I'm going to be honest up front here: this is my first true night on someone else's couch. I just dropped the family off at the airport (a teary good-bye, of course) and drove back to the Country blasting bad '80s rock and wearing my Risky Business shades. I didn't really give much thought as to what couch I would sleep on after I left the Kuilima Condos this past week, so as I packed my kids' Nintendos this evening and threw the final bag into the trunk, I realized I should either find a place soon or claim my spot in the bushes behind Sunset. Fortunately, Rip Curl came to the rescue and offered me a spot – perhaps THE spot on the North Shore's center stage. Formerly "The Billabong House," the two companies basically switched compounds. Now I'm sitting on the third floor of this pro-stacked pirate ship, watching re-runs of no-name college football games on ESPN and listening to the surf out at Off the Wall steadily grow louder. Mick Fanning is somewhere in here, as well as the legendary Rip Curl documentarians Ted Grambeau and Jon Frank. Ricky Basnett popped in the kitchen a few minutes ago, clear-headed, alert and ready to crack it. "Gotta stay fresh for 15-foot Sunset," he said.
Ben Dunn is just down the hall – he turned in at 10:30 sharp. Taylor Knox hit the hay about a half-hour before that and the groms – Owen Wright, Stu Kennedy, Matt Wilkinson and God knows who else, are almost definitely at Stephanie Gilmore's world title celebration party. (Sorry I'm missing that one people, but I'm hoping for a first-light session in waves of consequence.) So, that's my scene for a night or maybe two or maybe until they kick me out. I like it here.
The last time I wrote from the couch – the comfortable not-really-a-couch couch from the Kuilima – we sat on Santa's lap and surfed Waikiki. Not exactly the kind of stuff that makes for riveting North Shore reporting. Since then, things have happened. Pipeline went crazy for a day, and the level of crowd-intensity and drop-ins hit a new mark. "I just had to sit it out," said Pipe legend Tamayo Perry. "There was so much disrespect out there, it was downright dangerous. I would have snapped – so I just stayed on the beach knowing there'll be plenty more this year." Hopefully enough for Aamion Goodwin to get back in the water sometime again this season. Word is he was waiting for the swelling to go down on his dislocated knee and would be getting an MRI soon. People wonder why Pipe is so "regulated," but Aamion is living proof. Drop-ins and Pipeline do not mix.
Thanksgiving at the Hill house was a huge hit this year. A little more low-key, but with live music from John Cruz and Brock Little's kalua ham and turkey, it was a feast everyone enjoyed. Of course, in honor of her late son Todd, Jeannie Chesser held an informal surf contest and took a poll for biggest photo slut and – with a nod to the late "Senior" Hill – the biggest "Zero" award. This year, photo slut went to Rob Machado for his well-documented surf-searching in Indo. "Best award I've ever gotten," he said of the framed photo of Chesser flipping him off. The Zero award – which included a Nixon watch – went to none other than Matty Liu and the winner of Jeannie's informal contest went to young Maui shredder Luke Hitchcock. "I'm humbled," he said.
The swell increased significantly on Friday, causing all kinds of mayhem. The Coast Guard went on a major search-and-rescue mission when a kid surfing Kawela Bay was reported "missing." Turned out he had made it to shore just fine, but he never let the authorities know he was fine. Still not sure who foots the bill for the search plane buzzing the North Shore lineups for hours.
While Pipe was in gridlock that Friday, there were also a couple of Outer Reefs just coming to life. Timmy Reyes avoided the traffic and paddled out to one of those reefs on a John Carper 9'8" shaped for Shane Dorian. He ended up catching a few beautiful, 12-foot lefts and is psyching for more. "This board feels like it's just waking up," he said. "I can't wait to try it when it really gets big." As Reyes' session was winding down, he was joined by a short man with a thick mustache, stand-up paddling on some stubby-looking boat. "Tom Carroll!" yelled Tim. The three-time world champ had just gotten into town, and was dying to try his new stand-up paddleboard on the outer reefs. Love SUPs or hate SUPs (really, it's OK to hate 'em), Carroll was amazing on the thing. Within minutes, he flipped around on a solid set, caught it and rode it all the way to the channel. He paddled back out, pivoted, and did it all over again. All this in a span of 10 minutes when the rest of us hadn't even caught a wave. "They're difficult, but addicting," said Tom of his beloved SUP. "And I can guarantee you: they're not going away."
What else? Pretty much everything has been reported in some shape or form already on the site. Steph's world title? Yeah, you know about that. Yadin's Sunset session? OK, I know I'm old and repeating myself. How about Aamion's knee? Did I say I'm on the couch at the Rip Curl house?
I get it. It's late, and I think I hear Second Reef cracking. The groms still aren't back from the world title party, which means more waves for me in the morning.