This month's Mizu Mission takes us to Tofino, British Colombia with Russell Holliday and friends. From getting caught in a storm with nothing but a few cans of tuna, to spending days trying to catch that perfect, one-of-a-kind wave, find out why we think Russell embodies the true meaning of what it means to be an 'adventurer.'
Why did you pick this location? British Columbia isn’t conventionally known for it’s surf. Weather is harsh, water is cold, and surf conditions are near impossible to predict, but there is the opportunity to score.
What’s a must see and/or do in Tofino? When on Vancouver Island, you have to put your feet in the ocean, if not go out for a surf. There’s so much to do up here if you’re willing to get out there and experience it - whether it be fishing, wildlife tours, or surfing.
What was your routine on this trip, what time did you wake up – what did you eat? Essentially this trip was planned around a huge storm in the North Pacific which will inherently bring good waves. In order to get to most of these waves we had to go in the open ocean on jet skis -- we would leave around 5AM or camp out at each wave for 2-3 days. Transportation by jet ski meant we had to pack extremely light, as minimal as I have ever had to pack. We survived off: Almonds, trail mix, canned tuna, dried fruit, salmon that we caught in the nearby river and river water for drinking.
We eventually got trapped for 2 days by the passing storm and had to ration our food to make sure we had enough in case we had to stay longer. Luckily we were able to get out during a small break in the storm and were literally watching it close back in as we pounded into the open ocean swells.
What was so special about this trip? Trips like this are such a necessary change of pace. We’re so used to being able to account for all weather variables at all times; not being able to feels like somewhat of a foreign idea. It’s a pretty cool feeling when you’re able to just let go of your so-called plan and allow yourself to be completely at nature’s will. When you put yourself in those situations the most meaningful content gets created because you are living out the true meaning of an “adventure” rather than a fabricated version of that thereof.
Is nature an important part of your creative inspiration? Fully. Nature is what allows me to do what I do. Surfing especially requires you to be so in tune with your surroundings and the weather conditions. So much time and effort is invested to be able to be in the right spot to ride a wave which has traveled thousands of miles to break. It’s not like a skate park or court where you can come back every day and try a trick until you get it; every wave is different and therefore you only get one chance. That aspect of surfing makes photographing it so difficult but also allows you to capture a moment in time that is so much more meaningful.
What was the biggest challenge on this adventure? The accessibility of all of these spots is extremely difficult which makes it tricky. Jet ski’s are not designed to carry cargo and are very tippy when loaded down and going through waves. Everybody had to pack extremely light and I found myself leaving clothes behind so that I could pack more food in case we got stuck anywhere.
What tips do you have to reuse your Mizu or choose reusable over single-use while on the road? You save so much money traveling with a Mizu! (a bottle of water in the airport is like $3!). Choose a camera bag that has a side pouch for a bottle so that you just get in a habit of always having it with you. I attached a carabiner to the top of my V8 and would just keep it clipped to everything.
Do you often see a lot of trash on your travels? Yeah trash can travel extremely far distances when it’s in the ocean. You can be on the most remote area of the coast and come across a wrapper or plastic bottle which really puts into perspective the impact of one poor decision.
What inspires you to get outdoors and see the world? I am driven towards simply experiencing something new and different than what I already have experienced. The more time I spend outdoors the more it pushes me to discover new environments and share it with others.
Your work takes you to many exciting places – do you have a personal favorite destination? I have been to Iceland 4 times this year for work and I’d honestly have to say that it’s been my favorite destination. Every region is completely different and you can see so much in so little time. I’ve been lucky enough to see everything from the well-known landmarks in the south coast to the most remote areas (and waves) of the Westfjords.
What’s the craziest story you can remember from one of your past adventures? Oh man there are many. The first that comes to mind is driving through Iceland’s worst storm in 25 years with Chris Burkard and a bunch of surfers. We got stuck in a snow drift..at 1AM..miles from any town..with no cell service. Winds were blowing upwards of 100mph and we had to try to dig the cars out even though I thought we were stuck for sure; I was starting to think about how we were going to pack the gear to walk out of there.
What advice can you give to those who want to travel but can’t seem to pull the trigger? Traveling doesn’t require you to quit your job and take off for months at a time. Planning weekend trips around a location or an activity is such a good exercise and allows you to learn how to pack light and be “on the move”.
Who are you inspired by? I’ve been working alongside Chris Burkard for the past year and a half and am constantly inspired by his dedication towards his craft and pushing into the unknown.
What has traveling taught you? It would be extremely tough if I didn’t have the roots at home that I do. I live locally to where I was born and raised which makes the central coast of California truly feel like home whenever I’m not traveling. It kills me to be traveling when the waves are good at home though haha.
What does “enjoy the journey, leave nothing behind” mean to you? It means pushing past your fears to experience something new while keeping an environmentally conscious mindset.