Albee Layer On Everything Wrong With Jaws Right Now
“It’s fucking scary. Boards are flying everywhere.”
Last evening, after surfing a highly anticipated and highly disappointing swell at Jaws, Albee Layer had some choice words for the surfing world. Through his Instagram, the Hawaiian addressed how Jaws has become something of a zoo in recent times, how people are surfing it beyond recklessly (in a bad way), and how even something as basic as swell forecasting is a far from perfect science — and a lot of people agreed.
You can read all about that here.
Holding a deep appreciation for Albee’s divisive and oftentimes poignant critiques, Stab thought it smart to get him on the phone to learn what exactly prompted yesterday’s rant. Below is our conversation with Albee, who had just opted out of this morning’s bonus Jaws session because it “Looked like shit.”
Oh he has a way with words!
Stab: Albee, tell us all about yesterday.
Albee Layer: Yesterday was a trip. We’re still trying to figure out what exactly was wrong with it. The swell was huge, the wind was great, but the waves were pretty awful. I mean it was fun, but there weren’t any barrels.
I saw some photos that made it look pretty sick…
Yeah but that’s just a photo. A photo can make anything good. You know how it is.
Ah, very true. Was it big at least?
The morning was huge — it might have been the biggest I’ve ever seen Jaws. There were a few guys towing it early, but then as it cleaned up and got a little smaller we all paddled out.
Did the tow crews leave?
Not as quickly as they should have, in my opinion. Towing is cool when it’s massive and windy, but when it’s clean and there are guys paddling, I don’t know, I just think we should’ve moved past that by now.
And what about the paddle crowd? You were saying like 60 guys out there…
Yeah, every swell seems to get a little worse in terms of crowding, and it’s definitely getting a little sketchy. I sit on the inside, so when a set comes, it’s so fucking scary. Boards are flying everywhere.
But the real problem is that hardly anyone is hiring a safety crew. At one point there were 60 guys out there and 15 skis, but only two of them were doing safety. All the others were hired by photographers.
And these surfers are expecting someone to save them if they get in trouble?
I think some of the guys actually feel like they don’t want or need the safety crew, which is cool. If you feel comfortable being on your own out there, then that’s your decision. But yeah, a lot of guys get into trouble and just seem to expect help from the safety guys without paying.
Which, as we’ve seen, leads to ski operators chauffeuring photographers as opposed to helping surfers.
Exactly, and it makes perfect sense. Those guys have been rescuing people for years without hardly getting anything out of it — risking their lives and their skis for the sake of other people. So if a photographer is willing to pay $600 to be out in the channel all day, of course you’re gonna take it.
And that puts an extra layer of responsibility on those who are working as rescuers.
Yeah, I mean, if someone’s in trouble, even if they didn’t pay for your help, it’s not like you’re gonna sit there and watch them drown. So now two guys are responsible for 60 surfers.
Yeah that sounds dangerous…
Oh, and another thing — the photo skis are battling to get closer and closer to the action, so they end up blocking the guys who are doing safety. Which is crazy, because without the surfers, the photographers wouldn’t have anything to shoot. I feel like people are just prioritizing all the wrong things out there.
Yeah, shit… After all of this, I really hope you’re one of the few who actually hired a safety crew [laughs].
Yup. Me, Laurie (Towner), Nic Von Rupp, Frank (Solomon) and Torrey (Mesiter) had a guy. But even 5 or 6 surfers to one ski is a little sketchy to be honest. We were even kinda pushing it.
So do you think this whole thing comes down to money? Like surfers just don’t feel like paying for safety, and they know they’ll probably get rescued anyways, so they don’t bother shilling out the cash?
Yes and no. I think a lot of surfers wanted safety but didn’t know where to find it. That’s something that I need to be better about — helping non-local surfers get in contact with safety crews. The whole experience yesterday made me realize that I can probably do something to help this situation. I’ve never really organized anything formal before, but I think it’s really important. So we’re working on something right now to make this less of a problem in the future.
Good man! We look forward to hearing more.
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