When NYSEA called Will Skudin to get the story about Todos he quickly responded with this ” James Papaz picked us up from the airport and drove us down to Todos, went out on the boat with us and watched / shot photos 1st hand. He had the best view in the house, I think he would give you a better story then I would.” So we took Will’s advise and sent James an email asking him to write up a short story and send the photos over. So here you have it. Todos Santos through the eyes of James.
Dedication, Stoke, and Passion at its purest, just another weekend with the Skudin Brothers.
We are roughly 8 nautical miles off the coast of Mexico at the legendary Todos Santos, home to the wave appropriately named Killers. Killers was firing and the warriors on board the boat were ready to charge. Watching as brothers Will and Cliff Skudin checked their equipment, lifesaving inflatable vests included, one could not help but notice the dedication and passion required to surf giants. They dove into the clear blue pacific water and as they paddled out to the break shouts were heard from other surfers and boats. This was a tight family of chargers and they were yelling “Skudin” as if it was a battle cry of acknowledgment to the brothers. And I realized that Will and Cliff have truly represented themselves, represented NY and everyone back home as they traveled around the world doing what they loved. I smiled and laughed because the last few days leading up to this were interesting to say the least, anyone who has traveled with these two can relate. It all started a few months ago when Will was out for a short stay at my place with a quick comment about Todos, and my response of “I am in.”
I just returned home from a business trip to London, and was tying to catch up on emails but kept finding myself tracking this swell due to hit California. We have been due for some waves and it was shaping up to be a solid one. I was mapping out my week as I also made plans with my girlfriend of three years, when my phone buzzed. It was a text from Will and said “Friday Todos possibly.” Well spell check did its thing and it took four texts to get to that but once it was clear, of course the only response was “I’m in.”
Traveling through Mexico and the border has created a good deal of concern and buzz so we wanted to make sure we played it smart. Not that the White faces, NY plates, or 12 ft surf coffin of boards on top of my jeep would bring attention… As I was getting packed and ready to head to the airport in a couple hours to start the journey in daylight, I get the text on “on my way.” It was shortly followed by another “Missed my flight.” A change in travel and new plan was for me to meet Cliff at the San Diego airport and Will was going to get in shortly after, both flights getting in Friday evening.
Now we had no choice but to drive across the boarder and through the boarder towns in the dark on a Friday night. Sure why not “I’m in.” Will is that kind of friend, he has that impact and to be honest it has resulted in many epic nights, great stories and memories. Will and Cliff are the rare kind of genuine people and true friends. So off we went.
We did have a short intimate encounter with the Mexican Military as we crossed. It took them some time to figure out what we were doing heading out into Mexico with the car packed as it was at this time of night. They waved us on with a pat on the back and questionable smirk and we were off again to Hotel Coral in Ensenda. We made it there with out issue just after midnight, unloaded and everyone headed to get what rest we could. We woke the next morning and you could see the excitement and focus coming from Will and Cliff. There was also a hint of anxiousness, as to how big it was going to be. Anxious not that it was going to be too big, but that it was not going to be as big as they hoped.
We made it down to the boat slip just before 5 am to meet up with the rest of the crew, all on the same boat. Will and Cliff greeted most of the group in a manner clear there was history shared between them all. The boat was soon loaded and Headed towards Todos. The Captain, Captain Jack was at the helm. As we headed out of the harbor the swell was pumping on the mainland breaks and Capt Jack mumbled it was bigger than yesterday. As we got closer to the island the dolphins were jumping, the sun was shining, and you knew it was going to be a good day. We headed through the pass and made the turn to get the first glimpse of Killers, it was firing.
Joining Will and Cliff on the boat were a couple of the well-known European chargers and film crew, as well as a couple well known locals to Todos. Within minutes they were all out in the lineup. We got to witness some extraordinary big wave surfing and some epic wipeouts. There were about six boats and a couple of skis. A few surfers joined the lineup coming from the remote island, of which Cliff would soon find himself on. There were over a dozen boards broken, many uses of the various inflatable vests, and a few non-life threatening injuries. It was a performance to say the least, and not one for the crowds or cameras.
Looking out there was a distinct separation in the lineup. One group sat more inside looking to catch the medium sized waves breaking more often and the other group sat some distance further out, determined on finding the bombs of the day. Cliff and Will were in the group along with the Europeans sitting further out, hunting bombs. I watched as Cliff and Will navigated the lineup looking for the position they had set in their minds. After a short while you could see the shadow on the horizon and looking at the lineup Will was in position. As those sitting inside scratched to get over it, Will turned without hesitation deeper than anyone else paddling and charged. He made the drop and bottom turn with style and comfort. I have seen countless photos and videos of Will on giants, but to watch in person so close is a different experience. He finished the first wave and kicked out to cheers from the numerous boats and surfers in the water. Knowing Will I could see in his body language that getting that first wave down, it was on. He continued to charge wave after wave, representing and backing up all he stands for.
It was not long for Cliff to make his move for a few and get his start. A decent set came and Cliff was going, he started his paddle not holding back. Then in what seemed like a blink of an eye he is gone out of sight. Sitting on the boat the concern kicks in as I search the white water and do not se him or his bright red board. From the corner of my eye I see his bright red board washed up on the shore a good distance away. As time seemed to freeze someone on the boat pointed out that the rescue ski had him, his Patagonia vest inflated. The ski took him to shore to retrieve his board and I watched as he gathered his composure on the dry land. One could not imagine the beating Cliff just took to have that reaction. Cliff is one of the best waterman I know, all those who have been lucky to spend time in the water with him would agree including Will. After a short while on the island he made his way back to the boat. He was definitely shaken which was a sight I have never seen. Soon after Will made his way to the boat to get some food and water. As Cliff explained the wipe out you could see Will’s reaction and concern. As the three of us watched and talked Cliff looks to Will, you could see his body language change, and he asks about the spare board brought. Will swapped boards out and Cliff was back out there. Will and I sat on the bridge watching the action when a large set was on the horizon. Without hesitation Cliff turned, he was going. He made the steep drop fully extended and muscled the bottom turn into position. The crew was cheering but no one louder than Will. It was truly impressive to see Cliff compose himself from getting worked in a heavy wipeout, to getting back out and catching a bomb. That was all the motivation Will needed to go join the lineup. They both continued to catch a good deal more. Will got a bomb of which was one of the best waves of the day, the very same wave that has made its way to ESPN and other websites with an XXL entry.
As the afternoon went on and the sun began to set, the surfers began to make the way back to the boat. Will and Cliff made the way back to the boat together, the brothers they are, victorious and stoked. There was an amazing vibe on the boat on the way home with everyone on cloud nine. As we got back everyone parted ways, all having shared all that was Todos Santos. We enjoyed the rest of the evening at the hotel and headed out the next day.
As we got to the boarder, back to the US we all shared a thought how great the trip went. Shortly after we were sitting in a boarder patrol holding cell due to a misunderstanding of lanes and alleged paperwork from the hotel, mere bump in the road. After a little delay and discussion we were out of this well monitored fenced in “rest area” and back to my car and in to the US. To top things off we scored on an awesome left slab in San Diego till dark, one of the best sessions I had in sometime. I could not have imagined a better way to end the weekend. We said our goodbyes. Will and Cliff were heading back to Hawaii to continue to charge and represent so many. I was back to the real world. In reflecting on the trip, I can say without hesitation that I am beyond stoked and proud of Will and Cliff. Every surfer knows the passion of riding waves and the calling to the ocean offers, many families and significant others knowing the resulting frustration. The passion observed for riding these giants was another level. But again it was just another weekend for the Skudin Brothers.