Exploring Catalina – The Backstories

There was a lot more to exploring Southern California’s Catalina Island than the paddling. Tahoe SUP Project: Explore, is the product of a decade long friendship between Tahoe SUP founder, Nate Brouwer and the Fuze Group’s Zac Smith. Having worked together in the past, they were eager to merge the creative vision of capturing standup paddling adventures and sharing their passion with the world.

Catalina was the first location for the project series and the Fuze Group team is busy editing the footage for the episode. Smith, as director on the series, is looking to create an experience that everyone can enjoy. “There are so many places that can be explored only by water,” he says. Standup is the perfect medium for all outdoor enthusiasts to get out there and discover some new places and adventures. Even if we just scratch the surface on what is possible, the Explore Project will be a tremendous success.”

This collaboration Smith and Brouwer is all about the flow of ideas. “I’m a huge admirer of Zac and the quality and creativity of Fuze Group.” says Brouwer. “It was a no brainer to work with them on this vehicle that will not only capture who we are as a company and why our boards are designed like they are but share our vision of standup paddling and the doors it can open to adventure.”

THE INSIDE LINE

Over the course of four days shooting Tahoe SUP Project: Explore Catalina, the learning curve was equally steep for paddlers, camera crew and captain. The logistics involved with shuttling 11 people, piles of camera equipment and four 14-foot boards around on a sailboat took plenty of sorting out. Add into that an impending gale force storm, a large aquatic predator and uncooperative water conditions, everybody on board had a dramatic story to tell.

Brandon Vedder of Fuze Group recounts the morning of the second day when a stiff onshore wind created washing machine conditions along a rugged stretch of coast:

“Three of us were in the zodiac shooting and filming the departure out of Shark Cove because the sailboat had to stay to the outside. The water was really swirling and swells were bouncing off the cliffs. I had never worked in conditions like that and it was getting worse. Dave and Ronnie had paddled around the point and we hung back with Whitney because it was starting to look unsafe. The zodiac started taking water over the back because there was no good direction to face. I’m thinking, shit, we got like thirty grand worth of equipment in this boat! Whitney was making ground so we made our way out to the sailboat to unload. The sailboat was getting slammed, rolling side to side. Pulling up alongside, we would see the keel one second and get almost sucked under the boat and when it lurched on a swell the other way the deck was right in your face. We tossed all the gear up to the guys on deck but when we would try to get ourselves onboard it was less than graceful. Zac grabbed a line when the boat rocked towards us and then was slammed against the hull as it swung 10 feet in the air. The whole thing was replayed when they were coming on with the boards. Good times.”


Captain Okie, owner of the 45-foot perry sailboat “Arabesque”, shares the harrowing scenario of sailing across the channel in the middle on the night. Out of gas and in 25 knots of wind, trying to make the fuel dock inside Redondo Harbor under sail.

“In the rush at sunset in Avalon to get pizza and beer and get out of there as early as possible before the storm, it looked like we had enough gas. It was a fun sail back, big water; good wind on our beam and the blackness was helping out some in the gang who were getting seasick. At the harbor mouth the wind was really on and the first run in was pushing us too close to the docks. We tacked inside the rock pile back out to set up a higher approach line. Ronnie was on deck readying the main and when we tacked again to turn back into the harbor, he got tossed across the deck when wind grabbed the main. He grabbed something because it looked like he was going overboard and then he slammed down into the lifelines. Now we had a good line on the fuel dock, dropped the main and the wind direction pinned us right into the dock. The storm really howled overnight and the whole next day so the decision to rock n roll when did was a good one.”

-All blogs by Ron Ayres

Look for the Fuze Group’s production of the video teaser in early April 2011.

Check out the Catalina Field Notes here.