Adventures

Mountain Valley Mornings

April 7, 2016

Returning to Canada is always something I look forward to, and even more so this year because I would be spending my birthday weekend in the mountains with my sister. The day of my birthday, we woke up before the sun rose, put on our bikinis underneath our clothes and headed out to one of our favourite spots. We would be spending the day at a natural hot springs at the end of a lonely logging road.

Photographer in Tofino

photographer in Tofino

photographer in Tofino

photographer in Tofino

photographer in Tofino

photographer in Tofino

photographer in Tofino

Photos & Writing: Kaitlyn Shea

Bikini by: Moana (we love you)

 

Adventures / surf / travel

A week on Oahu with the Poke Squad.

December 1, 2015

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

ocean and oak hawaii

One of my great friends moved away from Costa Rica this past April. It was a little bit sad, as it meant I wouldn’t be able to see her and surf with her as frequently. The only saving grace that enabled me to see past the aspect of losing a very cherished local girlfriend was that she was moving to Hawaii, an island paradise with tropical weather and beautiful waves.

My recent visit to Oahu was the ideal version of a brief week long vacation. We surfed every morning, hiked most afternoons, and ate fresh poke and açai bowls in between. Niki lives in Honolulu, so we hungout and caught waves in the city for the first couple of days before heading up to the North Shore. Winter swells had not yet arrived so all of the waves were fairly playful and perfect everywhere we went. This being said we still managed to break two boards.

One morning we took a boat trip with Hawaii Shark Encounters to swim with Galapagos and sand sharks. It was so cool to observe these creatures in crystal clear water right off the coast. I had never seen sharks up close and personal, so it was a definitely a highlight for me that morning to watch them swim so gracefully.

After a week of surfing peeling reef breaks, swimming with sharks, and eating my favorite Hawaiian foods, I said seeya later to island life and gave Niki a huge seeya later hug. Mahalo Niki & Oahu for a dreamy week of island bliss!

Writing & Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea

 

Adventures / Eat / stay / surf

Turning it Up in Tofino

November 7, 2015

ocean and oak Tofino

Ocean and Oak Tofino

Ocean and Oak Tofino

Ocean and Oak Tofino

Ocean and Oak Tofino

Ocean and Oak Tofino

Ocean and Oak Tofino

It’s good for the soul to sleep on the ground every now and then; go back to the basics and wake up to the cackle of black crows and a dew drenched earth. We joyfully endured two days of rustic beach camping on Mackenzie Beach during our five day stay in Tofino. We slept between the sand and the stars. The song of the sea was unceasing, and set the mood for our stay. Soft ethereal fog rolled in from the ocean and was met by night old campfire smoke that permeated the dense tree line each morning. The collusion has a mystical effect, and made that first cup of coffee feel dreamy, even though insta-coffee is anything but dreamy.

Fortunately, there were plenty of coffee houses in town to fire us up for the cold surf. The Pacific Rim is rugged and rich with waves. This slice of the world is wild and unpredictable, but where there were waves, we found them. Kaitlyn knew all, the right spots to check. Suited up in 4/3mm wetsuits, we were a formidable match for the 57 F water and the waves that Long Beach threw our way for two days. We spent our days walking endless beaches with Nugget and surfing the un-crowded peaks off the rock at Long Beach. We spent our nights staying warm next to the fires we built, eating havarti and mayo sandwiches, and drinking local brews. Sweet, simple, and highly satisfying, the way life should be.

Oftentimes, timing is everything. Gale force winds tested our tent assembly skills to the maximum late Saturday night and into the morning. Needless to say, it was a restless last night of camping as we lay waiting for our tent to take off with us in it. We couldn’t have been more ready to pack up our site and to check into our honey combed shaped cabin at Ocean Village later that afternoon. In the meantime, we sought refuge at Florencia Bay, which was protected from the wind. We slept in the sun baked sand until the middle of the afternoon.

Checking into Ocean Village was like a hug. Our little cabin suited us perfectly. We immediately felt warmth and coziness, like a home, our home. We had a full kitchen, an ocean view, and yellow crate with everything needed to build a beach bonfire. We drove into town for a few provisions, including sparkling rosé, and spent the rest of our evening on the beach, under the star saturated sky, and next to our crackling fire. It was a night full of laughter and reflections.

The next day will always remain as the sweetest of reveries. We made bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, and then Kaitlyn took me wetsuit shopping; it was time to get my own gear. I might have found the last 4/3 mm in the Pacific North Rim. All of the shops were already preparing for winter. I bought the suit that I swore was designed specifically for my body, and also a pair of booties and gloves. After a quick dirty chai, we decided to check the surf at Wickaninnish. This is Kaitlyn’s favorite beach on the island, and it quickly became mine too.

The rainy weather brought glassy conditions and offshore winds. There was also a nice little bump in the swell. The water temperature dropped into the low 50’s, but we felt tropical. The sea was emerald green and crystal clear, and the waves were firing. Being out there was invigorating! These are the types of moments when nothing is as good as the present. We surfed for so long that our bones finally became chilled. We stripped down to our bikinis in the parking lot and rode home with the heat blasting, seat warmers on, and beaming with the type of euphoric happiness that all surfers know. The only logical thing we could think to do next was to celebrate.

After long hot showers, a cup of tea, and a beach walk with Nugget, we went out to dinner at the Wolf In The Fog. We shared a bottle of DMZ chardonnay and ate the most unique and decadent creations. We had oysters wrapped in shoe string potatoes over avocado, smoked steelhead trout with roasted beets and mixed micro greens, and perfectly grilled squid. It was the kind of food that makes you laugh when you eat it. Seafood on the island is as fresh as it gets, and such a sweet gift from the wild Pacific. Wine buzzed and satiated, we decided to have sarpe(s) at Shelter. It was a rosy cheeked kind of evening.

Our last day of surf was the best day of surf. We returned to Wickaninnish. It was the coldest day, but we were geared up and eager to get in the water. We shared, just the two of us, a perfect A-framed peak, and surfed until the cold eventually got the best of us, over two hours later. The lefts and rights were long, open, and consistent. The combination of wave adrenaline, the brain freeze-like rush of duck diving, and the savage beauty of the land and seascape, produced an instantly addicting and long lasting high. We savored that last surf.

We returned to Reef Point in Ucluelet for our last night. We drank cold beers in our hot tub, as our wetsuits hung to dry. We reflected on our adventure, and began thinking about when we would return together again. It was hard to say goodbye to a place that now holds a piece of both of our hearts.

Written by: Jenn Parker

Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea

Big thanks to Ocean Village for having us!

Adventures / stay / travel

Unwinding in Ucluelet

October 21, 2015

 

Reef Point Cottages, Ucluelet

photographer in Tamarindo

photographer in Tamarindo

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Reef Point Cottages, Ucluelet

Reef Point Cottages, Ucluelet

Photographer in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

For the past year, Kaitlyn had been telling me about this magical island off the coast of British Columbia. She shared with me her past experiences of camping, exploring, and surfing the rugged northwest coast. She described a place of such beauty and mysticism. She planted the seed that took over both of our minds until we finally decided to meet there in the middle of September. What she would share with me, and ultimately, what we would share together was something special and for the books. After almost two months apart, Vancouver Island became the perfect meeting place.

Kaitlyn, Nugget, and I met in Vancouver after all crossing vast distances to get to each other. We caught the ferry to Vancouver Island early the next morning. This is when months of anticipation became a reality. The morning was cool and misty, and the air felt heavy with salt and sleepiness. The adventure had truly begun as we said goodbye to the mainland and hello to island life for the next eight days.

We drove northwest for three hours to the town of Ucluelet. The entire drive was picturesque. The road was winding and lonely. Ancient sky high pines induced vertigo and an optical illusion like a flip book. A deep yearning for running barefoot on the top of the moistened moss floor captured the imagination and the nostalgic voice of childhood. We drove with the windows down, and the pristine cool air swirled happily in our nostrils. We were lost in a peaceful trance as we found our way to Ucluelet.

We pulled up to Reef Point Cottages in the early foggy afternoon where we were greeted warmly by the receptionist and the icy blue eyed office cat. Our cottage was outfitted with a private hot tub on a wooden deck, a grill, a well stocked kitchen, and a big enveloping bed. There was even a little doggie set up for Nugget when we arrived: bones, doggy bags, and towels just for him. You know a place is amazing when it is this dog friendly. It is easy to imagine living in a place like this.

The next two days were filled with simple pleasures like long beach walks through thick dancing fog, exploring tidal rocks that were breathing with purple and orange starfish, black and brown mussels, and neon green sea anemones, and warming our souls with dirty chai lattes from Barkley Cafe. Since the wind was onshore and the sea was stormy those first two days, we spent a lot of time in the protective embrace of the rainforest. We hiked by way of mist soggy wooden plank paths into the heart and sacred wisdom of sage old, moss covered primary forest. There is something about being in the presence of such beautiful giants that aligns one’s prospective. The trees shared their breath with us, and the effect was cleansing and rejuvenating. We felt like the little girl versions of ourselves, and it was magical.

On the way back to our cottage, we stopped at Fishfull Thinking and bought fresh, island caught wild salmon. Kaitlyn prepared the fish using her father’s recipe of sriracha mayo, and capers, and put it on the grill. The taste was exquisite! The salmon was rich and melted in our mouths. As I am sitting here writing this now on the other side of the world, I am craving that taste. All salmon, and for that matter, all fish should be wild and hand caught. The island struggles to keep out farm fisheries, which are highly destructive to the environment and native fish populations.

Between the hours spent walking the beaches and forests of Ucluelet, eating the freshest seafood, and relaxing at the end of the day in the hot tub, we slept deeply and woke both mornings feeling on top of the world. This place has a kind of special power. We were sad to leave Reef Point, but totally revived and ready to continue our adventure. We packed up the car, gave the left over salmon (washed off, of course) to one of the Reef Point kitties that visited us the night before, and headed off with the windows down and the music up to Tofino.

Song of the trip: Lose Your Mind by So many Wizards.

Thank you so very much for having us at your adorable cottages Reef Point Cottages!

Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea

Writing and Photo #9 by: Jenn Parker

surf

A Heavenly Hidden Gem

October 15, 2015

There is a place that is very dear to our hearts at the end of a long dirt road. This is where we go to escape for the weekend, play for the day, or surf when the perfect big swell rolls through the protected bay. The beach is hugged by frangipanis and a coral reef. At night, there are almost always bioluminescent plankton waiting to be ignited by the movement of midnight swimming. It is Nugget and Marbella’s favorite beach. This is our tropical haven.

ocean and oak

ocean and oak

ocean and oak

ocean and oak

ocean and oak

Written by: Jenn Parker

Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea

Eat

Kale: The Contessa of Crispy Greens

October 3, 2015

ocean and oak

ocean and oak

kale salad

kale salad

kale salad

Kale is the contessa of the crisp leafy greens! It is recognized as a high reigning superfood, and for a long list of very good reasons. If you aren’t already incorporating this powerhouse gift of the earth into your diet, it might be time to reconsider. Kale is high in antioxidants and a great weapon against free radicals, which cause damage to the body at the cellular level. Free radicals are impossible to completely avoid, but with the right arsenal of defense the impact can be greatly reduced. Kale is armed with vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B6, fiber, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, protein, omega-3 fats, copper, and manganese. This nutrient-rich food is an excellent cardiovascular supporter, immune system booster, detoxifier, cancer fighter, and skin radiance promoter.

One of our favorite ways to eat kale is in a recipe that I put together a few months ago, and we have been hooked on it ever since I first made it. Several of the other ingredients in this recipe fall under the superfood category, as well. I guarantee that you will feel like a superbeing after eating this, and will be ready to charge big waves, hike through dense forest, or just tackle your workday!

Here is it!

Ingredients:

  • A bunch of kale
  • 1 beet
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of chickpeas
  • 4-5 hearts of palm
  • 1-1 ½ avocados
  • ¼ cup of raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 2 TBS chia seeds
  • ½ cup of feta cheese
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  • Chop kale into small pieces.
  • Add entire avocado, olive oil, salt, and pepper into bowl and massage into kale using salad tongs. You want the kale to be completely coated and slightly softened.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and thoroughly mix together.
  • Place in the refrigerator and let it chill for at least 30 minutes.

 

Disfruta!

Recipe by: Jenn Parker Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea

stay / travel

Peace, Love, and the Harmony Hotel

Harmony hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

DSC_1601

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

Harmony Hotel Nosara

A quick, mid-week escape leads us to the Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica. The road south is winding, dirt, and canopied by green giants. There is a Zen-filled breeze rolling off of the sea, as we pull into the driveway of the hotel, after two hours on the move. The next twenty-four hours are heavenly. The Harmony Hotel instantly feels like the sanctuary one craves to find in the midst of everyday life. This is exactly where we belong in this moment.

The hotel is complete with perfectly landscaped grounds, a juice bar, a restaurant with delicious and locally sourced Costa Rican fusion fare, a healing center, a yoga ashram, a deep dipping pool, a small bookstore bursting with books chosen by an impressive literate with a great taste in authors, and also stocked with artsy and surf-related necessities, and a private beach path that leads out onto the expansive and wave-riddled Playa Guiones. There is almost no reason to leave the premises, other than to go to the beach.

The Harmony Hotel is environmentally conscious, and actively participates in the conservation of the area. They grow quite a bit of their own produce on the hotel’s farm, locally source the seafood and poultry, make their own juices for cocktails, and even use bamboo straws instead of plastic ones. We feel like one with Mother Earth here, and that she appreciates the efforts that are being made to protect her. We breathe in the peace we feel at this retreat, and decide to take a very long stroll on the beach before the sun goes down to rest. We happily walk for over two hours.

In the mezzo of the rainy season, the most spectacular storm hits the moment we sit down at the bar for a tropical sangria after we had watched the sunset from the beach. The black clouds rolling in from the east met the vibrant pink clouds of the setting sun from the west, and a burst of cool air foreshadowed the monsoon. The Earth drinks in the rain all night long and lets our roars of thunder and electric light, as we enjoy a decadent dinner and each other’s company. The soundest sleep follows in our king-sized bed in our bungalow, as the rain continues to play music on our rooftop until right before dawn breaks.

We wake up at first light, and take a cup of coffee down to the beach to watch the sun light up the world. The air is cool and smells of new life, as the last raindrops drip from the tips of leaves. We spend the rest of the morning walking the beach, looking for sea glass and shells, and taking sporadic dips in the lively salty sea. This is the way all mornings should begin.

This beach and our bungalow feel like home almost immediately. It is hard to leave. We fill up on an exquisite breakfast of pouched eggs, homemade whole grain toast, kale, heirloom tomatoes, and avocado, and set out on our next adventure, while looking forward to the day we can return to the Harmony Hotel, for a longer stay.

Big thanks to the Harmony Hotel for having us!

Written by: Jenn Parker

Photos by: Kaitlyn Shea

 

Adventures / surf

Journey into the Witch’s Belly

August 11, 2015

ocean and oak

ocean-and-oak-DSC_9189

ocean and oak

ocean and oak

Three A.M., dawn is still deep in slumber, and I happily rise as I’ve waited all night for this hour. I throw on an over-sized sweater over the bikini I wore to bed, and like clockwork and with light feet walk downstairs to hit the coffee button. I take Marbella, my chocolate Lab, outside and my cat, Citlali, follows out of curiosity. It is a rare moment when the dust in completely settled on the road, the stars are awake, and the sliver of moon and the dull flickering street lamps light my path. I can hear the waves at my home break crashing against the rocky shore; a wave of anticipation breaks inside of me. In only a matter of short hours, I will be on the inside of that ominous rock.

I feed of all of the animals, pour my coffee to go, grab my board and bag, which is simply packed with the few things I need [in life] (sunscreen, sarong, shades, wax, water, passport, a notebook, a very worn copy of Walden, an extra del Toro bikini, an over-stuffed sandwich, and a few Imperial Silvers) and start the winding, one-lane road north. It’s like a video game driving to Playa del Coco; dodging dogs, cattle traffic jams, bat out of hell bus drivers, and reflector-less, pedestrian path-free blind curves. Early rising workers congregate at make shift bus stops uncomfortably close to the edge of the road, and clearly crossing the line of relative safety. Making it to the Panaderia Tico for fresh empanadas at 5 A.M. is a sign of success and relief.

5:30 A.M., my toes are gripping cold sand as I wait for the last shore break to pass, so that I can climb onto the boat. The sun is waking behind Papagayo, as brush strokes paint the sky alive. The salt laden air is more powerful than caffeine. I sit at the front of the panga for the best view of the acrobatic stingrays, and so that I can feel like I am the first one there. Our captain is an old Guanacasteca mariner with a stoic stare and deep set lines in his face that tell a story few will ever know. He hugs The Mystic to the coastline. The bay is notorious for its treacherous conditions, and he places no trust in its mood today. The costal waters are idyllic and the color of dreams. Pelicans gather on exposed rocks, flying fish break the surface tension, and our captain’s face never changes. The closer we get, the more apparent it becomes that the witch is attracting the new sun and the swell like a magnet; I feel the pull, too.

Before the anchor is set, I am making the long paddle to the breaking waves. The aquamarine water becomes shallow and clear, and dotted with tiny garden eels you can see if you open your eyes underwater. The bay is pulsating, and waves much be chosen wisely. There is nothing better than being in an empty line up with your best friends on a firing day at Rocas Brujas. Turn your head for second though, and the witch will swallow you whole. She has a gift for keeping you completely in the present.

When I am surfing, nothing else matters. It is my meditation. Duck diving waves the size of houses is like a rebirth, and as I am pulled through the back of a wave, just for those few seconds, time seems to slow down, almost stop. Between sets, I cannot help but get lost in my surroundings. Dark sand fades to light, as it empties out onto miles of beach. With the exception of driftwood and palm shade huts that sporadically dot the beach, it feels untouched, prehistoric…intangible.

Lefts, rights, barrels, close outs, wipe outs, beatings on the inside, bombs on the horizon…that perfect wave. It’s day trips like this that leave me soggy and sunburned, but frothing for more. Logging six hours of surfing makes a lukewarm beer taste heavenly. I put on a windbreaker and a hat in an attempt to save my skin, and I look into the eyes of that rock for the last time before our boat passes it. I sit in quiet reflection.

The sea has calmed down, and we take a straighter approach through the bay. My surf-glazed eyes catch a pod of pilot whales in the near distance. The water is glassy and they break the surface closer and closer to the boat, one after another, until I realize that we are surrounded by an enormous extended family. There are dozens of glistening black bodies cutting through the water like it’s air. I lean over the edge to meet intelligent eyes, and I believe they are full of sage-like wisdom. I try and take some of that with me. They travel with us for quite some time, and I feel chosen.

Every part of my body is utterly exhausted. My lips are dried and cracked, my eyes are bloodshot, my limbs are heavy and itchy from sea lice,  and my hair is like a bird’s nest, but I can’t help but smile in bliss as I finish my second beer, and fade out like the day.

Written by: Jenn Parker

Photos (1-3) by: Kaitlyn Shea

Photo 3 by: ChonFotos