I get by with a little help from my friends.
While it’s unlikely that the Beatles were referencing surfers when they wrote those lyrics, they resonate with us. Because while the idea of an empty lineup in a faraway locale is romantic, in practice it’s a bit, well, empty. Who wants to surf alone? Travel alone? Get barreled alone? Not the guys in this issue.
When Michael Dunphy saw the swell of the season headed for Bocas del Toro, Panama, he didn’t book a ticket and try and score by himself. Instead, he called his best friends (Ian Crane, Luke Davis and Evan Geiselman) for a trip that delivered way bigger surf than any of them were prepared for. None of them had the right boards, but they went for it anyway. Because pushing your buddy over the ledge on a sketchy wave is the fabric of any great friendship. Is my board too small? Nah. Should I take off here? Go deeper.
For Evan Geiselman, Panama was his first time back in heavy waves since his brush with death at Pipeline in December, and his best friends got him through it. “I was pretty nervous about surfing that day until Crane called me into the first big set,” Evan said. “And when your friends yell you into one, you kinda have to go. That wave [pictured here] ended up being the best wave of my trip. After that one, I was totally fine.”
Jack Freestone, whom we profiled in this issue, credits his tight-knit group of friends with much of his success. In fact, he refused to allow his profile “to just be about me.” So, it’s also about his coach Stace, his filmer Mikey and the Mitches — Crews and Coleborn — who round out the company Jack keeps on the road.
And then there’s Mick Fanning, who, after a year that saw him get attacked by a shark, lose a brother (on the eve of his world title showdown at Pipeline, no less) and separate from his wife, couldn’t wait to jump on a boat in Alaska with a lighthearted Mason Ho and — at least for 10 days — escape from it all. “Alaska came at the best time for me,” Mick told me during a lay-day lunch at the J-Bay Open. “Alone with friends, in the middle of cold nowhere — it was a turning point for me.”
Now here he is, back in South Africa to surf the wave where he fought a great white shark, and he is not alone. He brought Dean Harrington along with him — not as a coach or a trainer, but as a friend. “He just wanted someone to f–k around with over here,” Dean said. “These events always seem so serious — especially after what Mick went through here last year — and I reckon I help keep him loose.”
Friends definitely keep things loose. They also build you up, tear you down and keep you on your toes. The best ones can do it all at the same time.
Mick would go on to win the J-Bay Open, one year after his now famous shark encounter in the exact same lineup.
“I told him to ride that board!” Dean said excitedly, while Mick was riding a victory wave to the rocks, his arms stretched toward the sky. “He thought it was gonna look too small for him but I said, ‘Mate, you can’t be beat on that board. You’re untouchable.’ Reckon he’s glad he listened?”
Absolutely. Because we get by (and sometimes even win CT events) with a little help from our friends.