Bruce Irons to take swing at Qualifiers!

The surfer who took Volcom to the stars, who beat Kelly to win the Pipe Masters, is back in the game… 

Bruce Irons, the 35-year-old surfer from Halanalei, Kauai, younger bro of Andy, and once the hottest property in surfing, is kinda back!

After half-a-dozen years of wandering the metaphorical universe (the death of Andy in 2010 ain’t something he was ever going to be able to just shrug off), Bruce has a new manager and his girlfriend, US model Hailee Wade, has entered him into eight events on the qualifying series, beginning at the Burton Auto Pro at Newcastle, Australia, in a week.

Hailee Wade
Bruce Irons’ girl Hailee Wade, from her well-curated Instagram feed.

“My new manager has got me back in the fucking swing of things,” says Bruce. “Shit’s starting to go my way. Although (at Pipe) I fucking blew it, brah… I got good waves but, fuck, I was getting on a roll and I blew it so fucking hard. I was going to win that contest.”

Bruce Irons and Hailee Wade
Bruce Irons has just picked up a little crib in LA where you’ll find him, with cocktail, while his gal Hailee Wade goes about her modelling biz.

With the passage of time, it’s easy to forget how good Bruce was, is. If you really want to get into it, Bruce was the best freesurfer in the world for a couple of years (2004, 2005) before Dane Reynolds stepped out of Ventura. Even when Andy was winning world titles, Pipe Masters titles, Triple Crowns and grinding Kelly Slater, it was his slightly younger brother that was bringing sexy to surfing.

In 2001, before he was even in the tour, Bruce beat Kelly Slater to win the Pipe Masters.

And in, 2004, without even breaking a sweat (Bruce don’t like to sweat), he qualified for the tour.

And that year he beat Kelly Slater in the semis of the Quiksilver event in France before losing to his brother in the final. Four months later, he won the Eddie Aikau event in 30-foot waves at Waimea.

In 2008, Bruce won the Rip Curl Search Pro in Bali, requalified, but knocked his CT spot back to… freesurf again.

“I’ve just kind of been stuck in this rut,” said Bruce at the time. “Same places, same schedule. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t like surfing heats. When it’s not good, I don’t have the motivation. And then I was really worried all along that if I fell off tour, Volcom would drop me. I wasn’t communicating with them about that and I was struggling on tour. I didn’t like the way I was surfing. I wasn’t happy with it at all. So, I talked to Volcom and basically said I wasn’t happy on tour. And I asked them what they thought of me not doing it. They said they’d be stoked if I wasn’t on it. They said they could see my struggle on tour. That I tried it and it wasn’t my thing. I prefer to go back to how I started my whole surfing trip which is to go on surf trips and make videos. That’s where I’m most happy.”

Despite his “lifetime” deal with Volcom, Bruce split with ’em four years after and signed with Fox.

Bruce don’t have a whole lot else on the boil at the moment so why not take one last swing at the tour? He’s not saying that he’s “trying to qualify” ’cause that ain’t Bruce’s style. But he sure would like to taste a little champagne.

“I definitely want to win something,’ he says. “Oh fuck yeah.”

Bruce is also collecting footage for an upcoming film.

5 Ways to Nail the GoPro Angle (with Mark Healey)

You want the perfect POV shot? Here's five inside tricks… 

It’s Sunday morning, at least in Australia, so let’s jam a little side of irony onto your breakfast plate.

Ten days ago, Mark Healey stroked into into an eight-foot wave at Pipeline with a GoPro clamped inside his mouth. As he took off, he grabbed the GoPro camera from his hand and filmed the tube-ride of 57-year-old Hawaiian legend Michael Ho (pops to Coco and Mason). Both Mark and Michael exited and such was the irrationally perfect nature of the ride, it might win the pair $25,000 in Surfline’s wave of the winter.

But that footage of Uncle Mike? Healey blew it. By holding the camera in his hand his framing was totally off. “When I saw the footage of it I wanted to throw up,’ he told me.

(Read Mike and Mark’s account of the ride here.) 

But, generally, Mark is one of the best in the world at nailing GoPro clips. And after we jammed about his Mike Ho tube, I got him to swing five tips on nailing the POV angle.

1. Preparation is everything. 

Once you’re in the water you can’t do a thing. You can’t change the batteries, you can’t clean the inside of the port. So many times in the beginning if I’d spent an extra 20 seconds cleaning that piece of lint off the port I could’ve nailed the best clips. So be patient. Clean the inside of the port. Make sure your batteries are charged. Take five minutes to get it all dialled. Who wants to paddle in, dry off, and do it?

2. Make sure there are moisture absorbing wafers in the housing.

Cameras run hot so they fog. That’s an easy one. But watch how many times you’ll forget.

3. Get two cameras.

I’m lucky, I get ’em for free, but if you can afford it, you won’t miss a shot, ever.

4. Use ’em… a lot.

The more you use your GoPro the more you’ll realise what framing works. A bite plate (so you can clamp the camera in your mouth) or head mount will get what you need, framing-wise. Where you look is where you go. It ain’t rocket science! If you want to hold it in your hand you have to be conscious of where your hand is pointing. Just look at what happened when I shot Mike Ho last week.

5. That said, lift your chin and point it a little up.

That’s a tip from Jamie O’Brien and Anthony Walsh, though they’ll probably be pissed for me telling you that. You’ll get more of the tube in the frame.

Mick Fanning and Chas Smith
And here we are presented with two great champions, one a master of the ocean (Mick Fanning, left), the other of keystrokes. (Chas Smith, right). "The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most," says Chas. "I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity." | Photo: Jeffrey Flindt

(Audio) A serious-ish interview with Chas Smith

On suicidal reporting from Damascus to Hawaii, terrorism (beheadings!) and localism (slaps!)…

Many times, when I’ve gotten into a car I’ve wished for a surf-themed radio show. To hear about all those delicate surfer boys, with more spirit than strength, flushed with fever or pale with exhaustion or haggard after some game-changing heat, tell all.

And, more than anything, to hear the writers, the photographers, those cultural bulwarks, explain their craft.

As it turns out, such a show exists. It is called Surf Splendour and BeachGrit readers can be eased into the show with this hour-long interview with BeachGrit founder and noted writer Chas Smith.

The interview meanders from stories of Chas being bombed in Beirut, kidnapped in Damascus by Hezbollah as a suspected Israeli agent, his moving into surf writing to, eventually, being called a Jew (the irony!) by the just-crowned world champion Mick Fanning.

Likeable? Funny? Yeah he is.


Healey: “I saw the footage and wanted to throw up!”

Mark Healey and Hawaiian legend Michael Ho on their potential wave of the winter… 

A week ago, the 33-year-old Hawaiian goofyfooter Mark Healey paddled out to second-ish reef Pipe with a GoPro camera. That ain’t unusual. Along with Jamie O’Brien and Anthony Walsh, he’s made Pipe a self-portrait studio.

But this day, Healey was all about getting some follow cam. So he paddles up to Michael Ho (the Pipe Master and two-time Triple Crown winner) and John John and says, Hey, if you see me going, just go, I want to get a shot. 

Michael, on an eight-o, says he was just “kicking out the back listening to Mark say that wanted to get barrelled behind someone and I was thinking, not me, if I make a mistake I might get run over.”

And then this wave (hit play!), rolls through. Literally… rolls… on through. A weird swell that crumbled slightly on second-ish reef before depositing its load on the inside.

And Healey, on a six-ten, gets the easiest chip shot into the wave. Michael Ho, slightly on his outside, gets about as soft a takeoff into Pipe as you’ll ever see.

“It was the perfect setup,” says Healey. “It gave me such an easy chip shot into the wave that it was easy to get my camera out of my mouth and into my hand. If it was a nuts drop it would’ve been real friggen hard.”

And, so, “I was trying to keep some distance from Mike. I wanted him to be able to go ahead and set his line. I wasn’t too worried about being too deep. I knew I had to be aways back there to try and get the shot. I thought the foamball was going to catch me because I was taking a lower line. I was waiting for it. I knew it was going to be like stepping on a land mine. I could see the lip just breaking over my shoulder. I’ve never been that low in a barrel and made it.”

Oh yes! Describe the view.

“My view was ridiculous. Fuck, it was so insane. It was one of the coolest views I’ve had in surfing. It was so insane to see a tube ride from start to finish. I got to be in the barrel, see him come into my field of vision to finish his bottom turn and set up the tube, disappear from my view for a second, and then to have the depth perception of it from behind, catching up and coming out at the same time.”

And the surfer! The great Michael Ho!

“He’s the fricken man! He’s such a legend. To share a wave with him was an honour.”

Michael, meanwhile, flicked off, yelling: “I would never have dropped in if you hadn’t asked!”

“I was so embarrassed,” says Healey. “I said, ‘You’re the man out here! You can get any wave you want!'”

“I didn’t even know that he went,” says Michael. “If I did, I would’ve fallen off and got run over, f’sure. Was I surprised he came out with me? I was baffled. I always grab my rail, just to be sure, and because my board was a little long, I just stood in this thing.”

As for the GoPro footage, “I totally missed the framing,” says Healey. “I totally botched it. I was too low. When you hand-hold a GoPro and you’re trying to surf it puts your framing off. I missed the best part of it so hard. I was ready to throw up when I looked at the footage.”

Given the uniqueness of the double tube, and the surfers involved, the wave is there for a shot at winning Surfline’s Wave of the Winter. First prize is 25-grand to the surfer and five-grand to the person who shot it.

And was Michael thrilled with the ride? Let’s ask his son, hot-shot Mason Ho.

“I was just laying at home, cruising, when came in through the door freaking out about how barrelled he got. I freaked out that I was just laying there, grabbed my board and drove to Pipe but by the time I got there it was blown out.”

john john florence, backdoor pipe
All those pre-dawn surfs at Pipe and Backdoor used to happen unacknowledged. It was only after seven am that there would be enough light for all those men with their stills and motion cameras to finally swim out. But, now, thanks to high-speed cameras and the expertise of craftsmen like Australia's Chris Bryan, the viewer is allowed a glimpse into the early morning world of, in this instance, John John Florence. | Photo: Chris Bryan

John John and the miracle of pre-dawn photography

For the first time, photographers can capture the preciousness of a pre-dawn session…

One thing you never see in surf mags, online whatevs, are images of those precious pre-dawn surfs. You know ’em. You paddle out into the oily darkness, into the stillness, and for maybe thirty minutes, you’re gifted a few uncrowded ramps or tubes. It’s a special time, a time when you get a feel for what surfing might’ve been like fifty years ago.

The photo, here, is of John John Florence at Backdoor Pipe and was snatched from the darkness at roughly 6:45am, twenty minutes or so before any real light can land on all those digital sensors.

Isn’t the photo (actually a frame-grab) a little dark? Yeah, it is.

But it’s true to what the filmer Chris Bryan was seeing as John flew past, came out of the barrel near Off the Wall and then hucked a double-grab…well, Chris can’t say whether it was a backflip or more of a corkscrew. The waves he says, were six-to-eight if it was Australia, maybe four-feet if you’re talking shop to Hawaiians.

Chris, an Australian, was actually on holidays with his family on the North Shore and was checking the waves in the dark when he saw John John paddle out. “I couldn’t resist grabbing my gear and swimming out,” he says. “I really like to shoot low-light moody kinda stuff.”

It was only because he owns a super high-speed Phantom camera that he had the technological grunt to steal the photo, something that pleases him very much. And not just for the uniqueness of the shot.

“At that time of the day, you’re not chasing photos with every other photographer. You’re not doing battle with ten other guys to get the shot. There’s no clashes of ego. It’s relaxing. You’re out there by yourself and you’re getting something that is very different.”