Red Letter Day: One California Day

Words: Brian Finch
Photos: Bo Bridges
Location: San Onofre, California
Date: Friday June 11th, 2021

Unflinchingly committed to the foiling community in general, Brian Finch also maintains this level of responsibility when it comes to his sponsors too, and there was no way that he was going to let any minor thing like a move to the mainland, Great White sharks, or being stuck on a jet ski out at sea get in the way of a great day’s product shooting. Our kind of guy.

In mid-June I sold all my stuff and moved to Florida from Kauai; but it wasn't a straight shot, I had a stop to make. The second Freedom Foil Boards team trip was scheduled in Orange County, California and my FOMO would not allow me to miss it. Chris Sayer, (founder of Freedom Foil Boards) and his crew have been working relentlessly on a whole range of new boards and products and called in the team for a product testing day. Myself, Jason Miller, and Trevor Isabell along with ambassadors Austin Keen, Michael Duke, and renowned photographer Bo Bridges. Bo and I met a few years ago on Oahu's North Shore doing a similar product test and photo shoot with Armstrong Foils; I was excited to hang with him again… plus Bo gets the shot!

To coordinate and prep for this kind of day is a low-grade nightmare. There are so many moving parts: tons of foil gear to organize, jet skis, swell forecasting and about 1000 phone calls. Chris and I started the day launching his ski out of the Dana Point harbor. It was a crispy 64 degrees out and I was dying of psychological hypothermia. My blood type is T+ for Tropical. We launched the ski, I donned my wetsuit and a rain jacket and headed south. Chris drove off in his Ford F150 with heated seats to meet at the location and setup basecamp on shore.

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Weather conditions were flawless and the beauty of the 20-minute sunrise ski ride far outweighed my imaginary frostbite. Birds, sea lions and the stunning Southern California coastline kept me company. Arriving at the spot, I grabbed Chris from shore, put out the rope and jumped on a fresh FFB 4'5, a design Chris and I have been experimenting and refining the past eight months. The waves were super glassy, long period from the south-west, and shoulder high to a little overhead on the sets. Duke arrived on his jet ski and picked up Bo and we got to business. I was riding strapped, and my goal was to get some boosting shots that really showed off the new board design. We worked the peak for about 30 minutes, whipping into peaks that aligned with Bo and the lighting. I had a handful of really fun waves and one pretty respectable air with a really unique backdrop. The peak started shifting so we followed it south and closer to shore where there was a refracting sandbar pushing out steep little righthand wedges. I was psyching because I've been dying to catch some shots of a backside 360 grab I've been working on and these were the waves for it. I got in the air several times working the rotation. Being that this was a photo shoot, I was prioritizing height over landing. I landed on my feet on several attempts but didn't ride-out. We did get the product image I was after though, so I'll take it. On one attempt I landed pretty hard and lost my board. I was swimming after it when Chris came in really hot on the ski to grab me with an urgent expression on his face and I knew what it meant. He had just spotted a Great White. We retrieved my board and buzzed back north to the original peak to switch out new riders.

It was time for Trevor to shred. I hit the beach for snacks and watched the action at the peak in front of basecamp. Trevor draws super smooth lines with a very backfooted surf style. It didn't take him long to rack up a bunch of waves and nail content. Next up was Jason. Jason has some of the best style, precision and hair in all the sport. Trevor and Jason foil with a very similar style, applying critical turns and economy of movement, each turn blends seamless to the next. Not long after, Austin Keen, skim board world champ, showed up with his backflips and put on a show. Duke was carving waves like a sushi chef. The swell had dropped a touch when I got back in the water and at this point it was a free-for-all. Whips, proneing, party waves, double dips, we were all in the water having a blast, only exiting to swap out gear to be photographed… it was a workday after all. The waves slowly decreased in size, but this is foiling… it was still 2ft and firing.

Heading back was an unsolicited adventure in itself. We had driven the ski all day and had one bar of gas left. The low fuel alarm was already sounding before I even set off for the harbor. The shrill alarm goes off about every 4-5 minutes, perfectly timed to maintain a lump of anxiety in the center of my throat. I made a point of driving at what I imagined to be the most fuel-efficient speed. I had the choice of hugging the coastline and consuming more fuel but being closer to shore, or straight shotting it to the harbor with the risk of running empty a mile plus off the beach. The ocean conditions were so perfect I gambled on the straight shot being that there were so many boaters around I figured I could flag someone down. After five low fuel alarm cancelations, the fuel gauge read zero. I putted into the harbor on fumes with sunburn and a sense of relief.

We were blessed with an amazing day. The logistics played out perfectly, waves were on point, everyone ripped, no injuries, no shark attacks, Bo got some insane shots, it could not have gone better. Can't wait for the next FFB reunion!  

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