The world's favorite surfer and the world's favorite lounge singer together at last!
Does anybody not love Mason Ho? Do you not? Of course you do! You can’t even ironically say that you don’t love him! And it is pure joy to see long form Mason Ho on the Occ-Cast!
But wait? Who is this? This thumbs down? This psychopath? This sexual predator? Police! Police! An unstable one is wandering the earth! Find him and lock him up! He is not fit to be amongst us! He is not human!
How could any sane person thumbs this down? Occy spins a magical web. Such wonderful mannerisms! Such expressiveness! And Mason there in dappled sunlight and… oh enough of my waxing on.
The family exudes an aura of true love. It's not something with which I am personally familiar…
The McGill house is like something out of a dream. Tucked into the back of a jaw dropping piece of property, perfectly manicured jungle that treads the fine line between over-landscaped and overgrown, it’s all natural woods and Polynesian decor. Embracing Hawaiiana within one’s home decor is a risky business. It can easily become corny. Cookie cutter Disney-esque tiki bar theme, rather than a natural expression of the environment. But with an eye, and enough effort, it can be done.
Situated well back into Pupukea, it’s a quite trek from nearly everywhere on Oahu. Up a steep set of switchbacks, down a narrow road that’s easy to miss. The definition of peaceful quietude.
The house is a work in progress. Certain areas stripped of paint, sanded. Giving a vibe of never ending improvement. Once a project is done he’ll no doubt find another. Mike directed me upstairs, I was greeted by Lindsay, the matriarch. Sweating from a recent workout, in the process of packing for a trip to the mainland, Mrs McGill is a tall woman whose genetics most obviously was contributed to her children’s appearance.
She’d been my contact to wrangle Finn. It’s a role to which she’s well suited as the proprietor of a Santa Monica based production house. Also, because Finn is only sixteen, and I feel awkward cold calling minors.
Finn had been much in demand, finding a spare moment wasn’t easy. After some back and forth she found the time, pushed it back at the last minute because Finn wasn’t home. He was in Wahiawa, picking up a few new Glenn Pang shaped boards. An excusable delay if there ever was one.
If Finnegan McGill had a spirit animal it would be an adolescent yellow Labrador Retriever. Blonde haired, freckled, he’s put on a good three or four inches over the Summer. If his voice is any indication he’s still got some growing left to do. On the cusp of deepness, it still delivers the occasional high pitched crack when he’s excited.
He’s pleased with his new size.
“It just makes my surfing look bigger and more mature. It helps me out surfing against the big guys. And I’ve got longer arms, so I can paddle faster.”
Throughout our conversation Finn is amiable and open, seems genuinely happy to talk. The polar opposite of the stereotypical home schooled surf phenom. He stutters and stammers a bit, builds confidence as we go.
I ask him to explain the lineup at Pipe, tell me how to recognize a good wave. Finn did not luck his way into his first place finish in the Pipe trials. Did not three to the beach in slop. He repeatedly found the best waves, true Pipe barrels, and surfed them with aplomb. His demeanor shifts. He stops being an eager young man, becomes an expert. Clearly explains what to look for, how the wave bends and grinds.
He then reminds me that he is very young. Lacking a true grasp of consequences. “I’ve hit my head out there a few times. But it’s nothing crazy.”
His result was facilitated by a lack of expectations. Everyone wants to win, but he really only hoped to make his first heat. The entire event was a lineup of killers. A solid result at such a young age, while not without precedent, is hardly required. A solid showing and early round exit would have been praised. A first place finish blows minds.
Now ten thousand dollars richer, he plans to save the money. Possibly put it towards next year’s ‘QS campaign.
A campaign which is, if we’re honest, fraught with danger. That tour has ruined lives, and unattended teens often fair poorly. Do lasting damage to both their career, to their life. I ask Finn how he plans to manage.
“I’m gonna probably travel with some friends and stuff,” he says.
Hardly a reassuring sentiment, but it’s one his mother, who had just entered the room, quickly puts to rest.
“He won’t actually be alone. Usually the Billabong team sends someone, so he’ll be with a coach or one the team managers. Mom and Dad wont let him do it on his own. Either he’ll be with them, or he’ll be with us.”
Their respective careers give them the freedom to follow up on the promise. That and “we have a ton of frequent flier miles.”
The McGill clan as a whole comes across as so loving and supportive that it nearly seems nefarious. No family is this close, no one gets along this well. And while I’m sure that’s somewhat true, everything is always more complicated than it appears on the surface, they exude an aura of true love and togetherness. It’s not something with which I am personally familiar, but I recognize that it exists.
At one point his sister, Dax, enters the room. Dax is eighteen, very pretty, and a highly talented surfer and skateboarder in her own right.
In tow are four tiny boys bearing trophies they’d made for Finn. The Pipe Trials doesn’t provide one. I tell him these are probably better anyway.
They spend a few minutes fawning over him, wide eyed and beyond impressed. After they’ve left I ask him about the older kids he looked up to when he was their age. I then point out that’s he’s become one of the heroes he once aspired to emulate. I ask if he’s aware of the fact.
He is not. It had not crossed his mind. But, now that it has, he looks pleased.
But still humble. Always humble. On the North Shore it’s a quality that comes second only to talent on the list of what’s demanded of Pipeline surfers. At least ostensibly. Not everyone lives up to the ideal. Maybe not even most. But Finn manages to pull it off.
The last time Finn pooped his pants, or the last time he’ll to which he’ll admit, he was six years old. He was playing hide and seek, got excited, didn’t want to leave his hiding place.
Throughout our conversation Finn makes repeated references to when he “was a kid.” Slightly amusing, as Finn is still far from fully developed. Slightly frustrating, because this freckled grom has already earned his way into the Pipeline Masters, a feat which nearly every surfer on Earth can only dream.
The following day Finn faced Jordy Smith and Keanu Asing in round one of the main event. The swell was out of the northeast, the surf well below what anyone would call good.
He caught a few waves, found one very good barrel toward the end of the heat I was sure would push him into round three. But he was outpointed by turns, relegated to the repercharge.
Finn didn’t seem bothered.
Why would he be?
He entered the trials hoping to surf twice. Everything after that has been icing on the cake.
But what does this mean? Does Billabong want to invade? To conquer?
For the second day in a row I am very confused by something Billabong related! Yesterday it was Billabong’s ex-CEO Matthew Perrin and the “gift” of a $75,000.00 car. I lived in Australia for a brief moment but it was enough to know that $75,000.00 car looks like this.
And so Matthew Perrin went and allegedly had affairs and allegedly got mistresses pregnant and allegedly lost the family fortune, forcing his ex-wife and children in to alleged homelessness but…
Maybe wife deserved for buying her husband a car that looks like this?
Oh I don’t know. Confusing!
And then today I read a story about Billabong sees Hawaii as a “bullseye” for the brand’s growth.
While the waves made a late appearance at this year’s Pipe Masters, sponsor Billabong has shown up from Day One — the Australian apparel brand holds the naming rights to the decades-old surfing event on Hawaii’s North Shore.
Scott Hargreaves, global vice president of men’s marketing at Billabong, told Pacific Business News the event is critical for the brand’s outreach to the Hawaiian market.
“We have key strategic regions around the world that we like to say that we can own from a surfing industry perspective,” he said. “And Hawaii is bullseye.”
Billabong has been a part of the iconic surfing event since 2007 and was its owner and operator in conjunction with the Association of Surfing Professionals before the governing body was taken over and later renamed World Surf League.
After the WSL acquired the event, Billabong began to operate as the surfing event’s title sponsor starting in 2014.
“Basically, we don’t have to run the logistics anymore, it costs us less money, and we still get to leverage and own the event as a really strong Billabong property,” Hargreaves said.
Hargreaves wouldn’t say how much Billabong pays for the rights, but said the deal is “in the millions.”
So wait wait wait. Billabong owns Hawaii? Hawaii is “bullseye?” Forget the grammatical oddity of using “bullseye” as an adjective for just one moment and ponder. Do you think sugar barons and bastard explorers who exploited the islands also felt they “owned” Hawaii and it was their “bullseye?”
Don’t these sound like fighting words? Like old time imperialism?
But overall the day reminded me of a sub-par run at Hossegor…
It was a glorious day on Oahu. Sunny, but not hot. Breezy, but not windy. A tiny bite of Autumn in the air. The type of weather for which you yearn, but only get for a week or two each trip around the sun.
If only round one of the Pipe Masters had been as good.
Not to say the surf was bad. Laniakea looked great as I drove past. Pupukea was damn close to firing. It’s usually a fairly soft wave, every once in a while turns on, gets scary. It wasn’t quite there, but it had some beef. Some power. Log Cabins looked outright terrifying. But I’m just straight scared of that wave, ever since I got cocky, got caught, and hit the bottom so hard I thought I was going to shit my pants.
Skateboarders call that an ‘oops-poops.’
The swell was swinging in from the North/Northeast, which is hardly ideal for Pipe. You want some West in it. Failing that, more North. You definitely don’t want any East. Makes it swing out to sea, line up to Off the Wall. Weird combination of punchy and backed-off. Lines up for a race track, but doesn’t pile on the reef and heave. More Gums than Pipe. More bad than good.
It’s a good thing that the title is already decided, that we’re not taking the first step toward crowning a world champ in what amounts to a coin flip.
There were some highlights. I thought Finn McGill, my new favorite grom, had his heat on lock with a last minute dredger somewhere around Ain’ts. The judges disagreed, left him a full two points short of what he needed. Which is far enough off that I suspect my awe had to do with the angle. People look much deeper when watching from a hundred yards towards Rockies.
Slater did an insane floater just past Backdoor. Absolutely terrifying. He had no right to absorb the rebound and ride out.
But overall the day reminded me of a sub-par run at Hossegor. Good turns, heavy lips. But not the run-and-gun barrel-fest we all desperately want to see.
Which is why I got bored, decided to play instead of sit on the bleachers and watch.
I lost interest early, while Medina, Irons, and Igarashi were getting ready to paddle out. Medina was mobbed by every Brazilian on the beach. They sure are a vocal bunch.
I stared at Rosie.
Bruce Irons looked like he’d just left the club. Aviator shades, peroxide blonde hair slicked straight back. Looking gaunt, not fit. No surprise Igarashi outpointed him at the break Irons once made his own. I’m hardly one to cast stones regarding a person’s choice of health regimen, but he truly does not look well. And it’s time, probably past due, to face the fact that he no longer deserves a spot based solely on his name and history. It’s unfortunate to see the once mighty fall, but wildcard spots come dear, and these days there are far more deserving souls.
I decided to swim from Ehukai toward Gas Chambers, bodysurf the lefts the Pupukea crowd was leaving unridden. It was the typical shit show out there. Slim tan girls in micro bottoms, surfing far better than their ilk did not long ago. Visitors in far over their heads, getting their first small taste of Hawaiian power. Paddling for every wave, backing off every drop. Shoulder hopping each other. Getting in the way. A handful of tiny boys played big-wave hero, stroking into sets at least quadruple overhead. Middle aged men on beefy shortboards showed glimpses of former talent.
Slater appeared from nowhere, grabbed the wave of the day, disappeared.
I had fun, enjoyed a long swim, managed to grab a few worth the effort. Wished I brought a board with me, but I’m not that much of a hypocrite. You don’t bring boards to a contest. Mine were at the rental, Waialua distance away.
I met a few fellow media dorks, complained about our lack of coddling. The “interview bullpen” is now erected, a five by ten foot piece of sand with no one around. It’s very obvious that the WSL doesn’t want to share, and I understand why. But you think someone would realize, it’s far easier to control the narrative when you include and corrupt people, rather than leave them to their own devices.
Worst job of the day goes the employees of Sustainable Coastlines. Poor fucking kids. I caught two of the girls sneaking cigarettes in the bushes. I gave a nod and left them to it. They deserved the moment of peace.
Picking through trash bins, sorting recyclables from compostables from plain old landfill bound garbage; no one deserves that. All the receptacles are well labeled, you’d need to be dumb or lazy to use the wrong one. Unfortunately for the worker bees the world has no shortage of either.
I cornered one girl during her break, asked if the job was as bad as I thought. Are they constantly pulling bags of dog shit from among the cans and bottles?
“I wish,” she said. “We’re used to that. It’s the diapers that are the worst.”
She was a true believer, eager to talk about the good they’re doing. I’m not so sure, tend to believe they’re ameliorating damage done, rather than improving on pre-existing conditions. But she was cute and kind and I didn’t feel like shitting on her parade. So I heard her out.
Whatever my feelings regarding efficacy, it’s nice to see that some people truly care.
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.07, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 8.60, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 8.50
Heat 2: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 11.40, Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.33, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 5.40
Heat 3: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.34, Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.27, Nat Young (USA) 12.40
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.60, Keanu Asing (HAW) 10.83, Finn McGill (HAW) 10.50
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.10, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 11.24, Bruce Irons (HAW) 3.40
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 16.66, Jadson Andre (BRA) 10.27, Gavin Beschen (HAW) 7.84
Heat 7: Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 11.27, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.54, Conner Coffin (USA) 10.27
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.00, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 9.00, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.77
Heat 9: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 12.34, Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.03, Adam Melling (AUS) 9.37
Heat 10: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.70, Kai Otton (AUS) 11.90, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 11.50
Heat 11: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.50, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.20, Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.07
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.24, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.23, Davey Cathels (AUS) 13.23
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 2 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Gavin Beschen (HAW)
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Bruce Irons (HAW)
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Finn McGill (HAW)
Heat 4: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 5: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 6: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 8: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 10: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Davey Cathels (AUS)
Heat 11: Nat Young (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 12: Keanu Asing (HAW) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Has surf made you partially deaf too? Here's a cure!
A few years ago, I made pals with a deaf Jew big-wave surfer. Beautiful guy (for one of them baby-eating, Palestinians-under-the-jackboot Jews). He was so good at lip-reading the only giveaway that his ears were bolt-ons was the tonal honk when he spoke, although it did come across as a little Occy-esque.
“It’s the best thing to being one with the wave,” he says. “The energy of the wave engulfs you. The senses are heightened to smell and taste and being aware of the surrounding. It sounds real corny but you hear the ocean from the heart. It’s similar to hearing people who dive in the silence of the depths.Imagine hearing the thundering set waves, the foamball inside the tube, though your eyes, through the body.”
Ido says he’ll “never forget the only time I actually heard a tube at Zicatela (Puerto Escondido) riding at full speed on a thick seven-six, a brown, dark, sand-sucking cave and the… kaboom… in my ears just before being spat out into the light. I had tears of joy. It was so emotional.”
After talking to Ido in IsraelI figured, wouldn’t be such a bad thing to lose the speakers. I, too, might become poetic. Gifted the keys to the metaphysical.
And then it actually happened.
A few months of cold winds, cold water and my left ear was as useful as a six-ten gun in Filipe Toledo’s quiver. Full of water. Wouldn’t come out.
I had it cleaned a couple of times. Fished around with my finger every minute of every day, retrieving wax, balls of sand, sometimes blood.
In conversation, I had to narrow my eyes in concentration and twist my good ear towards whomever was talking to me. Pals would shout hello and I would’t hear a damn thing. In the water, I my heart beat loudly in my dud ear and it had that swishing sound you associate with water footage that hasn’t had the music applied.
I knew ear plugs would stop the problem from getting any worse, and would even gradually cure it as the water dripped out, but who wants to accept deafness in the water as a cure for deafness on land?
And, as someone who’s gonna fight the ravages of ageing all the way to my hole in the ground, ear plugs are as sexy as hooded bonnets and ten-foot long fun boards.
Then, I happened to be talking to Tom Carroll for a political book project (the two-time world champ boycotted South Africa in the eighties because of the White Devil’s apartheid there), we were talking about how shitty it is to be deaf, and he suggested I might wanna look up Surf Ears, a company he’s involved in.
The difference in these things was you can hear. You sit in the water, you can talk, there’s no heart-beat, no water swishing around.
So I get a pair.
They ain’t cheap. Sixty-five dollars in Australia, an equivalent price elsewhere. I don’t pay, of course. (Review set!) But after using ’em every day, and then losing ’em in a carpark somewhere, I tap in my credit card numbers and I buy a new set.
They’re that good.
I hear. I joke. Pals greet me in the water.
And they look relatively slick given their unsavoury job.