We would like to invite you to be among the first to watch Worn Wear, a new film from Keith, Lauren, Chris, and Dan Malloy.
Worn Wear is an exploration of quality – in the things we own and the lives we live. This short film takes you to an off-the-grid surf camp in Baja, Mexico; a family's maple syrup harvest in Contoocook, Vermont; an organic farm in Ojai, California; and into the lives of a champion skier, a National Geographic photographer, and a legendary alpinist. It also features exclusive interviews with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.
Released as an antidote to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, Worn Wear is an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.
[Video: Worn Wear - a Film About the Stories We Wear]
Thumbing through my recently purchased copy of Dan Malloy’s Slow Is Fast paperback, I felt the same elation I had as a teenager buying new vinyl. Listening to Yes’s double album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, I would carefully examine Roger Dean’s ethereal cover art as Jon Anderson and Steve Howe’s highly energized rock transported this Jersey kid to another place. And that’s what creative types do. They grab a hold of you and take you with them. It’s what Dan Malloy does with Slow Is Fast. He creates a beautifully made visual tribute to his native California.
Back in the fall of 2012, Dan and his good friends, Kellen Keene and Kanoa Zimmerman rode touring bikes along 700 coastal miles, documenting their trip with plenty of photographs and interviews. Some pictures are humorous, like the road kill one, where a beanie doll is added to the mix to soften death’s morbidity. Details are everywhere. The book’s front cover has a tiny, red bike-trailer icon and there are pages torn from a calendar scribbled with notes that say four shakas, zero middle fingers and two angry honks – a record of the day’s interaction with motorists.
[“In the last month I have learned more about the people and places along the California coast than I had in 34 years and a thousand car trips.” -Dan Malloy. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman]
The trip started 100 miles north of San Francisco with just the bare essentials. As they traveled down coast they stopped to surf, work with farmers, and spend time with artists and musicians. They also visited craftspeople and talked to them about their trade. There’s the Santa Cruz surfer kid who expertly makes prehistoric stone tools for the UC Berkeley archeological department, a bladesmith who considers his craft a spiritual practice and, my favorite, a hatchet throwing, jack-of-all trades surfer from Big Sur. These personal encounters make the book pulse with life.
There are photos that illustrate the difference between big and small agriculture. Long rows of tidy crops sprayed with unhealthy chemicals versus a field tended to with wind-chapped hands and a strong body. Growing up, I used to work on my grandparents' farm just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They grew corn, tomatoes and whatever else they thought the neighbors might like. Granddad let me feed the chickens and pigeons, and pick ears of corn from a field next to the pigeon house. I remember walking between the tall rows, the warm, clumpy earth feeling good beneath my bare feet. At a smaller field I collected rhubarb and eggplant for grandmother’s homemade fritters and strawberry rhubarb pie. She made the dough from scratch.
Dan and the guys visit Brenton Kelly and Jan Smith, who run the Quail Springs Permaculture Site and Educational Center in Maricopa. Dan asks them what they like about their jobs and what’s important to them. Brenton says he loves teaching and the interaction he has with students. Jan mentions that soil and light are basic connections to life and that she considers herself a wild critter. She feels that feeding people is the highest form of activism a person can do. Their spirited and noble lifestyle is exemplified in a stanza from Dick Gibford’s poem, While An Eagle Soared Like A Desert Lord.
He was just glad to be
Way out here
Still somewhat free
From pressure to conform
To modern times.
South of Cuyama up in the Sierra Madre, Dan sat in a small cabin with a man, wearing a wide brimmed hat and brightly colored bandana. It was Dick Gibford. He lives in the mountains tending cattle with his horse. Dan listens to Dick talk about the Spanish vaquero and their importance to the ranch culture. The American cowboy learned everything from the vaqueros Dick tells Dan. The vaquero move cattle at a slow pace, treating them with tender care. It takes fortitude and patience to do this kind of work, but it’s what Dick loves to do.
The old cowboy poet and everyone else we meet in the book and DVD grabs a hold of us and takes us with them. It’s what creative types do. We are grateful that Dan, Kellen and Kanoa stopped along the way to meet these folks, taking time to listen to their stories and learn about their unique skills. Dan reminds us that when we slow down and listen, we live.
Slow is Fast is now available from Patagonia.com and Patagonia Retail Stores.
[Video: Book trailer for Slow is Fast]
By Gavin McClurg
I've been really fortunate in the last couple decades to explore many of the farthest corners of the globe – thirteen straight years of sailing, chasing wind and waves on a series of kitesurfing expeditions, which included nearly two full circumnavigations, and the last couple years, paragliding all over the Alps, South America, Central America, Africa and the Himalayas. Just like surfers chasing swell, pilots chase seasons and weather.
Reggie Crist, a former Olympic alpine skier and friend of mine who lives here in Sun Valley is even making a movie about how athletes are like migratory animals, hopping on planes or jumping in cars chasing what they “need” be it adrenaline, or escape, or just pure fun. Animals, of course, are seeking food and shelter, which is all we really need as well. But for some people this other “need” is as urgent as the next hit is for a junky. Without it we find life marginalized, gray and drab.
[Above: Gavin McClurg soars. Photo: Jody MacDonald]
I met Matt and two other local pilots, Donnie and Nate, at 3pm, right across the street from the historic Sun Valley Lodge. We were up at launch an hour later, legs and lungs burning but we were all smiles – the conditions looked perfect. In no time we were all off the hill and heading up the ridge towards Otto’s Peak, at the top of trail creek, various singing “beep beep beep” verifying glorious climbs. Cloudbase was nearly 15,000 feet and there was almost no wind. The thermals were gentle, the sky more clear and blue than I'd ever seen in the Wood River Valley, which stretches out to the great basin desert and winds up to Galena Pass, the gateway to Stanley and the stunning Sawtooth Mountains. After a horrific fire season and being evacuated from our home just a few weeks earlier, I couldn't believe everything looked so pristine. The flying was so good I found myself questioning what was happening, and looking over my shoulder for the surprise that never came. Days like this come around very, very rarely.
We made the jump from Otto’s, at the south end of the Boulder range over to the Pioneers and eventually all grouped up and flew right down the range. I discovered Matt had a GoPro with him and we spiraled down, deep into the range, tight into the terrain, something that would be suicidal in summer. We must have flown 40 kilometers out and back and then back out from one end to the other. Donnie and Nate decided to fly back to town after a flight that both would later describe as one of the best they'd ever had. Matt and I carried on until sunset, wondering if someone had snuck some acid into our lunch. This just wasn't possible.
[Video: The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get by Offshore Odysseys]
We landed about 50 feet away from the Pioneer Cabin at 9,500 feet. After laughing, and hugging, and laughing some more we watched the sun fade over the horizon, packed up and moved into the cabin. We enjoyed a hot cup of tea, dinner, star gazing, a lot more laughing and a lot of discussion about this shared addiction of flight – and the irony of how we spend so much time and money and effort chasing what we love around the world yet the best is right here in our own backyard.
I've traveled and moved more than I've stayed put in my 41 years on this very cool planet we call home, adding my own considerable carbon footprint to the abundance that we humans are producing daily. Maybe it's time to slow down and enjoy the horizon that is right here every day.
The next day we fired up the stove, had a coffee, walked no more than five minutes to a slope above the cabin and launched, hoping we could find a place to land in the canyon below us but couldn't see. The sun was already baking the east-facing slopes and as we pilots like to say, “It was ON.” We circled like birds up and up to 12,000 feet and pointed our wings home. A place I think I'll stay awhile.
Gavin McClurg is the CEO of Offshore Odysseys and founder of The Best Odyssey and The Cabrinha Quest. He grew up on boats in the Pacific Northwest and commercially fished in the Bering Sea before getting into sailing in the mid ‘90s. The Cabrinha Quest is a five-year seafaring expedition to seek out the world’s most remote and dynamic kitesurfing and surfing locations. Photo: Jody MacDonald
By Fitz & Becca Cahall
Is there something out there? It’s a question that lurks in the back of my mind. Probably in yours too. It’s one of the very reasons why I love the outdoors: the unpredictability.
Over the years, I’ve collected experiences. Moments, like bits of data, that collectively guide my intuition. And yet, we’ve all had that moment where hairs stand up on the back of our neck. Was it heightened perception? Or did the wind just blow the right way? And if you convince yourself it was the wind, does some lump of doubt sit in your stomach? Because sometimes you just won’t believe something is out there. Until it’s right there.
[Listen to "Tales of Terror Vol. 4" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
Trying to tame the mighty Susitna seems foolish, particularly since the river is entombed in ice much of the year. That any “scientist” being paid to study the proposed dam would call this place a “biological desert,” as we’d heard, or any government proposing to destroy it in the name of “green energy,” seems too ridiculous to fathom. But this is what’s said and what’s planned.
The state of Alaska has authorized expenditures of $165 million to push the project through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s expedited permitting process. As farcical as it might sound, the project is very real.
“It’s like finding out that your best friend has been diagnosed with terminal cancer,” said Mike Wood, who lives on the bank of the river with his wife.
Check out this footage from one of the first whitewater descents of Devil’s Canyon:
A more modern day descent of Devil’s Canyon:
[Video: Jeff Shelton]
Get involved / Voice your opposition
Matt Stoecker is the owner of Stoecker Ecological, the director of Beyond Searsville Dam and a Producer/Underwater Photographer for DamNation.
Travis Rummel is the co-owner of Felt Soul Media and a Director/Producer for DamNation.
By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project
In 1968, high jumper Dick Fosbury set an Olympics record by rejecting the standard "straddling" technique – one leg, then the other – in favor of flinging his whole body up and over the bar, head first and backwards. At first track and field officials tried to ban the awkward move dubbed the Fosbury Flop, but it was so effective that soon almost all high jumpers used it, as they still do today. The Flop was not a transactional solution aimed at tweaking the conventional way of doing things, but a transformational solution that changed how the game was played.
To make changes on the scale needed to address the severity of today’s environmental, economic and social crises, we have to change the rules of the game on three levels: in our governments, in our businesses and in our communities. Our communities are a good place to start: They're close to home; the solutions are usually easier to achieve than trying to make change at the international, national or even state levels; and the emotional and social rewards are more immediate.
Investing in the commons. Forget the sheep-grazing analogies you may have learned in Economics 101. The commons is simply what we all own together – libraries, parks, community gardens, municipal swimming pools, trout steams, mountains and hiking trails. The more a community invests in its commons, the less likely its individual members will feel the need to build things like huge walled-off back yards that need a lot of watering (and mowing).
Sharing. There's a sharing boom happening – everything from borrowing power drills from the local tool lending library to car-sharing programs and housing for travelers. Sharing is not only good for the environment, it's good for our wallets since we don't have to buy so much stuff, and good for building communities since we have to talk to each other to share.
Nurturing new social or cultural norms. Increasingly people are opting out of the Madison Avenue-perpetuated mantra that more and new is always better. Many invitations to kids' birthday parties now specify "used gifts only." The rapper Mackelmore (& Ryan Lewis) scored a hit by celebrating the secondhand aesthetic with "Thriftshop" (warning: explicit lyrics). Patagonia, of course, is promoting its ebay shop [and Worn Wear used-clothing sections in some of their stores] to encourage customers to buy and sell their used gear. These cultural game-changers are important, as studies have found that our shopping and buying habits are heavily influenced by what those around us do.
And changes at the community level can lead to bigger transformations. Dick Fosbury came up with the Flop on his own, shared it with his local community (his teammates at Oregon State University), took it to the Olympics and from there it took over the track and field world. The same scaling up can happen with community-based solutions. In response to their frustration over the failure of national and international leaders to address global warming, in 2006 two small British groups started the Transition Towns movement, supporting community-led responses to climate change while "building resilience and happiness." Today the Transitions Network includes over 1,100 groups in 43 countries.
As I've said many times, community-level solutions aren't enough. We can't retreat into our private, sustainable, organic, cruelty-free havens and let everyone else fend for themselves. But they're a great place to start. Making relatively small changes at the community level builds our change-making muscles for bigger challenges. Today a bike rack in front of the library, next year dedicated bike lanes all over town, then on to expanding public transit and halting freeway construction, eventually taking on fossil fuel subsidies.
Next time we'll talk about practical solutions for making change in our communities, with ideas on how to get started. Meanwhile, we'd love to hear about how you and others are changing the rules of the game where you live. How is your community creating solutions for a better future?
Annie Leonard is the founder of the The Story of Stuff Project. She has dedicated nearly two decades to investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. Her monthly podcast series, The Good Stuff, features interviews with inspiring activists, entrepreneurs, scientists and others who’ve succeeded in making change.
By Fitz & Becca Cahall
"We had the discussion around the campfire one night of trying to define 'what is wilderness'," John Stoneman remembers. "We determined that if you get hurt or you have a problem and there's really no way out, you're in the wilderness." Despite the fact that 29,000 people raft down the Colorado River every year, the Grand Canyon is still unquestionably that -- wilderness. But what happens if you do need to get out? When the one place you need to be is a thousand miles away and you are off the grid? In 2010, John put in at Lees Ferry and embarked upon the trip of a lifetime -- but not in the way he imagined. Today, we bring you a story about a race against time and the lengths that perfect strangers will go to help others in need. Buckle up.
[Listen to "Rebirth of Belief" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
Today's advertisement appearing in The New York Times:
It's Fashion Week, when the design world turns its attention to what's new. We'd like to point out something better: what lasts. While we're proud of the quality and performance of Patagonia clothes, every new thing we make – everything anyone makes – costs nature more than we now know how to repay.
Over the past two years, Patagonia’s major environmental campaign has been Our Common Waters (OCW). The campaign influenced Patagonia’s impact on water and brought awareness to one simple fact: the more water people use, the less there is for everything else.
We’re moving out of this campaign, and into our next one. The Responsible Economy will start in September.
Before we leave Our Common Waters, we want to highlight some successes in the campaign, and thank some of our key partners for their ongoing efforts.
Our Common Waters focused on water scarcity, broken rivers and pollution, as well as Patagonia’s use of water as a company. At the end of this post, you'll find the environmental groups we worked with on each of these issues.
[Above: Instructions for removal. Matilija Dam, Ventura County, California. Photo: Matt Stoecker]
Patagonia's Water Footprint
Pollution - Fracking
Pollution - Tar Sands, Canada
Thank you to all of our partners (including those not listed here) and every one of you who took action on behalf of Our Common Waters.
I may not be much of a climber, but I love it, and to have achieved that dream to climb El Cap left me in a state of contentment, almost. There was still one dream I wanted to realize in Yosemite, my dream to become an underwear model for Patagonia.
This dream, first suggested to me by my friend Amber Jeck, originally seemed just as improbable as climbing El Capitan. (For the full backstory, read "The Underwear Story".) I mean an underwear model is the king of all male models right?
My dream seemed like a joke for years, a conversation piece at parties, something I thought I’d talk about forever, but never get to actually do. That all changed last year when Patagonia published the story about my underwear dream on The Cleanest Line, which is an excerpt from my book, Climbing Out of Bed. Shortly after this my buddy Shaun Matusewicz started an online petition for me to fulfill my dream, which motivated me to write a formal request to Patagonia. To my delight, they were game to have a little fun and agreed that I could indeed model their undies!
The only catch was that I needed to visit the Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, California to do the shoot. I live in Durango, Colorado, a day’s drive away from Ventura, so the dream was still somewhat improbable. Dreams are always improbable, impossible, or difficult though, improvisation would be necessary. Then it hit me, we could do the shoot during my upcoming trip to Yosemite, in the most iconic of all places for a photo shoot, the El Cap Meadow. As it turned out, some Patagonia employees would be in Yosemite at the same time for the Facelift.
It happened our last morning before leaving Yosemite. Dave and I met up with Jenning Steger, a photo editor for Patagonia. I explained to her my dream, and she was more than happy to take some time before climbing to do the shoot. We talked climbing for a bit, and then I stripped down to a new pair of Patagonia underwear. I was jacked on coffee and the air had a brisk autumn coolness to it, but I managed to keep my swagger. I couldn’t help but think about that Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes pictures of George in his underwear (with Kramer’s voice in my head): “Give it to me, work it, you’re a man, you’re a loverboy.”
Then, lying down in the cool grass of the meadow, I did the pose I imagined underwear models do, with one hand on my hip, and the other on my head, elbow stretched to the sky. I felt so at home in front of the camera, in the El Cap Meadow, that I realized, maybe I really do have a future in modeling. We talked climbing and photography some more with Jenning, and then we were on our way back to Colorado.
My dream was finally achieved, I did an underwear modeling shoot with Patagonia! The whole drive home we laughed about it. Then the cosmic coincidences continued.
The first day back at my day job working at a Mexican restaurant, a customer grabbed my attention. I thought I’d done something wrong -- after all, I knew my mind was still in Yosemite. She started off, “Now, I’m not trying to be weird or anything, but I used to work in the fashion industry… have you ever considered doing any modeling?”
Too surprised to really answer the question I just stood there, jaw on the floor, wondering what else might be in store for me in my underwear.
Durango resident, Luke Mehall, is the publisher of The Climbing Zine and a contributor to the Durango Telegraph . He recently published his first book, Climbing Out of Bed, available in print and as an e-book on Kindle and Nook. Luke will kick off the first leg of his fall book tour starting on Thursday, August 29th at 7:00 p.m. with a presentation at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado.
The 10th annual Yosemite Facelift will start with an evening program at 6:30 p.m. on September 24, 2013 and will end at midnight September 29, 2013. Camping is free during the event so come out to the Valley lend a hand.
By Yvon Chouinard
“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Thoreau
This year, Patagonia will be 40 years old. There is much to celebrate on this anniversary, but what I am proudest of is the support we’ve given the people who do the real work to save wildness: grassroots activists.
I’m not an activist. I don’t really have the guts to be on the front lines. But I have supported activists ever since a young man gave a slide show in 1972 at a city council meeting in Ventura. What was proposed was an extension of utilities, roads and urban services across the Ventura River to support a planned freeway-related commercial development on the western floodplain near the river’s mouth. A lot of scientists got up to speak in support of the project. They said it wouldn’t hurt the river because it was already “dead.” Mark Capelli, who was a young graduate student and called himself “Friends of the Ventura River,” then gave a slide show showing all the life that was still in the river: eels, birds, raccoons. He pointed out there were still 50 steelhead showing up each year to migrate upstream. That brought the house down. The project was eventually stopped. He showed me what one person can do. He gave me hope. We gave him desk space.
[Above: After 40 years, we still follow an early vision to protect wilderness for the sake of wilderness. Lost Arrow Spire, Yosemite Valley, California. Photo: Glen Denny]
Dr. Tony Butt
holds a BSc in Ocean Science and a PhD in Physical Oceanography. He lives most of the year in a forgotten corner of Northwest Spain, where he has pioneered a couple new big-wave spots and works with NGOs like Surfers Against Sewage and Save the Waves. He makes a meager living writing articles about waves and the coastal environment for Surfer’s Path and other publications. For more from Tony, check out his books Surf Science: an Introduction to Waves for Surfing (2004), The Surfers Guide to Waves, Coasts and Climates (2009), A Surfer's Guide to Sustainability (2011) and his previous articles here on The Cleanest Line.
© Tony Butt 2013
I screamed at the granite wall. The sound bounced off Yosemite’s Fifi Buttress and drowned into the roar of Bridalveil Falls. I lowered to the belay, where Katie stood at a small stance. I was six inches from a free ascent. It felt like six miles. I’d cleaned the route. Pulled out old gear. Placed bolts. Climbed on the pitches a ton. I’d trained hard. I stopped sleeping. Would the work ever pan out?
Dan McDevitt established The Final Frontier, a Grade V 5.7 A3 route in 1999 with Sue McDevitt, Brittany Griffith and Sue’s sister Penny Black. He climbed the route again with Jim Karn, the first American to win a World Cup in climbing and America’s best sport climber in the '80s. While they were climbing, Jim Karn told Dan, “It’ll go free.”
[Above: Mikey Schaefer photo of me climbing the penultimate arch pitch.]
“This route was a savior and a gift for me,” Nik Berry said. In April, Nik and I started up the Dihedral Wall on El Capitan to scope a free ascent. After two pitches, I scanned my phone and realized the wall was closed for peregrines. We bailed. Remembering The Final Frontier, Nik and I hiked to Fifi Buttress. Gabe’s lines still hung off the 900-foot wall. We jumared the route and examined the free line. Nik had an immense amount of psyche from listening to Katy Perry all morning and a limited amount of time in Yosemite. “The next day, we started to put all our energy into this route with many hours of cleaning moss, weeds and sticks out of cracks and edges,” Nik wrote in his account of the ascent.
One of the first difficulties was connecting two thin crack systems. McDevitt had aided up a thin seam and then pendulumed across the face. Through the creative inspiration of Katy Perry's “California Girls” bouncing across the granite walls, we found a series of technical smears and spanned the gap between the crack features.
“Within a few days, James and I had figured out where the free climbing should go, how to do the moves, and where the bolts should go. A week of bad weather came in and we were forced to boulder and climb at Jailhouse, which is always a nice change from Yosemite. This worked out well anyway since we needed to wait for our bolts to be delivered,” Nik wrote.
After getting all the bolts in, Nik went for the redpoint, leading all the pitches. While he rested at the belays, I tightened the bolts he had placed the day before. Nik freed the first corner and sent the traverse pitch. On the upper corner, he climbed the thin crack but fell at the boulder problem near the top. He tried again but fell. The boulder problem involves tenuous smearing on polished granite. He rested and I top-roped up to the boulder problem. I grabbed a loose hold that broke off and put a serious gash in my arm. We headed down to tend to my wound and Nik’s wounded ego. A few days later, Nik managed to redpoint all the pitches and I top-roped behind him. Being on the summit was fun – Nik sent! The route went free! A nagging feeling persisted as we descended.
It was rad watching Nik send the route. He’s an exceptional climber and hard to keep up with. “After sending the final pitch, all the work and energy put into this route gave me an incredible feeling of accomplishment,” Nik said in his OR Blog. I knew what he meant but felt as though I was unfinished.
I returned to the route. I took down all of Gabe’s fixed lines and placed my own. I pulled all the heads and bad pins out. I added bolts where there had been bad fixed gear. I managed to send all the moves, then to send all the pitches. I climbed the route one day with Walker Emerson but I fell on the upper corner pitch.
I worked the upper corner pitch again with my ranger friend, Aaron Smith. I drove to Tuolumne to sleep at 9,000 feet, hoping that the increased altitude would boost my red blood cell count and make the climbing easier.
“You just have to let yourself do it,” Katie said as I rested at the belay below the corner. After a long bit of pouting, wondering if The Final Frontier would be another mega project left undone, I started climbing back up the finger tips corner. I reached the boulder problem and casually grabbed the crimp and threw to the jug hold.
The next pitch, which I had rehearsed well, went smoothly. On the second to last arch pitch, I floundered a bit trying to get off the belay. The moves felt hard. I felt tired. After a fall, I returned to the belay and then climbed to the top of the pitch. Katie followed solidly, climbing the entire route with no falls.
At the summit, I was psyched. I beamed as Katie climbed the top. I sent every pitch, leading the entire route in a day. It was the hardest climb I’d ever done. I’d had an amazing experience establishing the route with Nik and then climbing on it with other friends. It was really fun. I felt very proud of myself for investing so much into the route and I felt great about the successful ascent.
That night, the summit filled my dreams. I slept well.
By Jasmin Caton
I have known Rich Wheater (AKA the Beater) and Senja Palonen (AKA the Spoodle) since my very first summer of rock climbing in Squamish. We were introduced by a mutual friend one morning at Starbucks (back then everyone hung out there to find a climbing partner in the morning) and they invited me to join them on a mission to climb Sunblessed on the backside of the Chief. Sunblessed was reputed to have a five-star second pitch of 5.10a crack climbing. Rich and Senja were kind enough to let me, a climber of a mere few months, lead this amazing pitch using their rack, and it was one of the most memorable days of my first climbing season.
[Above: Our cosy camp below the Incredible Hulk. Photo: Senja Palonen]
It was an action packed week of adventure with Beater and Spoodle in California. I didn't work on my tan as much as I would have liked due to the windy conditions, but I certainly felt like I was in the mountains. Being welcomed along on this trip by Rich and Senja was yet another reminder that the community I have found through climbing is by far the greatest gift this crazy sport has tossed my way.
After a childhood of playing ukulele and attending Mathlete competitions, Patagonia ambassador Jasmin Caton caught the climbing bug at age 19, packed her Chevy Corsica and moved to Squamish. Nowadays, when she’s not on a climbing trip, she’s guiding climbers on impeccable Squamish granite or guiding backcounry skiing in blower powder at Valhalla Mountain Touring along with husband Evan and powder hound Benny.
This story first appeared on Jasmin's Adventure Journal.
I go to a lot of cool places with amazing climbing and culture, yet leave knowing I’ll never return because there are just too many places and people in the world I want to experience. But Mallorca is a different story. Volveré.
Take Action for Swimmable Water
LEARN - Check out the online resources from Patagonia’s Our Common Waters campaign.
DOWNLOAD - Swim, surf, stand-up paddle, snorkel, fish, splash, dive, or wade in your local waters. Find your nearest swimming spot with the Waterkeeper Swim Guide smartphone app.
#TAG & SHARE - If you live on California’s coast, share photos of how you enjoy our world-renowned coastal areas, bays, rivers, and creeks with California Coastkeeper Alliance. Upload photos through the end of July on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #SwimmableCA. CCKA will announce a grand prize winner on August 1, as well as top swimmable pet and youngster entries, and wettest photo.
TIPS - River rats, water-lovers and surfers outside of California can participate as well. Waterkeeper Alliance has some simple steps all of us can take to reduce our personal stormwater pollution.
WATCH - Surfrider Foundation Ventura Chapter has created a video that illustrates the benefits of transforming your yard into an Ocean Friendly Garden.
We are so stinking stoked to announce that our book Slow is Fast is finished! Starting on
August 2nd, Kanoa, Kellen and myself will tour our new book (and the moving
pictures DVD that comes with it) from Mill Valley to San Diego. Please join us if
you have time. There will be good music (The John Stewards up north and Todd
Hannigan down south), we will screen the movie, talk about the trip, answer
your questions and drink free beer. The book will also be for sale. We haven’t
figured out a price yet so just bring your whole piggy bank.
A huge thank you to all of the Patagonia folks in japan who made our recent tour over there so much fun, especially Lisa Iida!
[Above: Slow is Fast book trailer. Video by Woodshed Films. Hit the jump for some DVD outtakes, production photos and the book tour details. All photos courtesy of Dan Malloy.]
Slow is Fast Book Tour 2013
Proof Lab Station - Friday, 8/2
254 Shoreline Hwy
Mill Valley CA 94941
Tel. (415) 888.2553
Event start time @ 6pm
Live music: The John Stewards
Mollusk - Saturday, 8/3
4500 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Tel. (415) 564-6300
Event start time @ 8pm
Live music: The John Stewards
Harmony House Yoga - Monday, 8/5
991 Price St
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Event start time @ 7pm
Live music: Occasional Mustache
Food + drink by Honeymoon Cafe
Full of Life Flatbread - Wednesday, 8/7**
225 West Bell St
Los Alamos, CA 93440
Tel. (805) 344-4400
Music – Todd Hannigan + Xoco Moraza
Event start time @ 7:30pm
** Purchase tickets for $35 at slowisfastatfulloflife.brownpapertickets.com. A Full of Life Flatbread dinner will be included in the price and will include local/seasonal ingredients + alcoholic beverage.
Mob Shop Ojai - Saturday, 8/10
110 W Ojai Ave
Ojai, CA 93023
Tel. (805) 272-8102
Event start time @ 7:00pm
Live music: Todd Hannigan, Xoco Moraza + Fernando Apodoca
Food by The Blue Owl
Patagonia Cardiff - Tuesday, 8/13
2185 San Elijo Ave
Cardiff, CA 92007
Tel (760) 634-9886
Event start time @ 7pm
Live music: Todd Hannigan, Xoco Moraza + Fernando Apodoca
Bird's Surf Shed - Wednesday, 8/14
1091 W Morena Blvd
San Diego Ca 92110
Event start time @ 7pm
Live music: Todd Hannigan, Xoco Moraza + Fernando Apodoca
Patagonia Ventura - Tin Shed Courtyard – Friday, 9/13
235 W. Santa Clara St.
Ventura, CA 93001
Event start time @ 7pm
Live music: Todd Hannigan and friends
Check back for updates. We're working on more tour dates for California and beyond.
Dan Malloy is a Patagonia ambassador and one of most respected figures in professional surfing. He lives with his wife near Lompoc and is a believer in the self-sufficient, well-rounded life, with farming and ranching keeping his hands busy between surf sessions.
Still not sure what Slow is Fast is all about? Check out Dan's dispatches from the road: Part 1 & Part 2.
By Katie Klingsporn
In July of 2011, Felt Soul Media filmmakers, Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, packed camera gear, computers and a few changes of clothing into a borrowed Sportsmobile van, braced themselves for a whole lot of time together and hit the road.
It was the beginning of a 9,000-mile journey across the U.S. and beyond to research, chronicle and wrap their heads around a growing movement to tear down obsolete dams.
[Above: Co-director Travis Rummel in the field during the filming of DamNation. All photos courtesy of DamNation]
The material they gathered with Stoecker — 51 interviews and 10 terabytes of footage — is now being shaped into a feature-length documentary called DamNation. Knight has been holed up in his tiny editing office in Telluride, Colorado, for the better part of the year, stitching together a compelling and beautifully shot story about how the time has come for America to rethink its dams.
The documentary is being created in partnership with producers Patagonia and Stoecker Ecological, who pitched the movie to Felt Soul Media in late 2010. Initially, Rummel and Knight — who built their grassroots film company on the success of a handful of films about fly-fishing and watersheds — were reluctant. Dam issues are incredibly complex, and can, Knight says, be pretty dull. But once they dug into the subject, they realized that many of the dams that shaped this country also wiped out salmon, destroyed towns, altered rivers and, in many instances, long ago outlived their usefulness.
“It’s been transformative for us as filmmakers to understand how much our environment has been impacted by dams,” Rummel said.
Both admit that the scope and complexity of the issue makes this the biggest challenge they’ve ever taken on. To open people’s minds to the idea of dam removal, they are telling the story through the lives, historic events and rivers that have been shaped by the building of dams.
“I don’t want anyone to feel like they’ve been force-fed information, or worse … an opinion,” Knight said. “I want to get it right.”
“We’re not advocating taking out every dam,” Rummel added. “We’re advocating thinking about dams in a different way.”
Knight has spent many nights hunched in front of his computer screens editing into the wee hours, fueled by Red Bull and cookies from the bakery down the alley. He jokes that his new office chair has a bedpan built in, and Patagonia has hired a registered nurse to check on his IV and feeding tube from time to time. But really, he says, he’s trying to tell an accurate story. It’s too important not to.
By Ethan Stewart
Even the most tender-footed outdoor enthusiasts amongst us are familiar with the scenario. You are walking back to camp from a quick creek swim, or perhaps making your way home after a day spent chasing the hollow insides of pitching lumps of salt water, and your trusty flip-flops decide to blow out. Maybe the strap pulls out or tears or your big toe finally busts through the sole. Either way, your beloved slaps are toasted and now destined for the trash can, their fate all but sealed by the very material they are made from – non-biodegradable waste taking up space forever in a landfill or, even worse, the very ocean you just spent your afternoon playing in.
Certainly, creative upcyclying (hello handplane or doorstop or fly swatter) can work to delay such a conclusion to the life of a pair of flip-flops but, eventually, a final trip to the dump is unavoidable for essentially anything (be it footwear or otherwise) made out of popular petro-chemical based materials like rubber, foam, ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) or polyurethane (PU). Unfortunately, even in this great age of ever-improving recycling technology, this less-than-ideal end game endures our children and our children’s children are all on the hook to pay the bill.
Today, thanks to the folks from PLUSfoam, a small upstart company based in Newport Beach, California, this story is being rewritten with a markedly happier and eco-friendly outcome.
[Above: The Men's Reflip Chip, and Women's Reflip Chip (not shown), feature a PLUSfoam recycled footbed that's 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life. Photo: Patagonia.com]
Of course, PLUSfoam is still a petro chemical-based product, albeit with unrivaled recyclability, and, well, for many that is a fact that cannot be overlooked. However, to hear Ritter tell it, the trouble isn’t so much that we use petro-chemicals but more how we use them, “Let’s face it, petroleum and plastic can do some pretty incredible and important things, but at the moment we are just horrible stewards... we are completely irresponsible in how we use them.”
PLUSfoam marks a major step towards proper stewardship. That progress isn’t just evident in the recyclability of PLUSfoam products – which include everything from Patagonia’s flip-flops to yoga mats and backpack straps to dog toys and swimming kick boards and even wood flooring substitutes – but also in the post-manufacturing process. There is no shortage of waste generated by your typical footwear factory, just think of all the scrap rubber or some such similar material that goes to the landfill or the incinerator after a run of flip-flops or shoe soles are cut out from the original layup sheet. Likening PLUSfoam to cookie dough, Ritter is quick to point out that their technology does not suffer from such wastefulness. “We have made cookie dough,” he says. “We can take all that scrap and simply mash it back up and make more product from it.” In fact, according to him, PLUSfoam enjoys a roughly 30% reduction in waste on the production side alone. “Think about that for a second, that by itself is going leaps and bounds to changing how the footwear world works and that is before you consider our recycling program."
Ethan Stewart (pictured left) is a Senior Staff Writer for the Santa Barbara Independent and an occasional contributor to KCET's Artbound and The Cleanest Line. Born and raised on Cape Cod, he's called Santa Barbara home off and on since the great El Niño winter of 1998. A passionate explorer of Mother Nature's more open and wild places, Stewart reckons Boston Red Sox baseball is the closest thing he has to religion and considers anything ocean-related to be a mandatory daily activity.
This article was commissioned by Patagonia.
By Jeff Johnson
I used to dread the summers on the North Shore of O’ahu, Hawai’i. Famous for its winter surf, surfers from all over the world come to see what they are made of during a certain time of year. In the summertime, the waves go away and the crowds dissipate. My friends and I dreaded the four months of flatness. We eventually realized if we remained surf-centric we would have been primed for the loony bin. So we began embracing other ways to entertain ourselves.
We got into paddleboarding, which was perfect for staying fit for the next winter season. Then we got into outrigger canoe surfing and bought a four-man for the job. This eventually led to building a six-man sailing canoe to circumnavigate the island. Then a few of us bought one-man canoes for times when no one else was around. During the summer, our beach was packed with a fleet of ocean craft, ready for any condition, waves or no waves. Eventually, we all started looking forward to the summer months. No crowds, a flat, beautiful ocean, and all sorts of ways to enjoy it.
[Above: The author has finally joined Instagram. Follow his antics at @jeffjohnson_beyondandback. #funhogging]
By Patch Wilson
I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Sumbawa last winter at Lakey Peak. The waves were really fun and a few days it was solid and pumping. It was my fourth time out there and it’s got to be one of my favourite places in Indo. I wanted to give a little back because the place has given so much to me.
The area is struggling with rubbish control. When I first got out there, I was blown away by how much litter there is along the beach and shoreline. People coming from surrounding villages and the nearest city, Dompu, on public holidays just dump their rubbish on the beach. The locals realise what is happening and they do their best to keep the area clean.
We at Patagonia recognize that, as a business and as individual employees, we use natural gas that is almost certainly obtained through hydraulic fracking. Natural gas is used to generate 37% of the electricity in California where Patagonia has its headquarters. In addition, in regard to fossil fuels in general, many of our products are made from polyester and nylon, both of which are made from petroleum. However, much of Patagonia’s polyester clothing is made from recycled polyester (some from yarn manufacturing waste and others from recycled water or soda bottles). A few of our nylon products are made from recycled nylon. Patagonia also relies on gas and oil to ship its products: please see our blog posting on manufacturing, that includes mention of shipping and carbon footprints.
In the end, our current reliance on fossil fuel including natural gas, particularly for electricity and transportation, makes it all the more important to advocate for and support a shift to renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind and geothermal) and conservation.
As we learn more about the impact that fracking has on freshwater, we also recognize that there is controversy over the role of natural gas in our energy future. Many tout it as a green alternative or “bridge fuel” – a necessary alternative to coal as we transition to renewable sources. While we recognize that fracked natural gas is a large part of our nation’s energy mix, we question the bridge-fuel concept. If we subscribe to a positive view of fracked natural gas, and support investment in that path, will focus on this cheap and plentiful fuel thwart development of truly renewable sources? Will government and industry have the will to shift away from natural gas in time to avert ongoing catastrophic climate change? In the end, natural gas is a fossil fuel, the burning of which leads to more carbon in the atmosphere. We can’t drill our way to a clean energy future. And, we remain largely in the dark regarding the potential impact of unburned methane emissions and leaks from natural gas infrastructure. Due to this uncertainty, we feel it is essential that we move, as quickly as possible, to a low-carbon, renewable, and where possible, zero-carbon approach.
We’re encouraged by some of the research and conversations around alternatives: A recent paper by Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and his colleagues makes a convincing argument that New York state could be powered by wind, solar and water by 2050 with no loss of energy jobs.
As our CEO Casey Sheahan noted in his October 2012 Denver Post op-ed on the issue, “For those who doubt the increasing volumes of science showing that fracking is bad for the environment and bad for our health, I say to you, let's give the benefit of the doubt to our children. Let's make them proud we moved to clean energy before it was too late.” We’ll continue to track the issue, and support the grassroots movement that is pushing local, state and federal government to regulate and/or place bans on fracking in communities across the country.
To learn more about the Our Common Waters campaign, please visit www.patagonia.com/ourcommonwaters.
By Laurel Winterbourne
Danny sleeps peacefully curled up in the corner while Matt, in his boisterous voice, tells the story of Danny’s heroic rescue and horrific existence in captivity in Alaska. On the other side of the room his counterpart Willow sways with sleepiness, falling over every few seconds. She is new to the group and a little more timid with the fifty or so strangers staring at her. She doesn’t want to let her guard down, but exhaustion overwhelms her. It was a long trip from the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC) in Ventura County to Patagonia’s Service Center in Reno, Nevada.
It’s hard to imagine that Danny Boy was treated so cruelly when he walks up and licks the faces of the crowd. He was held in captivity as part of a roadside attraction where 29 wolves and wolfdogs were chained up with no more than a few feet to walk around while people paid $5 to toss them a treat. The wolves, only fed every few days, were chained just far enough away from each other that they never touched, surviving thirty below temperatures surrounded by twelve feet of snow. There was no water for them in the winter; they were dependent on the snow and ice for hydration. It was a cruel existence.
[Above: Andrew and Danny Boy address the crowd. All photos by Glenda Dudley]
After meeting Danny and Willow it was clear by their temperament why people are so intrigued by wolves and wolfdogs. They are not the scary animals that we all read about in fairy tales growing up. They appeared friendly, calm and seemed to have little fear of humans. As people have become more intrigued by these animals, there has been an increase in wolfdog breeding, without any understanding of how to care for them. By nature, they are not meant to live in a house or sleep in a crate. It doesn’t take long for a wolfdog owner to realize their animal isn’t suited for the life of a pet dog. This is where LARC steps in and rescues the animal from being put down or released into the wild.
By Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll
If you are chained to a wall in a dark dungeon famished rats will slowly nibble at your flesh. You can kick, scream and quiver all you want but the rats will sluggishly keep nipping away until they reach your heart and your body goes lifeless. Then they keep going until there is nothing left.
While that might seem like a torture scenario from the Middle Ages, I’ve seen it happen many times. When the bad weather comes, and stays, day after day, and you’re stuck in a tent, a cave or a portaledge, every day you wake up with renewed hope that is quickly crushed by the same old bad weather. Much like the rat slowly eating the corpse, the Patagonian weather has a way of slowly nipping at your motivation. It can transform the most eager and enthusiastic climber into an empty, burnt out, uninspired bum. And when the good weather finally comes, there is nothing left.
[Above: Cold conditions during a summit attempt on Cerro Catedral, in Torres Del Paine, Chile. All photos courtesy of Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll]
Torres Del Paine (Chile) is a different story because the closest village, Puerto Natales, is further away from the mountains and includes a three-hour bus ride. Most still stay in the park and wait out the bad weather. Staying in the mountains, isolated from the rest of the world, has more of an expedition feel to it.
We stayed in Torres Del Paine for one month. Our basecamp was an amazing cave in the spectacular French Valley. We had no radio, no satellite phone or any contact with the outside world. We didn’t see anybody except for one day when we went down to the ranger station to ask for a weather forecast. I’m not claiming that we were in a super remote place – our cave was only 30 minutes away from one of the most popular trekking trails in Patagonia, the famous “W” – but because we had no contact with anybody it definitely had more of an isolated feel to it.
It’s an interesting challenge not to have any weather forecast and try to read the sky. It’s so much tougher.
We wanted to attempt the east face of Cota 2000 in a light and fast alpine style. Every morning we woke up early to contemplate the weather. After four days of not leaving the cave because of snow and vicious winds we woke up one morning to a star-sprinkled sky. So we did the three-hour approach and started climbing. At about 2pm, when we were about halfway up the climb, the weather took a turn for worse. It started snowing and the wind picked up brutally. Suddenly, we were in a very vulnerable position. Cold to the bone, we bailed, fighting the harsh circumstances.
Getting shut down by weather halfway through the day takes a lot of vitality out of you. Then, when you try to recover and the weather turns out to be beautiful the next day, some might have the urge to curse. These kinds of incidents happen quite often when you don’t have a forecast.
Everything changes when you have contact with the outside world. People in favor of bringing a satellite phone on remote expeditions will always say, “Well, if you do have an accident, you’ll be happy to have it along.” I can’t argue with that.
That reminds me of a presentation I attended by my good friend and big wall expert from Cataluña, Silvia Vidal, who is no stranger to spending up to 30 days alone on some remote wall, putting up a new aid line with absolutely no contact. When asked by a man in the crowd, why she didn’t bring a satellite phone along with her, she answered, “Well, things can only go wrong if you plan for things to go wrong.” The crowd burst out in laughter. But here’s what I think she meant with that answer. It doesn’t mean that things can’t go “bad,” it just means that if you don’t plan for them, then they aren’t wrong, they just “are.” That might sound arrogant, but I don’t think it’s meant to be.
So both places had a very different experience to them. El Chaltén was hanging out with friends, eating lots of fresh food, bouldering, sport climbing and the occasional quick poke at the mountain when a decent weather forecast presented itself.
Torres Del Paine was being out there in the mountains by ourselves, rationing food, looking at the sky, trying to predict the weather – lots of uncertainties, but it’s certainly more of a spiritual journey.
By Kate Ross, International Rivers
Patagonia is one of the few precious places on the planet where the array of natural beauty still defies human imagination. You are forced to think of new adjectives to describe the dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains and the glaciers that stand juxtaposed with green rolling hills and sheer rock faces. And through all of this flow the beguiling blues and greens of Patagonia’s largest and most powerful rivers – the Baker and the Pascua. As you stand by the side of the Baker River, the roar of the current drowns out any other sounds and the pulse of the river consumes you and transports you. It is a place unlike any other I have experienced.
The campaign to protect Patagonia – and specifically the mighty rivers of the region – has become the largest environmental struggle in the country’s history. Chileans have shown their opposition to HidroAysén by taking to the streets in the thousands. Most recently – as you see in Q’s film above – in response to a Supreme Court ruling in April 2012 in favor of HidroAysén, and before this in the lead-up to and after-math of the approval of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2011.
More than two years later, legal challenges filed by local community members and the Patagonia Sin Represas campaign, political scrutiny, and widespread public opposition have meant that the project remains stalled.
The controversy surrounding the beleaguered project has even prompted the companies involved to speak out. In May 2012, Colbún – 49% owner of HidroAysén – indefinitely delayed submission of the EIA for the project’s transmission line due to a lack of political agreement within Chile around energy development. In March 2013, the head of Italian energy company Enel – 51% stakeholder in HidroAysén – made a statement saying that the company would only remain committed to the venture as long as it has the support of both local and national government.
HidroAysén will be central to this year’s presidential elections in November. This month the Patagonia Defense Council launched a “Vota Sin Represas” (Vote no Dams) campaign, which calls for legislators, congressional and presidential candidates to formally pledge their commitment to keep Patagonia free of dams before this year’s elections.
Whoever is elected has the opportunity to finally listen to the majority of Chileans who have said “no” to HidroAysén, and instead lead Chile towards a new energy future – one that takes advantage of the country’s wealth of clean energy resources and protects the unique and rich environment of Patagonia.
Kate Ross leads International Rivers’ involvement in the campaign to stop dams in Chilean Patagonia as a member of the Patagonia Defense Council, a coalition of more than 70 organizations in Chile and internationally fighting the proposed dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers. For more than 25 years International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of people who depend on them. In February 2013 International Rivers won the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.
By Dave N. Campbell
Take a moment and imagine yourself in Yosemite. You are climbing up a steep rock face, above the trees, with Half Dome behind you, but you do not have the security of a rope that can pull you taut from above if you get tired or slip. Instead, you are lead climbing. Somewhere down below a friend is feeding you rope – you are tied in at the waist – and every ten feet or so, as you move upwards, you are obligated to wedge man-made devices into openings where the rock is fractured so you can clip your rope into them as a safety measure. You're putting your life on the line, trusting that the rope will eventually come tight on the most recent one of these devices if you fall.
Climbers refer to the procedure of lead climbing as being on the sharp end of the rope because of the inherent dangers involved and the accelerated focus that is required. And while advanced climbers constantly dream about being in this Yosemite scenario, I think it is fair to say that much of the rest of the population would find themselves in a nightmare.
Now picture yourself in this exact scenario – whether you are an experienced climber or novice – except that you are paralyzed from the waist down. This is where most of our imaginations trail off… but this spring in Yosemite Valley, paraplegic climber Sean O’Neill made this his reality by becoming the first “sit climber” to lead climb.
I became involved in the paraplegic lead-climbing project last autumn. Sean and his brother Timmy came through Ventura after a failed attempt of the face of Half Dome and we went out for Indian food to discuss their ordeal. Over dinner Sean told me about something else that happened during the trip. They visited an obscure practice wall, where he put away the clamp and pull-up bar system, and began ascending the actual rock itself by plugging and pulling on the devices that climbers stuff into cracks for protection. A safety rope kept him snug from above and he was using a rudimentary ratchet system to yard himself from one piece up to the next (i.e. a strand of rope & Grigri). Upward progress was thus very slow going.
I listened intently and realized that Sean might have a fighting chance if he were to use a system with mechanical advantage. I thought of the pulley systems that we use to rescue climbers out of crevasses while mountaineering and visualized Sean using more compact versions so that he too could multiply force exerted as a method for reducing physical strain.
I returned to my desk on Monday, drew some diagrams and emailed a friend at Petzl who promptly sponsored all the components. The gear arrived and I rigged two isolated 3-to-1 pulley system tentacles, as we now call them, and then went to an indoor climbing gym with Ammon McNeely to test things out. We sat in rigid rope access work seats, to simulate being paralyzed, and were able to lead climb relatively quickly. Then I took the system outside. I was able to climb a 70-foot crack with my legs braced and we knew it was time to invite Sean back out west. Our original plan was to climb El Capitan, but two days before Sean arrived, Ammon sustained serious BASE-jumping injuries, so we decided to stick with dialing in the sit climbing lead system.
Trips with Sean require a climber who can play the role of Incredible Hulk because someone needs to carry him on their back from the wheelchair accessible trail to the base of the cliff. Sam Macke drove out from Jackson and championed this role while also teaching Sean a great deal about lead climbing. On May 31st, Sean was ready to tie-in and climb from the ground up. We chose the second pitch of Jamcrack because it’s an ultra-aesthetic natural line, splitting through a dramatic setting to the right of Yosemite Falls, and thus a good match for Sean’s efforts.
Sean bravely set off into the unknown, up Jamcrack, on the sharp end. As the sun beat down on him, the exposure set in. He dumped a quart of water down his back to cool off but after an intense and violent struggle he buckled and had to be lowered back down to the ground. Sean lay on his side below the wall, with eyes locked shut. In all of his years of climbing, many times in higher and crazier places, he had never experienced such intensity.
Timmy and I spoke in depth before the trip and my mind kept returning to a particular set of his words, “No one knows what will happen if Sean takes a lead fall; no one has ever done anything like this.”
As Sean lay in silence, I spent a solid hour questioning the implications and rationale behind our wild project. Then without notice, he sat up, ate a Larabar and set his site on an alternative crack climb to the left of Jamcrack. Sean set out lead climbing again, though this time he was in the shade and made a better point of pacing himself – one could almost use the word graceful. Before long he reached the anchor and history was made. We celebrated with pizza and then passed out in the dirt.
Something else happened during Sean’s first lead climb and I did not understand the significance until some time later. Two climbers from California’s Central Valley were passing underneath him while he was lead climbing and they did not initially realize that he’s paraplegic, even after exchanging words with our crew. Consciously or not, they first saw him as a human, then as a climber, then may have even made note of the clothing he was wearing, and after that saw that he was not using his legs. All too often we first see someone’s disabilities and then try our best to relate to them on the common grounds that we do share. During the first ever paraplegic lead climb it seems Sean was successful in more ways than just delivering a rope up a section of a rock wall.
Sean spent the following week practicing the lead system on the LaConte Boulder while I cranked through some work in Reno. I drove back down for our last weekend together and we agreed to meet at 4:00am in Camp 4, ready for a final round on the Jamcrack. Sean was packed and ready to charge when I arrived and we were able to ascend the first pitch while it was still dark. The valley floor below was still as Sean tied in, and he began lead climbing as the first rays of morning light illuminated Half Dome. The sun came over the adjacent wall as he reached the midway point and scattered its golden light over his progress. Sean finished the route and in doing so proved that he and other paraplegic climbers are capable of doing their share of lead climbing on major routes like those on El Capitan.
Sean at the gates of dawn. ©Dave N. Campbell
The night before Sean flew home to Maine, we swung by a convenience store on our way to Ammon’s place. Sean wanted to buy a few things and I’ve learned that he does not want or need my help with trivial tasks, so I was able to sit back and observe our surroundings. Glancing from person to person and eye to eye, I saw the people around us and realized that we all have our weaknesses, our strengths, our physical capabilities and our disabilities. On that day in the city, however, I could see only one person with the ability – or better yet, lacking the disability – to lead climb on the walls of Yosemite – Sean O’Neill.
©Dave N. Campbell
Dave N. Campbell is a Pro Sales rep for Patagonia and teaches wilderness survival classes at Truckee Meadows Community College in the evenings. He holds a BA in Chinese and has spent extensive time in the mountain ranges of China. In 2011, Dave worked on a Panda restoration project in Sichuan with The Nature Conservancy and last summer he led a ski/snowboard mountaineering trip in the Tianshan Range of Xinjiang. This project with Sean was his first volunteer experience in adaptive sports.
By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project
Once upon a time in a riverside village, a woman noticed a shocking sight: a drowning baby, crying its lungs out, being washed downriver. She rushed to save it, rescuing the baby just before it went over the falls at the edge of town.
The next day there were two babies in the river; the day after, three more, then four. With the help of her neighbors, the woman saved them, too. When babies kept washing downstream, the village banded together, setting up a 24-hour rescue watch. Still the babies kept coming. So the community installed an elaborate alarm system and strung safety nets across the river but was still overwhelmed trying to save them the babies.
By Fitz & Becca Cahall
We've told stories about people quitting jobs, ditching mortgages and selling worldly possessions to go live life on their own terms. The road is ubiquitous with freedom, and sometimes we hear its call later in life. But what if you heard the call at 13 years old? If you had lived your entire adult life on the road? If you'd never signed a lease or even paid rent. Would there come a time to settle down? Meet climber and photographer Mikey Schaefer. Passion can lead to the most incredible places, even to the most American of dreams -- buying a home. This is our version of the picket fence.
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com to discover the music from "Mikey Buys a House," listen to The Shorts and pledge your support for the show. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes and RSS, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and Stitcher.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
By Rick Ridgeway
This week our friends and colleagues Doug and Kris Tompkins announced a donation by Conservacion Patagonica to the Argentina national park system of Estancia Rincon, a 37,500-acre parcel of wildlands in our namesake, Patagonia-the-place. This former sheep ranch is at the foot of Cerro San Lorenzo – the most Himalayan-like peak in all of Patagonia – and it creates a majestic extension to the existing Perito Moreno National Park.
The story of this new conservation victory begins in the early ‘60s when Doug, a long-time climbing partner of Yvon Chouinard’s, founded The North Face. Doug sold TNF in the late ‘60s to start Esprit, the women’s clothing brand that he in turn sold in the late ‘80s so he could use the funds to create privately endowed parks and protected areas in Chile and Argentina. Those of you who are fans of the 180° South film will recognize this part of the story.
[Above: Cerro San Lorenzo. Photo: Doug Tompkins]
We loaded into the Cessna and flew north, landing in a grassy field at the entrance of the Estancia Rincon. Doug knew the ranch might be for sale, and we all knew it was a special place because it encompassed the approach to the east face of San Lorenzo, the most major unclimbed alpine wall in Patagonia. We tied down the plane and spent three days exploring the valley and a full day sitting under a beech tree staring up at the east face. There was a potential line up it, but it was so intimating that we would spend the next 20 years telling each other that maybe this was the year we should try it, always finding some reason to conclude that maybe the next year would be a better idea.
But Doug didn’t procrastinate on the opportunity to purchase Estancia Rincon, and he closed the deal not too long after we got home. But that wasn’t the only deal he had in mind from that trip. About a week after we got back home, he called and said, “Hey Rick, you know that girl I met when we were down there in Patagonia, Kris, who runs Yvon’s company? She’s your friend, right? Tell me about her.” Later that same day Kris called and said, “Rick, you and Doug are climbing buddies and you know him pretty well, don’t you? Tell me a little more about him.”
They were married soon after, and while Patagonia lost its CEO, Doug gained the love of his life and a partner in his conservation efforts. Kris moved to South America to join Doug, and over the years they have placed into permanent conservation over 2.5 million acres in Chile and Argentina, including the new Patagonia National Park that many of you will recognize from the essays we have published in our catalogs. And now that first piece of land that began it all back in 1991, Estancia Rincon, is also under permanent protection, waiting for a team of young climbers who just might have a little more moxie than the previous generation to pull off that line up the east face.
Rick Ridgeway is the VP of Environmental Affairs at Patagonia and the author of six books. His passion for mountaineering and exploration have taken him around the world, including the summit of K2 where he was part of the first American team to climb the peak in 1978.
Please visit Conservacion Patagonica to learn more about the historic El Rincon donation and how it will expand Perito Moreno National Park. Conservacion Patagonica also has a volunteer program for those who want to help make Patagonia National Park a reality.
By Yvon Chouinard
I don’t like to think of myself as a businessman. I’ve made no secret that I hold a fairly skeptical view of the business world. That said, Patagonia, the company my wife and I founded four decades ago, has grown up to be — by global standards — a medium-size business. And that bestows on our family a serious responsibility. The last line of Patagonia’s mission statement is “… use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” We’ve always taken that seriously.
Three examples: Every year for 30 years, Patagonia has donated one percent of its sales to grassroots environmental organizations. We helped initiate the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an organization of companies that produces more than a third of the clothing and footwear on the planet. In a very short time, the Coalition has launched an index of social and environmental performance that designers (and eventually consumers) can use to make better decisions when developing products or choosing materials. And last year we became one of California’s first B Corps (benefit corporations), which means that the values that helped make our company successful are now etched into our legal charter.
By Fitz & Becca Cahall
We're back for our third annual Live from 5Point event. The sun was shining, but Steve's Guitars was at capacity. Today we present the first two stories from Kevin Pearce and Chris Davenport. In 2009, Kevin was one of the best snowboarders in the world. On a training run, he had a major accident (his story is chronicled in the film The Crash Reel). Today, he talks about finding happiness after suffering a traumatic brain injury.
Chris' career as a big mountain skier is impressive – numerous first ski descents of peaks, traveled around the world to ski, a two-time world champion. But I've always been impressed by Chris' creativity in the mission he chooses. Today, he talks about the aesthetics of the lines he chooses and what he loves about mountains, especially those close to home.
Listen to "Live from 5Point Vol. 5"
(mp3 - right-click to download)
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com to download the music from "Live from 5Point Vol. 5", listen to The Shorts and pledge your support for the show. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes and RSS, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
By Ryan Peterson
As with any creative endeavor, the process of building is fraught with self-doubt. But when I showed a draft of my film, sea-swallow’d to my friend Teplin Cahall 5 months ago, I got a boost. You see, Tep can't talk. He was born that way. Because of this and some associated developmental issues, he sees the world a little differently than do the rest of us.
Cam Burns is currently working on a biography of Layton Kor.
[With thanks to Glen Denny and the Warner Literary Group.]
By Hayden Kennedy
“Some declared it the climb of the century. But did anyone repeat GIV to confirm our illusion of it? Besides, does it make sense to declare a poem the poem of the century? Can you choose a woman of the century?” – Voytek Kurtyka writing about the Shining Wall on Gasherbrum IV
There are no winners or losers in climbing. How can there be? Isn’t the point of climbing to escape these themes of ego and competition? To surrender ourselves to the experience at hand whether that entails failure or success; to push beyond the surface of our own expectations and those others have of us into a deeper well of motivation, curiosity and mystery? In my life, some of the greatest moments have come from failure. And what does success truly mean? Reaching the summit is an obvious and logical yardstick, yet too much focus on that singular measure can blind us to more profound possibilities like surrendering ourselves to the experience at hand, regardless of whether it entails failure or success. As the prolific Mugs Stump once said, “We were stuck on a portaledge on the Eye Tooth for eight days… We don’t need the summit. Just being here, in the present, that’s enough.”
These were the thoughts going through my head when Kyle Dempster and I were lucky enough to get invited to the 21st Piolets d’Or ceremony in Chamonix. The annual event – held over four days with plenty of red wine and good French food – typically chooses a “best” alpine climb of the year and rewards that team with a golden ice axe. Kyle and I were nominated for our new route up the south face of Ogre I in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range.
[Above: Hayden descends Ogre I after making the third ascent of the mountain with Kyle Dempster. Karakorum Range, Pakistan. Photo: Kyle Dempster]
You are out surfing on your own. Someone else paddles out, comes up to you and says, “How long have you been out here?”
You think as hard as you can. In the end you take a stab at it and tell him about an hour. But the truth is you really don’t know – on one hand it seems like a couple of minutes, but on the other hand it feels like you’ve been out there forever.
If you really have been deep in concentration, your world will have been reduced right down to what you see and feel in your immediate surroundings. Nothing exists apart from you and the waves and maybe the wind or the odd seagull. All that stuff you were doing earlier this morning seems like something in the distant past, almost from another life. Your mother-in-law, the traffic, the bank manager and the shopping have simply ceased to be.
Your surfing is effortless, almost as if the surfing itself is doing it for you. You feel like a passenger just along to enjoy the ride. You’ll be paddling back to the line-up after each wave without the slightest effort, feeling like you could go on catching waves forever. You are living in the moment, enjoying surfing for its own sake.
[Tony, definitely not thinking about his mother-in-law or the bank manager. Photo: Jakue Andikoetxea]
It is useful to recognise a Flow experience when it comes along. Of course, you won’t actually be able to recognise it as it is happening, because, if you do, you’ll immediately cease to be in Flow. But there is nothing stopping you thinking back and remembering the times when you were in Flow, which should help if you want to have more of those experiences.
Time distortion: You completely fail to record the length of time you have been doing something. Your own perception of time varies according to what you are doing and doesn’t seem to bear any resemblance to ‘clock-time’. Usually, time goes quicker than it should – hours pass by as if they were minutes. But the opposite can occur as well. Time can seem to expand, with things that lasted less than a second sticking in your memory as if they lasted for several minutes, every subtle detail carefully remembered. I remember the other day having an entire discussion with myself whether I should take either one or two more paddle-strokes down the face just to make sure I wouldn’t get air under my board and end up going over the falls. All debated in a fraction of a second.
Total concentration: Your entire mind is so focused on what you are doing that you can’t fit anything else into it. As you become more focused, the task at hand takes up a progressively larger proportion of your brain power, which means that other things start to fall by the wayside. Registering the passage of time is probably one of the first things to go, but then as you become more focused you start to forget about that itch on your leg, or being hungry, thirsty or tired. Eventually you won’t even have enough room for conscious thought. You’ll be truly running on autopilot.
“When you abandon yourself to the rhythm of the wave and become part of that rhythm you get that arrested time…The ecstatic moment is increased in intensity with an increase in size and the critical nature of the wave… If you have a conscious thought you eat it.” – Wayne Lynch as interviewed by Mark Stranger for an article in the International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 1999.
Hyper-alertness: If all your conscious effort is focused on the task at hand, your senses will be working overtime to suck in as much stimulus as possible from your local surroundings.
Loss of self-consciousness: If you are lucky enough to really get into a total Flow situation, the whole thing will become a strange out-of-the-body experience. Your mind and body will merge into one and you will feel like the whole activity is running itself and you are just a spectator. Paradoxically, you will still feel like you are in total control of the situation.
How to reach Flow
It is good to be able to recognize Flow situation from the past, but if you want to repeat the experience you’ll need to know the circumstances most likely to lead you into Flow.
Challenge-skill balance: You will have more chance of reaching Flow if the difficulty of the situation is matching your level of skill. The best situation is if you are just on that upper edge, where you are pushing your own limits. The trick is not too set the challenge too high, otherwise the stress will interfere with your Flow. But not to make things too easy either, otherwise you’ll start to get bored and distracted. It doesn’t matter what level you are at; what matters is the level of challenge relative to your own level of skill. That’s why a ten-year-old who has just learnt to stand up in one-foot surf might be immersed in Flow whereas some ex-world champion at Pipeline having a bad day might not be.
In radical situations the dimension of fear also comes into play. You are more likely to get into Flow if you are operating on or just a touch beyond your own fear threshold. But if things are a bit beyond you, your worries about failing will make you nervous and interfere with your concentration, stopping you reaching Flow.
“It doesn’t so much matter what we fear of where our edge is, but rather where we operate in relation to it. We truly feel the Stoke when we operate at or just beyond our fear threshold” – Paddy Upton, South African cricket coach and psychologist (from an article in The Bomb Surf, 2010).
Well-defined goals: One thing that helps you reach Flow is being really clear about what you want to achieve. For example, have your mind set on perfecting a particular manoeuvre that you didn’t quite pull off last time, or maybe trying some strategy for making that late take-off. Again, it all depends on setting those goals at just the right level relative to your own skill. Having well-defined goals and setting the bar just right enables you to get immediate and clear feedback, which then enables you to re-set the bar for the next wave, and so on.
An end in itself: This is probably the most important one. As you get into Flow, you will get more and more absorbed in the activity and everything external will begin to disappear from your mind. But sometimes you have to help the process along. If your motivation for, say, surfing big waves is merely to enjoy the surfing itself, you’ll probably achieve Flow; but if your motivation is some external goal such as winning a prize or getting your photo in a magazine, you probably won’t. As soon as you start thinking about those things, you immediately make it impossible to concentrate 100 per cent. If your motivation is some extrinsic goal you’ll be sabotaging your potential Flow experience before you even begin.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy: if you believe that surfing should be enjoyed for its own sake, you won’t start thinking about whether someone is looking at you or whether your wave is big enough to win the XXL. Therefore you’ll be more focused on the surfing itself, which will take you into that Flow state and you’ll enjoy the experience much more.
“When experience is intrinsically rewarding, life is justified in the present, instead of being held hostage to a hypothetical future gain” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Arguably, once you start getting too competitive in the water, chances are you won’t be able to get into Flow:
“The enlightened state or Stoke subsides the moment we get competitive about surfing, with ourselves or others in the water. Present-moment awareness gives way to wanting to look good through future success, or not to look bad by future failure. It might take the form of wanting to prove you’re better than someone else, striving to pull off some move or to dominate the space because you’re a local.” – Paddy Upton
However, if you are a good competitive surfer and really enjoy contests then you might still experience Flow in the middle of a heat. The important thing is that you are totally focused on surfing the best you can, and not thinking about that prize or what people think about you.
“I surf big waves because I love it. Simple as that. Winning contests or XXL awards have never been and will never be the focus or motivation for my career” – Greg Long, from an interview in theinertia.com, 2011.
In the end, Flow can be very elusive and doesn’t always happen when you think. You have to try your best to put yourself in a situation where you think it might happen, and then hope it does. It’s like knowing where the bus stop is but not knowing when the bus is going to come: you make every effort to be there, ready, just in case it comes.
Why is Flow fun?
But where does Flow actually come from? Why should getting into that state of mind be so enjoyable? And why on Earth should such an apparently useless activity like surfing be so much fun?
Well, the answer might be something to do with evolution. Evolution has given us the ability to enjoy doing things that help our species to survive. The best and most obvious example of this is sex – if we didn’t enjoy it we wouldn’t bother to do it, and the human species would quickly come to a dead end. Another example is bringing up children. Imagine if looking after your kids was such an effort that you couldn’t be bothered to do it. Obviously they wouldn’t survive, and neither would our species.
But in the past we needed to do all sorts of other things in order to survive, things that relied on some sort of hardwired motivation to encourage us to do them. Nowadays, to survive as a species, we go to work and take medicines, but in the past, we hunted and gathered. Those activities weren’t just a chore; they were things that we instinctively enjoyed and looked forward to; activities that probably sent us into a deep state of Flow.
Don’t forget that activities such as painting and music can also put us into an intense state of Flow. Nobody knows when or why we started doing these things. Perhaps it was something to do with a deep-rooted need to communicate, to express ourselves, way before we could do so through writing. This, in some way, may have also helped us to survive.
Nowadays, of course, food and clothes are hunted and gathered in the shopping mall rather than on the Savannah, and the missing Flow is obtained through artificial surrogates such as sport. Why do you think fishing is so popular, and why do we enjoy collecting berries? And why do you think soccer, which is really just a proxy for tribal warfare and territorialism, is the world’s most popular game?
So, could surfing also be a substitute for some sort of activity we did in the ancient past, something that gave us Flow because it was important for our survival? Could big-wave surfing be likened to big-game hunting, where you have to be totally concentrated, become one with the prey, follow its every movements? One tiny mistake and your prey has either avoided being caught or, worse, has become the predator and you have become the prey. One tiny mistake in big-waves and the wave doesn’t let you catch it or, worse, you wipe out and the wave tries to drown you.
The dark side of Flow
If you surf, climb or do one of a small number of other activities, you will experience Flow on a regular basis, whereas most other members of today’s society don’t. In fact, once we start experiencing Flow we can’t get enough of it. We strive to go back and experience it again, often making extreme sacrifices in other parts of our lives.
“Flow is a state of optimal experience, a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This is especially true if you have really become immersed in Flow, for example, if you surf big waves where the experience is that much more intense:
“Everything I do in my life is to try to get into that place [surfing big waves] and when I’m there then everything makes sense. When I’m not there and I hear that there were big waves and I missed them, then I feel depressed and upset” – James Taylor, South African big-wave surfer
The addiction to Flow, especially in big waves, can sometimes lead you to quite strange behaviour. A few years ago I lost my board in big surf. I spent about six hours running back and forth along the coastline in the pouring rain in the middle of winter desperately looking for my board, because I knew there would be big waves the next day. I don’t remember having anything to eat or drink all day. In the end I couldn’t find my board, so I drove into town and bought the first gun I saw, just before the surf shop closed. The thing I remember most was the sheer exasperation, the feeling that the entire world would collapse around me if I couldn’t surf the next day. It reminded me of the feeling I had when I was a small child and I’d lost my favourite toy or I couldn’t play my favourite game.
In addition to the experience itself, where you are actually in that state of Flow, there is the phenomenon of afterglow – that warm feeling you get afterwards, that intense satisfaction of having achieved something that you worked hard for. In big-wave surfing this happens all the time. Having caught a big wave, made the take-off, made it to the bottom and into the channel without wiping out can feel like (or can actually be) a lifelong achievement. At the very least it can leave you glowing for days afterwards. And just like Flow itself, afterglow can also become addictive. You’re never quite satisfied unless you’ve been there and achieved what you know you can achieve.
A fascinating study on Flow dependence in big waves was published in 2009 by Sarah and Elizabeth Partington from Northumbria University with Steve Olivier from the University of Abertay Dundee. They got 15 big-wave surfers (they weren’t allowed to name them) to talk about their surfing experience.
The investigators carefully analysed what the surfers said, first to see if they showed signs of Flow whilst surfing, and then to see if they showed symptoms of dependence. In the paper the investigators discuss the possible negative consequences of this dependence, and go on to suggest that people with dysfunctional personalities might succumb more easily to those negative consequences. This could be especially true if their initial decision to take up a high-risk activity such as big-wave surfing was influenced by some instability in their lives.
The results showed that most of the surfers regularly got into a state of Flow while surfing big waves. Without previously knowing what Flow was, they clearly described all the classic symptoms such as time distortion, forgetting everything else apart from one’s immediate surroundings, and that sense of hyper-consciousness where you are acutely aware of every ripple on the surface of the wave. Even though they happened to be competition surfers, most of them claimed that they were doing it because of the intrinsic rewards of the surfing itself, not because of some prize at the end.
Some of them also described surfing big waves as being highly addictive. A few of them described it like a drug, where you have to keep increasing the dosage to maintain the same high. Many of them said they felt depressed when there was no surf or if they couldn’t get to the big waves; and several of them said they would carry on surfing even with injuries such as broken ribs. All this was seen by the surfers as just about tolerable although it could be potentially problematical.
However, one or two of the participants saw things in a particularly negative way. The constant search for bigger and bigger waves seemed to be futile: no matter how big or radical they went they would never be totally satisfied. One of them actually talked about this negativity stemming from an unstable family background leading him to go to extremes with many things he did, as a way of compensating for a lack of self-esteem. External factors related to the fame associated with big-wave riding, such as television interviews, were also hinted upon as being related to the negative side.
But perhaps the surfers in the study who admitted suffering negative consequences of addiction were not actually addicted to the Flow itself. Perhaps they were addicted to some external goal such as money or fame, and perhaps this was what was pushing them into bigger and bigger waves without ever becoming fully satisfied.
Being addicted to something extrinsic rather than the Flow itself, could also apply to the afterglow feeling I was talking about earlier. The sense of satisfaction of having caught the biggest wave of your life or having ‘cheated death for the day’ gets less the more you get used to it, and the only way to get satisfaction is to up the stakes, look for a bigger wave or a more radical situation. In the end you are left with an empty feeling of seeing that ‘original high’ get further and further out of reach.
Being addicted to an extrinsic goal is very different from being addicted to the Flow itself. The satisfaction of knowing that you took off on the biggest wave or pushed the limits a bit further, especially if it is backed up by adulations from friends or money and fame, is easily measurable. Therefore, the concept of tolerance – needing more and more to get the same satisfaction – is totally meaningful. Flow, on the other hand, is elusive and doesn’t lend itself to being measured. The ‘amount’ of Flow is not always proportional to how big or gnarly the waves are; it depends on much more subtle balances related to your mindset on that particular day. Even if everything is right, Flow might come to you or it might not. Therefore, even though Flow is addictive in that you keep wanting to go back and set yourself up for a Flow experience, building up a tolerance to Flow is practically meaningless. Because of this, being addicted to Flow itself is probably not as potentially problematical as being addicted to some extrinsic goal such as money, fame, a pat on the back, or even your own ‘afterglow’ feeling.
Life plays hell with your surfing
Partington and colleagues suggested that some of the participants in their study had a ‘negative dependence on surfing’ and that several of the surfers ‘confessed to being unable to function normally in society’. In other words, big-wave surfing can be incompatible with modern society.
Or could modern society be incompatible with big-wave surfing? Modern society tries to make us do things that don’t come naturally, things that we weren’t genetically programmed to do. It tries to make us value things that don’t make us happy, things that don’t give us Flow. We shouldn’t worry about surfing being incompatible with society, because whatever is inside us to motivate us to surf has probably been inside us for thousands of years.
So, next time someone tries to make you feel guilty about spending too much time surfing, which is apparently a useless activity because it doesn’t bring us money, status or a new car, remember that surfing keeps us fit, young at heart and close to Nature. But more than that, surfing gives us Flow, a state of mind enjoyed by children and hunter-gatherers, but sadly lacking in today’s superficial, materialistic world. If someone asks you why you keep going back and doing such a useless activity as surfing, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to find a reason. Just tell them that you surf to surf, and that’s that.
For those interested in the original article by Partington et al, it can be found here (PDF).
Dr. Tony Butt holds a BSc in Ocean Science and a PhD in Physical Oceanography. He lives most of the year in a forgotten corner of Northwest Spain, where he has pioneered a couple new big-wave spots and works with NGOs like Surfers Against Sewage and Save the Waves. He makes a meager living writing articles about waves and the coastal environment for Surfer’s Path and other publications. For more from Tony, check out his books Surf Science: an Introduction to Waves for Surfing (2004), The Surfers Guide to Waves, Coasts and Climates (2009), and A Surfer's Guide to Sustainability (2011).
Back in 2007, author Christine Byl sent a juicy little story entitled “Innard Mongolia” to our fledgling blog. Today, we welcome Christine back to The Cleanest Line with congratulations on the publishing of her first book, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods by Beacon Press.
The first half of Dirt Work is set in Montana's Glacier National Park. This excerpt, from the second chapter, finds the novice traildog out with a new crew in the Middle Fork district on Glacier's west side.
One of my first days in the Middle Fork
resembles my firsts nearly everywhere in Glacier: out of my element, eager to
get in, following along quietly until the former state gives way to the latter.
This particular day found my own crew leader sick and me shipped off for the
day with Brook and his Middle Fork guys to get a jump-start on the heavy
clearing in the Coal Creek burn. I knew Brook by reputation only.
Thirty-something, wiry, hyper, and flat-out hilarious, Brook was at the center
of some of the most outlandish pranks and stories in the trails canon. He was
drawn to drama, calamity, and excess. Brook loved attention. If he was on a
search and rescue, he’d end up on the local news, and you could see why. He
told a monologue worthy of a one-man show, complete with pantomime and
imitations. He teased until the butt of the joke was ready to throttle him,
stopped just before he was resented. His crews worked hard, hiked hard, drank
hard, laughed hard. I was eager to see him in action.
[Above: Fording Riley Creek. Photo: Gabe Travis]
Christine Byl lives in Healy, Alaska, where she and her husband live off the grid with two old sled dogs, in a yurt, on a few acres of tundra just north of Denali National Park.
Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods tells the story of Byl’s years working as a traildog in the National Parks of Montana and Alaska. In the book, Byl recalls long days of clearing brush, digging ditches, building bridges, cleaning up after forest fires, and blasting snow; offering the reader an intimate look at life on the trails. She explores the language, tools, skills, and fraternity of traildog work, writing candidly about the harsh living conditions, injuries, and insecurities that come with the job.
For more from Christine, visit her Facebook page and catch the next stop of the Dirt Work blog tour, tomorrow on The Campsite.
By Ray Friedlander
Put on the same level as Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, genetically engineered salmon, or “Frankenfish,” are creations designed by the biotechnology industry. The fish are devised to grow year round, which makes their appetites voracious and their dependency on feed fish unsustainably high. They are also designed to be ready for market in one and a half years, instead of the normal three years. If approved by the FDA, Frankenfish will be the first ever genetically engineered animal on the market, paving the way for other future genetically engineered animals in the United States.
Why the opposition? For us who live in the nation’s largest National Forest, the Tongass rainforest, our economies and our identities are sustained through wild-as-can-be salmon. Wild Alaskan salmon generate over $986 million dollars and 11% of regional jobs in Southeast Alaska, making the accidental introduction of GMO salmon into our oceans a huge threat to these economies. This threat is not only limited to fishing economies, it continues to our health since the risks of eating genetically engineered salmon by humans, and marine animals dependent on salmon, are unknown.
[Above: Over 150 residents of the small coastal Alaskan town of Sitka display their disagreement with the FDA’s ruling that genetically modified salmon “pose no risk to human health or the environment” at a community rally. Photo: Sitka Conservation Society]
Through Paul’s actions, over 130 people came to the rally, which was then publicized by Alaskan US Senator Murkowski, Senator Begich, and Alaskan State Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Four days after the event, the Food and Drug Administration announced they were going to extend the period to comment on genetically engineered salmon by 60 days, making the new deadline April 26th, 2013, and I’m certain that Sitka’s activism helped to spur this extension.
By Amy Souers Kober
We are all connected by fresh water. Rivers run like arteries, crossing state and international borders, and sustaining our communities. In the west, one river links seven western states and Mexico. It’s a river that goes by different names – Red, Grand River Red, Rio Colorado, the Mighty Colorado.
The Colorado River is truly a lifeline in the desert. Its waters provide habitat for a host of wildlife including four federally-listed endangered fish species. The river and tributaries support a $26 billion recreation economy, and a quarter million sustainable jobs. Millions flock to the river for fishing, boating, and hiking, or just to stand in awe atop the Grand Canyon to witness the breathtaking formations carved by water and time.
[Above: Colorado River - America's Most Endangered River 2013. Video: American Rivers]
[After paddling the Colorado for five months, Jon Waterman begins to run out of river. From Pete McBride's stunning film, Chasing Water. Photo: Pete McBride]
The Bureau of Reclamation’s own report released in December stresses that there is not enough water to meet current demands across the Colorado River Basin, let alone support future demand increases. Scientists predict climate change will reduce the Colorado River’s flow by 10 to 30 percent by 2050 – posing serious challenges for river health, wildlife, and water supplies.
With another summer of drought beating down on the Southwest, now is the time for action.
Patagonia is teaming up with American Rivers and its partners to call on Congress to help build a future that includes healthy rivers, improved water conservation for cities and agriculture, and water sharing solutions that allow communities to adapt to warmer temperatures and more erratic precipitation.
Please take action to save the #1 Most Endangered Colorado River
Rivers are remarkably resilient. When we give them a chance – when we let rivers be rivers – they can restore themselves, and continue to sustain us for generations to come.
Amy Souers Kober is the Director of Communications for American Rivers. Her favorite river is the one she's on with her husband, their dogs and their driftboat.
Head over to American Rivers to see the complete top 10 list of America's Most Endangered Rivers 2013. Two of the others to make the list – Rough and Ready Creek (#8) and Boundary Waters (#6) – were recently covered here on The Cleanest Line.
Today, we received an incredible email.
Subject: Patagonia saved my life..
I was leaving Fenway Park yesterday and walking to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. We went down Newbury street to go to the Patagonia store first since I had never been there. We shopped around for bit and then walked out to head to the finish. At that time the bombs went off. Had I not stopped at your store we would have been standing right there. Right in the middle of it all.
Your brand has been inspirational with its policies around charity and conservation. This is why I made a point to stop in for a visit. This is why Patagonia saved my life.
Our hearts are with everyone in Boston who was affected by the marathon bombing. We're incredibly thankful that the Patagonia Boston staff are okay, including the two employees who participated in the race. The store is planning a memorial run next week during their regular run club night. Stay tuned to the Patagonia Boston Facebook page for details.
The Usual magazine teamed up with Patagonia’s NYC surf crew to put together this unique edition. Check it out.
“On the following pages, we start on the Bowery, where our favorite company Patagonia will take over the old CBGB gallery to open their first East Coast surf store in early 2013. Just like CBGB’s nurtured New York’s alternative music culture, Patagonia’s shop will be a hub for surfers — the misfits of the global brand.”Hit the jump to read the full digital edition of the magazine.
Listen to "Benighted"
(mp3 - right-click to download)
Editor's note: On March 15, 2013, The Dirtbag Diaries logged their two millionth download. It's an amazing milestone. If you've enjoyed this podcast as much as we have, if it has "spurred your courage to try something new, to quit a bunk job, or say yes to a deep seeded belief while others told you to play it safe," then please pledge your support for the show.
Together we can help Fitz and Becca evolve the show and reach the next two million downloads. Thanks for listening.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
By Hillary Fleming and the crew of the James Robert Hanssen
When Patrick first called to tell me he’d been asked by his good friend Jordan to join the Africa-Americas rowing voyage I knew there was no way he would turn it down. Though he spent a few weeks mulling it over, he wasn’t fooling me. His biggest concern was missing out on his 5th season of Ski Patrol and the guarantee of fresh powder and the chance to throw dynamite across mountain tops.
Patrick is not a waterman. Even though he spent years’ worth of mornings on the Long Island and Puget sounds as a competitive rower he always remained more tied to the mountains. During prep for the trip he would call me and talk about his crash courses in ocean weather, marine charts and nautical tools. I don’t think he ever spent a night at sea before this trip! I knew he’d be a pro in no time, he guided whitewater rafting trips with no previous experience, guided backpacking trips, was on ski patrol at Crystal Mountain for four seasons.
I don’t know whether this trip will turn him into a salty dog looking for a live-aboard sailboat or make him run back to the mountains as fast as he can, but I know either way he’ll be glad he had the chance to be on the Oar Northwest team. And, as his protective older sister, I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys for him to be out there with. Sometimes I look at their location on the map, think, “they are literally a tiny dot in the middle of the ocean,” and then remember the great crew. Then, I’m just stoked to live vicariously through their adventure.
By Jordan Hanssen
By Dominico Zapata, introduction by Chris Malloy
It’s my first six hours in Raglan and I’m already on my third round trip at Manu Bay – jump off the rocky point, stroke into an impossibly long left, surf until your quads are on fire, prone out, then scramble up the cobblestone point for another. At the edge of the rocks I see a familiar face and slow down. It’s one of my biggest heroes, Peggy Oki!
Peggy stands around 5'4'' but exudes the strength and energy of a giant. She’s an all-time classic: original Dogtown Zephyr team rider, great surfer, amazing artist, bad-ass climber, and environmental activist. I stopped, gave her a big hug and asked, “Hey Peggy, what are you up to?” With a glint in her eye she casually replied, "Ah, just savin’ dolphins."
We shot the breeze for a minute or two but I could tell she had something bigger to share with me, and like any good grassroots activist does, she quickly dove deep into the topic of proposed seabed mining in the region and how it could affect New Zealand. I was blown away to hear about the hubris of corporations thinking they could dredge hundreds of millions of tons of sand from the ocean floor and not have a major effect on the ocean. I wanted to know more. We exchanged numbers and I went for another few rounds at Manu Bay before the sun set.
[Above: Raglan has been a Mecca for the world's surf community, since Bruce Brown's epic film The Endless Summer. Tourists come from all over the world in pursuit of perfect, long peeling lefts but these waves are dependent to some extent on the movement of sand. Photo courtesy of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining]
The next evening we decided to put together a small gathering of surfers, activists, and wanderers at the house of Phil McCabe. He’s a surfer and the president of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM). We had an open discussion about seabed mining and I showed our new film Groundswell to help illuminate the fact that small groups of like-minded people can make a difference. I learned so much during my time with Peggy and Phil in Raglan. Please read the essay below so you can too. Us surfers are the only “marine mammals” that can speak up so let’s get the word out there.
[Chris Malloy at Manu Bay, New Zealand. Photo: Justin Bastien]
[Keith and Chris Malloy give an impromptu screening of Groundswell to the friends, family and activists of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining. Photo: Justin Bastien]
The Final Countdown
There’s a sharp crack as another four-foot wave hits the shallow boulder/sand reef and rifles off down the line, little explosions of whitewater glistening in the morning sun every few meters as some lucky local tears the smooth wall to pieces. Standing over the action, its deep valleys and high ridges cloaked in a thick dark green forest, lies Mount Karioi.
This is the area known as Raglan, on the North Island of New Zealand’s west coast. The skies are clear and blue, the air so fresh it lifts me up with each breath. The sun, the waves, the bush-clad mountain behind me, the scent of the forest gently drifting down on the offshore breeze, at this moment I feel like there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.
Looking out to sea, waiting for the next set, a deep sense of calm settles over the lineup. As we watch the horizon, we notice some dark figures heading around the point in a lazy manner, appearing and disappearing, in rhythm with the long ocean swells marching towards the coast in perfect unison.
These are the popoto, or Maui’s dolphin, that call this area home. Known for their inquisitive nature and playful disposition, they bring a smile to all who see them glide by. I feel a touch of jealousy as I imagine what it would be like to ride a swell with even half the grace or fluid motion that these beautiful creatures of the sea possess.
[Watercolor painting of Maui's dolphins by Peggy Oki.]
Yet, this is a special sight, not the common occurrence it should be. There are only 55 of these dolphins left – not only the world’s smallest, but also the world’s most rare. Their numbers have been steadily reduced over the years, mainly due to unsustainable practices in the fishing industry like trawling and setting gill nets in the dolphin’s natural range. Lack of action from the government has let their numbers drop perilously close to the point where they can’t come back, and they have been classified as critically endangered.
There’s also another threat looming over the horizon, one that could be the nail in the coffin for the Maui’s dolphin. A threat that could have negative consequences on a magnitude so big, that the entire ecosystem of the North Island’s west coast hangs in the balance.
A seabed sand-mining company plans to start extracting iron ore from the black sands of this economically and ecologically important area. They want to extract 30-50 million metric tons a year of this valuable material, but to do this they need to remove and then redeposit 300-500 million metric tons of sand per year, a recovery rate of 1:10. The permits they apply for often last for 35 or 40 years.
The effects of this operation could be catastrophic. The seabed is home to organisms that form the cornerstone of our marine ecosystem. Killing them could have a follow-through effect running right up to the top of the food chain. Not only that but sediment plumes can deoxygenate the ocean causing massive dead zones, and kick up large deposits of toxic waste that have settled in the sediment over the years.
Seabed mining could also affect sand migration. As sand travels up the coast it replenishes beaches and estuaries. These pathways could be disrupted causing, among other things, the loss of the iconic Raglan point breaks and other nearby surf spots due to the unnatural acceleration of coastal erosion.
[The west coast snapper fishery is a fantastic recreational and commercial resource. Seabed mining directly threatens its viability. Photo courtesy of KASM]
[Marokopa settlement from the hills overlooking town. You can see the dune system which forms a spit, protecting the harbour and village. This spit is extremely fragile, and already has faced erosionary pressures due to man's influence. It doesn't need more stress. Photo courtesy of KASM]
[The wave at Kiriti is extremely sensitive to sand movements. Photo courtesy of KASM]
[This reef break north of Aotea Harbour requires proper sand formation for optimum wave shape. Photo courtesy of KASM]
[Take action: Recent silent protest at Raglan. Photo courtesy of KASM]
The locals in this area are fed up, frustrated, angry and taking action to make sure this doesn’t happen. Phil McCabe, surfer, father, owner of Solscape Eco Retreat and spokesperson for Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) knows what’s at stake. He knows what will happen to the small communities dotted along the West Coast who rely on the ocean, not just for economic purposes but also for deeper reasons. He knows that if this planned mining goes ahead, the minimal royalties and few jobs that are being offered will never outweigh the consequences.
That’s why KASM exists. KASM is a small community-based group that was born out of a desire to not let the mining company’s plans go unopposed. Like many small towns throughout Australasia and around the world, Raglan is facing an onslaught from outside interests eyeing the wealth buried in their lands and waters.
The company promises many things, but I’ve never seen any of their employees down at the Harbor View Hotel and Pub having a beer with the locals, never seen any of them sitting out in the lineup or catching fish off the rocks, haven’t seen any at the regular community meetings or market days.
As Phil sits across from me in the lineup, looking out over the majestic oceanscape that is our home, you can see the twinkle in his eye that tells you he will do everything in his power to help steer the local community away from irreversible disaster, to protect his family and friends’ livelihoods from foreign-owned multinationals. This is not just a local issue. This is the start of an international push, a Pandora’s Box of seabed mining that will suffocate the ocean and the small communities that rely on it.
The battle here in New Zealand is just heating up. It will be an indicator of the power of small communities uniting together around a common cause and what they can achieve. The world can learn from this.
[Save our Sands, love our oceans. Video: Marc Mateo]
[Take action: Recent silent protest at Raglan. Photo courtesy of KASM]
[“Us surfers are the only 'marine mammals' that can speak up so let’s get the word out there.” Chris Malloy, Kiwi shaka on the New Zealand coast. Photo: Justin Bastien]
For more information and to follow this campaign, go to kasm.org.nz. If you want to get involved, here's how you can help:
Dominico Zapata is a surfer and environmental activist from Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. After starting out with Greenpeace he then moved on to work with numerous other grassroots organizations including Board Riders Against Drilling (B-RAD) and Kiwi's Against Seabed Mining (KASM). Last year he set the New Zealand stand-up paddleboard distance record in an attempt to highlight the need to protect lakes, rivers and oceans for future generations by paddling New Zealand's longest navigable river. He currently resides in Raglan on New Zealand's west coast and spends his time in the water surfing or taking photos and working as a chef in Solscape's organic vegetarian cafe, The Concious Kitchen.
Chris Malloy is a Patagonia surf ambassador and the director of Groundswell, a small film about making a big stand.
Worn Wear is the brainchild of Keith and Lauren Malloy. Inspired by the years of use Keith was getting from his surf gear, they decided to start a Tumblr blog where folks like you can share stories about your favorite piece of Patagonia clothing. Yvon Chouinard helped get things started when he wrote about making the grandfather of all fleeces.
Today we're happy to share a recent entry from Worn Wear and invite you to submit one of your own. It's easy to do and everyone who gets their story published will receive a Worn Wear patch from the Malloys.
My First Pile
John Wasson, Wilson, Wyoming
I’m pretty sure I bought this sweater from Bob Wade at the Ute Mountaineer in Aspen. Probably 1978. It was utilitarian to say the least. Light, tough, quick dry and ‘tech’. I started wearing it under a paddling jacket instead of the old wool sweaters that were the standard then.
By Shannon McPhail
It's not often that a small, rural region of communities declares victory against one of the largest corporations on the planet, so when it happens - WE NEED TO CELEBRATE!
Editor's note: I remember hearing Shannon speak back in 2010 when she, Ali Howard and a group of kayaking filmmakers visited Patagonia HQ to screen Awakening the Skeena. Shannon was passionate, funny and full of fight. We've published a number of posts on this issue – from protests to photos to film – so it's with great joy that we share this wonderful news today.
The problem? Royal Dutch Shell wanted to drill 1,500-10,000 coal bed methane gas wells in the Sacred Headwaters, where three of Canada's greatest wild salmon and steelhead rivers, the Skeena, Stikine and Nass are born.
These rivers are among the last surviving intact, kick-ass, grizzly bear chasing 30-pound salmon over waterfalls kind of rivers. Native and white families harvesting enough food for the winter kind of rivers. Dip your head in and drink the water without tablets or filters because it’s so clean kind of rivers. Not a single dam anywhere kind of rivers.
By Kelly Cordes
Do you ever wonder how the greats became great? Of course there’s no easy answer, no definitive answer, never a formula – they’re human, and human factors interact in infinite ways. Opportunity, natural talent, innate drive, developed drive, mental toughness, perspective, thought processes, influences, dedication, work ethic and who-knows-what-else, in various, mysterious combinations along the space-time continuum of life, probably covers most of it. OK, got it? Yeah, me too.
It’s a fascinating topic, and the superb filmmaker Chris Alstrin’s short piece on Patagonia Ambassador Tommy Caldwell gives us a few glimpses into one of the greatest rock climbers of all time. Tommy’s also my neighbor – part of a great crew of friends in Estes Park, Colorado – and one of my heroes (by way of disclosure, I helped with writing and story development for the video).
[Above: Frame grab from Making Tommy. Hit the jump to watch the video.]
For more on Tommy's Dawn Wall project, read his field report from the spring 2013 catalog, "Endless."
By Ethan Stewart
Editor's note: The creation of our new Encapsil™ Down Belay Parka is a big deal for all of us at Patagonia. In the midst of getting everything ready for launch, we asked our friend Ethan Stewart to tell the story of how Encapsil down and the parka came to be. Though he handled the writing like the professional news reporter that he is, it should be said that we requested this piece.
At first blush, the big “wow” factor of the Encapsil Down Belay Parka is, of course, the insulation, Patagonia’s proprietary take on water-resistant down. There has been an industry wide race in the past year to get water-resistant down products available for mass consumption. The idea of making down clusters impervious to their historic Kryptonite of moisture has been a Holy Grail of sorts for outdoor garment manufacturers for quite some time. And, while other companies have managed to plant their water-resistant-down flags first, none have been able to do what Encapsil down has achieved.
“This is an absolute game changer. It’s not just a small tech evolution,” Patagonia’s Alpine Line Manager Jenna Johnson said with a smile on her face, “I mean, when GORE-TEX® fabrics first came out is probably the last time something did this for the marketplace.”
Above: Patagonia ambassadors Dylan Johnson (foreground) and Josh Wharton (wearing headlamp and Encapsil Down Belay Parka) take a chilly breather halfway up the north face of Mount Temple. Canada. Photo: Mikey Schaefer
All of this, of course, begs the question of how? And, while the development of the parka was certainly a long stewing team effort, there is perhaps no person with more time invested than Randy Harward. Technically speaking, Harward is a botanist and plant physiologist by trade but for the better part of three decades he has served as Patagonia’s Quality Director and, more recently, has become the company’s Head of Advanced Research and Development. Located on the Ventura campus, this outfit of big thinkers is housed in a space known informally as “the Forge” – a namesake that is a nod to the now storied blacksmith shop in which Yvon Chouinard tirelessly worked to produce functional, durable, and streamlined climbing gear. As Harward puts it, they “pursue pure function and try to get as close to perfection as we can.”
And while the Encapsil Down Belay Parka is one of the first products to be born out of the Forge, its origin story predates the group by several years. “It was at least eight years ago when we were talking about how we could make a down that you would want to bring on an expedition type of trip. Something that would be water resistant but still have the warmth-to-weight ratio and compressibility that makes down so superior,” reminisced Harward before adding with a laugh. “Turns out it is really difficult... I think this is probably the highest level R&D this company has ever done before.”
The idea remained just that for a number of years as preliminary efforts to bond any sort of “water-proofing” agent to down always collapsed under the weight of too much glue and thus loss of loft. A first breakthrough came about five years ago when Harward and company had the idea to ditch traditional bonding agents altogether and try and attach the water repelling element directly to the feathers.
Plasma, which is essentially an agitated or heated gas but is also considered the fourth state of matter that often proves quite adept at bonding, or “deposition” as scientists call it, was the obvious candidate for this new approach. How exactly they would get there was still very much in question. It was, as Harward says, “an entirely new idea.” The sheer number of variables involved was reason enough to give up before even trying – from what type plasma would you use and what would that specific chemistry look like to what level would you agitate it to achieve optimum and durable bonding to what density of down would work best, were just a few of the things that had to be considered.
Then there was the issue of finding a university or company with the experience and equipment (think semi-conductor) necessary to take on such a cutting edge project. It wasn’t easy but, after finally partnering with Aeonclad, a surface coating and plasma expert out of Austin, Texas, literally thousands of trial and error tests got under way, the bulk of which have come in the past three years alone.
Long story short, the end result is Encapsil down, a water-resistant and truly lightweight insulation that is achieved via a process that, according to Harward, uses less energy than is needed to fire up a hair dryer and is made possible by a simple plasma chemistry that has not much more than silicon in it. To treat 1,000 pounds of down, less than one half gallon of plasma is needed. “It is remarkable really,” explains Harward. “It is truly a very sparse amount of gas. And, environmentally speaking, it is pretty cool too – it is quite innocuous.”
Perhaps the only downside to the new and improved feathers is the fact that annual cleaning by a professional CO2 cleaning service is required to maintain their performance levels – a less than ideal scenario which Patagonia fully acknowledges and, in turn, pledges to help ameliorate as part of your purchase. All you need to do is send your jacket back during the off season and Patagonia will handle – and pick up the tab – on the cleaning.
As for the big-picture plans for Encapsil down, according to Johnson and Harward, it will not be forever limited to belay parkas. In fact, plans are already in the works to roll it out to other parts of the Alpine line in the seasons ahead. “We fully acknowledge that this [first product] is a very specific garment with a very specific customer in mind,” answered Johnson when asked about the future of the new down. “That being said, I can’t wait to get it into the rest of the line. It is going to be fun to see what we can do with it.”
Harward added, “We will use it wherever it makes sense and wherever it solves a problem.” To that end, the process by which Encapsil down is produced remains a work in progress, specifically the batch sizes of down to be treated and the amount of time it takes to properly bond the plasma and the feathers. However, those challenges, which were part of the reason why only 1,000 Encapsil Down Belay Parkas were made for launch, have by and large been remedied in recent months. For example, two years ago it took a month to produce enough Encapsil down for just one jacket. This was improved upon last year to a month or two for a 1,000 pound batch of feathers, essentially paving the way for proper production of the parka. In the time since, the cost and production time for Encapsil down is “getting real close” to normal down says Harward. “There is still a lot of R&D left to do but we are definitely on our way. It’s all about getting every aspect of the production cycle and the product as close to perfect as possible.”
Interestingly enough, as impressive as Encapsil down is, spend even a few minutes talking with Harward and Johnson, or anyone involved with the new Down Belay Parka’s development, and you realize that the special feathers on the inside are only half of the story.
Eschewing what many would consider good business sense, Johnson made the decision to not rush their pioneering product to market and potentially short circuit their years of hard work with last-minute, profit-driven haste. Instead, they circled the wagons and, as Johnson describes, “tried to figure out where this technology would be most meaningful and who would get the most benefits out of it.” After some internal back and forth, the decision was made to deploy the down into an alpine belay parka, a no brainer really when you consider who truly needs unparalleled light weight and water-resistant warmth. That go-slow call was made nearly 18 months ago and kicked off a Forge-led garment design and development process.
“The mission from the very beginning was to build the very best product we could, bar none. No real constraints and no real timelines,” explains Casey Shaw, one of the Product Engineers that works in the Forge. “We had this amazing piece of art (the Encapsil down) and now we had to build the right museum to showcase it in.” And so, following a self-imposed motto of “no cheats,” a ground-up design process began, from basic construction and sewing techniques all the way to the one-of-a-kind Patagonia label that would be attached to the finished product. “I personally don’t believe there is anything [in the parka world] that comes close to the level of detail on the Encapsil Down Belay Parka. This stuff just doesn’t happen. It’s crazy really,” says Shaw.
Perhaps the biggest design accomplishment of the jacket is its 100% independently baffled construction. That is to say, at no place on the entire parka does a single stitch extend from the exterior shell all the way through to the inside lining. This guarantees that none of those specially treated feathers are going to shift to some place that they shouldn’t and thus compromise the jacket’s uniformity of insulation.
The functional improvements continue from there: double draft tubes bookend the main zipper, large front pockets (cut big enough to fit gloved hands) are positioned above the harness line, carefully split baffles around the pockets and zippers maintain uniformity of fill without adding extra bulk, meticulously laid out baffles of varying widths running through traditional compression areas (i.e. under your arms and around your shoulders) ensure equal warmth everywhere, a micro snow skirt with hideaway drawcord seals the waistline, inside stash pockets positioned on the side panels as opposed to industry standard of up front placement, and a hood that fits snug with or without a helmet.
The design crew also considered what not to include. There is no fuzzy fleece lining in the pockets or at the top of the front zipper. “That stuff may feel nice at first but it is just a sponge for moisture and ends up hurting you in the long run in real alpine conditions,” says Shaw, who has more than three decades of serious climbing experience to his credit. Then there is the omission of a split end front zipper, something which would traditionally be found on a belay parka so as to allow access to your harness while keeping most of your jacket zipped up. The double-ender was left out because they are more likely to break and because the slim profile of the Encapsil Parka allows it to more easily be tucked inside of a harness and rope set-up. “I'm sure we are going hear about that,” says Shaw. “Some people feel really strongly about those zippers.”
All told, the jacket went through dozens of mock-ups in each detail stage and three entirely different versions of “finished” coat before the final product was settled upon just a few months ago, with virtually every step of the process getting crucial field testing by Patagonia climbing ambassadors in places like Pakistan, Canada and the Andes.
“A huge amount of this was empirical and evolutionary. It [the parka] is just a testament to that process and commitment to it every step of the way by our team and our climbers. There isn’t a single piece of fluff in it,” said Shaw, his hands proudly holding the fruits of his labor in the late winter sun of Southern California just a few steps from the Forge. Looking at the final product, it’s easy to forget how much work the team put into it, the innovation and hyper attention to detail all but disappearing into an aesthetic that is perhaps best described as classic. His own gaze falling on the jacket, Shaw adds tellingly, “And it is just beautiful too.”
Ethan Stewart is a Senior Staff Writer for the Santa Barbara Independent and an occasional contributor to KCET's Artbound and The Cleanest Line. Born and raised on Cape Cod, he's called Santa Barbara home off and on since the great El Niño winter of 1998. A passionate explorer of Mother Nature's more open and wild places, Stewart reckons Boston Red Sox baseball is the closest thing he has to religion and considers anything ocean-related to be a mandatory daily activity.
Words by Chris Kassar, photos by James Q Martin
“Patagonia is not for sale! Protect her rivers!”
“Defend Aysén! Keep Patagonia free from dams!”
These chants echoed through the streets of Santiago, Chile in April 2012 as tens of thousands once again voiced their opposition to HidroAysén’s proposal to dam two of Patagonia’s pristine rivers, the Baker and the Pascua. A few days earlier, the Chilean Supreme Court voted 3-2 in favor of the HidroAysén dam project in Patagonia and against appeals filed by opponents.
This decision was a major setback, but it has not turned out to be a green light for dam construction. Almost one year after the Supreme Court’s decision, the rivers still run free and a critical element of the project – the longest proposed power line in the world (1,180 miles from Patagonia to Santiago) continues to be a huge headache for HidroAysén, a big business partnership between an Italian energy company and a Chilean energy company called Colbún.
Rios Libres Back Story
How many truly wild places still thrive on this incredible planet? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not many. With a booming population, advances in technology and increasing development, blank spots on the map are vanishing right before our eyes.
That’s why we at Rios Libres are so passionate about keeping Chilean Patagonia wild. Patagonia remains largely untouched, supports animals and plants found nowhere else and provides a much-needed respite from our ever-expanding, ever-quickening world. These facts drive our continued work to support the ongoing efforts of Chileans to keep Patagonia free from dams.
Right now, the Baker and Pascua rivers flow freely, giving life to the diversely rich Aysén Region. These rivers travel untamed from source to sea supporting wildlife, ecosystems and the peaceful, productive culture of gauchos and those living along the river. However, a threat remains since big business seeks to harness these rivers for the power they can bring to support the mining industry that thrives in the north of the country.
In 2010, we traveled from source to sea on the Baker River to bring you our first film, Power in the Pristine, detailing the threats to this incredible region. Last spring, Rios Libres co-founder, James Q Martin traveled south once again and landed in the thick of some of the largest anti-dam protests the country has ever seen as the Chilean people took to the streets to voice their opposition to government and corporate plans to dam these rivers and alter their way of life forever. These protests and the political unrest surrounding the project forced a major stakeholder, Colbún, to backpedal on its commitment to the project. This action, among others, called into question the economic viability of the project and further strengthened the resolve of the international and national campaign.
Chris Kassar is a wildlife biologist and conservationist who has worked for many years as an environmental activist. She serves as the Environmental and Media Coordinator for Rios Libres, and networks with the existing coalition of environmental groups working on the dam issue in Patagonia.
James Q Martin (aka “Q”) is an acclaimed adventure photographer whose work has appeared in publications worldwide. He uses his expertise to make photos for Rios Libres that illustrate the beauty of the Aysén Region, the value it holds and the threats that it is now facing.
By Katie Klingsporn
Matt Stoecker spent his childhood tromping around in the creeks of the San Franciquito watershed where he grew up, hunting for frogs, fishing and exploring.
One day in the mid-90s, he found himself below the 65-foot-tall Searsville Dam on the Corte Madera Creek when he experienced a seminal moment: He saw a 30-inch steelhead jump out of the water and smash itself against the dam.
He had never seen a fish that size in the creek, and he was struck at the power and futility he witnessed.
Stoecker soon began volunteering with the San Francisquito Watershed Council, then started a steelhead task force and has been working to remove small dams and other fish barriers in the watershed ever since.
But all along, he said, “Searsville Dam was the biggest limiting factor.”
[Hidden behind the fences of Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Searsville Dam creates a stagnant reservoir where algae and non-native species thrive while steelhead and other threatened species are trapped downstream. Photo: Matt Stoecker]
By Liz Clark
Editor's note: We're happy to follow up on Dallas Hyland's moving tribute to Patagonia ambassdor Liz Clark -- after she broke her neck bodysurfing -- with good news. Liz's neck has healed up well and she's back in Tahiti living on an organic vanilla farm near the boatyard where she's splitting her time between book writing and boat projects. This story is from Liz's circle of French Polynesia in early 2012, before her injury, and first appeared on her blog. Glad you're back Liz!
March 2012: And so the time had arrived. Cyclone season over, it was safe to head southwest say a final goodbye to the Marquesas. I poured over the chart, locating the tiny, isolated atoll of Puka Puka, 250 miles straight south. Raiarii’s grandfather was the first to colonize this desolate atoll in the late 1930s.
Tehani Henere Papa and his wife, Elizabeth, had 22 children there!! Two sets of twins!?! Tehani delivered each one of the babies in a tub behind their little house. They raised the kids on fish and coconuts and the fresh Pacific air. Tehani worked copra from dawn to dusk year round, and when the copra boats came to collect the dried coconut meat that he split, dried, and collected in the large burlap sacs, he could purchase sacs of flour, sugar, and rice with his earnings.
[Above: A load of bananas for Raiarii’s family on Puka Puka. All photos courtesy of Liz Clark and the Voyage of Swell]
Raiarii’s father, Victor, was number 15 of the 22, and left the atoll at age 17 to find work in Tahiti and had never gone back. Interisland travel is expensive and difficult for locals, with few spots on the cargo ships and high prices for airfare. So Raiarii had never visited Puka Puka, nor met many of the cousins, aunts, and uncles from his father’s side who are still living there. Upon learning this story, I decided we must try to sail to Puka Puka!
Off we went in the tinny, the dolphins again at the bow as we buzzed back toward a small crack in the reef with a dock for offloading supplies. We followed a wave into the tiny pass as the whitewater crumbled along the reef on both sides. Uncle Richard neared the dock carefully in the surge, and a splay of arms reached down to help us out. A moment later we stood on land, cloaked in flowered welcome ‘heis’, meeting a lineup of family and friends who’d come to greet us. The kids dove for the bananas and star fruit and we wandered to the house of Uncle Taro, Aunt Patricia, and their four lovely daughters.
Honored by our visit, our gracious hosts fed us until we couldn’t eat anymore as we learned more about the history of the Papa family on the island. Almost a third of the population of 250 were Raiarii’s relations! While eating platefuls of sashimi, poisson cru, and fruit, we listened to stories and looked at old photos of Tehani and the children. It grew late. Weary from our long nights at sea, we asked to be taken back to Swell to rest up for the following day’s island tour and picnic.
Despite my fatigue, I slept little that night. The breaking waves sounded so close I kept sitting straight up and thinking we were on the reef! But by morning I felt assured that Swell was firmly stuck and safe as long as the conditions remained the same.