The Panama paddle – A new world record


Its always inspiring to learn of exciting, challenging and adventurous projects and when we heard from the team planning this journey it definitely ticked all of those boxes.

As you may have read in our previous blog posts two guys from Bristol planned a trip to Central America with a goal of establishing an all new prone paddle board distance record, adding some conservation work and adventure along the way. So when they approached us for some Northcore product sponsorship we jumped at the opportunity to help out in a small way and follow their trip as it unfolded. The Amazing news is that the guys smashed the current world prone paddle board record, paddling 374.2 miles! and they also scored an epic, sometimes dangerous but thrilling adventure and a lifetime of memories. Heres the final report from Rob Cunliffe one of the team:

World record holders Rob and Arron

World record holders Rob and Arron

“That’s it folks, its over. 374.2 miles paddled along the coastline of Panama, which is now the longest journey in the history of prone paddleboarding (not a bad effort considering it’s a 3000 year old sport).

We’ve just returned from paddling the near length of the Pearl Islands, from Punta Coco on Isla del Rey to Isla Contradora, adding 63 miles to the tally over 6 days and taking us almost 30 miles past the old world record. We’ve finally now run out of Pearls to paddle to and with the weather not playing ball for the final hop right up to the tip of the islands chain, there is an element of not wanting to push our luck and we’re going to call it a day at Isla Contradora; we each know most of our 9 lives are already spent.

The name Pearl Islands is deceiving, bringing to mind images of islands of spectacular beauty and tropical paradise. Indeed the islands are beautiful but they are also exceptionally wild except for two islands in the north which have golf buggies buzzing all over them. Fans of Bear Grylls and Survivor might like to note that these shows were shot on these islands precisely because of their remoteness. So we were hoping for a final paddle in luxury, knocking at the door of millionaires mansions’ every night; instead we were forced to sleep rough most nights and treated to the same tortuous insect load that had tormented us for the first 311 miles and a sun with such ferocity that finding and carrying enough water became our biggest concern, particularly after I ate something dodgy on day 1 and did not recover quickly. At least my feet had just about recovered enough to run to the toilet.

Despite this, we did find some Pearls in the Pearl Islands and enjoyed great hospitality from some real life treasure hunters. We made some really exciting open ocean crossings between the islands and with strong tides to manage, it’s been a great test of our paddling prowess. Thankfully we didn’t spot any more big game on this leg but rather fittingly for the trip, we were forced to sludge out through a croccy mudflat immediately after an early morning bottle of bubbly to celebrate passing the old record. Nothing like a bit of dutch courage to ease our crocodile concerns.

Eventually we even managed to talk our way onto a lovely yacht and sail back to Panama City in style. Our final paddle was from the mooring into Panama City itself, no madding crowd to greet us; we slipped in quietly, just as we had done so many times before in the past few months, with only looks of bemusment to entertain us. We knew what we had achieved and we were proud of it.

We’ve finished the trip with a log book that reads:

  • 374.2 miles paddled over 63 days (including the hospital break and Manatee induced stoppages).
  • At around 1 paddle stroke a second, that equates to 720,000 strokes each to achieve this new world record.
  • We surveyed 11 rivers and 3 lagoons for Antillean Manatee
  • Discovering 3 Antillean Manatee populations that were previously unknown to the Western world (2 groups were found directly from our paddleboards and 1 population was already known about by a local conservation team).
  • 6 shark sightings (3 deadly, 3 small or harmless).
  • 4 bouts of diarrheal illness, 2 spider bites, 2 ear infections, 2 badly burnt feet, 2 ticks removed, 2 sets of calves with second degree sun burns, and 1 million infuriating bites from every insect imaginable.
  • 4 GPS’s, 4 digital cameras and a laptop are no more.
Rob and Arron Panama

Rob and Arron Panama

In the mean time we’ve 2 weeks of R and R to enjoy the taste of success and put some weight back on, surf, watch the world cup and enjoy a few cold beers. It’s going to take us that long to adjust to a life without paddling. We hope you’ve enjoyed following the journey as much as we’ve enjoyed participating in it. For now we’re off to rehydrate in Panama City. Dos cervezas por favour…

A huge thank you for supporting us from a jubilated Panama Paddle team,

Rob and Arron

Smugglers, sharks, storms and broken boards!


Robert and Arron’s world record paddle board attempt in Panama has become an epic tale of adventure and survival, with massive highs and lows being experienced during a journey which is coming towards an end with the record in their sights. We hope the items of Northcore kit they’ve taken with them have been of some help during their amazing trip. Heres the update from Robert:

“As if the expedition wasn’t hot enough already, I decided, while in the middle of nowhere, to pour boiling water on both feet. Thankfully this is not a walking expedition but thus began the most elaborate evacuation plan in paddleboarding history. We had planned an emergency route off of the coastline but we hadn’t a clue if it was possible with two prone paddleboards in tow. In all, 8 modes of transport were used to get from the mud hut the injury occurred in to the hospital In Panama City. Anyway more about that in a moment.

Rob and Arron

Rob and Arron

Firstly I’d like to confirm that we are indeed safely back in Panama City AND that the Atlantic leg of the trip has been a smashing success, albeit with a few minor complications! It all started with some chance meetings and fantastic morale boosting hospitality in Bocas del Toro over 30 days since our last update. We even managed a movie night with Ian Usher, the star of Ben Fogle’s, New Lives in the Wild, and a stay at Greenacres chocolate farm complete with some divine rum and chocolate liqueur.

Since then however, things have got a little wilder to say the least. Indeed, we’ve gone a little wilder, more feral, and it sounds dramatic but we’ve really had to to survive on this coastline; and there are a few events that despite being more exciting than a Bond girl, have rightly missed the updates to save unnecessary worry. We chose an extremely difficult coastline to paddle as it has enabled us to carry out some very exciting ecological exploration; chosing this route has however presented us with significant challenges and a certain element of danger.

Adventure accomodation

Adventure accomodation

As you should know by now, to make the journey harder for ourselves, we took on a vast project that has been to survey the entire north-eastern coastline of Panama for Antillean Manatee, one of the worlds’ rarest and most impressive mammals. There is very little known about them and that includes whether they live anywhere in Panama other than at the San San Pond Sak wetlands on border with Costa Rica and in the Panama Canal having been introduced there in the 50’s; the coastline between these two points has fantastic potential habitat but nobody has been there searching for them. I would like to point out, that despite being vast in size and weighing up to 2000lb’s, unlike many of their Floridian Manatee counterparts who have grown used to human contact, Antillean Manatee are extremely timid and nearly impossible to spot, living in the dark murky waters of large Central American rivers and able to hold their breath for up to 20 minutes at a time.

Elusive wee beasties

Elusive wee beasties

Not to fear we thought, why not add another challenge to the journey; besides we wouldn’t know if we had bitten off more than we could chew until we were chewing it, and at least it gave us specific rivers to aim for to keep the mileage going and break up the journey. We just had to accept that there was a distinct possibility of spending a lot of time doing this and finding none. The ridiculousness of our project was highlighted by an American Special Forces chap we met who was mightily impressed by our route and plans but wouldn’t stop chuckling to himself, ‘the doctor and the farmer team up to paddle Panama on a quest for Manatee’. He had seen active service throughout Central America, including in Panama and gave us some sobering advice before he left. The areas we were heading to now are wild, really wild. We were going prone and alone for this stretch and we had better be ready.

So we summoned up the courage to go for it and headed away from the crystal clear water and mazes of mangroves that was Bocas and headed down into the murky depths of the Laguna de Chiriqui; a huge bay surrounded by wetlands, right in the heart of the Comarca Ngobe-Bugle indigenous territory. Heading south we paddled over 70 miles in 6 days we were well on target for the 100 in 10 we’d set ourselves when we heard the first rumours of Manatee in the vicinity. Surprised and excited to hear this so soon, we broke from paddling, checked into the worst hotel in the world and began plotting Mission Manatee 1. All we had to do first was find out what an Antillean Manatee actually looked like at the local internet café and we were set (I am half joking, Arron is a biologist and had been researching Manatee before we left, I however had not and we would need as many trained eyes on the water as possible).

manatee

The first place we thought we should check was the Rio Mananti which was in the Ensenada Mananti. This sounded strangely like the word Manatee and a clue that Manatee detectives Sherlock Ford and Robert Watson were not going to miss. In fact it was in this river that we focussed all our search efforts over the next 4 days using pangas and dugout canoes and although we did at one point think we saw the nose of a Manatee, we couldn’t be sure and were prepared to leave feeling down on our luck. But then we realised this was a paddleboarding expedition! We hadn’t seen any crocs over the previous 4 days so we said sod it and made the hard paddle up the Rio Guariviara until the point at which it joins the Rio Mananti. From here we silently drifted down on our boards at less than a mile an hour. To any timid Manatee we figured we’d look like a log floating downriver and not a spear toting local in a dugout; we were hopeful a few may then reveal themselves.

Sure enough not far into the river we heard a snort. However turning we saw nothing and as we continued to drift further downriver towards its end, hope was beginning to fade. Then ‘ppppppphhhhhhhhhh’ there is was again, the distinctive heavy breathing of a surfacing Manatee and a nose poking just above the water line. Spellbound we frantically tried to take photos, legs now dangling in the croc infested mirth below. Unfortunately, having believed we’d captured evidence, we celebrated prematurely, scared off the Manatee and later discovered the shot had missed him or her entirely. Not to fear, this was a prospecting mission and we were jubilated to have found Manatee at a new location, bizarrely lost, given the name of the river and area, to the knowledge of all conservation groups in Panama, perhaps presumed to have been hunted to extinction many years ago.

So happy paddlers, we pushed on, heading away from the brown slop and crocs of Chiriqui and up the glorious Valiente Peninsula; a rugged peninsula of jagged rock faces and verdant jungle overhanging the ocean. Rounding the peninsula we thought we had lucked out and stopped at a beautiful natural harbour on an island near the indigenous settlement of Tobobe. The place was perfect, a true tropical island fantasy, golden beach, water clearer than glass, small enough to feel our own for the evening but large enough to explore with cliffs, coconut trees and even a hissing rock that shot a plume of salty spray into the air with each wave that surged beneath it. In fact it was such a clear and pleasant evening we decided not to sleep in the tent but to climb the rocks and sleep on top of a flat promontory above the breaking waves stargazing. This may have saved our lives.

A haven for smugglers

A haven for smugglers

Fortunately on that evening I’d had an Eboost before bed and so was wide awake watching the stars from the rocks when someone began signalling from the mainland, flash, flash, flash, it was being made repeatedly and straight towards us. Soon after a boat approached fast and pulled in at the beach, right in front of where our empty tent had been erected, paddleboards tucked in behind. It didn’t take long to put two and two together. These guys were not emergency bakers carrying flour and sugar to deliver through the night, nobody on this coastline baked, we knew as we had repeatedly tried to find cakes; by now running for so long on such a calorie deficit we had developed an acute and insatiable lust for fatty treats. Great, we couldn’t believe our luck. Two guys hopped off the boat and immediately started searching the beach with flashlights, a third, a comic book villain of a man, peculiarly relaxed, vest hugging a bulging stomach and adopting a grim smirk, remained on-board sat ominously on the load, seemingly waiting to see what or who his minions might drag back.

We bolted from the rocks before being spotted and scrambled the small cliff in complete darkness, gaining a view from the top of the hill. We couldn’t see minion number 2 and we didn’t know if they had left the beach to come looking for us, it was quite clear we weren’t in the tent and that we were disturbing their bake off. Lying still in the darkness we couldn’t decide if it was better to run (a long sharky swim to the nearest land in rough seas and total darkness), hide (there really was nowhere to hide on such a small island) or play dumb and return to our sleeping spot to pretend to be asleep. We temporarily chose option 3 while we weighed up the other two, best that they at least didn’t find us spying on them.

We soon changed our minds and opted to hide, huddled on rocks in the darkness, being soaked by surf and rain, clutching our drawn diving knives and SPOT emergency beacon and deciding whether we had it in us to ambush them if they had a gun; for whatever reason they didn’t come searching for us but we had no way to tell if they had robbed us, they may even have taken the paddleboards or have cast them out to sea as a warning. Later we heard a 2nd boat approach and leave, presumably to make the exchange and after 3 hours of occupying the island they left. Still 5 hours from daylight and safety and with lights still flashing like the clappers from the mainland we knew we were a long time from safe. At 3am a third boat came by, forcing us to dive for cover. They cruised around the island slowly, searching for something with torches, but carried on. Fortunately in the morning our tent and boards were still there and as we had run out of water we celebrated surviving with an hour of seawater desalination.

We had heard the coastline was bad for drug smuggling, cocaine making its way from Columbia northwards, it’s value rising with each passing country.  But we had a meeting with the local naval anti-drugs task force only a few days previously and been formed that all smuggling in this region was offshore and we would have nothing to worry about on our paddleboardson the coast . Unfortunately for us, this advice didn’t turn out to be entirely true. We had happened to stop on what must be one the most active drug exchange stations in the region but had survived and despite not having slept, were elated to have made it through unscathed. This was not something either of us ever wanted to repeat and we were extremely careful about where we chose to sleep from here in.

Before one of the boards was lost to a storm

Before one of the boards was lost to a storm

From here we headed out to Escudo de Veraguas, the island home of 5 endemic species and one of the islands Seacology, the charity we are supporting, are acting to protect. We had hoped to take the first wild photos of the endemic Salamander, Oedipina Maritima but learnt they are near impossible to find at this time of the year and live deep in the swamp. We gave it our best shot but had no luck. We did however have more luck finding pygmy sloths while circumnavigating the islands on our paddleboards. One of the rarest mammals in the world, with only 188 living exclusively on the island (see attached photos), it was incredible to meet up close in the mangrove.

Topping off a fantasy stay on Escudo with a spear caught crayfish supper we headed back to the mainland and resumed Mission Manatee; first traversing the longest beach in Panama over two and a half days and witnessing the largest turtle in the world, beach, lay and swim off into the night. Such has been the nature of the trip, something amazing or terrible happens without fail every single day. This particular day we had been forced to emergency beach owing to a large bull shark interrupting our 10 mile biscuit break, but were treated that evening to one of the greatest natural spectacles on earth. This section of the trip has been hard on the nerves but kind on the soul.

At the wetlands identified as our best chance of finding Manatee we were slightly gutted to have been beaten to it by a conservation team from the University of Panama by only a few days; although it became apparent Manatee had been known about here for some time and that it merely hadn’t been publicised yet. Despite this, their team had not heard of Manatee anywhere elsewhere on the coastline and so we were happy in our (for now) secret discovery and continued southwards. In total we surveyed 11 major rivers, each one wilder and rawer than the previous and the indigenous inhabitants all the more intrigued to have us visit.

In reality as we were white, arriving stealthily with boards people had never seen before and laden with cargo, it was suspicion that overtook intrigue the further south we went and we were treated with the worst hospitality either of us has encountered anywhere in the world. People in this region have an engrained fear of white visitors, presumably due to previous encounters or rumours of encounters with narco-traffickers. Some villages, particularly those alongside remote rivers, had never had white visitors before. It also didn’t help that none of the locals can grow a beard, so instantly we look like wolfman and billy goatee dropped in from space. We were at times treated like animals in a zoo at feeding time, crowds of locals studying our every mouthful of porridge.

Things became a little grating after a while of this treatment, no friendliness, no smiles, no normal human interaction, it was all rather bizarre to us and it sapped our energy each day trying to win the locals over. All they wanted to know was how much everything cost. All we wanted was to see a smile. After a 2nd night of dysentery and little sleep while surrounded by locals poking about our belongings and watching us eat every sodding mouthful of porridge I flipped and by way of a few universal expletives got them to give me some space while I ate, important as I was forcing food down while intermittently running for the bushes. I took on some bad karma and was to pay later that evening. That day things thus far hadn’t gone exactly to plan, a large shark less than 2 metres from my board had forced an emergency landing, the 2nd emergency shark evasion of the trip, and while cooking our favourite BeWell beef curry to celebrate surviving, our botched stove which had threatened for so long finally claimed a victim, toppling boiling water all over my uncovered feet. Of all the dangers we’d faced in the last 30 days, who’d have thought it would be a culinary disaster to befall us; only my mother could have predicted that one. We were a long way from help so I welped instructions to Arron Nightingale as he wrapped up my badly scolded feet and lay awake in the dirt that night for the third night straight. Loose bowels and burnt feet are not an ideal combination I can assure you.

I knew that the blisters formed from the burn would be sterile but that once they burst it would be nearly impossible to prevent infection; it was time to leave. So, to the evacuation.  There is only one land route off the entire northeastern coastline and fortunately we were only two days paddle from it. Unfortunately this turned out to be the most hellish 2 day paddle of the trip: more sharks, huge rivermouths, the largest reefs of the trip and a storm thrown in for good measure. Things started so well as by a strange change of fortunes from the day previous, by end of the first days paddle, having made it to within 7 miles of Calovebora and our ticket out of there, we chanced upon our 2nd Manatee sighting. After travelling over 105 miles since the Rio Manante, searching 11 rivers and spending countless hours in dugout canoes, we spotted Manatee in the ocean using the same reef for shelter that we had just used to land. So that was how we discovered our second lost population; a tremendous distraction from the fair degree of discomfort I was in. By the end of day two, the situation would turn out to be somewhat less rosy.

Setting off the next morning, it should have been a short simple hop around the reef to Calovebora. Unfortunately the Atlantic didn’t want to let us go without a good hiding and soon after setting off the weather took a dramatic turn for the worse. The swell which had been an average size when we left, steadily built in size and on top of this we were soon in the middle of one hell of a squall,  near gale force winds, blinding horizontal rain and visibility that made spotting outer reefs with large waves nearly impossible. To top it off we thought we spotted another shark which could now be tracking us. Bugger hey! As if things couldn’t be worse, the cross-shore wind switched to bolt onshore so now with the tops of the swell breaking, being side-swept from our boards was a real danger.

We had been forced over a mile out to sea to round the reef when just this happened to Arron, a rogue 8 footer washing him clean from the board. A terrifying 30m open water swim was to follow, head down, front crawl, praying the shark we’d seen had found a fish and buggered off already. He made it but this was a seriously dangerous situation, far worse than anything we had encountered in the previous 300 miles and entirely unpredictable. The storm could dissipate as quickly as it had formed or equally it could get worse. Typical that 1 mile from finishing on the Atlantic coastline and we were in the eye of the most ferocious storm we’d witnessed in 45 days.  Making it around the reef we were faced with a beach funnelling thousands of gallons of water from two enormous rivers in full flow with the heavy rains. You had to laugh, the beachbreak looked horrible, a cross between La Graviere and the Amazon river, huge lumpy, hollow closeouts, chocolate brown, with no discernible sets in the storm making it impossible to time our way in between waves as we usually did.

With the storm showing no signs of relenting and sharks about, the situation wasn’t going to get better by hanging around. We wished each other luck and charged into the chaos towards the beach! Unfortunately there was no good timing and we soon had a formidable set looming up behind us. I managed to back paddle over the first but got clobbered by the second, managing two full flips clinging to the 14 foot board but just managing to just keep a hold of it. Turning around I saw Arron who had managed to back paddle over the first two waves, held fast in the lip of a third particularly nasty looking Caribbean monster about to send him over the edge. I could see this wasn’t going to end well for board or paddler, stuck 7 feet high about to drop very heavily into shark infested water. I didn’t see the detonation but it must have been fantastic as I saw Arron emerge in a tangle of wood, rope and luggage. The 16 foot San O board had been snapped in two and was now being further disintegrated by each surge of whitewater. Fighting to free himself from the mess and shaken from a serious holdown the situation was serious but fortunately he struggled free and somehow managed to make the swim in despite the current and sharks with all the kit in tow. To give you an idea of quite how nasty the sea was, the locals had run down to help but wouldn’t come more than waist deep to help. In reality the situation had been unpleasant but not something we were unprepared to deal with if we had to, we are both used to waves of this size surfing, it was just another matter trying to get two fully laden paddleboards in safely and the shark factor, however remote definitely added some fear.

Most of the board was washed out to sea but we managed to salvage a memento from the remaining nose section.  The board which had kindly been donated by Larry Froley of Gray Whale Paddle had thus far survived remarkably well, barely a scratch on her and strong as an ox. Unfortunately no board could have survived such a fall, particularly when fully loaded with gear on deck; it was the death of our beloved Big Bird, never to be straddled or ridden again. But at least we were safe, had one board intact and had saved 2 months of precious footage in the cargo.

By this point the blisters on my burns had torn and my raw feet inevitably would get infected. So to reach safety and somewhere clean to treat the wounds, this crash landing was followed by a long sombre walk down the dark dank beach, two dugout canoe rides across two very swollen rivers, one terrifying motorboat ride UP rapids, 6hrs horse trekking into the mountains with Arron Schwartzernegger carrying Betty Blue the entire way at times knee deep in mud, two minibuses, one coach and a taxi. I spent Saturday night on a drip and some precautionary IV antibiotics for my by now rather swollen, probably infected feet, checking into the best hotel in town: free food, regular foot baths, opiates like smarties and nurses everywhere, Hospital Santo Tomas; I’m glad to report all is now well and on the mend.

In total for this leg of the trip we have travelled 311 miles over 46 days in the Atlantic Ocean, discovered 2 lost Manatee populations, survived a night of escape and evasion from drug smugglers and three emergency beachings (2 sharks and 1 storm); we’ve seen the largest turtle, the smallest sloth and circumnavigated one of the world’s most beautiful islands, Escudo de Veraguas. It has been a fantastic adventure so far and thank you to everyone who has supported us.

We’re definitely more weathered, beardier men than when we set off and with just 36 miles to a new world record, we’ve unfinished business to attend to. We’re currently planning the easiest and safest possible final foray in the Pearl Islands. Massive thanks to Mike Young of the Paddle Panama Center for lending us a paddleboard to allow us to continue. Time to finish this beast!

Corinne Evans Surf Girl Days


Northcore team rider Corinne Evans runs a series of summer surf training days, learn to surf lessons and surf camps dedicated to girls only, hosted in Cornwall, Devon, France and Wales. Part of the package for those attending includes a Northcore goodie pack!

Surf Day New

Surf Day Newquay

 

The most recent surf day was in Newquay last Sunday which saw Corinne’s Surf Tour play host to the first Intermediate workshop at Newquay Surfing School on Great Western Beach. Surf conditions where perfect and allowed all girls to progress out back and catch some green waves. The fun 2ft clean waves were surfed all morning and well into late afternoon, until everyone was surfed out. Delicious food and lots of yummy hot chocolate were consumed before they knuckled down and got on with the Nalu Beads workshop! As a special treat Corinne brought along her Sambora Beach Toes Nail polish for the girls to use whilst they reviewed footage. 

IMG_6892

Surf Tour owner Corinne had a great time, “I can’t express enough how proud I was and am of the all the girls who took part on Sunday. Everyone surfed so well and really took onboard all my hits and tips which I saw improve their surfing first hand! I can’t wait for the next Beginner/Intermediate Surf Day this Saturday in Wales!” 

What a difference a week makes


This time last week the UK bathed in glorious sunshine and perfect early summer temperatures but now with a low pressure firmly in charge and Easterly winds dragging in cold air and rain its more like winter again! However when the sun does come out Northcore team rider Corinne Evans is always the UK media go to girl for summer sun surfing images in Cornwall, complimenting the inevitable “Scorchio” headlines. Last weekend was no exception with Corinne yet again hitting the papers!

Corinne- Newquay

Corinne- Newquay

Corinne -Fistral Beach

Corinne -Fistral Beach

 

British Adventurers on track for paddle board world record


You may have seen from our earlier blog posts that we are closely following a world record paddle board attempt by two British Adventurers who are using some Northcore Kit on their expedition in central America. Below is the first update from Rob and Arron:

The Panama Paddle Expedition Update 1:

So, where to start, we’re 18 days into the paddle. We’ve had a tough start to the adventure, robbed on our first night, left mid ocean in high seas somewhere near the Panamanian border, we’re on our 4th GPS, GoPro’s and Oakleys lost to the drink. But hey, at least our bags are lighter. We’re trimmed down from 15kg each plus food and water to a more reasonable 10kg each including food and water.

Paddle boards- Panama

Paddle boards- Panama

And luck is relative, we’re lucky just to be out here, living this dream journey of ours. So thank you for the support that has enabled us to do this. We’ve two paddleboards in fine form, two paddlers feeling healthy and strong having finally recovered from the worst sun burn we’ve ever had, and rather than sitting melancholy on our ill fortunes during the first 10 days, we’re made a concerted effort to turn things around over this past week.

So we’re delighted to announce we’ve made the first paddleboard circumnavigations of the 2 largest islands of the Bocas del Toro Archipeligo, Isla Colon and Isla Bastimentos. Possibly these were the first human powered circumnavigations, totalling 41 miles over 5 days and 25 miles over 2 days respectively, with some hairy reefs and mangrove mazes to negotiate in the process.

We are now one third of the way to a new prone paddleboard world record with 113.5 miles under the boats. It always takes a while to name a boat, having become well acquainted with ours, the names came to us as if a dream. So if you here us referring to Betty Blue an Big Bird, hopefully you won’t assume we’ve gone crackers.

We even had time to surf a few spots in Bocas del Toro including the reefs of Paki point and Playa Paunch and a secret spot we came across as we came around Bastimentos. But I can assure you paddling a surfboard is not what you want to do on your days off from paddleboarding so after 100 miles of towing surfboards we’re going to leave them behind in Bocas and document the waves we see on our way south so we can return with a larger boat one day ion the future!

We’ve met some great people, our Spanish is steadily improving, being well acquanted with phrases such as ‘ustedes muy loco’ (you boys are nuts) and more ofen ‘Columbia!! Porque?’ (Why?!) to which we often struggle to find the answer! And we’ve even managed to catch our first fish!

So we’re heading due South again now, away from the difficult chop of the Caribbean and into the calm waters of Bahia Almirante.  So we’ve set ourselves a new target of 100 miles in 10 days, at the end of which awaits our first river to survey for Manatee, which is something very exciting to look forward to.

Beating back the sand flies, singing in the morning rains,

Rob and Arron

Surf Photographer Interview series: Roger Sharp


The Northcore journey has been an amazing one so far. I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with some really creative, articulate, interesting and inspirational individuals from all areas of our collective lifestyles (surfers, photographers, artists, writers, explorers and more). So we’re going to publish a series of interviews with these characters to share their work and delve into what makes them tick! For this piece we’d like to introduce to you British photographer and film maker Roger Sharp:

Dawnie

Dawnie

Q: How long have you been a surf photographer and where have you/where do you work now?

I’ve been messing around with waterproof cameras since I was a teenager but got serious and started the long process of learning the art properly in the early 90s. So I know how to make prints in a darkroom and all those mystical lost arts. First published shot was in 360 bodyboard mag in 1995, I went to uni with the Irish champ Tanya Ward so that was handy. I’ve been pro since 2000. I shoot and edit Carve magazine now and also do stuff for Surfing Life in Oz, Surfing in the US, Surfers in Germany and brands like O’Neill and Northcore. Previously I edited Fins mag (Ireland) for a year, SurfEurope for three and did my own magazine Slide for two years and have shot for loads of brands/newspapers/mags. 

Q: Which do you prefer stills or video?

I’ve been messing about with video since the ‘90s but it was so hard, and expensive, to edit and distribute in those days of tape. Since the advent of DSLRs that shoot video I’ve got back into it and with iMovie and Vimeo it’s amazingly easy to produce your own little films. It’s a whole different art, it’s exciting, challenging and fun. I love the simplicity of stills, video is ten times the work. Being inherently lazy I have to prefer stills. But with the GoPro on top of my water housing I can do both at the same time in the water which is amazing. You can check out my efforts here: https://vimeo.com/sharpy

Q: How often do you need to upgrade kit with technology moving so quickly?

I’ve been digital since 2005 and it was pretty much a new camera and new housing every two years for a while, which when the camera is a £1000 and the housing more it was pretty painful. Recently it’s settled down and I’ve had the same water camera, in the shape of a Canon 7D in an Aquatech housing, for four years now. My land camera is a Sony NEX7 which I’ve been using for a year now and so in love with it’s not even funny.

Q: If money was no object which camera body and lens would you have?

The Canon 1DX is awesome but I love my NEX7. It’s 10 frames a second, 24MP and tiny. I just need to get it in a housing.

Q: What kit would you recommend for someone starting out taking surf photos?

In the old days I’d have said an economic Canon body and a Sigma ‘bigma’ 150-500mm lens. Now there’s a sweet Tamron 150-600mm zoom which is getting rave reviews and under a grand. But the main thing is not rushing into taking long lens shots. You can take great surf pics on the kit zooms that come with DLSRs. People are too obsessed with equipment rather than technique. You can take surf pics on an iPhone if you compose it well. 

Q: What’s your favourite subject matter, surfers, landscape, water shots, empty waves, wildlife, sports, weddings! Etc

Water shots for sure. It’s just the funnest thing to do ever. I’ve been doing it for twenty years for fun and I’ll be doing it until my body gives up. Whether I’m getting paid to or not.

In The barrel

In The barrel

Q: What do you consider your finest achievement in your photographic/film career?

My first double spread in Surfer magazine, a fisheye watershot of Rob Machado in France in the late ‘90s, was a big moment. Not often us British guys get a look in the big league magazines. The rip was out of hand that day as well, I was running up the beach, swimming out, getting washed 200m down the coast shooting then getting out and doing it again. My favourite pic is the Andy Irons in France one, all the more poignant now he’s gone. 

Q: Do you have a scariest moment from when you’ve been taking shots- perhaps in the water?

Nearly drowned in the Maldives one year. It was on one of the O’Neill WQS events and we were doing a free surf shoot with the team. The small tender boat had gone to the island with the TV guys so Larry Haynes and I (legendary Hawaiian water filmer) had to swim for about half an hour from this big dive boat in the channel to the reef at Cokes. When we got there we got smashed by a 15 wave set, it was relentless and just bending, focussing and doubling up on the ledge we were on. I was seeing stars and getting to that point where I didn’t think I could swim under another wave. Larry got washed into the lagoon. It was only four foot as well but just whomping. Water photography is all about confidence and that rattled mine for a long time.

Backdoor on the North Shore is also utterly terrifying. When you’re swimming on your back you keep kicking the reef because it’s so shallow. A real easy place to get wounded.

Backdoor- Northshore

Backdoor- Northshore

Q: What has been your favourite wave/destination anywhere in the world to shoot?

My favourite place in the world is NW Ireland. I love the Bundoran area. So many sick waves and the people are great. There’s a short, little reef there that’s my happy place. Been shooting it for 15 years and when I first shot it we went and asked Richie Fitz what the wave was called, he said it ‘wasn’t even a wave’ and that ‘no one bothered with it’. Took a year or two to convince him to come surf it! It comes and goes in popularity and is rarely good but when it’s on I’m just snapping my face in half grinning. Thurso also is one of those places I can cruise for weeks in. Far afield I think my favourite place I’ve been is New Zealand.

Bundoran- The peak

Bundoran- The peak

Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring surf photographers?

Don’t obsess about gear. You can shoot great surf pics on ancient film cameras and you can pick up amazing manual focus lenses for 10% of the price of all singing all dancing autofocus lenses. Also don’t get into it for the money. There isn’t any. Do it because you love doing it. If and when you’re good enough to sell shots then that’s a handy way of paying off the gear and helping out with trip costs. The days of full time surf photog’s making a career of it are over. Shoot weddings for money and surfing for fun. Also remember to go surfing!

UK line up

UK line up

Q: Where can we view your work?

My work appears in most issues of Carve magazine and online I have a small portfolio at http://500px.com/surfphoto. I’m on Twitter @surf_photo and Instagram @surfphoto. 

 

 

 

The Panama world record paddle attempt begins


After weeks of training and acclimatization in Central America, Rob and Arron have now set off on their epic adventure in Panama. Their goal is to set a new prone paddle world record, surf some undiscovered spots and do some conservation work along the way. We’re stoked that they’ll be using some Northcore kit during the journey and we wish them all the very best.

Rob and Arron Panama

Rob and Arron Panama

Rob said today “It’s going to be a hard few months ahead of us, but hopefully the achy limbs, chapped lips and sunburnt noses will be worth it. This will hopefully be a benchmark journey for adventure prone paddleboarding. We sincerely hope we can inspire others through our journey and to contribute meaningfully to the conservation of our planet in the process”. 

Where is that shark?!! Enter the “Lydia Landfall lottery”


Enter the “Lydia Landfall lottery” and WIN a Cuddly shark and a FREE Northcore back pack to put her in!
Northcore will also make a donation to Ocearch shark research through rally.org
Lydia the Great white shark has been creating quite a stir since she was tagged by Ocearch as part of their tagging and shark conservation programme. She was tagged off the coast of Florida and has since been making her way across the Atlantic towards Western Europe making history as she goes being the first shark ever to be followed live online making this journey. Northcore would like to join in with the fun of tracking Lydia at the same time as supporting the amazing Ocearch conservation project, so we’re running a little competition!
#lydialandfall

#lydialandfall

  • To enter all you need to do is guess the landfall of Lydia which we will determine once she is approx 20 miles offshore.
  • Entries need to contain your guess of Country and nearest beach. This could be anywhere In Europe or North Africa
  • Entries can be posted on all of our social media platforms Including FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, GOOGLE+ and TWITTER. Just post your entry and hashtag it #lydialandfall
  • If Lydia doesn’t make landfall within a month we will revert to a Sweepstake style competition and select a winner at random
  • The competition closes on 20th April 2014. Winners will be notified by Social Media channels. For full rules on our competitions click here:
Lydia... where will she go next?

Lydia as of 17th March 2104… where will she go next?

Heres the moment that Lydia was captured, tagged and released off the coast of Florida.

OCEARCH is a non-profit organization with a global reach for unprecedented research on the ocean’s giants.

WHAT THEY DO – They support leading researchers and institutions seeking to attain groundbreaking data on the biology and health of sharks, in conjunction with research on shark life history and migration. The researchers we support work aboard the M/V OCEARCH, a 126′ vessel equipped with a custom 75,000 hydraulic lift and research platform, which serves as both mothership and at-­‐sea laboratory.

HOW THEY DO IT – OCEARCH fieldwork involves the attracting, catching, tagging, and bio-­‐sampling of sharks before they are released. The shark is monitored at all times under expert guidance and maintained on the platform by water over its gills. All fieldwork is done according to agreed and approved protocols based primarily on ethical considerations, and overseen by leading scientists.

For more info: http://www.ocearch.org/

 

 

Northcore support world record paddle board attempt


Here at Northcore we love the spirit of adventure so we’re always stoked to hear from individuals who are pushing boundaries, getting out there exploring, pursuing their dreams and often trying to make a positive difference along the way. One such project is from a small team of guys from Bristol who have recently set off to Central America with a goal of establishing an all new prone paddle board distance record, adding some conservation work and surfing along the way. So when they approached us for some product sponsorship we jumped at the opportunity to help out in a small way.

The guys who have planned the trip are called Rob and Arron and we sent them some Northcore

Arron and Rob

Arron and Rob

kit like leashes, travel packs, ding repair, soft racks, SUP carry slings and more. At present they are in Costa Rica training and prepping for the trip which is planned to start on 24th March. The guys will be taking stills and video along the way so we hope to update you as they go. Here’s a summary of their exciting plans:

The majority of the conservation work is towards the start of the paddle so they’re anticipating a slow start before increasing the paddle distances. One of the boards they will be paddling is a beautiful wooden 16ft San O’ board, the other is a stock 14ft prone, though slightly wider and more stable than a usual board.

Wooden 14ft San'O paddle board

Wooden 14ft San’O paddle board

As a loose framework for dates:

  • Begin 24th March
  • Reach the Panama Canal 5-6 weeks later around May 5th
  • Cross the canal (as far as they are permitted – to Gamboa and walking the final 16 miles to keep aligned with the human power side of things!) May 5th- 8th. Arrive in Panama City on the 9th. (+ a few R+R takes them to the 12th)
  • The final leg is route dependent. They will either have an escort boat and will make a long open ocean passage to the Perlas Archipelago and Island hop to their most south-easterly point, before crossing back to the mainland. OR they will continue along the south-west coastline. Both routes have their merits but they’re hoping to island hop if they can find a reliable boat captain.

Their aims for the paddle:

  • Set a new long distance world record for prone paddle boarding, not a small feat for a three thousand year old sport! We carry all our gear in dry bags on deck.

Conservation Goals:

  • Search for undiscovered populations of Antillean manatee at 5 locations identified as havingsuitable habitat.
manatee's

manatee’s

  • Determine the status of and hopefully thereafter take the first photos of a critically endangered Salamander, Oedipina maritima endemic to Isla Escudo de Veraguas.
  • Photosurvey the coastline as they go.

 

Surf Goals

Panama surf

Panama surf

  • To find and surf undiscovered spots along the way. As far as they can tell the coastline is as unexplored surf-wise as it is ecologically.
  • To record this journey sharing with the world images of a seldom visited and largely unexplored coastline.

Fundraising:

  • To support the environmental charity Seacology who run human-environment linked conservation projects in coastal Panama. www.seacology.com

Why Panama?

It’s an area they both visited in 2009 and were blown away by the beauty of the place and how untouched much of the country was. They also saw extensive destruction of habitat to make way for a booming tourist industry and made a promise to return, see parts of the country people don’t

Panama

Panama

usually get to see and in the process try and affect change by contributing with some of their own independent conservation work.

About Rob and Arron:

They are old school friends from Bristol. Arron is a trained conservationist and Rob is the team medic (he’s avoided the final year of Med school by doing the trip and will have to return in July) and has some expeditioning experience under his belt.

They are both keen surfers and paddle boarders though they admit a long long way from professional. They are quite ordinary guys, though both very athletic and with experience in adventure/ wilderness travel, who had a crazy dream 5 years ago, talked about it in the pub for 4 years and finally got serious about it for the past year.

Arron is most excited about finding his rare salamander and Rob by finding an idyllic point break somewhere along the way.

Northcore wish them the very best of luck in their venture and watch this space for updates and progress

 

 

Surf Photographer interview series: James Skerritt


One of the reasons for creating the Northcore brand was so that I could go surfing more often, get out there and explore some of the planets most remarkable landscapes and oceans and embrace the boundless opportunities for creativity in all its forms. It’s been an amazing journey so far where I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with some really creative, articulate, interesting and inspirational individuals from all areas of our collective lifestyles (surfers, photographers, artists, writers, explorers and more). So the plan is to publish a series of interviews with these characters to share their work and delve into what makes them tick! For this piece we’d like to introduce to you Irish photographer and film maker James Skerritt who we worked with on our short film “934″ which we shot one wild day in County Sligo with James clinging onto the back of our jetski! :

Co

County Clare

Q: how long have you been a surf photographer and where have you/where do you work now? I find the term surf photographer slightly strange and never really like to go by it but I have been taking photos for five years now. I work as a freelance camera operator. The nice thing with being freelance is that you are open to work anywhere you want. I am currently, and happily, based in Ireland for the winter but in the last year I have worked on projects in London, Italy and France

James surfing

James surfing

which have ranged from short films, documentaries, TV programs, music videos, music events and some surfing stuff while I have been home. Q: Which do you prefer stills or video? I change my mind on this question frequently. I have started a new portrait project, ‘Hello! Pleased to meet you’, where I take a portrait of someone I encounter every day for 2014. This has me very much into stills at the moment. I am also working on a series of short comedies and a very nice short documentary so I feel prety content in terms of getting to explore both stills and video. In the surfing world, I am working on a winter edit for Ollie O’Flaherty and a new project with Luis Eyre.

One of the benefits of a surf trip

One of the benefits of a surf trip

Q: How often do you need to upgrade kit with technology moving so quickly? I upgrade kit depending on my workflow. It is always great to see what new cameras are coming outand be aware of what you need but I think you can definitely get sucked into a cycle of always wanting the new toys. It’s probably the way we were raised. Q: If money was no object which camera body and lens would you have? If money was no object I would happily kick all my digital stuff out the window and shoot constantly on film!

Q: what kit would you recommend for someone starting out taking surf photos? It seems that every camera these days have printable image quality. My phone at the moment has the same megapixel as my very first SLR. When people think of surf photography they always try to get the biggest lens possible. I always have much more fun with smaller lenses; they make

West Coast Of Ireland

West Coast Of Ireland

you frame a shot rather than just having a wave and a surfer which can get more then tedious. The quality of the new gopro is mindblowing. Get that and just go surfing. Q: what’s your favourite subject mater, surfers, landscape, water shots, empty waves, wildlife,sports, weddings! Etc In relation to the ocean, my favourite thing to shoot is empties. Its a beautiful feeling swimming under and shooting a slabby empty wave that scares and excites you at the same time. I also have a portrait fetish. Both are things that I want to improve on.

Q: What do you consider your finest achievement in your photographic/film career? I am slowly getting to where I want to be in my life. I have lots of milestones that I am more than grateful for and proud of but nothing too major just yet. I made a short mockumentary called, ‘The Element – Behind the Scenes’, which followed a fictional character as he made a fictional surf film. At the first screening of the film I was unsure of how it would go down. At the end of the night a few different people came up to me praising the filming and then asking when the film is coming out. It was a nice feeling answering, ‘it’s all fictional’. I wouldn’t consider this my finest achievement but its a moment I liked very much.

Q: Do you have a scariest moment from when you’ve been taking shots- perhaps in the water? The scariest moment I have had in the water so far was the day my housing leaked. I jumped in and looked back at my port which had about an inch of water floating around it. It took a panicked few minutes to get back out again due to the rip. I remember just sitting on the reef in disbelief. I regretably rang a friend of mine that night to ask for advice when I got the reply, “Oh….. You F**ked man!” I left the camera dry for a few days and thankfully it worked. It was a depressing few days.

Q: What has been your favourite wave/destination anywhere in the world to shoot? The feeling of being at the bottom of the cliffs of Moher is yet to be beaten. I am prety sure I still don’t realize how privileged I am to have grown up in this part of the world.

Q: do you have any tips for aspiring Surf photographers? Surf more. I don’t think anyone gets into surf photography if they don’t surf. You are then left withthis strange and uneasy feeling wondering either to shoot or surf. Like everything in life, a healthy balance is always the way forward. Q: where can we view your work? Please view my work on my site: www.jamesskerrit.com