On Jan 12th I set out in my van, aptly named "Sphteven" due to its funny front end and my love for the Spteven dog memes, to go on an adventure and run away from the much loathed snow that plagues this province. I loaded up the van with all of my photography gear, my Maltese/Yorkie dog named Guinness, two race stand up paddle boards (SUP), and three SUP surf boards. The ultimate goal for this haphazard planned adventure was to train for team Canada and to take photographs of different people and places.
For those of you that don't know, I am representing team Canada in Denmark for the ISA world's September 1-10th. I am also going to France to race for two weeks in May. While this doesn't really have anything to do with photography directly, it does take me to some pretty amazing places. During these trips when I am not training I am taking pictures. Well, that's not entirely true; sometimes I train and take pictures. It is an amazing opportunity to photograph different places, people, and events. Because of this, I really consider myself more of an adventure photographer/photojournalist.
There is something really amazing about going to a new place and photographing new things and getting out of your comfort zone; and anyone who knows me, knows that I am always up for an adventure. Which is why I volunteer my photography skills for random events, use it as a currency for things I need, and use it as a means of learning for my surfing. It's pretty rad to be part of an event you never would have thought you would be part of because of a skill I am very passionate about sharing. You see amazing things and get to meet amazing people.
Anyway, we set out from Edmonton, Alberta and headed south. The first day I drove roughly 16 hrs and made it about 2hrs north of Salt Lake City. Guinness was not a bad companion, though he does tend to sleep a lot. At about 11pm I pulled over to my typical truck stop that I rest at and curled up in the bed in the back of the van. Knowing that it was going to be cold, it was -14, I pulled out my extra blankets and cuddled up to Guinness.
Knowing that it was likely that I would experience some cold nights in the van, and having lived in the van in Tofino for a month, I had already added some insulation so it doesn't get ragingly cold. This meant that my night outside of Salt Lake City wasn't really that bad. I slept for about 6hrs, got up and shuffled my way to the gas station to get a massive coffee and got back on the road.
It is important to get on the road early because rush hour through Salt Lake City is pretty bad. So needless to say I got the hell out of dodge pretty quick and headed towards Nevada and warmer weather. You can get to California in just two days if you have a solid tolerance for long spans of vehicle time and a burning desire to see the ocean as soon as you can. Therefore, by 7PM I was pulling into Dana Point, California with a massive grin and a sigh of relief.
Not everyone is like this but for me seeing the ocean immediately makes me feel like I'm home. There is only two places in this world that make me feel like that, the mountains and the ocean (hence the tattoos on my right arm.) I literally feel this massive weight remove from my chest the minute I see the ocean in the horizon. I can't explain it other than to say that it's like jumping into a cold pool on a hot day, it's just what you need.
I headed to my friend Diane's house, acquainted the dogs and got the van into camper mode. Really "camper mode" is to push one of my surf board to the side so I can sleep. Often when I am in California I sleep in my van outside friends houses. This is really the only way I can afford to travel down to Cali three times a year. I am eternally grateful to my friends who allow me into their homes so that I can chase my dream. As such I try to cook for them, help out with chores, entertain their kids, and walk their dogs as much as I can. I have also used my photography skills on multiple occasions to repay a friend. This applies to friends at home as well. When I leave I can't take my Rottie with me, so when friends help me out and I repay them with pictures, beer, or eternal gratitude and service.
During my stay in California I got to train with some of the top athletes in the SUP world, surf most days, take photographs and overall just be happy. So that being said here are some of the rad things that I got to be part of:
- A 32 Mile paddle to raise awareness of the suffering and pain that Cancer patients go through. Friends from Dana Point and surrounding areas gathered at 3am to set out and paddle around the harbour. Each lap they would take a 5 min break and set off again. Put on by Anthony Vela and a large number of the amazing Performance Paddling Group, they honour one of their lost paddler friends by taking part in something he loved.
-Training with The Performance Paddling Group. Taught by Anthony Vela and Candice Appleby, it is an amazing family to be part of. I improved by substantial amounts by training with them for the two months that I was there. I am so grateful to the PPSUP team for the coaching, encouragement, and family that they gave me.
-Surfing most days with friends. Pretty much every morning I would get up early and headed to the ocean to share waves with close friends. I truly love those people and consider myself lucky to share the waves and water with them.
- Competing in 5 races and one sup surf competition. There are so many amazing races to be part of in California. I got to compete in The Hano Hano (San Diego), Hal Rosoff (Newport Beach), Arizona Regatta (A fun road trip to Phoenix with friend and fellow speed freak Kristin Thomas), Dana Point Ocean Challenge (Dana Point), Adler Paddler (Long Beach), and Santa Cruz Paddle Festival (Santa Cruz).
-Travel over 12000km and take pictures along the way.
-Photograph the 2nd annual Dana Point Dinghy Dash (a different blog post I wrote).
-Surf and travel with my husband (he flew out and met me twice).
-Avoid winter for two months
All in all it was a pretty amazing trip that spanned 2 months of Van Life and over 12000kms. I would like to say something profound and uplifting about the experience but alas, I didn't have any "eat, pray, love" moments. All I know is that I left some amazing friends and family behind to chase a dream knowing that they loved me enough to be there when I returned. I got to do the two things I love doing more than anything else for two months straight (just in case you just skipped to the end, that would be paddle boarding and photography). I had the privilege to stay with a few amazing people that opened their doors and their families to me. I had a few drunken arguments about health care, surfed a lot, paddled even more, made friends that I will miss dearly, saw some beautiful things, and got to come home to crappy weather and snow.
It can be a pretty scary feelings taking off in a van with very little plans but it was worth it. Each time I kiss my husband goodbye I never know how the trip is going to turn out. I have gotten hurt, the van has broken down, I have gotten lost in the middle of Arizona on a back road, and many more stupid little events. But damn if I wouldn't pack up the van tomorrow and take off in a random direction. What can I say, I'm a nomad.
follow along on the adventure at www.instagram.com/gflinkman and www.instagram.com/departrure.photography
*two of these photos were not taken by me (obviously as I am racing in the middle of the ocean. Thank you onitpro and Jason Meffe for the photos.