Like, alive, and without emotional trauma…
A journey through life isn’t complete without taking a real swing on the North Shore. Until those stripes are stitched onto your arm, why, you’re just a boiled little cry-baby who’ll never know what it feels like to be a real surfer.
Me? Yes! A baby! Five, maybe six campaigns, and never a wave over six feet.
Why the North Shore? Why does it matter so?
You get the waves, you get the surf stars, you get the blood-red sunsets and you get the rain-spotted meth vampires crouching under the roots of trees in their stained undershorts just waiting for you to leave your pretty rental car unattended.
It’s the violent, beautiful heart of surfing.
The photographer Brandon “Laserwolf” Campbell is from Florida but has been plugged into the electricity of the North Shore for the past seven years.
Oowee, he’s seen it all. He’s seen the gunplay, the romance, the bonds and the remarkable beauty and strength of the place.
And he knows what you should do if you wanna make it there. Let’s ask.
BeachGrit: What makes you shake your head when you see new arrivals on the North Shore?
Laserwolf: I see guys all the time that don’t live here hassle locals for waves or try to call a guy off a wave. Just because you’re on the inside doesn’t mean the wave is yours. Not here in Hawaii, at least. If you get burned, suck it up, kick out and put on a smile. Never hassle an uncle for a wave. If I’m on the inside and its my turn but see a guy like Uncle Mike Ho or Sunny or whoever remotely interested in the wave, I won’t even look at it. It’s just a respect thing and thats how it is.
BeachGrit: Give me a list of the dumbest things you see people doing?
Laserwolf: Don’t leave valuables in your car. Tweakers are in the bushes just waiting to do a snatch n’ grab. Every day I see tourists on the side of the road in tears with a smashed window in their rental car and all of their stuff gone.
Don’t walk up to the team houses uninvited. You wouldn’t believe how often people walk into the Volcom House asking if it’s some sort of Volcom museum or if they can use the bathroom.
Don’t try to speak pigeon. You’re gonna sound like an idiot and your not fooling anyone. It’s a tiny community so If your not from here people know. You’ll get more respect for being yourself. As long as yourself doesn’t suck.
Stay off the bike path after dark. It’s the dreamiest little path in the day time but once the sun sets, the vampires come out to play.
Speeding through neighbourhoods is a very very bad idea. Go extra slow. I had been to the North Shore a couple years prior on a surf trip but my very first day as an actual resident, I had grabbed a beater truck on my way from the airport and went straight to check the surf. I was driving through the neighborhood at Sunset Point and thought I was going really slow. Pretty sure I was in idle. Anyways, when I pulled up to check the waves, one of the super-heavy hitters pulled up next to me and told me to roll down my window.
I knew of his reputation and was practically shitting my shorts thinking to myself, ” This can’t really be happening my first five minutes on the North Shore.” I thought for sure I was gonna get pounded but I rolled down my window and to my surprise one of the gnarliest guys around very politely said “Eh’ brah, would you mind driving a little slower, we’ve got a lot of kids in the neighborhood.”
I was apologetic, explained that I was frothing to surf, left out the part that I was JOJ, and assured him I won’t let it happen again and he said something a long the lines of ” No stress, have a great session” and drove off as I sunk into my seat with a sigh of relief. I’ve basically pushed my car down the street in neutral ever since.
BeachGrit: What are the other dumb things you did?
Laserwolf: About five years into living here I maybe got a little too comfortable and a little too cocky. I got lippy with one of the boys over something stupid and was quickly put in my place and reminded how not to act on the North Shore.
Another time, I stashed a bunch of camera gear behind the seat of my truck while I was surfing Off The Wall. I came in and someone had jammed a screwdriver into my door, took my gear, my phone and even the pennies in my cup holder. The worst part is that I used to live in the house across the street and every other day I would see a car that had been broken into in the exact same spot I parked. I knew better. Total rookie move.
BeachGrit: How easy is it to piss someone off and what are the common things people do?
Laserwolf: It’s no different then anywhere else. You get what you give. Be respectful, smile, look people in the eyes when you talk to them and don’t give that stupid high-five fist bump thing. No one likes that. It’s awkward and frat boy-ish. A firm handshake like a man and some eye contact goes a long way. And, yeah, drive slow, don’t step on anyone’s toes and don’t drop-in on anyone.
BeachGrit: How do you suggest one should behave if confronted by angry local man?
Laserwolf: It ain’t like movie prison. Ha! Knocking the baddest dude out isn’t gonna prove anything to anyone. I used to get in a lot of fights when I was younger. I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. Regardless, it was all stupid. These days I’m on a different path and have no problem walking away from someone who’s ready to scrap but I guess it depends who it is and what the situation is about. I’m not gonna let some random hero push me or my family around but I’m not about to have local problems either. Choose your battles wisely and if you’ve done something to upset anyone it’s best to just put your head down, be respectful and right your wrongs.
BeachGrit: How can you integrate yourself into the North Shore community? Do you send chocolates to Ed? Maybe a custom uke to Makua?
Laserwolf: I actually remember reading on Stab that Wiggolly Dantes brought a jar of his mom’s homemade jelly over to the Rothman’s house when he first came here. I wouldn’t recommend knocking on any stranger’s door but well played Wiggolly.
So many people come here, take, take, take and then bail when the waves get flat. I think it’s important to give back to any community you’re spending a lot of time in.
I volunteer with a local non-profit called Friends Of Sunset Beach who helps raise money for the music and art program at the schools here on the North Shore. I do these art appreciation days where I go in and teach the kids about surf photography. I’ve got a couple companies who flow me gear and they print up posters and stickers of my images for the kids. My wife works with the Kokua Foundation which helps bring environmental education into the schools and community. She’s actually there right now working in the school garden.
The North Shore Lifeguard Association has a big fundraiser every year. That’s an important one for me to be involved with since those guys work so hard to keep us all safe. Working with the Mauli Ola Foundation is another great way to give back to the community. Don’t do it for the recognition though, do it to help your community grow as a whole.
BeachGrit: Is it possible to actually catch a wave at Pipe?
Laserwolf: During the Triple Crown, when the whole surf world is here, I would say the odds of getting a legit Pipe wave if you’re not a pro, one the boys or a dialled resident are slim to none. Anytime before and after those six weeks of madness, you could absolutely score the barrel of your life. Be ready to pay to play though. Pipe is no joke. Heaviest wave in the world in my opinion.
BeachGrit: How much you gotta spend on a crib during the season?
Laserwolf: I’ve got a family and a dog so I need some extra space and a yard. We pay $2,400 month for a two-bedroom at Rocky Point and that’s actually a pretty good deal right now. Vacation rentals and military housing allowance has shot rent through the roof and made good places very hard to come by. You could come solo though and find a nice room for rent around $800 a month. Rates don’t really change by the season here.
BeachGrit: How much should you budget per week to live?
Laserwolf: That’s a hard one to pinpoint. I guess it depends how big you want to go. My friend Rob Brown is an absolute nomad. He spent a winter camping in a tent at the skate park and lived off PBJ’s and PBR’s. You could go feral or five-star here. Anywhere from $10-$1000 day. In a tent at the skate park or a suite at Turtle Bay. Either way you’re going to score!
BeachGrit: Where’s the best place to live?
Laserwolf: Pupukea up the hill is really nice and quiet and it keeps you away from the riff-raff but you have to get in your car every time you want to go to the beach. For me, it couldn’t get any better then an oceanfront house at Off The Wall.
BeachGrit: What can you do to earn cash?
Laserwolf: Waiting tables is the ideal gig for a surfer. Play all day, then work for five hours at night. The money is killer if you can get into a good restaurant. Three hundred bucks or so a night.
BeachGrit: What’s the biggest misconception about the North Shore?
Laserwolf: That there’s no chicks here. I always heard there were no cute single girls in Hawaii but I met my wife here and she’s an absolute gem. My single friends are killing it.
BeachGrit: What’s the cliche that’s most true about the North Shore?
Laserwolf: There is a lot of petty crime. Mostly thievery so lock up… everything. I caught a tweaker breaking into my wife’s car at five in the morning the other day and when I yelled at her to beat it, she yelled back “FUCK YOU BITCH, YOU DONT OWN THE BIKE PATH ” and continued on with her coat hanger. She was so spun on meth, just full-on, one-track zombie mode.
BeachGrit: What’s the best thing about living on the North Shore?
Laserwolf: Tweakers aside, it’s a great little community to be a part of and raise a family. I’ve made some amazing friends since I moved here seven years ago. My daughter was born here, I met my wife here and I started my career here. Although my roots will always be in Florida, I’m grateful to feel like I can call the North Shore home. Its a special, unique place and I don’t ever want to take that for granted.
BeachGrit: Okay, where we eating?
Laserwolf: Breakfast. Haleiwa Bowls. Lunch. Wailua Bakery Drinks. Lui Buenos. Dinner. Cafe Haleiwa.