Big Fun -- 12/13/97

It was slabbing!

Forecast: Mostly sunny, light trades (offshores), 6-8' declining NE swell.
Reality: Completely overcast, light sideshore, messy 4-8' mixed swell.

Saturday was day six of the waiting period for the Chiemsee Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters. The surf peaked at 15' on Friday, and it was looking good for the contest to finally get started.

Despite the contest, we wanted to partake in the sizable surf, so Joel and I dawned it on Saturday at Ehukai. The overcast conditions blocked out any light from the full moon, so we had to wait until after six to jump in.

The surf at Pipeline looked quite disorganized, with a prominent sandbar filling up the inside of Gums. The Pipeline/Backdoor peak seemed to be pushing over to the west a bit. The wave period was short, but the size was definitely there, with some eight foot Haw'n peaks at about an 11-13 second spread (slowly widening). The overcast skies gave the water a dark jade hue, somewhat intimidating, and yet pretty in its own way.

We were joined by a whole cadre of SA and Aussie bodyboarders. However, no surfers ventured out until about 9 am, which I thought was pretty strange. I guess they canceled the Pipe contest once again.

Eventually I figured it was because the conditions were not really conducive to standup surfing. It was mostly these big peaks that just slabbed up and pitched without much of a ride. Occasionally, you'd be able to get a sweet, long wall, especially at Backdoor. But for the most part, it was just a really exhilarating drop that petered down quickly.

In the lineup, I talked to an Aussie named Brett, who said he bodyboarded with me (and Brian Wise and Matt Walbrou) on a big day last winter--on November 24, 1996 to be precise. What a fantastic memory, I thought. When I looked back at me session reports, that was the day we scored really good Pipe. I was blown away that he remembered me. We must've been cringing on the shoulder together.

Later on, Mike Stewart and Kainoa McGee joined the sponge lineup. It was really cool hearing them "talk shop" about the industry. I remember Kai being just a young, skinny, cocky kid who was virtually unbeatable in the amateurs. Called the "heir apparent" to Mike's throne, Kainoa became his competitive nemesis. But now, they are the absolute best of friends.

A good set approached, so I asked Mike if he was going. He declined, and let me catch an "adequate" Backdoor ride. I kicked out just in time to see him take off on a beast of a wave--full-on dredging peak with half the ocean behind it. Mike deftly bottom-turned and hooked right into the pit. Man, it looked like a smaller, mirror image of "the shot"* by Vince Cavataio. I was hooting like crazy when the thing spat him out in a firehose spray exit. I guess you just had to be there...

As for myself, well, I caught what was for me some really huge waves that day. The funniest thing--actually, it's kinda spooky--was that I wasn't too intimidated throughout the session. I guess when the session goes well, without any major spills, your confidence level can rise rapidly.

I caught one really nice, smaller tube at Backdoor that seemed to go on forever. I remember taking off, then saying to myself, "It's a closeout; ahhh, just pull in and see what happens anyway." Well, the lip pitched far out, affording me lots of room to maintain my trim. Then the wave just seemed to stay open, while I drove down the line and out of the barrel. Thank you, Mother Ocean!

On another memorable ride, I caught a very big set right at the peak. Just about everyone else was inside of me, scratching to make it back out. My friend, Dean Seppings of SA, was paddling out in front of me, and I fully expected for him to duck-dive the wave as it went near vertical. Instead, he craned his head out just as I got launched--I literally flew right over him! For the rest of the ride, I skipped down the face in large bounces like a pond pebble. Somehow I got the rail down and made the channel, just laughing to myself. Had to apologize for the near miss, but actually, Dean just wanted to get a good look at my board stickers. :-)

Later, Carol Philips came out, along with some other bodyboarding women. They were also taking off on some mean pits--gender was not an issue in the lineup. After the session, I got a great interview with Carol, talking story about contests and growing up on the North Shore.

This was definitely one session that helped push my comfort zone up a notch. It wasn't perfect surf, but it was still damned good... for me, anyway. The somewhat casual crowd of friends and acquaintances made it all the better. Wish I had more sessions like that--sharing a few slabs amongst friends.

Aloha from Paradise,