April Issue 2009 Surfing Magazine

By Evan Slater

I'd like to think that as the economy gets worse, people get better. I'm sure there's a mathematical formula for it somewhere - one that shows how diminishing returns are somehow inversely proportional to expanding heart size. But for proof in the surf world, we don't need to search any further than the North Shore.

If it were a financial institution, the North Shore of Oahu would undoubtedly be the New York Stock Exchange, where fortunes are made or lost in a single wave. Where it's all about heavily investing early in the hopes of a big payoff in the future. Where it's all about getting yours - even if it's at the expense of someone else.

But this year, after I spent a good two weeks in the trenches during a non-stop run of swells in late November, it seemed as if the Wild West got a good dose of Eastern philosophy. It could have been the fact that our precious natural resource was in abundant supply, with a handful of big Pipe days and Outer Reef swells and hundreds of surfed-out cowboys. Maybe it was because Gerry Lopez made his rounds this year on a SUP, casting a mellow spell on us with his magic paddle. But I'm pretty sure it comes down to this: the less we have, the more we appreciate. And the more we want to give.

In North Shore terms, this doesn't necessarily mean coughing up tons of money (unless you're renting a beachfront house at Pipe); it simply means putting others ahead of Number One. Instead of stuffing yourself silly on Thanksgiving, maybe it's following the Hobgoods, Ben Bourgeois and {{{Sterling}}} Spencer's lead and going to a local mission to feed the hungry. Instead of winning at all costs, maybe it's taking a page from Jordy Smith's playbook, who gave up his board to Sunny Garcia in the dying minutes of their Sunset heat after Garcia broke his back-up board and needed just a 2.5 to advance. And instead of indulging in three more hours of perfect, Second Reef Pipe, maybe it's doing what most of the Pipe guys did on the afternoon of the Eddie Aikau opening ceremony: they headed down to Waimea, honored our fallen heroes and listened to the wisdom of guys like Billy Mitchell, Titus Kinimaka and Mark Cunningham. As Kelly Slater said, referencing one of Mitchell's sermons, "If you are breathing, you are wealthy."

There are dozens of other instances - Kamalei Alexander and crew taking a group of kids with cystic fibrosis surfing. Rochelle Ballard keeping breast cancer awareness on the frontburner. Even all those creepy mustache dudes had the right idea. The point is this: if it can happen on the North Shore, it can happen in any lineup. Think of it as a better way to pay your dues.