Howler Blog

How to Avoid Worst Case Scenarios on a Surf Trip

Posted on August 21, 2014

We have teamed up with our friends at The Inertia to bring you the "Call of the Wild"—a monthly series of editorial features that covers every aspect of heeding the call. 

A few years ago, I found myself sitting in a Nicaraguan border patrol office, arrested and terrified. I wasn’t wearing any shoes – I had lost them three or four days previous, and it hadn’t been necessary to get any – and my feet were dusty and sweaty. I left damp, dirt filled footprints along the cool hallway on my way to the office, where a large man with a larger mustache and mirrored sunglasses sat behind a wide oak desk. His boots were up on his desk, beside a pistol of some kind, and his anger smoldered across at me from behind his chrome lenses. I smiled nervously at him, pretending like I hadn’t just tried to pass a counterfeit hundred-dollar bill off before crossing the border back into Costa Rica.

The room was actually very pretty in a classic Central American way: white tiles with a ring of bright, decorated ones circling the top of the walls, a wobbly fan spinning lazily on the ceiling. Outside the small slatted window, I could hear old diesel motors and parrots, men yelling and dogs barking. It was a pleasant enough space to be in, away from the stifling, windless heat just outside the window. But I would have given anything to be out there. Anything to get away from my own stupidity.

 
Best case scenario: empty perfection. Try and keep it that way. Photo: Colin Roth

You probably know that feeling, and if you’re anything like me, you probably want to avoid it. While surf trips can be some of the most rewarding, memorable experiences you’ll ever have, you can also find yourself in some pretty hairy situations if you’re not careful. Of course, not being careful is quite often part of the fun, but just in case you’re past that point in your life where you just don’t give shit (approximately 18-25 for me), here are a few quick tips on how you can preemptively save your own ass.

 

 

This is not my happy place.

1. Getting arrested in a foreign land
There are all sorts of horror stories about people getting thrown in prison for arriving somewhere with a butt full of drugs. This is especially true in surfing, where rumors of “entrepreneurs” using drug smuggling money as start up cash for some of the biggest surf companies have been floating around for years. I sort of hope it’s true – some guy sailing the seven seas with a cargo hold full of black tar heroin, stopping in far-flung destinations to alternately surf perfect, empty waves and sling poison to the locals is a much better story than a guy printing t-shirts in his garage until Macy’s picked up his clothing line. Whatever the case, getting arrested anywhere, let alone a place where you don’t speak a lick of the language, is scary as mierda (Mexico)/eek (Indonesia)/merde (France).

Just like the shark attack, the most sure-fire way to stay out of some dingy dungeon where all there is to eat is rat’s tails is to just not do anything illegal. Of course, that can be a bit of a grey area in some countries, where police pay isn’t necessarily in the form of a paycheck. I’ve been pulled over for nothing in a two separate countries, and all I had to do was shake a hand and grease a palm. It’s accepted. Now, I’m not saying it’s common practice everywhere, so that’s one you might want to feel out a bit first, before you find yourself chained to a wall with a sore butt and a mean case of scurvy. Bribery isn’t exactly expected in most places, but if you’re going somewhere where it’s an accepted form of ticket payment, it doesn’t hurt to carry around a bit of extra cash (well-hidden), just in case.

And if you’ve done something so horrible that bribery just don’t cut it, or you’ve done something in a country where bribery is also an arrestable offence, just give the ol’ consulate a call. If you’re really nice, they’ll probably be able to get you home, where you can pay for your offense like a good old, down-home criminal.

 

 
Nom nom nom.

2. Shark Attack
Unless you’re Steve Irwin or Mark Healey, you’ve probably had that little twinge of fear at some point in your surfing career. We are, after all, sharing a space with a creature that has evolved into a nearly perfect killing machine, so it would be fair if you’ve leaked a bit of pee or squealed like a 5-year-old girl once or twice.

If you don’t want to soil your shorts every time you see a fin, there are a few things you can do to avoid a (very unlikely) shark attack. Obviously, the best way to avoid a shark attack would be to practice abstinence, but let’s be honest, quitting the ocean all together isn’t really an option. There are a few other options that may or may not work. Everyone’s seen those goofy looking wetsuits you can wear that, according to the manufacturer, make you look like a zebra. They also are supposed to scare potentially aggressive sharks away, because zebras are the sharks’ only natural enemy. Nope, that’s not true. Everyone knows that zebras are an apex predator. Apparently, though, these goofy suits mimic the coloration of sea life that sharks don’t like: Lionfish, or broccoli, for example.

And then there’s the Ocean Recreation Comfort Apparatus, or ORCA, that NoBite Technologies came up with. In a nutshell, it shoots out sounds that sharks don’t enjoy, kind of like that time you left the house because your wife/husband/child/dog was whining about something when you had that hangover. But here’s the crazy part: the folks over at NoBite are offering a $1 million guarantee. The jury is still out on how much a leg is worth, but it’s probably more than a million bucks.

 

 
I can’t even afford the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

3. Hospitalized with no travel insurance
If I could count the number of times I’ve fallen out of/off of things in a foreign country, I would probably have a much better memory than the one I’m currently working with. It’s not that I’ve fallen off things so many times; it’s just that the vast majority of those accidents have occurred after consuming vast quantities of some kind of toxic substance in a sweaty, humid place while trying to impress a Swedish/Australian/human female. They were never impressed, although an incredibly beautiful (although mangy) golden lab once consoled me while I was weeping in a dark field after a donkey bit me in Thailand. If you happen to get a bad injury in a foreign country, one that requires immediate hospitalization, you’re pretty much screwed – but hopefully alive, so you’ll have that going for you, which is nice.

Here’s the key: you need to find that ever-so-delicate balance between a few stitches and a massive, hemorrhaging head wound. That way, you can avoid both possible death and a hospital bill larger than your family’s gross earnings for the next three generations, which they will appreciate. But if you can manage, remember RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevate. If you can get home with your busted leg resting on the seat back in front of you (you’ll want an exit row for this one), then you’ll save a lot of money and be able to tell your friends that you took a 22-hour flight through a thunderstorm with a broken femur. They will be impressed, and the Swedish/Australian/human female will also. *

 

 
Nope, can’t breathe down here.

4. Drowning
This one’s pretty easy to avoid, but it sure does suck if you don’t. Don’t go in the ocean. Actually, to be really sure, you should stop bathing, stop going out in the rain, and stop drinking water. Secondary drowning is real thing, people, and you should be terrified of it. Next time you choke on a sip of water, imagine that it’s worked its way into your lungs, and while you sleep, it’s pooling in one corner, slowly killing all those little pink bronchioles, or broccolis or whatever. Yeah, water is a stone cold killer. I’ve also heard rumors that it had something to do with Jimmy Hoffa.

But if you’re not willing to stay dry for the rest of your life, you should make yourself aware of local currents, rips, and places where you just shouldn’t swim, even if you’re Michael Phelps and have webbed toes. Be honest with yourself about your surfing abilities. Some of the greatest surfers in the world have drowned, and if I’m being honest, you are probably not one of the greatest surfers in the world. Maybe you are. Kelly, are you reading this? If in doubt, don’t go out. Yes, you should push yourself. Yes, putting yourself in uncomfortable situations is important. But if you’re just average-Joe surfer, maybe the Code Red swell at Teahupoo is something you should watch from the channel.

*Don’t actually do this. Get travel insurance.

Have a worst-case scenario story? Leave your story, in all its gory details, in the comments section on this post at theintertia.com. Best one wins $200 worth of gear from Howler Brothers! While you’re at it, take a peek at previous installments of The Call of the Wild Adventure Series powered by Howler Brothers.

Back to Packs: Topo X Howler Collab

Posted on July 10, 2014

We are excited to announce the launch of our latest collaboration with Topo Designs. Not only do they share our passion for fly fishing, travel, and life outdoors, but like us they have built their brand on great design inspired by the classics, rugged functionality, and the pursuit of adventure. Plus, they are just good folks to hang out with.

Coming off the success of our first collaboration, we have developed limited editions of two new pack offerings: the streamlined Klettersack 15L and adventurous Field Pack. Both bags are available in Coyote Brown and Orange. We also created a Topo X Howler Gaucho Snapshirt for the collaboration and a co-branded Corduroy Snapback Hat. From the airport to the stream to dinner back in town, this gear has you covered.

Check out the entire collection and pick one up before they are gone.

 

One Shirt: Pescador

Posted on June 25, 2014

Through 3 international destinations, over 20,000 miles traveled, 9 fly rods, and over 100 pounds of camera crap, one shirt made it all possible: The Pescador. Filmmaker and good Howler friend, RC Cone, produced this bit from his fly fishing film, Tributaries.

The Pescador is the perfect all around fishing shirt; one that works on the boat and in your waders but doesn’t make you look like a giant tropical fruit that got into a knife fight when you go get a beer on dry land. We kept it simple and made ours out of quick drying poly-nylon blend that provides all day UPF 15 protection, with hidden pockets under the mesh-lined vented front yokes that are easy to access via pearl snaps. The bottom hem is cut straight and vented on the side and the fit is relaxed for ease of movement.

Show your love for the Pescador and enter to win one for yourself by liking, sharing, and commenting on One Shirt: Pescador on Facebook, Instagram, or Vimeo . On Monday, June 30th we’ll choose and notify 5 lucky winners. Heed The Call.

5 Amazing Surfing and Fishing Destinations

Posted on June 18, 2014

We have teamed up with our friends at The Inertia to bring you the "Call of the Wild"—a monthly series of editorial features that covers every aspect of heeding the call. 

There are two truly satisfying things in this world—more if you count silly little things like raising a happy family and being a productive member of society—that only a select few will ever experience: getting barreled and landing a truly big fish.

If you’ve done either, chances are good that you spend a lot of your time chasing that barrel or that fish. Chances are also good that you’ve organized your life, at least to some extent, to allow time to do those things. And here’s the great thing: fish live in the ocean. Surfing is in the ocean. That’s the definition of two birds with one stone. A day on a boat and on a wave is a day well spent, and because we love you, we’ve compiled a list of the easiest places to do both.

 

 
The iconic Hale’iwa sign on Oahu’s North Shore. Welcome to paradise. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

1. Hale’iwa, Hawaii
This one’s a no-brainer. On a small string of islands surrounded by nothing but vast ocean, the amount of waves and fish are almost beyond comparison, and Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore is the hub of the best of it. Because of the steep drop in ocean depth and strong currents around the Hawaiian Islands, bait and game fish are plentiful and, as everyone knows, so are the best waves in the world.

Head to the North Shore, get pounded by the best waves you’ve ever seen, and then head out into the blue with a rod and a butt full of sand. Oahu is home to pretty much the best open ocean fishing in Hawaii. Mahi Mahi, Ahi (Yellowfin Tuna), Ono (Wahoo), Aku, Skipjack Tuna, and of course, Blue Marlin call this area home. There’s a reason why Hemingway was obsessed with marlin fishing: it’s awesome.

 

 
Nicaragua. That ocean is full of things to catch , whether it’s waves or fish. Photo: Joanne O’Shaughnessy

2. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Hoo boy, the waves here are good. Three hundred-plus days of offshores. Balmy temperatures, cheap beer, amazing people, and some of the best setups you could possibly hope for. There’s pretty much everything within a stone’s throw of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, from dumping beach breaks to reef-grinding barrels to giant bombs that’ll scare your pants right off.

And the fishing! Mackerel, Mahi, Roosterfish, Sailfish, and more dart beneath that Central American sea. There are a million charters around that’ll take you to that secret hole, then motor you back in, sunburned and salty, smelling of fish guts and covered in a smile. Of course, there’s a huge range of what you’ll get, but a lot of them pretty much turn you into a baby; you just lie there and get shacked off your head, then reel in a fish bigger than your family dog.

Nicaragua’s one of those places that’s great right now, but probably won’t stay that way for long. The wheels of progress grind on, and in the case of the wandering surfer, that’s usually bad. But get it while the getting is good – the roads are still dusty, the chickens still scratch in them, and there are an abundance of reasonably empty waves.

 

 
Serenity now. Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Photo: Shutterstock.

3. Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia
This one’s for those who like to leave the beaten path a bit. Haida Gwaii, aka the Queen Charlotte Islands, lies off the west coast of British Columbia, and is one of those places that, because of its remoteness, has had an easier time maintaining what makes it so great: the lack of people. The water is cold, the trees are huge, and the fish are hungry, mostly because there are just so damn many of them. Halibut and Salmon call this area home, and if you’ve ever caught either, you know it’s like pulling up a wiggling piece of plywood or a rocket-powered tube steak, respectively.

There isn’t a whole lot on the Charlottes – civilization-wise, anyway. What there is, however, is a more beauty that you can shake a stick at. Winter storms run down from Alaska with nothing to stop them before running into Haida Gwaii. Pristine beaches wrap the coastline, and an amazing amount of creatures fill both the land and the sea. There are hundreds and hundreds of miles of untouched coastline that most people will never see unless they’ve got a boat and a serious appetite for adventure, and somewhere within those miles is a place you’ll never forget.

 

 
Looks like a decent way to spend an evening, doesn’t it? Photo: Shutterstock

4. The Outer Banks, North Carolina
OBX is an Atlantic paradise for surfers and fishermen. From New York to Florida, they offer some of the best waves on the right coast. Two hundred miles of barrier islands protecting the coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks takes the brunt of the storms and turns spots like S-Turns into a funneling gold mine for barrel hunters.

And, of course, their position is almost perfect for some of the best fishing on the east coast of the Americas. The most popular type of fishing, partially because of the convenience of it, is simple, old-fashioned beach fishing. Casting a line off any stretch of shoreline for Mackerel, Bass or Blues, there’s a good chance of hooking something. But charter fishing is really where it’s at in the Outer Banks.

The Gulf Stream flows by the Outer Banks, providing some of the best big-catch fishing in the world. Most of the charters in the area get you up early, leaving between four and six am, so depending on tides, you’ll be back in time for an afternoon or an evening spent under a grinding OBX lip.

 

 
Everything you want is in Puerto Escondido. Photo: Matt Degreff.

5. Puerto Escondido, Mexico
You knew this one would be on here. Puerto Escondido is basically a dream destination for surfing and fishing, as the Pacific Coast of Mexico plays host to some of the best waves in the world. The water is warm and there are waves everywhere you look. Between Sayulita, Troncones, Pascuales, Todos Santos, and of course, Puerto, you will find what you’re looking for, wave-wise, party-wise, and anything-you-want-wise. Mexico’s about hitting a literal dusty trail, getting sunburned to all hell, getting more waves than you should be allowed to, then kicking back with a big hat and a bigger beer.

It’s also about fishing. Most of the coastal towns began as (or still are) fishing towns. Sailfish, Blue Marlin, Dorado, Roosterfish, Yellowfin tuna, Snapper… all of them call Mexico home, and all of them are both exciting to catch and delicious to eat. Because of the tourism trade and their experience fishing off the coast of Mexico, charters are everywhere, so your only problem will be choosing one. And if you don’t feel like dropping a pocketful of dollars, just go stand in the sand and cast off shore. Catch a Roosterfish in the evening, and you’ll be doing wind sprints in the sand while dreaming about how hard you scored in the morning.

Have another addition to the list? Leave your best surfing/fishing story in the comments section on this post at theintertia.com. Best one wins $200 worth of gear from Howler Brothers, perfect for your barrel-fest or fish fry! While you’re at it, take a peek at previous installments of The Call of the Wild Adventure Series powered by Howler Brothers.

Howler X BeenBag

Posted on April 23, 2014

Our latest collaboration, the Howler Brothers X BeenBag Brasil Tote is finally here. Handcrafted by a local Austin, Texas artist, each BeenBag has “been” a Brazilian coffee bean sack in its previous life. We added tote bag straps and Howler Orange fabric lining to these burlap sacks (sourced from Austin coffee roasters) and now they’re ready to carry your 6-pack, boardshorts, wax, phone, Cholula, limes, tequila, lucha libre mask and anything else you need for your next throwdown or trip to the mercado.

Wrinkle Neck Mules

Posted on April 2, 2014

Although we have made a mild attempt to keep our endeavors separate, we feel it’s time to officially fess up. Yes. It’s true. Howler Brothers' founders Chase Heard, Andy Stepanian, and Mason Brent are 3/5ths of the band Wrinkle Neck Mules.

For those of you familiar with Wrinkle Neck Mules, you know this has been a long-term affair. In fact, the band formed circa Halloween 1999 on a porch at our alma mater, The University of Virginia. Over the next 14+ years, we released 5 albums, played hundreds of shows all over the US, UK, and beyond, and established enough of a cult following to keep the dream alive and grinding. Some of you may have even heard us without even knowing—one of our songs called “Central Daylight Time” is featured in an ad for Geico that is currently in heavy rotation. Yes, the one with the lizard dancing in a Texas dancehall. See it for yourself.

It’s safe to say there would be no Howler Brothers without Wrinkle Neck Mules. The band is the baseline of our bond as friends and the cornerstone of our creative relationship. If you can drive around for weeks at a time together in a van and sleep five dudes in one hotel room without killing each other, then nothing seems impossible. Plus, after you’ve been a full-time touring musician for many years, no one thinks you’re insane when you tell them you’re starting a clothing company completely from scratch. It seems like a flight to stability by comparison.

To give those of you that aren’t familiar with the band a little taste, we’re giving away a 15 song free sampler of tunes from our first 5 albums. The song list was put together, for the most part, by our fans so you can blame them if your favorite jam isn’t on here. Click here and go download.

All our full length records are available on Lower 40 Records in the US and Blue Rose Records in Europe. You can find them at iTunes, Amazon, or WrinkleNeckMules.com. And of course, you can friend us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

We’ll be back in studio this April and May working on our 6th album. Stay tuned. Viva Los Mules.

Howler Spotting: Jimmy Kimmel

Posted on March 19, 2014

Last week, a mass of hundreds of thousands descended upon downtown Austin, TX for SXSW 2014. Amidst the chaotic oasis of technology, film, music, and parties, Jimmy Kimmel Live set up shop for a week and shined the spotlight on our Capital City. We’d heard rumors that Jimmy is a fly fishing enthusiast, and sure enough, we saw the evidence as he wore his Howler Brothers Quepos Quilted Jacket while hitting up all the best BBQ around town. Check out the video below as Jimmy proves he's got great taste in BBQ and style. #HowlerSpotting

 

 

Photo and video from Jimmy Kimmel Live.

This Is Fly Interview With HB Founders

Posted on March 1, 2014

 

The February/March 2014 issue of This Is Fly Magazine features an interview with Howler founders Chase Heard and Andy Stepanian. Check it out to read a few fish stories and learn about their creative history together and the inspiration behind Howler Brothers.

 

Meet Colby D Crossland: Howler Ambassador

Posted on February 15, 2014

Howler Ambassador Colby D Crossland spends most of his time tromping the Green River system keeping his clients amused and the trout scared. When he’s not behind the oars in Utah for Spinner Fall Guide Service, he’s bumping around to any location that has water, birds, fish, dogs, and amigos. We caught up with Colby to get the low down…

So, a quick google image search of “Colby Crossland” revealed at least 19 photos of different people’s mug shots. Is the name “Colby Crossland” a particularly lawless name or is this just coincidence?  
I am not sure what that kid in Oklahoma is up to but he sure gets arrested often.  Colby is his middle name, I am not sure if that matters. I wish he would stay out of lock up though. He makes me look bad. I thankfully have always been let out of the cop car before he drives to the station.

You recently tied the knot down in Belize. How do you negotiate a honeymoon location that also allows you to permit fish? 
My wife is amazing, I am a very lucky man. I spent the morning of my wedding out wandering the lagoons around Placencia. I nearly stepped on a croc that morning. Most women worry about their husbands forgetting the rings or being late, she just wanted me to find some fish. She even had our reception at a pheasant club. Someone got shot that morning, thankfully it was not part of our party.

Who is the most interesting person who’s ever come on board your drift boat?
I guided a very influential evangelical leader for a few days. He is of the “God sent that crazy man to shoot up the school because of gay marriage” mind set.  That is very outside my personal beliefs, and I honestly did not want fish with him. Spending a week with him was very interesting. We had some really good discussions. We did not change each others views, but I ended up really liking the guy. For having so much hate and fear in his heart he had a lot of love too. He really is a good guy who just has some mixed up beliefs.

Music seems to be a part of your life (and skin). Who is on the dial right now that’s inspiring you? 
I have always had music in my life.  When I was young my parents were both rockers–Bohemian  Rhapsody was my first CD, I can still remember pulling the plastic off the case. Way back when CDs came in those long boxes. As of late I have been listening to Country and Hip-Hop. Whitey Morgan and the 78s have been getting some play, Scott H Biram is always my go to on the river. While driving, Subtitle keeps my wife and me both happy. Get Busy Commitee, Uzi Does It is the best party album ever. Old school country is just the best though. My middle name is Darlin, it came from a David Allen Coe song.  

Rum or tequila?  
Whiskey is my drink of choice when I am pouring, but I love boat drinks. So give me rum or tequila either as long as it is mixed with fruit, in a silly glass, has an umbrella in it, and lots of ice, you can keep the cherry. Waitress, I need two more boat drinks. Then I'm heading south before my dream shrinks. I gotta go where it's warm.

 

Tae Kwan Do or Tenkara?  
I have never figured out the tenkara craze. I own one–its fun to catch some fish on it–Tenkara isnt fly fishing though. Fly fishing is all about casting for me. Tenkara removes the soul. Wow that sounded super elitist. I would never tell someone not to do it or that they are doing something wrong–it just is not for me. I also love fishing from a boat, and Tenkara just does not work properly from a driftboat. Tae kwan Do is in the olympics though, that is pretty cool.

Dwight Yoakam or Motorhead?  
Oh come on, Dwight with no questions asked.

You seem to have two clothing options either 1) shirtless or 2) Howler Brothers. What do you dig about #2? Yes, this is the shameless plug section.  Most gear for fly fishing is either designed for retired doctors or just ugly. Howler is rad, it can be worn anywhere. My dad got married in the Haystack Guyabara. There is just no reason to not look good. 

 

Special thanks to Jay Morr for sharing his killer photography. Check out more of his work, friend him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Bid On A Buckle, Give To The Gulf

Posted on February 13, 2014

We fashioned a rare, vintage 1973 Texas bait shrimp plate into a set of handsome License Tag Buckles. We are auctioning each of these limited edition buckles to benefit Coastal Conservation Association Texas and support all the good they do for our beloved Gulf of Mexico. Please visit our Ebay auction to bid on these buckles. #BuckleIt4CCA

 THE BACKSTORY | We knew this was a solid license plate when we first set eyes on it, but we didn’t realize quite how special until a friend filled us in on its history. These plates were sold as bait shrimping licenses to commercial fishermen by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department up until 1995, after which no new commercial bait shrimping licenses were available under a limited entry program authorized by the Texas Legislature. Since then, the TPWD and the CCA have enacted a buyback program to purchase bait shrimping licenses from willing fishermen in an effort to decrease over fishing, reduce bycatch mortality, and rebuild and protect the Gulf ecosystem.

ABOUT CCA TEXAS | "Coastal Conservation Association Texas (CCA Texas) is a non-profit marine conservation organization comprised of tens of thousands of recreational anglers and coastal outdoor enthusiasts. Founded in 1977, CCA started in the great state of Texas and has grown incredibly to a national organization. An unmatched breadth and depth of volunteer involvement has made CCA Texas the largest marine conservation group of its kind. CCA Texas has enacted positive change on all levels of coastal marine conservation and management, including a state net ban, gamefish status for speckled trout and redfish, by catch reduction for Gulf and bay shrimp trawls, flounder conservation measures, limited entry into commercial fisheries and Gulf fisheries management initiatives.

CCA Texas has been engaged in hundreds of local, state and national programs and projects related to marine conservation, such as initiating scientific studies, supporting local marine law enforcement, working to pass pro-resource legislation, funding marine science scholarships, initiating habitat-restoration projects, funding state-of-the-art hatcheries, fighting for quality and quantity of freshwater inflows for coastal bays & estuaries.”—From http://www.ccatexas.org

SHARE YOUR BID | Help us spread the word about this auction with a link or photo and #BuckleIt4CCA so we can raise as much cash as possible to help CCA Texas keep on doing good things for our cherished Gulf coast.

This auction ended Sunday, February 16th.

UPDATE 4/1/14 | Thanks to your generous bidding we raised over $2000 for CCA Texas!