The North Shore is yawning a Kona wind. Wiping the boogies from its eyes. Stretching its leash on an inshore hold-down. Big black trucks are trolling the Kam Highway with renewed vigor. Everyone’s bearing their tattoos, no one’s wearing shoes anymore and the surf is bathtub warm, tropical blue and pretty-much pumping. And then, suddenly, it’s not just pretty-much pumping, it’s PUMPING. Stripping the summertime buildup of sand from the beach. Tearing the flesh from grommet’s reef-virgin backs. And shaping the waves that will shape our dreams for months to come. Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. Insert circus music HERE.

WHO ARRIVED: With the Triple Crown kicking off at Haleiwa last Friday, the top {{{100}}} seeded WQS surfers from all over the world were all here limbering up and crowding the break with the their game faces on. WCT pros like Andy, Bruce, Sunny and Parko, with heats further into the event, cruised in a bit later, a bit cooler, and avoided the contest site like the plague. Kelly Slater was so cool and collected he missed his flight and didn’t show up at all. Non-contest guys like Shane Dorian and Brian Conley showed up to get some early face-time with the photogs, and ex-contest guys like Brad Gerlach, Dino Andino and Micah Pitts showed up to, uh… hey, what are you guys doing here anyway? Oh yeah, to go surfing.

WHO LEFT: A couple tourists left when they couldn’t find parking anywhere on the North Shore. A couple women pro surfers left for Maui when, following their post-Roxy Pro festivities, there were certain, vaguely-recollected members of the surf community they preferred not to run into anymore. Other than that, everyone else stayed. Why would anyone leave right now? We’re just getting started.

BEST FIRST WAVE: Two weekends ago, Andy Irons paddled out at Off the Wall, maybe four strokes total, spun and tore into the best barrel of the week so far. “So far” being not much to speak of yet, and the weekend’s swell would change that status, but anyway, at the moment, the eager, early-bird photogs were absolutely frothing. Who’s the world champ again? Come on. Say it. That’s right. Andy is. It’s Andy again.

INJURIES: Following his “Best First Wave”, Andy was paddling back out and got totally pitched over with the lip and pinned to the shallow reef bottom. “I just got so f–king worked,” he said, clutching his head and walking home with his broken board. A half-dozen staples in the back of his head later, Andy was right back in the lineup. Myles Padaca pulled a back muscle in the early rounds of the competition and withdrew in serious pain, and Tom Whitaker cut his hand surfing Pipe — but it was just a tiny, little cut. Everyone else here is still waiting to injure themselves. Be patient.

Aussie surfer Heath Walker pulled into a heavy Off the Wall closeout and got absolutely hammered, shoulder-first into the reef. How heavy was it? So heavy his two pro surfer buddies opted to paddle out somewhere else. So heavy the force of the impact on the reef cut his face, broke his collarbone and punctured his lung with a broken rib. Walker could barely swim when he surfaced and, thankfully, Aamion Goodwin responded quickly to get him to shore. Walker was Lifeflighted from Sunset Elementary and is now in stable conditions at the hospital. Wish him a speedy recovery, and remember his wave next time you scoff at medium-looking North Shore barrels. This stuff is for real.

PERFORMANCES: With the early week swell at a minimum, Tom Curren and Mark Cunningham put the frothing grovellers to shame with a sick bodysurfing showdown at Backdoor and Off The Wall. Then, when this weekend’s solid 12 ft. + swell poured in, it was all about Pipe. Or, something like Pipe. With so much sand still on the beach, Pipe is not quite Pipe yet, but it’s getting there. In the meantime, Bruce Irons, Dustin Barca, Bobby Martinez, Brian Conley, Aamion Goodwin, Mark Healy, Jamie {{{Sterling}}}, Kalani Chapman and heaps of others were doing their best Pipe impersonations on the heaving, triple-overhead lefts quickly whipping the famous Banzai Pipeline back into shape.

BACK INTO SHAPE: The Volcom House is at it again, running their poor little grommies up and down the beach in their own surf-y bootcamp. The Program hasn’t quite caught on with other teams yet, but everyone sure enjoys watching the Volcom boys go by. Especially that chubby one in the rear. Look at him sweat. Man, that North Shore sand is tough to run in. What’s for breakfast?

LITTLEST BIG MAN: Was that set just twice as big as all the others, or is that kid only 4 ft. tall? 12-year-old John John Florence is out at macking “pre-Pipe” dropping into some adult-rated bombs. Does this kid have a surf career ahead of him or what?

CLUSTER F–K: Here’s an idea. When you get eliminated from the Haleiwa competition, start surfing Sunset every day to, like, get yourself all in tune for the next ‘QS comp there. Sweet one, aye? Hey wait, how come there’s already {{{200}}} guys out there?

It’s okay, fellas, Sunset doesn’t mind you crowding in, ‘long as you show some respect. That means get out of the way when guys like Garret McNamara, Kala Alexander and Pancho Sullivan come barreling through. And while you’re out there, keep your eyes peeled for Tom Curren mysto sessions too – you’re not the only one who got eliminated early.

IN MEMORIUM: Almost 100 people paddled out at Pipe for the Jason Bogle Memorial on Saturday, Nov. 13, where friends, family and admirers offered remembrance and paid their respects to the beloved North Shore surfer. Afterwards a well-attended gathering of convened at Pete Hodgson’s house to share a tearful slide show, fond toasts and heartfelt songs. Jack Johnson played “On and On”, and just about every surfer around made an appearance at one point or another. “The surfing industry is alive and well,” said a family friend, regarding the outpouring of industry support.

DO YOUR OWN THANG: Nathan Fletcher is a true individual. He seems to prefer surfing the waves nobody else wants to ride. Like the whomping closeouts suckerpunching Off The Wall during the last big swell. He seems to prefer it if nobody is watching too, which is exactly why everyone starts watching when he paddles over to the spot nobody else is sitting at. Sorry, Nathan, but what are you gonna do next?

SITE TO SEE: Aamion Goodwin getting snaked at Pipe by a bodysurfer? What the… ?

NIGHTLIFE: There’s scratch marks on the front door of the Roxy House. Broken fingernails and drool stains. The grommets want in. Who wouldn’t? And the girls, they try to be good. Really they do. Things just sort of… happen, you know. And the front door, well, it’s not the only way in, either. Good thing for women’s surfing that the next contest is on Maui. Those girls are crazy. But what’s even crazier is the way they all just LOVE each other. Like, for example, how second place Rochelle Ballard hosted first place Sofia Mulanovich’s victory party at her house. Can you imagine Kelly hosting Andy’s victory party. Rochy’s house was two girls to every lucky guy in attendence – a North Shore rarity, for sure. Hey, congratulations Sofia. First ever world surfing champion from South America. Right on.

Speaking of world champs, Andy’s 3x World Champ party at the Volcom House was where the serious debauchery went down this week. See’s associated web gallery for a closer look, but don’t bump your face on the computer screen.

CRAZY FRICKIN’ ANECDOTE: Jamie O’Brien is so pissed that the surf’s got good. He’s been out of the water the last couple weeks with a knee injury – “I’m putting in overtime with the ladies though,” he says — and staring out at the rising swell from his porch, staring out at everybody else out there doing his job at Pipe, is starting to make him crazy. On Sunday, he finally snapped, paddled out on a bodyboard and got worked on the inside by a solid set. (Okay, he tea-bagged a couple waves too, but the pummeling was more fun to watch.)