In the final days and hours of the North Shore's '04-'05 winter season a few dozen of O'ahu's best bodysurfers – considered some of the best watermen in the world - gather at the Pipeline. It's their competitive salute to the world's most famous wave, this is the last contest on the coast until next October. The waiting period's a tight one, a solid eight hours is needed to complete the event. Working against them is March weather's gusty trade winds and late winter showers, so a sloppy windswell chop's running through every surf break from V-land to Haleiwa.
Still, this bodysurf brigade are probably the most stalwart of all surfers – ready to take on any conditions, as long as they could get their "day in the surf," if not the sun. What they got for their patience was one of the last days at Pipeline before spring minis took over.
At the evening awards dinner, Pipeline lifeguard and Director of this year's Ke Kaha Nalu Hanana `O Ehukai (translated: Bodysurfing Gathering at Ehukai), Rick Williams got a good laugh when he offered up the day's event as payback to the contestants "for having to deal with all the surfers and body boarders that mob over Pipe all winter." You wouldn't find an argument coming from this crowd, just cheers, applause and plenty of laughs. They're the first ones to agree they just don't get no respect at the Pipe, hands down one of the most crowded surf breaks in the world, on ANY size swell. And these guys battle 'em all, not for ownership of the joint, mind you, but just for an inch of space. And they pay a high price for what scraps are thrown to them.
Body board and body surfing champ emeritus, Mike Stewart took home the gold for First Place, along with Best Tube ride award. He was followed by Kai Santos, Steve "Too big for lycra" Kapela, Pete Johnson, Kenny Rust, Dave Wassel, and Chris Moore.
SPECIAL AWARDS: Longest Ride went to Santos, Biggest Wave (and a leg full of stitches) awarded to Keola Keahiolalo, 10 Spins in Less than 10 Seconds to BK Holt and finalllly, Overall Best Style to - who would have guessed - Mike Stewart.
A lot of back slapping went on, a much-too-soon open bar STAYED open, with a feast hosted by much appreciated sponsor Quiksilver at the old Proud Peakcock location at Waimea Falls. And through it all Stewart was clutching on to his bottle of champagne with an iron grip, pretty much how he surfed his way to first place and more. These guys have plenty of reason to get crazy and celebrate. Like I said, it's been a long, wet, windy winter, it's time to party down...and think about getting back to day jobs tomorrow. - Bernie Baker