A taste for adventure & tha’ balls to paddle some of the most remote & rugged California coastline.
The eclectic group of athletes, actors, media & paddle industry professionals, set out late summer, just equipped with the bare necessities to paddle, camp under the stars & capture the imagination of all you adventurers out there. We caught up with ringleader Austin Cox & the lads… Here’s what they had to say:
RIS: What made you decide to paddle Big Sur?
Austin: Since I was a little kid I have always been fascinated by Big Sur’s beauty and isolated coastline. It has always been a dream of mine to travel that coastline with my friends and once I started working at Isle they made it possible!
RIS: How did you all meet?
Austin: Scott Eastwood and I grew up in Carmel and have been friends ever since. Eastwood introduced me to Scott Mortenson a couple years back and he is a jack of all trades; this guy has done every job under the sun and is now going to school to get a Masters Degree in Genetics. Ikaika Pidot is one of our newest Isle Ambassadors who definitely has a bright future in paddling. Ikaika is definitely a guy you want on any trip, he’s a super intelligent waterman and the most stoked and positive guy out there! I reached out to Slater Trout because he’s an amazing photographer and of course one of the best standup paddlers in the industry. Slater took all the photos from the trip. Marc Miller is my boss and has more paddle experience than any of us, the guy has been all over the world and was amped off this trip.
RIS: NorCal can be pretty unpredictable with its weather and ocean conditions. Did you plan on a certain time of the year or did you just wing it? How was it?
Austin: Since this coast is so unpredictable, isolated and super dangerous you have to make sure you at least the swell and wind on your side or it can get really risky. August tends to not have a lot of swell and the weather is usually sunny so we picked a date that worked for everyone and went for it. Of course after that everything else was out of our control so we put the rest in the hand of fate. Luckily for us the first two days were ideal but our third day could’ve been real serious but we got out in time!
RIS: Did you see anything cool?
Ikaika P: I’d say around 90% of what we paddled by you literally can’t see from land, so seeing that much of that rugged coast was awesome. For the short amount of time we’re up there, we explored as much as we could, but I could easily see myself being up there for a month just exploring those caves. We also saw a ton of big wildlife. Whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, otters, sunfish; the coast is so alive up there!
Slater T: We saw a ton of sea life during the trip, everything from Jellyfish to Sharks and Whales.
Scott M: Seeing a juvenile great white in the wild was a pretty wild opportunity. It was a strangely, peaceful moment. That’s the nice thing about SUP’s. I surf in areas where there are juvenile whites around all the time. But you rarely get to see them unless you’re standing up, paddling through their territory.
Scott E: Yeah we saw almost every wildlife creature there is. We were on the tip of the red triangle so it was only fitting that we come in contact with a great white. It wasn’t my first time seeing a great white, they are usually just curious.
Marc M: I would say the most stunning view was paddling from around a corner of rocks and seeing a several hundred foot freshwater waterfall spilling off the side of a rocky mountain bluff into the bright blue waters of the pacific on a white sand beach with 80 degree weather. Felt like I was in Tahiti and had to pinch myself to realize it was California
RIS: What was the best part of the trip?
Ikaika P: Hard to decide. It’s a toss-up between the night sky and McWay Falls. The night when we pulled in to camp on the beach, I’ve never seen a night sky that clear before. The Milky Way was so unbelievably present to the naked eye that it made all previous camping nights under the stars seem inferior. Pretty crazy stuff. Slater got some unreal photos. Paddling into McWay Falls was another moment that blew my mind. If you hug the coast there, you can weave in and out of giant Rock formations, caves, and tunnels. And once you get to a giant boulder that looks perfect for diving off of, you’re greeted by this giant hundred foot waterfall breaking right on the beach. I have seen plenty of waterfalls before but there was something different about this one.
Slater T: The best part for me was when we got to McWay falls. It has been a dream of mine my whole life to be on that beach. We were all on such a high that day.
Scott M: Camping on the beach with the promise of getting back on the water the next day. Being with friends and making new ones is always more memorable when done around a campfire instead of a club or bar. For me, anyway.
Scott E: Everything. Getting away from all the noise life can bring is much needed. To be in an area where there isn’t service is very refreshing. That waterfall is amazing, always wanted a different perspective of it!
Marc M: My favorite part outside a dip under the waterfall was cruising about ¾ mile off shore and seeing these 30 ft. high plumes of mist spraying into the air from whales migrating north. Then suddenly a huge gray while breaches about 100 yards off my paddle board bow and does a big belly flop. Scared me half to death and when it hit was like a bomb went off under the water.
RIS: What did you take away from the adventure?
Ikaika P: It just made me rethink my perception of an adventure. A lot of times we think we have to travel to the other side of the world to fulfill our desire for exploration, when most of us don’t even know how good it is in our backyards. All you need is a fun crew and a good idea, and you’re bound to have a great time.
Slater T: That good friends, a paddle board and an idea are all you need
Scott M: It’s funny. I was thinking as we paddled, that the Chumash Native Americans were living the dream. This was their territory and they had it figured out, man. No pollution. No trash. No traffic. But they did get out on the water. They lived by the hand of the sea. I always feel fortunate when I can reconnect with nature and wash off the concrete.
Scott E: Make sure you make time to go do something out of your comfort zone. Go outside and explore, enjoy nature and make memories with your friends.
Marc M: Driving the stretch of coast for the first time a few months prior I got a taste of the beaches below from the high cliff lookouts but so see these pristine untouched stretches of California coast up close along the water level was truly breathtaking and made me realize the importance of conservation and how important it is to experience raw nature without human interference
RIS: Any other trips planned?
Ikaika P: Quick trip back home to Oahu on a few weeks, but outside of that I got nothing really planned.
Slater T: Headed to Mexico in mid-October to hold a Stand Up Paddle retreat.
Scott M: Yes. But they’re classified.
Scott E: Lots! Never stay in the same spot for too long; get busy living!
Marc M: Yes, paddle the 4 seas of Israel, Drive the Coast Of Norway from Bergen to the Top, and get over to India! If I can cross one of those off the list this year I will be stoked!
Interview By Leslie Terhorst
Photography By Slater Trout