Life on the Rock from 11/28-12/05

WHO ARRIVED: If you ain’t here by now, chances are you ain’t coming. The rest of the missing ‘CT contingent showed up over the weekend, just in time to feel the spray from Andy Irons’ victory champagne bottle. Taj Burrow looked especially crisp on Friday from a long, West Oz to Honolulu plane flight. But he did manage to join Andy for a beer or three at the Billabong house. Other big-wave dudes arrived to pay their respects during the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau opening ceremony. Peter Mel and Flea jumped over from Santa Cruz, while Carlos Burle flew in from Brazil. Don’t expect Flea to stick around long, though. He’s already checking a forecasted Nor Cal swell for late next week. “I’d way rather be over there than over here,” he said. (Mel and Anthony Tashnick followed suit on Saturday, barely making their flight to SF.) And if you’re down with Dogtown, a few of the legends turned up this week to skate a new kidney pool up behind Off the Wall. Tony Alva, Nathan Pratt and jumpin’ Jay Adams have been all over the coping, making us forget — briefly — about this depressing, five-day flat spell.

WHO LEFT: Bobby Martinez left as quickly as he came after a disappointing showing at Sunset. Fellow Santa Barbaran Tom Curren, after charming Off the Wall with his quiver of Black Beauties, made one last drum solo in the Rip Curl house before returning to his family. He then came back to the North Shore five days later with his clan in tow, and logged in a few sessions on a space-age 5’2″ disk shaped “for his sons.” “I rode one for a couple of waves at Rockies,” said Rob Machado. “And you know what? It felt pretty good.” Shane Dorian retreated to the Big Island for a few days to escape the horrendous trades and dying swell. And, after a strong showing at Sunset and a questionable call in the Round of 32, Aussie charger Dan Ross high-tailed it for home. “There’s nothing left for me here this year,” said the WQS battler. “It’s time to go home a bit early and have a proper Christmas.” With the 2004 World Qualifying Series now officially over, we suspect a lot of his fellow competitors will be doing the same.

INJURIES: When a crowded, semi-closed-out day at Pipe happens, you know someone’s getting stitches. Mark Healey showed up at the SURFING house the next day with a good bit of gauze wrapped around his left hand. “I was sick of sitting, so I went on a closeout,” he said. “Got thrown around a bit underwater, then raked across a sharp bit with my hand. It put some pretty good slices in me, but I’ll be ready by next swell.” The other stitch recipient was Reef MacIntosh, who had a Pipe-wipe knee-flapper that wins “Gauge of the Week”. A couple of other late-night revelers — including new WCTer Chris Ward — may be feeling a little sore after engaging in some drunken, hand-to-hand combat outside the Billabong house.

SUPER SESSION: Andy Irons starts off with some touch and feel at Backdoor; scoops a nice slot and that’s good. It’s around 8:30 a.m. Cats are just grabbing a stretch. Yesterday was better but the champ was missing; now with a sideshore blowing, keeping out the crowd, he’s on it. Brother must know something we don’t. Around 8:40 he slips over and “into” Off the Wall--a sidewinder, grow-bowl to soul daddy flyaway. That’s all it takes to hearken Sunny Garcia and Joel Parkinson to the mix. And what we see next is a Super Session of boogie down proportions. From 9 to 9:30 these dudes turned the cast-covered, windswept, yawn-inducing lineup to solid gold. And especially in one 10-minute stretch, as the world’s numbers one and two trade six sweet shacks in a row, with the champ finally bringing the cold, hard steel in a slip-brake to unstoppable seven seconds in the spinning fold.

THE ZONE: Think he’s feeling any pressure? With Bruce Irons needing a quarterfinal finish or better at Pipe to stay in the WCT family, you’d think he’d be sweating about the upcoming Rip Curl Pipeline Masters. Not Bruce. The younger Irons casually arrived last Monday afternoon after a holiday turkey binge on Kauai. With a few 8-foot Pipe sets bending into the sandbar, he lazily waxed up, sauntered down to the shore...and stood tall in two of the deeper backside pits of the day. A few others were back there with him: Tamayo Perry howled out of a late-afternoon screamer, while Takayuki Wakita made an impossible section from way back there in the helmet zone. Speaking of which: Kieren Perrow braved a “Chesser Day” at Off the Wall earlier that morning, scraping into a huge one before breaking his board on Wave Two. Don’t follow him out: he likes it dangerous. Aside from 10-foot Monday, there have been few moments outside the contest. Rockies would be great if we were still into chop hops. Off the Wall’s been hacked up with howling trades and Gas Chambers — yes, Gas Chambers — is receiving the brunt of the marginal, west/northwest swell. Good thing there’s a good list of holiday movies to choose from. In fact, the most serious surf addicts are getting their fill in Town of all places, as a late-season South is perking up everywhere from Bowls to Diamond Head.

NIGHTLIFE: Stakes are high on the North Shore, and not just in the lineup. Poker chips have replaced clubs and guitars as pro surfing’s favorite diversion, and top guys are anteing up. Big time. In an impromptu face-off at the O’Neill house, Kelly Slater bet it all against Ventura kid Kellen Ellison. But the young wildcard had the better hand, giving him an impressive ${{{900}}} Haagen Dazs budget. A couple of nights later, Slater and crew again pressed their luck in a Quiksilver charity poker tournament for the North Shore lifeguards. That didn’t prevent the gambling fools from placing their own side bets, which allowed Jake “Snake Eyes” Paterson to collect the $1600 pot and a portable DVD player. Thursday’s Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau ceremony had no betting involved, but there was plenty at stake. Namely: a huge prize purse and the honor of winning the most prestigious big-wave event in the world. Now in its 20th year, “The Eddie” remains the biggest goal for any aspiring big-wave rider. And the legends continue to attend to pay their respects. As long as you ignored the cheesy nighttime soap “North Shore” actors joining in the circle, you could have marveled at the long lineage of accomplished watermen young and old, from North Shore hellman Mark Healey to Kauai godfather Titus Kinimaka to Waimea soldier Roger Erickson to North Shore pioneer Mickey Munoz. No amount of Hollywood stars will ever outshine this crew. And what’s the North Shore without a good barbecue? Especially when it’s at Andy’s house. At the conclusion of the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset, Andy said: “Since me, Parko and Occy are all staying at the same house, I imagine we’re going to have a pretty good barbecue tonight.” He made good on his promise with a medieval rager that lasted well into the graveyard shift. Andy then followed it up last night, with a formal “World Title” dinner and party at Waimea Falls Park. After a touching speech from Derek Ho and some inspiring words from the champ himself, the party really got started. At around 8 a.m. today, it was still going.

CRAZY FRICKEN’ ANECDOTE: The North Shore is raw. There’s a New Jack City vibe with pushers and junkies and all, so that means you get a few heads on the “Ice.” And of course that doesn’t mix with a bunch of rich, pro surfers showing up -- living large. So house parties go down, and house parties get ripped off. Case in point: from the huge rage at the Billabong house for Andy’s Sunset win go two iPods, wetsuits and other goodies to some hearty midnight runner’s merry sack. Then there’s Mark Healey’s tale of the older woman he finds rummaging his crib. She’s just looking for the party next door. Oh, and his roommate, Jesse Merle-Jones’, wallet for any late night beer runs. (Which is returned at the long end of an exciting police chase.) Yes, this is a wild and crazy place from the lineup at Pipe to the next time you leave the house unguarded. Just ask SURFING photo editor Steve Sherman now missing his phat, Wu-banga’-style Oakley boots. “I can’t believe it!” he said. “Who’d steal a stinky pair of some guy’s fricken’ boots?” — Go SURFING