Words and photos by Nathan Myers
There was a bottle of champagne. There was a bottle of whiskey. "Either way, we're drinking," Albee Layer wrote on Instagram.
The conclusion of this year's $100,000 Innersection contest played out like some of social media cat-and-mouse game, with filmmaker Taylor Steele dropping cryptic digital hints as he traveled from his adopted home in Byron Bay, Australia to deliver the prize money for this year's Sanuk "Section of the Year."
With the immediate nature of social media, most people had already figured out that the voting had come down to Hawaiian all-arounders Jamie O'Brien and Albee Layer. The two were texting back and forth all afternoon: "Call me if you win."
"There were definitely some highs and lows while we were waiting," says Albee.
Last year's $100k winner, Matt Meola was less nervous. "Argh, Captain Steelebeard it appears you're running late," he said in a voicemail to Taylor Steele, "get your ass over to me friend Albee's house."
In the end, Taylor did arrive, Albee drank both bottles, then hovered around his porch around hugging the friends and family. Yes, he had just won $100,000, but that wasn't the reason he was celebrating.
SURFING: Did seeing your best friend win last year help make this possible?
I was so stoked to see Matt win. Nothing but stoked. But when we finally went to his premiere party and I saw his section come up on the screen, I was just so jealous. I'm not a jealous person, but for that moment I was just burning up with it. After that, all I could think about was making my section for the next year.
You really came out hot in that first round. How does it feel to finally win?
It's just a huge release of pressure. After my qualifying section, everyone immediately threw all their expectations on me. It was almost more than I could bear. But now that I've won, it's all good. I worked so hard for this, but there were some really great other sections on there this year. It was a lot of pressure.
Have you started spending money in your head yet?
Honestly, the money hasn't even registered yet. Maybe it will hit in a few days. For now, it's just about having my surfing recognized. That's all this meant to me. I mean the whole theme of my section as about moving on from trying to do contests. So, this just legitimizes that decision.
So, Innersection's a big step in your surf career?
Are you kidding? Innersection is my career. This is basically all I've got going. I'm so stoked right now, I gotta take a shower.
Instead of a shower, the stoked Maui boy went and hosed himself off in the yard with more $100-dollar champagne just as his dad, Albert Layer III (Albee is a "the 4th") arrived just in time to kick off the victory party. "We knew you had it all along," his dad said through tears and Red Stripe, "but a big check doesn't hurt much either."
[First round of Innersection 2012 begins May 1st. Check www.innersection.tv for details and more videos.]
Albee’s winning section