Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Remembering goals and where I am now? Big news on the adventure front!

Ben Wilson kites Cloud Breaks in Fiji

When looking at the above picture, I am pretty awestruck by the size of balls Ben Wilson has.  I imagine that even him, as he rides out beyond the break and gets ready to ride in and then drop in on a monster like this, is full of nerves, an almost sickening anticipation of the unknown variables a wave of this magnitude can throw at a rider, and he might even have a little doubt creeping in telling him that what he is about to do is nuts...and yet, I bet if you ask him, the moment he drops in on a wave like this all his nerves, anticipation, fear, anxiety, doubt....everything...goes completely still in the moment.  And in that moment he feels more alive than he ever has. 

And what does this have to do with me?

At the moment I feel like I am just about to drop into the biggest wave of my life!  Hopefully I have prepared enough for this endeavor, such that I am ready, willing, and able for tackling this next adventure of life head on......that I won't crash or wipe out..... but instead I will have "the ride of my life"!

OK, still confused?

In April of 2014 I gave my notice to my employer that Friday, Jan 16, 2015 would be my last day at work.  Around a month later my wife, Becky, gave her employer Amazon.com notice that her last day would be Jan 9th 2014.

That's right, in what is now only 3 months away, the two of us will be voluntarily ending our current careers in the tech world, we will rent our house out, and start chasing the wind with our 2 year old daughter Avy in tow.  That's the big news on the adventure front!

So, if you have been following me since this blog started or if you have ever read old entries, then you know that this has been a dream of ours for some time.  My first and second blog entries in fact detail our plans....although that was roughly 4 1/2 years ago, much of it is applicable and I feel like we have reached the first step of our goal. 


One thing I might note out, that the second blog post gives our 10 year plan, then a list of steps.  Well, we are almost exactly 5 years into the plan...so hopefully 5 years from now we will have a successful business somewhere with perfect wind and weather.

This is why I say I can feel some affinity to Ben Wilson right before he dropped in on this big wave, because as January approaches I have the all the feelings one might experience before dropping in on a monster wave; nervousness, anticipation, fear, anxiety, doubt....and while I may not be fearing for my life, there is still quite a lot of risk involved with a lifestyle change of this magnitude.

That being said, just like dropping in on a giant wave takes a ton of preparation, practice, planning, and calculated risk, so does making a lifestyle change of this magnitude. I believe that Becky and I have done the same things...prepared, practiced, planned, and worked towards minimizing the risks that throwing comfort to the wind and pursuing our dreams will involve. (pun intended) 

So, before I detail any specific itinerary, I think I will overview with you the plans, preparation, practice, and risk minimizing steps we have taken to make this new adventure and lifestyle a reality.

 1) Become self-sufficient kiteboarders: 

While this might seem liker a no brainer, of course, the first step was for Becky and I to both become self-sufficient kiteboarders.  That has been done and both Becky and I could certainly be considered self-sufficient kiteboarders at this time.

2) IKO certification: 

Well, in my first or second blog post, which was extremely early in our kiting careers, I put out there that both Becky and I would become instructors.  That being said, Becky spent roughly two summer seasons busy....either pregnant or nursing an infant.  So, becoming a kiteboard instructor didn't happen for her.  However, I became an IKO certified kiteboard instructor in May 2010.  I worked for 5 summers with Urban Surf Kiteboarding teaching lessons on Jetty Island in Everett, Washington. Last month, Sept 2014 I officially became a Level 2 IKO certified kiteboard instructor and now am qualified to be a Head Instructor for an IKO center.
This means that once we are traveling, I should be able to work as an instructor at the various locations we decide to call home temporarily.  Hopefully if all goes well, I will be able to support us by paying for food and board while we are there.  This will keep us from dipping into our savings to support day to day living expenses.

3) Conceive a child before leaving :

Conceiving a child before leaving might seem like a weird goal.  But roughly 4 years ago or so as we really started getting serious about making this life change, one thing that came up (Becky brought it up) was that when we got married I promised her I was okay with having at least one child.  So, then the questions became "Do we leave early and have a baby in another country or do we stay for another year or two, have a baby in the US under our current health insurance plans?"  Obviously we choose the second option.  Having Avy has been one of the most awesome experiences ever.  And now that she is 2 years old, she is at the perfect age for us to make this change in our life and take her with us.  She is just finishing up her potty training, can eat pretty much anything (even likes spicy food sometimes), she can tell us if she feels sick or something hurts, etc, etc  Anyways, we are primed and ready, and I think Avy is going to have a blast and really grow from this experience as much as both Becky and I will.

4) Save a nest egg and pay down debt:

By next month I will have my 2009 Mazdaspeed3 paid off and  I will be left with only my college school loans, home mortgage, and a little credit card debt.  Before leaving Becky and I will have paid off the credit card...so really I will only be left with my college loans to worry about, as the mortgage should be taken care of by renting our house.
As far as saving a nest egg goes, Becky has been saving her Amazon stock allotments and options for roughly 5 or more years....basically since 2008 actually.  While this is the primary outlet for us saving a nest egg, we feel pretty confident that we have enough to travel on and to invest in a business once we find the right place to post up.

5) Leave our employment in good standing:

Now I know giving our employers such a long notice of our leave seems somewhat crazy, but hey, we had big shoes that needed filling and we both wanted to leave our departments and coworkers in a good position when we leave, rather than give them short notice and leave them short handed.  As such, both of us have hired and trained our replacements and at this point we are working to hand off all of our responsibilities to our replacements or to others within the company.  With such a long time for preparation, we both feel real good about leaving and about the fact that we will be held in good standing and of high opinion by our employers.  We have effectively ensured that we are not burning any bridges as we jettison from our current lifestyle and career.

6) Upgrade our equipment before leaving:

Before we leave we certainly had the goal of making sure we have current gear with lots of life left.  For myself, I also had the goal to be able to produce music and DJ while we are on the road.  As such, I have upgraded not only my kiting gear but also my music setup.

For kiting Becky upgraded to a 2013 11m Naish Ride and a 2012 Naish Moneyshot 132cm.

I upgraded my wetsuits to a full suit 5/4/3, a 3/4 length suit, and a shorty.

I got a 7m, 10m, and 14m Naish Park kites in 2012 & 2013.  

I got Ronix Park bindings.

And this week I got my new boards in, just in time for our trip.  A 2015 Naish Dub 138 and a 2015 Naish Skater 5'2.  Let me tell you, I am stoked as hell to ride these boards!!!


As far as DJ and music production equipment goes, I have made my music production system fully portable with a new laptop, a Mac Book Pro, and an Ableton Push controller with Ableton software. For DJing, I haven't yet, but will be upgrading to a new Dj Controller sometime in the next month or so.

And that's about it.  Certainly there are a myriad of other things we have had to handle, but this list was the most pressing and important in at least one sense.

Just like Ben Wilson, who with all of his training, practice, and preparation essentially gained the confidence that he could successfully ride the wave before he ever dropped in on that beast, Becky and I are also confident that we have accomplished the things we needed to accomplish prior to taking the leap and deciding to ride the wave of fate to a new lifestyle, reality, and home waiting for us on some sunny, windy beach....

I am hoping that come Feb 1st or so as we fly out into the unknown, that just like Ben Wilson on the face of this monster wave, all anxiety, nervousness, doubt, etc, will disappear as we live in the moment, enjoy life and quality time with each other, along with the wind, water, and sun that is awaiting us on a distant shoreline.  In those moments, I am sure we will be having the "ride" of our lives.

What do you think?  Do you have aspirations to ride a monster wave, be that a real one or a metaphorical one?  If so, I say GO FOR IT!!!!



I still have a few updates to add to this blog, like a recap of our trip to Cape Hatteras in April of 2014, so stay tuned.

Also, itinerary will be forthcoming in the next month or so.......

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

(recap of 2013 pt 4) Avy's First Road Trip with Epic Kiteboarding Along the Way.



Well, it has taken me long enough to get back to my blog and finish out the recap of the summer of 2013.  So, without wasting anymore time, here we go. I promise I will get better at this "keeping up with my blog thingy"!

The summer of 2013 was finished off by my wife and I taking our 15 month old (at that time) on her first plane flight and road trip.  The plan was for her to meet as many family members from Becky's side of the family, while at the same time Becky and I capitalizing on any kiteboarding opportunities along the way. Additionally we had a wedding to attend.  A close high school friend of Becky's was getting married just outside of Reno the day after we arrived. So yes, that was our first stop in the trip.

So, what is the extent of Avy's first mini-vacation and road trip?

Our itinerary included flying from Seattle to Reno. Attend a wedding and visit Grandpa and Grandma Grayson. Drive from Reno to San Francisco, seeing Avy's auntie Deanna as well as one of our most beloved friends, the infamous Blaze, and then making the trek down the California coast on Highway 1 all the way to LA for a few days and then on down to San Diego.  After spending a few days in San Diego visiting family (and hopefully kiting) we would board a flight to San Padre Island in Texas to visit our good friends, Kynan Stevenson and his wife and son, Michelle and Erik.   Erik is only about a year older than Avy, so it was a perfect place to go end our adventure. Plus, the hope was we could catch some kiteboarding in flat water while there as well.

Naturally the first stop in our little adventure was the airport.  Just watching Avy get ready to board a plane was fun in and of itself. The tarmac and planes arriving kept her attention as she slowly painted the glass with her nose and lips. Yeah, gross...but cute all the same.


Once in the air, she may have been the easiest child ever, since she fell asleep about 5 minutes into the flight and didn't wake up until the landing gear dropped in Reno.  I wonder where she got that from? :)



Once we landed in Reno, the first thing we noticed was how bad the smoke was from various fires burning in the hills around Carson City and Reno.  Here are two pictures of the smoke. The first one is unprocessed. The second one is HDR.



Funny thing is, on day two as we were heading to Becky's friends wedding, while vision was down to about 200 meters due to the amount of smoke from the wild fires, the wind was blowing strong and steady.  Roughly, 20 mph or so.  And while driving through Washoe Valley I could see a lake and about the time I said "I bet we could kite in this lake right now" I noticed kites slowly emerging from the haze.  Sure as shit, there were roughly 10 kites in the air.

Mental note taken.  Stop by after the wedding and see if I can't find the beach they were launching from.

The wedding was beautiful, but of course, my mind kept wandering to Lake Washoe.  Let me give some background here.  The plan was to drive the day after the wedding to San Fran, but on the way, hit up Sherman Island.  Certainly I didn't think Becky's skills were up to the task, but I have always wanted to ride there. That being said, the last thing I expected to find was kiteboarding in Grandpa Grayson's back yard.  Lake Washoe is literally 5 minutes from his house and the hotel we were staying at.

On the way back from the wedding, I followed my hunches, trekked through some back country roads, asked a park ranger where to go, and eventually found that beach people kite from.  The wind had died and people were packing gear in the cars, but they gave me friendly advice and told us the following day looked decent.

Long story short, after checking the forecast, Sherman Island looked like a bust for the next day so instead we planned to go with my gut, get breakfast with my in-laws, with the hope of hitting up Lake Washoe right after.  My gut was right!  The next day paid off.  As we drove up, kites were already in the air.


Lake Washoe is located between Carson City and Reno, Nevada.  It is a pretty shallow lake that is made up entirely of snow melt.  In the end of August it was pretty warm on the Seattle standard scale.  As such, I put on a shorty and was plenty warm, although there were many locals with full suits on.

I got  an epic 2 hr session on my Naish 10m Park.  Avy had a good time watching daddy, while Becky watched her and got her own kite pumped and ready to go, so that when I got off the water she could get out there.

Lake Washoe is perfect for beginners.  It has a long curvy beach that will catch any kiter that ends up downwind.  That plus knee to waste deep, semi-warm water for as far as you can ride makes it a pretty epic beginner beach.  And I would also say, it was choppy, but well below what I would normally expect from 10m winds.....and certainly well within the acceptable chop for wakestyle tricks.  This has to do with the fact that the wind doesn't have too long to push the water into waves before it reaches the kiters.

It was still smokey, but actually far less than everywhere else due to the wind speed.  You can certainly see the smoke in the background of the pics.







After I got a ride in, it was Becky's turn.  And she had an awesome time and stayed upwind for her whole session.



Once we were done with riding for the day, we stopped by some friends, cleaned up, and headed on the road to San Fran.  About 2 miles from Lake Washoe we got to see a herd of deer and grab a few pics.  Pretty cool...obviously it was not hunting season.





Our plan was to spend the following day with Avy's Auntie Deanna (Becky's sister) as well as our most lovely friend, Blaze.  We had an awesome time while in San Fransico.  Avy even got to ride around a store shredding...with daddy's help of course.


We also got to visit some of the cool sites of San Fran.







The next morning we were on our way to LA.  A road trip that ended up taking way longer than planned, on Highway 1, which hugs the coast of California the entire way.  Anyways, it was a scenic 10 hour drive. We did stop along the way to enjoy some of the sites. One surprise was our stop at a lookout where we got to watch a few whales swim by, spouting every couple hundred of yards.











Once we did land in LA and checked into our condo on Venice Beach (totally epic little condo too) and we were greeted with the most beautiful of sunsets.  I took quite a few pictures of the boardwalk in HDR that evening.




The sky was so beautiful, I took some regular pictures as well....while drinking an ice cold IPA. :)







The next morning Avy and I headed down to the beach...a mere 100 meters from our door step. We had fun jumping waves, just in the same way I remember jumping them while hanging on my mom and dad when I was a kid.




After our time in the ocean and a stroll down the Venice boardwalk to admire all the muscles and silicon ;P we took a short walk to a cafe to meet with our friends Rick Radar and his wife, Chiara.  Chiara and Becky grew up together and have kept in touch over the years.  Both her and Rick came to our wedding in 2008. They had just adopted a gorgeous little boy 6 months prior to our trip...so we were stoked to see them and me the new little addition.

It was also funny to watch Avy get a little jealous to see her mother holding another baby.




Once breakfast was done, hiked back to the boardwalk for a cruise and a beer with our friends, and afterwards jumped in our rental and made our way across L.A. to a park to visit Becky's sister Robin, and her two children, John and Raina. Avy had a blast at the park, running around and spending her first afternoon with her Cali Cousins. Her older cousin Raina just really couldn't get enough of her...and Avy loved every moment of it.








After saying goodbye to family, the next day we were on our way to San Diego. This time we take I-5....I want to get there without 5 hrs of driving, if you know what I mean.

We have plans to spend two days there.  One meeting up with friends (Renee and Wayne), as well as family (Becky's Uncle Butch and fam).

Here is the thing.  We had heard there was occasional kiteboarding at a place called Paradise Cove.  Yes, we met with friends and family.  We had an awesome time.  I took some pics.  Avy rode a carousel for the first time....we went to Sea World too.  But all of this paled in comparison to catching a dope sesh at Paradise Cove.  It was epic.  Other kiters there told us it was the first kiteable day in 3 months...so yeah, epic timing too!














Oh yes, so you may have noticed two things.  1) Avy did take a spill right before we left LA, where she took a coffee table right across the bridge of the nose.  So yeah, that was fairly traumatic. 2) No, we didn't get any pictures of the kiting in Paradise Cove, San Diego.  You have to take my word for it...but I had left my camera at the hotel. :(

Paradise Cove was amazing though. Flat water due to the cove structure....wind was light, I rode my 14m, Becky rode her 11m...... so yeah, light wind......but you know I fell asleep happy, content, and tired that evening.

So, we woke up the next day and were off to our friends house in Padre Island, Texas...just 30 minutes out of Corpus Christie.

Was Padre Island cool.  Yes.  Was it Texas.  Yes. If you have been there you know what I mean...it's Texas.  Not sure I would want to live there, but my buddy Kynan sure gets a ton of kiting in living there, almost all of it wet suite free.

Did we kite?  Yes.  In the four days there, we kited 2 of them, and the day we left was also windy...and I should note, we were there during the off season as far as wind goes.  So yeah, my buddy gets his kiting in.  No, we didn't get any pictures....but it was light wind (14m for me) but pretty much glassy, warm, shallow water.  It was pretty sweet.  I dialed in my backroll kiteloop with a hand drag during one of the sessions.

What else did we see?  Well, our friends live on a water canal, so we kayaked, swam, fished, SUP'd, we would catch a great sunset every night....ate seafood, saw a dolphin swimming and surfing barge wakes in a shipping canal. The kids were a ton of fun to watch playing.  So yeah...a pretty epic last few days to our awesome road trip.
















And that was about it....a flight home to Seattle.  We had a great time.  Made awesome memories....and yeah, scored some wicked sessions along the way.  For the first family trip with the three of us, I think all and all things went pretty well.

So, this concludes the kiting year of 2013.  I have some updates coming that will fill you in on what has been going on in 2014....but i will have to get back to you,  Hopefully not too long.

I really am going to make a real effort to keep this blog up to date over the coming months and year.