You’ll have to wait a little longer to hang 10 at NLand Surf Park this year

Land Surf Park is still undergoing repairs and has not yet opened for the season. (Erich Schlegel/Special Contributor)

You’ll have to wait a little longer to hang 10 at NLand Surf Park this season.

The surf park, located east of Austin in Del Valle, closed a month after it opened last October, after the soft plastic liner at the bottom of the lagoon suffered tears and began to leak.

“We’re wrapping up lagoon improvements, but no opening date to share just yet,” park spokesman Chris Jones wrote in an email Friday.

When the park closed last November, chief executive officer Doug Coors posted on the park’s website that fin and nose cuts had compromised the liner in the reef section more than expected, and repairs were needed.

“While this is discouraging, we are encouraged by the thousands of people who surfed our waves and became ardent fans and the millions more looking for their first set,” Coors wrote. “We are committed to NLand and our simple promise to share our waves with the world.”

The park’s original opening was delayed last fall because of concerns over water quality. Under an agreement with county officials, NLand was allowed to open as long as it sent daily water-quality reports to county staff. The park tests regularly to make sure chlorine and pH levels are similar to those of a swimming pool, and that sediment and E. coli levels do not exceed county-approved levels.

NLand Surf Park in Del Valle is closed while operators try to fix a problem in the man-made, plastic-lined lagoon. (Erich Schlegel/Special Contributor)

When it’s up and running, a wave machine rolls up and down the center of the lagoon, spawning perfectly formed swells every 2 minutes. Surfers can hop on at three different points, catching the beginner-sized “bay” wave, the intermediate “inside” wave, or the head-high “reef” wave, where you can channel Laird Hamilton while swooshing across a lagoon the size of nine football fields.

Guests pay $60 an hour to surf either the bay or the inside wave or $90 to ride the Big Kahuna. An hourlong session gets you up to 30 opportunities to ride.

I’ve visited the park twice, both times practicing on the beginner wave. I think I’m ready for the intermediate area now. Expect to see me there when the park re-opens; I’ll write about any changes I see.

Read my review from last fall here.

LBJ 100 Bike Ride: Wheels, wildflowers and some presidential history

Luci Johnson guides a bike tour of the LBJ Ranch. Photo by Diane Kirkendall


Like wildflowers and a little presidential history when you’re out riding a bike?

All three are on tap Saturday at the 10th annual LBJ 100 Bicycle Ride at the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall.

Cyclists can choose from routes of 10, 30, 42 and 62 miles. The ride begins at the historic ranch and continues along quiet country roads.

Riders will pass the historic Texas White House, Lyndon B. Johnson’s birthplace, and the family cemetery where President and Mrs. Johnson are buried. They’ll also see descendants of the president’s Hereford cattle. At 1 p.m., Luci Johnson will lead a bicyle tour of the ranch and share some of her family’s history.

The ride will take place rain or shine, unless severe weather looks imminent. If in doubt, call the ride’s special weather hotline at (830) 868-7128, ext. 224. Updates will also be posted here.

The ride starts at 9 a.m.; ranch gates open at 7 a.m. Registration is $50 per person (family rates available). To sign up, go here.

The LBJ 100 has grown from 400 riders in 2008 to more than 1,200 riders in recent years. Proceeds support park educational programs, recreational opportunities and historic preservation projects.

And there’s more!

Historic Gillespie County schools – including the one-room Junction School at the entrance to the LBJ Ranch – will open April 1 for tours. Other schools open that day? Cave Creek, Nebgen, Rheingold and Willow City. For more information, go here.

The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information about park activities call 830-868-7128, ext. 231 or 244, or go here.

Sound scary to jump off a 10-meter platform? Watch us do it Wednesday

Kara McCormack practices her technique at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center in this 2010 file photo. Pam LeBlanc and four others will attempt to jump off the high platform behind her on Wednesday. Patrick Meredith for AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN


No matter what happens tomorrow, we can blame Maurice Anderson.

Anderson, 72, was one of my dad’s best friends before my dad died in October 2014. A few months ago, he sent me an email with a link to a New York Times video that showed a bunch of regular people jumping off a 10-meter platform into a swimming pool.

It looked like a psychology experiment – some of the people jumped right off, some paced back and forth, several whimpered, and a few backed their way down the ladder.

“I’ve never jumped from the 10-meter platform,” Anderson emailed me. “Always wanted to and just saw this video. I think it would be quite a rush.”

So we’re doing it Wednesday – Anderson and me and three readers who willingly agreed to join us, no bribes required.

I won’t lie to you, I’m scared. I’ve got a fear of heights, and once crawled a quarter of a mile along a ledge with a sheer drop-off while backpacking in the High Sierras of California. I’m not exactly looking forward to walking out to the edge of the equivalent of a three-story building and throwing myself off. But it’s my Year of Adventure, so I’m going to at least try.

I picked three readers to join us on that platform.

Michael Doherty is a super athlete whose Facebook profile says “Just plain nuts.” “Pick me, because if an 8x Ironman balks it’ll be funny,” he wrote.

So I did. Make me laugh, Michael.

The highest Mia Zmud has ever jumped is the 3-meter high dive about 45 years ago.

“I’ve been facing a lot of challenges lately (with a lifestyle change that has resulted in a 40-pound weight loss, improved nutrition and fitness level) and am looking to challenge myself/build confidence,” she emailed.

And Tzatzil LeMair makes no bones about it – she’s chicken like me. “OK, I will commit – with 100 percent certainty – that I will show up and that I will climb the 10-meter platform,” she wrote. “As to what happens once I’m up there, I have no idea. I’m nervous just thinking about it!”

Wish us luck. A pair of diving coaches at the University of Texas will give us a safety briefing at 11 a.m. tomorrow, then we’ll make the long, lonely climb to the top of the platform. Watch us live on the Austin 360 page on Facebook at

Public invited to comment on plans for new West Texas park

A meeting to discuss proposed plans for Chinati State Natural Area is set for Wednesday. CONTRIBUTED/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


More wide open West Texas space to explore?

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials will present initial plans for the future development of Chinati Mountains State Natural Area at a public meeting in Austin on Wednesday.

The 38,137-acre Chinati Mountains State Natural Area lies south of Pinto Canyon Road and immediately west of the high peaks of the range, according to a Texas Parks and Wildlife webpage. No opening date has been set, but officials say a public use plan will be complete by 2018 and the agency is working to acquire land for public access to the park from FM 170.

Officials will share maps and explain proposed facilities and recreational use of the site at the meeting, scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lower Colorado River Authority headquarters, 3700 Lake Austin Boulevard. They’ll also collect public input for the planning department. A public question and answer period will follow the presentation.

The 38,137-acre Chinati Mountains State Natural Area lies south of Pinto Canyon Road in West Texas. CONTRIBUTED/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


Meetings have already taken place in Marfa and Presidio.

The public is encouraged to comment in person at the public meeting, or by mail or email. Send letters to Justin Fleury, Lead Park Planner, Austin Headquarters, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas, 78744 or Nathaneal Gold, Big Bend Ranch State Park Complex Manager, 21800 FM 170, Terlingua, TX, 79852. Send email to or Deadline for public comment is April 1.

For more information about Chinati Mountains State Natural Area, visit the TPWD website.

No opening date has been set.

Run naked at the Bare Buns 5K

Star Ranch in McDade will host a nude 5K run on April 8. File photo by Austin American-Statesman/Rodolfo Gonzalez


Running duds dragging you down? Shed your clothes and go for a naked run.

This year’s 20th annual Bare Buns 5K Fun Run is scheduled for Saturday, April 8 at the Star Ranch Nudist Resort in McDade, east of Austin. There’s also a 1K run for children.

Two important things to know: Yes, you can wear shoes (actually, you can wear – or not wear – whatever you want.) Two, the race number goes on your hat if you’re wearing one, on a string around your neck if you’re not, or directly on your shoulder, with a marker.

The course is cross country, over mostly sandy soil, with a few patches of gravel. That should feel mostly good on bare feet.

The Kids’ 1K starts at 10 a.m.; the 5K starts at 1 p.m.

Entry fee is $30 in advance, or $35 after March 31, and includes a T-shirt and goodie bag. Entry fee for the kids’ 1K race is $10, or $15 after March 31. To register, go here.

Prizes will be awarded in traditional age and gender categories. All runners will get a timing chip to wear on their ankle. Afterward, runners can nibble fruit and sip beverages in the pavilion by the newly-renovated pool. Meals will be available for purchase in the Nekkid Cafe beginning at 8:30 a.m., and by the pool at 2:30 p.m.

The race marks the first in a series of nude 5K events that will take place at nudist clubs in the American Association for Nude Recreation’s southwest region.

A background check is performed on all new guests, including 5K race competitors, according to a press release. Star Ranch opened in 1957.

For more information about Star Ranch, go here.

Check out these fitness events to balance out your SXSW

Looking for a little fitness to keep you balanced during South by Southwest? Check out these events …

    BeFit, a digital fitness and nutrition company, is hosting three days of morning workouts and nutrition tips at Cedar Street Austin, 208 W. Fourth Street. The lineup includes Yoga with Sydney Benner at 10 a.m. and Burn to the Beat with Keaira LaShae at 11 a.m. each day, plus a BeFit Detox/Retox Bar with protein smoothies and Bloody Marys. RSVP at regular Pints & Poses event takes place at 6:30 p.m. March 15 at Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs Road. Come for a complimentary yoga class and stay for a free pint of beer from the hotel’s Marker 10 bar. Ferny Barcelo and Zuzu Perkal will teach the vinyasa flow yoga class; yoga DJ Trey Tarwater will play live meditative music. The class will take place in the Texas Ballroom on the second floor. Bring your own mat.

  • SoulCycle wants you to tap it back with them at their Domain Northside and downtown studios. From 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday, the downtown location at 401 Congress Avenue will offer daily live DJ rides, custom embroidery with Fort Lonesome, aura photos with MOODxMOSS, and healthy sips by JuiceLand. From 9-11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Domain Northside at 11800 Domain Drive will offer healthy snacks, plus a theme ride at 8:30 a.m. (Coldplay vs. The Chainsmokers on Saturday and Adele vs. Beyonce on Sunday) and a live DJ ride at 11:45 a.m.

Like stacking rocks? Head to Llano for festival this weekend

Shawn Fullerton, of Leander, seen through an arch of balanced rocks, works on his own small stack at the 2016 Llano Earth Art Fest. Nell Carroll/AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Rock towers will rise again along the Llano River this weekend, as the World Rock Stacking Championships get under way in a Hill Country town best known for barbecue and deer hunting.

The competition highlights the Llano Earth Art Fest, a down-to-earth celebration of rocks, nature and all things of the earth. (Read my story about last year’s event here.)


Randall McGehee, right, and his son James, from Noonday, Texas, stack rocks at the 2016 Llano Earth Art Fest. Nell Carroll/AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Binky Morgan hatched the idea for a rock-centric festival in Llano in 2015. With rock stacking as a focus, the free event evolved into an entire earth art festival. Bands played, artists peddled wares, attendees camped and workshopgoers learned about light pollution, shamanic practices and how to start a fire without matches or a lighter.

The third annual festival begins Friday, highlighted by the rock stacking competition Saturday. Things wrap up Monday. Organizers don’t know of any other rock stacking competitions anywhere on the planet, but they know now that Llano loves the concept.

A group gathers to watch the rock balancing competition which has contestants balance as many as they can in 2 minutes. CHRIS LeBLANC for American-Statesman

Nationally known rock stackers, or “rock stars” (yes, some people make a living doing this), will make the trek to Llano for the event. Amateurs, juniors and experts will vie for honors in competitions that include tallest stack, best rock balancer, best arch-maker and most artistic stack. The only rule? No adhesives to hold the rocks together.

For more information go here.

Hood to Coast stories needed for upcoming book

Runners who have participated in the Hood to Coast relay are encouraged to submit their stories about the event for an upcoming book. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Have you run the Hood to Coast relay?

Two writers are compiling stories from people who have participated in the famous Oregon relay (as runners, volunteers or spectators) for an upcoming book titled “Hood To Coast Memories, An Oral History of the Mother of All Relays.”

Marc B. Spiegel and Art Garner are looking for personal anecdotes surrounding the event – everything from preparing for the race to traditions surrounding it, family members teaming up for it, weddings and proposals that have taken place there and the origin of team names.

The inaugural Hood To Coast Relay took place in 1982, when eight teams of 10 runners covered 150 miles in 30 five-mile legs. Last year, more than 12,000 people competed on 1,050 teams in the now 199-mile event. The race begins at Mount Hood and finishes in Seaside.

Individuals can submit their personal memories through the book’s website at

This year’s Hood To Coast Relay will take place Aug. 25 and 26.

Urban Animal showed me how to get strong with a medicine ball

Laura Cisneros showed me how to strengthen my core with a medicine ball. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman

I met fitness trainer Laura Cisneros down at The Rock along the Butler Trail this morning, to find out how she gets those rock hard abs.
She busted out a 6-pound Dynamax medicine ball and put me through a workout I’m pretty sure I’ll feel tomorrow. I crunched, I tossed, I engaged my abs and lats and tried to keep my knees from wobbling.

Cisneros, who runs a fitness program called Urban Animal, says medicine balls come in handy for athletes of all types looking for an all-over warm up or cool down. On their own, they can help increase power, strength and cardio fitness.

I’m a swimmer, but my core is my weak link. I need this.
“You’re trying to train a whole range of motion and get your joints to work sequentially,” she told me. “That’s where the power comes from.”
First, a warning. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing, or you might take a medicine ball to the gut. At least that’s what I heard.
“You can’t just go through the motions or you’ll eat vinyl. You’ve got ball coming at you and you’ve got to deal with that,” Cisneros says.

Cisneros heads a training program called Urban Animal. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman

And honestly, I never played ball sports. Glancing up to see a big ball flying at my face makes me want to duck . With Cisneros’ help, though, it’ll turn me into an animal.
She ran me through a series of exercises, including one where I flopped on my belly (Superwoman style) and tossed a ball back and forth with her, and another that made me feel like I was flinging a bucket full of water at someone.
“Now I’m going to show you how to put it all together and it will kill you,” she said. “Who can resist that?
We combined five exercises she showed me in what she called a “hub and wheel” routine, where I did reps of each individual exercise, alternating with a basic ball toss.
Cisneros heads up a training program called Urban Animal. The 45-minute high intensity training sessions take place at Sanchez Elementary School; session times are 6:15 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 5:45 p.m. Monday and Friday. Cost is $100 a month for unlimited classes.

Things I saw on my bike this week…

Clergy members from St. David's Episcopal Church manned an Ashes to Go station where motorists (and cyclists) could stop for Ash Wednesday services. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman
Clergy members from St. David’s Episcopal Church manned an Ashes to Go station where motorists (and cyclists) could stop for Ash Wednesday services. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman


Despite just three days on two wheels (I’m actually headed to Devil’s River State Natural Area at the moment, where I plan to camp and kayak for a few days), I spotted some cool stuff while riding my bike around Austin this week.

I live in Allendale, not far from the intersection of Shoal Creek Boulevard and RM 2222, but I also bike from swim practice in Rollingwood to my office downtown. Plus, I wind up pedaling all over the city for interviews, meetings with friends, and just because I get distracted and can’t ever seem to manage to ride straight home. (All pics taken with my iPhone.)

Barton Springs is open again! PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman
Barton Springs is open again! PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman


Tuesday I wondered if Barton Springs Pool had reopened following recent flooding, so I stopped there on my way to work from Western Hills Athletic Club. The pool’s water level was back up to normal, and a couple of lap swimmers were chugging across its emerald expanse. (No skinny dippers when I peered through the fence.)

This old firetruck lives at the playground at Barton Springs. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman
This old firetruck lives at the playground at Barton Springs. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman


I detoured around the construction fences surrounding Eliza Springs and visited the playground (I’m still a kid!), where I checked out the old fire truck and discovered a dolphin suitable for climbing.

Take a ride on a dolphin! PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman
Take a ride on a dolphin! PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman


Another morning I detoured up onto the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. Looking north toward downtown, I felt like I was rolling into Oz.

PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman


One evening, I headed to a friend’s house in Tarrytown for dinner. On the north side of the Butler Trail, I paused to take pictures at that gorgeous cypress-lined section near the Texas Rowing Center.

This week's bike adventures brought me past a cypress-lined stretch of the Butler Trail. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman
This week’s bike adventures brought me past a cypress-lined stretch of the Butler Trail. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman

From there, I chugged up the hill to Lake Austin Boulevard, where I stopped for a quick picture with the dog statue in front of Lake Austin Boulevard Animal Hospital.

I love this dog sculpture by Cheryl Latimer. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman
I love this dog sculpture by Cheryl Latimer. PAM LeBLANC/American-Statesman


When I posted that photo, I quickly learned that local artist Cheryl Latimer made the statue – plus the beloved cows in front of Phil’s Ice House and a lot of other brightly-colored, attitude-packed sculptures around our city. I contacted her, and she said “All I ever wanted was to make art that makes folks smile.”

On my way home from work on Wednesday, I happened past Whole Foods Market downtown. There, two clergy members from St. David’s Episcopal Church were manning an Ashes to Go station where motorists (and cyclists like me!) could stop to have holy ashes spread on their foreheads.

I can’t wait to find out what I discover next week…