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January 5, 2024

Sailor Aidan Mobley Takes on Mavericks Big-Wave Surfing

Sailor, surfer and foiler Aidan Mobley sent in a few pics of his big-wave surfing during the epic day at Mavericks on December 28. Aidan is a Bay Area pro sailor with a BS in engineering and transportation from Cal Maritime, who spends much of his time sailing, surfing, and innovating with carbon fiber.

Aidan Mobley Mavericks
Aidan Mobley takes on a big one at Mavericks.
© 2024 Courtesy Aidan Mobley

We asked him to describe his day at Mavericks and Aidan replied, “It was pretty wild. The forecast had been jumping all around from big to massive; it was only about 48 hours before the swell [that we knew] it was going to be one for the books. There were two low-pressure systems that formed two pretty big valleys between a small high, so the day before, there were 40 knots and squalls as the first low passed. But come the morning of the 28th, we had a gap in the lows, and the swell just detonated. I had been training with my coach, Jeff Kafka, to kite the swell, but the wind didn’t really line up so I went with towing in instead. There were about 20 teams there including the HBO-funded “100-footer” Portugal team that is searching for surfing the biggest wave on Earth. It was absolutely nonstop big swell. I was really stoked to be with all the pros and learn so much.”

He continued about how sailing and surfing mix: “There’s a huge amount of crossover, and a lot of the surfers follow the high-level sailing circuits (AC, SailGP, 69F, maxi tris, etc.) pretty closely. Many of those programs have the funds to research the best foil design and technology that we can learn from and scale to meet our boards for big-wave foiling. Right now it’s still extremely dangerous and unstable; recently a French foiler had his head split at Jaws while foiling and had to be evacuated to the hospital. So safety is really becoming something that we all need to be more focused on as we continue to try and push the definition of what’s possible.”

Jeff Kafka and Aidan Mobley
     Jeff Kafka tows Aidan Mobley in for a run.
© 2024 Courtesy Aidan Mobley

Aidan took a look ahead for his 2023-24 sailing plans, saying, “I’m going to be training as often as possible in Half Moon Bay both with water safety and towing in. Big-wave surfing is absolutely something I’m In love with. For sailing, I hope to do the PV race before dialing up the offshore training for a second Pac Cup run on Ruffles. Immediately after the Pac Cup the big sailing event of the year will be the International 14 Worlds in Lake Garda. Skiff sailing has my heart and I don’t think there is a harder, more amazing boat than the I14. My skipper Cam and I have been training often and hard. There are a few teams out of RYC and SDYC that are going to field some great sailors. The fleet is the most competitive it’s been in a long time, and that’s really special. We are always looking to build the fleet, so if any readers are interested in sailing an awesome, fast boat, come down to SDYC on Jan 27-28, where we’ll be doing an introduction clinic.”

Andrew Cotton and Aidan Mobley
Big-wave surfer Andrew Cotton and Aidan got some attention from Surfer Magazine.
© 2024 Surfer Magaazine

From Mavericks to Lake Garda to Hawaii, Aidan is taking on plenty of challenging high-performance sailing and surfing opportunities while looking to develop the foils that make it all work. Read more about Aidan’s sailing journey in his story “A Nipper’s Guide to Being Value-Added” in the December 2022 issue of Latitude 38.

Local sailor Edward Stancil sent in this YouTube link of surfer Luca Padua, on one of the waves on December 28:

And for those who feel the stoke and want to read and see more on big-wave surfing, check out this story and video on

Ronnie Simpson Rejoins Global Solo Challenge After Stopping for Repairs

After four exceptionally busy days in Hobart, Tasmania, Ronnie Simpson and Shipyard Brewing are back on the race track and headed south as they look for fresh, Southern Ocean breezes.

Ronnie Simpson Global Solo Challenge
Ronnie and Shipyard Brewing are glad to be out sailing again.
© 2024 Shipyard Brewing/Ronnie Simpson Racing

From the Global Solo Challenge website, “Ronnie Simpson and Shipyard Brewing have left Hobart and rejoined the Global Solo Challenge. The American skipper left a few hours behind schedule, crossing the assigned restart gate at around 0600 UTC, approximately four hours later than his earliest possible departure. He has nonetheless managed to restart without giving up his third place on water, 1400 nautical miles behind Cole Brauer on First Light and around 350 nautical miles ahead of fourth-on-the-water Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus.”

Heading South from Hobart
Shipyard Brewing is heading south and east from Hobart, Tasmania, toward Cape Horn.
© 2024 Global Solo Challenge / YB Tracking

Ronnie called out a couple of dozen people in Hobart and from the US who helped him get his sails repaired, autopilot fixed and a number of other repairs needed to safely cover the last 13,000 miles of the race. It’s a big team that makes it possible for him to race solo! He is working hard to get south and back into the breeze of the Roaring 40s. He’s still in third place and is racing to catch Cole Brauer, who’s rocking along in second aboard First Light, and first-place sailor Philippe Delamare aboard Mowgli, who’s around 4500 miles ahead. West Coast sailor David Linger aboard his Class 40 Koloa Maoli is in seventh place, about 1,000 miles behind Shipyard Brewing. The boats behind have closed in, and there’s still a long way to go.

Despite having had to stop for repairs, we imagine Ronnie is considering himself fortunate in comparison to Ari Känsäkoski, who was dismasted less than 300 miles north of the Crozet Islands — he’s managed to gain over 600 miles with “a combination of motoring and patiently sailing at just a couple knots boat speed under jury rig.” Känsäkoski also completed a refueling operation at sea when he retrieved 300 liters of marine gas oil from a Japanese fishing vessel, He then set up a makeshift “refinement” station in his cockpit, pouring the MGO through paper coffee filters to remove the dirt, then “mixing it in a jerry can with some kerosene and/or light oil at approximately 1-2%, which was also requested from the fishing vessel for the purpose of thinning the MGO.”

The Global Solo Challenge is a “three great capes circumnavigation” covering approximately 26,000 nautical miles. We wish all the competitors good sailing.

You can catch up with Ronnie on his Instagram page here and follow him on the tracker here.

Red Rock, the Least-Famous Island in San Francisco Bay, Has a $25 Million Price Tag

Maybe it’s because Red Rock is so small, and so close to the Richmond Bridge that it doesn’t feel like an island, not a “traditional” island, anyway — which is to say studded with palm trees, lined with white sand and rimmed with azure water. To me, Red Rock is an incongruous lump in a corner of the Bay at once busy with ships, but remote when compared to the scenic and well-traveled Central Bay with its far-more-famous prison island — the subject of movies, tours and annual “escapes” — its glorious Cityfront, and its Golden Bridge, one of the seven wonders of the modern world. By contrast, Red Rock feels as if nature has risen from the depths in protest to offer rustic ornament along an industrial waterfront.

This is certainly not the description Realtors are using to describe Red Rock, which is currently for sale for a cool $25 million, as reported by the New York Times: “‘We believe this is like owning a Leonardo da Vinci or a Rothko,’ said a San Francisco real estate broker who represents the seller. ‘This is something someone would want in their portfolio like art or a sculpture.'”

Red Rock as art? As a notch on a billionaire’s bedpost? As yet another symbol of extravagant wealth run amok? As the intersection of development vs. natural preserves? Or are we overthinking it (sorry to be so dramatic) and ascribing too much meaning to a hunk of rock plopped in a corner of the Bay, a slice of nature indifferent to humans? Is Red Rock simply a shrubby slab to be avoided and appreciated as one sails by, as a mark to be rounded during the Three Bridge Fiasco?

Red Rock pokes its head through the fog a few years ago as my crew drove west across the top deck of the Richmond Bridge on his way to go sailing.
© 2024 Nathaniel Bielby

“The dream of island ownership has long captured the imagination of the wealthy and famous,” reported the Times on Christmas Eve, perhaps suggesting a last-minute gift idea for the uber-wealthy. “Celebrity owners of private islands include Richard Branson, Johnny Depp and George Clooney. Private Islands Inc., a real estate website, lists 607 that are on the market or recently have sold, 116 of them in the United States. ‘Americans like their ownership. They’re proud,’ said a Canadian who owns 13 islands himself in Canada, Belize and Fiji. ‘The idea of having your own island really fits into that American entrepreneurial spirit.'”

The Times acknowledged the superior fame of Red Rock’s kin. “Nearby islands have become famous — Alcatraz, the former federal penitentiary that housed hardened criminals, is known as ‘The Rock.’ Others serve recreational purposes, like Angel Island, a former military outpost and immigration center that is now a state park. But Red Rock, the only privately owned island in San Francisco Bay, is more of an idle curiosity.”

Well said. Red Rock is random, a head scratcher, a small, humble wonder hidden in plain sight.

Red Rock, as seen during a December 2019 circumnavigation of the island.
© 2024 Nathaniel Bielby

I like to think of Red Rock not as an island, but as a small mountain peak gazed upon while walking in the valley now known as San Francisco Bay. “When the first humans arrived in San Francisco, the last glacial period was not yet over, and the sea level was 300 feet lower than it is now,” wrote Bay Area author Gary Kamiya in his book Cool Gray City of Love.

“The Bay was dubbed the Franciscan Valley by archeologists. A mighty river ran through the Golden Gate, thundering in waterfalls and cascades, its relentless force carving out Angel Island from Tiburon. This vanished river flowed through a coastal prairie, the Farallones Plain, that extended all the way to the Farallon Islands, 28 miles away, where it emptied into the sea.”

Even as a mountain, Red Rock’s celebrity would likely be dwarfed by larger peaks, but I imagine it would retain some charm through its modesty and anomalous placement in the valley. In fact, I include Red Rock among an archipelago of small mountains in the northern corner of the Bay — this includes the Marin Islands (aka East Marin and West Marin) to the north, along with East and West Brother Island off the east shore and The Sisters to the west, with Brooks Island, off Richmond, being the southern extreme of this particular island/mountain nation.

An archipelago of lesser fame. Clockwise from top left: From Brooks Island, you can just make out the faint silhouette of Red Rock in the distance (Photo: Bay Nature); The Brothers; the Marin Islands; East and West Marin Island in the foreground near Loch Lomond Marina Park, with Red Rock as a speck in the distance. Imagine, if you will, seeing these peaks without the Bay around them.
© 2024 Tim Henry/Bay Nature

My sailing partner had long been fascinated with Red Rock and proposed that we circumnavigate the humble little island in December 2019, on a day with a crisp, steady breeze. It was a far more exciting loop than I’d imagined. Coming to the lee side of the island, which we left to starboard, we were suddenly sailing in close quarters. The wind shut off, the smell of guano pierced the nose, and everything was oddly quiet — save the clanging of limp sails — as the boat glided through the lee. There was plenty of water on the chart, but there was something intense about being so close to beach and rocks. Red Rock showed dozens of faces during our slow loop, from dark and silhouetted to overwhelming detail as the light shifted, revealing the rugged strata. The lee side of the island is green and shrubby, the weather side bare, worn and harsh, showing the millennia of elements battering earth.

Though we were surrounded on all sides by civilization, Red Rock felt otherworldly, as if we were in some remote corner of the ocean.

I’ve taken to the thesaurus in search of nouns and adjectives to describe the shape of Red Rock, and I think this is the most apt descriptor: Red Rock, put simply, is a blob.
© 2024 Private Islands Online
Maybe a jagged blob.
© 2024 Nathaniel Bielby

My friend admitted to a fascination with Red Rock, and yes, even a juvenile dream to own it, to plant a flag and call it his. There’s a Tom Sawyer-like boyish allure to Red Rock — or any small island, I suppose — that evokes dreams of adventures and dominion. “It’s like a Bond villain’s secret lair,” my friend said.

I imagine a certain Bay Area tech mogul buying the island, building a giant, ugly, bunker-like mansion with accompanying helipad, and one day shooting phallus-shaped missiles from Red Rock’s interior after the ransom he demanded wasn’t paid.

(This photo comes with its own caption.)
© 2024 The Internet

If it’s sold, it’s not at all clear what a new owner might do with Red Rock. Would someone buy the island and not develop it? Would a gazillionaire leave Red Rock as it is now, frozen in time between epochs, a former small mountain and current small island bereft of fame, but full of charm?

Time will tell.

Got Red Rock stories? Please comment below, or email us here

Going for a 26,000-Mile Sunday Sail With the Arkea Ultim Challenge

While you’re out enjoying a sunny sail along the coast of California this coming Sunday, there will be six 100-ft trimarans taking off from Brest, France, for a blitz around the planet. In the ever-extreme edge of sailing, the French are taking it up another notch by fielding six overachieving 100-ft tris in a race around the planet.

Adagio, skippered by Eric Peron, is one of six 100-ft Ultimes starting on Sunday.
© 2024 Arkea Ultim Challenge

The six skippers and boats competing are Éric Péron racing Trimaran Adagio, Thomas Coville sailing Sodebo Ultim 3, Anthony Marchand skippering Actual Ultim, Tom Laperche sailing SVR-Lazartigue, Charles Caudrelier racing Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and Armel Le Cléac’h racing Maxi Banque Populaire XI.

You can follow the six 100-ft French Ultim trimarans around the world here: Arkea Ultim Challenge. They might be finishing before you’re done putting the boat away on Sunday.

Beyond the tris, the world’s oceans remain full of sailboats and big races. The RORC Transatlantic Race also takes off Sunday from the Canary Islands to Grenada. A grand prix fleet of ocean racers will compete, including three MOD 70s — Argo, Limosa and Zoulou — and the 100-ft maxi Leopard 3, which will be out to break Comanche’s course record. You can follow them on the tracker here.