"It was the biggest waves I've seen paddling for sure," says Shane Dorian of this session. Jamie Mitchell, pictured here, didn't make the wave but says it was the wave behind that shook his nerves. “I couldn’t see anything because of the spray but when it cleared all I could see was a massive wall of water. It was at least 70 feet, blocked out the sky and was about to break directly on my head. I’d never seen anything like that from that angle before.”
But what a wave of nervous joy it gives to hear Jamie Mitchell, the 38-year-old big-wave surfer and peerless board paddler (10-times winner of the 32-mile Molokai to Oahu race), describe paddling into a sixty-footer, getting bounced then facing a wave that is eighty-plus!
The world's most dynamic surfer on how to survive (and thrive!) dropping in…
(This interview was recorded in 2010 and originally appeared in Surfer magazine.)
Mason Ho, 20, is the most charismatic midget you’ll ever see in the water. He rides Mayhem quads and bottle-nosed fish and his surfs are punctuated by fin-throws, old-school air reverses, even older-school 360s, chop-hops and even backside alley-oops. If there is a Hawaii style, his is it: all warm-water, loose-limbed, afro-swinging extravagance.
Mason is also the son of Hawaiian star Michael Ho, the nephew of Hawaii’s first-ever world champ, Dez Ho, and brother to girls champion Coco Ho. If he wanted, Mason could book an audience with Fast Eddie Rothman at the tap of a few keys. Mason also likes, very much, to drop in. See 5’5” Redux for visual evidence.
BeachGrit: I can’t remember the last time I so adored a human who so flagrantly flouted the most basic rule of surfing.
BeachGrit: Have you always dropped in?
Mason: Let me see. Usually, I’m not too bad dropping in, but when Joe Alani comes to film for the …Lost videos I just go on a barrage and burn… every…single… person. He comes for, like, 10 days out of a whole year and I figure I’ve got 10 days to work. And, if that includes burning people, that’s cool.
BeachGrit: Do you like to see who your victim might be?
Mason: Not really. My theory is that I just don’t look back so I always end up burning my friends and my Dad and my Uncle and my Sister.
BeachGrit: What about Hawaii’s famously ferocious and livid regulators?
Mason: I accidentally burn them, too.
BeachGrit: What line do you take; obviously dropping straight down the face would result in a collision?
Mason: Frick, you draw a higher line where you’re going extra fast and then you get the bigger, high-speed maneuver right in front of their face.
BeachGrit: Are some surfers good sports? Does the man or woman behind ever hoot your theatrics?
Mason: It used to happen all the time when I was younger. But, I haven’t had one for a while because I got good at burning guys.
BeachGrit: A kid with brillo-pad hair dropping in is cute; a 20-year-old doing it is kinda crook.
Mason: Yeah, I definitely think a 20-year-old dropping in is crook.
BeachGrit: What is the best strategy for dropping in?
Mason: My favorite theory is right when you burn someone, you try and hide in the barrel as fast as you can. That’s the best, and then you come out and they’re, like, more baffled. If it’s not barreling and I burn someone, I figure I gotta do an air ‘cause if I do something gayer that’s extra crook.
BeachGrit: What’s the best turn you’ve completed after dropping in?
Mason: One time I burned this guy, got this big backside barrel and I came out and did a big indy alley-oop backside. I kicked out and said, “Sorry about that” and he said, “No, it was sweet!”
BeachGrit: Who’s the most famous surfer you’ve dropped in?
Mason: Uncle Derek. I got him at Pipe one time and then I got him at Desert Point a couple of times this last trip.
BeachGrit: How does Uncle Derek react?
Mason: He loves it. Because the next couple of fricken waves he rides in front of me. He looks at it as a meal ticket.
BeachGrit: What about Kelly Slater?
Mason: Oh, I… have… dropped… in… on… Kelly. At Trestles, I burned him. I heard: “Mason!” Then I heard, “Ho!” Then I heard, “Mason Ho!” Huh, huh, huh! I looked back at went, “Oh sh**t, Slates!” That’s my problem. I just don’t look back.
BeachGrit: From where did you learn the art?
Mason: I learned it from Coco. I figure if my little sister can burn everybody, I can, too.
BeachGrit: Coco copped it when she smoked Layne at Haleiwa last year.
Mason: That was the funniest shit ever! I was on the beach rolling. All the girls were paddling around Coco, just owning her. Me and Dad were, like, “C’mon Coco! What are you doing?” Finally, in that last exchange, we counted her out. We knew she was going to let everybody paddle around her again, and she did. And then she ended up going, anyway. I was laughing so hard, going, “That’s what I would’ve done!”
BeachGrit: How should a reader of this magazine, on his trip-of-a-lifetime to the North Shore react, if he finds himself breathing your exhaust? Should he be grateful for a close-up look at your charismatic styling?
Mason: No way! I don’t want them to appreciate me burning ‘em. But, I sure do appreciate ‘em letting me surf in front of ‘em.
While the film left me wanting less, the accompanying issue made me want more more more! Editor Travis Ferre, Kai Neville, Scott Chenoweth and team put together a physical work of art in a day and age when print has waning value.
The cover, and floral sleeve that it comes in, excite, the paper stock feels sensual and the content thrills. Feminity and masculinity are perfectly intertwined, creating the most perfect dance. It is truly wonderful.
And why did it change my life? Because I still love print, for one, and to see a group of handsome young men doing it better than Vanity Fair is inspiring. Because I love having things on my coffee table, for two. It is a repurposed trolley, or something, all hardwood and darkened brass, and only the finest publications will do. They must be gorgeous and intellectually/artistically valuable in case someone opens in a moment of conversational lull. An oversized copy of Death in the Afternoon sat there for years. Now it is Cluster and I imagine it will be there for years too. Because coherence is still important, for three. With so many short clips/blogs/etc. these days, long form coherence is on the outs. But it is so nice to sit back and not be pinballed for a moment. To sit in one moment for, like, 20 mins. And because I like floral motifs, for last. I like them in the French countryside and I like them in my grandma’s house. Floral is coming back. What Youth led the way.
I stand my ground on the film and I know that I am right. The film took an ill-conceived direction because surfing, as a pastime, will never be “hard.” And Noa Deane will never “fuck” cops. But it is ok. Kai will return to the cinema and this misstep will make him stronger. But the issue is just exactly right. Bravo!
Three hours ago, 714 mostly young men attended the Australian premiere of Kai Neville’s film Cluster at a restored art deco cinema in Sydney.
Roughly a tenth of the young men there wore the headgear of Craig Anderson, a perennial of Kai’s films (with varying degrees of success. How do you snatch the style of someone as ephemeral as Craig Anderson? How can you make hair that colour and fall in those curls without the falsity of premeditation?). Others, though less in number, wore savage blond bobs in the style of Noa Deane.
I came into the movie with BeachGrit’s Chas Smith’s criticism whistling in my ears. Too long, too repetitious, too derivative, too “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I downed each criticism by the spoonful.
And that fat old Lazarus Surfer turned on Cluster, too.
“I’m not going to get all Nostradamus and warn of the impending death of the surf movie, because that will never happen,” wrote Todd Prodanovich. “But I do think that this type of surf movie—a straightforward montage of high action and lifestyle—is hurting. In a world where we can pull up free web clips on our phones featuring surfing and editing on par with anything in Cluster, you have to wonder: if it isn’t the very best, then what’s the point?”
Oh Chas, loving you thus and hating you so, my heart is torn in two!
In order, Mitch Coleborn, Brendon Gibbens, Conner Coffin (with Taj Burrow and Jay Davies cameos) Dillon Perillo, Dion Agius and Ozzie Wright (mutual open-shirt twerking), Jack Freestone, Chippa Wilson, Creed McTaggart, Ryan Callinan, Dane Reynolds, Craig Anderson and Noa Deane come along and noisily de-stud us.
All those skills Kai has developed from punching out films for 15 years has been squeezed into Cluster’s sixty-ish minutes. The cuts are switchblade sharp, the pacing so submerged but so heart-racing, the clips dazzling in their choice.
Oh, of course we’d like John John. Who doesn’t want to step into his fire? Why no John?
Let’s ask Kai!
This interview took place just after the movie finished. It’s a noisy little jam and the interviewer causes his subject some confusion when he refers to the skate brand Baker as Baxter. What can I say, skating ain’t my thing.
Cluster drops into the iTunes store on March 17.
GoPro on head. Trace Action Sports Tracker on nose of favourite sled. An experience that is just so… modern! So Generaton Text!
This crazy little thing measures the intensity of your turns and even edits your clips!
To hell with cancer, malaria, AIDS, world poverty, and every other disease and misfortune that besets mankind. The brightest minds on earth are busy… doing things that matter.
Doing things that make us feel warm inside and so very happy.
Like this fantastic new device ($US199) from a company called Trace. Affix a small plastic disc (couple of inches wide, less than inch high) to your board, surf your brains out, come in, and it’ll… well, how about we save my fingers and cut and paste the company’s press release here…
“Trace is The Action Sports Tracker. Trace measures your performance and auto edits your most exciting moments whether taken from a GoPro, iPhone, Android or other camera. You connect Trace to your skis, board, or helmet, turn it on, and go. Trace connects to an app on your iPhone or Android where you can view your stats, see yourself improve, and share your accomplishments with friends.
“GoPro, iPhone, and Android video all integrate with Trace to find your rides and cuts out the boring stuff. Trace then color corrects your footage, adds your stats, and compiles them for you.”
You ain’t even in the game anymore unless there’s some hunk of GPS-enabled gadgetry or camera affixed to the nose of your favourite board. Or, in the case of the remarkable Rip Curl watch, wrapping your wrist in its electronics.