INSIDEHOOK GEAR TRAILS, VOL IV.: COLDSMOKE CREATIVE DIRECTOR TALKS EXPLORING THE WINTER DESERT

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The biggest problem with getting outside in the City of Angels? Being spoiled for choice. We’re distilling that process by getting the goods straight from the experts with a recurring series called Gear Trails.

By the Editors of Insidehook

This time around, we’re tapping creative director Liam McAuliffe of Coldsmoke — makers of super stylish technical jackets — for his favorite winter activity near Los Angeles.

In brief: you’re going desert hiking and then skinny-dipping at a hidden waterfall.

And we’ve got all the gear to warm you up afterward.

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InsideHook: What is your favorite winter outdoor activity in CA?

Liam McAuliffe: My favorite winter outdoor activity in California, especially down here in SoCal, is getting out and exploring the desert wilderness areas that are too hot to fully enjoy during the rest of the year.

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IH: Why do you like the desert? 

LM: The desert is vast, desolate, quiet and hostile to most forms of life for much of the year. But during the winter, especially after the rains, the desert comes alive for a precious few weeks. Delicate wildflowers pushing up between the Joshua Trees and cacti paint the sandy basins with psychedelic, vibrant colors. A creek that’s usually dry but for a few stagnant rock pools, transforms into a rushing stream cascading into a double-tier waterfall feeding crystal clear swimming holes. Giant, otherworldly rock piles rising hundreds of feet from the desert floor provide endless climbing and scrambling routes. And winter is the time of year when a soak in a desert hot spring beneath a star-littered sky is most rewarding.

IH: Got a favorite desert? 

LM: Joshua Tree is the most accessible and dramatically beautiful destination to escape to. However, with the spread of Instagram-fueled outdoor culture, it’s become increasingly difficult to find a campsite, let alone a bit of the solitude the desert is famous for. That said, for someone new to the desert, I’d recommend getting your feet (very metaphorically) wet at J-Tree before pushing deeper into the 50,000 square miles that comprise the Mojave. I just got back from my first trip to the Kelso Dunes. It felt like a sci-fi planet, with dunes hundreds of feet high surrounded by dark granite mountains. You can hike to the top of the dunes and sand-board down. We encountered some kids with homemade, Mad Max-style sand sleds pulling 45 MPH runs. My favorite desert hike is in the Sespe Wilderness up around Ojai. There’s a challenging hike up to Matilija Falls that requires multiple river crossings and scrambling up a slot canyon to that double-tier waterfall. Well worth it, but not for the faint of heart.

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IH: What do you say to folks who think it seems like a lot of sand?

LM: All of these locations have their own unique features and character, which is what I appreciate most about the desert. For the casual observer, these places can feel harsh, uninviting and monotonous. But the more time you spend exploring the desert, the more sensitive you become to subtle phenomena like the changing light, rock patterns and the movement of a coyote on a distant rise.

IH: What Coldsmoke items do carry with you?
LM: The desert is extreme even in winter. In the high desert (up above 2,000 feet), pleasant 70 degree days drop below freezing at night. These temperature swings make it the perfect environment to develop and test for versatility, a key feature in all of our gear. During this recent trip to Kelso I hiked in my Alpha-lite bomber, then threw on the Winbloc joggers and my Wool Moto jacket at night when the temps plummeted.

We actually developed the Fidlock shorts on a hike up Sespe. We wanted shorts built of material burly enough to withstand rock abrasions, branches and prickly desert plants while scrambling, but that we could still wear swimming.

I never go into the desert without a hat. In the winter I wear our waxed Japanese Military cloth hat — it’s a bit warmer than your average hat and super durable. The desert beats everything up. I also just climbed the dunes in our new, as yet to be released, 3xdry pants that wick moisture so sweat never gets a chance to get cold — definitely a staple from here on out.

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IH: What sort of tips do you have for going there?

LM: Bring WAY more water than you think you’ll need. When it’s cold, it’s still extremely dry and you will get dehydrated. Sunblock and chapstick are also key. The desert looks tough, but the life there is doing everything it can to survive and is surprisingly fragile, so stay on trails, and pack out your trash. I sound like a park ranger, but when the features are so minimal, one shiny candy wrapper really stands out.

IH: Are there hole-in-the-wall bars or restaurants nearby that you always hit?

LM: If I’m in J-Tree, a trip over to Pappy and Harriet’s is a must. It’s always good to check their calendar for a chance to catch a world-class artist playing out under the stars. The ribs are pretty good too. Up in Ojai, nothing beats a buffalo burger and Moscow Mule at the Deer Lodge. Great log cabin ambience. And out by the Kelso Dunes we hit Peggy Sue’s, an iconic ’50s highway pie and burger joint with a turtle pond and metal King Kong and dinosaur statues. The biscuits and gravy are a good bet.

OUTDOOR AESTHETICS REVIEWS THE NEW WOOL KUNNAK SHIRT JACKET AND ALPHA-LITE BOMBER

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From the Editors of Outdoor Aesthetics

I’ve been watching the talented people from Coldsmoke since Outdoor Aesthetics began. In recent years, the still relatively young Urban Outdoor movement has seen the birth of lots of new brands, but just as many that have been unable to keep up. Only a few have been able to satisfy the increasing demand for clothing that is both functional and fashionable, and to consistently perform at the necessary high level. Coldsmoke continues to be one of these exceptional few that have not only successfully established themselves in the market, but continue to improve.

This young Californian brand has, over the last few years, slowly but steadily advanced their products. Clean, minimalist cuts; classic, timeless design. That’s just the first impression. Upon looking closer, the individual designs will surprise you with their use of advanced materials and Coldsmoke’s passion for detail.

Here I want to introduce you to two of our favourites from the current collection.

 

THE WOOL KUNNAK SHIRT

The Wool Kunnak Shirt Jacket is the revamped version of the Kunnak Shirt Jacket which we tested two years ago.

 

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It is the perfect top for that in-between time of year when it’s too cold to be warm and not yet cold enough to be cold. The Kunnak is a hybrid between a shirt and a jacket, with the versatility of both. You can wear it open when it’s warmer or zipped and buttoned up tight when it gets cold.

 

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The 2017 version of the Kunnak sees a subtle reworking of the cut and the material while retaining all the positives that made its predecessor such a special item of clothing.

 

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The main material consists of a naturally water-resistant light-weave Italian wool Melton lined with Japanese nylon. The Schoeller waterproof back panel and elbow patches for durability and protection from the elements also work wonderfully together. As with its predecessor, a stretch-rib shawl collar can be flipped up for extra comfort and protection from the elements. Also very useful are the zippered hand-warmer pockets with silicon-dipped zipper-pulls, a side-zip chest pocket and, on the inside, a media pocket.

At first glance, the Kunnak looks like a nice shirt, but then reveals itself to be one of the most versatile items of clothing that I know of, and the original has already earned a permanent hanger in my wardrobe.

All the materials used are of the highest quality and perfectly finished. You can really tell that Coldsmoke are proud to produce such exceptional pieces in California.

THE ALPHA-LITE BOMBER

Reading through the technical properties of the Alpha-Lite Bomber, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re holding an item of clothing from NASA that just happens to look like a stylish jacket.

 

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The Alpha-Lite features performance materials including Japanese water-repellent ripstop nylon, Polartec Alpha insulation, and YKK waterproof zippers. Polartec Alpha insulation was created for use in U.S. military Special Forces gear, allowing it to adapt to a wide range of activities and environments without the wearer having to shed or add layers. The insulation is made of low-density fibres that keep moisture vapour moving freely through the fabric, resulting in super-efficient regulation of warmth and transference of moisture.

 

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And the jacket feels amazingly good to wear. You hardly feel it, it is so light and thin, but notice immediately in colder temperatures its excellent insulating properties.

 

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Specifically the combination with the Kunnak Shirt Jacket has proven to be ideal. When these photos were taken, it was just above freezing and even after a long period of rest, the cold had not seeped in. Normally I would have already pulled out my thick down-jacket. Every time, I continue to be fascinated and impressed by materials like Polartec that despite taking up so little space can store so much warmth.

 

Also nice are the details such as the narrow, rubber zipper-pulls with velcro inside.

 

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And if the weather turns sour, you can combine it with a rain jacket and the Alpha-Lite becomes a warm mid-layer.

 

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It’s difficult to describe Coldsmoke in just a few words. With the Kunnak Shirt jacket and the Alpha-Lite Bomber, Coldsmoke proves again that it is possible to seamlessly combine fashion and functionality. The pieces are timeless enough to not be just a passing fad—so you’ll keep coming back to them over many years—and they’re so well designed as to avoid the cliché of functional outdoor clothing. Whether in sneakers or hiking books, the jackets will complement your look.

 

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Coldsmoke knows how to elegantly bridge the gap for us big city people with a passion for nature; they are urban and outdoor at the same time. Why buy lots of different clothes when one piece can be worn in so many ways?

I’m really happy to see how Coldsmoke has developed, and the recent opening of their flagship store confirms my feeling that the brand is continuing on the right road.

THE FIELD APPROVED: OUR FOUR SEASON eVENT ANORAK REVIEWED

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Coldsmoke Introduces Shadow eVent Anorak

Waterproof, breathable, perfectly minimal, and made in America for adventuring in the city and out

BY TF EDITORS

Is it just us or do seasons these days seem to just go on endlessly, then abruptly end overnight? Frequent, sizable temperature swings are commonplace, and weather in general is getting wetter by the day. So, since keeping our (gear) closet seasonally appropriate is all but impossible, we’re increasingly gravitating towards apparel and outwear designed to work across seasons, like the new Shadow eVent Anorak from Los Angeles-based technical apparel brand Coldsmoke.

 

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Made Stateside of waterproof eVent 3L shadow ripstop nylon—a bio-mimicking material composed of millions of tiny pores that allow excess heat and moisture to vent directly to the jacket’s exterior—with a moisture wicking Polartec silkweight mesh liner, the minimalist pullover is engineered to keep you dry, inside and out.

 

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The tech specs are grea, sure, but we wouldn’t be here writing about this sucker if it weren’t aesthetically superior too. The simple silhouette is enhanced with a side-zip for ease of entry, origami-inspired three-snap adjustable cuffs, hand warmer pockets, and a sizable kangaroo pocket for added storage. Ergonomically placed seams allow for full mobility too.

 

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While we haven’t held the Shadow eVent Anorak in hand personally, we are familiar with other technical offerings from Coldsmoke, so consider the sleek pullover vouched for.

 

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See more from The Field

 

 

 

“COLDSMOKE SUPPLY” OUR VENICE FLAGSHIP STORE, NOW OPEN

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For our local customers over the years who braved the one way streets and alleys of Venice Beach, sprinted up our stairs to try on gear while keeping an eye out for rabid meter maids, and tossed an exchange or two over our gate, this one’s for you: “Coldsmoke Supply” is open for business!

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At our new flagship store you can try on our full line of limited-run technical garments, and experience a selection of unique and adventurous goods created by our favorite brands from the USA and around the world.

 

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We chose all our goods on the criteria that they make you feel like you’ve made an unexpected discovery. And everything we offer—from our burliest outerwear to our scented candles—we use and love before we share them with you.

At Coldsmoke Supply you’ll find axes from Hults Bruk, handmade in the same Swedish forge since the 1600’s, eyewear from revered Japanese makers Native Sons,  Australian apothecary products from Grown Alchemist, classic candle-lanterns and survival gear crafted in Seattle by UCO since 1971, sustainably harvested incense from Incausa, masculine scented candles from P.F. Candle Co. and American-made Bags and accessories by Colfax Design Works, among many others.

 

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We wanted to create a space that imparted the elevated yet masculine vibe of the Coldsmoke gear you know and love. And we wanted it to feel really comfortable, like walking into a living room you wish was your own. Coldsmoke designers and Venice locals, Liam and Ceara, took inspiration for the store from the quintessential California blending of refined indoor and elemental outdoor spaces, combining airy and rustic textures of bleached birch wood, and burnt cedar in the Japanese technique called shou sugi ban, and added earthy natural tones of strap leather furniture from local makers Milwood Design.

 

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Coldsmoke Supply is set to host community events including panel discussions, art exhibits, and workshops in the coming months. Sign up for our newsletter to keep in touch and stay in the loop.

 

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Located at 222 Main Street, Venice CA, 90291, Coldsmoke Supply is open Monday-Saturday 11-6, and Sunday 12-5.

 

COLDSMOKE CHRONICLES: EXPLORING THE ALASKAN BACKCOUNTRY

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When Trevor Olsen and best buddy Brandon Baker told us about a trip they were planning into the Alaskan backcountry just as the seasons turned, we jumped at the chance to get our new Alpha-lite Pullover, Alpha-lite Bomber, eVent Shadow Anorak, and MA-1 jackets on their backs where they could be put to the test in a most unpredictable and demanding environment.

Gear in hand, Trevor and Brandon waisted no time, going straight from the airport to the trailhead of the Gold Mint Hut trail in Hatcher Pass where they hiked nine miles up-valley and sheltered through a night of snow in the pass’s iconic red hut. The next day they hoofed it nine miles further into a neighboring valley where wet boots were rewarded with breathtaking expanses.

From Hatcher Pass, they drove four hours north to Denali and hiked deep into the park, spending their last days camping at Wonder Lake, famous for its views of Mt. Denali, which rises  20,000 ft into the sky. Despite its size, and because of relentless cloud cover, Mt. Denali only shows itself to 20-30% of park visitors, and it kept itself hidden until Trevor and Brandon’s last morning in the park when they woke at sunrise to clear crisp clear skies and a glorious Mt. Denali, looming above them, blanketed in fresh snow.

 

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THROUGH CLOUDS AND WATER: A FILM ABOUT COLDWATER SURF CULTURE ON BRITAIN’S INDUSTRIAL NORTH COAST

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In this revealing short film, Tom Elliott and Simon Reichel, the duo known as A Common Future — explore the characters and culture of cold water surfing in Britain’s industrial north. Hardy locals brave freezing water and toxic waste to ride breakers along the smokestack dotted coastline they call home. “For the past few decades the factories have pumped vile stuff into that river mouth. In the words of the locals, if you go on the wrong day, the water fizzes,” says Elliot.   A spot called The Gare at the mouth of the river Tees churns out world-class walls in deep winter when you come out with icicles hanging off your face.

Through Clouds and Water from A Common Future

 

COLDSMOKE CHRONICLES: CRAFTING A LIFE ON MARTHA’S VINEYARD

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This summer we got a chance to visit woodworker and organic farmer Collins D. Heavener, at his studio and farm on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard. Many people fantasize about living off the land and honing their artistic craft in a rural paradise, but few share Collins’ talent and drive to work their dreams into reality.

CS: What brought you to Martha’s Vineyard and what’s kept you there?

Collins Heavener: I first washed ashore following a lady friend. But ultimately it was landscape, the people, my friends, the farm–the fact that, by some miracle, I’ve been able to make a living for myself doing two of favorite things–farming and furniture making. That keeps me.

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CS: Your favorite kind of wood and why?

CH: I can’t choose a favorite child. Though, Claro Walnut has been making decent grades lately.

CS: What’s the first piece of art you can remember making?

CH: I remember drawing a lot as a kid. Mostly copying the graphics of my favorite skateboards from the latest CCS mag. I’d fill reams of paper with colored pencil drawings with those.

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CS: Favorite artists/ Greatest influences?

CH: My greatest influences have by far always been my friends. I mean, there are some pretty incredible people in this world that I and many other people admire, revere, worship, whatever. But for me it’s been the shitheads I grew up skating with in Southern Vermont who influenced me the most. Some of their parents were carpenters and they’d help us build ramps and other stuff to skate. I’d lurk around their wood shops in total awe of the tools and piles of wood shavings. That was the genesis of my interest in woodworking. One of those shithead friends of mine, Israel Lund, is still one of my favorite artists.

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CS: Favorite, and least favorite thing about being a farmer?

CH: I love getting to interact with the people who cook and eat our produce. I manage the wholesale accounts and farmers market for our farm so I look forward to making the rounds with my chefs and seeing what they’re cooking up. The market is always a blast, I have a bunch of regulars and friends coming out to say hi, seeing what’s the best stuff coming out of the ground each week. I really like the contrast of the solitude you have in the field and the zoo that is the West Tisbury Farmers Market.

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Wearing: MA-1 Bomber, Topographic T-shirt , Fidlock Shorts

 

COLSMOKE CHRONICLES : BAJA SURF + MIXTAPE

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Words and tunes by Rory McAuliffe. Shots by Walker Cole

Featuring the upcoming Womens’ MA-1, and Alpha-lite Pullover

Here are some things that happened on the trip. 7 large people 9 surfboards one un-roadtested 3,000 dollar van. Stopped in Encinitas for plantain burritos. Crossed the border late afternoon and suited up as soon as we got to Gaviotas. Got yelled at for taking wine glasses down to beach. 4-7 ft swell. House was decorated inside almost entirely of white marble.

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Got delicious tacos at K23 taco surf. Had delicious seafood and margaritas in puerto Nuevo, sat next to the possible future mayor of Baja at a little restaurant there with ivy covered windows. Did some barefoot bouldering while waiting for the tide to be right. Lots of home cooked meals.

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The highway one between the border and Gaviotas was beautiful and the coastline was rugged, big cliffs and turquoise and white water. Guys sitting in the beds of pick up trucks in Mexico laughed at the 55mph top speed of the van as they sped by.

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COLDSMOKE CHRONICLES : COSTA RICA RAINY SEASON

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When we heard our friends Jamie and Taylor were headed down to Costa Rica during the rainy season we thought it would be the perfect occasion to test out our eVent waterproof and super breathable rain jackets and our new Fidlock travel shorts.

Words by Jamie:

For years now I’ve dreamt about surfing Pavones, one of the longest left hand point breaks in the world. So for my birthday we flew to Central Costa Rica, rented a car and adventured down south to the Costa Rica, Panama border.  We took a weeks time, surfing and finding unique accommodations along the way.  A true sense of freedom.  We surfed in warm water with macaws flying overhead.  Fact: macaws fly in pairs and mate for life, if one dies the other will too shortly after.  It was very romantic.

After a few days of driving, we finally made it to Pavones.  The waves were fun and the next few days consisted of nothing but surfing, eating, exploring the jungle, lounging in our bungalow and of course, more surfing.  It was a beautiful birthday to remember.

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FIELD TEST: THE NEW FIDLOCK SHORTS

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After a winter of record rains, it’s the perfect time of year to wander the So-Cal mountains in search of once-in-a-decade swimming holes and waterfalls.

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So a few weeks ago we drove north to Ojai’s Matilija valley, one of our favorite places on earth and spent the day scrambling through the deep gorges.

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The overgrown trails, steep boulder strewn ravines, and frequent swimming holes made this the perfect terrain to test our new Fidlock shorts.

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After hours of boulder hopping and creek crossings we were rewarded with an epic double-tiered waterfall.

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ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME ADVENTURE THROUGH JAPAN’S SNOW COUNTRY

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We outfitted #coldstoked winner Kellen Mohr and friends for a once-in-a-lifetime RV adventure through Japan’s  empire of powder. Words and #35mm photographs by Kellen Mohr. Video by Chris Naum

 

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Coldsmoke jackets safely stowed in our luggage, Chris and I boarded our flight to Tokyo with visions of bottomless powder, steaming ramen, and endless dry beers dancing in our heads as the California sun began to ooze over the Pacific. Who-knows-how-many-hours later, after lugging our ski bags through airports and on and off buses on the other side of the same ocean, we arrived in Rusutsu on the northern island of Hokkaido to see our friend Makenzie pull up in the van of our dreams, ready to whisk us to our waiting friends in the small cabin perched above Lake Tōya that would serve as our base camp for the next week.

 

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Days blurred together as we settled into a routine. Wake up, make breakfast, scramble around the cabin as the six of us gathered our gear for the day ahead, ski down the pump track we built down to the van, head for the hills, stop at a Seico Mart to grab a days worth of rice balls, cans of hot coffee, weird pastries, and tallboys, pull off the road to hit the infamous avalanche barriers that stand guard above Japan’s mountain passes, cruise into the lot at Kiroro Resort, acquire backcountry passes, and lap what the resort aptly calls the “Powder Zone” before beating a hasty retreat to a steaming onsen.

 

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Other days we elected to earn our turns, tumbling out of the van at a trailhead and skinning up through fairytale forests with the promise of deep stashes and powder slashes just around the corner. Before we knew it, a week had passed and we were trading the cabin in for a decidedly Japan-sized RV. Everything is smaller over there with the exception of the snowpack! The snow showed no signs of letting up at Kiroro, so we headed back, parked the RV in the base lot, and continued to pillage the Powder Zone.

 

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All too soon, we were dropping the RV off, saying goodbyes to the rest of the group, and Chris and I were headed to bask in the neon glow of Tokyo before our flight back to the US of A. We spent a sleepless 36 hours soaking in the sensory smorgasbord of Tokyo – from the eerily still imperial palace gardens to the hustle and bustle of Shibuya Crossing, the coziness of micro-restaurants tucked away in gas-lit alleys to the trolley-dodging chaos of the Tsukiji fish market, we roamed far and wide before boarding our flight home from the land of the rising sun.

 

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SNOW SURF: THE COLDWATER SURF PHOTOGRAPHY OF RYAN STRUCK

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Recently we linked up with photographer Ryan Struck, who brings “earn-your-turn” credentials and a talented eye to the task of capturing cold water surf stoke.

Ryan says, “The ‘Snow Surf’ series shows the coldest highs a surfer from the East Coast experiences. The water is mind numbing, quite literally after your first duck dive. I’ve definitely felt dazed shooting from the water after getting pounded by a big set, it really adds a different element to this pursuit of happiness.

Iceland, Alaska, and Norway are all the rage these days. Beyond the newly circulating surf photos people have been surfing in the snow and cold for decades. The Northeast is a beautiful and oft grumpy surf locale, the locs aren’t surfing for photos or marketing campaigns- they don’t want you shooting their waves at all. I respect that. Everyone pictured are friends of mine, we break bread and they trust I won’t blow their spot up when its firing. The surf community in the Northeast is a tight group and I’m ever inspired by their passion for wave riding, even in the snow.”

Enjoy!

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LISTEN TO THE SOOTHING SOUNDS OF A POLAR ICEBREAKER

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Noisy neighbors? Restless mind? Anxiety?  Press play on this recording of sub-zero reverberations titled “White Noise Sounds of Frozen Arctic Ocean with Polar Icebreaker Idling – Creating Delta Waves”.  A strangely satisfying 10-hour recording of distant howling wind, falling snow, and groaning ice. According to the video’s accompanying description, it was designed for “relaxation, meditation, study and sleep.” Vice calls it the “year’s best best ambient album.” We use it to channel arctic inspiration into next winter’s designs.