Movie: Peahi Challenge Wipeout Reel!

What entertainment you were fed today… 

You came for blood at today’s Pe’ahi Challenge, didn’t you? Theoretically, you embrace the splendour and the glory of the tight-rope being successful walked, of course, but that bloodlust, the pure elemental desire to watch an orgy of men being broken, surviving but just, never goes away.

And, what entertainment you were fed today.

Mark Mathews and his busted shoulder, multi-cartridge vests inflated hither and yon, mid-air board collisions, ejections from the lip of 25-foot waves, jetskis tumbling onto rocks. What more entertainment could you want?

Let’s watch! 


Today set a high standard, one the WSL will have trouble matching. Probably won't, ever. But that's a problem for those looking to make a buck off the men risking their lives. For you and me, man, what a day! Here we see the winner, Billy Kemper! | Photo: WSL

Thrills: Billy Kemper wins Peahi Challenge!

This is what the Big Wave World Tour is supposed to be.

I was hoping I could pass off the semis and finals to either Chas or Derek, but it looks like I’m all in on this one.

So, everyone do me a favor and lay off complaining about typos. Writing this much this fast is kind of difficult. Not as hard as a proper roundhouse cutback, but still damn challenging.

Plus I keep hitting the space bar twice after every fucking period and I’m trying to break myself of the habit, which is making everything even more difficult.

So, yeah, I’m running spell check and sending it off.

If you’ve got a problem with that level of effort keep it to yourself. Or don’t. It’s the internet, nothing stopping you from trying to hurt my feelings. Helps me build a thick skin anyway, and I’m finding that the less I care the better I write.

Semi-final one was a pretty timid affair, compared to the early rounds. Second water patrol went down, gonna take some work to get that ski running again. But the swell seems to be tapering off a bit.

Or there’s just a long lull in the power before it turns back on. Because that’ll happen on big days, it drops a bit, you paddle inside, then watch one cap out the back. Nothing to do but sit and wait and take your beating.

Ever experienced baurotrauma? Shit hurts, bad. Easy to blow out your ear drums. Just one of the million not so little things that makes surfing waves this size so gnarly. Something most people never consider.

I once asked Dave Wassel about the pressure change you experience diving under waves this size.  Every 33 feet underwater is another atmosphere of pressure you need to equalize, a 60-foot face rolling over your head makes that pressure differential instantaneous.

Ever experienced baurotrauma? Shit hurts, bad. Easy to blow out your ear drums. Just one of the million not so little things that makes surfing waves this size so gnarly. Something most people never consider.

Billy Kemper got second in his heat with only one wave! Local boy is killing it!

Ski three gets flipped, driver’s okay, looks like his fins got ripped off. How much are they paying these guys? No way it’s enough. Unionize, unionize, unionize, boys. If you’re making less than $10k a day, each, you’re getting ripped the fuck off.

Greg Long. I don’t even know what to say about the guy. Remember when he was on the NSSA, riding strangely long boards, surfing with his kind of funky style? I never understood how he made heats, much less won a title in 2001. Giving up on that garbage did the world a favor, turned him into one of the best big-wave surfers who has ever lived. It’s time to change our bumper stickers, when you want to play at crazy scream “Greg would go!”

Like I said in the first installment, in my eyes Dorian won the contest before it began. But Albee, Albee Layer, riding his tiny little board and treating Pe’ahi the way John John treats overhead Backdoor. Like there are no consequences, like this is just another day.

Ski three gets flipped, driver’s okay, looks like his fins got ripped off. How much are they paying these guys? No way it’s enough. Unionize, unionize, unionize, boys. If you’re making less than $10k a day, each, you’re getting ripped the fuck off.

Mark my words, Layer just redefined appropriate Big, capital b, wave equipment. Double middle finger claim in the barrel, followed by Tarzan chest thump, then straight-up robbery from the judges. Because it wasn’t big enough? Because wave knowledge and positioning counts for nothing?

Nope, because putting a number on performance in these conditions is ridiculous. Impossible.

Wrong no matter what.

And who cares, anyway?

There’s always someone who pushes the limits of acceptable gear, and at Pe’ahi, at this size, Layer just did it and that’s what’s important. We’re gonna see boards get shorter, much shorter. We’re gonna see barrels get deeper, much deeper.

Thank you, Albee. I doubt you’ll get the credit, but this guy knows it was all you, today, changing the course of the future because you’re the one who took the chance.

This is no different than the guys who showed “unsurfable” waves could be towed into. No different than the heroes who refused the ski and proved you could paddle. This is important, the ramifications are far reaching, will be felt for a long fucking time.

AND HERE COMES THE FINAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Albee Layer: I love you! You’re important. Renegotiate every single contract you’ve signed.

Billy Kemper: Local killer! So many beatings, so much ripping!

Gabriel Villaran: ¡Estoy tan feliz de un sudamericano hizo la final!

Greg Long: Pure legend, pure commitment.

Ian Walsh: You’ve been at this level for so damn long I forgot you’re younger than me.

Shane Dorian: Thank god you sucked at acting. If you’d been any good you wouldn’t be here, today.

Three Maui boys in the final! Who’d’ve thunk it?

Pretty much everyone, right?

What is it about redneck aloha land that churns out so much talent? How the fuck can someone throw huge airs and still charge at an elite level?

Y’all are the surfers Laird always wanted to be.

Since there’s a break before the finals, I’m gonna crack a cold one, or three, and try to figure out who decided that “BIG WAVE” was the best thing to print on the back of the jerseys.

One more hour, then I get to head to the beach and see what I missed while sitting on my ass watching other people surf.

The final’s started, no one’s caught anything yet, so let’s reflect for a moment on how awesome the 21st century has been for surfing.

Twenty years ago, when the magazines mattered, we’d have read of this contest months after the fact. A short write-up, a handful of cherry picked photos, wave face rendered flat by a long lens.

None of the immediacy, none of the passion. Just an acknowledgment of something important that happened long after it mattered.

Today set a high standard, one the WSL will have trouble matching. Probably won’t, ever.

But that’s a problem for those looking to make a buck off the men risking their lives. For you and me, man, what a day!

A day that looks like it’s heading toward anti-climax.

Oh no! It’s gone flat!

Or maybe not.

Layer takes a beating, Walsh gets murdered when the wind gets under him, and Kemper slays it on the third.

That much speed, so much foam in the rail, pocket ride on a beast. Holding that line on a board that thick, glassed so heavy there ain’t no flex at all, is no mean feat. If the swell does what it seems to be, that one may be the heat winner.

But here comes Albee. All his weight forward on that entry rocker, slowing down, hand drag to pump the brakes even more. It’s Albee, I’m calling it with thirty five minutes left. He’s not only won this event, but established himself as something special.

But, nope, it’s Kemper in the lead.

And I can’t complain. Yeah, I’m all Albee, but I think I’m creeping up on a man-crush, so I’m hardly impartial.

And these fucking guys, jeez Louise…  WSL needs to pull a PR coup, call ’em all winners, and peel off $25k a piece. Oh, man, that’d sell well.

Think they’ll do it?

Dorian must be spent. I can’t believe any of the surfers have the energy to remain upright, much less generate the power to scratch into these bombs.

Is PK on Maui? I’d love to see a #TourNotes shot tomorrow, when everyone is ruined, barely able to stand. A day like today takes a heavy toll, post accomplishment depression grips the best of us.

After the fact you stop thinking about what you’ve done, you start worrying about what you’ll do next.

An aside: breathhold training is more or less nonsense. I’m an overweight guy who smokes too much, my freedive trip is on par with the best of these folks. It’s confidence that keeps you alive, a belief in yourself, your ability, a familiarity with the agony of carbon dioxide build-up. I get rattled on a twenty foot hold down, swimming down past a hundred feet ain’t shit in comparison. Save your money, those big wave training courses are kind of a scam. Not in an evil way, it’s just damn hard earning a living as a freedive instructor, can’t blame the dudes for grabbing a buck where they can.

And it’s a win for Kemper!

Man tears, totally earned. I get it, I cry at the drop of a hat. And I ain’t never accomplished nothing of consequence.

This is what the Big Wave World Tour is supposed to be.

Too bad today was magic, won’t happen again soon, if ever. The notion is just as dumb today as it was when it was concieved.

And don’t think I’ll forget I wasn’t welcome. I hold on to that type of shit.


Radical: Pottz smashes surf tour!

Martin "Pottz" Potter suggests a radical detour. Could it work?

The Big Wave World Tour Peahi Challenge has just wrapped with Billy Kemper as your champion. So blue collar! Such wonderful! And why doesn’t the World Surf League broadcast all of these? Hmmm? In any case, bravo! And also Martin “Pottz” Potter, sitting in the booth, just challenged his bosses to completely revolutionize the regular wave Championship Tour.

On the Big Wave World Tour, you see (actually you can’t see because most aren’t broadcast live), events have winners but the size of the waves at each event determine the amount of points the winner gets. Makuakai Rothman won the first even in South America, you see (actually you didn’t see because it wasn’t broadcast live or maybe at all), but it wasn’t as big as Jaws (Peahi) so it was deemed a silver event. Jaws (Peahi) was huge so it was gold. So Billy Kemper now has more points than Makuakai even though they both have one win.

So anyhow, Pottz, in the booth, said that the regular wave Championship Tour should do this too! He says the waves should be scored differently so that, and I quote, “Trestles or Huntington would be scored differently than Pipeline or Teahupoo.”

Now, forget for the moment that Huntington Beach is not on the CT, is Pottz’s idea good or maybe not? Should firing events carry more weight than smaller? Would that give us a better champion? Would it be a better reflection of the surf arts? And who would this most affect? Brazilians? Rude of you to suggest! But was maybe Pottz suggesting that? Hmmm.

Congrats to Billy Kemper and get ready for pumping Pipeline! Ain’t Hawaii the best?


This event is shaping up to be the WSL's wet dream. Huge, consistent, nary a break in the action. In the context of the BWWT, this is going to the precedent to which all future events aspire. Which won't happen, can't happen. We're watching something special. We might be watching someone die. The competitors are feeding off each others' adrenaline, pushing harder and deeper with every set. Here, Billy Kemper! | Photo: WSL

Awesome: “These Guys are Dragon Slayers!”

Rory Parker reports on the first half of the WSL's Peahi Challenge… 

Derek hit me up mid-morning yesterday.

“…this [Pe’ahi] goes tomoz.

Want to go? Airfares are around 300…

Grab a hirecar for 75?

I’ll pay…”

Of course I’m in. Maui’s a milk run, and this’d be the first time someone else (other than my wife) paid for me to travel. True reportage, I’ve arrived!

I was heading out the door for a surf, my wife was on her second beer of the day and wanted to stay behind. I put her in charge of monitoring my emails, whatever the details make it happen.

I had a miserable session. Too much on my mind, trying to mentally dial logistics. Getting to Maui could be more difficult than dear Derek realizes, Hawaiian Airlines is thoroughly enjoying its current monopoly. The wife took a last minute flight to Oahu a few weeks back, $600, fifteen minutes each way. Pure robbery.

I don’t know anyone on Maui. Fly in late night and sleep in the car? Or get in pre dawn and wait at the gate? Who can I borrow binoculars from? What are we gonna do for pictures? I’ve got a GoPro, an ancient SLR, almost no photo skills. Took a class way back in high school, sitting behind the lens does not speak to me. Photogs are voyeurs, I’m an exhibitionist.

All for naught. Word came down from Dave Prodan, no media credentials for BeachGrit. “We are at capacity for our small media area at Jaws.” No room at the inn for this son of god.

And I think we all know why. Word came down from Dave’s secret Jewish overlords, “BeachGrit isn’t pro-Israel enough! Tell ’em to go get fucked!”

Pe’ahi is a dream venue for the WSL. Fronted by private land, easy to shut down access, control the coverage, eliminate the leeches. Kind of interesting, in the context of our state constitution, which guarantees public access to the ocean. But words on a page mean little to reality, spend a day in Princeville and you’ll enjoy a million “No Trespassing” signs. Nailed to trees, anchored in concrete, by and large bullshit. They dot the roads surrounding the St Regis, roads leading to public access trails and ample parking, a litmus test which keeps the coast clear of rule followers. Not a huge problem if you’re willing to stare down security and get unloose a little aggression.

Which was an option. “BeachGrit reporter arrested on Maui,” has a nice ring to it. I have no illusions that I could talk my way in, but I don’t like to take “no” for an answer, and I’m well aware our state plays ball whenever there’s a sniff of money involved. So I’d’ve ended up in Maui lock-up, my lawyer wife would’ve come to the rescue. Worst-case scenario, a trespassing charge, though likely not even that. My record is spotless, I’m great at not getting caught. Hawaiian cops aren’t blood crazed billy club monsters. Well, the Honolulu ones are, but Maui’s peaceful redneck vibe doesn’t breed that kind of power hungry insanity.

So I’m sitting on my filthy couch watching the webcast like the rest of you plebs. Which isn’t so bad. I’ve got a nice assortment of mind altering substances within easy reach, don’t have to wear pants. Don’t have to spend the day surrounded by a bunch of strangers, making small talk, squinting into the distance at tiny specks drawing white lines down blue walls.

I recently upgraded my internet connection, so I can watch the carnage in gorgeous HD. And I’ve gotta give it to the WSL, the coverage is top-notch. Sure, I don’t get to taste the salt spray or feel that thunder in my gut, but the production team is on fucking point. Helicopters and water cams and long lenses shooting from a distance, all vantages far superior to anything you’d get in person.

I watched the last Eddie run from a perch cliff side above the Bay and was bored out of my mind.

It’s not perfect at Pe’ahi today, wind and bump and the early morning, pre heat session, showed some hesitancy. Guys sitting wide, sets rolling through. Butterflies in the bellies of the craziest surfers in the world.

Then Dorian got a bomb. Of course. Who else would it be? Mark Matthews was next up, separated a shoulder before the event even began. So sorry, buddy, those things hurt. Hope it ain’t too bad, been there done that. Recovery from grade three and beyond is a real motherfucker.

“These guys are dragon slayers, and for the last ten years or so we haven’t seen any dragons. And you start to wonder, am I a dragon slayer, are there even dragons? Why am I here? Well, today the dragons showed up, and the dragon slayers are here to get ’em. It’s as gnarly as it gets.”

Concern for life and limb went out the window. Kemper’s a fucking maniac, well deserved first heat win. Wassel, my hero, the man I was rooting for (well aware of the Aussie definition of that word), got caught by the wind and sucked over the falls of hell. Burle got beat, again and again.

This event is shaping up to be the WSL’s wet dream. Huge, consistent, nary a break in the action. In the context of the BWWT, this is going to the precedent to which all future events aspire. Which won’t happen, can’t happen. We’re watching something special. We might be watching someone die. The competitors are feeding off each others’ adrenaline, pushing harder and deeper with every set.

Dave Kalama’s behind the mic, dropping gold.

“These guys are dragon slayers, and for the last ten years or so we haven’t seen any dragons. And you start to wonder, am I a dragon slayer, are there even dragons? Why am I here? Well, today the dragons showed up, and the dragon slayers are here to get ’em. It’s as gnarly as it gets.”

Not even a drop of hyperbole there.

Water safety’s gonna sleep well tonight. Every wave requires a rescue. The skis aren’t saving time, getting the guys in the lineup to keep the action on. They’re saving lives, a swarm of heroes flying into danger without a thought of self preservation.

And Greg fucking Long. A massive bottom turn to closeout barrel in heat two. The human body is remarkably resilient. Dude’s already died once, he still wants more? Da Bull got a mere taste of this shit and quit, ran and hid in the Pacific Northwest.

The scoring is confusing, does a made wave really trump a suicidal failed attempt? Not that it matters.

I wonder what the insurance situation is for the competitors? Is the WSL picking up the tab? Are the guys independent contractors responsible for themselves?

And Greg fucking Long. A massive bottom turn to closeout barrel in heat two. The human body is remarkably resilient. Dude’s already died once, he still wants more? Da Bull got a mere taste of this shit and quit, ran and hid in the Pacific Northwest.

There was a famous incident in skateboarding, way back in ’07. The early days of the mega ramp movement, Jake Brown flailed to flats from four stories up. Fractured wrist, fractured vertebrae, bruised liver, bruised lung, ruptured spleen and a concussion. But he got second place, $20,000! Which went to hospital bills, while ESPN flogged the footage for millions in exposure.

I had to check on how much the WSL is kicking down. $25k for first place, $100K total purse. The boys need a union, huh? More lucrative to hop your ass to the beach in onshore Huntington slop. But these guys are in it for the love alone, and it’s real easy to take advantage of that type of person. Out here we call it the “aloha tax,” code for “Fuck you, I’m earning, you’re lucky to have a job.”

Holy hell, is the human body resilient or what? There’ll be plenty of pain tomorrow, trips to the chiropractor, masseuse, scrips for Flexeril handed out like candy. But for now the adrenaline’s enough. Totally numb, those torn muscles won’t start screaming for hours.

Heat three’s a little slower, not a bad thing. Give us all a chance to catch our breath, let the chopper circle around, use the scenery to provide some context. They sure kept the the site setup small. Great for the environment, no doubt. Though it sure looks like there’s plenty of space for some asshole from BG.

Albee Layer is riding an 8’6”? What the fuck is that? That’s my biggest “big wave” board, double leash plugs, super heavy glassed, used it in surf maybe half this size, scared out of my mind, barely getting over the ledge. It’s not like he’s Healey sized, Albee’s a big boy. Giant by pro surfer standards.

Tyler Larronde is charging, and getting his ass beat. Yuri Soledad went left. First of the day, I think.

I’m in awe of the ski drivers. Once, years ago, hubris got the best of me and I headed to an outer reef on a buddy’s ski. Just checking things out, motoring around, eventually getting cocky and flipping us in front of an oncoming set. Barely got back on before it detonated behind me, poor passenger had drifted too far to grab. Save the ski, save the ski, save the ski!

Leaving him behind ate me alive later, in the moment it was my only option. When the whitewater caught me it tore out the kill switch, pushed me onto the face. Powerless, sliding, fumbling to get the fucking thing started before I turned sideways and flipped. Felt so damn lucky when it sputtered to life and I gunned it to the flats.

Screaming back toward the lineup, scanning, hoping, praying to a god I don’t believe in. And there he was, swimming for his life. I got lucky, grabbed him, headed straight in. Never again, not looking to be an object lesson.

Too funny, Albee being frank. “No one will tell you this, but it’s not that good. It’s a three out of ten…”

He’d know. I sure don’t. Is it the wind? The swell direction? The tide? From my perspective it’s the best big wave event I’ve ever seen.

And though it’s only heat four, and the results may end up differently, Dorian won the event before it even started. That pre heat right, side-slipping in to the biggest wave of the day… christ, who’s gonna top that?

Let’s pause a moment and talk about Dave Kalama’s contribution. True knowledge, articulate explanations and analysis. All things too often missing from webcasts. Hopefully the WSL will take that ball and run, bring in some local color at each event, someone who knows the spot and can offer more than empty blather.

Koa was a bit underscored. 0.67 for the best wave bodysurfed seems a little unfair. And it led to the first ski dump of the day, the NASCAR wreck I suspect everyone is secretly waiting for. No one got hurt.

Who am I kidding? Everyone is hurt. Like I mentioned earlier, they just haven’t realized it yet.

The post contest edit is going to be surfing’s equivalent of Welcome to Hell.

In the event you weren’t a skateboarder in the mid-90’s, Welcome to Hell was groundbreaking. A Toy Machine video that jump started skateboarding’s heave-your-body-off-a-cliff movement. The slam section was nearly impossible to watch, but so brutal you couldn’t look away. It showed an entire generation of stupid children just how much punishment the human body can take, pushed people to take more risks, directly led to the modern insanity that is high level skating.

Semis and the final are up next, but I’m over 1800 words already, so let’s take a little break, huh?

 


Dane R. with the mountain and wave over his heart where he maybe should have left it. | Photo: Morgan Maassen

Rumor: Dane’s “new brand” just a rumor!

Dane Reynolds' "Destroyer" is a phantasm! Maybe!

Rumor is like very good and very new club drug. Oh how it makes the people dance! Heads back, music pulsating and…….ecstasy! No hangover in the morning either. Just delicate highs transitioning to a mellow status quo.

Except.

It is so very good that the kids are starting to crave. The boom boom boom don’t feel the same without it throbbing through veins and so the kids scream “Give us rumor! Give us undiluted exquisitely good rumor!”

Oh how difficult it is to keep up with demand! Your wonderful friends at BeachGrit slave away in the methamphetamine lab of our surf industry relationships, cajoling, begging, pulling apart chemical properties and bringing you the freshest we can because we love the dance! Others have started too, now, because what’s a market without competing cartels but sometimes in the heat of a kitchen, sometimes when ingredients are flying fast and furious, things can go horribly awry.

Like Dane Reynolds starting a new brand and calling it Destroyer. Maybe it is true. Maybe. Except I have an exceptional and deeply embedded source who tells me non. He tell me that Dane was in talks with Damon Way, wonderful musician, brother of Danny Way and founder of DC Shoes, incase luggage, amongst other brands and Steve Rocco, skateboarder and co-founder of World Industries, Blind, Plan B etc. etc. to launch a new brand. The talks went on, as talks do, and Damon and Steve tendered Dane an offer and…..he refused it! Allegedly!

Which is not to say that he didn’t go find a theoretical deal elsewhere with other partners. He maybe did and it may be called Destroyer and it may be based out of Utah and it may be the grandest! But Danny Way and Steve Rocco would have certainly been a more successful partnership. Those track records!

Now how does that feel bouncing around your synapses? Does it feel like an Electric Daisy Carnival?