John Florence, "somewhere down the road," on the North Shore, Sunday. Photo by Laserwolf
Hawaii, You've Got Our Attention
Letter From The Editor: Europe's feather-dusted, Pe'ahi was all-time, and Hawaii's got her hooks in us early this season...
Hello, loves. I’ve missed you.
After a red-eye out of Lisbon through JFK last night, I caught a 5AM direct to LAX, and I’d be lying if I said it felt good to be back over US soil. Or that I enjoyed the sun's ripe red rise over the Arizona desert as I dug diligently at the impressive constellation of urchin spines lodged firmly in the soles of my feet.
Leading up to Finals Day at Peniche, with the Nazaré event a looming possibility and the World Title already assumed, it was remarkable to see the surf world's attention, after weeks fixed on the Eastern Atlantic action, turn so swiftly and thoroughly west.
Hawaii, you have our undivided attention.
Last week, after an afternoon session at Coxos (missing the mid-tide run enjoyed by Tiago Pires, Miguel Fortes, Vasco Ribiero, and visiting pros Brenden Gibbons and Dillon Perillo, while Albee Layer, Nic Von Rupp, and Torrey Meister charged damned proper Cave), I bolted north, passing the post-Round 5 Peniche traffic jam headed for for Praia Grande, where a handful of the Big Wave Tour vets and hopefuls had just finished a Nazaré consolation session. The WSL had just pulled the Portuguese plug. And the BWT guys were scrambling to buy tickets across the globe for Pe’ahi.
After a dinner of grilled langostino with the PUKAS boys, I settled in for an anxious night’s sleep: Nazaré would be pumping in the AM, and if the Peniche quarters were pushed to a 9AM call, I could gamble the ski ride out with the boys, catch one beast, bomb the shore break, climb the stairs to my rental and be standing at Supertubos for John’s crowning. Given the time change, the boys back in Sydney and Los Angeles would never know I wasn’t chained to the WSL’s tattered media tent, dutifully reporting…
Grant "Twiggy" Baker suiting up the day Nazaré would have run, and about to bail for Maui.
Standing on the Nazaré cliffs at dawn, Twiggy Baker, Joe Joe Roper, Alex Botelho, Coco Nogales, Indar Inuate, Adur Letamendia, and my main European squeeze as of late, Natxo Gonzalez, were tripping over the Jaws call, as groomed, offshore 20-footers detonated hundreds of feet below.
“Leaving after offshore, 20-foot Nazaré to go surf 60-foot onshore Jaws, should be an interesting few days,” Twiggy said, just as my phone updated: Peniche was a go, 8:00AM start. I was off the hook for the XL session and I was already late, a wave of relief washed over me on the forty minute sprint south, I arrived just in time to see John John Florence sit idly by as Kolohe Anding packed up the freshly shined World Title and sent it to Pipeline.
As Twiggy and the boys boarded flight bound for Maui, the surf world's gaze followed, though even the most optimistic forecasts couldn't have predicted the madness that would unfold.
The Pe'ahi Challenge will go down as one of the most extraordinary events in surf history. Superlatives get thrown around these days like monkeys and shit, but tuning in to the final from a dark, smoke-filled bar in Lisbon, just as Ian Walsh chipped in to his somehow still underscored 10, we found our jaws hanging dumbly, unsure of exactly what we'd just seen: "What the actual fuck, Ian Walsh?" we posted to Instagram.
@paigealms: "Best wave ever!"
@badboyryry_Marry me @ian.walsh
@bourezmichel: "This is fucked up!!!!! Next level @ian.walsh !!! #respect"
@mayhemb3_mattbiolos: "That must be one of the best rides in the history of surfing."
With the highlight reel still sizzling—Billy Kemper, Kai Lenny, Albee Layer, Ryan Hipwood and others all packing remarkable Jaws bombs—the completion rate at Pe'ahi seams unheard of for a big wave event, just a clear and present indication of just how radical big wave surfing's gotten in the last five years. We heard the Maui boys rang in Ian and Paige's wins in style ("I went to bed at 7:30"- Albee Layer), as Michael collected acclaim for Ian's ridiculous bomb.
Speaking of Maui, I'm so glad we sent Rory Parker over, even if the guy missed the boat both days, probably ripping shitties in that candy red 'Stang in a muddy lot nearby. I can't imagine what those heats felt like from the channel, watching the safety patrol swat at that drone before the chopper descended.
While Pe'ahi pumped, the North Shore got the "shit end of the stick" according to one of our fav North Shore lensman, Laserwolf.
"While Peahi was perfect and sunny all day Saturday, we had wind and rain and victory at sea here on Oahu," he wrote, accompanying a gorg over the shoulder barrel shot of John Florence, fresh off his, um, European shortcoming. "I swam out to Pipe anyway and saw John make his way down to Off The Wall so I followed. It was heavy and shifty but at least the sun was shining. In two hours, he got two good ones, broke his board and I got absolutely smoked by a 6-8 footer (Hawaiian scale) that rolled me all over the reef and sent me to the beach."
John Florence, Sunday at Off the Wall.
Don't that just sound like paradise? (And not like the one Kelly's building in Florida.) Good lord we can practically taste the haupia pie. We'll be hearing (and seeing) more from Laserwolf this month, as Rory spends some time getting to know one of the hardest working guys in the biz. Laser is one of a handful of East Coasters with the grit to have a crack at making it amongst the North Shore's ferocious photog pack. As another fav photog of Stab's, Mickey Smith, famously said, Even if you can only scrape a living, at least its a living with scraping.
In case you missed it, make sure to give Michael's feature on Laurie Towner a read, as well as Jake Howard's deep dive into the post-surf mind of Bobby Martinez.
Back in OZ, the boys are finishing up their tour with Sumer Bright. Looked like their Coolie and Bondi benders were a hell time ;) , and I know the Stab staffers along for the ride will be sad to see the party train come to its final destination in Byron this week. If you're in town, head out and say hi to the boys. They'll be sure you have a good one.
While the surf world trickles in through Honolulu customs in preparation for the Triple Crown, we're touching down anxiously in California, thunderclouds strangely hanging in the distance. This week we'll be tracking down a few pintails, eyeing LAX-HNL specials mid-month. With Kelly officially back in for Pipe, and some very precious real estate up for grabs on what's looking like a very different 2018 World Tour, we're looking forward to a front row seat for the drama.
Until then, keep it cutty, with a little class, Stab.
Editor in Chief