Pipeline Trials: “No mo set came in!”

Stop this nonsense! Let the Hawaiians surf!

And finally The Billabong Pipeline Masters is underway-ish! Today we begin with the Pipe Invitational. This, if memory serves, is the bone the World Surf League threw to Hawaiian locals, giving them a handful of heats of 4 surfers per for 2 of them to scratch into the main event.

Do you recall just two years ago when a full sixteen Hawaiians got to surf in the big show without having to dance for their soup?

I do!

Those early Pipe heats that pitted a crusty underground Pipe specialist against some freshly scrubbed Californian or Brazilian World Championship Tour youth were pure joy.


Carnage everywhere!

Oh I witnessed many hot tears running down pink cheeks as children were sent packing back to the Qualifying Series. Grown men sent back too also with tears running down stubbly sadness.

But those days are over and now the Hawaiians must wrestle each other to the death.

Today’s surf is not so great or at least not at the start. Heat 1 featured Yan, Chapman, McIntosh and McNamara’s boy battling scraps. Yan won the heat with the combined score of a 3.57. Chapman snuck into the quarters with a last minute 2.80 combined score.

Talking to Rosie after the end, Mr. Yan said, “There was one wave at the start then no mo sets came in.”

Yeah bummer. WSL CEO Paul Speaker should wave his coconut scepter and let all the Hawaiians back in to the castle. It was better that way.

Watch the day unfold here!

Mick Fanning
You can imagine," says Fanning. "Half asleep, jumping in a wetsuit, and then just being wowed by all this stuff. It's something I'll remember forever." | Photo: Emil Sollie and Mats Grimsæth

Watch: Mick Fanning surf under the northern lights!

It's divine!

I never fail to be amazed by the universe on those rare occasions I lift from head from the business of studying iPhones, swiping, liking, tapping and uploading. It’s the ultimate ego trip to imagine we’re the only living planet, among billions. I look at the sky and I wonder, can you see me space creatures?

And even though I wouldn’t exactly say it’s a dream, one of these days I promise myself I’ll jump a plane to Norway and examine, at close range, the northern lights or, if you want to be technical about it, aurora borealis. Gas particles collide, or so I read, causing the clubhouse green lightshow. Who wouldn’t want to see it once in his life?

Recently, the three-time world champion, Mick Fanning joined with Norwegian photographers
Emil Sollie and Mats Grimsæth to attempt to snatch a photo, and film, of Mick surfing beneath the northern lights.

“To shoot a picture of surfing under the Northern Lights, there are so many elements that have to come together at the same time,” Sollie explained. “Technically, this is one of the hardest pictures to capture.”

The clip below was shot at midnight on the third day of the trip. “You can imagine,” said Fanning. “Half asleep, jumping in a wetsuit, and then just being wowed by all this stuff. It’s something I’ll remember forever.”

An extended version of the trip will go live next year.




great white shark caught in net

Five Great Whites Caught in Two Days!

Right now, Byron Bay and its surrounds, are crawling with pissed-off Whites…

Yesterday afternoon, a ten-foot Great White had a little swim through The Pass, a soft righthand point at Byron Bay, a wave popular with kids, logs, and everyone else.

A siren sounded. The lineup emptied. The animal was herded out to sea by lifesavers where, presumably, it waited until the boat left before resuming its business.

Lovers of gore will recall when a swimmer was snatched by a Great White in waist-deep water a hundred metres down from the Pass in 2014.

Great Whites are more than a fact of life in Byron Bay and its surrounds. The sudden arrival of  a cluster of aggressive Whites in the last couple of years presents the surfer with an existential question: to surf or not to surf.

Is dying in the mouth of a shark worth the few seconds of speed or tube time  you might experience on a little North Coast wave?

And, so, after overwhelming evidence of Whites Gone Wild, the NSW state government dropped the first 10 of 85 SMART drum-lines ahead of the Christmas holiday break at Lennox Head, South Ballina and Evans Head.

Within two days, five Whites were caught, tagged and released alive. One ten-footer was caught at Sharpes Beach, just north of Ballina, where a surfer was hit in October.

Five Whites, two days.

Does that give you pause for thought?

More than that, it shows that being hit by a White when you surf in Byron ain’t just a theoretical notion.

It’s real.

Yeah, paddle out and you’re in the shark’s lair, don’t be a pussy etc, but at what point does the human animal fight back? Let’s imagine the population of the protected Great White triples over the next few years and surfing becomes an impossibility, a death wish?

Would that be enough to gaff a few of the sonsofbitches, not tag and release?

Or do we shelve the sleds and go skim?

(But don’t skim out too far like the wonderful Austin Keen, below!)

Stevie Eastbound and Down

Parker: “Day Three, North Shore!”

Where your fav writer gets tubed, is served bad salsa and worries about John John's future.

Yesterday was Saturday. Today is Sunday. The contest is, once again, on hold. The surf is, once again, very fun. Just small, by North Shore standards.

Which didn’t keep me from getting one of the better tube slides of my life yesterday. Surfed another out of the way patch. Was explaining the spot to a friend.

“You want to take off behind the section, do your bottom turn, then wait for it to hit the shallow spot inside, bend toward you and grow.”

Always easier said than done. Always run the risk of running your mouth about your supposed knowledge, then getting totally skunked and looking like Mr Big Mouth Barney 5000.

So I was gratified when I found a gem of a nugget mid-session. Set the line, only a minor tuck to fit, saw that lip well out in front. Shamelessly no-claim claimed when I got spat out. Not that I actually got spat out. But I’m a normal human, it was plenty good to give me a memory I’ll hang onto for a while.

The sun reappeared this morning.

Stereotypical idyllic Hawaii weather. Trades are barely blowing, mobs are currently making their way up H2. Course set to clog the roads, litter the beaches with buffoonery. Spray-on sunscreen hanging in the air, filling your nose and torturing your taste buds. How hard it is to rub stuff on your ass? Not very.

Happy Hour at Luibueno’s is still a scene. Enjoyed a good margarita and some okay tacos. Solid by Oahu standards. Sub par by mine.

Their salsa is garbage. Fucking pitiful. Shameful tomato blah.

“We’ve got spicier if you want it,” the waitress said.

“I do want. I do.”

She handed me a bottle of Tapatio. I struggled to resist throwing it back in her face. Not her fault, she’s just works there.

They pack you in tight. I kept elbowing the guy sitting behind me in the spine. Sorry, buddy.  Sorry, buddy.

I eavesdropped on their conversation, because I do that. And because they were speaking very loudly. You had to near shout to make yourself heard. Still, though, they were being a bit over the top. Which is how I know all about the boards they ordered, their sponsors, plans for filming.

Thing is, I don’t know who the fuck they were. Didn’t look familiar at all.

It reminded me of the assholes in LA who’d have loud conversations in the lineup about how much they were making on real estate deals. Show off type shit. Look how big I am.

Probably should dial it back a bit. Doesn’t fly too well in a place that puts a strange premium on humility. Don’t make big body, dude.

Signs for John John are everywhere. Outside Haleiwa Joe’s. Spray painted across the barriers outside the skatepark. Nailed to telephone poles and soaped onto car windows.

Poor kid. That shit would put me in a panic. He’s done amazing things, sure to have a long awesome career.

But the problem with accomplishments, there comes a moment you have to go, “Okay, what next?”

The answer is difficult enough when you’re a typical slob. But how the fuck do you improve when you’re already on top?

If you’re Filipe and Gabby, you dance!


Gerry Lopez: “We surf the mountain!”

The king of Pipe recreates his favourite North Shore waves at "big-wave" contest in Oregon!

Growing up on the Oregon coast I pointed my little nose toward the sea rather than the mountain. I was cold and miserable enough and the technicolor dream of California and Hawaii fired my imagination. Oh I went to the hills, to Hoodoo and Willamette Pass and even Mt. Bachelor a handful of times a season and loved but surf had my heart even though the water was near freezing and angry sharks swirled underneath my frozen solid feets.

When I was in the ocean, amongst the waves, I could at least pretend that I was tropical. I was at least doing the same thing that bronzed Australians and even more bronzed Hawaiians were doing.

And I remember like some great tragedy the day that Hawaiian legend Gerry Lopez left Oahu’s North Shore and moved to Bend, Oregon.

“BEND?” I thought. “Why did Gerry Lopez go crazy? What made the poor man lose his mind?”

For those who don’t know, Mr. Lopez is one of the most stylish surfers of all time and Pipeline was his playground. I could not fathom what would make someone move from the warm to the cold. From the sand to the snow. From Hawaii to Oregon.

And then, years later, I snowboarded in powder for the first time and it all made perfect sense. It all clicked.

I crossed paths with Gerry a few years ago. I was waiting on a helicopter out of Bald Face and he had just arrived. The man belongs in both worlds equally and, oddly both world’s belong to each other. And, thus, his surf event at Mt. Bachelor, the Big Wave Challenge, makes perfect sense too. Lopez uses “a series of huge sweeping banked corners, quarter pipes and spines that are shaped into wave-like features for a flowing course bringing the surf to the mountain.”

Runs are meant to approximate Lopez’ old favourites Pipe, Sunset, Ala Moana and Rocky Point. “Remember,” says Lopez, “that Style factors heavily into your score, so style-it wherever you can. The judges are looking at your whole ride, how what you do fits into the course and the flow you maintain. Ride it like a wave. And most of all make sure you have fun.”