Out to Sea!

Thursday, February 19, 2015 Permalink 0

Hello from sunny Montana!

Please note I will be out of the studio and on assignment from February 20 until March 6.

Cameras in hand, I’m heading for a voyage on the Lord Nelson, one of two sailing vessels in the world designed and built to enable people of all physical disabilities to sail on equal terms. We’ll be navigating from the Bahamas to Bermuda, straight through the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.

You can track the ship here: http://jst.org.uk/track-our-ships/

The Lord Nelson (and sister vessel, The Tenacious) are British tall ships commissioned and owned by the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST) whose mission is to promote the integration of people of all physical abilities through the challenge and adventure of tall ship sailing.

People with disabilities constitute our nation’s largest minority group – a group in which any of us could be a part of at any time.

The JST has partnered with the US organization, America’s Freedom Sailor, to help build and operate the first and only American tall ship based on the principles of Universal Design enabling those with special needs to sail alongside their able-bodied family and friends. Think of it like Eagle Mount for sailing adventures!

This is the first partnered trip between the two organizations in an effort to build awareness around this monumental American project! I’m thrilled to be joining as the photographer of the expedition!

Showing your support is easy through a “Like” on their Facebook page!

There’s very limited Wifi along the way, but I do hope to post a few images to Instagram if I can during the trip.

Thanks so much for reading. I’ll be back in touch with a full report when I return!

Warmest winter regards,

Audrey

Surf Simply the Best

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 Permalink 0

Growing up in the mountains with my feet firmly planted on two skis, surfing was never really on my radar. Even in my native Brazil, we were always inland — visiting family in rural Sao Paolo state. The coast and ocean was just a distant idea.

Years after my clocked ticked 4-0, I gingerly made a first attempt at the “new-to-me” sport as a healthy way to take a break from the extended winters that Montana is noted for.

It started (and sort of temporarily ended) with a trip to Mexico where I had a ad-hoc hour long lesson. Forget learning any details on technique, the lesson consisted of some pop up instruction, a few shove-ins from the whitewater, and a stance consisting of placing my lagging hand upright and the leading arm outstretched in front pointing at the beach, in a sort of American basketball offensive foul call.

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The following days were filled with being trounced in the spin cycle surf then tossed out and cushioned by a vast carpet of a recent sea urchin bloom.

The monotony was broken by the jolt of a sting ray. The sting painfully abated by soaking in a concoction cooked up by the local surf shack. A bucket of indigenous leaves mixed in boiling hot water and a local hooch tequila chaser provided slow relief.

After three weeks of dutiful punishment I ended up in a crowded ER deep in the old part of Zihuatanejo with a festering and spreading infection.

“Mi mano no esta bien” — a phrase curiously absent from the Lonely Planet phrasebook — gave the local doc on duty an afternoon smile.

An embedded urchin spine was the culprit. I was sent out the door with a prescription for a hefty dose of “antibioticos.” The receptionist typed out the invoice in triplicate carbon copy — forty two pesos equivalent to the price of an order of guacamole which would most certainly have been more enjoyable. The experience left me with a wilted attitude toward the ocean and the sport. I could see no fun in prolonged periods of pain followed by panicked excursions to the local hospital of a developing nation.

See below the receipt, which I taped into my journal for proof of the cost of a visit to the local ER:

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I was ready to throw in the towel when my husband and his friend Sarah discovered a place called Surf Simply in Playa Guiones, Costa Rica. They went down on a trial run to see if the place was truly as great as all of the glowing 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor.

Todd returned from Costa Rica raving about his trip. “It’s the perfect beach break for learning. The surf is incredibly consistent and friendly. No crowds. No sea urchins. Top notch instruction. Lovely accommodations. Etc. etc. etc.”

He had a proposition; He would take me to try the place out as a holiday gift and if I still wasn’t psyched about surfing, then he would agree that it may truly not be my sport.

How could anyone say no to that kind of offer?

By saying yes to learning and adventure while saying no to my fears and insecurities, I came to know and love Surf Simply, the sport and have a new found appreciation for the ocean and waves.

The surf camp completely changed my perspective, skill level and confidence through a spectacular experience in and out of the water. 

Every detail from transportation and meals to lodging and relaxation is meticulously planned. The only thing left on a traveler’s to-do list is to learn and have as much fun as possible!

To begin, your experience level is assessed by a detailed pre-trip questionnaire.

The coaching ratio is exceedingly low and overall group size limited to 12. One coach for every one-three students, but typically two.  Two sessions per day allow for ample personal instruction under different conditions, punctuated by on-land theory lessons and video analysis. The teaching ability and technical skill level of the coaches is stellar, but they’re also just plain fun people to be around.

Here Harry is describing the finer details of a white water climb to Todd and Sarah:

Harry, Todd and Sarah in an early morning session

My initial forays into the sport had left me with precisely no knowledge of surfing. My run-ins with critters of the ocean had left me with, well, lets call it a concern for what lurks below.

As a Level 1 beginner, I learned with Coach Jessie and Prado how, why and when to pop up on a surf board, how the board works and how to control it, what your functional stance should look like. More advanced skills such as trimming and carving turns, paddling techniques, turtle dives, reading a surf report, the science of the swell, and safety protocol were introduced throughout the week. Most importantly, I learned a critical skill for ocean excursions — “the sting ray shuffle.”

This year I transitioned to Level 2 with Coach Jessie. We covered how to read and assess waves, binary and dynamic selection of waves, finding spot X, angled take offs, board design and etiquette were added to the arsenal of knowledge as well as a lot of review of Level 1 skills. I also learned a great deal about small victories and my own perceived limitations.

Below Coach Jessie and I are OTB (Out The Back) with the advanced students:

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The Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani + More Firsts in Japan

Monday, January 5, 2015 Permalink 0

I’ve always been intrigued by the snow monkeys who “take onsen” – especially after seeing Marsel van Oosten’s viral image of the macaque “checking his email” in the famous hot springs. When we figure out this unusual routine happens pretty close to Tokyo in a region referred to as the “Japanese Alps,” Todd and I are all in.

Macaques in Onsen

It’s about a mile hike up to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, through a lush forest on a well maintained trail.

Trail to Monkey Park

The forest is marked with tree identifications along the way.

Tree Identification

Once we climb all the way up to the hot springs, we find many families of monkeys scampering about and soaking in the hot water. They swim and play, groom each other, and enjoy the relaxing heat while the rest of us shiver with our cameras. We joke about how this really is a tourist destination for the monkeys to watch people.

About an hour after we arrive, a park ranger comes and builds a little bonfire. I have yet to see this happen at the Boiling River in Yellowstone. It is welcome for our stiff hands and cold toes.

Grooming in Hot Springs

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