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Evening surf session! Photo from #MatadorN staffer @spoart - follow him for more #travelstoke!
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Light at the end of the tunnel. Photo from #MatadorN reader @brodie_mccabe. Thanks for tagging #travelstoke!

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#MatadorN Ambassador @almackinnon shot this awesome photo of surfer Mike Schlebach in #Capetown. #Travelstoke!

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#MatadorN reader @wingsofafeather making the most of a gloomy day in #NewZealand! #Travelstoke!
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1. The coastline is huge.

Portugal has nearly 1,800 kilometers of coastline, and there are beaches for surfing almost everywhere: from northern spots near Porto, to Ericeira, Nazaré, Peniche, Cascais, Costa da Caparica in the south, and some others in the Algarve. It doesn’t matter where you stay, because even if you have to drive two or three hours west, you’ll find a nice place to begin your surf experience.

2. The local sardines are the perfect food.

You probably hate them because your mother told you they were good for you. But give them another try now that you’re in Portugal. You’re older and wiser.

What you’ve eaten in the past is very different from the grilled sardines, sardinhas asadas, found during the Portuguese summer. They’re delicious; but the real difference is the experience of going into a small local restaurant and inhaling the fishy, fresh Atlantic Ocean aroma.

3. Southwestern Europe has awesome weather.

Europe in the summertime can be a gross, sweaty experience. But not in Portugal, where summer temperatures remain a pleasant 80°F. Autumn and spring bring averages of 60, while winter temperatures hover in the high 50s. Even if locals say, “Hey man, it’s chilly today,” you’ll be smiling and sweating tears of pleasure.

Read more

Since 2008, Matador Ambassador Chris Burkard has been pioneering surf photography in the Arctic. Arctic Swell, a new film produced by Smugmug, documents Burkard’s latest mission to Unstad, a bay in the Norwegian archipelago of Lofoten just inside the Arctic circle.

Burkard’s crew, which included surfers Patrick Millen, Brett Barley, and Chadd Konig, had to take three flights, a ferry, and drive several hours to reach the surf. They traveled in early March, with temperatures hovering around five degrees, sometimes dipping below zero. Burkard notes, “Some people think I am crazy for wanting to go that time of year, but it’s when the northern lights are brightest and the surf gets epic!”

Besides showing how perfect conditions can be found and ridden in one of the harshest environments on earth, Arctic Swell is a look behind the lens at Chris Burkard, whose voiceover gives a lot of insight into his motivations as a photographer. “It’s not even the most beautiful images,” he says, “But the ones where you think, ‘I really gave something of myself to get that shot.’” image

From: Surfing the Arctic

Surviving a shark attack and coming back stronger than ever

Experiencing the kind of loss that Mike Coots has might keep anyone else sidelined for life, riding the proverbial pine. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Mike turned every surfer’s nightmare into a life-changing personal gain. In fact, since having his right leg taken off by a tiger shark at his home break on Kauai, he flipped the situation 180 degrees. Instead of fearing, resenting, and avoiding sharks, Coots lobbies for their conservation, dives with them, and continues to surf the same spot he was attacked at the tender age of 18. Additionally, he helps lifelong friend and ‘sister’ Bethany Hamilton with her foundation and provides counsel to amputees and victims of shark attacks. He also picked up surfing after his leg was removed and now tows into huge waves while wearing a prosthetic.

To say that Mike made the best of a bad situation is an understatement at the very least. He considers the accident a blessing and is ready to do whatever he can to protect the animals that nearly took his life. I spoke with him earlier this year.

* * *

RL: Can you recount the shark attack?

MC: I was on this bodyboarding team and right after high school we were all together. I was 18 at the time and it was early October. We went surfing on the west side of Kauai. There’s a military base out there and a pretty good surf spot we all went to.

I remember we all got to the beach. It was early in the morning and we all paddled out. I was on my bodyboard and it was about four feet or so. A nice set came through and all my friends caught waves. I think it was a five-wave set. Soon enough, it was myself and another guy out there. When the last wave came in, I remember looking at him and we looked at each other wondering who’s going to catch the wave, and I got on my board and started paddling, and as soon as I made a motion the shark came up and grabbed onto me. I didn’t see it coming from far away or anything, and it wasn’t a scary fin coming towards me. It was a blind-sided attack. Kinda like a submarine but vertical. It latched onto my leg and it started shaking me back and forth — I guess kinda like a pit bull would do with a doll.

During the back-and-forth motion, I remember feeling a lot of pressure on my legs, like a big guy was sitting on me. I didn’t feel any pain or anything. After it swung me back and forth a couple times, I, with my left hand, punched it in its nose pretty hard. It let go of me instantly and went back underwater. I got back on my board and I looked at my index finger and it was all bloody and I could see the bone and stuff sticking out. It looked like a split-open potato. I was kinda freaked out. I was like, “Oh boy, I’m hurt.” After I looked at my finger, I looked up at the guy that I’d been jockeying with the wave for, and his face had gone completely white. I yelled, “Shark! Go in!” and he started paddling in and I paddled in behind him.

As I was paddling, my right leg started doing this shaking, like a total spasm. I distinctly remember thinking, “This is it. The shark’s getting me again and I’m toast.” I looked over my shoulder, and I didn’t see the shark, but I saw my leg just severed off completely. I had no idea I was even hurt, but my leg was just gone. You couldn’t have done a better amputation with a scalpel. It was just perfectly cut off. I remember seeing blood shoot out the middle every time my heart beat.

At that point, another wave came and I caught it and rode it right up to the sand and I tried standing up on the beach. Y’know, you’re used to standing on two feet your whole life and I remember falling over in the sand with blood everywhere. My friend Kyle saw this and ran up to me, dragged me up a little higher, took my leash off my boogie board and made a tourniquet instantly and he just started saying a prayer. I closed my eyes and I just remember praying with him and as soon as he finished the prayer, I opened my eyes and there was this pick-up truck right there. This guy Keith had seen it from far away. He had seen me in the sand and he threw me in the bed of the pick-up truck and we took off to the ER.

I remember going in and out of shock, real hot and cold, going in and out of consciousness. As soon as we got to the ER, these surgeons started running up to the truck and my body gave out. I woke up the next day and I was at our main hospital, post-surgery and everything. My family and friends were all there.

After that, I spent about a month out of the water because of the stitches and staples. I guess there’s a high risk of infections, so I had to wait until all that healed up and then I was back in the water just over a month later.

What went through your head as the shark was shaking you back and forth?

It wasn’t an out-of-body experience or anything. I was looking right at the shark. Your whole life in the ocean, you’re basically preparing yourself for that moment. I knew it was a shark attacking me. The punching (the shark in the nose) was totally instinct, that fight-or-flight instinct.

In Hawaii, we have centipedes. When you see one, you kind of get chicken skin. I remember having that exact feeling. The get-away-from-me feeling where you feel that creepy sensation. I knew I just had to get away from the situation. Whatever I had to do — punch, kick, whatever. And it worked. As soon as I hit the shark, it released its grip on me and left me alone.

Read the rest of the interview here.