Santa Cruz, California. SWC played a key role supporting the local Peruvian community in the process to protect the iconic wave at Huanchaco, famous for its traditional caballitos de totora, an individual fishing boat woven out of reeds and used by the locals to fish for the past 3,000 years. The relationship with SWC has grown throughout the years and has been key in amplifying Hazla por tu Ola’s model in other countries, connecting us with activists across the world. Our most recent collaboration with them consists of an online platform with a systematization and comparison of legal tools and approaches for the protection of surf breaks, including case studies from 12 countries. We hope this information will help local leaders and politicians to commit to protect surf breaks all over the globe.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
Carolina takes the mic and inspires a crowd of future wave protectors. Photo: Conservamos por Naturaleza

With momentum on our side, we’re determined to save as many waves as we can. “We have set the goal of having 100 waves protected by 2030,” said Carolina. “We are not going to stop until we have all the waves in Peru protected by law and there are more countries that apply this model.”

And it’s working. The Peruvian model is being adopted in Latin America. Caro has been working with grassroots activists in Ecuador who created a new collective called Mareas Vivas, which is ready to start a campaign to collect citizen signatures and present a law proposal to the Parliament for surf breaks protection. South of the border, in Chile, after a speech I gave about Hazla por tu Ola in 2016, Luis Felipe Rodríguez Besa—now also a close friend—got inspired and co-founded Fundación Rompientes along with the talented filmmaker Rodrigo Farias Moreno and lawyer Juan Esteban Buttazzoni. Fundación Rompientes has played a key role aligning the efforts of several groups for the protection of surf breaks in Chile, and we have been a natural ally since day one.

Recently, the Chilean Congress approved a bill promoted by Fundación Rompientes that seeks to protect Chilean surf breaks. The project is now to be evaluated by the Senate. Also, in Mexico, the community of Puerto Escondido has organized and set up a holistic plan for the sustainable development of their coastal area that includes fostering the creation of a local Ley de Rompientes. Both Save the Waves Coalition and Hazla por tu Ola are providing guidance in the process. When facing environmental challenges, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, so knowing that you can exchange ideas and relate to fellow activists doing the same in other countries is invaluable.

The Quest to Save 100 Waves in Peru
Carolina with her partner Walter Wust and their son Kai at the Illescas National Reserve. Caro helps protect this pristine coastal sanctuary in northern Peru. Photo: Carolina Butrich

When Carolina returned to Peru in 2015, she thought it would be just for a few months. Lima had been a place from which she always found herself escaping. Eight years later, she’s still here because she has found balance. She has a job with purpose, is at the forefront of Hazla por tu Ola’s goal of protecting surf breaks and is surrounded by people who inspire her. She’s also allowed herself to fall in love again and is starting a family. Although she doesn’t try to, Carolina teaches us that living your life without taking anything for granted and setting down some roots—without necessarily anchoring yourself to one place—is key to achieving important changes because, as waves have shown us, there is no barrier that can resist what is done with love and perseverance.

By Bruno Monteferri

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The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit

Meet the man working to save Mexico’s Punta Conejo.

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
Uriel Camacho weaves through a thick one close to home. Mexico.

All photos by Ryan “Chachi” Craig

Uriel Camacho invented the sport of bodysurfing. At least, he thought he did.

This was before Salina Cruz, a town on the edge of the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, became an international surf destination. Before its sand-bottom pointbreaks would plaster magazines. Before the all-inclusive camps, 4×4 trucks and direct flights weighing heavy with board bags.

Camacho had no reference for wave riding of any kind 30 years ago. One day, he just kicked his way out to an empty wave and taught himself to swim. “Hola, hola, ¿cómo estás?” he shouted at the sea. “No me vayas a ahoga.” (“Hello, hello, how are you? Please don’t drown me.”)

“One day, I caught a wave,” he tells me, holding his arm straight in front of him. “I thought I was the first one to do it.”

Camacho, 44, now runs Luna Coral Soul Surf, a camp named after his two daughters. He is stocky, with a long, dark ponytail, sunbaked skin, a hook nose and deep smile lines—the result of spending nearly every day of the last 13 years as a surf guide under the brutal Oaxacan sun.

He recounts his bodysurfing story over mezcal at his dining room table. It’s dark, and I have just arrived from the airport. As soon as I get my luggage to my room, he demands that we take a shot, a celebration of the coming swell set to arrive in two days, the biggest of the summer. We clink, “¡salud!

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
Camacho praises the mangroves. The proposed port would cut through this grove and alter the sand-bottomed goodness of Salina Cruz for worse.

I met Camacho a month prior in Northern California. We both attended a summit organized by the Save The Waves Coalition—an environmental nonprofit that protects surf ecosystems. “Visit anytime,” he offered, surely not expecting that I would actually take him up on it.

Camacho’s surf camp is on the backside of Punta Conejo, a right pointbreak on the edge of a sand-covered mountain that resembles a sleeping rabbit. Directly inland from Punta Conejo are mangroves, a forest of thirsty trees and visible root systems that are home to a small industry of shrimp fishermen who cast their nets along the still, windless water.

Beyond the mangroves is the city of Salina Cruz. It’s a port town of more than 80,000 with a newly finished harbor for international shipping vessels, most transporting petroleum. Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is planning to expand the project. It will gut Punta Conejo, relocate Camacho and his family, along with four surrounding communities and a number of other surf camps in the Playa Brasil area, and dredge thousands of hectares of mangroves to stage excess petroleum ships.

Camacho has a mission to stop it.

He is working with Save The Waves, Wildcoast, Union de Surfistas y Salvavidas de Salina Cruz and more conservation groups to designate Punta Conejo and the nearby Punta Chivo and Escondida as protected areas.

Flattening Salina Cruz’s most consistent wave with a sea of cement would also send the shrimp industry belly-up and dredge the delicate ecosystems surrounding the break. Just north of Playa Brasil’s long stretch of beach, the new development would destroy the breeding and hatching ground of the vulnerable leatherback and olive ridley sea turtles native to the area.

Unfortunately, Mexico has a history of ruining world-class surf spots. In the 1970s, a beachbreak version of O‘ahu’s Pipeline called Petacalco, which would have banked hundreds of millions in surf tourism dollars over the years, was destroyed. As Gerald Saunders wrote in The Surfer’s Journal: “Thanks to the underwater canyon to the south and the damming and jetty construction on the Rio Balsas a few miles to the north, there was no way the sandbars could be replenished as rapidly as the surging swell washed them away. What might have taken several more years was done literally overnight. Petacalco was gone.”

On June 2, 2024, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is up for reelection. This means he could try to hastily move the Punta Conejo project forward before designation can be set. Hopefully, he recognizes the injustice of the project and the activists persuade him to see the wave as a valuable tourist attraction better left alone.

Están locos,” Camacho says as he shakes his head after bringing me up to speed on the issue.

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
Your humble author takes one off the top at Punta Chivo.

The next morning, we pack our boards into Camacho’s black, salt-rusted SUV and drive to Punta Conejo, 10 minutes away. We bump along a dirt road, passing goats, burning trash and cacti with barbs big enough to impale a man. He shifts into four-wheel drive, and we skid along the sand to the point.

Five other trucks are already there, and surfers stand around in tank tops and boardshorts while small waves yawn down the point. It’s a shame, as part of the reason I’m down here is to report on the proposed port at the “world-class” Punta Conejo.

“No sand,” Camacho says, turning to me. It’s September, the end of the popular surf season for Oaxaca, and south wind has eroded the sandbar at Conejo. We watch a while longer and decide to check the next spot a few miles north: Punta Chivo, named because the rock at the end of the point looks like a goat.

Chivo is better. At least the pros make it look better. Their filmers hide under canopies next to the trucks capturing every wave in high definition. And the lineup of surf guides know that at 10 a.m. guests will get thirsty, so they stock coolers with water, electrolytes and beer. Today, the surf camps have their program dialed. As I wax my board for the first session, the efficiency of the whole experience is not lost on me.

Though this pampered scene isn’t the rugged bushwhacking of Gerry Lopez in the ’70s, these crowds may be the not-so-secret weapon to stopping the port expansion. The number of flights into Salina Cruz’s main airport, Bahías de Huatulco, has nearly quadrupled since 1997, from 123,000 per year to 452,000 per year. If the international surf community makes enough noise, and the Mexican government begins to see these waves as the multimillion-dollar cash registers that they are, they could halt the development.

After we surf Chivo for a few hours, Camacho and I sit in beach chairs and I crack a cold beer—it’s 10 a.m. and seems like the right thing to do. As I sip, Camacho tells me about Salina Cruz before the crowds, tourism and media.

When he was young, the points were empty. There were rumors of the odd expat surfer, but Camacho never saw them. He didn’t know the sport of surfing existed, or that those waves he learned to bodysurf would be worth millions in gringo tourism a few decades later.

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
As a surfer, you stay stoked when some of the world’s best pointbreaks churn in your backyard. Camacho is no exception.

When he was 18, he took a bus four hours north to Puerto Escondido to work a factory job. There, he would learn that he did not, in fact, invent the sport of bodysurfing.

“They were doing my sport!” Camacho shouted after watching a bodysurfer glide down the face of a wave at the famed beachbreak.

While in Puerto Escondido, he also saw surfers. What a strange sport it was—swimmers, wielding foam and fiberglass, standing erect, swallowed by dark holes in the ocean, reappearing untouched, hands over their heads in rapturous wonder.

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
When your surf guide’s styling out like this, you know you’re in good company.

Not long after, Camacho was at a flea market. The way he tells the story, he wasn’t looking for anything in particular. He was just strolling around when it appeared. The crowd parted and, in the distance, he saw it. He shoved his way through the masses, approached, haggled and purchased. He brought the old 7’0″ single fin back to Salina Cruz, where he and his friends would stand on the beach at Punta Conejo and trade off riding it. There, he taught himself how to surf.

In the early 2000s, more gringo surfers showed up. In 2006, the Rip Curl Search contest blew up the area to the north, Barra de la Cruz, and word of endless pointbreaks in southern Mexico got out. For a few years, surf media never named Salina Cruz in photos or video, captions just read “Mexico.” But slowly discretion slipped away. Locals advertised surf camps and made rules: If you want to surf here, you have to pay. Gringos who didn’t pay would be threatened. Photographers were charged extra.

“What do you say to people who think the ocean is for everyone?” I ask Camacho.

“We gotta do it, man,” he says. “Look at Puerto Escondido. Locals don’t own land near the beach there anymore.”

Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico, and gringo surfers with enough disposable income to travel there likely earn more in a month than most locals do in a year. And surf camps don’t keep all the money; instead, surf tourism helps prop up the community. The surf camps pay a kind of “membership fee” to the various subcommunities closest to each wave. The subcommunities then decide where the money will go—a new road, school or medical center.

After the day at Chivo, we drive back for dinner. Camacho’s wife, Linda, makes us fresh fish tacos. She wears a Pink Floyd T-shirt and is just about the nicest person I’ve ever met. On the walls of the dining room are photos of each wave at its best, along with a signed surfboard from World Surf League champion Filipe Toledo, a former guest at Luna Coral.

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
Kyle Thiermann sips on one of Oaxaca’s finest cocktails.

The window begins to shake.

I put down my fork, wondering if it’s an earthquake. A minute later, it shakes again.

“The swell is here,” Camacho smiles at me. Playa Brasil, the thunderous beachbreak closeout to the north of Punta Conejo is shaking the walls. “Tomorrow, we surf Escondida.”

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
Kyle boards the freight train.

Escondida is the darling of Salina Cruz. You’ve seen it in surf magazines, summer boardshort ads and Surfline swell features. It’s a hollow sand-bottom vortex, thick as it is tall. The wave is backdropped by a dramatic cliff, gold in the morning light, with cacti clutching its edges. Unlike other points in Salina Cruz, which can range from burgery to rippable, Escondida only has one speed—Ferrari on the Autobahn. Sand builds up along the cliff, and on big swells, the wave revs its engine. On its best days, Escondida has three barrel sections, the last is thickest and closes out into a shallow mortar of sand. If a surfer doesn’t make it out the doggy door, their best hope is to body slam the bottom using the least breakable part of their body.

The next morning, we drive to Escondida. Even before we reach the beach, I can smell the scent of salt and mist from exploding whitewater—swell is in the air. When we arrive, trucks sit on a thin seam of the beach between waves and jungle. I step out of the truck, and like all surfers, try to look stoic and vaguely unimpressed as the best waves I’ve seen in over a year riffle down the point. The inside section is lethal, whitewater’s sailing 15 feet high. Down the beach, a fisherman tries to wash his hands in the shoreline and whitewater rushes up and hits him at the knees, nearly sucking him out. “Hey, peligroso!” shouts one surf guide, as the fisherman scrambles back to shore, soaking wet.

Unlike the rest of us, Camacho doesn’t attempt to hide his excitement. He’s already waxing his board, so I follow. We wait for a lull, sprint paddle out and trade off barrels for the next three days.

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
Escondida is the kind of wave that rattles windows, bones, boards and anything in its path.

Each night, I have no recollection of falling asleep, I simply face-plant, and then it is dawn. I guzzle black coffee, eat bananas, surf to exhaustion and do it again the next day. I buckle my entire quiver, courtesy of the third section at Escondida. My endorphins are shot, my face is sunburnt, my mind is stupid and happy. During the peak of the swell, our photographer, “Chachi,” captures Camacho standing confidently in a barrel. But amid the ecstasy of the swell, I can’t help but feel sad.

Punta Conejo is the southernmost point in Salina Cruz. Chivo is the next point up. Escondida lays just beyond. Sand migration makes each of these points work, and the expansion of the port will very likely turn all three waves into vestiges of the past. As durable as a heaving barrel can feel while crouched inside of it, its power is predicated upon a delicate symphony of billions of grains of sand moving freely across the seafloor and settling in throughout the surf season, unobstructed by cement.

On the final day of the trip, Camacho recommends we check Punta Conejo one last time. The swell has shifted sand and conditions may have improved. We drive down from Luna Coral and up Playa Brasil to the backside of Conejo. The tide is still too high, but the sandbar is better and fun waves run down the point.

“Conejo never disappoints,” says Camacho proudly.

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
It’s probably about time for an ice-cold cervesa.

Before we surf, he asks if I want to get a view from the top of the sleeping rabbit. We hike for 10 minutes, digging our feet through sand and ivy. The top of Conejo is a 360-degree view of his surf camp, the wave, mangroves and shipping vessels out at sea. We can even see Chivo and Escondida.

“How did you think to reach out to Save The Waves?” I ask as we stand at the peak of the mountain.

He tells me that he learned about the group years prior, so he emailed them and they responded. Since that email, the director of Save The Waves, as well as board members, have made the trip down. Community meetings are in the works, petitions are online, a plan is being strategized, momentum is on their side. Maybe Camacho is taking on this project for the same reason he ran into the ocean when he was a child, ducking under waves, eventually gliding down the face of one with an outstretched arm; for the same reason he bought a single fin at a flea market and taught himself to surf; for the same reason he paddled out to an expert-only wave on the biggest swell of the season, sliding into shallow, sand-spitting barrels.

The Wave below the Sleeping Rabbit
Take it all in and hopefully protect it forever.

No one told him he couldn’t.

By Kyle Thiermann

For more information and details :

WHAT is the adventure film festival:-

The Adventure Film Festival is all about helping those that adventure to profit from their bliss.

The Adventure Film Festival is all about helping those that adventure to profit from their work.

The Adventure Film Festival is all about helping those that adventure to profit from their videos.

The Adventure Film Festival is all about helping those that adventure to profit from their expertise.

The Adventure Film Festival is a global online adventure film competition.

IF you have an adventure film worthy of global recognition = submit it.

IF you are an adventure film maker = build your story / build your brand; it is our job to help you build your business.

Adventure Film makers / our stars – we want to help you develop our global industry…



We love adventures.

We have done rock climbing, zip-lining, diving, swimming in a cage with sharks, white water rafting, skydiving and extreme roller coasters.

You name it, and either we have done it, or it is on our bucket list.


Bungee jumping had been on our list for a long time.

But in the end, it proved much harder than it seemed in photos and videos.

Bungee jumping took our adventures to another level, and we learnt a few life lessons.

While we were on our last road trip in New Zealand, we knew this was the best place to try it.


New Zealand is the birthplace of bungee jumping, which has been popularised here.

The country is also renowned for innovation, excellent facilities, many years of experience and, most importantly, an excellent safety record.

Queenstown is called the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’, so we felt that we should do our first jump there.

This post has been written from Kat’s point of view because this has been a rather personal and intense experience.

Petr’s self-preservation instinct is quite relaxed compared with most people, so his experience made for another story. You can read it here.


Both words have the same meaning.

Bungy is the spelling used mainly in New Zealand, while bungee is more common in the rest of the world.


SkyJump Las Vegas, USA

The list of adventures I have been through is long, and I’m proud of that.

There is only one exception, SkyJump Las Vegas, the world’s highest controlled descent.

The launching pad is located on the 108th floor of the Strat Hotel, Casino and SkyPod (formerly Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower), 260 metres (855 feet) above the Las Vegas Strip.

While in Las Vegas, we decided to do the night jump. What could go wrong, right?

I was confident because we had just done our first skydiving in Cuba a few months before, and I loved it.

We had jumped out of an old aeroplane 3 km (1.9 miles) above the ground, so it couldn’t be worse, right?

I was wrong. It was.

I was fine until I got to the jumping platform, where everything changed.

When I started to feel the wind on my face, I realised what height I was at.

I was supposed to jump into the dark but could not do it. My confidence was gone.

I chickened out.

What was so different between skydiving and this jump?

I was on my own. There was no experienced instructor I could hang on to.

I took the challenge too lightly.

On the other hand, Petr managed to jump. The fee we had paid was non-refundable, so he jumped twice not to waste the cost of my ticket. How cool is that?!


Beautiful location of the Kawarau Bridge Bungy

When we arrived at Queenstown in New Zealand, I knew that if I didn’t do it here, I would probably never do it.

But after I failed in Las Vegas, I was afraid I would give up again.

At first, we visited the Kawarau Bridge Bungy to see what it was like.

It’s the world’s first commercial bungee, with a height of 43 metres (141 feet).

The location was beautiful – a wooden bridge in the Kawarau gorge overlooking the river with its turquoise water.

But the scenery was the last thing on my mind!

People were queuing for the jump. There were many of them – men, women, young, middle-aged…

They all seemed to be just ‘normal’ people, no adrenaline junkies.

I thought that I could do it too if they could do it.

I had done so many potentially dangerous activities before and didn’t want to look like a coward now.

The faces of people who were just about to jump said it all.

They were afraid, really afraid.

I realised that everyone felt fear (except for those adrenaline junkies).

And that’s what it was all about – overcoming the fear and doing it despite it.

So, we decided to jump the following day.

Unfortunately, we mentioned this to the Airbnb host we stayed with that night.

Instead of a few words of encouragement that we needed, she said that bungee jumping was the worst experience of her life.

After standing on the jumping platform for ages, she only jumped (with closed eyes) because her friend threatened to push her.

It didn’t help at all. It wasn’t something I needed to hear.

As you can imagine, I didn’t get much sleep that night.

I went from “Yes, I can do it, I have done worse things.” to “What is the point of doing it if I won’t enjoy it? Let’s leave it till another time. ”

In the morning, I still didn’t know if I was going to do it or not.

We arrived at the Kawarau Bridge and watched people jumping for a while.

Petr asked if I was in so that he could buy the tickets.

I still didn’t know what to do. I hated to admit that I was so scared.

We agreed that Petr would jump first, and then I would decide if I wanted to do it or not then. He managed a beautiful dive; it looked so easy. He told me it wasn’t too bad and I should do it too.

Petr's first bungee jump

I still didn’t know what to do.

Then, we saw a couple preparing for a tandem jump (the girl was so scared that she didn’t do it in the end).

I thought it would be easier to jump together with Petr because I could hold him.

If anything went wrong, he would know what to do (he always does!).

I knew if I didn’t do it here and now, I would never do it because I would find another excuse.

A tandem jump was available, and we bought the tickets.

We got weighted, signed a waiver and put on our harnesses.

We were told which way to jump and hold each other for a smooth experience.

The preparations took longer because they had to calculate the correct length of the ropes for two people jumping together, which wasn’t that common.

Each of us was tied to a separate rope, and we held each other behind our backs.

Petr got ready first because he was taller.

Then, it was my turn.

The staff were excellent; they made fun and talked to us all the time to make us feel more relaxed.

I had a smile on my face, but when I got to the jumping platform, I felt paralysed by fear.

I could barely move.

But I didn’t question the safety of the ropes.

It was the feeling of having to jump into space from such a height.

I was trying not to look down and was looking at the surroundings.

I was forcing myself to think about something else, but it was hard.

Smiles for the camera before our tandem jump

And there we were – standing on the jumping platform, tied to each other, smiling for the cameras but freaking out inside (at least I was!).

It felt like being in a movie – and then the guy said: “You are ready to go – three, two, one, JUMP!”

We made it!

And we jumped.

I let go and DID IT.

I managed to jump at the exact second as Petr.

It was a special moment that we shared.

It was just a split second until gravity grabbed us, and we started falling.

Then I didn’t remember anything until we reached the water.

I don’t know if I passed out or if it just happened so quickly that my brain couldn’t process it.

But I was probably fully conscious because Petr told me later that I was screaming the ‘F’ word all the way down!

I don't remember anything until we reached the water

We were thrown up and down like two puppets when we got down to the river, and the ropes stretched.

The fear was gone, and we were laughing and enjoying the moment.

Jumping together was a very special experience

After we stopped moving, a boat came underneath us and picked us up.

So proud that we made it!

I was shaking but so happy that I had made it.

But deep inside, I knew I needed to do it alone.

I was a step closer to that now.

Petr hadn’t had enough and wanted to conquer the nearby Nevis Bungy too, because we were leaving Queenstown the following day.

It’s New Zealand’s highest bungee (134 metres, 440 feet). People jump from a cable car cabin hanging between two mountains.

I wasn’t ready to do that because I was still processing our tandem jump. Just standing in the unsteady cabin was scary.

Fair play to Petr that he managed to jump as effortlessly as only he can.  

Petr conquering the Nevis Bungy


The Auckland Bridge

Two weeks later, we arrived in Auckland.

I knew it was my last chance to jump on my own because we were leaving New Zealand soon.

The Auckland Bridge Bungy was perfect because the jump was above the sea, so I convinced myself that nothing could happen.

If anything went wrong, I would end up in the water, right?

Auckland Bridge Bungy

We booked our tickets online and got picked up by the minibus.

We put all the gear on, got a quick safety briefing and off we went.

We had to walk to the middle of the Auckland Bridge to get to the jump pod.

At the moment, the bridge is not accessible to pedestrians.

The only way to get stunning views of Auckland’s skyline is the Bridge Bungy or Walk.

The walk to the pod felt never-ending.

I was trying to distract myself by looking around and thinking about anything else but the jump.

Petr was the most experienced jumper in the group, so he went first.

He decided to jump backwards – how crazy is that?!

He requested the ropes to be adjusted to get as deep into the water as possible.

He dived up to his knees.

When he came back up, he was laughing as if it was all just a piece of cake.

Petr having fun

Two more people were jumping after him.

I could see that they were scared, but they made it.

Then, it was my turn.

Again, the staff were terrific.

They were making jokes, but nothing could help me at that stage.

I was trying to keep calm, but I was so frightened that I could barely move.

I felt like a robot, just doing whatever I was told.

But I had decided to do it no matter what, so I kept going.

The guys got my rope and gear set so I could touch the water as I requested.

They helped me to get to the jumping platform.

That was it.

Now or never.

I was standing on the platform, trying not to think about what I would do and admiring the bridge’s impressive construction to distract my mind.

I was freaking out.

A few smiles for the camera, and then they said: “Three, two, one, JUMP!”

I did it!


I just leaned forward, and gravity did the work for me.

The horror of the last few seconds before the jump suddenly changed into pure joy when I started falling.

Enjoying the free fall

I was enjoying the moment and smiling until I hit the water.

It didn’t hurt at all, and I got into it smoothly.

I dived up to my waist, which I didn’t expect.

I had my mouth open and tasted the salty water.

In the end, this was the best part of the experience.

Touching the water was the best part

I couldn’t believe that it was over and I MADE IT! I came back up shaking but happy.

This time I enjoyed the views on the way back to the mainland.

Stunning views of Auckland - well-deserved reward


Bunge jumping was the hardest thing I have ever done (so far).

I had never felt so much fear before.

But at that moment, when I was jumping on my own, I realised one crucial thing that has profoundly affected my life.

I realised that I could really do ANYTHING I wanted.

It might be scary, hard or seem impossible.

But if I really want it, I can find the way by taking small steps forward.

And if I can do it, you can do it too (whatever it is).

PS: When we return to Las Vegas one day, I will jump off the Stratosphere Tower…. I know I can do it now…

For more information and details :

From summit to sea: a snowboarding adventure in the Arctic Circle

There are no lifts in Norway’s picturesque Lyngen Alps, so if you want to ride down a mountain to the shore you have to hike up it first

I’m on top of the world, in all senses of the term: we’re 500 miles inside the Arctic Circle in Norway’s Lyngen Alps and I’m buzzing at having reached the summit of Riššavárri, after a 31/2-hour hike.

Jagged white peaks rise starkly from snaking, deep blue fjords, the sun is shining, the light’s amazing – and there’s no one here but me and my guide, Mikal Nerberg. With more than 60 summits over 1,000 metres, the Lyngen Alps have a quasi-mythical status among hardcore skiers. It’s a purely touring destination: there are no ski lifts, so any mountain you want to ride down you have to hike up, using “skins” on your skis for grip. With ski fans increasingly wanting a fitness break, rather than just boozy lunches and downhill meanders, touring is a growth area.

The Lyngen Alps is where alpine guides come on holiday once their European season finishes, and where they bring their best and favourite guests. I’m here in early April but the season runs until June, when there’s skiing in the midnight sun.

We planned our route the day before, poring over a giant map, with Mikal pointing out the many peaks at our disposal. Riššavárri, at 1,251 metres, seems a good entry-level option. The temperature hasn’t fluctuated dramatically lately and it hasn’t snowed for a week so the snow pack should be stable, though as this is the high Arctic the weather can suddenly change. “This is more like a mountain expedition than you might expect,” said Mikal.

Instead of getting a resort bus or cable car to our starting point, we take a ferry across the fjord from Lyngseidet to Olderdalen. Our hike begins at sea level, rising up through a forest of elder and silver birch, the trees bowed under the weight of the snow. Mikal is on touring skis, while I’m on a splitboard – a snowboard that splits in two so it can be used like touring skis. The way isn’t too steep, but Mikal insists on a slow pace and makes us stop for snacks every hour to keep energy levels up.

Sam Haddad on her alpine hike. Photograph: Mikal Nerberg

Coming out of the woods we see our target summit, high in the sky, and still another 1,000 metres away. The climb quickly gets steeper but at the hour-two stop I still feel OK. As we reach hour three, however, I begin to wonder if I’ll ever make it to the top.

The silver lining is the view, which as we rise becomes an increasingly amazing distraction. For the last half-hour I really have to dig in, hypnotised by Mikal’s steps ahead of me but at the top the feeling of elation is intense.

I put my board together, while Mikal checks the snow to see which line would be our best descent. We set off, navigate some juddering wind-ruined snow then find a pocket of lovely soft pillow-like powder. Further down we ride super-fast spring slush, passing giant boulders of icy snow, and then cut into the forest we climbed through earlier, dodging the tightly packed tree trunks and stumps as if in a computer game. We emerge into a snowfield and ride down to the fjord, a complete run from summit to sea.

Most skiers and snowboarders stay at the Magic Mountain Lodge (bunks from £40pp full-board) in Lyngseidet – the main, albeit tiny town – but it’s fully booked, so I stay in a private rental house in a hamlet 12 miles north (Take Me Away, Holiday House, from £110 a night, sleeps four). Like almost every house in Lyngen it looks straight out of the Cabin Porn book: white wood with a pretty green trim and a 1960s-style kitsch interior. On my first night a white hare dances in the drive.

On day two we drive north to the waterside hamlet of Koppangen, where the road stops abruptly and turns into mountain. From here we set off for the 950-metre summit of Goalborri. Yesterday’s blue skies have switched to snowy showers. Before long it’s too steep and slippery to proceed by splitboard so I strap it to my backpack, put crampons over my boots, and Mikal hands me an ice axe for stability.

A view across the fjord. Photograph: Sam Haddad

This feels more aerobically tough than the day before – like climbing a snowy ladder, with the odd rock to scramble over – but we cover a lot more ground. After 21/2 hours we reach the top. Tiredness only hits as we start to ride the steep but reassuringly wide couloir. Lower down, we put down fresh tracks in soft spring snow, before popping out at the fjord.

Later that night I see the wisps of the northern lights rise in the sky. It’s beautiful but doesn’t come close to being the highlight of my trip, nor does the snowboarding down, fun as that was. The bit I love best has been the hiking up, the hard work of earning those runs down in this wild, silent and most un-ski resort-like place. Which also happens to be as easily reachable from the UK as the European Alps.

We Turned an Abandoned Church Into a Skatepark. Then Tragedy Struck.

I found out that our place of worship was burning around 2 a.m. I woke up to seven missed calls and over 50 messages. If the texts hadn’t come with pictures of the bell tower engulfed in flames, I wouldn’t have believed them. Everyone is safe, but it’s destroyed. The fire is still going. Church is gone. For years the place had been our sanctuary, and now it was ash.

Back when we were still St. Louis kids and before we had kids of our own, my friends talked about turning the long-abandoned Catholic church into a skate park. We grew up together in a pack of feral teenagers who skated up and down Delmar Boulevard, the east-west artery that cuts through the city. We loitered outside the Shell station and Racanelli’s Pizza and Vintage Vinyl. We sat in piles of wrists and legs and hormones to claim our space on the concrete. They called us the Loop Rats, just a bunch of dirty pests the store owners had to shoo away from their doors.

Like a lot of young people who grow up in uncool places, I thought I had to get to a shiny metropolis to build success. For over a decade, I chased achievement elsewhere: New York City, Los Angeles, Boston. But it was in returning home that I became a part of building something increasingly rare and meaningful: a community.

A few years ago, my friends and I pooled our resources to turn St. Liborius Church, a nationally registered historical site and the largest Gothic revival church west of the Mississippi, into a community space. Trying to develop a skate park inside a massive church was never a part of my five-, 10- or any-year plan. But I fell in love with the idea of giving a new generation of St. Louis kids a spectacular place where they would be welcome and where no one would ever shoo them away.

A skater pulls a trick inside Sk8 Liborius while three people watch.
Credit…Brian Cummings

Transforming St. Liborius into Sk8 Liborius was a D.I.Y. effort. The good part about living in an undesirable place is the same as the bad part: No one cares what’s happening here. This is mostly hard, like when jobs dry up and infrastructure crumbles. But it also means that unlike in America’s aspirational cities, where creativity is reserved for the rich and their children, large-scale creative projects are still accessible to the non-generationally wealthy. No one is coming to repair America’s forgotten cities except for the people who live in them. In St. Louis alone, there are about 25,000 abandoned buildings. The überrich would rather visit Mars than save St. Louis.

So for years, we hauled shovelfuls of dead pigeon carcasses out of the corners of the church to clear space for construction. We called ourselves the Dead Pigeon Club, and some people even got tattoos of them, still punk even when pushing 40. I almost had a panic attack when one very alive pigeon flew uncomfortably close to my face in the bell tower. Hundreds of local volunteers lent their skills to this project. They ran the gamut from tradespeople who spent their Sundays tuckpointing, welding and laying concrete to office workers who researched 501(c) funding and historical building grants and talked to lawyers.

Although the process of building Sk8 Liborius took over a decade, our community found national attention only this summer.Predictably, it was because something tragic happened.

Before the four-alarm fire, Sk8 Liborius was a beautiful place in a place not known for beauty. Some of the church’s original stained glass was still intact. Cobalt blue, canary yellow and rose hues depicted the stories of the New Testament. A partly shattered portrait of Mother Mary, a tree branch peeking through her left eye. If you bit it on a ramp, as you lay on your back, the gold mosaic ceiling tiles comforted you with their sacred geometry.

The walls were adorned with murals by local artists. The only rule was: No covering up the original religious artwork, so lunettes more than 100 years old floated above graffiti tags like “STL Punk.” It was impossible not to feel the Holy Spirit when you were walking through the cross-shaped open space that led to the altar, where dozens of broken skateboards lay in sacrifice.

Skateboarding is naturally a socially inclusive sport, and the “congregation” that formed was welcoming to all. Teenagers from impoverished parts of North St. Louis skated alongside pro international skateboarders who sought out the church as a destination. A free yoga class met on occasion. Rappers, metal bands and dubstep D.J.s all performed there. A crew of queer quad skaters came religiously. Local parents brought their toddlers to ride around on tricycles. One roller skater preferred the comfort of a dinosaur costume. Nuns who had been part of the church before it was abandoned by the archdiocese in 1992 would visit, thrilled to see the church playing an active role in the community again. It was a place where people could feel safe and be free.

An aerial view of the burned church turned skatepark.
A four-alarm fire has caused devastation to the German Gothic church at the St. Liborius Parish Complex built in 1889.Credit…Bill Greenblatt/UPI, via Alamy Live News

The goal had been to save the church, but now it was gone, and we’d failed. Our years of relentless optimism had turned to rubble. It was crushing. The fact that it ever existed at all was a miracle. Proof that transformation is possible anywhere. Even in the land of vacant lots, Dollar Tree stores, dusty red brick buildings and payday loan signs.

A community isn’t a building, and St. Louis is shockingly resilient. In the days that followed the fire, we held emergency community meetings. Over 200 volunteers showed up to secure the building and clean up the mess the fire left behind in the neighborhood. A group of grade schoolers raised money to pay for supplies with a lemonade stand. We are planning on rebuilding. After all, who but us is interested in making our particular patch of unwanted earth more beautiful?


History of Skateboarding !

Skateboarding is more than just cruising around. Skateboarding is a lifestyle. Skateboarding is love. Over the past 60 years Skateboarding went through a kind of evolution.

By the early 1950s,

surfing can be traced as the source of skateboarding. Some surfers had the idea to transfer the feeling of riding waves onto the streets to defy times of days with a gentle swell. Not without any reason these dudes were called “asphalt surfers”. At two spots in the world a kind of a skateboard was developed at the first time in the early 1950s: California and Hawaii. They used shorter surfboards and wheels made out of metal without some bearings. In the late 1950s, skateboarding had a first peak. During the post-war period, the U.S. economy boomed and this also affected the toy industry. During that time, the toy industry became aware of the board with wheels. In 1959, Roller Derby released the first official skateboard with some new technical developments. Thereby, the handling characteristics have been improved. For this reason, skateboarders were able to develop new tricks and maneuvers. 

die ersten Boards

THE 1960S

Between the years 1959 and 1965, skateboarding became more and more popular in the United States. Particularly affected were the states on the east and west coasts. Due to the industrial development, the skateboard’s status changed from toy to sports equipment. In 1962, the surf shop “Val-Surf” in Hollywood sold the first self-produced skateboards. These boards featured a typical surfboard shape and roller skate trucks and were sold as complete boards. In the same year, the company Patterson Forbes developed the first industrially produced complete boards with more developed trucks. In 1963, the publisher of the “Surf Guide Magazine” Larry Stevenson released the first advertisement for skateboards in his magazine. Also the clothing industry specialized more and more on skateboarding. One of the most famous skateboarding shoe brand named Vans was established in 1966. From this day on, Vans supported skateboarders from all over the world. Especially shoe companies like Vans, Etnies, Converse and DC Shoes developed and manufactured skateboarding related footwear and streetwear. 

Vans Old School

Another landmark event in 1963 was the first skate contest in Hermosa Beach, California. Skateboarding was not just cruising anymore. Skateboarders showed their skills in different disciplines like slalom or freestyle and companies started to assemble a team to sponsor the riders. As the popularity of skateboarding began to expand, the first skateboarding magazine “The Quarterly Skateboarder” was published in 1964.

A next big step was the further development of the shape of the boards. Larry Stevenson invented the “kicktail“, and with it came a lot more possibilities to ride a skateboard.

Old School Boards

THE 1970S

The only consistent thing is change and so it came to a point where everything changed for skateboarding. Frank Nasworthy’s invention of urethane wheels in 1972 made it possible for skateboarding to come back. Nasworthy started the company Cadillac Wheels and with the new material it was possible to ride smoother, faster and more comfortable. A variety of disciplines such as freestyle, downhill and slalom experienced a real high point. New magazines like the “Skateboarder Magazine” from 1975 were published and new events were launched. In 1976, the first artificially created skate park was inaugurated and new parks emerged with new elements such as vertical ramps and kickers. 

Gadillac Wheels

In the mid-1970s, skateboarding reached Germany. The American soldiers brought the trend with them and by 1976 Munich became the first German skateboard center. In Munich Neuperlach, the first skate park was built, first skateboard magazines followed and in 1978 the first German skateboard championships were held in Munich.

All the different riders with their individual styles enhanced lots of new tricks. Therefore, skateboarding hardware was developed further and further: Shapes changed, boards became wider, got more concave and they featured nose and tail.

Then in 1978, Alan Gelfand invented a maneuver that gave skateboarding another revolutionary jump: The “Ollie”, which counts as the greatest trick ever invented and completely revolutionized skateboarding. That was the birth of street skateboarding!


Alen Gelfand - Ollie

THE 1980S

Rodney Mullen was one of the first riders who transferred the Ollie for different maneuvers onto the streets and spread a new style of skateboarding. Next to other fun sport activities like BMX or inline skating, street skateboarding developed more and more and became very popular. 

Rodney Mullen

In 1981, the “Thrasher Magazine” was founded and since then, this magazine stands for street skateboarding, the core scene, punk rock and the lifestyle slogan “Skate And Destroy”. In 1983, another well-known magazine was founded, namely the “Transworld Skateboarding Magazine”. Next to these magazines, a few smaller ones were founded and more skate shops opened. Because of this, the popularity of skateboarding continued to grow. A global dissemination of new tricks and unseen skate maneuvers allowed the first skate videos on VHS. Videography has become increasingly important to the scene.


Titus Dittmann was instrumental in the development of skateboarding in Germany. He imported skate-related products from the US and organized contests and various skateboarding events. The “Münster Monster Mastership” became one of the biggest international skateboarding competitions in the 1980s. For that reason, skateboarding became more and more famous in Germany.

From the mid-1980s on, it was possible to earn good money as a professional skateboarder and the skateboard industry boomed in the US. In the late 1980s, companies like Powell Peralta, Santa Cruz and Vision dominated the international market of the scene. The fashion was mainly determined by shoes. Shoes by Vans, Converse or Vision became flagships for the skateboarding scene.

Powell Peralta

Skateboarding was now absolutely established the US and in Germany and vert skateboarding was replaced by street skateboarding. The number of skateboarders increased significantly and professional skateboarders became more and more famous just like baseball or football stars.


In the early 1990s, skateboarding went through a further depth phase due to the increase in various trend sports. So skateboarding went back to its roots. But because of the digitalization, skateboarding maintained its presence in public. From the mid-1990s, the modern skateboarding experienced a next high phase, which continues until today. Mega events like the “X-Games” were launched and televised. Due to numerous magazines, all the events, videos and last but not least the internet, skateboarding became common worldwide. 

Because of brands like Chocolate, Girl Skateboards or Flip Skateboards, the skateboarding hardware was developed more and more and skateboarders could buy high-quality skateboards in every bigger city.

Reynolds & Koston

More indicators are the big and worldwide known events of “Street League”. “Street League Skateboarding” is a contest series for international pro skaters. Here, you only see the best street skateboarder you can think of like Nyjah Huston, Eric Koston, Paul Rodriguez, Andrew Reynolds, Ryan Sheckler or Torey Pudwill. Due to the cash prizes of 200.000 US Dollars or more for the winner and 10.000 visitors at the “Street League” stops, skateboarding has become a professional sport.

Street League

In Germany, street skating is the most popular discipline at contests just like in the USA. The European and German skate scene is independent, has its own industry, pros and a national contest series. This is an evidence of how big the role of skateboarding is in our society.

Skateboarding has become a job for a lot of people. Because of the increasing networking inside the skate scene, skateboarding will grow and bring more innovations in the future. But for the most of us, skateboarding is and will be a hobby and an attitude to life.

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