Clinging to The Rock from 12/13/04 – 12/19/04

Last Tuesday night the local TV news people were just freaking out. Calling for 35 to 50 foot conditions all along the North Shore. Preparing for emergency evacuation. Sending their hardcore Geraldo-type reporters toward the front-line hot-spots like Sharks Cove and Waimea Bay. Bracing for impact. And juicing the hype. Meanwhile, the flocks of big-wave riders were waxing their rhinos, tuning up their Skis and calling the buoy reports every hour on the hour. Another Big Wednesday was set to pop, and life on the North Shore was as weird as usual.

WHO ARRIVED/WHO LEFT: This is complicated. See, lots of da guys were starting to go home 'cause their contest season was over, and then that big ol’ swell kicked in. So some people stayed for the swell. Some left to chase it somewhere else. Some came back. Some left AND came back. Some just froze up in place. California surfer Ryan Reagen checked his bags onto his airplane, then decided not to leave (so his bags just left without him). Then the swell started hitting California and some more left, until they heard about a follow up swell in Hawaii and came back. Then the contest finished up and everyone left, except the ones that already lived here, and the ones who had already heard about yet ANOTHER super swell developing on the horizon. Yeah, it’s confusing being a pro surfer, but the frequent flyer miles are sick.

HURLY BURLY: If you weren’t invited to the Eddie, you went somewhere to tow. 50-some Skis were out at Jaws on Maui, but even from the ridiculously crowded bluff, you could always tell when it was Laird-and-crew whipping in: they’re the ones 50 yards deeper than everyone else. Then there were Skis at Outer Logs, Outer Himalayas, Outer Alligators, Outer Outers and Inner Outer Outer inside section. Some amazing rides were going down at spots everyone. Start holding your breath now for the fresh crop of gut-wrenching wipeout sequences we’ll be running in the mag. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is fun to look at.

DAMAGE REPORTS: “Well,” says Triple Crown Director Randy Rarick, heaving a shovel-full of sand over his shoulder. “We planned for the swell to come up, but not as much as it did.” While none of the vital electronics were ruined in the super-swell wash-up, a good deal of Rip Curl’s Pipeline scaffolding was donated to the ocean. The O’Brien house lost their beach-access stairs. Lots of sand was washed up onto the Kam Highway, but beyond that the only real damage was to Jet Skis and egos. Like “Eddie Would Tow” rodeo-man Alec “Ace Cool” Cooke, who bogged a Ski inside the redwood-sized sets at Outer Logs and had to “body surf” his thrill craft into the beach. “Well I learned something out there today,” said Ace, who would later appear on local news hauling his Ski out of the water. “I learned that those wet/dry bags don’t always work.”

INJURIES: Flea took the wipeout of the day at the Eddie. Two of them, in fact. The first one, a lip-launch that will probably live in history, was not nearly as brutal as a less dramatic axe-job he got pulling under the lip, resulting in a busted lip, tweaked knee, rag-doll from Hell and a free ride to the beach. Kieren Perrow took a header into the reef during the Pipeline Super Session, resulting facial lacerations and various other flesh donations. {{{CJ}}} Hobgood injured his shoulder during the same session and had to withdraw from his quarterfinals heat of the Pipe Masters. On a more positive note, Mick Fanning, who dropped off the map after tearing his hamstring earlier in the season, has been seen out in the lineup recently and is training hard to be ready for next year’s tour.

SUPER SESSION OF THE WEEK: As the Big Wednesday super swell faded into something slightly more surfable, something of a classic Thursday super session developed, with Parko, CJ, Curren, Bruce, Nathan Fletcher, Kieren Perrow and heaps of other heavies doing it to it at out Pipe. Somehow, as it seems to have happened over and over again this year, Randall Paulson blew up the Pipe-bomb of the day.

NIGHTLIFE: Bruce soooo wanted to rage after he won the Eddie. But there were heats in the morning and re-qualification to think about, so he kept it cool and mellow. And so did everyone else, in his honor. That is, until he actually did re-qualify. And Sunny won the Triple Crown. And Jamie O’Brien won the Pipe Masters. And the world tour ended. What reason did anyone have NOT to party. So Volcom threw a bash for Bruce, Da Hui hooked it up with Sunny, and Rip Curl had the O’Brien house bumping the beats until a crazy, hair-pulling, nail-slashing, shirt-tearing chick-fight drew the cops somewhere near the dark side of dawn and everyone stumbled home and started packing.

CRAZY ANECDOTE: This year on the North Shore proved that surfing is suddenly cooler than ever. Celebrities from all walks turned up to rub elbows with the surf stars. Like Kirk Hammet, James Hetfield, Robert Trujillo and Lars Ulrich of Metallica hanging with all the boys at the Quik house; Dennis Hopper and his kids cruising with Bob McKnight for the Eddie; “North Shore” actress Brooke Burns hanging around with the Keaulanas at Waimea; and then, right after the Rip Curl Pipe Masters final, Fred Patacchia and Kelly Slater gave surfing lessons with top NASCAR drivers Jamie McMurry and Kasey Kahne. Boy, are we ever cool.

And that’s it. The circus is over. The tents are coming down. The boardbags are packed and strapped to the roof. One last unplanned shmooze-n-booze at the airport and then we’re outta here. The locals can’t wait. Peace and quiet returning to their paradise. No more traffic. Easy parking. Uncrowded lineups. Oh, they just can’t wait to see us gone. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll miss us all being here… if only just a little.

On behalf of the entire surf community who come trampling down on this amazing stretch of coastline for a garish parade of super-sessions and clandestine debauchery, thanks again to the Hawaiian people for their gracious hosting and boundless aloha.

Mahalo, and see you next year.