Blown Away -- 1/17/98

It was a lot better than it looked from shore

Throughout the week, the surf was six feet or bigger, and absolutely perfect. Of course, I couldn't go the whole time. What made it more frustrating, was my discovery of the incredible Morey Pipeline Camera that could stream live images of Pipe right to my desktop. Talk about dangling food in front of a starving man!

Saturday was forecast to serve up a brand new WNW swell. However, riding along with that was a front that would bring bad winds and rain. I was hoping that I could catch some of the lead swell before the front trashed the surf. I was more like praying ...

Things were looking good in the early morning as the Kahuku weather station was reporting variable winds at 5:00 AM. I left home with high optimism. Driving past Laniakea, I was straining in the darkness to get my first look at the surf when suddenly the sky opened up in a torrent of rain. The front had arrived!

The scene at Ehukai only confirmed this. Although the rains eased off a bit, the winds were humming at about 15-25 mph from the north, making for cool, sideshore conditions. The surf looked to be good-sized, but was messy with the strong winds.

I was planning to hook up with Ivan Okuda, but he was a no-show. Fortunately, bodyboarding superstars Guilherme Tamega (Brazil) and Alistair Taylor (South Africa) were also on the beach, and so we paddled out into the maelstrom together before dawn.

Despite the winds, the surf was actually pretty insane, maybe in the 4-8' + range (Haw'n). The new swell was merging with the older one, making for some wicked peaks and double ups. The strong winds blew directly into the left tubes at Pipe, keeping them fairly open, albeit a bit messy.

The sky was a light gray, with a low cloud cover enveloping the atmosphere. The ocean was colored a dark, "estuary" green--very foreboding. However, when the waves came, the pitched water turned a bright, azure blue. Such a beautiful contrast to the otherwise dreary ambiance.

Although it rained for most of the time we were out there, having that pitter-patter constantly on my face made me feel... outdoorsy, one with nature. You had to really want it to be out in those conditions.

The true test of a surfer's skill is not how well you perform in perfect surf, but how you do in marginal conditions. Well, I admit it--I sucked! I was very selective on my waves, and my tentativeness reflected in my surfing. Sure, I caught a few good barrels, but I shoulder-hopped most of my rides, staying clear (whenever I could) of the danger zone.

My best wave was a huge peak that reared up from the west. I (of course) shoulder-hopped it, and just made a beeline for the channel. No coverup, but I could feel the turbine grinding right on my tail. The hooting from a surfer on the shoulder also helped raise my stoke level.

And the worst? Well, there were quite a few worsts. In fact, the whole session was punctuated by wipeouts and bad judgment calls on my part. There was an over-the-falls that ripped open my wetsuit. On a couple of other tumbles, I reacquainted my lungs with the taste of salt water. I got pressed on the bottom once. Straightening off on a macker, I even got worked in the shallows.

But probably the worst situation was losing my swim fin. It was early in the session, and I dialed into a sweet wave. As I pulled into the tube, I skipped ever-so slightly, and, despite my fin leash, my right side fin slipped easily off my foot. I bailed out, ruining a good ride, then took the rinse cycle. Frantically, I started searching for my fin, all the while getting nailed in the impact zone. The strong current and poor visibility only compounded the problem. Of course, as I was floundering, I saw Guilherme and Alistair catch two perfect tubes in succession. Arghhh!

So I paddled in, frustrated by the fact that my session would be cut short. (That's the main reason why I felt this was the worst situation--because I couldn't surf anymore.) Once on the beach, I kept scanning in despair, hoping for some miracle of miracles. Then, as I turned to my back, not twenty yards away, I saw something bobbing in the shorebreak. I ran, grabbed my fin, and kissed it in elation, knowing that my session could continue. Thank goodness my Vipers float! Back out there for more beatings!

But enough about my exploits. Let me tell you a little about Guilherme and Alistair. They had just completed their GOB pro bodyboarding tour last week at the epic Morey Pipeline contest (also at Jack'in Swell), placing second and fourth in the final, respectively. Tamega won the series for the third straight time, reinforcing his world championship status. Both are true, hardcore professional bodyboarders.

Guilherme and Alistair were taking off steep and deep, pulling into and making some mind-boggling pits. I was in awe with how they could make seemingly poor conditions look perfect. Talk about tube savvy. You just had to be there to fully appreciate their skills.

Lots of pros ride only when there's a chance for a photo op. But these guys were out on this stormy early morning for one reason only--for the love of waveriding. That's the true meaning of stoke.

When I finally ended my session, I dialed up the Surf News Network, curious about what they were calling it. "Eight-to-twelve feet and virtually unrideable" was their call of the North Shore (it was big, but not that big). Maybe unrideable for the likes of me, but it was totally rippable for guys like Guilherme and Alistair.

There are many ways to be blown away: by the wind, the surf or the competition. On this day, I was blown away by all three. But no matter. I was still stoked out of my skull, and can't wait to get back in the water for more.

Aloha from Paradise,