Professional surfer, Patagonia ambassador, adventurer and all around good human, Hank Gaskell lives a fulfilled life. We caught up with Hank following his most recent ramblings through Baja with his girlfriend Malia (featured photographer!) and their dog Moku. We explored the trip, and garnered a little more insight into a day in the life of Hank!
Where are you from, when did you move to California, and where are you living these days? What gets you out of bed every day?
I am 30 years old, born and raised in Hana, Maui. Hana is more than an idyllic tourist destination. The surf gets really good a few times a year, but an average trade wind swell day is still fun and never crowded. There is abundant nature as well as a deeply connected community.
I have been a traveling pro surfer since I graduated Hana High in 2003. Some of my favorite places are Tahiti, Chile, Alaska, the Marshall islands, Namibia, New Zealand, and now after my last adventure, Baja!
I moved to La Jolla back in August because my girlfriend Malia is going to Physical Therapy school here. If I can't be in Hana, then I am very happy to be here. The surf is great and I have a lot of great friends nearby. I have spent so much time in SoCal over the years that it already feels like a second home.
Most days I am awoken by Moku, our 3 year old border collie/aussie shepherd. He jumps on our bed, excitedly licks our faces and flops around between us while making funny nasally sounds. It is a wonderful way to start the day! Once awake, I have a cup of tea or coffee. After that, it's kinda whatever the day calls for! I don't have a normal job and travel a lot, so my days are very sporadic. When at home I will call friends to go for a surf, go free diving, bike, yoga, read, etc.
What makes the Ocean a special place for you?
Geez, the ocean is a special place for me for so many reasons! I was basically raised at the beach, boogie boarding in the shorebreak, having sandball fights and building sand castles all day. I got my first surfboard at age 6 and fell in love. Through surfing I have made most of the amazing friendships that I have now, and for that I am most thankful. Despite my mellow demeanor, I am a very competitive person. Surfing was always the thing I was best at, so I made a decent career out of traveling the world for contests. I don't compete so much now, but I am still fortunate enough to travel a lot and I love my time in the water more than ever.
Free diving is a huge passion of mine. It is the thing that puts me in the moment more than anything else. When I am deep underwater everything is dead silent. I sit completely still on the bottom and observe fish as they become curious and swarm all around me. When one that looks tasty gets too close I pull the trigger and take him home for dinner. There's not much that feels better than hunting, foraging or growing, then preparing and eating your own food!
What motivated you to explore a bit more on the recent trip to Baja?
I had been to Baja in the past, but never had the opportunity to explore the way we did this time. We met up with lots of friends along the way but in my truck it was only Malia, Moku and myself. We had a flexible itinerary so that we'd be free to chase waves, good diving conditions, or whatever other adventures arose. We knew the first few days would be small, so we drove down the gulf side to a spot I hadn't heard of, but had scoped out on Google Earth. Turned out the diving there was amazing! Malia and I both caught a few nice fish. At that point we still had ice in the cooler, so we loaded it up and went looking for our friends on the Pacific side. We found them and collaborated for some of the best fish tacos ever!
What makes Baja special to you? Growing up on Maui I'm sure you have your fair share of hidden spots, is it the lure of finding a perfect setup with no one out?
The lure of Baja to me is the escape of everyday life. It's so nice to be able to drive a couple of hours and be in a completely different world with no wifi or cell service. It can be pretty wild down there. We had crazy wind and rain some days. One evening during a rainstorm my truck got stuck deep in the mud. That night we slept right there in my truck, hoping that the water wouldn't rise any further. Luckily it didn't, and after half of the next day digging, pushing, and pulling, we were freed.
It looks like you stumbled across some pretty good surf! What kind of quiver do you bring on a trip like this when you don't know what you'll find?
My quiver for this trip was on point! I had a brand new 6'0 Wegener fun board that Malia and I both fell in love with, our favorite fish- a 5'6 Infinity High 5 model, a new FCD 5'6 that was fast and loose, one shortboard, and a 9'6 log that a friend let me borrow. I also got to bomb some smooth, empty roads on my Bureo Ahi before we got into the dirt.
Highs and lows from the trip?
I'd say the high point of the trip was Christmas day. It had stormed and was freezing cold the day and night before, but for the 25th it was warm and glassy all day. The surf was head high, perfect, 100 yard rights with only our crew on it. We had a white elephant gifting, played music and card games, drank hot chocolate and had amazing fish and lobster tacos for dinner.
Low point for me was when went head over heels on a rocky point after attempting a handstand. I skinned up my feet and shins, but mostly just my ego was hurt... Haha. We were pretty lucky this trip and everything went incredibly smoothly.
What does the 'Hank + Malia' road trip playlist look like?
We listen to a lot of podcasts while on the road. This American Life, TED Radio Hour, Freakonomics, The Joe Rogan Experience, Savage Lovecast, and Radiolab are a few of our favorites. For music, it was Mason Jennings, Devil Makes Three, Andrew Bird, Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, White Buffalo, Regina Spector, Norah Jones, Nighmares on Wax, and some random Spotify playlists.
Where are you off to next?
Next I get to spend some time back home in Hana! I head out tomorrow morning for about a week, then fly to Oahu for the Volcom Pipe pro. The water was really cold in Baja, as well as here in San Diego, so I am really looking forward to trunking it for a bit...