Category Archives: Surfing

Off The Grid in Indonesia

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The view from Heaven

When I spent an hour on the phone with my cellular company a few weeks ago to ensure that my phone would work while in Lombok, a small island east of Bali, the woman assured me that it would. Of course, she warned, I would incur steep fees. “Indonesia is a very long way away,” she said. As if I didn’t know this. As if, somehow, I’d miss this fact.

I’m not really sure why I’d bothered with the phone. At that point, I had still planned on bringing along my computer. I would bring my computer and my phone and maybe my own wireless internet connection. Or perhaps a refrigerator. I had thought I could lug it all with me to this small village in Southeast Lombok, without water or power, with a perfect, lonely surf break lapping at its shore and get some work done.

As if.

In the end I didn’t bring my computer. Instead, I brought a notebook and pens, and figured I could work on my book in long hand. I never even turned my phone on.

If looks could kill

There are monkeys in Lombok. Macaq monkeys the size of small dogs. I’m not sure if macaqs steal things, if they like to finger smooth ballpoint pens in their hands, imagining what they could do with their thumbs, but I’m pretty sure they took most of my pens.

“You should write about my husband.” We are sitting at the bar, drinking our who-knows-how-many-th Bintang Beer (my new favorite saying: “its Bingtang Time!”). I can still hear the faint keening sound of the afternoon call to prayer. Lombok, unlike its busy neighbor to the west, is Muslim.

“He’s a risk taker.” The new couple hadn’t event checked into their room yet. After only a few days at Heaven on the Planet (that’s the actual name of the resort) my husband and I were part of the welcoming committee. This new couple would join us for dinner around the communal table that night. I had just told the wife about my new book project on risk taking. She asked me if I was getting much work done while on vacation.

“No,” I smiled. “Not at all.” That wasn’t entirely true. Writing a book is like searching through the cushions of a very frilly sofa, fingering the piping and reaching way down behind for stray coins. It doesn’t all happen on the page. There’s an investigation that goes along with it. Call it research. I want to examine why people take risks–namely in the thrill seeking realm–and try to figure out my own fascination with risk taking. You could call this trip research. I’m not a good surfer, and yet here we are halfway across the world to surf this break that most people have never heard of. 

We talked about the coming swell. How it was supposed to rise; rumors of big surf circled around the open bar/restaurant/library like sharks. Now that the waves were coming, more surfers arrived. Not that the waves weren’t already plentiful. But the really big ones, the pushy barrels, those would arrive tomorrow. Everyone was sure of it.

The next morning, I arose early and sat in front of the bungalow, watching the swell wrap around the headland onto the beach. I couldn’t find a pen. Hadn’t I brought, like, ten pens? I wanted to write about taking risks and how I was about to do just that in a few hours when I went surfing. Surfing was risky, no question about it. I’m not really a water person, that is unless the water is in the form of snow. Still, we were here, and I planned to surf.

Monkeys surrounded the bungalow. One, a large male, climbed a nearby tree and tried to stare me down. The hotel staff recommended that you avoid eye contact with the macaqs, especially the large males. But I couldn’t help it. This one lifted his eyebrows to make his eyes look bigger. It was creepy. I wondered if he had my pens.

There is a point at which you realize the futility of your actions. A point at which you just give up looking for a pen. Pick up your surfboard and test out your theories. Before my husband and I left for this surfing-and-diving-and-dipping-my-toe-back-into-risk-taking trip in Indonesia, I was cranking on my book. He was cranking at the ski area. Getting pre-season projects finished. Making sure all the details were in place before the snow started to fall. My plan was to finish a book proposal before ski patrol duties took most of my time.

Heaven on the planet

October wouldn’t have seemed an ideal time to get off the grid and chill. But it never is. Not until you are there, sitting on a porch overlooking Ekas Bay, a long, shallow bay, known to some of the locals for its fishing, surrounded by monkeys and a rising swell, that you truly appreciate the importance of it. For your soul.

The boat deposited us in the water, a few paddle strokes from Outside Ekas. The swell was rising, but still small by local standards. That was fine enough with me. A few other surfers bobbed in the water, raising their hands in hello. In just a few short days, I’d already met everyone here: we’d drank Bintangs together and swapped stories of how we’d found out about this place. John and I waited our turn, watching the swell rise and break. The waves were inconsistent.

Am I a risk taker? I paddled into the lineup and watched a wave rise behind me. I turned and swam. This was a big wave, and I was in the prime spot to catch it. I hardly had to paddle and I was up, riding the glassy curve, my surfboard firm and solid beneath me. I was surfing. I was really surfing. In the water, Jason, one of the really great surfers at the break, smiled. He raised his fist in solidarity. That was another strange thing about this place: everyone cheered each other on.

This would be the wave by which all others were judged. I knew this before it was even over. I was on it, cutting back and forth, working the wave like a ski slope. My smile cracked my face, and the wave petered out below me. A rush of adrenaline flowed out of me and the dopamine flowed in. I was high on brain chemicals: blissed out and happy. I’m not sure if I’d call myself a risk taker. Sure, I take calculated risks, but the true thrill seekers never consider their actions risky. Paddling into a big wave is not a gamble; they know they can surf it. The trick is to tamp down the adrenaline while in the moment. Give into it and you might panic or choke. People think thrill seekers are adrenaline junkies. But that isn’t true. Most thrill seekers I’ve known work hard to keep the adrenaline in check. It’s the after-effect, the dopamine, that offers the big rewards.

As I paddled back to the waiting boat a few hours later, I had to remember to stop smiling to keep myself from swallowing water. Bliss still coursed through my veins. I caught several more waves, but none quite as good or as long or as glassy as that first. My arms and shoulders felt heavy as I pulled myself into the boat. Being off the grid in Indonesia was certainly heaven on the planet. It was Bintang time.

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You Should Have Been Here Yesterday

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Forrest breaking trail on the Throne

As predicted yesterday was “The Day” to call in sick and go skiing. It was by far our deepest snowfall to date this season at Crystal, and it finished with several inches of very light powder. While it wasn’t all blower (the high southerly wind from the night before stripped the Frontside and Grubstake) it was pretty darn close.

After completing two avalanche control routes (Throne, which was deep and Brand X, which was deeper), I stood by to open gates at Northway. While familiar faces stomped their skis and listened quietly as I reminded them all to “keep their partners in sight”, I enjoyed the 10 minutes of banter. It is not very often that a ski patroller has the attention of such a large crowd.

It reminded me of two things that I love about Crystal:

  1. The locals: We have some of the most dedicated group of skiers here. Considering that the closest city with real employment is 1.5 hours away, it’s amazing to see people drive 3+ hours every day just to ski here. Perhaps since many of our locals once owned shares in the company we’re blessed with skiers and riders that take ownership in the place. I like that.
  2. The compartmentalization: With both Northway and Southback, we can stagger the opening of our inbounds terrain. This means you can ski powder all day long. If you don’t make first chair so you can rip the Frontside to the envy of all the latecomers you can still be first in line at one of the Northway gates and get first tracks. Some days you can even do the same out South. If you’re lucky you can find yourself at the top of an untracked run on a pristine powder day, not once but twice or even three times. And that my friends is the closest thing to heaven you will ever find. Trust me on this.

Just one tiny little reminder. When you are standing at a gate and a patroller opens it so you can ski that beautiful pristine line while she coils the rope, please don’t stampede her or run over her skis or push her down. Remember, on powder days your true nature comes out. It’s easy to be Mr. Nice Guy on a groomer day.

As an example, here’s a hearty shout out to Joel Hammond. As I rushed to open Gate 10 at Northway yesterday, he told me to wait so he could give me a hug first. Now that’s a gentlemen. High-five Joel. I hope your run in Orgasm Meadows lived up to its name.

 

Why Self-Promotion is a Bitch

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Oh wait. Let me just reapply my lipgloss.

“How was your summer?” A good friend recently asked me.

“You know. Strange.”

“No, I don’t know. What do you mean?”

“Well, the weather for one thing. And between the ski area being open and my book coming out, we’ve been working pretty hard.”

“Oh yeah, your book! How’s that going anyway?”

That’s when the little voice inside my head says Kim, just stop it. You don’t have to promote your book to your friends. They’re going to buy it anyways. But it’s like an addiction. Or like washing your hands for the fifteenth time while mumbling the words to Gloria Gaynor’s classic “I Will Survive.”

After a while you start to get a little weird.

Maybe in this era of Facebook updates and frequent retweets, promoting yourself isn’t as shameful as it once was. Everyone’s doing it. We all have learned to don the party wig, apply another coat of lipgloss and smile for the camera, being sure to capture our best side. Who knows? This could be our new profile photo. Or worse, someone could tag us in an unflattering light before we have a chance to swipe our names off the offending photo. It’s always good to think ahead.

But this kind of thing doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to work at it. Often, I’m just faking it. So instead of doing all the wonderful summer-vacation sort of activities I’ve honed myself on the past few years, I’ve been busy sharpening other skills. Here’s a list of my accomplishments (see! I’m getting better at this self-promotion thing):

  • Even though I didn’t climb any volcanoes this season or even sleep outside nearly enough, I did learn to surf, thanks to my friend Hillary.
  • Launched a major book promotion campaign. This isn’t easy, even with a great publicist at my side. Who knew that this blog (and all your comments and participation) would be a driving factor in the campaign? Thanks for all that, by the way.
  • Managed to drop the phrase, “My book is coming out in October” into 90% of all my conversations. Not sure if that’s a good thing, or a sign of a serious underlying obsession. (Did I mention that my book is now available on Kindle? Oops. Did it again.)
  • Dropped below 500K on my Alexa ranking. As if that actually means anything.
  • Decided that someday my husband and I will live in the Alps, either Chamonix (sorry skiclimber; it’s a big enough town we probably won’t run into each other) or Verbier (thanks to Corrine and Eric).
  • Almost 100  10 5 people so far told me after reading an advanced copy of my book that they liked it. One reader said my blog changed her life; so just imagine what reading the book will do. (No, this reader is NOT my mom, although those of you following along know that Mom’s reaction was equally full of praise. It’s good to have a fan. Even if she’s your mom.)
  • Actually, the # 1 comment I’ve gotten from readers so far: “I had no idea your job was so dangerous.”
  • Oops. We ski patrollers aren’t supposed to talk about that.

Teahupoo Billabong Waves

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Check out these monster waves. Competitors at the Billabong Pro at Teahupoo in Tahiti are the real deal. No joke.

Reach Out and High-Five Someone

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High-fives aren’t just for frat boys anymore. Anyone can do it. Whenever you accomplish something unexpected, something glorious, a single moment of celebratory awesomeness–you hook a 30 lb. salmon, you lay down 30 perfect tracks through 2 feet of powder, you drop into the pocket on a glassy wave, you bite into a crispy-perfect grilled cheese sandwich–these moments are all high-fiveable.

Kids learn to high-five at a young age. And well they should. Learning to stoke the fire of appreciation for life’s brief moments of glory is a skill we should all learn early and practice throughout life. Also, high-fiving is contagious. Like a sneeze, the power of high-fiving is subtle and yet powerful. It makes us feel good.

There are very few rules to high-fiving. The only one I can think of is this: don’t leave a fellow high-fiver hanging. No matter the reason, even if the hanger is a tool, it is simply bad etiquette and bad high-five karma to leave someone hanging. Anyone. You never know. You might be out there, wanting to celebrate your triumphant balance across the slackline or your first time up on a surfboard, and someone could leave you hanging. I’m telling you from experience, it doesn’t feel good. It stinks. Any time you see someone with that goofy look on her face, her palm held up in the gimme a high-five pose, do her a favor. Even if you don’t think her feat was all that awesome, give her some skin. It’s the kind thing to do.

In preparation for this post, I kept track of all the high-fives I hit lately. Here are a few: I high-fived a fellow ski patroller after agreeing that skiing on 4th of July weekend was a new kind of awesome, I shared a high-five with nine-year-old Sasha, my teammate for the fourth of July dinghy race (even though we came in dead last), I high-fived my five-year-old niece, Alicia, just because (hint: kids under 6 don’t need a reason to high-five, just an invitation).

Every time I hit a five, I felt better, lighter. High-fiving is a way of saying you think this is awesome and so do I. Here’s the thing: high-fiving makes it awesome. By reminding ourselves of our small triumphs we actually elongate them, stretch them out a few more moments. So don’t be afraid. Reach out and high-five someone.

Now it’s your turn: Keep track of your high-fives this week. My unscientific study showed more high-fives occur between 5pm Friday and 10pm Sunday than any other time of the week. However, if you live with young children, you’re in luck. They high-five every day of the week, and like I said, never need a reason. Think about it. When was the last time a 4 year-old didn’t give you a high-five when you asked for one? So keep track of your high-fives and report back here. How many can you get?

If you haven’t checked out their website, the High Fives Foundation, you should. They offer fundraising and awareness to snow-sports athletes that have suffered life-altering injuries. If that isn’t high-fiveable, I don’t know what is.

The Next Fifteen Minutes: Advanced Reader Copy

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The ARCs arrived in the mail yesterday. An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy of a book, sent out a few months before publication mainly as a tool for publicity. ARCs are sent to

Still Life with ARC

book reviewers, libraries, magazine editors, television hosts, Oprah, anyone and everyone who might care to know you have a book coming out. And, of course, anyone and everyone that might be able to help spread the word that you have a book coming out.

I feel like a parent watching my child graduate from high school. Dr. Seuss said it best with, “Oh! The Places You’ll Go! You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.”

I want her (I’m already calling my ARC a her) to soar to high heights. She’s already flying along. Just this morning she took her first walk along the slackline, demonstrating balance and focus and a sort of literary concentration usually only demonstrated by advanced yogis or Cirque de

Quiet the mind, balance the thoughts

Soleil performers. Too bad I didn’t get it on video; it was pretty impressive.

Dr. Seuss continues on in his anthem to all graduates, “Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.” My ARC took her first lap on the SUP this morning, enjoying the sunny calm of Lake Washington. I watched her blissfully negotiate boat wakes and sun glare with the grace and calm of a professional. Needless to say, I have high hopes.

Of course, it won’t be easy. I know this. The ARC, she knows this too. Steep climbs, challenging reviews, maybe even a slump, albeit brief, in sales could happen along the way. Dr. Seuss knows this. “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.” She will probably become one of those books, those obsessive types that constantly refresh their Amazon Author page, hoping for 5 star reviews, checking her sales ranking when she could be out skiing or running or sipping a latte with other book-friends. No doubt, she will have a crisis of confidence at some point along the way. She’ll falter.

But she’ll get back up again. “On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.” Not even the Hakken-Kraks will keep her down.

That's Mt. Rainier in the distance

She already has her sights set on climbing Mt. Rainier. Crevasses lurk there, hidden below melting snow, and other dangers too, like rockfall and avalanches and urgent changes in the weather. Again, Dr. Seuss would remind her, “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

So here I am, sending her out into the world. She’ll hit the bookstores officially on October 1st, but for a little while longer anyway, she’ll exist as an ARC, her fingertips reaching for success and acclaim, and hoping for the very best.

Most writers would offer to give away an ARC at this point. And I should probably do the same. I started this blog after attending a writer’s conference in which I heard the repeated admonition, “You don’t have a blog? You really need a blog. Every writer has one these days.” And so I started to write a little about my writing, but mostly about other things in life that I find inspiring and awesome. But here I am, blogging about my writing again. It’s not a strong suit for me. It feels a little too metaliterary for me (I just made that word up. See I can’t even stick to the hallowed OED, or Oxford English Dictionary, for you non-bookish types).

Here’s where you, dear reader, come in. Help a girl with an ARC out. What kind of contest

Stand Up Paddleboarding

could I use for this supposedly necessary giveaway? I need some ideas here. This is, of course, assuming that any of you are actually dying to read The Next Fifteen Minutes, and simply cannot wait until the October 1st pub date. And if the only person out there dying to read it is you, Mom, don’t worry. I’ve got an ARC set aside just for you.

But for those of you who aren’t my mom, what say you? Remember, the purpose of a giveaway on a blog is to gain more readers. We bloggers are hungry for readers, for site visits actually, reflected in our blog stats and more importantly, in reader comments. Your comments are the filet mignon of blogging, they are the private powder stash, the uncrowded glassy wave curling just for you. Reader comments tell us that you actually read our blog, that you care. I’m aware just how pathetic this must seem to you non-bloggers, but trust me on this.

I could simply do a contest where I take a random drawing from all the comments left on this post. But that feels a little too much like the oldest profession, like I’m just a little too hungry for love, if you know what I mean.

So, how about some other ideas? I’m all ears. And so is my ARC.

Diabetics Pushing the Edge of Normal

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Sean Busby

Sean Busby, a Type 1 diabetic, has lately been bagging big lines in Iceland, Antarctica and Patagonia. According to an article at Espn, Sean is preparing for a trip to Greenland with a few first descents in his sights.  While most adventurers worry about their water freezing or their boots getting left out in the cold, for Sean if his insulin freezes while he’s on a remote continent, nowhere near a drugstore, he’s toast.

I should know. I’m a diabetic too, and learning to compensate for the disease in an outdoor setting offers a unique set of challenges. Sean uses a OmniPod, which attaches to his skin, keeping the insulin close to his body, away from freezing temperatures. Containing 3 day’s worth of insulin, the pod can maintain his latest doses, but the vial, the one he will use to refill the pod, must also stay out of the elements.

That isn’t easy when you’re climbing in subzero temperatures. For that matter, it’s pretty challenging even on the slopes at Crystal, or any overnight backpacking trip. Extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, will render the insulin useless.

I use an insulin pump (the Medtronic Paradigm). It has many of the advantages of the pod, but I can take it off when I jump in the shower or even go surfing. I’d be afraid the pod would get ripped off in the breaking waves. Furthermore, if I have a low blood sugar, John knows how to disconnect the pump, in the event of an emergency.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes nearly twenty years ago, my doctor told me not to worry. Innovations in diabetes management were on the horizon. A mechanical pancreas, capable of monitoring blood sugar levels and dispensing insulin accordingly was just around the corner. Twenty years later, they haven’t gotten much closer.

Instead, most diabetes research funding goes into fixing the Type 2 epidemic. 1.9 million people were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2010. Many of those are due to lifestyle—the wrong diet and lack of exercise. Whereas Type 1, on the other hand, is an auto-immune disease.

Mt. Rainier

When my doctor told me that I could live a “relatively normal life” as a diabetic, my heart sunk. I didn’t want to live a normal life, and any scale diminishing that even by a fraction seemed devastating. A year later, I climbed Mt. Rainier. I recently published an article about that trip—the first post-diagnosis physical test of my body and my medication—in Diabetes Forecast Magazine. I hadn’t yet figured out the ratio for hard physical activity to insulin levels. My doctor had told me to cut my insulin in half on the climb up, assuming that the aerobic exercise would bypass my caloric intake to metabolize my food without the help of the medication. Too much insulin and I ran the risk of a severe low blood sugar reaction. Instead, I went the opposite way and when I reached the summit and checked my blood sugar, it made sense. I’d struggled the last few hours, each footstep a gargantuan effort. When I saw my blood sugar on my glucometer, I understood why. At 365, all the calories I’d been eating were just sitting in my blood stream, causing long term damage, but not getting into my muscles. Without insulin, sugar stays locked in your blood, where it can’t do anything but harm. Too little insulin in the blood stream and your brain could starve. Too much and you risk vascular damage. It’s a balancing act more difficult than the tallest of slacklines.

So, this is why I’m even more impressed with Sean Busby. Props to him. Way to advance the edge of diabetic normal, Sean. If bagging first descents in Greenland is “relatively normal”, then I guess it isn’t so bad.

Check out Sean’s website, Riding on Insulin, where he offers skiing and snowboard camps for diabetics. Go Sean!