A Photo Sequence We Couldn't Help But Share - Stab Mag
"People talk shit [about towing], but I have nothing to prove I just want to get barreled." - Billy Hopkins Photos by Jeff Perez

A Photo Sequence We Couldn’t Help But Share

Yes it’s a step-off, and no we don’t care.

Words by Michael Ciaramella

You might remember the name Billy Hopkins.

A Huntington Beach kid with more style than a silk kimono and little interest in appeasing judges in a tower. Rather than chase the QS, Billy committed his life to traveling and finding the best waves the world has to offer. He says Indo takes the cake, but this recent wave south of the US border must have forced him to reconsider.

We surf our whole lives for this very moment. Photo: Jeff Perez

And before you say it, yes, we’re very aware this is a step-off. That doesn’t make the tube itself any less spectacular, or as some of the locals at this particularly hallowed beach break put it, “The best wave [we’ve] seen ridden here in a long time.”

And for the record, Billy’s no stranger to paddling. Back in 2016—California’s widely trumpeted El Niño season—Billy slipped through an absurdly heavy frontside tub before cartwheeling his way into internet virality. You remember, don’t you?

Anyway, we shot Bill a few questions about this wave, and whether or not a PWC-assisted tube counts the same as paddling.

When this is the result, does it really matter how you got there? Photo: Jeff Perez

Stab: When was this, and who were you with?
Billy Hopkins: This was on Monday December 11th with a longtime friend Ryan Turner who’s like an older brother to me.

The North Pacific has been having a wild winter, was this day pretty special or just another pumping day of surf?
The 20/21 winter has been the best we’ve had in probably ten years. I can’t remember the last time we had back-to-back swells and conditions like this. When you see the buoys off of southern CA get above 15ft, you know there’s going to be a lot of swell. We don’t get to see those numbers down here too often…

How’d you make the decision to use a ski? Did you paddle at all this day?
Once we pulled up to the beach break and saw a set, I knew right away that we were going to be stepping. There was so much water moving where we launched, and the waves were so consistent it would be close to impossible to paddle out. I’m sure there are a couple stubborn heroes that could have paddled, but there was just so much swell it looked like a nightmare… 

Do you think a tow barrel counts the same as a paddle barrel?
No way. Paddling into a big tube has to be one of the most satisfying feelings in the world, but this day was the reason I bought a jet ski. We were having so much fun. People talk shit, but I have nothing to prove I just want to get barreled [laughs].

Tell me about the sensation of riding this wave, and what led up to it. How long were you hunting this thing and what was it like inside?
When you’re stepping into the wave, it’s hard tell how big it is until it hits the sandbar and you’re locked in. I was standing tall for as long as I could, until it sucked me back and spit and I couldn’t see anything for a few seconds until I came out.

What’s funny is that there were 10 other guys that launched their skis in the same spot but left to go up the beach with the rest of the Instagram circus…  Ryan kept telling me “not all fishermen follow the fleet…” We surfed for an hour by ourselves we couldn’t believe it. I saw so many perfect waves go unridden that day.  

Was this the wave of your life? 
Besides all the perfect waves I’ve got in Indonesia, yeah that’s definitely the biggest/coldest barrel I’ve ever got.  I’ll remember that wave for the rest of my life. I can see how those big wave guys want to get bigger and deeper tubes, it’s fully addicting.


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