Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits.
Last week, every surfer who has ever been invited to the Maverick's contest voted on who would surf in this year's event. There were 11 slots open (the bottom half of last year's competitors was put on chopping block) and those were filled without sponsor-fueled bias or politics — just good old-fashioned democracy. Take it in. Ahhhh, smells like freedom.
Some of the rookies are actually veterans. Some are repeat customers returning after a short break or 10 world titles. Some are invisible heroes; some are heroes clear as day. All are deserving. I asked five questions to these five newbies:
Mark Healey (North Shore, Oahu): As close to fearless as any surfer in the world. Makes a statement every time he surfs Mav's (both for his bright wetsuits and aggressive approach on his backhand).
Shawn Dollar (Santa Cruz, CA): Surfed the biggest wave ever paddled into last year. Has flown under the mainstream radar for years, but is one of the most respected guys in the water when it's maxing.
Rusty Long (San Clemente, CA): Has quietly killed it at Maverick's for years. He was the first one to pull into a set wave on the contest morning last year.
Shane Dorian (Kona, Hawaii): Only surfed the place twice, but made such an impact that he received the invitation. Followed Rusty's lead last year by pulling into bombs — but he came out.
Ryan Augenstein (Santa Cruz, CA): Was invited to the contest five or six years ago, dominated his first heat, and then ate shit on two waves in the next heat. Auggy has earned his slot back by sticking airdrops and wrapping carves on his 8'4".
Q: What is Maverick’s role in big-wave surfing?
"Maverick's is the place where it all matters. The wave is so good and so challenging for paddling. We haven’t seen all of its potential yet — Mother Nature can make that place bigger. Oh yeah, and there’s a left too." —Shawn Dollar
"It's the last stop for anyone trying to push themselves to the limit in big waves. There are many people who surf big Waimea but want nothing to do with Maverick's." —Shane DorianQ: What is your relationship with the wave?
"My relationship with Maverick’s is a prearranged marriage. We were born to dance together." —Ryan Augenstein
"I love Maverick's, but at the same time, it scares me pretty good." —Shane Dorian
"It's a new relationship; I feel like I've got a lot more to learn. Even though I've been going there for three or four years, I don't feel like I've got it figured out." —Mark Healey
"I love and fear the wave and have so much respect for it. It’s my obsession."
"My relationship with the wave has been a good one over the years. I always try and be tactical and pick off waves that I will really remember. I always listen to my instincts about when to surf there, too. Some days I don’t feel it, some days I really do." —Rusty LongQ; Who is the man to beat out there?
"It's hard to say because there are so many good guys. Twiggy is always a tough guy to beat, especially in that heat advancement format. He's pretty smart and good at positioning himself to catch really good waves. " —Mark Healey
"I would say Twiggy. Between his wave selection, aggressive approach and technical ability, he is who I would put my money on." —Shane Dorian
"I feel all of the 24 invitees have a good shot at winning, Slater is obviously the best all-around surfer, but I’ve seen good surfers not catch shit out there."—Ryan AugensteinQ: What are the benefits of the contest being “The Jay”?
"The event is back in the surfers' hands. It is a democratic voting system from who gets in the contest to when it is held." —Rusty Long
"Well, what other events are run by the surfers and actually have prize money? It just changes the whole vibe of the event. I think everybody will be really happy to be there and happy to be doing it in honor of Jay." —Mark Healey
"Good Karma! Jay is going to be watching over us. The people who have dedicated their lives to this place are in control and they have the surf spot's best interest in mind." —Shawn DollarQ: Who was Jay Moriarty?
"He was a guy I looked up to. He was always smiling and good to me as a grom. He surfed really good, charged, but more importantly, he glowed. You could see love and life in his eyes. There are very few humans in the world like him." —Shawn Dollar
"I knew Jay and had a chance to surf with him around Santa Cruz. I didn’t know him well until after he died and personal things about his life became public. In my mind he was a guy who loved the ocean so much that people admired his passion." —Ryan Augenstein
"I remember the first time I ever hung out with him was on the North Shore and we went night diving. And what I used to do to my friends who were visiting is tell them that we only had one light and that we had to stick together. And then we'd swim way outside of Backyards and I'd shut the light off. Then I'd zig and zag and lose them and just swim to the beach and hide out for a while. And it would usually take them like 45 minutes to get in. And they'd just be terrified. Jay was the only person I ever did that to who wasn't fazed at all. He came in and walked up the beach and was like, 'Uh, yeah, I guess the light went out. Huh. Cool. We should go get some batteries and go back out.'" —Mark HealeyThe Jay invitees
Chris Bertish, South Africa (2009 Champion)
Shane Desmond, Santa Cruz
Anthony Tashnick, Santa Cruz (2004 Champion)
Kenny "Skindog" Collins, Santa Cruz
Dave Wassel, Hawaii
Carlos Burle, Brazil
Grant "Twiggy" Baker, South Africa (2005 Champion)
Alex Martins, San Francisco
Peter Mel, Santa Cruz
Grant Washburn, San Francisco
Ryan Seelbach, San Francisco
Darryl "Flea" Virostko, Santa Cruz (1998, 1999 and 2003 Champion)
Greg Long, San Clemente (2007 Champion)
Zack Wormhoudt, Santa Cruz
Mark Healey, Hawaii
Shawn Dollar, Santa Cruz
Ryan Augenstein, Santa Cruz
Shane Dorian, Hawaii
Rusty Long, San Clemente
Tyler Smith, Santa Cruz
Nathan Fletcher, Hawaii
Matt Ambrose, Pacifica
Kelly Slater, Florida
Jamie Sterling, Hawaii