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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Trip of A Lifetime Gone Wrong

Hi everyone. My apologies for no updates for a while.  As many may know, our summer adventure was interrupted, in fact, my entire life has been interrupted, by a nightmare come true.  I feel it is important to share with the world what really happened because those who love and care about Danny deserve to know the true facts (there is a lot of mis-information in the media).

Here is my story (in the G rated version):

On June 30, 2011, my husband Danny, myself, and our good friend Brian left for what was to be a 6 week surf trip through Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Bali.  Although we have traveled the world before, this was going to be the surf trip of a lifetime.  We spent our first two weeks surfing for hours every day in Sri Lanka. It was an incredible and unforgettable time.  
We arrived in Sumatra around July 17th and spent our first week at a surf camp located on a beach break in the Krui region of West Lampung.  We then moved to a camp about half an hour away, located on an incredible reef break called Ujuong Bocur.  We had surfed this point a few times during the previous week.
On the morning of Sunday, July 24 around 8:00 a.m. Danny and Brian paddled out among a dozen or so other surfers at Ujuong Bocur.  The waves were 8-10 feet and although they were peeling perfectly across the point, the currents were incredibly strong and there was a lot of water moving on the inside (where a surfer will typically get off of the wave). Around 9:30 a.m a local photographer approached our camp (located right on the beach) and asked me “do you know whose surf board this is”.  It only took a few seconds for me to realize it was Danny’s.  The leash had snapped at the ankle.  I frantically ran down onto the beach and within a few moments Brian had paddled in to see where Danny was.  Another surfer who had been out said that he had been tangled with Danny’s board on the inside but never saw Danny.  There is no evidence that this surfer hit Danny or that his board hit Danny’s board.  We believe that after falling off of a wave, Danny hit his head on the reef and went unconscious immediately.
Brian and I spent the next 4 days looking for Danny.  Brian paddled out to look, snorkeled and free dove to look into underwater caves in the reef.  We both spent countless hours combing over the inside of the break on the reef for miles.  The Indonesians did send a search and rescue team who utilized all available resources on Day 3.  There were also around 30 surfers staying at adjacent surf camps who assisted us in the search daily.
On the morning of July 28th, Brian and I had started our morning walk down the beach to search for Danny. We had made it maybe a mile or so down when we got word that a fisherman in a village hours away had found the body of a Westerner and the clothing description matched Danny’s.  Danny had drifted from Tanjung Setia Beach Surfing Area, Pesisir Selatan, Lampung, Indonesia to Kaur Selatan, Bengkulu, Indonesia; close to 100 miles in approximately 96 hours. 
It took us approximately another week to settle things in Indonesia and to bring Danny back home.   We are eternally thankful to Jason and Ayu at Damai Bungalows for their dedication, love and support in helping us find Danny and bring him home.  We are also thankful to all of the fishermen, surfers and the Search and Rescue Teams, translators, and everyone in the United States who provided us with tips and contacts who may have been valuable in our search.  
I can imagine no greater challenge in life than this experience.  It is a tragic reminder that life is fragile, that we should take nothing for granted and that, as one of Danny’s tattoos read, our wealth should be weighed in spirit.  

It's interesting that I have titled my blog "Surfing Through Life" because this is where life gets serious and surfing seems less important on some levels.  On the day of Danny's memorial service (August 7, 2011) we had a paddle-out.  At the time I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of people around.  I had a dozen offers for people to separate the ashes or paddle them out for me but it's something I felt strongly I needed to do for Danny.  It was incredible work just to find him and get him home, and as his wife, and his love, I felt it my responsibility and honor to bring him back to where he belongs (in the ocean).  It was mostly important to me to catch a wave after doing that.  Danny would be so upset if I stopped surfing because of this.  I did catch a wave and it felt great.
Brian and I bringing Danny home where he belongs
Brian and I paddled out a couple of days after that.  I have to admit, although I love the feeling of being on a wave, that was one of the most stressful and intimidating sessions I have ever had. From flashbacks of the reef when I'm duck-diving to needing to know where Brian is on every wave at all times, it was stressful.  I know that it will get easier in time and I understand the stressors involved for me (I am after all a social worker).  I know that I will get back to the place where surfing is fun eventually.
Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am. I prefer determined, not a victim, brave maybe, and I am partial to my brother telling me that I am "more gangster" than anyone he has ever met.  Putting on a backpack with Danny's ashes in it, paddling out in a swarm of people and then letting him go in the ocean while everyone screamed was overwhelming, intimidating, heartbreaking and satisfying all at the same time.  
So, I am home, and continue to run, will soon be back to yoga, and will continue surfing through life. 

Peace and Waves

Saturday, July 16, 2011


So, we have been in Sumatra a few days now and it was no easy feat getting here.  It began with a 7 hour (insane, winding, passing around blind curves at 60 miles an hour) drive from Arugam Bay to Colombo, then slept on floor for a few hours in airport, then a 4 hour flight to an airport (can't even remember which one) then stayed there for about 8 hours, then an hour flight to another airport, didn't have time to sleep there but waited a few hours to check in, then a half hour flight, then waited 3.5 hours for the ride that never showed, then another 7 hour drive through the jungle.  Needless to say we were exhausted for a while.

Sumatra is BEAUTIFUL! The coral reefs are really pretty.  The waves (as I expected) are very heavy.  The place we are currently staying for the first week (Mandiri Surf Club) is not quite what we expected. I have re-named it "Boys Club" because besides the girl who runs it, I am the only girl here (with 14 guys) (not totally complaining about that).  There are 2 toilets, no sinks at all and the shower is a pipe with a hole that hangs from the ceiling (i prefer the outdoor shower at this point).  It's not all that bad just took some getting used to.  The food is good and fresh but a lot of starches and carbs.  

The boys have been surfing the main point which was really big the first few days (out the back it was well overhead).  I surfed Mandiri beach break the other day and got a few waves. Also got WORKED.  It's a very very heavy beach break, and the waves are bigger than they look from the beach.  It breaks very shallow on the inside so there were a few duck dives where I was pinned under my board on the sand (Surprise!).  That always bothers me because if anything, I feel I am a strong duck diver.  I managed to get a few waves anyways before heading in from that session. It was however, enough to put a little fear into me as to how heavy the waves are this side of the world.  I am trying not to let that shake my confidence but at the same time I do not really want to get worked like that again any time soon.

To get around, we have been riding motorbikes with surf racks.  For now, I am just riding on the back of Danny's bike.  It's funny, I am so nervous about them and you drive around and see a pregnant woman and her 3 small kids all on one bike, no helmets and a sack of groceries.   The best part about driving around is that all of the little kids are so stoked to see you.  They yell out "Hello Mister!" to you and try to high five you while you cruise bye.  Pretty fun!

That pretty much sums it up so far.  We are meeting a lot of great people here which is always an advantage of traveling and surfing.  Before the end of the week we are going to ride elephants! I will update again when I can and add photos (the internet is very slow here so it has been difficult to be in touch).  

I hope you all are creating your own adventures this summer!

~Peace and Waves~


Friday, July 8, 2011

It's nice not knowing or caring what day it is anymore...

Daily Offering

 I was going to title this blog "Sri Lanka Day..." but I don't know what day number it is and I don't really feel the need to count back or look at a calendar.  The days pass in how many sessions, good waves, and banana milkshakes with ice cream I had.  (Oh, and the "local coffee" is so dark and thick it looks like motor oil and tastes chocolatey... so delicious!)  It doesn't get any better than this!

Lighthouse is my favorite wave here so far

Monsoon, our TukTuk Driver!
We have been trying to explore some other surf spots other than Arugam Bay. Yesterday Potuville Point proved small and mushy (although I managed to snag a super long wave it was mush).  There was an exciting naked man running around on the beach who then put on clothes and got into a wrestling match (where he dominated).  Good times!

Arugam Bay this morning

Today, Arugam Bay was FIRING! Sets with 10 foot faces coming through consistently.  I got some great shots of the guys. I surfed the inside today and it proved very frustrating. Very slow and mushy.  I need something in between the outside and the inside. Hoping to get back to the top of the point tomorrow for some sets that swing wide.

So far, trip of a lifetime is just that!  It's nice to get away from the people and situations that stress me out and get a fresh perspective on life.  One of my goals besides to improve my surfing this summer is to work on my self confidence and not letting what other people do or think affect me so much.  All my life I have struggled with this.  I am who I am, take it or leave it.  I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes that encourages me on the topic of being genuine:

"Re-examine all that you have been told and dismiss that which insults your soul" - Walt Whitman

~Peace and Waves~

Monkey Business

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sri Lanka Day 2

Curls complements of the humidity!
We made it! After an 11.5 hour flight, then a 7 hour flight, then a 9 hour drive, we made it to Arugam Bay safely! The first night was spent near the airport as we arrived too tired to make the 9 hour drive to the beach.  It is very hot and humid here as evidenced by my hair.  It's going to be an amazing trip!

 The surf has been small and very crowded which can be frustrating.  I was told by one guy that I am being "too polite" by not dropping in. Imagine! People drop in on each other constantly and it has been driving me nuts but, I found a little inside wave today and had it all to myself for a bit. Worth the wait. Hopefully when the swell picks up in a few days things will get better for me as far as getting more quality waves.  I am finding that the more frustrated I get, the less fun surfing is (and that is the opposite of why I surf).

The place itself is beautiful.  Colorful boats line the shore in front of lush vegetation.  The people are friendly and welcoming and the water is warm and beautiful.  I feel so blessed to be here! To think that this is only the beginning of our adventures... We are hoping to spot some elephants and crocodiles at sunset today on a little outing. More to come!

~Peace and Waves~

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Preparing for an Adventure!

It's incredible how fast life seems to go by sometimes.  I have been at my job for a year now (an awesome year!), we have been married over 3 years now, another year of surfing etc... and now SUMMER!!! Dan and I decided a while ago that we wanted to do one more huge surf trip before creating little grommies and all of that good stuff so, we are preparing for our biggest trip to date.  We are doing a 6 week surf trip that will include (2 weeks in each spot) Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Bali.
This shot is from my first trip to Bali in 2007. Hoping for a repeat performance!

As fast as life moves, I feel very ready! We planned the trip out so that the waves will hopefully progress from easiest (Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka is supposed to be a very fun and playful wave, not too heavy) to heaviest (if too heavy, I will get my photography going).  Our friend Brian is joining us for the entire trip and 2 others will meet up in Bali.  This is the adventure of a lifetime which I hope will include shredding and improving my surf skills (a LOT), hiking, riding elephants, seeing some incredible wildlife, meeting new people, eating amazing food and experiencing a new culture.  To us, THAT is what vacation is all about.  

To prepare for this trip, I have been doing heated vinyasa yoga a few times a week (up until last week), running regularly, doing my push ups and of course surfing waist high mush when it rolls through.  We have the house rented out and all is ready to go.  That being said, please follow the blog as I will be documenting the whole trip and blogging frequently.  Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we will be doing a LOT of traveling and a lot of surfing.

All that's left to pack is the almighty board bag:-)
~Peace and Waves~


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wave Searching Vehicles

As the summer in Long Beach gets busier, parking becomes a nightmare.  May I introduce to you, my new wave searching vehicle!  (Sweet birthday present!).  A bell to annoyingly ring at people in the bike lane on the boardwalk, a basket for my stuff, and (of course) board racks on the back! Too bad we don't have any waves right now (I'm talking Lake Atlantic).  Time to cruise over to my local surf shop (gotta support) then head to Target so that I can organize the surf/laundry room better. I know you are looking forward to photos and words on organizing!

~Peace and Waves~


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pretty Purple

I finally finished painting my board. It didn't come out as great as the last time but I think once the sun fades it a tiny bit it will be good.

 I didn't end up surfing today as we went to Connecticut to celebrate Nana's 90th birthday.  What an amazing life she has lived so far! She inspires me to live a more beautiful life. I hope that you find inspiration in someone or something every day.

~Peace and Waves~