The Cleanest Line

There is a lot of noise out there …hard sells come from every direction, and finding a company that actually publishes and produces authentic products with authentic backstories, individuals, and procedures is starting to feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. However, with scarcity comes a threshold that lets the companies and individuals and online publishers who are producing value stand out.

The Cleanest Line is the weblog for employees, friends, customers, and ambassadors of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. What you’ll find between the lines is good writing, interesting and fun personalities, and experiences from people that stand for things in their lives be it the soul they find in their sport or a resolve to clean up this planet.

It’s tough to say which articles have been my favorite since I first began reading The Cleanest Line, but after a lovely evening rereading the archives while sipping hot coffee here and cold brews there, I found 5 of my favorite pieces. Enjoy the lack of noise.

 Talent by Kelly Cordes

As Robert Deniro’s character said to his son in the classic movie A Bronx Tale, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” The question is, where does pure talent and pure love intersect, and what affect can the two have on one another? And when failure and success come into play, how much do they and should they really matter.

The author of this piece, Kelly Cordes is one of my favorite writers on The Cleanest Line. He’s a wordsmith with a taste for margaritas, and his articles stand out on their own. He presents an interesting thought on what truly is the foundation for talent as he takes us on a climb with Tommy Caldwell at the end of the season on El Cap.

Talent by Kelly Cordes

Photography by Kelly Cordes


I’ve long thought that the most wasted resource on earth is talent. Talent abounds, yet optimizing its potential requires devoted effort. Of course we also have to consider opportunity, and the whole talent-and-effort issue makes regular news. There’s the “10,000-Hour Rule” of practice, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his celebrated and best-selling book Outliers – underscoring the importance of effort.  Recently I read an article aboutintellectual giftedness – underscoring the importance of talent.

As far as natural ability goes, exceptional athletes are everywhere. Those who fully maximize that talent through hard work and effort, however, seem rare; I suspect they have to love it, truly love it, deep-down love it. Not just love success, or even the idea of success. Not just talk about it, and not find excuses when things get grim.

… Up on the wall that late afternoon, in fading light I could see two figures. I’d tuned-in just in time, his only spectator aside from his devoted partner and wife, Becca, belaying. I watched as Tommy downclimbed off the portaledge and into the traverse – he looked strong, rested, and I cheered in a whisper, watching him climb smoothly into the crux, firing one move after another, until, suddenly, he fell, dangling from the end of the rope thousands of feet above the pines as late-fall sun bathed the opposite side of El Cap in brilliant orange. Tommy pulled back up to feel the holds one last time. No send. No excuses, either – he was still trying. Either because he wasn’t ready to let go yet or because he was still in love. Maybe both.


read the full article here


Let’s Bring Back Repair by Annie Leonard

DIY: The satisfaction one gets from creating something with their own hands, be it shaping a surfboard, crafting a desk, or sewing your own dress is not just about the craft itself, but also, in a way, a lifestyle. It puts self-reliance, innovation, and creativity with the resources we have to use in our everyday lives.

But DIY doesn’t have to start from scratch. In fact, the DIY way of repairing what you already own offers just as much satisfaction, but furthermore, on a larger-scale, is a much more conscious way of living as well.

In this cleanest line article, Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff, offers some insight, inspiration, and reasoning.


Photography: A. Davey


“I call making a radio – or any other product – that can’t be repaired ‘design for the dump.’ Designers call it planned obsolescence and it’s at the heart of the take-make-waste system that’s trashing the planet, our communities and our health.

You see, while we’re all pretty familiar with the three ‘R’s’ – reduce, reuse,  recycle – many of us, including many product  designers and manufacturers, give short shrift to the fourth ‘R’:  repair. Before recycling comes repair.

Repair didn’t used to be so neglected. It used to be the norm. (Ask your grandma, or even your mom, what she did when something broke when she was growing up.) Once there were 120,000 shoe repair shops in the United States. Today there are only 7,000. The numbers of appliance and electronics repair shops have also been in long-term decline (although they’ve had a slight resurgence in the current recession).

…. It’s time to replace replace with repair. Repairing our Stuff saves us money. Repairing our Stuff provides millions of good jobs. Best of all, repairing our Stuff throws a strategic monkeywrench into the take-make-waste-system. So let’s fix it, rather than nix it!”


read the full article here


Running the Tidal Rapids by Liz Clark

What is life really like living on a boat, sailing the seas from land mass to land mass, anchoring wherever your heart desires. Liz Clark lives on her boat she’s named Swell. In this piece, we get a glimpse at a day in the life on Swell.

It seems that the day to day process of living our lives could be compared to the day to day life of navigating the seas with the wind. In the grand scheme of things, it’s this amazing adventure filled with travels and guests and sunsets and discovery. However, let’s not forget that the sea can be just as rough as it can be calm, and there’s no place that is more clear than out in the ocean itself. Liz’s story is a perfect reflection of that…

Swell Voyage

Photograph by Liz Clark


Through the binoculars, I could see the sea churning up ahead. “Oh, no…” I bellowed. I knew what we were in for: standing waves and sea-rapids where the flow of the tidal river met the ocean. It was too late to turn around, the outward flow was too strong to fight…I made a firm mental note to get some better tide information!

… At 5:02 am, Venus, the morning star, rose out of the sea. Light followed her. I woke Crystal, but couldn’t resist watching the sunrise before I laid down to rest. We turned off the motor and let Swell drift in the succulent silence. We curled up against the wad of broken sail, tucked under our blankets, and dissolved into the Peace…the ubiquitous, all-encompassing Peace…that was floating on that miraculously calm, open sea…

As we entered the deep, easy entrance to the next atoll destination a few hours later, our timing appeared flawless. The sea surface began to wrinkle as the trades gusted from the east, and the swell was most certainly filling in! We watched it move north along the atoll’s coral rim where it peeled off along the shallows of a long, flat lay of reef…thus, Crystal’s last 36 hours became a salty blur. We wondered where and when we’d meet again as she stepped up into the tiny prop plane, leaving me there with more waves than I knew what to do with!


read the full article here


One in Winter – Fly Fishing for Winter-Run Steelhead by Ryan Peterson 

Even if you’re not much of a fly fisher, there’s something about the way the author of this piece, Ryan Peterson, describes it that makes you somehow “get it”. It’s more than just baiting a hook and reeling a fish in it to call it a day. There’s a process to it, both physical, mental, intellectual.

I suppose with most things in life, from the outside looking in, everything is just what it is on the surface. A fish is a fish. A reel, a reel. A fisherman, a fisherman. A river, a river. But when you take all the components of each individual piece that makes up the whole, and then really think about what’s going on, you suddenly see how they all work together to create this one seemingly simple activity.

fly fishing

Photograph: Kasper Sorensen


In general, the drama and excitement of fly fishing takes place almost entirely in your head.  No matter what kind of fish you’re trying to trick, there’s always more time spent standing stone-still in a river, thinking about it, than there is with a fish actually on the line. The sub-discipline of winter steelheading stretches this to its threadbare extreme: The gap is immense. Sometimes it goes on for a whole winter. It’s all mind, for virtually no matter.

Sounds boring, I know, but there are no other “sports” in which the crucial defining moments revolve around a literal connection to another form of life. This is interesting to me. We often forget, ignore, or underestimate that humans are for better or (more often) for worse, the planet’s top predator.  And even when we confront this fact, it’s usually only in the abstract. We are so far up the food chain these days we can get our food with money.

But fly fishing is not abstract. To catch a fish you must to step into an ecosystem, consider where you are, where your quarry came from, where it is going, why it might be hanging out in an eddy rather than in traffic, and why you are catching more or fewer of them this year compared to last. To catch a fish, the old saying goes, you must think like one. It’s so true.  [/quote]

read the full article here


The Prophet by Sonnie Trotter

There’s something about soul sports – the sports where it’s a solo competition against yourself and your mental capacity to push your physical capacity – that make you realize what life is really about, what you’re really capable of, and the spirit your comrades truly do have.

Sonnie Trotter authored this post upon the last leg of his nine-year project, The Prophet, climbing the far right side of El Cap.

The Prophet

Photo by Sonnie Trotter


Wow. What a roller coaster. As life is I suppose. The highest of highs, and lowest of lows. It’s a beautiful thing really. I’m in Bishop, California, with my incredible wife, Lydia – I don’t mean to brag, but she gets more beautiful with each day. I am sooo lucky. I missed her dearly, I didn’t even realize how much until I saw her at the San Francisco airport two days ago. But there’s a sad truth that when you’re so focused on a project such as The Prophet, time literally flies by. Days turn into weeks and you don’t even think twice about it. Looking back now, most of it is a blur.

Five weeks in the Valley, five failed ground-up attempts, four days in Lake Tahoe, two days in Santa Cruz, and over 25 days climbing, hiking, rappelling, hauling and slogging. El Cap is a glorious son of a bitch – that’s a fact. And The Prophet was one of the richest, most deeply rooted climbing experiences I have ever had, with a partner who’s got a boyish charm, a man’s ambition, and a spirit tougher than leather. It was more like an expedition than a climbing trip.


read the full article here

Lauren Rains Lauren Rains is editor of Outdoor Minded Mag and also writes on her personal blog The Mad To Live. When she’s not working on her passion projects, you’ll likely find her off on some adventure be it walking 50 miles in 48 hours along the beach or skateboarding to the grocery store for chili ingredients on her longboard. You can find her on Twitter at @LaurRAINS.

About The Author

Lauren Rains is the editor at large of Outdoor Minded Mag. She is struck by wanderlust, and spends most waking hours of her life either exploring the outdoors around the globe or working on various passion projects be it film to microadventures to cooking chili. You can read about her adventures in life, biz and travel on her blog, and catch up with her on Twitter at @LaurRAINS.