(Sitting) Pretty in Pink -- 1/8/97

Got the word of a solid swell approaching the islands on Wednesday. Since I missed my weekend session, I decided to burn some leave and check out the action. I was not disappointed.

Buoy #1 was pinging between 14-17 feet and 13-14 seconds, so I knew the swell was valid. But the best thing was that the winds, which had been s#!tty the past few weeks, were expected to calm down.

The 15th Annual Morey World Bodyboarding Championship was on standby at the Pipe, but I decided to go there anyway. Good chance to see some old friends afterwards.

I paddled out with Brian Wise in the semi-darkness, while some nuttos (Aussies, I think) were already reaping the rewards of a pre-dawn patrol. Waves were big--maybe six-to-eight feet--and seemed to be on the rise. Second Reef was just starting to pop, but the inside was pitching beautifully.

Before long, the lineup was cluttered with sponges, mostly Internationals, all trying to get in a practice session before their heat. Derek Ho and Liam McNamara were also on hand, two of four surfers amongst 50 rabid bodyboarders.

There were two standouts in the early morn. No surprise that one was Mike Stewart, who was powering into these huge peaks and carving them up. Harry Antipala (former Kauai Classic team rider, and my former nemesis) was also on fire, nabbing some psycho tubes using some good takeoff positioning and commitment.

I caught something like four waves. Only one is worth mentioning. Liam was paddling for it, but backed off because it jacked a bit. I took the opportunity and ran with the six footer, staying in the hook (not in the tube) all the way to the inside. A confidence-building wave for me.

Later on, however, I was trying to catch one of the tasty inside barrels when a Second Reef set poured in. Fortunately, the wave did not pitch top-to-bottom, but I was still left with a huge wall of whitewater to contend with. Ended up being washed inside, and by the time I paddled back out beyond the shorebreak, I was near the Ehukai lifeguard tower some 200 yards down the beach.

Funny, but I didn't feel too bad about getting nailed. I'm learning to deal with it. So I paddled all the way back to the lineup and caught another one--gotta get back in the saddle.

Paddling in, I felt fully exhilarated, but not ready to leave just yet. I decided to try and take some water shots of the contest.

I got the okay from the contest director and the beach marshall, and, following Don King's lead, I warily swam my way to the lineup. It was a fairly easy swim despite the pronounced sandbar on the inside and having to lug the camera in one hand.

Now, surfing the North Shore is challenging, given the waves, crowds and pecking order. Guess what? Water photography is just the same. There were maybe eight of us, all jockeying for position on the inside section; a small, but no less intense microcosm of the surfing lineup. A couple guys were uncool, sitting right in front of the pack. I read a bit of silent anger in the local photogs' eyes.

I was pretty content to sit back a bit and take photos even with their heads in the way. Hey, I had one of the best seats in the house for watching the contest--I wasn't complaining.

Well, apparently someone did. Later on, a jetski came cruising by with event organizer J.P. Patterson onboard. He told us that there were too many people taking pictures, and it might affect the contestants' performance. J.P. was going to assign authorized photographers with hot pink jerseys, and the rest had to leave the water. "Oh well, it was fun while it lasted," I thought.

So J.P. started fingering each of us, asking who we were and what we were shooting for. "Neal Miyake, BIM and H3O," I meekly responded. Surprisingly, he tossed a jersey to me! So I end up staying out there, along with Brian Bielmann, Don King, Boscoe and a couple other guys. Stoked!

There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the sun was shining brightly, the wind was calm, Pipe was firing, and I was on it, proudly sporting one of the coveted pink jerseys. Happy happy, joy joy!

The jockeying soon became nonexistent as everyone who was left knew their place in the food chain (the two uncool guys were outta there). We all sat in a tight line, and I positioned myself at either end.

The surf seemed to have ebbed a bit, but conditions were pristine. Almost every wave barreled and spat. I was mesmerized.

Since this was only the trials, there was a lot of tentativeness by the competitors. Many of them weren't used to the radical conditions. Consequently, there were a lot of wasted waves, followed by groans from the photo gallery of missed opportunities. A lot of my 24 exposures (if you must know, I use Fuji Sensia asa 200) were spent on empty waves that were winding down the reef.

While I was out there, the only real standouts were two South Africans. Dean Seppings (whom I wrote about earlier this year) was ripping it up, and won his heat handily. There was also this really young kid (I think it was Andre Botha, 15) who charged the sets and ate s#!t. (Sorry, I missed the seque.)

I felt sorely out of place amongst the world-class photographers, and was embarrassed with my puny Nikonos camera. Believe me, there's lots of lens envy on the North Shore. My friend's land set-up--only the body and the lens--cost $12,000!

As a courtesy to the "real" photographers sitting on the beach, waiting for pink jerseys, I shot off my roll quickly. Anyway, I still had to go to work.

Paddling in, I got caught in the current running across Ehukai. Made a lame attempt at bodyboarding to shore (Rick, you would have laughed your Speedos off). Ended up on the sandbar way north of the tower (again!).

Came in and talked story with some of the guys before bailing to work. It's really nice to feel like part of the tribe.

Afterwards, I had this heavy thumping in my brain. Was it from congested nasal passages, pressurized ears or pure stoke? Probably a little of each.

Sometimes just watching can be fun. Now I just hope the pictures turn out.

Aloha from Paradise,

A lot of waves went unridden

Dean Seppings from South Africa (1 of 2) -- Check out that wall!

Dean Seppings from South Africa (2 of 2) -- Epic ride!

Pipeline, an Apropo Name

Aussie Trialist Scoring Big