5 Deadly Waves You Can Surf!

Like, without dying!

A few days ago, I hosted another surf journalist for breakfast. While we filled our non-athletic stomachs with pancakes, we shared anecdotes and laughed at the absurdity of everyday surfers like us travelling with the best surfers in the world and their accompanying entourages of filmers and managers and so forth.

At one point, my companion told how he’d made a perfect “hook-up” with a water photographer and, at the photographer’s urging, had given the turn everything he had. Surfing generally does something terrible to a man’s ego and I waited for the obligatory showing of the photo, me doing the ooh-ahh, thing, while thinking: have you no modesty? 

The photo was something else. It looked nothing like my good-looking blue-eyed friend. Instead it presented him as a fat and reddish blob awkwardly trying to tip an oversized board onto the rail while making a vomit face with a tongue that looked like it was trying to swallow his face. (Oh, I wish I could reproduce it here.)

Anyway, it reminded me of how, as a travelling surf writer of sorts, I often find myself dangerously outclassed at waves that, by any sort of right, I shouldn’t be near. Teahupoo, P-Pass, Ours, those sorts of deadly waves.

And, y’know what, sometimes you can get away with being a bit of a kook at the world’s deadliest waves. Five cardinal rules: Choose the right waves. Tow in if it’s a ledge. Surf it small if it’s the North Shore. Know your escape routes. Avoid the shallow inside section. 

Let me recount my experiences in the field.

Teahupoo: I remember so clearly sitting in the channel watching Kalani Robb, of all people, for it was early in the century, take a west bowl and stand straight up in a barrel immediately after takeoff. I was hampered by two things. Fear and an inability to ride a backside tube. What could I do? I couldn’t just sit in a fifty-foot deep channel all week.

Cheat sheet: Teahupoo is open to two swell directions, south and west. The west bowl is an immediate tube. As Luke Egan said once, “If you have to look for the tube there you’ve already missed it.” Waves that come from the south, however, arrive further up the reef and move outward to sea. I’ve been to Teahupoo five times, caught hundreds of waves, and never been tubed! Or hurt! If you can’t surf, you want ’em from the south.

Ours: Mark Mathews and Koby Abberton showed me this wave a very long time ago and, because I have very bad wave sense, I couldn’t even see the wave.

“There is it is… take off here…”


Later, when I was in business with a pal who loved the joint, he would take me there every time it broke, offshore, onshore, two foot, ten foot, just to see, I’m convinced, the terror in my eyes. But I got tubed, got inside some real tubs of fun. How’d I do it?

Cheat sheet: Get on a jetski and get towed. Paddling at Ours requires real wave sense to see the boil, find the chip shot, paddle down the face, and stand upright. With a tow? Bend your legs to absorb the shock, wait and don’t panic when the wave folds.

Backdoor Pipe: I rode this every day with Andy Irons one year, which made me feel immortal, although the biggest day was four foot. I remember Carissa Moore paddling out with Pancho Sullivan and asking, “Is it breaking?” 

Cheat sheet: Backdoor at two foot is a dream. So much zip!

Waimea Bay: Who hasn’t watched The Eddie and dreamed of cutting himself off his own slice? I have! I’ve stroked with an intensity I never thought possible, jumped into a deep crouch, and cut down one felt like a one-hundred foot wave.

Cheat sheet: Did you know Waimea Bay has a smaller inside wave called Pinballs? I think it’s the safest wave in the world at six foot and yet, stroking in, and taking off, you get almost the same vision that fills the eyeballs of the best big-wave surfers in the world. The church. The beach. The highway.

Cloudbreak: Is the Fiji Pro still as warm as morning bread in your head? Do you remember those little days where it looked like you could throw yourself at a mostly harmless, at least for a reef, lip, but recoiled when that long interval swell showed up?

Cheat sheet. Up to six foot, even with sneaker eights, Cloudbreak can be managed simply by sitting up the reef, on the ledge. Ride a longer board, get in early, and get out before it hurls itself onto the inside, even the middle, section. Your rides are short, you kick off in deep water, and when you want to go back to the safety of the resort pool you can paddle around the takeoff zone and back to the boat.

Andy Irons
No one did it as good as Andy. School was a blur for AI but he was filled with a native intelligence, an ability to articulate emotion…  | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Surfing Union Photo Worker

Revealed: The 5 best interviews in surfing!

Discover the pro surfers who deliver esoteric verbal husks!

Long ago, I lusted to talk to the pro surfers. What a thrill it would be to penetrate their secretive little world and liberate kernels of truths.

What secrets would unfurl before me?

The truth, as I would later discover, is that interviewing professional surfers is a frustrating exercise. I still dine on the story of interviewing one of the best in the game and after a handful of futile questions, I retreated to a standard to at least get some keystrokes happening.

I asked, “What boards are you riding?”

He replied, “Whoa, these questions are heavy.”

I vowed never to interview the surfer again and never have. Finding truth and insight while interviewing what we call “athletes” is a rare and infrequent experience.

But, sometimes, a surfer will come along and reveal the most volatile elements of his soul. Below I list my five favourite surfers to interview.

1. Andy Irons

Oh, he was the most dynamic of motherfuckers. The expression “wear your heart on your sleeve” was constructed to explain the glory of Andy Irons. If he was bummed, he’d tell you; maybe he’d wanna fight you. But, mostly, if you called, if you shoved a recorder near his mouth, he lit up. No one was more accessible or more honest. Paradoxically, Andy’s insecurity about his surfing and an obsession with money, fuelled his interview energy. I interviewed Andy from age 17, when we both went on our first big magazine trip together, until a couple of weeks before he died in 2010. The tension between love and hate, between success and failure, between life and death was forever apparent.

Notable quote:

What childhood dreams have stuck with you? 

“It’s usually, I’m on top of a mountain and I’m trying to stand on the pinnacle without falling off. The wind gets really strong and it turns into this radical Wizard of Oz trip with the wind coming up and with lightning bolts appearing around. It starts to rain and the mountain starts getting real slippery. What does it mean? Probably, that I’m trying to hold on.”

Read Andy’s interview here. 

2. Mason Ho

Where did this kid come from? Sunset Beach, North Shore? Son of Michael Ho? Bro of Coco? Nephew of the world champ Dez Ho? I always clear the decks for a least an hour when I get Mason on the line. Everything from his accent to his vision on surfing, life, girls, sex, is an audacious madness that leaves me spellbound. Mason was never shackled with a serious sponsor that’d  ever demand he retract his more startling comments. Mason is alive, he’s with us and, right now, he reigns supreme.

Notable quote:

I’ve had a few good fights. I’ve never really gotten too beaten up, though. I like to talk it out and do it nicely, like what just happened recently at Deserts (Desert Point, Lombok, Indonesia). I don’t want no problems after. I like to be respectful. I’ll say, “I’m sorry you’re pissed, and I respect you big time, but you look down to fight and I’m down to fight, so let’s go in, fight, then shake hands and have a beer afterwards.” That’s my theory. If you’re going to fight, respect ’em and they’ll respect you back and maybe not tag you so bad if they catch you good. If they call me a bitch, at least I tried. I’ll come in and… bang… dynamite! When I was a kid, an Aussie guy cracked me really good. We made friends ’cause I elbowed him in the face and he was all stoked. That was on the Gold Coast.” 

Read Mason’s interview here. 

3. Noa Deane

Another surfer with a superb touch when it comes to interviews. The kid from Coolangatta on the Gold Coast might’ve floundered on stage at the Surfer Poll but, for Noa, surfing is not just a dumb jock sport but the sacred vehicle of life. He takes it more seriously than you’d think. Dane Reynolds recognises his uniqueness, as he does Craig Anderson’s. And talk? Noa embraces interviews and he hits the spot.

Notable quote:

“Hey, I’ve got a good story for ya! We went to this place called Ifrane, an alpine snow town in the Atlas mountains. The day before we were online picking a house to stay out. There was this one that was real sweet but it was 200 euros and I was, like, fuck that, that sounds too expensive for one night. It would’ve been sweet once we’d split it up but, then, fuck, we went to this other joint. It looked sick. Old school. It fucking had a garden. Snow out the front. We turned the fireplace on and everything started going downhill from there. Why are the window’s boarded up? Jay goes to the toilet downstairs and sees all these lipstick kisses on the back of the door. On the terrace there was graffiti that said, you died tonight! And in the backyard there was this creepy dude cutting up wood. All the mirrors were smashed. One bed had all these weird stains. It was so sketchy. The lady who rented us the house kept asking us if we wanted hookers. Are you sure you don’t want hookers? And the lady pointed at one door and said, don’t go in this door. It was wigging me out that we were obviously staying at a haunted hookers house. I slept with my fucking shoes on and shit and tried to green out but I totally kooked it. But I got to sleep for one second and felt this thing poke me in the back. Are you fucking kidding me? I started stressing out for hours, trying to put alarm clocks on to wake everybody up. By the time we got out, it was, fuck yeah, we survived that. Fucking hell, that was the heaviest thing that’s ever happened to me. I was so tripped out the next day but psyched that it happened, just cause you got that story to tell.”

Read Noa’s interview here. 

4. Mitch Crews 

I had no idea that this one-year-on-the-WCT surfer could string a sharp sentence together. And, then, on a winter’s night on a rooftop at a mutual pal I found myself enthralled by how well he harnessed his meagre education into a whirlwind sweep of life. “I have to interview you!” I winked. And I haven’t stopped!

Notable quote:

“I felt very awkward in the competition area because I’m really social and felt like I had to go through the charade of putting my headphones on and then staring at the camera all strong. I lost interest during the year because, straight up, I’m not ready to sacrifice all the cool things in life to go for those big competitive goals. I’ve gotta wait until that kicks in. I’m only 24. I like being 24 and a normal dude and getting to have fun and meet people and drink coffees and go out in clubs and do that sorta shit. And, truthfully, I’m not good enough at surfing yet. I need to put in a hard year of getting better.”

Read Mitch’s interview here. 

5. Jeremy Flores 

Very much like Andy. Sometimes eggy, often ready to blow his chains. The time of the sham is over for Jeremy and, although he risks turning into a serial complainer, when he’s on, he’s on.

Notable quote:

“I’ve always been honest, always said it like it is. A lot of people respect that. A lot of people don’t. So there’s always going to be people talking shit. I’ve always been true to myself and the people in my entourage and the people that believe in me. The rest, to tell you the truth, I don’t give a… I don’t really care. As long as I’m not fake. In surfing, nowadays, there’s a lot of fake-ness. So much fake. People are so fake. Most of the guys are so fake. I know it because I know all of ‘em and they’re all such legends and such cool guys but then through the media you see a different person. That’s something that scares me and something I never want to do. I want to stay true. People like me and people don’t. But people see the real me.”

Read Jeremy’s interview here. 

Jesse Martinez
I've never understood the appeal of Venice Beach. Filthy dirty beach hemorrhoid packed with freaks and junkies. Great place to buy a bargain price bong. Head down once a year and goggle at the lunatics running the asylum. But! Here's a great little video about Jesse Martinez. Skateboarding legend, Venice devotee. About the creation of the Venice skatepark, his efforts to keep it clean. Altruism's reward in a me first society.

Venice: “Filthy. Dirty. Garbage surf!”

Now meet a skater who's gifted his life to the joint!

I’ve never understood the appeal of Venice Beach. Filthy dirty beach hemorrhoid packed with freaks and junkies. Great place to buy a bargain price bong. Head down once a year and goggle at the lunatics running the asylum.

If you’re willing to pay the price it takes to live near the beach why choose the worst one in the South Bay? Littered with needles, garbage surf 360 days of the year. Tons of poor white people, which is the worst type of poor. If you think it’s hip to live where the struggle is real you should find a Mexican neighborhood.

When the gentrification began I was flummoxed. If you’re willing to pay the price it takes to live near the beach why choose the worst one in the South Bay? Littered with needles, garbage surf 360 days of the year. Tons of poor white people, which is the worst type of poor. If you think it’s hip to live where the struggle is real you should find a Mexican neighborhood. Safer, cleaner, make friends with scary looking tattooed dudes who are insanely friendly once they get to know you and their moms will cook you up heaven.

“Tienes hambre, mijo?”

“Por supuesto!”

Can’t deny the influence the coastal suburb had on skateboarding. Children run wild in the streets is a recipe for progression. Couple of old dudes looking to earn a buck from them exposes the scene to the masses. Stacey Peralta scams his way into history.

Here’s a great little video about Jesse Martinez. Skateboarding legend, Venice devotee. About the creation of the Venice skatepark, his efforts to keep it clean. Altruism’s reward in a me-first society.

Revolution: Let’s dump the judges!

Not because they're bad people but because they're just bad!

Is there any way? Any chance that our beloved surfing could get rid of judges and award victories based on something other than a ten point scale decided upon by faceless men in an ivory tower? (just kidding! They’re not faceless but beautiful!)

Nothing against the judges, of course. They have a herculean task and there is no way for them to please everyone, to get the score right 100% of the time. More importantly, though, judged sports are like totally UGH. They are little bastards. Dumb. Figure skating, gymnastics, synchronized swimming.

Is there any judged sport that rises to the heights like football, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf etc.? Each of those have thick rule books, sometimes referees, but points. A man or woman beats another man or woman by scoring more, or less, points.

Judged sports will always be arbitrary.

So how can surfing be judged? Could there be a system of speed, torque, amount of time in the air, number of spins in the air, amount of time in the barrel? Some way that would guarantee not only a good show but a true, undeniable winner?

Let’s be part of the revolution!

Mason Ho LIcense to Chill
Don't Mason just beat the hell out of all those wedges he drags his pals to. And when a hurricane comes to the North Shore he gets wedge fever like nothing else… 

Movie: Mason Ho Chases Hurricanes!

Episode six of the series License to Chill! Hawaiian Hurricanes!

Maybe we’re overdoing the Mason Ho thing on BeachGrit. Do you think?

In our defence, or at least mine, the chief impression I get is that Mason occupies a role as surfing’s poet laureate. We need him to protect us, and in some cases free us, from the seriousness that swells our game.

And this series, made by Lost Surfboards, a sponsor of BeachGrit, and whom we adore and did so even before they agreed to pay us a small stipend, is the best surf web series I’ve ever become acquainted with.

Sure, some episodes are stronger than others, but as a momentary respite from work, the jerkiness of love and relationships, whatever it is that grinding you down, it is without equal. Better than Coke, Acapulco or Fleetword Mac, as the slogan goes.

This episode, number six of eight, was filmed a little under two years ago when Hurricane Iselle belted Hawaii’s Big Island. Strongest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall there. Two-hundred k’s an hour wind. Flooding. A hell of a thing.

For Mason Ho, and pals, on Oahu’s North Shore, however, it stirred up dormant reefs that wedge and double-up and perform all sorts of calisthenics.

Watch License to Chill: Hawaiian Hurricanes here!