I connected with KC Deane through Albee Layer, who intro’d us on email with the subject line “ur first surf sponsor.” Yes, KC — a professional skier and mountain biker — would now officially become a triple threat. I explained the project to him over the phone.
“It’s called Take Me Awayco,” I said. “We invite athletes to travel somewhere awesome with just a backpack. They connect with a local host, use Awayco, experience the joy of light travel and discovering new gear. They document the journey and share with their friends. Simple as that.”
Three months later, with a favorable swell and winds forecast, we pulled the trigger. The destination? San Francisco. That’s right, with all the warm water destinations we have around the globe, KC chose SF. “I’ve always wanted to surf big Ocean Beach,” he told me. “And it’s my dream to surf Maverick’s.”
I was a little nervous about the second part. I didn’t want to be the tour guide that led some ski lord to his watery grave, but I figured maybe he was just posturing.
We agreed to meet at SFO. I was coming in from Hawaii, him from L.A.. When I landed I called a Lyft and swooped KC up at his terminal. He was wearing a leather jacket, carrying a stylish duffel and had perfect hair. With my sweatpants and off-brand roller, I had second thoughts on bringing him back to my house. My girlfriend was there.
DAY 1 – Fog, or, How Can You Surf What You Cannot See?
We awoke not to offshore winds but to pea-soup fog. The kind so thick that people use umbrellas and the Surfline cams look like they’ve been spray painted a sad Russian grey.
Welcome to San Francisco, KC. Let’s get some coffee.
KC loves coffee. We went to Avenues, the neighborhood caffeine dispensary and Awayco partner. We sipped Verve coffee and pawed the surfboards inside. Christensons and Haydens and Pandas, oh my. Since we couldn’t see the surf, and wanted to hedge our bets, we booked the 8’0” Christenson Carrera, the perfect board for big Ocean Beach, and a 5’10” Panda Rocket Fish, in case we decided to go surf under the Golden Gate Bridge.
As we drove back to my house, the fog lifted enough for us to get a glimpse of the chaos — a rapidly building swell, south winds, white water stacked seven lines deep. We had our Take Me Awayco plans, Ocean Beach had its own. KC was unfazed. As a skier, he’s used to waiting out bad weather. So we watched the Jaws comp, and our mutual friend Albee Layer wear a 50-foot lip as an ugly sweater, and waited for conditions to improve.
They got worse.
If we were to surf, we had to drive! South. To Pacifica. Where the south winds would be offshore…ish.
After a futile attempt to make it out on the north end, getting battered by double overhead sets, we retreated to the beach. Strangely, KC seemed to enjoy the beatings. He’d done an apnea course at some point and was excited to put it to the test.
We reset and walked to the south end where we paddled out with dry hoods, and let the current usher us back north. We found a few corners and more than a few beat downs. KC was happy on the Christenson gun, the biggest he’d ever ridden. “I thought it was going to be stiffer,” he said. “But when you’re riding it just feels like a normal board.”
Eventually, we both got caught inside and were unable to make it back out. The swell was building. The same swell from the Jaws comp was making its way to us. Fast. And KC kept asking about Maverick’s.
Day 2 – Maverick’s, or, So We’re Really Doing This?
“If you can’t make it out, wait here inside the lagoon,” I told KC before we got into the water at Maverick’s, “and I’ll get a Ski to come get you.”
“I’ll make it out,” he said.
We hopped in. Me on my 9’8” Paddilac and him on the 8’0” Christensen, and started paddling.
Step 1 – The Lagoon
This is an easy, annoying paddle. Washing machine vibes. KC was trailing behind, his board was much smaller than mine.
Step 2 – Around Mushroom Rock
This is the hard part of the paddle out, where you typically have to get through several, 8- to 10-foot whitewater lines or get sucked down to Blackhand Reef, where you don’t want to be. But thanks to the high tide and KC’s beginner’s luck, we made it out without issue.
Step 3- First impression
I spent this part of the paddle watching KC’s face, as he was experiencing that surreal moment when there’s nothing between you and Maverick’s. KC told me he’d dreamed of paddling out to Maverick’s for 20 years, and viewing 40 foot waves, with surfing ants sliding down them, is something that gets filed in the Life Highlights areas of your memory.
KC’s blue eyes got big. His permanent grin grew wider.
“This is so sick,” is about all he could come up with.
Closer to the lineup, we paused in the channel to watch it. While I was worried that KC was going to go rogue and try and chip into one “just to say he did it” (the worst reason to do anything), he was content to just sit and watch. Study and learn.
“It was so rad to see this place as a whole,” he told me after I grabbed a few waves. “Where the waves break. Who catches waves, who doesn’t. Where they sit. How far the people get dragged when they fall. It just makes it so much more real. Thanks for this.”
Day 3 – KC’s Gone, or, My House Smells Like Veggies
After the Mav’s sesh we returned our boards to Avenues. KC got another coffee and an avocado toast, the first bit of carbs I’d seen him eat in our 48 hours together. Then got a Lyft to the airport and flew back to L.A., leaving me with these three takeaways.
- My house smells like veggies. He cooked an offensive amount of brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. I suspect the leftovers will go bad.
- Multisport athletes bring their expertise into other arenas. KC’s not the best surfer in the world. But he’s athletic, asks questions and pays attention. A triple-threat in the making, to be sure.
- He’ll return. I recently heard Maverick’s legend Grant Washburn say that the best way to work yourself up to Mavericks is to put yourself in the way of the area’s biggest beach breaks, get beat, and like it. KC did. And he did.
Coming up here was the bait, and he bit. Seeing the waves at Maverick’s in-person set the hook. Now it’ll just slowly reel him back in.