Dane Gudauskas: The waves were as big as oil tankers…

Everyone's fav Gudauskas recalls the Fijian megaswell (of 2011).

Because the Fiji Pro (man, it must kill the WSL to be missing an event sponsor) is about to go, and because Mr. Goggans beat me to the punch with the 2012 retrospective, and because I just got some bad news and don’t feel like writing, I’d like to remind everyone that, before the 2012 Fiji Megaswell, there was the 2011 Fiji Megaswell.

At that point the largest Cloudbreak anyone had ever seen (though it would be surpassed the following year), the sheer insanity on display that day blew the surf world’s collective mind. And Transworld paid me to write an article about it.

I reached out to Dane Gudauskas to get some words about the day, and ended up getting an essay in response. To be honest, on its own it’s probably better than what I ended up submitting. So behold, in all its unedited glory, Dane Gudauskas on the July 2011 Fiji Megaswell:

“the morning of the big day, i just remember pulling up on the boat from the main island of nadi and seeing these lumps on the horizons, and i swore they were oil tankers. I thought no way. i didnt think they were waves at all from a distance, but as we got closer we could see white water and could tell that it was pretty massive. i first paddled out on a 9 foot surfboard. everyone must have been on between a 7 foot board to a 10 foot board so i felt pretty good right in the middle there. after a few wipeouts on my first few waves though i realized it was pretty unique challenge riding a board that big in the barrel, so i downshifted for my 8 foot 6 inch surfboard for the rest of the swell and it felt really nice under my feet. It was a little more sensitive so you could pump it in the barrel. It was bizarre to see a wave of that size be so down the line. I was riding a thruster, but i know a lot of people were riding quads, and they said they preferred that drive down the line it was giving them.

I think we showed up 3 days before the swell, just to lose the plane legs. It looked like the swell was developing really nice, and just over a span of so many days with so much swell, you had to believe there would be some golden moments in there somewhere. Even if it was windy or something, there would have to be a moment that would make it all worth it. And we really lucked out. The few days before the swell were super fun inside ledge and everyone was stoked. Barrels, sunburn, broken boards. all the rad stuff. then the main force of the swell came and just blew all my expectations away by a mile. At one point it glassed off for about 3 hours in the middle of the day, and the waves looked absolutely surreal at that size and perfection.

I stayed at a hotel on the main island of fiji. It was rad though, we had a super cool crew hanging at the hotel. It was Reef mccintosh, dave wassel, alex grey, Russo, mike peach, kohl christianson and their friend andy. Fergal smith was there for a bit, albee layer and a few friends from maui. Nathan and bruce were on the main island too but just down the way abit. then i think slater, walshy and healy were on tavarua. It was jsut a rad vibe. We would just surf all day then come in and kick it and laugh watching the sunset and drinking a fiji bitter. The comraderee was one of my favorite things about the trip really. Just as fun as surfing the waves, was sharing those experiences with everyone. being in the water to witness some of these guys´waves of their lives was a really special thing. it was like, you could feel this crazy electricity, and everyone was really looking out for each other too. it gave you a feeling like everyone was in it together.

Stand out moments… hmm dam its hard to pick just a few. i mean the whole few days were crazy. But for me, when i saw kohl paddle into that wave in the morning on his 7 fot 6 surfboard, then hell pump through two crazy sections and come out flying on his back, i was just floored. Ive never seen anything like that. And having been hanging with kohl for a few days, i was just so stoked for him. Because you knew how pure and special that moment was for him. It was on a deeper conscience level you know? i dont think words could really do justice to the emotions that were pumping through him after a ride like that. but everyone was on fire. It was all time for me to see a generation of these big wave riders pretty much coming full circle and each rising to the occasion to get some of the best waves of their lives. I was inspired and humbled just to be out in the water with them.

For paddle surfing, i think it was a pretty radical day. It just goes to show that where there is a will there is a way, and with enough commitment to putting yourself in the spot, you can pretty much paddle into some crazy waves that previously might have been thought to be unrideable. And looking around the lineup, there was no shortage of commitment too. You could tell by looking at everyone that they were excited to get in over the ledge. But to watch that generation of guys who were out there, who have pretty much dedicated the last decade or so to paddling into the biggest waves possible, it was a really special day.

i guess i would finish with a thanks to anyone on the jetskis picking guys up in the impact zone. when you´re taking whoopings in the impact zone and you see that ski racing in towards you… i swear, its as good as sweet tea on a summer day.”

Gimme: Tom Curren’s gorgeous board!

Come benefit the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center while you are at it!

I can’t recall the first time I saw this shot of Tom Curren at Backdoor.

The groomed-smooth bowl, Tom’s tracks so sharp and fresh, his board’s logoless glow reflected in the wave’s face. So. Fucking. Smooth! I love that photo so much. (God bless you, Tom Servais.)

Anyhow, the Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center is having an auction and it turns out one of the items up for grabs is the very board Curren laid on rail so many years ago, a 7’8 Maurice Cole. (Which he apparently rode to victory at Haleiwa, too!)

The auction happens in September (Sat. Sept 26). BeachGrit will be there to bid, if we can find a rich heiress to patronize us the way we’ve always dreamed we’d be patronized. Buy us that fucking board, we’ll be your cabana boys all summer long.

Come here for more information!

How to skipper a boat
Before you skipper a boat of any sort of heft, you must become a first mate. Here we see the honourable Captain Stubing, master marina, left, and Isaac, the happy first mate.

So you really want to skipper a surf-charter boat?

Here's how!

There comes a time when we heed a certain call. For some of us it might be to save the wretched African; others might develop a fondness for screwing his fellow man to accumulate money.

And there’s the call of the ocean. As old as time itself. One hundred years ago it was to lance a damn big sperm whale for his juice; now it’s to become the skipper of a super yacht or sail around the world.

And for those who enjoy the ocean’s oiled coils, what better métier than to be the pilot of a lavish surf-charter vessel? Drive at night, anchor in the day, surf until your heart explodes, come in, soak yourself in pirate juice (rum and coke) and do it again and again.

It ain’t easy to get the wheel of a good boat, unless you want to drop a mill or so yourself, but it’s possible. Heres how.

1. You’ve gotta be a Master IV or better
The way commercial boats work is this. You build up an arsenal of what they call tickets. The more sea-time you do, the more sea-miles you log, the more study you take, the more tickets you get. In Australia, a popular route is to accumulate the required sea miles for a Master IV, either as a deckhand or even a cook if you’ve got a breezy skipper who’ll sign off your log-book, and head to the Australian Maritime College down in Tasmania for the 10-week Master IV course. But, just ’cause y’Master IV don’t mean you got the wheel yet. But you’ll get on the boat. And once you’re on the boat…

2. You’ll learn the surf-spot route
What good is a surf-charter skipper if he can’t take you where you want to go? Now you’re a Master IV you’ll become what’s called a mate: you’ll be on watch, drive the boat while the skipper snoozes, ferry the passengers out to surf breaks in the tin boats tethered to the stern. You’ll study the charts, you’ll learn what’s breaking where and how, in what wind and tide. You’ll make relationships with other boats and skippers that’ll last years.

But these aren’t the only skills you need. Like,

3. Can you fix?
Whenever something breaks down on my boat, the only tool in my box is a credit card. I wave it in the air while the bastard pushes my face into the pillow and screws hell out of me. You can’t do that on a surf-charter boat, middle of nowhere. If the air-con cacks it; if an outboard is refusing to start; if the steering just… stops working, these you must be able to fix.

4. Do you like booze?
Very, very important. I’ve never met a skipper who couldn’t drink an entire boat under a table.

5. Are you in the mistress game?
It’s a single life, the life of a seaman. Sure is hard to hold a girlfriend or marriage together when you’re out at sea for years at time. But a man, or gal, gotta eat don’t he? And so you must groom sexual partners in various ports, from Male to Phuket to Singapore. Screwing the cook or the cleaner or a guest never ends well. You ever see jealousy play itself out on a confined space such as a boat?

6. It’s a helluva responsibility
It’s a game when you’re a passenger. Such fun! So many laughs! But when you’re the sole master of a dozen or more people in seas that host earthquakes and tsunamis and at least half the people are pissed some of the time or unaware that the midnight ablution they’re taking could be their last, it plays with your head.

Every second, you keep a mental list of who’s where… numbers… numbers… numbers. Passengers wander at night, passengers go swimming in the dark, passengers spontaneously decide to freedive to stupid depths, passengers grab the boat’s tenders for a lark. Every single time it happens, they dance on the precipice of tragedy. And the only person to blame? You!

The best surf contest ever?

It got big. Real big.

The gloriously sponsorless Fiji Pro (Men’s) should get underway tomorrow, after much gender-biased jostling for a potentially prime swell window. The forecast is looking good-not-great, and aren’t we all just at the edge of our seats…

But as we wait patiently for the call, I can’t help but daydream about Fiji Pro’s of yesteryear, namely the 2012 clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks. Do you recall? Of course you do…

On June 8th, 2012 Tavarua awoke to a bolt of lightning, a direct strike. To thunder’s literal clap. Kaiborg and crew were setting up a pop-tent for Volcom, when they saw the burst of light, felt its blast.

“My balls almost came out of my mouth, brah,” Kai told Transworld.

Anyhow, the morning was big. Really big. Slater and a small crew of earlybirds got some fun ones as the swell began to rise.

The conditions were a little challenging, a little bumpy. A few mushmouthed pros complained about the “Devil Wind.”

But mainly it was just getting a little heavier than many expected. And it was only the lemon next to the pie…

The ASP hemmed and hawed, despite Surfline’s official forecast calling for  “15-20-25’+ faces at Cloudbreak as the swell peaks, with some larger sets at times, along with generally favorable wind.”

They ran two heats, then poor Raoni Montero blew out his knee on a brutal one. The contest was called off for the day.

Then the winds died, the swell peaked, and all holy hell broke loose.

The webcast remained blessedly live, as a crew of surfers paddled out into what Lewis Samuels called “mindlessly perfect Cloudbreak” and proceeded to make a mockery out of the tour’s cowardice.

(Ironically, around most of the CT guys that did end up paddling out—JJF, Kerr, Parko, Mick—would have been in the first four heats of round 3, had the green light been given.)

So much was contained in that one day, in what it represented to the world, in the twilight of the ASP. So much glory. So much shame.

Mick Fanning, after breaking a borrowed 8’0 of Kala Alexanders, excused his tourmates’ swell-dodging, saying “a lot of guys on the Tour didn’t have mates willing to offer up their best big-wave boards. I was lucky.” Which is sweet of him to say, sticking up for his pals.

Whatever their reasons, those who stayed on boats, or retreated poolside to watch the day unfold, they have to make peace with their decision not to surf the most gorgeously perfect, massive waves a surfing contest will ever see.

Here are some highlights:

Are TED talks the death of Western Civilization?

Yes! But watch surf journalist Chris Dixon give his here!

This morning, as I was trolling the internet for inspiration for my daily BG post, I came across Chris Dixon’s recent TEDx talk. It’s not bad, definitely worth 15 minutes of your day. (ed. note: Chris Dixon is a surf journalist.)

It got me thinking, how do I get in on this? I know that, supposedly, people more often fear public speaking than death, but I am not one of those people. I love being the center of attention, especially when it’s totally one-sided and I get to just talk and talk and talk, without having to listen.

Seriously, put a mic in my hand and I can blather on and on. What do you want to hear about? Dog training tips? I’m on it. Relationship advice? You got it!

I’ll probably swear a few times, and I’ll definitely say something inappropriate but, hell, that’s how you work an audience.

I got to play big shot writer once when I contributed an essay to a collection of stories about skateboarding. There was a release party and I got to read part of my piece to a group of total strangers, and I was damned stoked to do it. Since no one else wanted to go first I volunteered.

It was early in the evening and everyone was still more or less sober, so I thought I’d tell a joke to warm up the crowd. It went like this:

A priest and a rabbi are standing on a street corner when this ten year old boy walks by. The priest leans over and says, “Hey, what do you say we grab that kid, take him into an alley, and screw him?”

And the rabbi says, “Out of what?”

Utter silence.

Which, you know, really worked for me. Because it’s not like things could go any worse, and it’s not like I really care what a room full of strangers thinks of me anyway.