Life on the Rock, 12/7/04 to 12/13/04

Jesse Billauer just got to the North Shore in time for his next display of heroics: a quest to get a barrel. Look for him way back at Pipe or Sunset. After sitting out the first two Hawaiian events on the Gold Coast, Aussies Luke Egan and Danny Wills showed up a couple of days before the Pipe waiting period. Willsy took advantage of a solid West swell last Wednesday, picking off a few gems during a late-afternoon Haleiwa session. “I planned on coming earlier,” he said, “but I kept calling over here and they said to stay put. Hopefully this swell is a sign of things to come.” Sunset shivered when it heard that its boss, Gary “Kong” Elkerton raged into town with his 3D fin. And in case you were wondering, the seas still part for Gerry Lopez wherever he paddles out. In town to bless this year’s Rip Curl Pro Pipeline Masters, Gerry also put in some hours at Haleiwa while the Pipe trials ran. Backside, frontside… it doesn’t matter. It’s still a cakewalk for the Master.

Last week, we told you Flea was about to bail in hopes of scoring a giant swell nailing Maverick’s on Thursday. He did just that, pulling into a couple of giant ones from way back. Garrett McNamara and his partner, Ikaika Kalama, also jumped ship and scored vaulted-ceiling tube time at Mav’s, as well as North Shore visitors Peter Mel and Anthony Tashnick. Dorian’s near miss in the Pipe Trials was also his cue to go swell-chasing in California, as he and Benji Weatherley bolted to the Central Coast…to find the swell a little too north for its liking.

Howling onshores and tattered north swell made for a few off days this week, but surfers still put themselves in harm’s way. We should have seen at least a dozen injuries as Healey, Marcus Hickman, Tom Dosland and a handful of others let it fly over the ledge. Dosland earns the biggest “Nine Lives” award, as he freefell down a solid, 10-foot, top-to-bottom Backdoor barrel into oblivion. “That guy’s my new hero,” said Kelly Slater, looking on in horror. He wasn’t exaggerating. Dosland came up laughing from a situation that would have had anyone else crying on the beach. Aussie Dean “Hazza” Harrington wasn’t laughing when he dislocated his shoulder in an Off the Wall closeout the day before, forcing him to cut his trip short. “Never felt pain like that before in me life,” he said, as he tried to pack his boards with one arm. And local Rory Parker had to be helped from the water at V-Land when someone nailed him at full speed. No word on the extent of his injuries.

One of the more heated discussions of the North Shore season went down this past week amongst the elite ASP Top 45. The subject: next year’s wildcard picks. Each year, the surfers get to play God and grant three “injury wildcards” to deserving surfers for next year’s tour. From this season, two were obvious: Mick Fanning, whose near career-ending groin injury should finally be on the mend come March. And Shea Lopez, whose disastrous floater in the 2003 Pipe Masters cost him a year’s worth of knee rehabilitation. But for the third and final golden ticket, it came down to Chris “Davo” Davidson and Shane Beschen. Davo severely cut his foot on some glass in the Margaret River event competitor’s area, and Besch injured his knee at Kirra, right after his heat at the Quik Pro in France. Both surfers pled their cases before the jury, stating why they should be given another shot. According to witnesses, it got emotional. But in the end, Beschen got the nod by one or two votes, even with guaranteed-supporters Sunny Garcia, Andy Irons and Kalani Robb MIA. “You don’t know what this means to me,” said Beschen the next day. “I’ve been granted another life.”

There weren’t many this week, aside from Pipe during the Rip Curl Code STL trials and Haleiwa on the same day. After the contest, rush hour happened all over again, as 40 Pipe specialists all tried to grab one. Just before dark, Cory Lopez blew out of the “biggest spit of the year” — big enough to shower a screaming Kelly Slater from the shoulder. Earlier that day, a Haleiwa super session went down, led by Slater, Benji Weatherley, Pat O’Connell and then an entire footie team of Aussies. According to Weatherley, it was “as good as it gets.”

The North Shore will rob you blind. Just ask the Aussie Quik crew staying across the street from Off the Wall, who were upstairs last Thursday night telling ghost stories when two or more cat burglars crept into the downstairs bedrooms, unscrewed the light bulbs, then lifted a couple of laptops and ipods before someone entered the black room. As soon as Troy Brooks fumbled for the light, the thieves bolted. According to Quik International’s John Shimooka, “Oh, we’ll catch ’em. And when we do, they’re never going to steal from us again. Trust me.” A word to the wise: lock ’em or lose ’em — even when you’re home.

So, ah, apparently, “this guy” — we probably shouldn’t say who, — comes over to Hawaiian charger Rico Jimenez and asks if he’ll put some music on his iPod for him. Rico, happy to help, takes the iPod from him, plugs it in and sees: “Occy’s iPod.” Uh-oh. So Rico loads no music, flips out his cell, drops the dime to some North Shore regulator types and, uh, well, things got regulated. After incidents of thievery at the Quik house, the Billabong house, the Red Bull house and even the Surfer house, it was about friggin’ time. People who don’t understand this place might whine and complain about North Shore thuggery, but the fact of the matter is, as much as it’s grown up, aspects of this place are still very much the wild, wild west, and sometimes it takes a couple cowboys in black hats (make that, black shorts) to restore order.

Following a couple of windblown “down days,” everyone was pretty much frothing when a clean, medium-sized windswell started lighting up spots. A bit of a super session kicked in a Off The Wall, with Occy, Curren, Slater, Andy, Parko and pretty much just about everyone else listed on the back of your favorite surf video out there and amping. Which means, at the same, the photogs were amping, lined up like a firing squad on the raised bluff of a sandbar. So Bruce Irons drops into a nice one, but the thing closes out and everyone takes their fingers off the trigger. Too bad, coulda been a good one. {{{Eight}}} seconds later, Brucie comes flying out of the barrel. No one even saw him back in there, and no one got the shot.

When the swell’s away, da boys will play. This week had too much good times to even get into it. Highlights included Friday night’s Rip Curl Pipeline Masters Kickoff Party and North Shore Lifeguards Benefit at Waimea Falls, featuring a well-endowed surfboard auction (someone dropped $7100 for a classic Dennis Pang gun) and Tom Curren providing the jams. Curren, accompanying himself on a foot-pedal drum, was joined by Kelly Slater and Adam Tople for a couple of Curren originals. Gerry Lopez made a moving speech. Tahitian and Hawaiian dancers’ moving made everyone speechless. And a good time was had by all. Saturday saw Volcom’s “Punk on the Rock” party raging from early afternoon until, well, early evening (damn all-ages shows!), with bands like Guttermouth and ASG bringing down the house at the Pipeline Caf in Honolulu. Aside from those events, there were heaps of barbecues up and down the seven-mile miracle. “We’re all just hunkered down and waiting for this swell,” said Mick O’Brien (Jamie’s dad) at a Red Bull house barbie. “We might as well be waiting for it together.”

They’ve been mumbling things like, “The Mother of All Storms.” Whispering rumors like, “I heard a smaller storm broke off from the Mother, but then the Mother grew and swallowed it back up.” It’s Monday morning and it’s ten foot plus at Pipe. Too big to run the contest and the boys in the water are scratching for the outside. Bombs just stacked to the horizon. And this isn’t even “The Swell.” This is the one before it. The Swell is forecast for Wednesday. The Eddie is set to Go, if it’s not too big for Waimea (yikes!). There’s an army of Jet Skis assembling at Jaws. North Shore residents are bracing for impact. There could be serious damage. There could be houses washed away. There could be bigger waves than anyone’s seen in years. Or it could all just be hype. All we can do is wait and see. And as Mick said, we might as well be waiting for it together.

Stay tuned. The swell is coming up.