"...when I'm your age" -- 12/20/99

Down the line at Backdoor

Stretching on the beach in the darkness, I noticed a motionless form a few yards away. After much eye-straining in the darkness, I realized that it was a fellow bodyboarder. While we both waited for the first inkling of daylight, I introduced myself.

Turns out that the guy was Ryan Hardy, whose name I recognized as an up-and-coming charger from Australia. He said he remembered me from previous go-outs at Pipe (that was cool). We made a bit more small talk before turning on our night vision and jumping into the water way ahead of the pack.

Once in the lineup, we slowly and cautiously worked our way into the takeoff zone. Waves were running about 3-6' (Haw'n); a far cry from the day before's 12' sets, but good enough to finish off the Pipe Masters.

Talking a little bit more to Ryan, I found out that he was a mere 20 years old. "Twenty!", I exclaimed, "I've been bodyboarding longer than you've been alive!"

He asked my age, and when I replied (35), he said, "Wow! I hope I'll still be bodyboarding when I'm your age."

That struck me as a funny statement, but still hit me hard. I know I'm getting up there, but its not like people just roll over after their 20's.

Anyway, the crowd thickened real quick. I managed to grab a few small, neat ones in the darkness. It's really disconcerting taking off in the dark, especially at Pipe. At the same time, the exhilaration level is much higher, even on the little tubelets.

Soon, a sponge buddy by the name of Brian Wise came out and sat with me at the outside peak (by then I was playing buoy out there). Brian was a contest machine in his younger days and looked to be the next big threat for the title. However, he got derailed a couple of years back and has only recently staged a comeback. (To give you an idea of how good this guy is, he surfed Second Reef Pipe the day before.)

After trading a few sets with him, I had to ask his age. When he said 25, I was stunned. Brian is one of the old time spongers in the lineup, and he's still 10 years my junior. Now I was starting to really feel old.

At 7 AM, the Pipe/Backdoor area was cluttered with over 50 surfers/bodyboarders all vying for any wave that came through, hoping to score some good ones before the contest started. By then, I was redirecting my attention to Off-The-Wall (OTW) for signs of ridability, just wanting to bail from the outrageous Pipeline scene.

A couple of shortboarders tried paddling straight from OTW, but got nailed in the impact zone on a rogue 6' closeout set. One guy was immediately sent to shore. The other, more hardheaded one, tried vainly to swim through, with his board dangling behind. No luck. On the second or third wave, his leash snapped, leaving him boardless and exhausted.

I decided to play Good Samaritan and swam over to make sure he was alright. When he respectfully declined taking a rest on my bodyboard, I figured I'd hang around the area and assess the situation.

Although it was still closing out, there were still a few nuggets to be had. A peak soon reared up and I spun around and went. So sweet! This perfect wall stood up and just let me sit in trim for I don't know how many seconds. I was stoked!

For the next few precious minutes, I was all by myself, catching these beautiful waves, while no more than 40 yards away, the zoo fought it out amongst themselves.

Of course, good things never last forever. Once the crowd realized that there were catchable waves, they funneled over. Amongst them was my bud, Brian. We gave each other a few, got caught inside a bit, and caught some fun ones in between.

Eventually, the contest guys chased everyone out of the water, including us at OTW. I had already gotten some solid ones, so was ready to bail anyway to find Buddy and Rich.

After wading through the mass of photographers, spectators, contest platforms and tents on the beach, I got my phone message from the Williams brothers and dug out from the scene.

I found the boys at Jockos sampling the fat walls out there. It was my first time out surfing the spot and it took me a while to get used to it. Seems like that wave starts working when it gets bigger. On that day, the lefts were backing off and shouldering a bit, with the occasional pitching lip. The rights seemed more lined up and bowling, sometimes closing out, but the increasing ESE winds held the faces up nicely.

Rich had just returned from a six-month ship tour and was jonesing to surf. This was only his second day out surfing, but he already seemed in form, nabbing a sweet barrel, along with some nice walls.

Buddy was a bit overgunned and uncomfortable with his 7'0", but still managed to do his speed run thing. On more than one occasion, I saw him get dropped in on by his own friends (not us)!

Also met with Fabian, a friend of Makani's and a North Shore local who is currently stationed in Okinawa. We talked about all the breaks over there, but I didn't get a chance to see him surf too much.

I took a while to get used to the wave backing off, then managed to catch a few fun ones. Once I realized (OK, once Buddy told me) that the rights were good, I started focusing on that side, catching a some really nice pockets.

The sets started getting inconsistent. That, coupled with the increasing winds sent Buddy and Rich in, with me following soon after.

When all was said and done, I had logged about three hours of water time that morn. Not too shabby for an old guy. ;-)

Also, read about being tetherless.

Aloha from Paradise,