Pipe regular Dave Wassel on Hawaii's monster swells, the big wave tour and Shane Doz…
I’m sure you’ve seen all the footage coming out of Hawaii the last few days. Pure insanity, closed out Waimea, people falling from the sky at Pe’ahi. Today I girded my loins, waxed up my board, and had an amazing session…
On my 9’0″ at a well-sheltered spot in two-to-three-foot windswell. Which is a totally wuss move, but I’m not in nearly good enough shape to tackle this shit, and discretion is the better part of valor. (Plus my wife said I’m not allowed to and I’ll happily take that excuse.)
So fun, but so shameful, I figured I should call a real man and see how things are going. So I hit up Dave Wassel, who was on his way to pick up the kids from school, having just finished wrapping up his Volcom Pipe Pro responsibilities, where he’ll be both competing and commentating.
He didn’t paddle out today, I feel a little better about myself.
BeachGrit: How’s the surf looking right now?
Wassel: Right now it’s twelve, fifteen, Hawaiian scale, Phantom’s still has thirty-foot faces. It’s dropped from this morning, there’s actually guys surfing Pipeline. There’s five guys out, it looks like crap but they’re out there. We called the contest off because, it wasn’t quite 100 feet, but it was ninety nine feet.
Shane Dorian is one hundred percent the world’s best big wave surfer. If you can’t acknowledge that you’re high. Like, give me twice as much as you’re smoking, because you are high.
On the big wave paddle-in explosion…
I’ve seen lots of gnarly things go down, the very best of it is that people are still breathing.
I have to say that there’s sort of a false sense of security. If you look at some of these waves that people are trying to approach, places like Pe’ahi and some of the outer reefs, just because you have a life jacket on doesn’t mean you can’t break your neck or get in serious trouble. Look at DK Walsh. He runs water safety for the Skullbase team and that guy almost literally tore his head off his shoulders during the last swell at Pe’ahi. It’s real, people. It’s serious.
It’s super crowded, and if you look at the interval yesterday, it wasn’t approachable. All the people that I talked to, the best five guys at Pe’ahi, all of them said it was a tow day. It wasn’t a wind issue, Mother Nature was just straight up pissed off. It wasn’t bigger than the last swell, just the interval was long and the waves were moving way too fast. Look at all the wipeouts that went down. I mean, how many waves were successfully ridden yesterday? Three? Four?
It’s horrifying, I don’t know if people know what they’re getting themselves into.
Tom Dosland’s ocean bungee attempt…
He literally looks like a human yo-yo. You can see the string attached to his foot. He went around the world and kissed his own ass.
New faces in the water…
That’s that false sense of security. There are a lot of new faces. I think that they’re really gonna get worse before they get better. And when I say worse, you know, that’s not a good thing. Something really serious is gonna happen here.
And it could happen to the very best guy. Don’t get me wrong. Mark Mathews is very talented and he sent it on a sixty footer and he’s lucky he still has his arm attached to his shoulder, really.
Costs of competing on the Big Wave World Tour…
You can’t just bring one board to an event, so you’re incurring at least $100 a board. If you’re gonna go all the way to Mavericks you’re gonna take at least four boards, so $400 each way, $800 round trip. You get that $1000 check at the end of the day you look at it and go, “Really? That’s what my life is worth?” If you’re not placing in the top, like, two, you’re losing money. You’re doing it for love.
Where it is right now, it’s grown leaps and bounds from last year, but it still has a long way to go. At least it’s moving forwards, not backwards. I think the amount of viewers they got from the Pe’ahi Challenge, that’ll help encourage sponsors to get behind it.
These guys, yes, they’re making money off us, but I think at the same time, we’re just opening doors. This big wave surfing thing is still in an infantile stage, at least it’s being shown to the general public. When I started doing this nobody cared, nobody saw anything. You’d get a fifty-foot barrel, nobody saw it. Now you can’t go in the water without the whole world seeing it. You can’t go out there and pull a Tom Dosland without going viral. So, it’s both good and bad, but maybe the world will take notice and hopefully sponsorship dollars will follow. But right now you’re paying out of your own pocket.
I don’t do the entire big-wave tour, it’s a personal choice. All the events, it’s just too expensive to go and do all of them. I don’t know guys like Healey are doing it. I have no idea. You fly halfway around the world and get a semi final… I don’t know. Unless you’re number one you’re nothing. If you’re not first you’re last. Can you name off the top of your head five world champions of the Big Wave World Tour?
Maybe it’s a step in the right direction. [Last year] I think Makua did a great job. I’m glad they didn’t hold all the events in terrible waves. The ones that they did hold weren’t really that vital. Peru was pretty big, but susceptible to fog and a mile out so you can barely see it. And then they went to Spain and that was straight onshore and half the guys’ boards didn’t even show up. They were just using borrowed equipment.
I’m not knocking it, but I’d way rather stick to my guns and surf good surf, bottom line.
I really wish they would have held off on that Pe’ahi event, on that windy day, because the next swell was at least the same size, if not bigger, all day long.
For me it’s kind of trying to get the best waves on the best days, and you know, yeah, it’s a feather in your cap to get invited to these things, but you think they would hold it in good conditions.
Lifeguard work during maxed out swell…
Right now it’s getting worse, because it’s at that in-between stage where people are like, “Ahhhh, I think I can kinda sorta do it.” And the news has been hyping it up so much that every tourist has been getting dropped off and is trying to get their feet wet. You also get the guys who are trying to paddle out and get in a little deeper than they should be, getting in over their heads. But everyday is busy out here, from two feet to a hundred, don’t kid yourself.
Shane Dorian is one hundred percent the world’s best big wave surfer. If you can’t acknowledge that you’re high. Like, give me twice as much as you’re smoking, because you are high. The guy has shown his poise in giant surf and other than that… Billy’s the world champion right now, yeah, but, on a day to day basis he’s… Billy’s coming on strong, I think Koa Rothman is coming on strong, but Shane Dorian has this thing in a chokehold. He’s the man, there’s no way around it.