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Firefighter Kane Johnson On The Evolving Waterman

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Starting out as a bodyboarder, turned SUPer, and got spit out as a surfer.

Evolution's finest dance.

Kane and I talk about professional bodyboarding and growing up in the 90s as a surf rat. How he moved up to a SUP and how he always felt like an outsider.

He eventually found his way to a surfboard but continues to enjoy all the water activities—a true waterman.

We talk about being a fireman during COVID and how he started getting his art on this year during the pandemic.

Kane gives some great advice about being in the ocean air and offers some solid perspectives from a first responder point of view.

Links & Connect

Transcripts

Hey, good afternoon, everyone. I am here with Kane Johnson. We're going to learn about Kane Johnson and he calls himself a fish out of water, just like me. So welcome, Kane!

Hey, thank you, Derek! Happy to be here. It's really stoked to be on this podcast with you. So looking forward to getting through stuff together.

Yeah, man. And I want to say, first and foremost, thank you so much for being here and thanks for being out there. I know you're a firefighter and it's hard enough to be a firefighter during regular times. So I can imagine during COVID, it had some extra stress. So getting in the water is probably more important than ever.

Yeah, that is my refuge, as I'm sure you can attest to. I'm sure it's not that too dissimilar for most of us that serve, for being or getting in the water. It's like that is the place where you just go to just forget about everything and kind of that's your mental health, your physical health, a little bit everything wrapped into one.

It really is. I feel sorry for anyone that doesn't surf or doesn't have water time because it's given so much to me in my life. And I just encourage anyone out there that has been thinking about it and wants to live a life that is really full and has so many dynamics and opportunities. Just being related to the ocean, it's killer. There's nothing like it.

Oh, totally. 100 percent.

Yeah, man. So you're in the OC, right?

Yeah, I am.

Are you in Huntington Beach or?

Well, I work in Huntington Beach, I actually live in Rancho Santa Margarita, so I have a little bit of a commute to work, but not too bad. And yeah it's beautiful out here. I love it out here.

Did you grow up down there or what's your history?

Yeah. So I kind of grew up all over the place, to be honest with you. I come from a divorced family, so I kind of spent time with my dad and then my mom mostly. So I moved around a ton as a kid. Most of my upbringing was in Costa Mesa and then San Clemente and then Santa Margarita. So those 3 but I've kind of moved--I was in Huntington for a little bit, Westminster, Laguna Beach, you name it. It's all South County.

Yeah.

Yeah, all over the place. But San Clemente is where I really started to learn how to love the ocean and ride waves and that kind of thing. So I started when I was 6 years old.

And so you're on the department at Huntington State or do they have a county there?

Yeah. So we have, the way it is in Orange County, I think there's 6 individual agencies and the rest is Orange County Fire Authority. So we happen to be our own fire department. So we have 8 stations covering the city of Huntington Beach and we run about 22,000 calls a year out of 8 stations. We're pretty steady, pretty busy...

Wow!

...to recover a population of 200,000. And then, of course, with the influx and the typical summer, we could have half a million people in the city or more.

Yeah, amazing. You know I grew up down there so my old stomping ground's Seal Beach, Sunset Beach, Huntington Beach back in the days. So this is 80s, 90s and it was a totally different place, bro. Dirt lots and no pay to park. It's just run across the street and jump in the water.

Yeah, it had a heavy vibe, I know in Huntington Beach. Still kind have a little bit of that vibe, but definitely it was a different story when you're talking the 80s, 90s and stuff and kind of the same in San Clemente where I spent a lot of my summers with my dad and growing up as a kid, same type of thing. It was a totally different place than it is now. You look at it, "Wow! A different vibe."

So tell me a little bit about your water journey. When you rode in, you said you've had some iterations in how you've related to the water, so I'd love to hear more about that.

Yeah. I have a kind of an unusual journey into the traditional sense. A lot of people start off as far as surfing is concerned as a kid, and I did but I started off bodyboarding, kind of stuck with that for a very long time. My first wave, I remember I was 6 years old, it was down on the north side of San Clemente Pier at Cabrillo. This is north of our headquarters there.

And my dad pushed me into a wave. I had an Aussie, green kind of foam bodyboard. It was all foam. And I remember the deck was all ripped up and it shred my skin. My skin had a big old rash.

No way.

But I didn't even care as a kid. I could care less because it was so fun. And so I started doing that and I just got hooked and it just happened to be that bodyboarding was kind of my thing and a lot of it had to do with money, too. It's a lot cheaper to bodyboard than to surf. And my parents didn't have a lot of money, and then I didn't have a lot of support other than my dad. My mom and my grandparents had no idea what I was doing. They're fearful of the ocean and the sand, so they didn't really get it and support me.

So it's just my dad and then me kind of figuring it out. And so I did that for many years, still do bodyboard. But through the 90s, I competed in local pro-am contests.

Wow!

I had some just little sponsors kinda in the heyday in the 90s kind of how surfing was in the 2000s. It was throwing money at everything. So the bodyboarding industry was a lot bigger back then. I never got paid necessarily, but I had some great sponsors, got free products, and just competed.

I worked for a company called Alternative Surf, which is all bodyboard store. They still have one in Seal Beach.

And it's still all bodyboard to this day?

Yeah. So it was started by the owner of Harbour Surfboards, Robert Howson and his wife Kris, they still own Harbour. They saw a need, they're like, "Hey, we need--there's no bodyboarding stores only like nothing committed to strictly bodyboarding." At the time, bodyboarding was getting really big. And so they decided, "Hey, we have this little shop across from Harbour Surfboards open. Let's open up an all bodyboards shop." And that was in '95.

And then they opened up another--so well, they opened up another one in Dana Point, off Blue Lantern right up PCH there and so that was in '97. It was a great time, it was incredible, big boom in the industry. They had a cool little thing between Infinity and they had all the surf staff, we had all the bodyboard stuff so we would send people back and forth. It was a really cool gig.

Nice dollar.

Yeah. And then...

So what are the main bodyboarding waves? I know the wedge is like the creme de la creme, but obviously, between bodyboarding and surfing, you need a different--you need a more ledgy wave, right?

Yeah. So you're always looking to something different. Same thing with surfing. If you're longboarding or shortboarding, you're kind of looking for different waves so yes, similar in bodyboarding. And so I ended up, kinda like my stomping grounds ended up being Salt Creek back in the day. So we're out there mixing it up with Billy Brothers and Pat O'Connell and Josh Sleigh and Kasey Curtis. We have some heavy hitters down there surfing and we're these bodyboarders. And there's always this big battle between us.

And so we would kind of take over kind of the middle graveled area and then gravel, of course. It's just the heavier wave. Salt Creek is little kind of mush on the outside, sometimes break a little bit and then it just reforms about to like it's all ledgy. That kind of was our jam locally. And then we would also go down to Strand Point in the summer and surf down there. That's a great little wedging break. It's perfect for bodyboarding, but it was heavily localized by surfers back then. We would yelled at and all kinds like we would be coming down the goat trail, and surfers would see us. A lot of the guys from Killer Dana and that area and they'll be like from that shop and they'll be like, "Yeah, Beat it!" And we're like "Oh my God!" We were like 18, 19 years old just getting yelled at trying to fit in.

I got some guy chased me on that goat track. He had a shovel. And he was swinging the shovel at me.

Oh my God!

Can you believe? I was just a kid. I was like, "You got to be kidding me, dude! I just want to surf!"

Yeah. And I get it because that's like a little bit of a hidden spot. So if anywhere, like be localized compared to Creek or something, that's definitely a better spot. One thing I remember about that place too is really funny. We used to always really go out to like a peak house and come down or we go down the goat trail, there's a hole in the fence and go to the point directly. But I remember, there's this guy I wish I can, but he would constantly change down there, completely nude. He would go down there and he would nude up and go out and change his wetsuit, just free ball in front of everybody.

Nice.

What a weird place, right.

That's awesome.

We would do that. Then there's like little spots in Laguna you'd go to. I'm not blowing away any secrets, but 10th Street obviously a real popular spot. And then when the pier was at Aliso, when they set up here, that place was our jam too. We would go out there all the time. They had such good sandbars with that pier. Now it's changed quite a bit, but yeah.

The gnarliest--I've kind of traveled all around the world and I lived in Rio, in Brazil for a while.

Oh yeah?

And dude those guys, those bodyboarders down there, they would take off on the gnarliest waves I've ever seen anyone take off. Just full balls to the wall, like 2 inches of sand. It was super impressive.

Totally. And that's the interesting thing with bodyboarding. I've always kind of been curious about it because it's finally kind of gotten a little bit more respect than it used to have back in the day, but it's such a unique place. It's a type of sport, I should say, that has influenced a lot of surfing, like all the slabs. Bodyboarders are the ones that went out there and said, "Hey, this can be done and we're going to just toss ourselves over the ledge."

And then surfers like, "Okay, I think we could go. Do it." Or they tow in or whatever they try to do. And now, they're out there doing them and you look at all the errors and the sections the bodyboarders have been hitting. You're finally starting to see surfers at Pipeline hitting that end section, a perfect ramp at the end and doing airs after they come out of the barrel. But didn't used to happen very often. Bodyboarders doing it for years.

I never thought about that. Bodyboarders were probably the first guys that were pulling errors, right? Before anybody tried it on a surfboard. Those dudes were doing it probably way before, I would imagine.

Yeah, consistently, for sure. You definitely have guys like Christian Fletcher in the 80s watching and doing some crazy stuff. But as far as being mainstream, that was one of the first things. And bodyboarding came out and actually had a Sterling slick bottom and a stiff enough core to be able to project. Guys were launching off of sections, doing obviously the role of El Rollo's kind of a big thing, but big straight errors, all that stuff was kind of the thing. Because you have to ride these heavier waves and be in the pocket and in that wave energy source.

And you're laying down so you can kind of cushion yourself and fly out into the flaps a little bit. Different than surfing. You're not going to break your ankles or knees if you would in surfing.

Yeah man, that's cool. So then what was next? What was after bodyboard? You're still bodyboarding, but you definitely, you had a transition, right?

Yeah. Well, as I got older, I remember 27 years old was the last time I bodyboard of the wedge. I'm 40 years old now. And I remember getting out of the water oh, so beat up. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, this is frickin' working me." And so I was kind of like in this transition "Oh yeah, I want to try something new. I want to get in there." Few years later, come probably 2010, probably around there is when stand up paddling start really taking off and sort of being like this huge deal. There's races all the time, there's people trying to surf on them. Everybody's taking over the lineup. It's kind of funny because I went from bodyboarding, which surfers are like, "Get out of here, beat it!" to "Oh, I'm going to go and stand and paddle. And they're like, "Oh, beat it!" It's just got to before. A glutton for punishment.

Dude, you've always been on the outside. That's good. I like that.

I'm a fringe guy. So I started--I got into that and I started doing the racing. So I was like, "Oh, I want to do some fitness and I want to be on the water." So I got a 14-foot race standup paddleboard and I started doing all these races and stuff. And then I started getting kinda bored with that. I'm like, "Okay, I'm still bodyboarding, and then I'm doing this paddling thing." But I go, "I've always watched surfing. I've always thought it was fascinating." I'm like, "What a cool thing." And now that I'm standing up, I'm like, "Well jeez, the standup paddle surfing thing is starting to be a thing, so let's try that." And so I decided, "Hey, I'm gonna go get one of these boards and just give it a whirl and just go frickin' get worked and humble myself."

And I got hooked immediately, just like I did when I first started bodyboarding and probably not too dissimilar to people that take their first wave surfing. I'm just like, "Oh my gosh, this is it." And it was weird. The weirdest thing was because I had all this knowledge and understanding of 20 plus years of wave riding on a bodyboard and body surfing, but then I'm now I'm standing on something. Now I'm like, "Okay, how do I get to that position on the wave? What do I need to do?" Moving on the board back and forth and handling a paddle, it was all kind of unique to me, but it was all I knew for surfing at the time, right?

Yeah.

So, yeah, I just started doing that and I progressed and progressed and I was very, very fortunate. I actually got hooked up with Hobie and Hobie standup paddleboards and Hobie Surf Shop have an ambassador program.

Nice.

And I got hooked in to their ambassador program and I've been doing that ever since. So that led me to an amazing time which I'm still enjoying right now.

Sweet. I like the guys at Hobie. They're good guys for sure.

Oh, totally.

When I first started Wave Tribe, we did a lot of shop. You know kinda selling old school model, selling to shops, and the shops would sell the gear. And Hobie was always really good to me back in those days. So...

Oh, that's cool.

..really stoked on those guys. Yeah, it's been a while. Now everything's kind of direct to customer in my world, and I like it better that way just because I get to know the customers, I get to interact with the customer. Like this, right?

Yeah.

If you picked up Wave Tribe through a shop, you probably wouldn't have this kind of connection with the brand. So it's a good way to go.

It is.

One thing I was wondering, how was the transition from the racing to the wave because it's kind of similar, right? But you're on a much bigger board. So you're on a 14-foot board and then what kind of boards are you on now?

So I go from a 14-foot board, a ton of volume. You're kinda high up out of the water, it's got full rails, more narrow than your traditional surfboard. And it was different because that's a big board to hug around and it is tippy. It's really kinda tough to paddle on, to be honest with you. The pros and the people are really good, make it look super easy.

If I was riding a 29-inch wide board, they're riding 23-inch wide board now when they're...

Wow!

...on a paddle like race boards. It's amazing. So I went to--my first board's a 10'6. That's a Paddle Surf Hawaii 10'6 and that was a great board. It was a perfect beginner board for me and I'm 6'5, 235. At the time, I was even little heavier.

Yeah, buddy.

So I'm a big guy, and it was so unique. I had to start out big but now I've progressed all the way down. Now I'm riding an 8'8, it's a custom...

Whoah!

...Hobie board. And it's like kinda have got a blunted nose so it's not a round longboard nose or sharp pointy surfboard nose. It's kind of a hybrid and it's about 4.3 inches thick, 30 inches wide. But it probably only weighs 13 pounds, 12 or 13 pounds. It's really light and it surfs great. I just got back from--I've surfed Magnolia up in your neck of the woods today and it was super fun. It was small, but it's great for for SUP surfing. It was fantastic.

Nice.

Yes. I've progressed down to that. And then that kinda led me into traditional surfing. Now I've got this other new addiction. It's fascinating that I just picked up last year.

Nice. And so what was that like? Now you're--so you go on from bodyboarding to SUPing and now you're getting on, what was the first board you got on? Was it a fish or?

Oh no. It was a full. To be honest it was really funny. So in September of last year, I remember vividly. I go to San Onofre. I have my, the time I had a 9', it was real small, the 9' longboard type SUP surfboard and so the waves are little tiny. I get to the beach, I open the back of my truck and I go, "Oh man, I forgot my paddle. Great." I'm 40 minutes from home or 30 minutes from home, I'm like "This is not good." I'm like "You know what? I'm going to try to surf." I'm like "I know what to do once I get up. Now just I got to figure out how to get up. Let's do it." So I went out there and of course, that board was really stable so it's very forgiving and I was able to ride and I'm like, "This is frickin' amazing. This is awesome."

Wow!

So I was hooked and I go, "Oh, you know what? Let's get a longboard, let's try." You know I'm again a big guy, I'm not afraid of big boards, I need a big board. Volume is not scary to me, right? Foam is not scary to me. So I'm like, "Let's get a big board." I'm like, "Okay, I don't want a hardboard, I don't want to spend a ton of money yet, make sure I'm into it." So I have a friend, Chris Monroe, who's Beefs Official on YouTube and stuff, he's catch surf and all those guys, and he's a friend of mine from bodyboarding. We actually--we surf together in Alternative Surf. He's an incredible bodyboarder back in the day. And Chris and I go "Chris, I love to get into Catch Surf Odysea's Log and Nine Sweaters. So I went to the store, picked one out and took it out on Doheny on a pretty small day I think in North Fiasco and instantly I was hooked.

I was able to pop up and not great, I probably look kooky, but I felt amazing. And then once I got up, I'm like, "Oh, this is it!" So I've now progressed down to the smallest board in my quiver it's an 8'6, but it's tiny one I can duck dive.

Nice.

So it's really thin and it's really light. At the Hobie, they don't make it anymore. It's kind of like a one off thing that they made, it was like a 1 pound EPS foam and they have the velcro net cover like they do on the SUP boards. It's super light, no stringers and it's like an 8'6.

That's killer.

So I ride that. I have anything from a 10' to 8'6 and I think I'm cool staying there because my SUP is my high-performance board. When it's pumping and it's big and punchy, then I get on the SUP and I can rip around like a shortboard on that. And then now, right at the regular, any type of surfboard.

So it's interesting in the whole. I'm surprised when you were bodyboarding, you didn't have a buddy. It was like, "Hey, dude, here's a surfboard. Why don't you try to surf for the day?" It seemed like you perfected these different stages of your life, and then you evolved to the next thing, whatever you know you were maybe bored with or wanted another challenge. That's the beauty of surfing, right? It's always challenging you. I've been surfing my whole life, and every day I go out, it's still learning, I'm still learning stuff.

Oh, yeah, you're always trying to get better. And you have so many opportunities. I've never been one for peer pressure. And so it's kind of one of the things I had people say that "Hey, you should try surfing. You should do this, do that." And I'm like, "Yeah, but I like what I'm doing." I get content real easily. I'm like "I'm really enjoying a bodyboard and this is super fun." And then it just takes something to kind of maybe make that different. And for me it was like, "Oh, I'm getting older. My body kinda hurts a little bit more by doing this. What can I do to kinda stay out there?" And that's real similar for a lot of people that switch from traditional surfing to stand up paddle surfing. Because like "Ooh man! My neck, my back, my shoulders. I need to try something new." And I think the hardest thing for most people, I feel like, this is just my opinion because I kind of had it too, was your pride.

And I think that's what keeps people from going to bigger boards or trying a SUP board or whatever or bodyboarding or whatever it is. Because when you're good at something, especially as an adult, you don't want to try again because now you have this pride and this ego and you don't want to look like a kook, right? Versus a kid, you don't even care. You're just out there having fun.

Dude! You nailed it, man. Keeping that childlike attitude towards life is, I think, one of the most viable things we can either learn or relearn because our ego gets in the way or we want to look good in the eyes of others. And that never leads to happiness, bro. That always leads to just misery and as soon as nobody's looking, you're bummed and you're wishing you were doing something else. So you nailed it, man.

Yeah, totally. And it's so much more fun if you can just go out and just have a fun time. And that's kind of where I'm at and what I'm doing. And even like with bodyboarding, I would find--you get to this point and you probably experience it surfing I'm sure, where you know you're good, you're doing stuff, you're able to do maneuvers, people would consider you a good bodyboarder or a good surfer or something like that, right. And you're also like pose pressure on yourself and especially when you start competing. And if you go out and you just have a bad day, like your timing's off, you're just not able to pull anything, I would find myself getting pissed. I'm like, "Dude! This isn't a fun feeling. I don't like feeling like this when I'm out here. It's not the purpose of this." So that kind of makes me think a little bit.

That makes me kind of go, "Well, I tried something new. And right now with the longboarding thing or just surfing in general, I don't care if it's small or tiny." And I'm like, "Oh, let's just go have fun. I'll sit on the inside of Old Man's while everyone's fighting for stuff on the outside and I'll just kind of cruise down the line and play around the board, try to walk across it and nothing's followed and do whatever." And it's fun.

I got to get you on a Mini Simmons, bro. When you get on one, you're going to love it.

You know it's funny you say that because I had a buddy, we were out at Samoa and he's a big guy like me. He's retired fireman that I worked with in Huntington and his name is Tom Wilson, great guy. And I was on my 10' longboard. He had a 7'3 fish and he goes, "Hey, try this board out." And I'm like, "Yeah, you want to try this in first? I'll try yours but I don't think I'm gonna catch anything." It was small and at the time, smallest board I've ever rode. And I frickin' popped up on it and it wasn't great, but I was like I came popped up on this thing. So I'm like, "Jeez!". That made me think a little bit. Yeah. Be fun to ride in a smaller board.

Bro! I'm telling you, they're magic. So I'm 6' like 190, 195, depending on how much beer I've been drinking. And my boards are 5'4, bro.

Whoah! What?

My Mini Simmons is 5'4 and I have, in my quiver I've got a 5'1 and a 5'6. So you'd be amazed how short you can go on those things. It's super wide, it's 22 and a half, something like that.

Oh perfect! Yeah.

Super wide, lot of volume. But if someone like you, your size, like a 5'8 I would go maybe. But anyway, we'll get you out one. We'll definitely get you one.

I've gotta try it, yeah because it sounds fascinating because for me is what I've noticed is my width on all the boards, I haven't gone below 23, I don't think much because of my shoulders. It's like it feels more comfortable and I don't do the stagger pop up where I've got my lead hand kinda forward, and my backhand back a little bit. So it's kinda weird to be kinda in. So I really guys like ride an 18-inch wide or 19-inch wide board.

God! How do they do that? Like I'd be like supreme. It'd be weird to pop up on that thing.

It's crazy.

Yeah, that'll be fun. I know guys love it. I see people rip around those things and I go, "God, it looks so fun."

They changed my whole surfing experience for sure.

Is that what you ride mostly? It seems like it's good for those conditions.

Yeah. I always say ride the board that the wave dictates. So I definitely always have many in the car, but I usually have a hybrid board unless if the swells cranking then I ride like a shortboard or regular 5'10 Robert shortboard. But it's got a little more volume maybe in the front than when I was younger. I still love shortboard. When it's cranking, dude, it's nothing like just cranking bottom, turning around, hitting the lip. But for 80 percent of the days, Mini's the call.

Well, it sure seems like it for sure. They don't seem like a struggle. I see guys even today, they had little bit of power for how small it was but there's people shortboarding. Oh my god! It seems like a lot of work. It seems like, jeez. Ride something with a little bit more volume and you can kind of rip around on. And it seems more fun than trying to force the shortboard to work its magic and kinda get a little curve, yeah.

I remember when were kids, right, we had 1 board and you had to ride that board no matter. Like you with the ripped deck on the body part, no matter what it was, you rode it. That was just the way it goes. But that's one of the nice things about having a little more money and a couple more toys in the quivers.

Totally.

You can make that kind of call. But yeah, I was looking at your Instagram feed and I want to transition to your art, bro. I really love what you're doing. Tell me because it seems like it's kind of a new thing for you. What was that like and how did it come about?

That's pretty cool you did that in--so yeah thank you. That was weird. It's something I've kind of done. I used to do a little bit and it was mostly wave drawing, some simple stuff. And actually, when quarantine happened, I was like, "Okay, still some time" and especially when the beaches were closed. I didn't have an e-bike at the time. It's hard to get to places. So I'm like, "All right. Well, let's do something." They kinda preoccupy me a little bit. And what I did is first, I really started to be on to the Drew Brophy have Brophy Art Academy and online, and he has this cool package deal where you get these Posca paint pens and you get a whole set. And then in the set, you get a link to an online tutorial for 3 different lessons that teaches you how to draw flowers is one and you do like tiki guy and then you do like fish character. You've got all these things and you've got pencils, everything, all in this one package. And then he started doing live paint parties for free during quarantine. He's going to start picking back up again. And so you just go and kinda learn how his process and how to use the paint pen, how to apply colors. And I got really hooked.

And there's some artists I follow on social media that do like Joel Bakers, Able Art, bunch of people that have some--like Jay Elders is another guy that I really like and they do some cool art and I was like, "I just want to draw waves and kind of let my imagination run wild." And yeah. So it was again, one of those intimidating things, right, because it's new and you're like, "I don't know what to do."

Right.

You gotta put out the rough ones in the beginning, but...

Totally.

...that's part of the journey.

Yeah. And you got to just be free with it. I think that's one thing that Drew would teach in like these classes, online free parties. He would be like "Just be free. Realize it doesn't have to be perfect." And he goes "Nothing in nature is perfect. So whatever your interpretation is, it's what it is. And people are going to see it for what it is. And this thing is you. You're going to see it. That was what came out of you, out of your creativity." I'm like, "Oh, that's freeing." So then it becomes less stressful and more fun. So now I just kind of doodle around and sketch and come up with ideas.

Are you using the pens mainly now or?

Yeah, I'm using the paint pens. I got a couple of different sets. I'm also going to try to transition and get some markers, too just for stuff that's on paper, kind of have a sketchbook and sometimes it's kinda fun. Paint pens don't work really well on that. So they work better on like a hard surface or glossy surface or whatever paint boards, that kind of stuff. But yeah, a lot of it, it's just sketching. I do enjoy the process of just taking a pencil and just kind of sketching stuff. So how about you? Do you ever gotten into that at all?

I do. I actually yeah, I've been in and out of art for my whole life and I paint. Well, I make surfboards so that's definitely art. I shape.

Oh, that's rad.

But I also paint with oils and acrylic and I saw your stuff and we're kind of similar. Obviously, I'm a surfer, so every room, I think, in our house has one of my wave paintings in it. My wife is like, "Dude, what are you doing? Another wave painting?"

But yeah, dude. I think life's about creativity, bro. Surfing is active creativity, what I call. There's nothing like just creating something from nothing. And dude, it's like one of the gifts that we've been given in this life is to be creative. So, I totally encourage anyone, just whatever it is, find out how you can express that. Whether markers, drawing, painting, surfboard making, podcast, writing, whatever it is like, the more you create in life, the happier you'll be.

Oh, 100 percent. And it's a good distraction from the world using your imagination. It's expanding your imagination coming up with these things. And you never know how that's going to influence other people, in different ways, whatever that might be and you might create something that's just magical to who knows? If you stifle yourself, then you'll just never know. And that's kind of a waste potentially.

Absolutely.

So yeah, I really enjoy that. It's fun to do. I wish I did it more because I'm kind of a perfectionist. So it's hard for me to sit down and then not finish what I'm doing. And so sometimes that takes time as you know, by doing stuff. So I have to really be intent when I do it and kind of go, "Okay, I'm going to sit. This is my art day. My hard time gone."

Yeah, that's good. I think it's good, too like I've done a couple longer pieces lately that I probably wouldn't have done before COVID just because I'm running to the beach back and forth and all over, and some of the longer pieces that have taken me days to do, they're pretty cool. There's just more complexity in them. And there are pieces that I wouldn't normally do just because they take so much longer.

Yeah. If you find that you have an idea when you start it and then if you have to come back to it, your creativity is different and you might add something you're feeling.

Absolutely. Yeah. And what I like to do and I've been doing this since I was a kid, is I'll make a line on the page and then I'll make something out of that line. So I'll just do a random line and then it'll turn into whatever it does.

Yeah. Just freehand and just see where it goes.

Yeah. It's pretty cool.

That's beautiful, yeah. I see that a lot with some of those people. You see a lot of stuff on YouTube or whatever it might be and people are doing crazy jotting or moving all fast and I don't know what they're drawing and all of a sudden it just starts taking shape in someone's face or some crazy like, how did you get that from...

I know.

...from starting off of just splatter on the page. It's amazing. I love that stuff.

Cool man. Yeah. So I just wanted to kinda round-up with what it's like being a fireman during all this, bro? And if you have any--well, 2 things actually.

Sure.

Right when all this started, I really researched COVID and the water like whether it could live in saltwater because obviously, I wanted to surf no matter what. They were closing the beaches up here in Ventura and you could still bike in. So I was biking in almost every day. But it was still early days and everything and I put a pretty extensive article on this and I looked at the science and Surfrider did, their scientist actually did a really good piece on it. And basically, they didn't think that it could live in saltwater, which that was a good sign. But obviously, if you're like, dude, sometimes I look at the cam at Huntington Beach Pier, and there's no way those guys are 6 feet away from each other. Those guys are all paddling on top of each other. I was like, "No way, bro." What would you say to that? And then what's your experience kinda being in the field and what's that like these days for you?

Well, yeah. So to answer your first part of that question is kind of what my experiences with the saltwater and the effects of COVID on that and obviously, I'm not an expert, I'm not a scientist by any means, but I've done some stuff with Mauli Ola and they obviously have that connection with cystic fibrosis. And it's kind of one of those unique things where the salt air is allowing these kids and these people with cystic fibrosis to actually be able to breathe and actually be able to exert energy and also be close to each other in an environment where they're not ever really able to be next to each other and close to each other. So I can see the power of the sea air and how that really helps. I know there's power in that and there's healing in that. And so I kinda look at it and go, well, you know, with the ocean, a couple of things as this COVID thing looks like, all you can really do is limit your risk and limit your exposure.

And outside in the ocean, you have the ability to be away from people. Now, obviously, if you're packed in a tight-knit group, I mean like by the pier, it's kinda tough. But I think it's because of the wind, the waves, the salt, all that combination, I think helps break it all down. I think being outside in the elements, it's a little more comforting if you're around people and this is going on just because it doesn't concentrate it, right. Once it expels, if someone happens to have it near you and it goes out, it's immediately starting to break apart, especially in the wind and everything like that. So you feel more comfortable.

So I hope that there is some benefits. And we haven't really been closing the beaches to surfing per se as much as they were before. So it feels like maybe they're more confident in it or else they would be closing the beaches more if they thought there was something real significant with being exposed while you're surfing and that kind of thing.

As far as being a firefighter in this, it is definitely unique. I've been a firefighter for 15 years, so I've seen--been doing it for a while and seen a lot of different things. And one thing we're used to it is change and being dynamic and making the best of every situation and adapting to stuff. And we're always used to overtrain, I should say, and of these pathogens and these infectious diseases. So it's always around. We've been through Ebola, and swine flu, bird flu, all these different types of flus, and West Nile.

And we're always talking about it and there's always this effect. This is the most significant, of course. And so we've had to make a lot of changes for sure because we have to protect ourselves or else we can't help others. And so we've seen some crazy stuff like we're on calls, we're only allowing 1 paramedic to go in and assess the patient. We're basically treating everybody as if they have COVID until proven otherwise. So they go in, they assess the patient, take a temperature, talk about some of the symptoms and then typically do everything by themselves and limit exposure. So the rest of us are outside unless it's an acute call like cardiac arrest or drug overdose, someone's unresponsive, stuff like that, where we all get in there. And if that's the case then we're all wearing gowns, we have goggles, masks. And at the beginning of this, everyone's all fearful.

We had it really locked up. We're good for a few months. And then when everything reopened, we started having positive cases in the department and then in surrounding departments. And it was very interesting because we did so good. We had zero for 3 months. And then as soon as things opened up and you start seeing a pop-up, we've had probably 6 or 8 positive cases out of 120 personnel. So not a ton, but a ton considering that it happened a few weeks versus 3 months of nothing. And so same thing with other agencies. And so we've had to lock it up because there's a big fear, right. If we all start getting sick, our whole workforce goes down, so we tighten things up, we're wearing masks all 24/7, basically, unless we're eating or we're sleeping. We're basically wearing masks around the station and all day long and the crews aren't eating together.

So like a devastation of the truck company, an engine company, an ambulance. We're not allowed to eat together unless you're on that crew so the engine can eat together, the truck can eat together, and the ambulance can eat together. So that's either you can shift or go out to eat and take it somewhere else and go sit and eat somewhere else. So it's kind of a weird deal.

Aren't you guys sleeping in the same room?

Yeah. So we do have different--with exception to one. One station has an open style dorm, the rest have individual dorms. So we're at least able to kinda isolate a little bit that way. But yeah it's weird because everyone--because the balance not to get--I'm not getting political but I mean people with things opening up, people are taking more liberties out there. And we're still kind of like we're seeing increases. So we're still locking down. But it's weird because we're locked down at work but then in our personal lives, we're surrounded by everybody that's kinda some people treating it like it's normal, some people treating it like it's serious.

Right.

Like everything in between.

Those guys that got it, they may have got it off duty and then brought it back with them.

Yeah, that's the theory because on duty we're very tight, we're very strict and we definitely come in contact with COVID positive patients, but we're wearing the proper PPE, all that stuff. So yeah typically it seems like it's just, you're getting it off duty from whatever activities or people you're exposing yourself to and then bringing it back to the station unknowingly. That's what it is. You can only do so much before your brain, your mental health, the way-- you know you got to have some sort of sense of normalcy. So I think I get why people are taking more risks.

Absolutely. And what do they do with all the used PPE? Do they burn it or they throw like is it like toxic waste?

Yeah, it will get tossed, thrown away and it's not necessarily treated because it's not a bloodborne pathogen or anything like that. But we will red bag it and we will--we can send to the hospital and they can dispose of it appropriately. So and that's not--it depends on the exposure. If you're doing a treatment, that's what we call an aerosolized treatment or something where you're going to have be atomizing the air, or the patient's air whether certain medicines or you're breathing for them or something like that, then that exposure is greater and there's a chance of it getting on your PPE. But if it's someone that, you're with somebody who has COVID and they're kind of just talking, we put a mask on them right away also so we limit the exposure. Not as crazy, but yeah, if you think there's something then you just put it in a red biohazard bag and you would just dispose of it properly, but most of the time it's not necessary. You can reuse some of the PPE.

I wonder how they dispose of that stuff. I'm just curious, especially from an environmental standpoint.

So as far as I know, it goes to biowaste facility.

Okay.

And typically there might be other processes, but I know for sure, one of the process is just to incinerate.

Yeah, that makes sense.

Yeah. Just to get rid of it completely. There might be other things like maybe they can soak it in some chemical or I don't know what they'll do but definitely they dispose of it properly. It's nice that we have that in the United States, that we have ways to do that and take care of it. And so just throwing it out in the streets or whatever, into a landfill or exposing other people. But it's a scary time. How are you handling it yourself? Gosh, it's easy for me and I'm exposed to it. I'm used to this kind of stuff. People know it could be tough.

Yeah, it's tough bro. I usually travel a lot, and I haven't been out of the country since all this went down. So that's one major change. I do a couple of surf trips a year and those are off the books. And I don't see as many people and I surf with a kind of handful of friends and I try to limit the exposure. I haven't been going to the pub or eating out or, it's just a whole different kind. It's solitude, bro.

Yeah, for sure.

We actually just went up to Yosemite last week.

Oh, nice.

And Yosemite is doing something interesting. They're limiting the amount of people that are going into the park. So you actually have to get a reservation. And it's kind of like a rock ticket. You know when you try to get those popular rock tickets, they release them in the golden two minutes.

Yeah, You're like waving the line...

It's like that, right. But it's all on the Internet, so..

Oh, man.

...you have to go and you have to get the reservation. If you don't have the reservation before you get there, they don't let you into the park. Right?

Oh yeah.

So we did end up getting one which was cool. It took us 3 days, up at like 7 going "Okay, we got to go to the computer." But we got them. And then the one nice thing I have to say is, dude, nobody's up there. Because they're limiting, because it's so hard to get the reservations, it was just empty.

Oh, man. What an experience.

Any time you can be in nature and not be around a bunch of bozos, it's always good.

Right. How are the animals, were there about more animals around?

There are a lot more animals, yeah. And from kinda what I've heard on the internets too, like everyone's posting all these pictures and they can't believe all the bears they're seeing. The animals are coming out on groves. We went on this 1 hike. We were all alone for 4 hours and I felt like I could feel them. You could feel them kinda stalking you, looking all--because it get serious. We were on the upper part and it gets serious up there with the bears. Not lions and stuff.

Oh, yeah. I laugh because people will say I'm sure they've said to you, too, were they're like, "Aren't you afraid of sharks and stuff?" And I go, I surfed San Onofre a lot. And I've had some shark encounters out there, like under my board right next to me, all the stuff. The juvenile great white tripe and those are big thing.

All the time.

And yeah, it happens. And so I go, "Yeah, I am but I'd much rather deal with the shark attacking me than be in the wild with a bear or something." Because the bear you'll see it. You'll see it coming, you'll have this fear of like, "Oh my gosh." and try to outrun it. And it's just this horrible thing. I'm like, "A shark will sneak up on you. It'll save you the courtesy of just blasting you out of nowhere and you just have to deal with it." So I'm like that's much better.

Yeah. I was thinking about the mountain lions, too. Because those dudes are like sleek. They're sleek and although you probably won't even see those thing, they'll be like a shark. You don't even see them coming.

Oh yeah. They totally jump out of nowhere.

Jump out, put their claws around you but it's all good. We made it back.

Yeah, for sure. That's so cool. I know you go to Mexico and reading up on Wave Tribe and everything. And I do the same thing. I've been last 5 or 6 years, I've been driving down to the tip of Baja, back. It'll be like a 2-week trip and oh, it's so fun! And I'm kind of mourning like you are with traveling like I was supposed to go in May and didn't happen. I'm not sure if I might write it off this year and just kind of go, "Hey, let's just reset." But I love it down there. It's a magical place. You've...

Absolutely.

...seen more than I have down there. And I'm already hooked.

Dude, keep me in the loop on your trips. We could hopefully correspond one of these times because...

That'd be rad, usually May. May seems to be really good for me.

Any time. You name it. I'll go.

I love it.

The podcast before this when I just dropped it today is my buddy went down 3 weeks ago during COVID on that south swell.

Oh, love to hear.

The podcast is about him traveling during COVID and getting down there. Empty surf, which totally jealous about his trip. And I was supposed to go. Dude, I couldn't pull the trigger. I was like, "I can't do it." Then I saw the pictures and I was like, "Ugh!"

Well, there is a risk. Like Colin McPhillips, he's the right for Hobie and stuff like that, so from my ambassador time I got to know him a little bit and he goes down there all the time. He's just like you like, "Where do you go? I'm in." And he will just pull the trigger right away. He went down the same time.

He's probably down there but he was at Scorpion and he said they scored but he said it was weird because there's still a vibe of like, "Hey, you can't really surf, but you can but you can't." And it's like ooh that's kind of a that'd be a bummer to get down there and kind of have all these waves and not be able to do anything.

Oh, dude, suck. It's crazy. Scorpions out there though, so I can't imagine the police are going to be rolling up on you at Scorpion, but...

Totally.

...you never know.

Yeah. He said they were relatively consistently like they would say, "Hey, go out and we'll be back here 11:00 or whatever. Just know where we're going to be buying." And like, "Whoah, you'd really like to play the game," kind of like we would hear of the team like they're taking off the beaten path. But I don't know, they're taking it serious down there, which is good but...

Little green goes a long way down there though.

True.

Couple Ponis, they probably would have been fine.

Yeah, you're right for sure. It's a good or bad thing about down there for sure.

Exactly. Yeah it is. Definitely, dude. Awesome, man. This has been a great podcast. I really appreciate you coming on here. I've enjoyed getting to know you, man. And let's do it again sometime and catch up and go deeper on some of our trips. Maybe we can talk about Mex and places to go and compare notes or something like that.

Totally. I would love to do that, Derek. It's super fun. It's an honor to be on here. I mean, I don't get this attention very often. It's super cool to be able to be on here. And you're a great interviewer. I appreciate...

Oh, thank you, dude.

...the way you navigated this. It was so super cool and you being up in Ventura. I'd love to get up there. I usually do a fun little day or 2 trip and kind of cruise up and work my way back down. So I'd love to hook up with you and surf up there.

Dude, absolutely. Let's wait till a little swell's happening and I'll show you around the pier and we'll grab a beer and distance beer, of course.

Yeah, for sure.

I'll ping you my dats and I think you got them already. But keep me in the loop for any trips up here. And there's another jewel up the coast. I don't know if you've been to Jalama but...

Oh yeah.

Jalama is insane, dude. It's one of my favorite all-time waves and it's only an hour from here so...

I'd love that. I've never been, I've just seen it and oh that would be fruitful to do. I'd love it, for sure.

There you go. That's the trip we got to do, brother.

Okay. Sounds good, Derek. Awesome

That's COVID-friendly too, right? It's right up the streets so...

Of course, yeah! Totally, 100 percent.

Cool, brother. Thanks, Kane.

You're welcome, Derek. You take care. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Yeah, man. Later.

Alright. Bye.

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