North Shore Week In Reveiw 12.10 to 12.17

It feels like one of those ABC family Christmas specials when the Heat Miser makes it a year without Santa Claus. Can this really be happening? Is the North Shore really not going to deliver for six straight weeks (save a day or two)? One look outside at the trade-rattled, 1-foot Ehukai sandbar, at the desolate stretch of beach and the lack of any significant swell in the forecast, and we are forced to come to terms with it. Yes, Virginia, you are getting a bag of windblown coal this year.

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But just like the Whos down in Whoville, we will not let Heat Misers or Grinches prevent the show from going on. And this past week at the spot formerly known as Pipeline, that's just what the organizers at the Billabong Pipeline Masters did. Yes, the trades were strong enough to blow Reef McIntosh's little dog to the land of Oz. Yes, Sunny created his own windstorm on Neco Padaratz. And yes, Kelly's new format remains a topic of debate - with most surfers backing it in dire situations like this one. Despite all of this, there were a few moments. Kai Otton is scaring us with his Pipe prowess in his rookie year — all that ultra-shallow, South Coast slab training is clearly going to pay off when Pipeline truly turns on. If it ever does. Survivors Phil MacDonald, Freddy Patacchia and Cory Lopez continue to scrap their way back to the elite 27 - heat by nail-biting heat. "I'm already entered in the WQSes next year, so I'm prepared for whatever," said Freddy P. "But it would be nice to get the job done here and avoid all that."

Speaking of jobs, can we have a moment of silence for Mr. Mick Lowe and the Raging Bull, Mark Occhilupo? Both surfed their last official ASP heats this week, and both did it with that emotionally volatile mix of joy and tears. Slabby left tubes, JBay and karaoke bars the world over just won't be the same without them. To remind us all why, Oc joined Donavon Frankenreiter for a set at the North Shore Lifeguard fundraiser/Occy Farewell bash at Waimea Falls on Friday night. Moving only like he knows how to move, pants well below his waist, Oc put a finger to one ear and belted out a version of {{{Van}}} Morrison's "It Stoned Me." As Simon Cowell might say, he clearly "made it his own." Check a sampling of Occy's lyrics (copyright pending):

"Half a mile from the cuhuh fair
And the rain keep hadda down
Me and Dono standin' there
With a dadda dadda down
Hands are full of........yeah
And the mmhmm on our backs
We just stood there gettin wet
With the rain...........uh...mmm

Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Oh, the water

And it stoned me to my soul......"

Like we said, never the same. But the boys were there in full force to cheer him on, migrating from the Billabong house to the former Gerry Lopez now Volcom house to Waimea Falls in an all-day affair "on the piss." At least, the boys who were able to get through the Secret-Service like security at the gate. Apparently, Parko forgot his special wristband and spent a good 20 minutes trying to pass. Finally, someone from "the inside" was alerted and they slid him through. Then came 2007 world champ Mick Fanning's turn, also late and without crucial wristband. Here's his account: "So I pull up, and they're denying us. We don't have any wristbands and (his fiancee) Carissa finally goes to me, 'You just have to say it.' I'm like, 'I don't want to say it; you say it.' Finally, I just did it. 'But I'm the champ!' I told security. And they're, like, 'Oh, brah, the champ! Come on in.' I swore I would never do that, but I gotta say; it works."

So, Parko got in. The Champ got in, and while they were there they joined their crew in trying to get Luke Egan to commit to 15 pushups. "I'm not falling for it tonight, boys. Maybe tomorrow," he said. Why? It's a game called "mine" started by some Aussie grom. And once you commit, you're commited for life. The gist of it is, if you can get one of the "players" to say "mine" under any circumstance, he has to drop and do 15 pushups wherever he is. They got Luke Steadman's dad, Shane, at Leis Leis the other night and he dropped and did 15 in between courses. Tommy Whitaker nailed Troy Brooks out at {{{Rocky}}} Point and he paddled in, did his 15, and paddled back out. The game's kind of contagious - especially since it's been so flat. Whose computer are you using right now? Gotcha.

If you haven't noticed yet, we're not writing much about the action in the water. In fact, we could write paragraphs about Jamie O's Etnies sandal launch party at the Pipeline Caf last night, but only a few words about the surf. That's because, besides a 6- to 8-foot afternoon at Sunset and some pulses at V-Land, there hasn't been much. But here's the thing: even when it's "flat" on the North Shore, even when the winds are howling and the northeast trade swell is whipping around the corner, you can have fun. Surf three times a day. Get all your stuff done and feel like a healthy, responsible citizen. Hawaii's that good. Even when it's bad.

Take today's impromptu event, for example. What started as a harebrained idea between surfboard shaper Sean Jensen and his son quickly turned into a star-studded affair and one of the highlights of the week on the North Shore. The idea: get a bunch of groms together, rally up some pros, draw names out of hat and make them switch boards. After a couple calls and with the Pipe Masters on hold, the event escalated into a full-on scene, complete with appearances by Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith, Pat O'Connell, Ace Buchan, Troy Brooks, John John Florence, Dede Suryana, Dillon Perillo and Kahea Hart. Groms from all over the North Shore showed up to swap boards with their favorite surfers. A drawing was done to determine the board trade and left some very under-gunned pros in the lineup at Ehukai sandbar. Jordy Smith found himself on a 5'1" while mini-grom Kalani David was paddling around Jordy's massive 6'3" craft. With Sunday-size crowds on the beach, many tourists in town hoping to see the Pipeline Masters got a consolation prize in the exhibition that brought out a crowd way bigger than expected. "We came up with this idea yesterday morning," said organizer Sean Jensen. "We have to do it again next year. It could be huge." And the crowd on the beach was huge. "I looked in towards the beach and I thought I was in the Pipe Masters," said Kahea Hart. Kelly Slater was a little disappointed with Pat O'Connells luck, however. "Pat's grom board had the same dimensions as his normal board," he said. By the end, a bunch of groms walked away with free loot from Hurley, Nixon, Billabong and the opportunity to have a shred on their heroes' boards. Like we said, even when it's bad it's good.

Stephanie Gilmore knows that. The 19-year-old rookie from Coolangatta is on the North Shore this weekend, doing her victory lap after winning the Billabong Pro Maui and the world title in the process. We knew a world title was inevitable for Happy Gilmore, but maybe not this soon. "I was really worried about that," said Steph today. "Winning the title at 19 and wondering, 'What next?' But at the end of the day, winning just feels really, really good. And I want to keep doing it." Prepare for many more wins from the new face of women's surfing.

And with that, we might just cut this one short. End this long, bizarre season early and go where we know Santa will deliver: home.

PS: To all visiting pros who are doing the same, Mark Cunningham has a message for you. If your boardbag is stuff and you still have a couple boards leftover, please donate them to the Pro Board Benefit for Jeannie Chesser. On January 19, they will be holding an auction at Waimea Falls. All proceeds will go to assist Jeannie Chesser in her battle against cancer and help defend Oahu's Coalition's fight against the Turtle Bay expansion plan. For more, contact Mark Cunningham at 808-224-2626 or email:

As always, thanks to all the locals who put up with this mad production every year. Normalcy (and, we imagine, swell) is just around the corner.[Car Rentals provided by Advantage Rent A Car.

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