California: A Road Already Paved

Sitting shotgun cruising down the 110 freeway never felt so strange. Here I was, back in Los Angeles, California, the city I grew up in, a mere 3 weeks out from the start of my “around the world” trip. In the blink of an eye, I had gone from roaming the slums of Havana and living out of a backpack, to being escorted home by my dad who had scooped me up from Tom Bradley International late one Wednesday evening. I had planned this. From L.A I am heading to Asia, the Philippines to be specific so my course of travel would have routed me towards home regardless. Still, this stop came as a rather big shock. Don’t get me wrong, seeing my friends and family before I took off for the long haul was important, however, being so far out of my comfort zone, only to be placed in a location where I have felt some of the greatest comforts in my life was playing tricks on my mind. The game we all know as traveling has many ways of rustling our feathers, the ever changing “comfort zone” being one of it’s greatest deceits.

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Does it sound like I’m complaining about being home? I’m not. Well maybe a little bit, but this had nothing to do with my location but rather the mentality I had placed myself in for the prior trips. I made the most of my time in Los Angeles and being there actually turned into quite the blessing in disguise. Here’s why. Before I left my home in Brooklyn, I had no clue to as of where I would start my backpacking journey. My trips to Florida and Cuba were just warm ups for the task I had pictured in my head, an all inclusive around the world trip with no destinations and nothing but time. Having this in mind, I was stumped when it came to choosing my first destination in which I would start my travels. I knew it would be Asia; my mother actually placed this idea in my head sometime over my winter stay at home. I chose Asia because of its low cost and backpacker friendly style of living. My family also does business in Thailand, a country I plan to use as a hub in case I ever need to recharge my batteries. I started research and eventually decided on doing it big for my first destination, which could only mean embarking on a surf trip. While I was tempted to head straight to Indonesia, the world mecca of surf, I decided to save this country for later for a couple reasons. The first being, I consistently daydream about scoring waves in Indo. Going there first would be like finishing way too early given a night alone with Kendall Jenner. Second, as I confirmed to myself in California during a meaty south swell, my surfing needs work. I find that my surfing excels when given the opportunity to surf everyday for at least a week straight, any less and I lose confidence on a board. The wave rich and tourist lacking shoreline of The Philippines seemed to be calling my name.

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Returning Wave is an initiative setup by Lynn Bryant in 2008 with the mission of providing kids who perform well in school, the opportunity to surf waves on boards sent primarily from the United States. They accept donations of old boards, both in good condition as well as those in need of repair, and send them to 7 separate locations throughout the Philippines, all run through a collaboration of volunteer based supervisors. While researching the country, I came across their organization and knew I could easily contribute to their cause. I reached out to Lynn with the interest of being a courier. Taking a few boards overseas, meeting some locals, and scoring good waves sounded like something right up my alley. Once I got the green light from Lynn, I booked a ticket to Cebu. This is where being in California really paid off as Lynn runs the program out of a storage container where she works in San Francisco. Not only could I go and meet some awesome human beings, but I could make a road trip out of the process.

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Driving to San Francisco is one of guilty pleasures. I say guilty because I always end up stealing my parent’s car for a few days and milking the shit out of my friends that are now conveniently scattered up along the coast. I threw some clothes together, packed the car out with surfboards, and took off. I’ve done this trip before. The last time was winter of 2016 and if you’re a surfer, you know this winter to be one of the most epic, wave rich, El Nino winters of all time. That drive was a long one as I kept finding myself pulling off the road, captivated by the size and shape of waves detonating all along the coastline. I decided to replicate that trip, however I would be skipping San Luis Obispo and shooting straight up to Santa Cruz where my long time friend Julia now lives, a convenient 5 minutes from Steamer Lane, the towns premier surf break. Santa Cruz is great, a true homage to the image of what a California surf town should be. I got in just as Julia was leaving work and we spent the afternoon surfing shitty 2 foot surf but having a blast regardless. We headed to downtown Capitola for dinner where some bomb Tacos and Ceviche were on the menu, accompanied by a rather picturesque view of the harbor. Later that night Julia took me to the SC boardwalk for some entertainment and although though she says she just wanted to show me what is was like, I think she took me just to whoop my ass at air hockey, multiple times. I spent the next day moseying around town, drinking too much coffee and dipping in an out of random bookstores. By nightfall I was in San Carlos, a town 15 minutes from San Francisco, to stay with one of my best friends, Tim.

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I was up early to check the surf reports. Lynn and I had setup a meet the only way the head of a surf charity could, with a morning session at her local break. We met at the entrance to Pacifica Beach, me with Tim, and Lynn with her good friend Victoria better known as Suncat. Both of them were so unique and captivating individuals, clearly passionate about the work they were doing. I guess you have to be to run a program such as hers. We spent some time hanging out and getting to know each other, sharing travel stories and trading information. I however, can only stand on the beach so long when there are waves present, so we headed out and had a rather long surf where I digested as much of Lynn’s knowledge as I could. We grabbed coffee after, embracing the good vibes stemmed from the kind of conversation that could only be generated from a table of people all on the same wavelength. I took the boards from Lynn, and gave her a couple of banged up ones I collected from friends as well. She has since hooked me up with a bunch of her connections in the Philippines, all of which I am super excited to meet. As for Lynn, I can’t wait until my return to the bay area to catch a few waves with her again.

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I drove back down to L.A the next day, optimistic about the journey to come. The trip down was surprisingly quick as I’m slowly developing a good method of disguising my rather serious speeding problem. My last few days at home were nice, mostly spent with my family as I slowly packed my bags for the long road ahead. As I write this I am currently on a plane to Cebu City, my third flight of four in a brutal 35-hour trip, painfully endured in an attempt to save a couple bucks. I will spend a few days in Cebu with a couchsurfing host that has kindly offered me a room while I gather my bearings, extend my visa, and find a boat that will take me to Siargao as flights there have conveniently declined flying my boards. I’ve decided to devote this trip purely for surf, going wherever the waves may be. Lynn has stated that her organization will need help repairing boards and coaching kids in Siargao, so if things work out, I will probably spend a good chunk of time there. Whatever happens, my itinerary is open and so is my mind, just the way I planned.

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