Ross Ruddell is about to embark on an epic journey down the pan-American highway, surfing his way from California to Tierra del Fuego, over the course of three years. This is his story. You can keep up to date with Ross’s adventures right here, and at Project Bliss.
Aloha. My name is Ross, and I am a photographer from the gorgeous
Central Coast of California. I lived there for 20 years before moving
to Hawaii. After leaving the islands I moved up to the Northeast for a few years.
From there, I landed back in my hometown — 9 years older, a few stories heavier,
and a renewed stoke for travel. I am itching to get back on the road.
The last 8 years I was a photographer for the U.S. Coast Guard and was
beyond fortunate for opportunities to travel to remote and gorgeous
parts of the world. But I always had a safety net. I always had a
return ticket, an assigned date upon which I would leave the adventure
and come “home” (wherever that was at the time). As much as I enjoyed
hopping on a plane or a boat, always experiencing somewhere new, I was
never fully satisfied. Over time, that safety net, became a noose.
A few years ago I started to plan. I knew I wanted to travel. I knew I
wanted to go on a surf trip. A really long one. Travel far, travel
wide. Travel and maybe not return, at least for a while. Hug the
coast. As a kid, that’s what my friends and I did — we looked for
waves up and down the California coast. We drove the Pacific Coast
Highway. We would study maps, poring over the coastline and thinking
aloud at what swells might break best and where.
Fast forward to today — a decade or more since I was that funny kid driving up the Pacific Coast. Interestingly enough, things haven’t changed all that much. I am still searching for that next best wave and constantly on the road. The difference of course, this time around, is that I am able to travel beyond the Pacific Coast — wondering where in the world the waves will take me.
I’ve been to the South Pacific, surfed the Caribbean and the
Atlantic. As a kid, I traveled to Mexico, and except for a recent surf
trip to Panama last April, Central and South America still remain unexplored, to me that is. Figured it was time to change that and little by little the parameters of this trip started coming into focus. The roadmap started to unfold before me.
So, here’s the plan!
I will be driving from California to Argentina over the next 4 years
along the Pan-American Highway. The highway snakes from Alaska to
Argentina and I’ll be on it, surfing, shooting and telling stories of
the people I meet. I have spent the summer retro-fitting my trusty
Subaru Forester, adding bumpers, solar panels — basically, making my vehicle a home for the next few years. Starting from the ground up, a few friends and I fabricated an “adventure trailer.” This trailer will carry my gear, surfboards, and add a layer of security to this trip.
While I am going on this trip by myself, but I am not alone. My friends, my
family, my team at Project Bliss, and you are all coming along with
me. I am stoked to be sharing this journey with you. As the
ambassador, and the boots on the ground reporter for Project Bliss, I
will be highlighting not only the environmental and social
organizations making a positive impact in their local communities, for
our world, but the personal stories of each and every person making it
happen. This is going to be one hell of a journey!
But, before we hit the road, I want to take a few moments to include a few personal notes (and thanks) to everyone involved.
Mom — I know it’s scary to see your son leave and travel half way down
the world — and not have any idea of when he will be back. But I
will be fine, and I promise to look both ways seven times before I
cross the street. Please bake/send cookies.
Dad — I brought my fly-fishing stuff with me, I’ll keep that rod tip
down when I land a big one! We’ve been through my gear list at least a
hundreds times, I think we got everything and, I know Grandpa would
be pumped to see that his tarp is coming on the journey.
To my brother Ian, my step-sisters Ciena, Jonna, and Molly, and my
step-brother Cooper — I love you guys more than life itself and I
can’t wait to hear about school and work and everything wonderful
you’re involved with back home.
Josh, my best friend and the person I blame for my surfing addiction –
Remember when we were 17 and got lost in San Diego? We pulled out a
map and realized Mexico was only 11 miles away? Yeah, I’m gonna go scope
out a few point breaks down there. I’ll be looking on the horizon and
hope to see you and Kelsey sail into view.
Everyone at home in California — no matter how far I travel or how far
I go, the Central Coast will always be home. The Fernandez family,
thank you for refilling my stomach with wonderful food and opening
your home to me whenever I visit. Kyler, Jesse, Chris, Bill, and
Josh (especially) — thank you for your guidance, smack-talking and
support. I love you guys. Building my rig wouldn’t’ve been possible
without your skill. Blood, sweat and beers, we finished that thing.
To my Hawai’i ohana, especially my first landlord Mr. Tom Rea — I feel
like I grew up on that Island, and today, I still carry that aloha
with me. If I find something that rivals a Spam musubi down south I’ll let you know. Tom, I’m gonna climb that damn mountain!
To my absolutely amazing, loving and supportive friends in the
Northeast — I would not have survived there if I had not met you.
Y’all are Rhode Island royalty and I lucked into a circle that always
promised I’d get served at the Mist just like a local. Your sharing of
waves, couches, and stories makes me the most fortunate transplant
Aaron and Madeleine at Project Bliss — thank you for believing in me,
and checking the spelling in everything I post — I’ll get better, I
swear! Thank you for letting me chase my dream, and share my vision.
And you — everyone I get to share this with — you’re in the passenger
seat, you’re on the towel on the beach next to me, you’re splitting
beers (and the tab!). Pack a bag, some sunscreen, and an open mind,
Lets go south. Always South.
Till next time,
Ross Ruddell, 29, Atascadero, Calif.