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.
While I’m not running out to buy a new home with the paycheck I’ve certainly done a hell of a lot more for a hell of a lot less. And I was given total control to write whatever I want. Which I warned them was a terrible idea, but in the end worked out okay.
Le Mans puts on a stunning show. Rather than deal with the hassle of finding a pirate stream I shelled out ten bucks for the official site. And it was worth every penny. Constant updates on placement, running stream on the sidebar regarding which team was pitting, struggling with malfunctions, being handed penalties for various infractions. And the commentary! Oh my god!
Two man talking teams doing six hours shifts over a twenty-four hour period. You’d think they’d run out of shit to yammer about. But the guys did their research. Constant delivery of analysis of tactics, explanations of equipment, interesting stories regarding drivers and teams and the history of the sport. During the overnight slow moments they answered questions from viewers, explained the more confusing aspects of the competition.
Managed to keep me engaged nearly the entire race, even though I’m definitely not a real fan of the sport. Even towards the end when I was running on three hours of sleep over 48 I kept watching. Kept listening to what they had to say. Things I’d’ve found mind-numbingly boring sans context held my interest because they told me why it should.
They made the surf guys look like chumps. Like half-ass talking heads. Shameful, shameful, in a sport that’s purportedly looking to pull in a non-surfing audience.
Two women in the race. Christina Nielsen and Inès Taittinger, both of whom are smoking hot. Neither came close to winning, but merely finishing Le Mans is a victory in itself. Simply trying is a triumph.
Check out an onboard video of a single lap. Keep in mind the drivers do this for up to four hours straight while dodging cars from slower divisions the entire time.
I mention women in racing because it came up in a failing email exchange I’ve been trying to do with Paige Alms over the past month. She hasn’t responded in ten days, I’m giving it up for dead.
Our back and forth has been going poorly. Largely due to Paige’s refusal to answer questions with anything other than vague fluff responses and my somewhat combative approach. I’m not into the idea of promoting someone who won’t actually engage me.
Paige challenged me to name a single sport where both sexes compete side by side.
Sailing, auto racing, and equestrian events came to mind. Which she thinks don’t count. “Ya but those are all sports that rely on a vehicle, boat, horse. Surfing strictly relies on you, your ocean knowledge, wave selection, board, and Mother Nature.”
That logic falls far short of truth. A surfboard is a vehicle. Sailing and auto racing both depend on dialing in equipment, knowledge of and reaction to shifting conditions. I don’t know shit about horses, other than that I don’t care for the stupid animals.
Her stance also possesses a fatal flaw. If she doesn’t want to compete with men, then she really doesn’t want to compete at all. WSL is only running a single BWT event for ladies, and their sanctioning policy will bar invitees from giving it a shot elsewhere.
A truly shitty arrangement. One I’d never find acceptable, if it were applied to me.
By the end of the race I was ruined. Twenty-four hours awake, the entire time spend trying to make sense of what was going on.
But the final moments were magic. After leading nearly the entire race, a full day spent hammer down balls to the wall, Toyota had it sewn up. Win was in the bag. Second Japanese team to claim victory, first was Mazda in 1991. Three minutes left in the race, on the home stretch.
Then failure. The leading Toyota broke down, couldn’t finish the lap. Porsche blew by, took the win. Toyota pit crew went from joy to despair. Porsche went from second place happy to first place joy. It was an amazing moment, one that reached into my exhausted and by that point kind of disinterested mind.
I don’t know if I’ve turned into a racing fan. Probably not. Got some appreciation for it now, but I’ve put too much into this surf gig. Don’t relish the idea of relearning a new sport. The arcane details of prototype racing are better suited to an engineer than weirdo creative type.
But I’ll probably pay attention next year. Watch some parts, if not the whole thing. And if someone offers me money to write about races again I’ll happily jump at the chance. It’s a grind, sure, but way fucking better than a square job.
I passed out around four am Sunday morning. Eyes burning from staring at various computer screens for twenty four hours straight. Fingers sore from typing out the long rambling screeds I produce when given free rein. Got a phone call from a dear friend two hours later.
Dearest Ryan, I live in a different time zone. If you ever forget that again I’m gonna fly to LA and fucking murder you in your bed.
Kelly Slater lashes out at Brazilian for "utilizing tactics over talent!"
When you think of great surfing tacticians who comes to your mind? Tom Curren? Andy Irons? Lisa Andersen? Kelly Slater?
Yes. Kelly Slater. He has spent his 43 years in a contest singlet out-witting, out-maneuvering, out-planning, out-thinking, out-foxing, out-distancing, out-suckering, out-vibing, out-wiggling, out-tacticianing the competition. No one plays the game from start to finish like our Great One. He loves to get into other surfers’ heads. He loves to make them think he is going to paddle for this wave or that. He loves to look off frothy ones but then spin and somehow find blue caverns growing magically on the inside reef.
Kelly Slater is a tactical surfer and one of, if not the most, talented ever.
So it was with mild amusement that I looked upon Kelly’s Instagram feed this morning and found him criticizing Wiggolly Dantas for “utilizing tactics over talent.”
“Honestly it was probably a little cocky on my part…” he said, responding to one of his followers about an small incident between Wiggoly and Conner Coffin (I think. Or maybe there was another that I missed.) “…I got caught up in the moment and although I really like Wiggoly as a friend and a person I dislike his approach to surfing heats, utilizing tactics over talent which he has plenty of. It’s rare to see two interferences in as may events and unprecedented to see a guy do it twice in one event. Poor sportsmanship but my comments were probably slightly irrational also. But also kinda funny :)”
And hmmmmmm. This smells like a tactic to me! Wiggolly is currently 13th in the world and Kelly is 26th. I wonder what his plan is? To take down Wig, emotionally, by calling him out while misspelling his name then Caio (referring to him as Ciao) then Italo? To carve out Brazil’s heart before lopping off its head (Gab Medina)? There’s got to be a play here. But what? What could it possibly be?
The only thing that sounds good at 3:30 in the morning is suicide. And I am up at 3:30, contemplating suicide, smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of watery hotel coffee while standing on my small balcony. Waikīkī is dark and quiet below. The air is cool enough for a light layer, and so I put on a thin tweed hunting jacket with leather elbow patches and wander out into the dark quietness. It is time for pig hunting.
I find my rental car and drive north on the Pali Highway before turning east into the town of Kāne‘ohe. I have spent much time in Honolulu, on the North Shore, even searching for ice in ‘Ewa Beach, but I have never been to the east side. If the sun was up, I could see its beauty. Its striking geography. I park in front of a house at the end of a small, middle-class road, turn the lights off, and light another cigarette. Theoretically, this is Mike’s house. Mike will be taking me pig hunting. It is 4:15 in the morning. Still a suicidal hour.
Five minutes pass, and the house lights turn on. I can see a large double-decker dog kennel partially illuminated. The dogs begin to bark, and then I see Mike. He is a boulder of a man. Tall, pure muscle, shaved head, tattooed from neck to fist. He growls at the dogs to be quiet. He wears camouflaged pants and a black T-shirt with the words “Defend Hawaii” wrapped around an M-16. I approach and we shake hands. His grip crushes. His eyes are piercing blue and his voice, as he introduces himself, sounds like gravel. He wears a large knife in a leather case.
We chat about the dogs, which are not barking anymore, and I learn that they are special. Turns out, pig-hunting dogs are not normal, everyday dogs. They are bred from hound, pitbull, birddog and Rhodesian ridgeback stock. They are bred to be tireless, to find the pigs, chase them down, and be fearless in the face of attack. Mike gets his dogs from JC, a pig-hunting legend, who will be joining us today.
We chat about fighting. Mike’s garage is a shrine to the masculine. There are mats rolled up in a corner, punching bags, rusted weights, fingerless MMA boxing gloves, stacks of camouflage gear, and his truck. His truck, which is classically Hawaiian, raised, and caked with just the right amount of red mud. We climb in and drive to a nearby gas station, waiting for JC. It is so damned early. A hunting hour. I have never thought much of hunting one way or the other. I grew up on the Oregon coast, in a small redneck town, and everyone I knew hunted. They duck hunted and elk hunted. I went along for the ride once or twice, and I didn’t feel sorry for the animals, even the deer with eyes full of love, but also wasn’t thrilled. A lot of walking in the woods. Little action. Like fishing on land.
I go into the gas station and get a Spam musubi and it tastes like paradise. So salty and satisfying. Then JC arrives. He is older, solidly built, Hawaiian, and says he has been hunting pigs for 40 years. His voice is deep and warm, like a television news broadcaster. Mike has been hunting with him for the last three years. Their rapport is easy and friendly. They talk about hunting, the hopes and possibilities of the day, and a few wild parties that they have experienced together in the past. The bed of his truck is caged and full of his dogs. They seem eager. We make small talk before climbing back into our respective trucks and driving to the coast.
The sun is still not yet up, but I can see silhouettes of stark beauty. Towering rocks breaking the ocean’s surface close to shore, green cliffs off to the left. We pull to the side of the road, near a cliff, and there is a third hunter waiting by a gate. His name is Brian and he is the Hollywood Hunter because he has the permits to hunt the land where we are right now. Kualoa Ranch. He is younger than Mike and JC but also more avid. He hunts every single day and often alone, which is rare. Pigs are dangerous. He has his own dogs and sports rubber boots with spiked soles, camouflage pants, and a backwards Defend Hawaii baseball hat. On the drive Mike tells me that Brian has a Hawaiian ID that says, “Do not detain this individual.” I ask Brian if I can see it and he shows me. It says he is a resident of the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi and that he is not to be detained, per the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961. Amazing. And then we all drive onto the ranch.
Brian’s permit is gold, even more gold than his ID. He is the sole “eradicator” of the property and is the only one allowed to hunt legally. He runs across poachers from time to time and hustles them out of the area with an angry sneer. It is a 4,000-acre working cattle ranch, movie shoot location, and one of the most beautiful corners of O‘ahu. The sun has finally risen and I can see its beauty through honeyed air. The cliffs look like God’s personal handiwork. He did not commission this art. He made it himself. The grass is fresh and green. Cows graze, sleepily, as we park near a stream.
Brian lets his dogs out and JC does too. Mike did not bring his because they are not cattle-trained, meaning they might confuse a calf for a pig and hunt beef instead of pork. The dogs are each fitted with GPS collars, their names put into a handheld locator, and they are turned loose. These dogs are expensive and the art of the hunt. Losing one is critical. Beyond monitoring them with GPS, each hunter carries needle and thread in case the dogs are gored and need a quick on-field repair. The dogs run around, excitedly. They are not suicidal but rather homicidal, and they run up a dirt road toward the ridgeline. We follow.
It is very quiet and surreal. We walk past Journey to the Center of the Earth’sset, which is still standing. It is a high stone arch that looks Persian or maybe Babylonian. We pass signs that show where Jurassic Park was filmed and where 50 First Dates was filmed. 50 First Dates. What a total bust. We walk for a mile before stopping in the elbow of a ridge and watching the dogs flit around on the GPS screen. They have already reached the top of the cliff and are moving, quickly, this way and that. They are trying to pick up the scent and flush out a pig. JC knows that the pigs like to sleep higher on the ridge and that they might still be sleeping. He knows the corners they like to choose. He is a pig behaviorist. Brian has moved off, down another path, to listen for the telltale signs of a chase. We are all quiet. The pigs are smart and listen for humans. I am no longer tired but on edge, trying my hardest to hear a dog’s bark or a pig’s grunt.
The dogs circle the ridge for 30 minutes and maybe chase one or two pigs but can’t keep the trail. JC believes the pigs are hunting food on another ridge to the left and so we all walk ten minutes to the left. The sun is higher now, and the land gets more beautiful, more vivid with each passing minute. The dogs shoot off into the brush again and Brian follows them.
Suddenly, we hear the brush move and a low grunt, but all I can see is Brian. Then the dogs go crazy and fly up the cliff. They have something. I run after Brian and we climb and climb and climb. The earth is wet and the soil is loose. Some of it is turned over. This is where pigs have been rooting for food. I grab for vines and bushes as we climb. I am not wearing camouflage pants but rather black skinny jeans. I am not wearing spiked-sole rubber boots but, rather, red Vans. Aside from my tweed jacket this is not an appropriate hunting kit. I almost slide down the cliff too many times to count.
The higher we climb, the hotter it gets and the more mosquitoes gather and bite like the nasty devils they are. Brian can see that the dogs have stopped moving, which means they either have the pig trapped or they have it killed. A victory, either way. And we finally arrive at their location. They sit with happy faces around a young, dead boar. Brian says the dogs gave it a flat tire, which is what they are trained to do. A “flat tire” means they have chewed the tendons under his front two legs, so that he could not run anymore. And then he died of a heart attack. If he had not died, Brian would have stabbed him with a large hunting knife under one of his arms. These men hunt with knives. They don’t use guns or bows or arrows.
Brian squeezes the urine from the boar first, explaining that boars use their urine to throw the dogs off. Crafty as they are, pigs will urinate in a circle causing the dogs to follow the urine circle instead of the pig. He then draws his knife and cuts the boar’s balls off and hangs them from a branch. The mosquitoes are thick, but I am captivated. The pigs are always gutted before being hauled down the hill. The guts create quick rot and are also needlessly heavy. Brian moves his blade up to the boar’s throat, then slides the blade along the boar’s torso using quick, gentle strokes. The guts spill forth without prompting, like they wanted to escape. They are a deep, dark red and look exactly like guts. They make a vacuum sound when they are pulled out, and they too are hung on a branch. If left on the ground a dog may roll in them later and fill the earth with a horrid stench. Finally, the front right leg is tied to the back right leg, the front left leg tied to the back left leg, and the boar becomes a sort of backpack. Brian picks him up but I insist on carrying him down the hill. “The first boar I killed hooked me,” Brian says, “and now you are hooked.” His eyes are proud.
I hoist the load and feel his warm blood mixing with my warm sweat. My companion does not smell bad. He smells like Hawaiian bush and a stuffed animal. It is a nice smell. And I slip and slide all the way down the ridge feeling like a champion. Mike and JC wait at the bottom and Mike says, “Ho, look at this. Skinny jeans, Vans and a V-neck, and he is carrying the pig.” I feel like a stylish champion.
We walk back to the trucks talking about different pig hunting strategies and the one that got away. Apparently when we heard the brush move and the low grunt it had been a very large boar. But he was smart and tricked the dogs into following the tracks of the smaller one that we captured. JC looks at it and says, “Some days you get nothing at all, some days you get too many. I guess that is why it is called hunting and not catching.”
We drive to another valley, hoping for bigger boars, ones with tusks. The one we caught was too young to start developing them, but the tusks are the trophies. Each hunter keeps the meat. Nothing goes to waste and the meat is smoked, given to friends, barbequed, turned into dog food. But the tusks are the glory. We hike, listen, watch the dogs on GPS, find nothing but signs of rooting pigs, and after three hours part ways. And, Brian was right, I am hooked. I am no longer suicidal. Like the dogs, I am homicidal. Pig hunting is the new sport of kings, or at least stylish champions.
It is a beautiful southern California morning and I am up early because my 3 year-old daughter is cranky and wants Figgies and Jammies and cartoons in bed with only mama. I was, therefore, kicked to the kitchen, literally with her tiny foot, in order to fetch them.
I did then returned back down to my perch at the corner of the kitchen’s island that I insisted we cover in zinc so it would be like a grand Parisian zinc bar. But do you know what zinc does near the ocean? Like, do you know how zinc is used on a sailboat? It is used to draw corrosion away from important parts because salt loves to eat zinc. Thus, our island is a pocked mess. An eight thousand dollar disaster born out of my cancerous Francophilia.
Figgies and Jammies are, in any case, the gluten free version of Fig Newtons but somehow and magically twice as good.
And it is, of course, Father’s Day. Before becoming a father myself the day would hold no special meaning. I would call my dad, sure, and we would chat but I chat with him often so my Father’s Day call always felt artificially forced.
Then I had a daughter.
I was talking about it with Matt Warshaw the other day and he said, “Having a child will instantly bond you to all other fathers.” And this is totally and completely true. It is not magical, not like Figgies and Jammies, but something about the ins and outs of raising a baby, watching her grow, feeding her, bathing her, getting kicked by her and receiving the brunt of her cranky attitude fires strange connections with other men who feed, bathe, get kicked and field grumpy.
And this is far too sentimental, especially on your third favorite surf gossip website, but today I would simply like to give a small nod and knowing wink to BeachGrit‘s dads.