Editor’s note: Our friends at VAST have been wanting to explore the California coast by van and Porsche for some time now. When planning their adventure, though, they decided they’d go big and go all the way to Vancouver. After some careful planning and a rough start, they recently made their 17-day sojourn happen, and the photographic evidence is stunning. Here’s a peek into their quintessential jaunt up the Pacific Coast in all its glory. This is part three of a four-part series. Check out part 1 here, and part 2 here.
For the first time on our trip, we slept with a roof over our heads at the Airbnb, so everyone got a lot of rest, our batteries were charged, and we archived our photos and videos. Then, we were on our way to Mendocino. Our friends from Ocean Safari Outdoors make two trips up from Southern California to Mendocino each year for abalone diving expeditions. I’ve joined them a couple times in the past few years, and I’ve noticed that when the swell is up, the river mouth has some fun little waves. It just so happened that their trip this year coincided with ours, and I thought it would be fun to camp with them, free dive for some abalone, and possibly catch the little reef breaks that probably no one has ever surfed.
The drive to Mendocino takes a few hours, and the scenery was just as amazing as the other legs of our drive. But, there was one blind turn where, all of a sudden, we were driving through a thick redwood forest. It’s shockingly beautiful. We’d been anticipating seeing the lumbering giants the whole trip. Personally, I couldn’t wait to shoot the Porsche in the redwoods. Why? Because When I picked out the color for the Porsche, there was this image in my mind of the car driving through the redwoods, down to the coast, right up to the surf. My dream officially came true. I was lucky enough to get some photos of the car in the woods before a rainstorm hit, and we had to book it to the campgrounds.
The rain was still coming down hard when we got to Mendocino. The Ocean Safari crew was waiting for us when we got there. We set up camp as quickly as possible in the downpour. Hilariously, 20 minutes after we got drenched making our camp, the rain stopped, and the sun even tried to peek through the clouds. Lunch was an abalone feast.
After lunch we took a couple Zodiac inflatable boats up a river. On the trip, one of the guys told me that there was a big logging operation up this river about a hundred years ago. The river is beautiful, with some cool houses dotting the shores. We just took in the scene, looking at the remnants of the logging operation, thinking about our place on this planet. I wonder what the area was like before the logging, and I think about the destruction we often leave behind, and the effects we leave for future generations.
In the morning, I headed out with the Ocean Safari crew for a dive. There was a storm further up north and the ocean was choppy. We have to stay inside the bay with our Zodiacs, and the visibility in the water was poor – only about three feet. We made our dives quick because the swell was supposed to come up even bigger. On my first dive down, I noticed that the abalone colony was very healthy. Ten years ago, when I first started diving here, the abalone inside the bay were small, and you needed to travel into the open water to find the bigger, legal-sized ones. Now, even the ones in the bay were huge.
I’m told that the California coastline used to be full of abalone, but that in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the majority of the population south of the Bay Area completely died out. Well, they’re definitely healthy here, and I was stoked to see that environmental efforts are making a difference and we are also now taking care of our environment by regulating the fishing and hunting better. It’s clearly making a difference for our environment.
After diving, we cleaned up the catch, and fixed up a lunch of abalone and sea urchin. Then, we had to break camp, pack up the Vanagon Syncro, hop into Between Waves, and make our way to Humboldt. It’d been a few years since I’d come back to Mendocino, and I’m really going to miss it.
Humboldt, Day 1
We said our goodbyes to our hosts, Ocean Safari Scuba, and began to make our way to Humboldt to catch up with our good friend, and rider, Jalian Johnston. Jali has been going up to Humboldt for years and we’ve talked about checking out the coastline together for a while now. I was stoked we finally had a chance to see this surf/college town together.
As we left Mendocino, we were greeted by gorgeous rolling hills, so, of course, we pulled over for a photo shoot. There were a few dairy farms nearby, so we felt compelled to snap photos of the cars and the cows together, but quickly so we didn’t bother the grazing herd.
After the cow shoot, we agreed not to make any unnecessary stops. We still had a few hours on the road before getting to Humboldt and we wanted to catch the last daylight. But sure enough, after a beautiful drive through another redwood forest, the highway turned into a breathtaking coastal drive. We couldn’t help but stop and get the drone up in the air to capture the magnificent view, and as we were looking at the ocean, I noticed some white water and spray where there shouldn’t be any, about a half-a-mile out into the sea. We flew the drone out towards the area, and after a couple minutes of searching, we saw what was causing the spray – two adult whales and a calf swimming alongside the coastline. Unfortunately, the drone exhausted its range, and we needed to get back on the road.
The entire drive towards Humboldt is picturesque. The redwood forest becomes thicker and the trees bigger. Even though we were pressed for time, none of us had seen giant redwoods in person, so we took the scenic route and drove through the Avenue of the Giants – an old portion of highway that goes through a canopy of towering trees – before getting back on the 101.
It was almost dark by the time we got to Humboldt to meet up with Jalian. We grabbed a quick bite in Arcata, checked out the happening central plaza, and drove out to camp by the Klamath River. We were getting good at pitching camp in the rainy dark. After settling in, we called it an early night so we could get up early to check out the surf and experience Humboldt.
Sunrise was about 530 a.m. and we were up not long after that. It felt good to wake up to the crispy NorCal air—and the rain had finally let up. We camped in Klamath, but decided to go back down south towards Trinidad to surf. The swell was big and stormy up in Klamath, whereas Trinidad had a few coves with some protection, giving us a better chance at surfing. Jalian brings us to the state beach down in Trinidad to check it first. We were greeted by a few of Jalian’s friends, and we all decided that it was the best place to paddle out. The surf was still powerful and stormy looking, but supposedly it was just another NorCal surf day. Jalian paddled out first with his friends and we were able to get some great shots of them on the waves. The backdrop was an incredible rocky coastline ending with a bluff with a gorgeous tree line.
It was so beautiful that after a two-hour photo session, our photographer, Brian, decided to get the drone up again to get some footage before we left the beach. As we were chatting, we heard Brian cuss out lout, “Sh*t, I think I just crashed my drone.” Apparently, as Brian was trying to capture the boulders along the rocky coastline, he crashed the drone into the bluff. Luckily, it was still responding, and it looked like it crashed into an area we could hike to. Jalian’s local friend Pete recognized the location as being near College Point, so we quickly packed up and drove out to retrieve the drone.
We joked along the drive, trying to brighten the mood since Brian was devastated that he crashed the drone mid-trip. The chances of finding the drone were slim, but we still had to try. Pete knew the trails well, and we tried a few different ones to get us close to the drone’s GPS signal. After about 40 minutes of searching, Pete hiked down a cliffside and found the drone! One of the arms was broken, the propellers were damaged, and the gimbal was hanging on only by some wires, but we had it back. It was an incredible stroke of luck.
Our group stood on the bluff, looking back down toward where we were just surfing and laughing together. We decided to head to lunch, and then checked some other spots. On the hike back, it looked like there were some small, fun waves breaking inside the cove at College Point.
For lunch, we ordered some delicious deli-style sandwiches at a local market. We gobbled down the sandwiches in the parking lot, and then headed back out to look for more surf. Jalian said there was another very photogenic beach, but by the time we got there, the tide was too low for it to work. It was getting late again, and we’d had a long day, and those waves back at College Point were starting to get extremely tempting. Without wasting more time, we drove back to College Point, suited up, and biked down to the beach. The waves weren’t big, but the cove was serene and relaxing. Jalian and the photographer headed a bit further down the beach to find some punchier surf, and the rest of us relaxed in the cove and caught a few waves. It was a perfect beach day.
After surfing, we still had a bit of daylight left. Jalian decided to take us to a hiking trail nearby for us to see some of the biggest redwoods in the area. The giants were humbling to stand next to; some had been there for nearly a thousand years. That really puts in perspective how insignificant we are in relation to the world’s vastness.
Portland, Day 1
We woke up early again trying to make it into Coos Bay in time for an afternoon surf sesh. By then, the crew was getting used to the routine of waking up before daylight, tearing down camp super quick, and getting on the road. The first few days were a struggle, taking longer than expected, which made us lose precious daylight. Today, we were on the road with time to spare. Amped!
All is good except 20 minutes into our journey, we see the Syncro slow down and pull over to the shoulder. The engine just shut off and wouldn’t crank over. We tried different ways to diagnose the problem, but the more urgent matter was to find some place safe to pull over as we were sitting mid-turn in an uphill blind corner. Luckily about 10 minutes later, a CHP officer showed up and helped us push the van to the next turnout with his patrol car.
Just our luck, we had finally gotten on the road early, and the van broke down. We were about 15 miles south of Crescent City, but it was a Sunday and getting a mechanic to look at the van was next to impossible. Our options were slim, so we decided to tow her into Crescent City first, and then figure out what to do next.
If all things happen for a reason, the reason for this breakdown must have been to give us a chance to take our time while shooting both the Syncro and the Between Waves Porsche RWB inside a redwood forest as we waited for the tow truck. The backdrop was perfect, and the lighting was just right. Even the location where the CHP officer pushed the van into was spot-on. Then, as if Mother Nature were giving us a present, as we were chatting about how the evaporating condensation on the redwoods mists into the morning, the sun rose and shone through a redwood, creating a light halo with rainbow like colors. It was all natural light – our own little miracle.
The Vast way of life is about living in the moment, and making the most out of what you’re handed. “The journey is the destination,” so they say. If surfing has taught us anything, it’s this.
Eventually, the tow truck arrived and we made our way into Crescent City. Upon entering the city, we noticed a beautiful beach with great looking waves. It was hard to drive away from waves, but our first priority was to see if we could get our van back on the road quickly. We found a cafe to get a bite, and began calling around to help diagnose our problem. Seeing that it was Sunday, and we couldn’t afford to lose a day waiting on the van, we decided to bypass Coos Bay and tow the car into Portland. Although we knew we’d miss a spot we were anxious to check out, this decision gave us an extra night to figure out the problem.
It took a few hours to arrange the long-haul tow, and by the time we were ready to go, we even found a Vanagon expert in Portland who could take our Syncro as soon as we got into town.
The journey North took about six-and-a-half hours, and we arrived at the mechanic’s around 8 p.m. He looked at the van, and told us he was confident he could get us back on the road by the end of the next day. Relieved but exhausted, we had a late dinner and checked into an Airbnb for the evening.
Portland, Day 2
It was sweet to wake up with a roof over our heads. Camping is great, and nothing beats vibing out at the campfire with some awesome people, but after an exhausting day stressing about the van, and then the over 400-mile drive up, it was a blessing to have a clean, dry place to revive ourselves. We woke rejuvenated, and used up every outlet to recharge our cameras, phones, battery packs, electric razors, and Bluetooth speakers. We even had time to swing by a nearby coffee shop for breakfast. It was a cruise-y morning, giving us time to chill out before the meet-up with Poler Stuff co-founder and creative director Benji Wagner.
We arrived at the Poler Stuff Portland shop around 11 a.m., and Benji was there to greet us. Benji was kind enough to set us up with a lot of our camping gear, so we were super familiar with a lot of the product. If you have not used a Poler Stuff sleeping bag, you are truly missing out. I’m already planning on wrapping myself up in one to wear around the house during the winter months.
We toured the shop, and chatted with Benji for a bit about the brand and Portland, before bidding goodbye. The crew had been eyeing an entire city block of food stands, so we headed over for lunch. The assortment of food was incredible and we get a little bit of everything.
Later that afternoon, we checked out All Good’s new Portland shop, grabbed a beer from one of the local breweries, and the three of us decided to get a spontaneous tattoo from one of the local tattoo artists. At the tattoo shop, we said goodbye to one of our photographers, Brian, who needed to fly back to L.A. for another gig. As we were finishing up getting inked, the mechanic called and said the van was ready! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day in PDX.
Timmy, the mechanic, explained it was an issue with our second battery, which caused the EVU fuse to blow. We picked up the Syncro, and then got another late dinner, before heading back to the Airbnb to call it a night. Tomorrow, we’ll cross the border for a mission to the much-anticipated Tofino peninsula on Vancouver Island in Canada!
Photos: Brian Filoteo and Sophea Khem
Edit: David Osorio