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News

Remote Shoreline Restorations

Stay Wild

Five Unruly Memories

By Surfrider Pacific Rim Chapter Manager Lilly Woodbury // @surfrider_pacificrim

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Looking for a way to make an unruly memory? Sign up to an adventure where you hop on a boat with a group of people you may or may not know, headed to a place where only non-human creatures reside, with your most weather resistant camping gear, and a few days of nourishment. Fortunately for us, this is what we get to experience all sweet summer long on the west coast of Vancouver Island. These remote shoreline cleanups are among the greatest adventures of Surfrider Pacific Rim’s efforts, and provide us with experiences that fuel our passion for protecting this great place through the rest of our campaigns and programs. If you’re not already familiar, Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the ocean, beaches and waves through a powerful activist network. 

Operating between Tofino and Ucluelet is the Surfrider Pacific Rim Chapter, whose focus is eliminating single use plastics, implementing progressive recycling practices, and working with youth, individuals, businesses and government to take positive action for our coastlines! Some of the work we are best known for is through our Love Your Beach Clean Program, and though this is only one part of a whole in what we do, it is essential to the rest of our efforts. Through our clean ups, we gain data that informs the rest of our programs and campaigns. 

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1) View From the Top

Two summers ago on Vargas Island, we left a clean up at Medallion beach back to our basecamp with a big exhale; we had collected ten one ton super sacs worth of marine debris, and we still needed to return to do more. As one volunteer remarked, it was though a plastic bomb went off, and our spirits were hanging low from this heavy experience. We headed back to our temporary home near sunset, and when we arrived at our rock drop on the outskirt of Cow Bay, and fellow volunteer, Colleen, who had been on another team came running down the rocks. A pilot from Victoria had landed his seaplane on Cow Bay to stay for the night, and had asked her to go on a scenic flight around Clayoquot and Nootka Sound. Fortunately for me, she insisted that they wait for my return. So, just like that, I hopped off the boat, ran as fast as I could manage, and then we hopped onto the plane and slid into thin air. 

We travelled north over Clayoquot to Nootka Sound and landed on Nootka Island, a place I had never stepped foot. We checked out a nearby waterfall and grabbed a couple of buoys, as they dotted the beach like giant confetti. With some laughs had, photos taken, and buoys in hand, we boarded the small craft back to Vargas. It was incredible to have my perspective shift so rapidly, from the minutiae scale with my fingers deep in the sand and soils collecting debris to the grand views of Vancouver Island’s rugged edge. Seeing the undeveloped shorelines, some of Canada’s remaining old growth rainforest, and the vast view of the sea from the plane felt particularly magical after doing such hard ground work. It was one of those moments where the beauty was hard to comprehend, you could only be with it, and rest a little easier with all of it in your heart.

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2) Sea Level

On the plane back from Nootka Sound, we touched ground as the sun went down, with the wind whistling through our colourful tents, bringing them to life. After another fire cooked dinner, I sauntered over to the river to do our daily dishes with my mentor, Michelle. As we walked over to complete this less favourable ritual, Humpback Whales came into the Bay. This isn’t a rare occurrence as whales often come to feed in Cow Bay, but it felt special. I said, “they’re coming to say thanks for everything we’ve done.” My eyes welled up as it was another reminder of why we do the work we do. To protect the wonderful web of life, with the hopes of achieving clean water and healthy beaches on a global level, and to ensure that people all around the world can experience the magnificence of our planet now and long hereafter. We face many challenges, but author Robin Wall Kimmerer remarked, “even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy.” Our continued existence is enough evidence to keep trying, and thus we tread forward with gratitude and active hope. 

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3) The Tracks We Find at Dusk

This memory includes waking up to wolf tracks, seeing their footprints as the reminders of who the true stewards of the beach are. We are lucky in these times to coexist with these creatures, and to restore not only the beaches from plastic pollution, but also the forests. Due to the severity of our storms and high tides, a lot of debris gets pushed past the beach into the vegetative line. I’ll never forget finding a large plastic bottle, which looked like it could have been a container for bleach, pierced with jagged bite marks all the way around it. Unfortunately, much of the pollution we create is recognized as food by all levels of the terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The ongoing lesson here is our species’ singular decisions have dramatic impacts on the whole, on an entire system that deserves a whole lot better.

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4) Nuu-chah-nulth Traditional Salmon Barbeques  

Nuu-chah-nulth Traditional salmon barbeques are one of the most soulful beach meals you can ever have. It’s prepared by skewing wild salmon, and weaving it between thin bendable branches, which safely hold the flesh over the fire. One of our remote clean experts, Jason Sam, always takes time out of an already wild day to prepare this meal, both meditatively, and methodically. Food transcends being just a meal when you watch the unfolding process of its making, to see its transformation, and to witness this away from a sterilized kitchen and in the greater outdoors. This dinner is always a favourite amongst our team, not only is it plastic and waste free, it connects us back to the most integral food source on the coast. Salmon are a keystone species in the Pacific Northwest; they are known as the lifeblood of this region, and are one of many species threatened by plastic pollution in our surrounding waters.

5) What Fires Provoke

Fires can conjure many things, and for our remote expeditions, they create a space for storytelling, and a chance to come back to our roots by bringing the team together under the stars. On our last trip in August, we sat down for our final fire and made up tales about buc miis, which is Nuu-chah-nulth for sasquatch. We laughed until we couldn’t breathe and caught lucky glimpses of shooting stars. When our eyes became heavy we retired back to our tents, to sleep on the earth once more on our small crescent beach. This may not be the most unusual memory, but it’s these simple moments that tap into the extraordinary nature of our existence. It’s the simple acts that feel the most sublime in remote areas: making coffee, sitting down after a long days work, and hearing people giggle around the fire while you’re bundled in your tent with a good book. These moments when we are all tired, dirty, and delirious after a day of collecting debris is when it seems like we’ve shed enough layers to ask more questions, explore the origins of our environmental dilemmas, and discover our place in system change efforts.  

At this time, we are called to all do something, something that will help turn around the world we’ve dramatically altered. What we try to show through all of our efforts, but comes across the clearest during remote expeditions, is that we can all positively shape the planet - and find avenues to do this in a way that fulfills us. In ways that quench our search for adventure. As I’ve found out through all of these unruly memories, is when you walk in the right direction for the healing of the earth, the universe will shower you in unexpected phenomena yet also help you see the beauty of everyday a little clearer.


The Surfrider Pacific Rim team will continue remote shoreline cleanups in the Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound. To volunteer, contact Lilly Woodbury at [email protected]. To donate to these restoration expeditions, visit HERE

Super Bloom Blunders

Stay Wild

Insta-fame Is Devastating Our Public Lands

Story by Mary Beth Skylis // @h1kertrash

Photo by Callianne Bachman // @theslyestfox

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Poppy fields blossomed all over Lake Elsinore’s mountains. Radiant hues riveted all eyes laid on them. News of the decade’s most iconic super bloom spread like wildfire, offering a perfect opportunity for Instagrammers to snap a selfie while lying in a field of poppies. 

But as poppies made Dorothy fall asleep traveling to Oz, so they seem to have impacted media influencers in their journey to be seen. The explosion of color forced the town of Lake Elsinore to accommodate 100,000 additional visitors over the weekend. While observing the luminescent fields of gold seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with it came once-in-a-lifetime traffic descending on the little town.

Walker Canyon, the home of the poppy explosion, temporarily closed down due to the devastating impacts of localized traffic. City officials called the super bloom effect a “safety emergency,” temporarily blocking visitors from entering in an attempt to prevent I-15 gridlocks. According to thedesertsun.com, “City employees worked seven days straight, 12 hours a day, trying to handle the influx of visitors.” The strain on Lake Elsinore’s economy was immense. 

In response to the activity, Instagrammers started using #horribleperson to describe poppy-enthusiasts who captured images of themselves laying in the fields or even picking flowers during the super bloom. While seeking the perfect image, little thought was paid to poppy picking effects. A single plant may seem like a small price to pay for a photo, but when 100,000 flowers lay prey to the hands of bystanders, the damage is catastrophic. Ambitious poppy-seekers even went so far as to slide down undeveloped mountain faces pursuing snapshots, dragging photo-friendly high heels through the fields. 

The Instagram effect doesn’t end in California. Driving through Nevada’s Mojave Desert, winding through Utah’s roads, one quickly finds oneself in a heaven named Zion National Park, which protects a six-mile canyon that receives upwards of 4,500,000 visitors per season: It’s a bucket-list item to tick for most travelers. 

While poppies aren’t covering the sandstone cliffs, some of the most iconic sights in the country are nestled in Zion Canyon. Growing interest in U.S. public lands can severely damage ecosystem gems like cryptobiotic soil—a desert crust that helps with sand erosion. Crypto is the crunchy substance found off of the beaten path and takes years develop, yet can be damaged with a single footstep.

Irresponsible choices wreak havoc on the local ecosystems and park infrastructures. Where does it end? The reality is that Insta-fame is devastating our public lands. What can be done? 

Please stop geo-tagging your photos. Let us become adventurers again by leaving exploration more ambiguous. We don’t need to know where you are to be inspired by the landscape. Educate yourself. Learn about the Leave No Trace principles, then apply them to your social media account. Geo-tagging inspires large audiences to travel to specific places rather than spreading out the foot traffic. Keep the mystery alive by leaving the location hashtag out. Take an active stance and use media to discuss irresponsible travel. The discussion just might save our public lands. 

Land Art

Stay Wild

An Epic Road Trip in Two Parts

Photos by Jennie Ross // @jennieross

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Part 1: 

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing  One Sees  

by Cat Kron // @jahwarriors

It was when the flu fully took hold at Spiral Jetty that I noticed our road trip had taken a turn. It had started innocently enough, with a rough plan to hit as many land artworks and points of interest as possible in the two-week span the three of us had allotted ourselves. Two weeks looks a certain way from a distance. It looks entirely different from the vantage of the Salt Lake Basin, with the Great Salt Lake herself behind Robert Smithson’s giant basalt earthwork extending endlessly into blank white as you crouch on the salty ground to vomit. Smithson’s seminal work—completed in 1970 at land art’s apex, and which remains among the movement’s best known—is nearly always discussed in the context of his interest in entropy, with the massive helix intended to degrade over time as the water submerged it. Now, squinting at it as the body I had once considered relatively self-contained threatened to spontaneously combust, I considered the glaring symbolism, the seemingly smug prescience of Smithson’s vision. 

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Land art—a movement that re-sited artworks from the gallery to the outdoors, often at a monumental scale and with organic materials such as rocks, dirt, and grass—took special hold in the American Southwest, where land was cheap. The region’s expansive skyline and unbroken, spare terrain also provided an ideal backdrop for “interventions” into the earth that might have gone unnoticed in, say, lower Manhattan, where many of these artists were based. Spiral Jetty was the culmination of Smithson’s investigations into entropy, with the terminal lake, whose shoreline shifts according to variations in the surrounding rivers that collect there, serving as an ideal collaborator to execute his idea of the object slowly eroding, dissolving into chaos.

Ironically, the artist’s efforts to harness this process of degradation have been challenged in the last two decades by prolonged drought in the area, which has caused the shore to recede far more than in previous decades, making Jetty visible to visitors once again. Until climate change disrupted his plans, Smithson’s intentionally unsaleable (since underwater) sculpture had served as the logical coda to land art’s ever-escalating attempts to remove the artwork from the commercial nexus its practitioners had become so disillusioned by. Many of Smithson’s peers—among them his widow Nancy Holt and friend/competitor Michael Heizer, both of whose earthwork installations we planned to see—sited their projects in remote locations scattered throughout the southwest, all but ensuring few viewers would ever encounter them in person. As a result of this gambit, most of the people who study these works have seen them only as represented by a handful of photographs and documentary films. I’d written about Holt’s Sun Tunnels the previous year, and now hurtling toward it from the backseat of a Toyota 4Runner, I considered whose chutzpah was worse: my own for having written about a work without having seen it (generally frowned upon among art writers), or these guys’, for making their work so prohibitively hard to get to. Sprawled over the car dog sharing the back, I muttered my discontent. “Elitism!” “He didn’t just excise the gallerists, he excised the viewer!” 

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In hindsight, perhaps I ought to have demurred the invitation and recommend this magazine assign said desert trek to a writer slightly more robust—one who can be in direct sun for more than 30 minutes at a time, whose eyes don’t water from the glare until they chap and crack. But we were on our way to Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels with high hopes that her cathedral-like cruciform cement tubes would provide a reset for bodies and nerves. The four Tunnels, with punched-out holes representing four constellations that throw discs of sunlight on their interiors, is tall enough to stand up inside and cool even at high noon. While across the Nevada border, Sun Tunnels is relatively adjacent to Spiral Jetty at only three hours away. Holt and Smithson purchased their properties within a few years of each other, and she was just beginning work on the tunnels when he died in an airplane crash in 1973. 

It’s always dangerous to talk up an artwork to others, let alone one you haven’t seen personally and which entails hours of travel in the desert. But unlike Spiral Jetty, my experience of which was overwhelmingly cloaked in dread, Sun Tunnels was as generous and enveloping as I’d imagined. I found myself lacking the words that might come to someone with deeper religious engagement, a closer understanding of the sacred. The emotional register of these works is what one misses in the photographs.

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After a night’s stopover, we ventured on to our final earthwork, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative. Somewhere in the springs, the flu virus had taken off on its next adventure with what I imagined were tiny flagella (perhaps only as far as my traveling companion, who would throw up in the grass later). As the prevailing theme of this trip would imply, the route to this piece was less than straightforward. There’s much to be said (and indeed much has been) about Heizer’s impetus to cut dual incisions into the mesa, which has been alternately interpreted as a display of raw masculine power and as a sort of bombastic peacocking, particularly as the site abuts an actual massive canyon. 

Yet having driven for hours and walked another through scrub brush, bleary, scraped, and driven by little more than gallows humor, upon finally encountering the work–or was that actually it?–I dissolved into laughter. What a silly use of energy this had all been. And how worth it.

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Part 2: 

A Case For Disappearing 

by Maude Standis // @maudechild

Contrary to popular belief and expanding recreational pot usage, modern life favors the sober and present. For example, consider the near-ubiquitous usage of the phrase “showing up,” copped from Alcoholic Anonymous, in everyday life.  Showing up is half the battle, you always hear. As if, just being here, there, or anywhere is the only immortality project worth our lives investment. Personally, I wonder if all this congratulatory attendance is missing the point. Maybe what we should really be focused on right now is disappearing. 

As early as 1903, American audiences flocked to magic shows where they watched scantily clad assistants disappear and dramatic escapes by illusionists like Houdini. Meanwhile, wealthy American automobilists used road trips to escape summer cocktail parties on Long Island and vanish into the wilds of the West. Of course, due to society’s perception of the car as a masculine entity, women were—and still are—often relegated to the passenger seat, which on a long road trip can feel more like being kidnapped than participating in a well-orchestrated vanishing act.

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The first thing to disappear on our road trip was a box filled with food, tarot cards, a game called “Confessions” that seems primarily designed to elicit social discomfort, our camping cookware, candles, and a set of knives. Tied to a roof rack, the box made an impressive escape from its roped confines about an hour outside of Los Angeles on the I-10.  We pulled over and walked in the rain to collect the battered remains of the box. Sadly, only a single “Confessions” card prompting players to share their most recent “dry-humping” experience was saved. 

“Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it,” writes Joshua Foer. But road trips do both, making them almost a black hole where time is subjected to spaghettification by the opposing forces of constant newness announcing itself alongside every road and the routine of singing along to the same six songs. 

The second thing to disappear was Cat as she scrambled up one of Noah Purifoy’s assemblage sculptures just outside of Joshua Tree. Purifoy, who was driven from Los Angeles due to escalating studio prices, at first was frightened by the Mojave’s deathly landscape. But the more time the artist spent building his sculpture garden, the more he incorporated the landscape’s harsh qualities into his work as if he were collaborating with the elements to make an alien world for all of us to enjoy. Purifoy died in 2004 on this very land when his former collaborator—wind—plotted with a lit cigarette to engulf his trailer in flames as he slept. 

Just outside of Sedona, one can visit—by private request only—the half-subterranean structures of Eliphante. A mixture of apocalyptic bunker and ritualistic art gallery, this hive of experimental structures doesn’t “show up” from a distance. Instead, they invite you to subsume yourself in artist Michael Kahn’s fantasy world. After just a few hours of walking through reptilian-scale-like mosaic walls, meeting a mourning peacock who patiently sits by a vase full of her deceased partner’s feathers, and touring the compound’s dreamy outdoor kitchen, you might just decide that you never want to leave. At least in the same form in which you arrived. 

The next time you are on a road trip, consider trying this disappearing trick. On tiny slips of paper, write as many identities as you can think of. Anything from “Ex-Horse Girl in the early aughts” to “Alien disguised as a teen mom.” Put these identities in a hat and select one. Okay, at the next thrift store, stop being you and embrace being a “Small-town Psychic.” Then drive out to somewhere with a view so epic it makes your heart flutter, and in your new identity dance La Macarena three times while taking shots of tequila. Done right, you’ll remember that road trips are metaphysical proof that no matter how hard you try to disappear, you can never truly escape yourself. And in the end, that’s something to celebrate. 

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Slow Fashion

Stay Wild

The Endangered Art of Batik

Story and Photos by Melani Sutedja // @meloweeniee // @journeyonshop

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“Production is behind,” the head artisan tells me. “It’s been raining all week, so the floor where we paint the batik has been wet. It floods here in Indonesia.”

Oh, I know. I came home at 5 a.m. from a night of drinking in Bali to an Airbnb flooded four inches deep in water. All the flimsy bras and panties in my 45lb pack were drenched. As my mother always said, that’s life on the island of Java.

I was on the Silk Road to source batik for my company’s upcoming “heritage” curation, eager to find yards of fine textiles, those similar to the ones my mother held onto while migrating to America from Indonesia. Finding identical yards of naturally-dyed, handmade batik to support a collection was harder than I thought. I was slowly realizing why this industry hadn’t made big moves in the mass-markets out West despite its allure: Good fabric takes time to make.

Batik is the ancient art form of wax-resistant dyeing. You’ve seen its lovechild in the Madiba shirts Nelson Mandela donned in South Africa and its predecessor in “crackled” Indian sarees. Yet, the 2000-year-old craft reached its highest expression in Indonesia. Wax is intricately hand-placed onto fabric, then dipped in dye. The fabric is eventually boiled to remove the wax, thereby exposing a pattern underneath the dye. Then re-waxing and re-dying is done as needed.

I met the artisan Dewi at her workshop in Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Indonesia. Dewi is part of a diminishing population keeping this craft alive. She led me up a makeshift wooden scaffolding, showcasing cloth of every color drying under a patch of sun.

Batik is an integral part of Indonesian life and ceremony even though it was historically reserved for the aristocracy. Each motif has its own story, its own power. The unabashedly-named Semen Rama pattern, for instance, looks like exotic birds swimming in enticing tendrils. The motifs actually symbolize the eight paths to virtue from the Indian epic Ramayana, enabling the wearer to lead a “semi” (translation: robust) life.

“What’s this one about?” I ask Dewi, pointing to a geometric square motif with florals. “Chastity,” she explains, much to my reddened cheeks. That one may be sacrilege for me to sport.

It took four months to create a decadent two-meter silk floral I’ve been ogling. Each square inch required painstaking work: hours of maneuvering wax on a pen-like canting or stamping the entire piece by hand. The average Indonesian salary of $280 a month can’t afford such luxuries, which is why the majority of batik production is increasingly becoming machine-made. Why spend hours on one meter of fabric when you can digitally mass-produce it to meet consumer demand?

“It’s a challenge for those of us who want to preserve this tradition and make it more sustainable,” says Dewi.

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It’s a story I’ll hear again and again from artisans I meet in Surakarta, Bali, and Madura. Higher food prices have led to weakened consumer purchasing power, while fluctuating global exchange rates lead manufacturers to seek alternatives to quality dyes, most of which are imported. It’s a lose-lose situation where machine printers pump out less-intricate batik designs with cheaper, synthetic dyes that have negative impacts on environmental and worker health.

Still, artisans like Dewi are hoping to lead the charge by harking back to their indigenous roots and using eco-friendly dyes that can be found locally in nature: blues from indigo plants, browns from soga trees, and reds from noon fruits. Though more time-consuming to extract, it ensures consumer and worker safety while preserving the environment. She hopes other batik manufacturers will also prioritize their craft in the face of fast fashion.

“This is the batik process that four generations of my family taught me, and I don’t intend on changing that anytime soon,” she says.

Meanwhile, I came back from Indonesia with a smaller curation than I had imagined. I don’t know if these type of piece will still exist centuries from now. They remind me of my mother’s cloth, adorned with different stories to tell, some with names salacious enough to raise eyebrows. 

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Check out the collection // @journeyonshop