Gabriel's victory party, cops take over the Shore, Brazilians rule everything else!
There is very little that separates the work of most sporting photographers. A slightly different angle here, a different lens there. Any sorta lifestyle shot is perfunctory, at best.
Surfing is very lucky, then, to have Steve Sherman, a skater and surfer from southern California. His photography is a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the kind of things you get from a good movie. More than any other surf photographer, Sherman has a sense of living history.
For the month of December, Sherm flew, on his own dime, to the North Shore because, what, he was going to miss the title showdown?
“The WSL cut me off, Channel Islands cut me off, so it was a full art trip,” says Sherm. “I lost everything. They’re all blaming budgets. I didn’t have to be anywhere, I could just do my thing and I had the best artistic year of my life so I can’t be too bummed.”
Apart from looming poverty, it was a different experience this year for Sherman. He’s on the wagon with only the occasional breeze of weed entering his temple. Already, he’s dropped twenty pounds from his linebacker frame.
“I got off the beer because I was feeling shitty, my liver wasn’t get rid of it fast enough. It was slowing me down. I went to a part the other night and, fuck, I was seeing more things than when I was lit up. And, I figured, if I want to keep surfing until I’m seventy I’m going to have to clean things up a bit.”
Let’s stroll though the best of Sherman’s North Shore photos.
First, the wonderful Mark Occhilupo who, like Sherman, was on the wagon. “Occy hasn’t drunk for nine months and he looks great, physically he looks…so…good and he was ripping at Pipeline.”
Gabriel Medina and Brazilians after he won the world title, but before Pipe Masters final, which he’d also win. “There was no way he wasn’t going to win the title,” says Sherman. “They’re walking down Ke Nui Road for that three-block walk to his house. Everyone was very happy. It was Brazilville over there. I gotta tell you, the Hawaiians put up with a lot. I was tripping that the Brazilians don’t give a shit. They don’t seem worried that some Polynesian guy is going to punch them out for being loud and obnoxious and flying the flag. Twenty years ago, this never would’ve happened. When Americans go to Brazil, the last thing we do is put flags on our houses and wave flags on the beach and sing the national anthem. I mean, fuck, it’s so heavy. I don’t think they have any idea how heavy the place was thirty years ago. There would be dead bodies scattered if this had happened back in the day.”
Jack Robinson and Brazilian girlfriend Julia Muniz. “Yeah, she’s a hot little number,” says Sherman.
Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson, Pipeline. “Those guys don’t know what they’re doing. It’s some weird handshake,” says Sherman. “That’s right after Joel retired and Kelly’s congratulating him. Historically, they’re not the closest of people but they respect each other even if, behind their backs, they tease each other.”
Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson. “I sent that to Mick and he pulled me aside, later, and said, ‘I love you Sherman’ and gave me the longest hug he’d ever given me. He’s going to get it for his house. That’s when I knew I’d done something well. They’re both walking into the retirement sunset.”
John John Florence and brother Nathan watch Herbie Fletcher’s Wave Warrior’s shoot unfurl. “It’s always supposed to start at twelve but never starts on time. They were hanging out at the RVCA house. RVCA’s the new power company here. They fucking sponsor all the Hawaiians, they have (Dustin) Barca, it’s crazy. Even Pat Tenore’s with Andy’s ex-wife.”
Matt Wilkinson, Backdoor, Conner Coffin, Pipe. “That’s comic-book like. That will be in my archive for a while. Conner told me hit the bottom real hard.” Pottz and Occ, pre-Occ-cast. “Legends, nice guys. It’s great to see Occ looking so good, I could see it in his face and his body weight. He’s proud he’s not boozing it.” Kelly, creeping out to Backdoor. “He’s creeping out, running down from his house to the Johnson’s yard to surf Backdoor one night. It’s my classic creepy Kelly moment. Kelly’s daughter was on the North Shore, she was having an art show. She’s a sweetheart, a sweet little woman. But Kelly doesn’t want to have any more kids. He told me, I just don’t want to have kids. I’ve done that. I’m done.”
North Shore Justice: “Yeah. Fuck. Heavy. That’s the new thing now. I’ve never seen such a police presence on the North Shore. There were cops everywhere, signs everywhere. Everyone’s watching, police are writing tickets and pulling people over.” Parko, Bruce Irons, Mick Fanning, Parko’s retirement party: “That was right after Mick did the all-time speech. Mick has two beers in his hand, which was par for the course this trip. One night I said, ‘Why the two beers?’ and he said, ‘Because this one is almost done.'”