Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For......Pipe!

Well the surf never materialized last Tuesday - that day I said I’d pack up the books and camp out at the beach all day. It materialized on Friday - the day I had my oral examinations for entrance into the PhD program at 10am. The exam lasted an hour and at the end of it I received two “high passes,” which means that I am now a PhD candidate in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. It also means that I can start asking them for more money (as it is the New School has horrible funding for grad students, but the education is unexcelled - it’s a battle-picking issue). On any normal day I would have headed straight to the beach to celebrate, but this wasn’t a normal day. R. and I had to leave for Miami early the next morning and still had gifts to buy for the in-laws, clothes to pack, errands to run, and I had to be at the waiting tables gig at 4:30pm. Just before work, around 3:45pm, I looked at the Lincoln cam on Surfline and watched a guy pitch a perfect trim across a stealthy little left hander and sighed. But with this test out of the way and the trip to Miami behind me I am now geared to be on the next pulse - if one comes (last winter was surprisingly flat).

Friday was also the final day of the Vans World Cup of Surfing (total misnomer) at Sunset Beach, and man did they score. It was 8-12 feet all day and seemed to turn on most for the final heat. I didn’t get to pay very close attention to the Sunset action, as I was sneaking peaks on the AspTogo app on my iPhone at work, but after the shift I sat down with the heat analyzer. I had an intuition that John Florence would take it and that turned out to be true - he was clearly on fire at Haliewa and if you’ve been watching pro surfing at all in the past three years you would have seen his first few goes at the Pipe event - this kid can read a Hawaiian wave like Dick Bernstein can read Hannah Arendt. All bets are on him to win Pipe.

I have surfed Pipe once. I was living on the North Shore in the late winter of 2000/early spring of 2001, just coming off a broken wrist - I had been in a cast from June to November of 2000 (the damn thing refused to heal - I am pretty sure it was because I was vegan at the time). I went over to Hawaii with a friend from growing up who turned out to be a total creep and a wuss when it came to bigger waves - pretty much the worst combination ever. On the brighter side, I was staying in front of V-land with some wackos including this gnarly bodyboard lady, Carol, and her convict boyfriend (whom the FBI ejected from the house one night when we were all sitting up playing cards). Hmm, that’s not quite bright. Well I had a blast surfing V-land. Mason Ho was about 10 at the time, already wearing a gold chain, sporting a funny fro, and shredding. Perry Dane scowled around the line up and visiting pros stopped by frequently to do enormous floaters over the inside bowl (namely a young Dane Reynolds). As I said, my surf bro at the time was a total wuss and I was coming off this injury so charging Sunset and just checking out some heavier North Shore stuff wasn’t happening for me that year. I surfed Rockies and Ehukai and some stuff in between there, but mostly camped out at V-land. Carol offered to take me out to Pipe one day though and I took her up on the offer. It was only 3-4 foot and very shifty. I didn’t really know where to sit - and was wearing a wrist brace. I caught an insider (no barrel) and turned around to have the biggest set of the morning (a rogue 5-6 footer) looming above my head. I had watched Pipe a number of times and no one tries to duckdive - you just ditch. I ditched my board, popped under water, opened my eyes and saw only reef. It was about 2 feet deep and it looked like I had nowhere to go. Then I started swimming along the bottom when I heard a crack louder than bombs above my head. Seriously this might have been the most frightening sound I’ve ever heard. I felt the power near my legs and thought, “I made it,” when all of a sudden a finger of whitewater picked up my stick-skinny body (still vegan at the time) and pulled me over the falls, pile driving me back into the reef heel first. From there the wave proceeded to hold me down on the reef scrubbing me like a kitchen sponge on a pot that has oatmeal stuck to the bottom. I came up spitting water and another wave broke on my head. My leash snapped from this one and I had to swim in with my gimp arm. Once on the beach I noticed I had a nice chunk of flesh taken out of my heel and some lovely scrapes on my thigh (thank god I was wearing shorts and not just a bathing suit as Carol had suggested). And that was my first and last time out at Pipe. I have been back to Hawaii once or twice since then, but have never been in the right mindset to give Pipe another go. It’s a shame because if I’ve ever felt ready or skilled or confident enough to hold my own on the North Shore it would be now - now that I’m not trying so damn hard to be a pro surfer. Ironic, yes, and the reasons comprise an entirely different blog post regarding my personal relationship to pro surfing and the surf industry. But enough of that dark matter. I have surf Pipe - I got my ass handed to me on a small day, which serves to show that the people that rip and charge it are on another level all together. (A small disclaimer for myself: I surfed Ocean Beach for ten years after this Pipe incident. Again, a shame I never gave the whole North Shore thing another whirl, but c’est la vie.) I love watching that wave and would sit there many times on my stay(s) at the North Shore when it was 8-12 feet on the second reef. I remember being impressed by Kieren Perrow, Ross Williams, and that Japanese dude Takayuki Wakita (I think that’s his name). And I still like to watch the webcasts - I have distinct memories of every Pipe event since they’ve been running the tour online. The most memorable to me was the year Kelly won on a 5’9” in brown barrels against Chris Ward. That was perhaps the most mental performance I’ve ever witnessed in a surfing competition.

And so Pipe......“the most respected wave in the world”.........the final event of the highly chaotic 2011 ASP World Tour, is finally upon us. The event starts tomorrow morning, with a first call at 8am Hawaiian time (1pm EST). A good NW swell is on the forecast and rumor has it that the swell that graced Sunset Beach took some much needed sand off of the reef. I have a funny fantasy surf team for this event, but I’m sticking to my guns: Wright, Slater, Wilson, Medina, J.O.B., Florence, Patacchia, and Parko. The most uncanny picks are Wright, Wilson, and Medina, but the thing is with fantasy surfer you’ve got to get a core team that you believe will excel in any event and these guys, plus Slater are my core team. Not only that but Wright and Wilson have already shown us that they have what it takes in thumping pits (Teahupoo and Portugal), and with Medina, well, I’m giving it a go just for the hell of it. Slater is a no-brainer - with 11 world titles, a tube sense beyond belief, and enough confidence to cure an entire ward of clinically depressed individuals, he’s definitely the man to beat. As for wildcards, I only picked J.O.B. (Jamie O’Brien) because according to himself and to everyone else he is an undisputed Pipe Prince. He and John Florence are two white Hawaiians who grew up on the North Shore and have channeled all the native mana from from the mountains, sand, and sea. Same thing for Bruce Irons. Beyond their pipe skills all three have crazy smooth styles. I’ll be rooting for Bruce, for sure, unless of course he lines up against someone on my team. Everyone is pulling for him, especially since this event, like Teahupoo, is dedicated to the memory of his brother, the late great A.I.. Then there’s my other two picks, Fred and Parko. Hard to bet against either of them in Hawaii. Until this year Parko’s won three triple crowns in a row. Also I’ve been noticing a fire in Fred that I think might just be able to build enough momentum to take the whole house down - at least I hope this is the case. At any rate, Fred can surf both Pipe and Backdoor, and is a necessary Hawaiian stalwart on the ASP World Tour. I would love to see him and John in the final. That would be epic.

Now I must get back to the things that need taking care of: editing papers for the journal I publish at school (editorial meeting at 1pm today), reading Freud, writing papers, and going to pick up the car from the mechanic in Long Island (little issue with burning oil - nothing too major). You can bet I’ll have the live webcast minimized with sound off whenever the event’s on GO, unless of course I happen to be at work or surfing. The forecast out here for the next week is pretty grim, however, but I’ll maintain my watchful eye. Until next time, stay stoked! -D

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