The first day I met Tim Bluhm the rain was falling in buckets. Tim is a musician, surfer, traveler and an old California soul. He is the lead singer in the band, The Mother Hips, and also plays in his wife's band, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Once the rain subsided, both bands formed into one to give Fernandina Beach an epic musical performance. Over the next few days, Tim and I surfed and discussed SUPs and his newly found interest in the sport. What came of these talks was a collaboration between BOTE boards and the Gramblers - a paddle board that had the DNA of a traditional surf longboard. The BOTE Grambler was born.
Corey Cooper–owner and lead board designer for BOTE–and I spent the next few months working out the details of the Grambler, both in performance and aesthetics. What came out of the endless hours of conversation, prototyping and surf sessions–which I call “research”–was a board that will fill a transitional gap; A board that will surf soulfully in small to medium surf and also be able to move seamlessly into flat water recreational paddling.
With the design, shape and graphics package put to bed, we eagerly awaited the final product.
In the meantime, a plan was beginning to formulate on how to deliver the first production Grambler to it’s namesake. Every year a music event called the Hipnic goes down in one of the most beautiful and scenic areas in the United States - Big Sur, California. My buddy and music aficionado, Ody Anderson planted an idea to hand deliver the Grambler to Tim, Nicki and the Gramblers in Big Sur at their signature music festival! I was sold and The Grambler - Out For Delivery / PCH road trip was conceived. I was pretty stoked to say the least.
The planning of a surf trip is one of those things in life that ranks up there with a kid's anticipation of Christmas morning. This trip was no exception and the gear lists, the online recon for camping and surf spots, and all the traveling arrangements were made with the same excitement of ripping into those special gifts from Santa. The first person I contacted for road-trip advice was Sean Murphy. Sean is a world renowned photographer, surfer, and LA local. He became our host and guide and would document the trip with the insane imagery you now see on these pages. Ody Anderson was next to be added to the crew, not only for his hand in concepting this outing, but to add the positive vibe all road trips need. Shane Reynolds, videographer and all around ripper and media bad ass, rounded out our little band of misfits.
The day of our trip finally arrived. As we taxied down the runway on our way from east coast to west coast a phrase popped into my head that would define this trip (and be one of the hashtags for our Instagram posts) - #eastcoaststylewestcoastsoul - perfect. Sean picked us up from LAX in a large blacked out truck that looked more like a SWAT truck than a daily driver–a BOTE vehicle if there ever was one. We loaded our gear and headed out into the City of Angels to take a look around.
This was my first trip to central California and I wanted to make the most of our short time. After a quick detour to see surf legend Bruno Troadec and acquire one of his Breed single fins, we checked out Venice Beach, Malibu and a few other surf spots looking for some decent waves to wash off the air miles and get acquainted with the west coast waters. Coming from Florida, the first and most obvious difference is the water temperature.
Hell, we had been out of wetsuits for a good six weeks and California was just catching her breath after a super solid south swell that had given birth to some kind of freak cold water upwelling.
With the water hovering around 50 degrees, it took our breath away. This was in no way Kana Beach. I opted to swim out and do some bodysurfing using the BOTE Jackknife (hand plane) and Shane made a brief paddle out on his shortboard. After a solid few hours of fun waves and a somewhat regulated body temperature, we called it and headed back to the valley for authentic Mexican food and a few cold beers.
With the truck and trailer loaded down with camping gear, SUPs, and as much liquid sustenance to last us a day or two, we headed north on the 1 towards our first way point, Morro Bay. We looked for places of interest along our route and decided against visiting the Neverland Ranch and opted instead to drive through the small community of Guadalupe looking for the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. This area has been the setting for several films, including Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 Ten Commandments and scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Figured it might be cool to see (and maybe try some sand boarding?). Not so much, unless you like restriction signs that don’t allow you to leave the concrete. In retrospect, maybe the creepy Neverland Ranch would have been a better choice.
We continued north.
As quail scurried out of our path, we pulled into our campsite in Montana del Oro State Park where Tim and a friend, Bill Quirk, were there to greet us with a smile. Ever the adventurer, Sean whipped out his blow gun to test his marksmanship on some of the aforementioned birds. Tim and Bill’s smile quickly faded into disbelieving frowns. Once Sean was educated on the status of quail in California (State Bird), we took turns firing on a small plastic dinosaur, not as tasty as quail, but far less expensive in the long run. Tents were pitched, hammocks were hung, and fire gazing commenced as we all retired early with the anticipation of a dawn patrol the next morning.
One thing I have realized as I creep toward the half century mark is that when it comes to sleeping on the ground, I suck at it. I would rather be rolled down a hill in a tire and pecked by a flock of quail than endure the stiffness and pain from a restless night “sleeping” on the ground. There is no better way to shake off a little joint pain than to jump in the ocean and slide down some waves.
The next morning everyone was stoked to get out and surf. Of course, Tim had dibs on the Grambler…delivering it to Tim was the reason we had made this journey in the first place. We loaded the boards and headed to a spot called Sandspit just south of Morro Rock. It was a fun head high wave and we all spent hours trading boards and loving the way the Grambler flew down the line, was able to be cross stepped, and performed with soul. Our crew had a broad mix of surfing experience and the Grambler allowed everyone from near beginner to experienced long boarders to have a blast.
That evening we hiked out on the cliffs to catch the incredible sunset that only the Pacific can offer. Not only did we get a sunset that would have rivaled any painters wildest palette but also spotted a chunky right hand break down below. After watching two lone surfers catch wave after wave, we knew we had to check this out first thing the next day.
As another dawn cracked, the expectations were high. Out of the parking lot, Sean took the high trail to shoot from a killer vantage and the rest of us took the low trail to the break. With one guy out and another giving us a strange look, we jumped off the rocks and started our paddle out to the point.
Being the only one on a stand-up paddle board and understanding that localism still exists, I figured I had a target on my back.
We all stayed off the peak initially to get our bearings and show a little respect to the other guy already in the line-up. I glanced in towards the shore and noticed “stink-eye” hard charging right for me. “Here we go”, I thought, and braced for what would hopefully be only a verbal encounter. To my surprise, he paddled right past me and gave Shane (and his GoPro) a less than warm CA welcome and a run down of all the “local” rules we were breaking - cameras evidently being very high on that list. I believe had they known Sean was high up on the cliff shooting frame after frame, their heads would have exploded. Even though the local cold shoulder was chillier than the water, we all managed to surf some epic beefy swell and left the Dukes to guard their gem.
The drive north on the PCH is one that everyone should have on their bucket-list. If the PCH is the main artery of scenic CA, then Big Sur is the heart. We arrived at Fernwood campground in Big Sur, the site of the Hipnic, to find a super chill crowd of music fans, hippies and good vibes. This was the time and place we had planned, designed and traveled to be a part of. The culmination of surf and music lifestyle–and the Grambler–was at the center. With Tim already having surfed the Grambler, we still had to unveil and present the board “officially.” With a fire in the pit and guitars throwing tunes in the air, we introduced the board to Tim, Nicki and the Gramblers. After the oohs and aahs subsided, everyone sat around the fire and talked about how cool it was to merge cultures (surf & music) that people have such an emotional connection to, together, with something as simple as an SUP surf board.
This was a music festival after all, and it was time for the band to play. Day gave in to night and the rest of the evening was filled with great music and dancing, old and new friends, and a brand new board–the Grambler– resting easily under the California moon. As we sat there, listening to the music, Ody leans over to me and says “We ought to do this trip again next year.” I ’m way ahead of you buddy. Way ahead. Gramble on.