What's behind the relentlessness of those who are drawn to the outdoors? Join Klean Ambassador Brett Edwards as he captures the story of friend Boomer Olivas on a journey across the globe, stringing one passion for the outdoors in to another.
It's hard to say how it all began. But it is easy to say where...
The outdoors. It is a pretty special place. A place that has provided and blessed me in so many ways. A place as loud as it is quiet. A place with as much solitude as there is chaos. I was barely walking the time I first slid on snow and began tossing lines into every body of water I could get to. I was sort of a lost kid, growing up trying to make sense of a concrete jungle in the suburbs of Los Angeles with an outdoor-mind, more interested in the rest of the world’s offerings.
I was always into action sports. I have a strong family of homegrown friends, mended through sports - all outdoors. Our family had a small condo in the Sierra’s that we would frequent throughout the year. Fly-fishing, skiing, snowboarding, backpacking, mountain bikes… we did it all. And my brother, seven years older, basically let me learn how (and how not) to make dumb choices. Good grades meant lift tickets. But “C’s” meant “Can’t Drive Car”. Math. Got it. It turned out I would do pretty good in school. So, stay in school. But not too much. Or else you will be a first-grader reading novels with six-graders during normal reading time because you were too weird but actually just way ahead of your own classmates. My Dad read me lots of Curious George books and I was reading by the time I reached kindergarten. Remember that lost kid trying to make sense in a concrete jungle? He was the monkey climbing the foul pole in right field waiting for the fireman to rescue him on the last page. That is premier literature.
My dad and I bonded early over playing baseball. He has thrown me thousands of buckets of batting cage practice, of which I could never repay his arm. It is probably why he became slightly ambidextrous during my teenage years… Odd realization just now. Anyways, this carried into fly-fishing, backpacking and off-piste snowboarding through the trees if I wore my helmet. If he ever had to stay home for work, Mom was there to take over and have her best hand at tying knots and taking me fishing. Eventually, I learned how to do all of the fishing stuff myself quite early on and she became a wonderful fishing companion, ultimately joining just about every trip with a tackle box of her own. My brother, equally in tune with being outside, usually just sat on my head and farted while doing other big brother things. He also taught me to surf and snowboard. I would not be half the individual that I am today without his mentorship as well. Thanks for the farts, Dude.
There is no dream destination. I don't expect there ever will be. I suppose that is what makes the outdoors so special - that unknowing of what is next. The oceans and the mountains, along with all of the mysterious energies that the forces of nature creates - they consistently entice the onlooker.
Living in Oregon has been the real epitome of this. Volcanos scour at you from every direction. I scheduled my college courses at the University of Oregon so that I could get fresh tracks on one of them but still return before 4pm classes. After college (and a six-month journey living out of a car and working on farms while surfing around New Zealand), I became a sales analyst here in Portland. I was crunching beer data in a cubicle, having to arrive early enough on summer days so that I could jet out to the coast and catch a few hours of surf and wave the day goodbye from the sea. I initially came to Oregon to chase mountains, streams, and snow. Subconsciously, I was Jeremy Jones and Travis Rice morphed into some adrenaline junky of a child, but with a humble approach and enough decent decision-making to make a decent career living a kickass lifestyle.
When I first got here, I was an eighteen year old freshman watching repeats of That’s It, That’s All, and jumping on the UO Outdoor Program van up to the mountains with my buddies every chance I could. I was hiking to every untouched patch of snow that was accessible. I had a happy heart, a huge smile, and hulk thighs from hiking fresh powdycakes all the time. It was bliss. I was in heaven. I was so strong. I pressed repeat on this track for a few years. I suppose I could have been more invested back on campus, networking with students within the business school and priming a future there. I chose to network with good humans that share similar passions instead. We have continued to share ideas and a few beers along the way. I am pretty stoked on the results. It is also why I get to write here today!
Never did my twenty year old self expect to be a surf bum in the Pacific Northwest. I started surfing when I was sixteen. It was on Southern California beaches with my friends and portable BBQ’s. There were often only sloshy waves, but with comfortably cool water. Surfers were competitive, and really good. Parking cost twenty bucks. But it was high school, and it was the beach. And despite growing up hating sand, it grew on me. And an alternative to snowboarding for summer? Sure! I was a noob on a surfboard that was way too small for my skill level and a belly full of burgers. It seemed so unlikely just years prior. To this day, I am still terrified by water - nearly all bodies of it. But in the right environment, with the right people, it developed into something special and life changing, unexpectedly. The more company, the better. Usually...
My junior year of college, I studied in Dunedin, New Zealand - a geographical clustercluck of unique topographies and weird, flightless birds. I saw it on a Travis Rice film once. The snow looked good. And they had a cool business tourism program. The nearest university though, was in Dunedin. A city three hours from any altitude and I would be there during a summer term. I figured I was probably in for a lot of rugby, beer, and maybe some Lord of the Rings culture on the side. Dunedin is a pretty rad coastal spot on a peninsula near the southern tip of New Zealand. It is one of the last larger cities on Earth you can visit before getting pretty Antarctic.
I had done some research. There were about 100 surf breaks within an hour's drive of Dunedin. Cold surf breaks. Cold surf breaks exposed to even colder antarctic swells that were constant but that would require a thick wetsuit, an expensive board, and a thicker investment in a vehicle to access any of them. I heard big sharks also like New Zealand. But, penguins too. Four kinds of penguins! I had barely put down my luggage after traveling 24 hours to Middle Earth, when my flatmate Shane had me renting a board and suit at the university rec center (wtf? They have these at school?) He, myself, and that clunky old purple hatchback of his managed two surfboards to St. Kilda beach within thirty minutes, and that was it. I had zero intention of surfing in New Zealand. Just not worth it for only a semester, I thought.
Within minutes of landing though, I was both glued to and mesmerized by my first right-hand ride over the clearest, crystal clean, ice-cold New Zealand ocean-water that I have ever had the privilege to flop my fins in.
Looking toward shore, I may as well have been surfing beneath the cliffs of Dover. Everything is stunning, and I am in my happy place. Shane is stoked too. And I have surfed and swam with a penguin now. Less than a week later, I had tapped into my savings and bought a car. I learned to drive stick on the other side of the road in about ten minutes during the pouring rain at night. Terrifying experience, but valuable moving forward. At which point I had already found a used board and suit in town. The prior board-owner… Haha. This kiwi was kind enough to leave the surfboard on his porch if I left the money in his mailbox, because he was not home. Rare exchange? So is finding out thirty minutes later that he had been surfing the same spot. He was exiting the water and saw me carrying his board into it. “Oi! BEEMER?!” We shared a moment of stoke. He even let me borrow his leash because I could not buy one in time to beat sunset. And surfing without a leash sucks.
Oh, Kiwi’s. Best. People. Ever. I was hooked. I was obsessed. I returned again years later, for another six months. Now, a year in New Zealand collectively and I have yet to ride snow there… Oops. But, I was quickly exploring every nook and cranny of the country. And then eventually Indonesia, and Costa Rica, and now my new home in the PNW in search of empty waves with good people and fewer meaningless distractions. Every once in a while along the way, you get ran out of the water by a gargantuan sea lion, or tear some skin off on a reef. Or get sea lice in your board shorts. Maybe a chronic illness. Man I hate all of those things. It’s wild out there. But it does something to us. I still live in Portland. Oregon as a whole has so much of the spirit and landscape of these other volcanic, coastal destinations around it. Maybe volcanos are the draw… hmm. Bored of riding warm snow in April on Mt. Hood once… I bailed by lunch with enough time to grab my surfboard and get to the coast for a few hours of surf and a sunset. Pretty magical place we have here.
There have been many pains, speed bumps and low points throughout all of this. There have even been walls along the way. A few years ago, it turns out that a few of these pains are actually Lyme disease, and already in the chronic stages. I did not snowboard a single day last year. Surfing is much more minimal. Turns out raging sciatica and a lack of homeostasis does not like its legs hanging off of chairlifts or severely cool weather. No chairlits, eh? Okay. Backcountry riding and avalanche certification was the answer! That was fun. Briefly. Turns out inclines on legs are even worse. And being sweaty and cold simultaneously is often a scary episode waiting to happen. Talk about scary episodes… they’re even worse when in other countries. Things have been on hold a bit. Things have been weird a bit. But, not knowing what is to come next - I have kept an outdoor mindset. And it keeps me grounded.
Water has become very therapeutic. Surfing has become my ultimate therapy. The lack of physical resistance, combined with adrenaline… with an added dose of meditation. Yeah, that does it. While far from comfortably accomplished in the PNW, it can work well. It continues to inspire hope to get back out there. And I have even gotten some more friends into it. Having friends join in on your therapy... Sounds selfish, but it is awesome! It’s at least manageable some days and for that I am thankful. I have come to understand that warm, tropical places are manageable on all days (only slightly exaggerated). And I try to visit these places to sort of “reset” and regain some strength when needed. There are many, repeated days of honest realization in knowing that the best version of myself today exists elsewhere. And that is okay. But there are other ways to get stronger and embrace the values and joy obtained from your most inspiring places. I still surf, when I can. I work full-time… but remotely, from home, and with numerous breaks throughout each day to take care of my body. I got my big fluffy Shepherd/Malamute, Garth to keep me in check. I am starting a little side project… roasting coffee. I love coffee. And I get a real kick out of roasting coffees from my favorite countries. It brings me back to revisit the flavors of being in a hammock, post-surf, in the jungle with the freshest cup of coffee, while holding onto the dream of visiting and working with these farms someday.
Oh, the outdoors. The strange ambience and obsession of unknowing what is next. It is scary. It is rewarding. It provides therapy. It might be your next successful summit. Maybe, that reef break you saw on FuelTV when you were twelve years old? Or the contrasting, remindful and humbling experiences that are inevitable along the way? It takes more of the latter to understand your limits. I don't really like knowing my limits though. It's more fun finding them. Somehow snowboarding turned into surfing, and surfing turned into exploring, and exploring led to numerous countries with an array of unexpected consequences, both good and bad but nonetheless valuable. And coffee. And probably this disease too, but whatever. Worth it. Uncontrollable forces will blow you over, push you down, hold you down, chase you off their beaches and care less about what you want at that time. Mother Nature don't give a hoot! She humbles us, but offers everything we need and desire to be the best earthlings on this planet. This pushes us outdoor-minded folks for reasons unexplainable to the rest. If you are reading this blog, you already get it. And we would probably have a pretty sweet surf sesh. Thanks for reading. Seriously, you rock. Cheers!
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