Stab Magazine | Mason Ho On Why A 5'2 Is A Good Choice At Sunset And His Love/Hate Relationship With The Wave

Mason Ho On Why A 5’2 Is A Good Choice At Sunset And His Love/Hate Relationship With The Wave

“Everyone’s trains [On The North Shore], so I just figure, fuck yeah, a 5’2”! I’m just going to paddle harder than every trainer guy around here. I’m training today.”

news // Nov 18, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 7 minutes

“I’m psyched you guys are doing something on Sunset. Nobody talks about it anymore,” said Mason Ho. “It’s like it fell off the map.”

It’s 7:00am on the North Shore. Mason doesn’t drink coffee, but you wouldn’t know it. He’s pumped to talk Sunset. But before we dive into Mason’s testimony, keep in mind that throughout most of surf history Sunset was the proving ground on the North Shore. It’s not just the wave. It’s the playing field. It’s the bare-knuckle scrap with the ocean. Before Eddie Aikau was the kind of Waimea, he was the king of Sunset. Before MR was a four-time world champ, he was the Wounded Gull, swooping at Sunset.

“The best surfer I’ve ever seen was Mark Richards on a single-fin at Sunset Beach during the winter of ’81,” recalled Tom Curren a few years ago when I interviewed him for a Surfer’s Journal piece. “The way he was able to go at it vertically, that really stands out to me. I was about 17 years old and I can still see the transitions he was making from the top to the bottom, using all of his rail, just pushing it really hard. It was probably the last gasp for the single-fin because the thruster was right around the corner, but maybe it was the best surfing ever on a single-fin.”

Mason’s dad, Michael, was another that ranked among the best at Sunset. Barry Kanaiaupuni, Jeff Hakman, Ian Cairns, Tom Carroll, Pancho Sullivan and heaps more – they’ve all shined at the point in their heyday.

“You earn your respect at Sunset,” confirmed Mason, who lately has been enjoying himself out there on a 5’2”. “I remember Andy won his first world title there when I was a kid, so it’s definitely a sacred place.”

How good was Andy?

Mason had so much good stuff to say about Sunset, rather than interrupt him, we let him roll. Here’s his take:

It seems like with the media and the publicity it may have fizzled a little bit. Back in the day there were world titles decided there. When I was growing up I saw everyone winning world titles at Sunset. It was where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do.

I remember this story, when my dad was really young he wanted to be in the Duke Classic, but it was invite-only and guys like Shaun Tomson, Eddie Aikau, just the gnarly guys would be in there. My dad would always try and get in, and one year, finally, the contest director told my dad, ‘If you can swim out the back and swim back in I’ll let you in the contest. He didn’t think my dad could swim cause he was so little. He did it, came back in, then they kind of picked on him about it a little and told him he wasn’t getting in. But then they let him in.

Back in the day, when my dad was 15 or 16 he was ready to die to be in a surf contest at Sunset. He was literally ready to drown right there just to be in. I feel like nowadays, ain’t no one going to try and drown to get into the Sunset event. Back in the day it was way more special. You’d paddle out and Eddie Aikau and the gnarliest of the gnarliest surfers would be out there, maybe sometimes all at once. Nowadays, you go out to Sunset and you might only see me and like 10 older guys out there. If it’s before a QS contest maybe you’ll see some of those guys out there practicing or something, but it’s not like before when you’d come to Hawaii, go to Sunset Beach and probably see Eddie or Clyde out there, or somebody gnarly. Nowadays, you go could out there for days and not see any of the pros—which is not cool.

You know those cool parts in surf movies back in the day, like the Wave Warriors movies, or like Standing Room Only, or all those random movies – Follow The Sun, Style Masters, or whatever – it seems like all those old movies always had a Sunset segment. You’d see Tom Curren on his big board just wrapping it like it’s a small board. Or you’d see Tom Carroll flying down the line and then a big fucking hack under the hook on the inside bowl. I would always like watching my dad because he was all small and he’d take off on these peaks and make the wave look bigger. Then he’d rip it. I don’t know, I just love it.

There’s something about getting out there on a big board, chipping in, then coming slow off the bottom and hard off the top. Even when I see my favorite guys doing it. I was going to say John John, but he rides a small board when he’s out there. But there’s some guys that when they come out there they’ll just be on there longer board and I’ll be like, “Fuck yeah!”

There’s a couple kids that still sneak out there all the time, like Barron Mamiya. I’ll be out there and I’ll see him and I’ll be like, “Yeah Barron, holding it down for the groms!”

I feel like everyone today is always searching for glory. They want that glorious clip. If the waves are big or gnarly or whatever, they’re probably going to be at Off The Wall, or Pipe, or maybe even Haleiwa trying to get the craziest video clip. But there’s something about Sunset, for your average pro surfer, they ain’t gonna be able to go out there and get a sick clip. I feel like to get the proper clip at Sunset you have to know all that old-school footage and copy those guys. You have to ride the longer board, take off where they took off, and do that with style and a couple nice moves. I think that’s how you get a sick wave at Sunset today.

John Florence does the honors.

I usually like to ride a fish or something really, really small out there when I want to practice my position. How do I explain it? Out there I usually love riding my bigger board and just running away from never really getting caught inside—doing the older guy theory, catch the wave at Point A and ride it to Point C, kick out, then go all the way wide back out to the top. Then you don’t use too much energy and can surf as long as you can.

But sometimes I get this urge to ride the tiniest board I can possibly I ride out there…because everyone else is on a really long one. So I’ll ride a small one just to get on the opposite side of every one. There’s something so fun about not being able to run away. When I’m on that fish or anything under 6’ at Sunset, you notice that when you position yourself you have to sit more inside than you usually want, which is already a little scary. I’m not the super gnarly fucking charger that’s ready to get caught inside all the time. I like to sit a little outside, be safe and runaway. But the fish makes me sit in the pit. Then when the bombs come I can’t really run, I have to sit there, so it’s kind of teaching me how to sit and stay calm when you want to run. Eventually you learn that you don’t have to run and the wave will be right in the perfect spot. Then, when you do get back on your bigger board, you’re way more ballsy out there. You’re so much more calm. You’re not running any more. You’re just sitting there waiting. You learn the lineup more on a smaller board.

It’s a workout. Everyone’s trains around here and they’re in their gyms and shit, so I just figure, fuck yeah, a 5’2”! I’m just going to paddle harder than every trainer guy around here. I’m training today. That’s my theory.

The climax of riding the small board is that once you stand-up on one of those big waves you’re just fucking flying. It’s easy to maneuver. There’s no better feeling. I always thought that if you can paddle into the wave, you’re set. I try to tell myself that I can ride anything on the wave, but catching them is the trick. With the fish, you ain’t running nowhere, so if you get caught inside you’re getting a beating. My whole life I’ve been raised that if I see them stacking out the back I’m running. There’s gnarly guys that sit and wait when they see them stacking, but like I said, I’m not that guy. I’d rather chip in behind it, backdoor it, and come in where those guys are waiting.

You can still go out there and get the full, 100-percent North Shore experience. You can get one bomb on the head, one nice barrel, one big turn, yeah, it’s pretty much the dream. It even looks like V-Land sometimes. You can sit on that inside and get so barreled if you want.

Mason’s masterclass.

I swear, any young kids, I feel like anyone that’s coming up, if they spend time out there it pays off. That’s where a lot of the legends are, guys like Owl Chapman. Or even somebody like myself, that’s where we go to hang out, drink beers, watch the waves, check out chicks, but I feel like if a young kid wants to earn respect really quick, if you just go out to Sunset you can do it. If you’re always surfing Sunset, going out there and ripping a turn or two, saying hello and smiling to everyone, eventually everyone just loves you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a local kid or some foreign surfer that moved here, there’s something about Sunset that it doesn’t matter who you are or what your deal is, we notice when a kid is putting in love at Sunset. I feel like all the locals just fall in love with them for some reason.

You can accidentally get blown out of the meanest one at Off The Wall, but Sunset, there’s not too many accidents happening out there. You have to make it happen. I think that’s why people appreciate it. You are half psyched for them and half laughing at them. ‘Hahaha, look at this guy, he’s stuck in the Sunset maze!’ Then you watch them and see how long it takes them to get out of it. But if they get a good one and come out of it, it’s like, ‘Fuck yeah!’

It’s the most humbling wave in the whole world, I’m claiming. One hundred percent. Maybe not as far as beatings or what not, but that wave has probably crushed and made more dreams than any wave in the world world. Sunset, for sure.


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