Regulated -- 1/17/10

Oh baby!

Date: January 17, 2010
Time: 0700-0900
Spot(s): Somewhere
Conditions: Sweet!
Swell: Wrap off a giant NW
Surf: 4-6' Haw'n

Forecast was for a giant NW swell and firm NE winds. I had intentions on doing some water photography. Only real option for me was to head to the Westside.

Driving up the coastline, I checked all the primary indicator spots. It wasn't showing nearly as much as I expected, though I couldn't see very well in the early morning darkness. So I just kept driving deeper and deeper into the Wild Wild West.

Tough times on the island so there were lots of "campers" everywhere. Some of them have been displaced but tell-tale signs still indicate they are still around, just further into the brush. They are making do the best they can.

I finally arrived at a spot that I admittedly hardly ever surf. It is a very heavy secret spot with some radical locals who jealously protect their turf. I was apprehensive just parking my car.

Saw a couple of haole boys gingerly negotiate the ragged coral shoreline and paddle out in the semi-darkness. Pretty ballsy given their skin tone, but something told me they knew how to handle themselves.

They were cruising in the lineup talking story when a mack set came out of nowhere. The first guy started stroking in. When he started getting up backside, I thought he was a goner. But he got into a three-point stance and deftly made the near air-drop, got a full-on double-overhead barrel, and exited cleanly. Wow!

His partner got the next wave of the set. Again, super-late takeoff, but this guy went frontside. About three-quarters of the way down the face, a backwash section converged with his wave, totally demolishing the rider in an explosion of whitewater. I thought he was vaporized, but thankfully, he was alright.

That set got me amped to shoot from the water. I was still semi-recovering from my back injury so I was quite nervous. Just entry into and especially exit from the water looked to be a harrowing challenge. In fact, one guy (from another group) didn’t even make it to the lineup after being hit by a shoreline wave and getting sliced up on the lava, with a possible tibia fracture.

So then this car drove by with five boards strapped on top. I could just see it might start getting ugly. Out came a half-dozen South Americans (Brazilians?), rolling in from the North Shore looking for more manageable surf. Not the way to roll around here.

I was shaking my head while they all started frolicking towards the water's edge. Just then another car came by with an obvious local inside. The driver parked right in front of me, called the surfers closer, and told them they couldn’t surf.

This was all happening right in front of me as I was prepping to shoot one of the most protected spots on the island. I sheepishly tucked my camera away while watching the events unfold.

So the local guy turned back and saw me in my car. I’m gone. Suddenly his eyes lit up and he called, "Eh howzit Neal!"

"What the hell?" This guy knows me. Then it finally dawned on me who the guy was. It was my old friend Brian Pacheco, a Maili local who I used to compete against in bodyboarding back in the day (over 20 years ago).

So Brian and I talked story and caught up a bit. I was straight up with him and told him I wanted to shoot from the water, not sure what the response would be. Brian told me it was cool. Stoked!

After gathering back in their car, one of the South Americans eventually got up the courage to approach Brian, and sheepishly tried to explain things. Apparently, he and Brian had a mutual friend, and that friend had told him he could surf the spot. Brian eventually allowed the guy to go out to surf, just that one guy. Rest of the guys stayed in the car.

So after I finished prepping my camera gear, I very cautiously made my way to the lineup. Conditions were pretty radical. You could see the swell hitting "the point" from afar, and minutes later, bomb sets would march in at some pretty acute angles. Backwash off the shoreline compounded the complexity of the lineup.

As big as the surf was, the water level was sketchily low. In fact, many times I found myself standing on the sharp reef as the waves careened towards shore. Between the shallow water and the jagged shoreline, this was not a place to get caught in the impact zone.

That first guy, the backside guy, was even more impressive up close, taking off on some smaller, but deeper barrels. Brian of course, was his typical self, scoring some racing barrels.

Eventually, Brian had to leave. I saw him tinker under his car hood. What? He was reattaching his battery. I guess even hardcore locals had to watch their cars out there.

Surf continued to fire. Couple of bodyboarders came out, including friend JMV. They seemed to revel in the sketchy conditions.

For me, I soon decided that I had stayed long enough and didn’t want to risk pushing it further. Got a bit caught in some current, but eventually made it through the tiny keyhole in the reef and onto shore.

Sometimes it's the locals who regulate the lineup. This spot, the wave also takes care of itself.

Aloha from Paradise,