North Shore Underground: The Storm Before the Calm

North Shore Underground

“Outlook through Friday Dec 17: surf will remain below advisory levels on all shores through the outlook period.”

Bad news bears from the keyboard of Pat Caldwell, Oahu’s most trusted surf forecaster. For midwinter in Hawaii, it’s pretty unusual; for stakeholders in the Billabong Pipe Masters (waiting period ends 12/20), it’s straight alarming. But even non-competitors (like the Vans x SURFING North Shore Underground team) have been stuck with an idle sea.

Which made last week’s north swell here all the more precious. We inquired about the underground boys’ plans when the buoys first began bouncing, and by Wednesday it was all hands on deck. Everyone in the Country rushed to tear shit up before the storm did, with strong wind and rain by late in the week.

“Outlook through Friday Dec 17: surf will remain below advisory levels on all shores through the outlook period.”

Marcus Hickman had a trilogy of minor shockers. He was second alternate in the Pipe Masters and, after Jamie O’Brien pulled out with a broken arm, Marcus was one spot from the jersey -- but nobody else ghosted and Marcus, again, was shut out of the one event he cares most for. Mmmm, sweet like cigarette cereal. Then his board-mounted GoPro camera was ripped off at Log Cabins -- not by a meth-wreck fiend like the one who broke into the SURFING house, but by Log Cabins itself. The wave.

“The camera ripped off my board in the barrel,” Marcus says easily, like waves just do that. “I got a really good one right before, and I was about to go in because the battery was almost dead. Next barrel, I went over a bump and got bucked off. Came up and the camera was gone. It’s all good, I can’t surf now anyway ’cause of my knee.”

His knee! Shocker No. 3: gaffed to the bone by an errant fin, leaving a bill for nine stitches in its wake.

“Backyards was all time. I got some good ones before and I was thinking I was gonna surf all day, but right after that I cut my knee. Emergency room, everything. That was about the same time that guy [Luke Kennedy, Editor of Australian surf magazine Tracks] cut his throat.”

So it could have been worse, knock wood. (Heal up Luke, and best wishes.) And Marcus is not one to mope. His MD prescribed two weeks out of the water and Marcus shot back, “What about snow?” He’s mulling a Big Island trip to snowboard the Mauna Kea summit in the next few days.

Sion Milosky had a more relaxed approach. He was nowhere near the Pipe Master invite list, but he still showed up at the Oakley house Wednesday morning to play cheerleader.

“I wasn’t even planning on surfing,” says Sion.

“I wasn’t even planning on surfing,” says Sion. “I was just gonna go watch all my friends and support them, and ended up -- you know how it goes -- ended up firing up the barbecue, next thing you know the boys had some beers, next thing you know started making some Bloody Maries. One thing led to another, having some fun, watching the boys from the porch.”

But that porch looks west toward Rockpile too, where Sion noticed a crowd sitting on the inside suck-up bowl and missing the outside sets. He grabbed his biggest board at the house, a 7’6″, and paddled way out the back for a quick sesh. In and out, just a couple of waves, satisfied.

As for the other boys: Mikey Bruneau was working, while Hank Gaskell and Ola Eleogram slipped off to Maui for a Bear Grylls surf odyssey (full story on the way). Soon the weather turned south, the wind turned south, TVs turned on, and surfers dove for a couch. Some were extra keen and went snooping around the East Side, but for most, the storm meant a welcome opportunity to not surf big perfect warm-water waves all day. ‘Cause that shit is a draaaaaaaag.

But wait…where are the images for this post?

As you can see, ace SURFING photographer Jimmicane was swamped shooting the Pipe Masters on Wednesday. But then some icer stole his hard drive and he couldn’t send the…wait a minute.