Unlocked: Torrey Meister’s Gunslinging SEOTY Entry
“Bull-riding is such a great warmup for surfing big waves.”
Torrey Meister is surfing’s truest cowboy.
And I’m not just referring to the bull-riding and country music that have become a signature of his recent edits. While those do make a strong case, his swing-on-anything attitude makes an even stronger one.
Not only does he bag bombs at Backdoor (his father lives on the North Shore) and Jaws, but he also travels to mysto zones around the world just to find more questionable waves to go on. Surprisingly, Torrey actually grew up on the Big Island. Despite being tightly knit with the entire Maui crew, he only moved to Maui last year — though he’s wasted no time in utilizing it’s fantastic air wind.
Torrey’s SEOTY entry ‘Pay Hard’ features more on-brand fearlessness, and was edited just in time for the deadline by his good friend Albee Layer — whose SEOTY entry is unlocked on the site now.
To accompany the clip, we spoke with him about two-wave hold downs, proving himself on the North Shore, and of course, bull-riding.
Stab: You accumulated these clips pretty quickly, right? What was the timeline on putting this edit together?
Everything was pretty recent. Aside from the Pipe clips, most of it was this summer, and the Portugal trip was only three weeks ago.
You seem to have a connection to “The Cave.” You’re one of the few people who consistently surfs it when you’re over there. How’s your experience been at that wave?
It’s a scary wave, but I love it. It’s good a lot more often than it’s surfed, which makes sense. It’s one of those waves where, if you surf it enough, you’re bound to get hurt because it’s just so shallow and gnarly. But, if you don’t fall in the wrong spot you can get some of the best waves you’ll ever get.
Have you ever gotten hurt out there?
No, thank God. Nothing serious yet.
It looks like you’re trying to with those end section airs.
[laughs] Actually, that end section is the safest place. The mid section is the gnarliest. If you get too deep and you fall, that’s when you can get the most hurt. That’s what I’ve heard from people who’ve gotten hurt out there. There have been some horrific injuries — people breaking their backs and stuff — and it always happens in the middle of the wave.
You constantly want to push yourself deeper, because it barrels so hard, but that’s when you’re gonna push yourself too deep. It’s a very fine line between making that wave and ending up in the hospital. I’ve fallen out there a fair bit and I always try not to fall in the middle. I’ve fallen on the drop and gotten pushed out the back or to the left where it’s deeper.
I remember the last session me and Nathan Florence were out there. He fell in the middle and ripped his wetsuit up really badly. It was a gnarly reminder, because sometimes you get a few waves out there and start to think it’s no big deal. I’ve gotten lucky so far.
It seems like one of those waves that’ll never get crowded even though it’s gotten exposure.
That’s the beauty of it. I probably shouldn’t be talking about it, but that wave pretty much delivers its own justice. Every time I look at it I’m scared. There’s a lot of great surfers who don’t surf it, and there’s a reason.
How does surfing Cave compare to surfing Backdoor?
It’s more intimidating. I see a perfect Backdoor wave, and I’m like “Oh my gosh, I want that thing!” If I see a perfect heavy one at The Cave I’m like “Is that doable?” [laughs] I also think that the reef at The Cave is really sharp and barnacle-y, whereas Backdoor is more flat. I hit the reef at Backdoor pretty much every time I surf it. It’s standard.
I saw you surfed that left slab in Portugal on that trip. Are you holding out on some clips from that session?
No, I just didn’t really get any. The boogie boarders out there do some crazy stuff — they go on heavy ones. I ended up getting pretty frustrated, not because of them, just because I didn’t get any good ones.
Was that the day you got the two-wave hold-down?
That was actually the next day. I showed up first thing in the morning, and it wasn’t even good. With that wave, you really want it to be perfect, and it wasn’t. I watched for a while and only saw one that looked doable. I figured there was nobody out, so I might as well give it a try. It was my last day in Portugal, and I wanted to at least get a good vision because the previous session was such a bummer.
I was dumb and paddled out alone without flotation. It breaks really far out, and it’s hard to tell where you are in the lineup. Especially for me, because I’ve barely surfed it and I was out alone. I was lost, and I thought I needed to be deeper. It can give you a roll-in before it starts to grow, but if you’re too far behind you hit a whitewash crumble. I went on that wave thinking I was in the right spot, and as I started to look up, I saw the whitewash. I was like, “Well it’s too late, I’m going. Maybe I can punch through it.” The thing just flicked me off like a flea.
I went up and over, but luckily I got a breath. Then I went the deepest I’ve ever gone on a slab. I could feel that I was going through deeper and deeper shelves of reef. I was thinking, “Wow this is really stupid. There’s a few people on the beach and it would take them 20 minutes to get to me if I drowned right now.” [laughs] And I just kept going deeper. I started climbing my leash and I realized my board was broken. As I was doing that, I felt another surge come over me. I was thinking, “Holy moly, I’ve been under for two waves, this is bad.” After the second one I got pushed up into a deep channel way to the left of the slab.
I came in, my board was broken, and my tail was between my legs. Lived to tell the story though. Wasn’t too bad, my board was overweight so I didn’t get charged on the flight back (laughs).
Pretty funny way to end a trip.
You’ve got some Maalaea clips in the edit as well. Albee had a really frustrating experience out there, what was yours like?
That’s one of those waves I’d always heard uncles talk about. People check it every south swell just in case it’s good. It’s a unicorn. When I heard the uncles talking about it, I sorta figured it was a case of “waves were better back in the day.” When I showed up that day I was baffled. It was everything everyone has ever said and more.
That week I was going on a boat trip with a bunch of boys from Maui, and we were supposed to leave on the biggest day of the swell. But it came early, thank god, and started pulsing the day before we left. I paddled out around 11:30 and surfed all the way til dark — eight hours or something. I probably only caught like five waves, maybe six the whole time. The crowd was crazy, people were frothing. You could get your hands on the bigger sets, whereas the 3-4 foot waves were pretty occupied by people burning each other and frothing out. It was a really cool experience, we thought we were gonna miss the unicorn swell to go to Indo, but then it ended up peaking early.
It’s one of those waves people have been waiting their whole life to surf and it was blown out for sure. The second day — when Albee surfed — looked way more frustrating. The first day there were some proper 10-foot sets that washed people around. The second day looked like the Lowers crowd meets Pipe crowd meets Mavericks crowd.
The bull-riding and country music are pretty impossible to overlook. Have you been bull-riding a lot since your last clip?
Yeah! For this edit I did most of the bull-riding during the summer. I usually try to do that, just because I don’t wanna blow out my whole winter. It’s one of those things — kinda like surfing The Cave — where if you do it enough you’re gonna get hurt. Bull-riding is one of the most wild sports I’ve ever seen. I really love getting out of my comfort zone. It can be a long summer, so it’s nice to get that fear factor going again. I’ve got some friends who are really good at it, it’s sick to tap into how to ride a bull right. I’m still trying to get 8-seconds, man! I’ve done it a couple times but never proper.
Do your bull-riding friends and your surfing friends get along?
For sure. One of my good friends from Maui, Noah Foti, rides bulls and is a really good surfer. He surfs Jaws and he’s insane on a bull. He’s a really good dude, too — he lets me borrow his gear and helps me get better at the sport. It’s tough dealing with the fear of getting on a bull, trying to stay on, and then falling off and running away. The ride’s not over until you’re on the other side of that fence.
Bull-riding is such a great warmup for surfing big waves. Once you’re on a bull, you’re going. It’s not like surfing where you can pull back if you’re not in the right spot. It’s a crazy feeling once you’ve set yourself on the bull. The first couple of swells each year, I go through the fear-factors I’ve had in the pen with the bulls. I think back to that stuff when I’m really scared. It makes me more confident. It’s a crazy theory, but it’s the same feeling to me.
And Albee edited this clip?
Yeah, he did 90% of it, and Dan Norkunas did the rest. I was planning on doing a few weeks in Portugal, and we ended up staying a month and a half. I’d left my hard drive in Maui and I couldn’t edit anything, so I asked him if he could throw something together. He was like, “Yeah I got you, don’t worry about it” and then literally put it together in four days. He’s a great editor and a legend for getting it done for me. I don’t think I would’ve made the deadline without him. I’m stoked, I was all worried about it.
It seems like a lot of the outer island Hawaiian surfers tend to be unashamedly themselves. Do you feel like you’ve had a unique surfing life growing up on a small town in the Big Island?
Especially when we grew up, Maui and the Big Island were pretty under the radar compared to Oahu. I think the outer island guys definitely feel like we have a lot to prove when we go to the North Shore — unless you’re Albee and Matt who never go [laughs]. We all came from such small places where surfing wasn’t known, there wasn’t media there. We had to prove we were good enough to mix it up with those guys. It’s humbling, you know? Surfing was just something we loved doing, we never had family legacies or anything. Maybe it created a unique love for the sport for us.
We all just have our own characters. We’re products of where we’re from, I guess. At the end of the day, when we’re all old we’ll still be heckling each other and surfing and loving it more than ever.
And I’ll still hopefully be riding bulls. [laughs]
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