Billy Kemper last year...this year's photos aren't up yet. Photo: WSL
Billy Kemper Takes His Third Jaws Win
Attempting suicide for fun and profit.
Stab didn't send me to Maui this year. We didn't get into the why of it – I'm a general pain in the ass when it comes to editorial decisions but, occasionally, have the presence of mind to pick my battles.
Running the women first thing in the AM seemed stupid yesterday. Morning sickness in full effect, conditions hardly suited to showcasing ability. It turned into what could be considered a comedy of errors if one's willing to laugh off Dupont's dislocated shoulder. Kennelly snagged the win by taking the worst beatings. It was a state of affairs the conspiracy-minded might embrace as evidence the WSL set up the women to fail.
But that's nonsense. The ocean's a fickle bitch and the WSL made the most of what they had. The swell came up hard and fast, the women wouldn't have fared any better had the WSL played the waiting game.
Then, one heat of men, pure bravado and utter carnage, then an hour of the Kai Lenny Tow Show.
I'd call it a fair trade, no more heats in exchange for Lenny's frontside carve to second story bomb drop. The size was on the razor's edge of paddle, it's hard to believe triceps and traps could have delivered a boundary pusher like Lenny's moto-assist madness.
Not everyone felt that way though. Mark Healey's girlfriend took to Instagram with objections, laying blame at the feet of the Water Patrol. It's an interesting bit of information, the fact that the WSL employed neither the Hawaiian Water Patrol, nor Maui guys. Weird stuff. Who were driving the skis?
"The waves were firing and guys were getting flexed, but I take issue with the safety crew (who in my opinion) were blowing it. Unacceptable." @kimbermalie wrote on her Instagram. "With the best big wave surfers out there in the conditions as they were, why not have the best ocean safety operators out there too.
"Hawaiian water patrol are the only guys who should've been tasked with that duty today in these conditions."
Other's like Albee Layer were also confused by the decision, "I don’t know who didn’t want to surf. I wanted to. I was really excited." Albee told Stab. "I don’t know what the fuck happened, that was weird. Don’t get me wrong, it was super scary, like super gnarly, but like what the fuck? That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, right [laughs]?"
"I think part of the reason is that there’s quite a few people who charge a lot harder than their talent." Albee continued. "There’s a way to go surf today and be relatively safe. It’s just when you get too many big egos in a heat… like that first heat just pushed each other too deep right away."
Day Two brought the trades back in force. Those blustery winds that cool our homes, heaven sent breezes we curse until they disappear and the islands swelter, howled up towering faces. They generated some bump, but held up lips, let the boys get barrelled in the 'fading-into-manageable' swell.
The remainder of Round One saw low scores across the board. Challenging conditions at best.
The semifinals brought barrels and some stand out moments. Lucas Chianca's frontside ollie on a foam and glass banquet table was rad. Not enough to bring him past fourth, but sick as hell nonetheless.
Semi two was dominated by Lenny and Rothman the Younger. Big ol' tubes for the diminutive Lenny. More of the same for Rothman.
Of note during the webcast was Peter Mel mentioning that multiple competitors were spitting up blood after beatings. Now he's no doctor, and neither am I, but it sure as hell sounded like he was describing a lung squeeze.
They're a semi-common occurrence in competitive freediving, grounds for immediate disqualification. It's not something you can walk off, not something you should tough out. They cause complications that kill. The surfers are maniacs, that's something we know. The WSL should really be watching out for them, making the tough call to pull them out when they aren't willing to do it themselves.
After a short break it was finals time. I jammed a pill down my dog's throat. He's got some sort of skin infection brought on by allergies. He's an inbred freak who shouldn't exist but I love him very much.
Albee Layer, Kai Lenny, Billy Kemper, Tyler Larronde, Koa Rothman, and Grant Baker- a straight murderers lineup in howling blustery blind-takeoff barrels. Swell that continued to drop made for surf that doesn't exactly seem death defying these days. But that speaks to our increasingly ridiculous expectations and the ever soaring ability level of these madmen we tune in to watch attempt suicide for fun and profit.
Kemper, Lenny, and Laronde led early and held their spots throughout much of the heat. Kemper and Lenny truly have the place wired. Layer didn't quite perform to the level we've come to expect. But the bowl is more or less named after him now, so he shouldn't let it get him down.
However, Layer is a very competitive man. It's a side of his personality I witnessed first hand at Stab High. Albee plays to win, which shouldn't come as a surprise. You don't accidentally fall ass first into ability like his.
Lenny, Kemper, and Larronde found big barrels. Kemper bucking bronco'ed his way through a high speed runner that would've ended up in the record books if he'd only kept his feet. It'd be down toward the bottom, because the wave was less than a million feet tall. But, still, on there, somewhere.
Layer snagged a bowling corner and snuck his way into third with around twenty five minutes left, but Kemper and Lenny still held a commanding lead. They were neck and neck as the clock kept ticking. Fifteen minutes left and the man who loves his cowboy hat seemed certain to grab his third win in four years. The fact that he doesn't need to fly in makes the BWT almost seem like a good business model, from a competitor's perspective.
The action slowed as time wore on. The pack paddled deeper in the dying minutes, hoping to find something to steal a win.
But the ocean shut down, there was nothing to be found.
Layer gave it his best with a few seconds left. Pulled in, got shut down, and left Kemper in the lead.
A bit of comedy ended the day as Kemper asked around about the results. Good news for him, a shout to the sky. Fist pump, jump off the ski.
It wasn't the best event ever held at Pe'ahi, but it was still damn good.
1.Billy Kemper - 23.84
2. Kai Lenny - 23.56
3. Albee Layer - 17.40
4. Tyler Larronde - 16.06
5. Grant Baker - 8.10
6. Koa Rothman - 2.19