My new GoPro Hero 2 takes its first adventure to Beer Can Island in Tampa

In preparation for the mysterious #ProjectZ trip with the OmniTen crew, Columbia Sportswear teamed up with GoPro to supply us each with the new Hero 2 HD camera – and naturally, I figured I ought to put my new toy to the test before taking it out to Sedona for an epic adventure.

While tagging along with Niko during a trip to visit family in Tampa, Florida, we made a trip out to the coast for a day spent at one of the neatest beaches I’ve ever experienced. The spot is called “Beer Can Island,” and while it may conjure up images of littered shoreline strewn with discarded aluminum, it’s actually a pristine slice of coastal wonderment unlike any other beach in the area.

Rather than the usual stretches of shadeless Floridian sand that line much of the Gulf Coast, Beer Can Island is home to a sprawling landscape of enormous driftwood pieces, including one upright tree that boasts a little wooden swing – and by swing, I mean a chunky, splintered log tied haphazardly to a suspiciously fraying rope. 

We set up our little beach camp a few yards away from the temptress swing, and it wasn’t long before I was lured towards the idea of swaying above crashing waves and creating my own little breeze on the particularly scorching day.

Initially, I hopped right on the swing with my feet planted on the wooden base, and my fingers clasped around a series of knots along the upper part of the rope. I attempted to swing myself back and forth – but quickly realized I wasn’t going to make any significant movement on my own. Niko lent a hand and sent me soaring through the sky (and a few times directly into the tree beside me).

While playing on the swing, we decided to sample a few of the many settings found on the GoPro Hero 2. We took still shots, video footage, and used a unique feature that takes ten photos in a one second burst.

While reviewing all my footage from the day, I had originally come across a short bit filmed by Niko while we were splashing around in the shallow sea. It started off great, with Niko swooping the camera in and out of the water like a leaping dolphin as he snagged footage of our group meandering in the saltwater. Suddenly, the clip became a no-go as someone decided to pull their pants down while the camera was peeking underwater. I figured it would be inhumane to subject my readers to the pale sight of that soggy behind, so instead, enjoy this clip of me fooling around on the swing. Enjoy!

[youtube clip_id=”zF7miEKu2T8″]

It ain’t too fancy, I’ll admit that much.

Stay tuned for way cooler clips, photos, and stories as I embark on a wild adventure this week in Sedona!

Hermit crab parties, mason jar feasts, and kayaking across the bay in Pensacola

During my last brief stint in Tallahassee, I was convinced to extend my stay to witness the homecoming of two darling friends, Jeff and Ryan, who had spent their summer toiling away as river guides in Moab, Utah. I agreed, and naturally, my plans were thrown into the blender of life, which led me to meet them out in Pensacola for a few days of seaside adventuring.

The crew consisted of myself, Niko, Jeff, Ryan, and our lovely host, Dan. We all met Dan during our stay at the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab. A constant explorer traveling the world with permanently tanned skin and a rusty pick-up truck, Dan embodied everything the boys aspire to be. During our adventures together in Utah, which included a wild day of hiking through Arches National Park, Dan extended constant invitations for us to come visit him in Pensacola when we all finally returned to the state of sunshine. None of us ever expected those invitations to come to fruition, but a little luck and three spontaneous hours of driving brought the clan back together on the coast.

This trip’s highlight was the day that Jeff and Niko decided to attempt a five-mile open water trek across the bay. Jeff has an uncanny knack for acquiring free swag, and during his Moab escapades he stumbled upon two virtually free kayaks – that bastard. We loaded those bad boys onto the roof of my Pilot, and headed to the Gulf Islands National Seashore to take a dip in the bay and launch the kayaks out to sea.

You may not be able to tell from the photo, but neither of those kayaks were outfitted with skirts, and the bay waters weren’t exactly calm on this slightly overcast day. Nevertheless, the two adventurers set out from the sand with smiles plastered on their faces, and the remaining three of us retreated back to Dan’s abode on the opposite end of the bay to kill time down at the dock.

The 5 mile trek was supposed to take them about two and a half hours, but the gruesome twosome managed to extend their trip by at least double the time – and 5 extra miles. How did this happen, you ask? Well, first, those knuckleheads managed to get themselves caught in an afternoon sea storm that blew them way off course. The new direction in which they veered guided them towards unknown land, but they beached their kayaks anyways and journeyed onto shore. Upon receiving quizzical glances from this strange place’s inhabitants, they realized the boys realized they had managed to infiltrate a high-security Navy base. Typical.

All the while, Ryan and I were left to ponder their fates as we bode our time waiting on the dock. As the hours melted together, we found a fantastic way to kill the lull of the clock: hermit crab parties. The dirty sandbanks below the dock were laden with hermit crabs, and Rya and I managed to collect a hefty heap of living shells to attend our crustacean celebration. Piled all over each other, the crabs provided excellent entertainment as they scurried towards the end of the dock planks, and promptly plummeted back down to the safety of the sand.

After a few too many hours of waiting for Jeff and Niko to surface on the horizon, the weather began to take on a menacing tone, and Dan decided we should take his dinghy out into the bay to search for our kayakers. A couple hundred yards into the choppy water, we were forced to retreat as the small boat was tossed about in the looming storm. Dan suggested that it might be an appropriate time to call the Coast Guard, and you can bet I got a bit nervous at this point.

Dan unloaded Ryan, myself, and our cooler of snacks back onto the dock, and continued to search for the lost boys while I sat with Ryan to impatiently wait on the shore for an update. Eventually, the three of us were forced to retreat up the street to Dan’s home to prepare for a supper of curried chicken out of mason jar, and a continuation of the waiting game.

Let’s pause from our harrowing kayak adventure to take a moment to bask in the glory of Dan’s saucy hoard of mason jar meals. It was impressive and inspiring. As soon as I return from my big trip, I’m investing in a pressure cooker so I can whip up insane batches of food like this. The curry chicken we devoured for dinner was prepared over a year ago, and it  tasted like it was freshly made that day. Genius – but back to the boys.

After sitting on Dan’s front porch for a bit, I grew restless and dragged Ryan back to the dock with me to wait for Jeff and Niko. As divine timing would have it, we strolled up to the waterfront just as the two waterlogged kayakers beached on the shore. They were sun-beaten, raisin-handed, and pumped on the completion of their epic adventure.

We returned to Dan’s home a reunited foursome, and gorged ourselves on a spicy supper while Jeff and Niko regaled us with tales of bailing out their kayaks with broken plastic cups, losing sight of land during a sudden storm, and pioneering blindly onto a Navy base.

Just another day in the life, I suppose.