Somewhere in the stagnant heart of California’s farmland, inside a gas station near the Interstate 5 and a long but straight road that vanishes into the dust and daydreams of the horizon, beef franks gyrate on steel bars that claim to be stainless but prove to be otherwise. I think I’ll pass.

Next to them, a cashier glares off into the apparently distant fridge full of soft drinks only 15 feet away, with a stain on his shirt and eyes bored enough to kill.

Next to him, California license plates are shrunken to the size of key chains, dangling from hooks on an upright rectangle, brandishing every name in the world except for your own.

And next to it, Josh Kerr and Damien Hobgood mill around in confusion — they’re searching for adventure. But for now, they’ll have to settle for some chips.

Adventure. What is it? The word is used to describe an experience, a genre, a feeling, a state of mind and more. Places like Disneyland advertise it as if it can be sold, bought, bargained, bartered or begged for. Plenty of people seem to crave it — their pursuit of it made known in Instagram bios, sandwiched somewhere between the term wanderlust and a few pretty cool emojis. But what is it?

And how do you find it?

Josh and Damo are on a quest to find it.

It’s an El Niño year and the two California residents want to make the most of the phenomena. They’ve teamed up with their friend, Johnny, and commandeered an RV. A big one. It has eight wheels, four beds, three TVs and, now, two bags of chips. After not finding anything even resembling adventure on the sullen shelves of the gas station, we returned to the house on wheels and continued north, putting on some TV to pass the time. South Park. The Caitlyn Jenner episode. A real crowd pleaser.

The next morning, we woke up in a parking lot somewhere in Oakland. With the sun soon to rise, we stepped outside for a moment and looked around. Didn’t seem like we could find adventure there, either — only big buildings and the songs of a city waking up. We contributed to the music, adding the monotonous hum of a diesel motor, and a few bridges later the pictures painted in our windows became Ocean Beach.

The waves were big. But more than that, they were enigmatic. It was doing what swell-slapped OB does: breaking out far enough to produce the illusion of simplicity. The playing field out there is so grand, but when you shrink it all down, as this vantage point does, it seems so easy. The rip’s here. A good peak’s there. Bounce between the two and declare yourself king. It’s ironic, this image, given the maddening quirks, complexities and raw strength of it all if you actually decide to indulge.

The parking lot was full of people considering that decision. In conditions like this, consideration is a slippery slope. The more you think about it, the less likely you are to paddle out. You start to see things as either black or white. You establish pros and cons. You worry and you wonder, then you throw it all on the ancient scale in your head and weigh it out like gold.

Thought can be dangerous when seeking adventure. Thought can be dangerous in general.

Damien and Josh didn’t think all that much, only looking inward to try and remember where their wetsuits might be. Damo somehow slid right out, waited an hour and caught a decent wave in. Josh spent that hour paddling out. When he finally made it, he was rewarded with a sub-par wall of disgruntled Pacific. The mirage had lied. Maybe Mav’s would be more honest.

Maverick’s. To some, it is the epitome of adventure. A challenge for challenge’s sake. A dare to the forces — of god, if you believe in that, or of nature, which you won’t really need to believe in because it will make its presence known by body-slamming you into the darkest corner of the Pacific anyway. It is “kill me dead” or “let me live in glory” — speaking of which, anybody know how to find glory?

But to Josh and Damo, Maverick’s is somehow less than that. To them, it’s still the wave that killed Mark Foo and Sion Milosky, but it isn’t the Everest of the ocean. It isn’t a bullfight to them — it’s just a horned beast, a red cape and a dance they know quite well.

Josh, fresh off a win at the Big Wave World Tour stop at Todos Santos; and Damo, fresh off a lifetime of calculated fearlessness, both suited up with a relaxed, although focused, demeanor.

It was the day of the year — you could hyperbolize further, toy around with the time frame if you’d like — and the most recognizable faces in big-wave surfing bobbed around in the lineup, waiting for the stars to align and hoping they’d have the courage to notice. The channel and cliff were even more crowded, with lenses and lookers alike. It felt like the whole world was watching.

Both men found very respectable tallies of very respectable waves. I’m not so sure they found adventure, though.

After a day like that, a barbecue was only fair. The scent of grilled meat attracted a gathering of some friends. They sat around the fish-stained parking lot at Pillar Point Harbor, reminiscing about the waves they’d caught, fantasizing about the waves they hadn’t and being grateful about the waves that had almost caught them. It was a good barbecue. But as the coals cooled and the smoke cleared, reality began to set in.

Reality. We hadn’t heard from it in a while. It had been pursuing us since we first left, but it wasn’t able to match the speed of the RV. Damo and Kerr are both married with children. They had things to do back home, and families they’d promised to spend time with. And here they were on the second night of what was meant to be a two-night trip, feeling like the end was all too near.

The barbecue cascaded into a few beers at a nearby bar, Old Princeton Landing, where all the greats go after a big day out front. Conversation at the bar shifted from what had happened to what’ll happen next. Forecasts were checked, faces curiously illuminated by promising pixels, and plans began to take shape. Just not for us — our trip was over.

But was our mission complete? Had we found adventure? It certainly didn’t feel like it. And that was unsettling. So, somewhere in the lively murkiness of that bar, a decision was made. Our trip was not over. Not even close.

The next morning, after another surf in the city, the RV reconnected with the long road. We hard-nosed the highway all the way up to the Pacific Northwest, where the people are few and lips are suddenly sealed. That’s where we found it.

After all, it wasn’t hard to figure out where adventure was. It was just hard to get there. Because adventure is simply a few steps out of your comfort zone. It’s always nearby but never seen, forever hidden on the other side of the edge. Getting there takes the acknowledgment of risk and the euphoria of ignoring it.

The irrational behavior of the Pacific Ocean last winter evoked irrational behavior in all of us. It created a sense of urgency, like there was some never-again opportunity waiting for you out there. And it wasn’t enough just to take part in it — you had to find the line and cross it. To us, that meant spending a week in the PNW.

We went up and down that rugged coastline, through thick fog banks and Redwood trees that disappeared into the sky. None of it was planned. None of it was plastic. None of it was Disneyland. It was all real. And it was slabs, sharks, trials, triumphs, cold mornings, late nights, angry phone calls, unbelievable sessions, uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, laughter, and, finally a long drive home.

It was quite an adventure. And all it took was turning the RV north and pointing it just up the coast.

Principal Photography by Scotty Hammonds

Other photos by Bastien Bonnarme, Mark Mcinnis, Seth de Roulet and Jimmicane

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