Stab Magazine | Rory's Rumblings In Pe'ahi: "God Damn It, I Had Fun Today!"
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Rory’s Rumblings In Pe’ahi: “God Damn It, I Had Fun Today!”

Mr Parker’s overly excited and easily confused field notes from the Pe’ahi channel

news // Oct 29, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Like a fool I trusted google maps to get me to the harbor this morning. The Young Brothers wharf is where I ended up. Kahului Harbor, yes. The correct part? Nope.

Ridiculous red rocket in overdrive, I hammered down the coast. Skidded to a stop in the dirt lot. Collected my gear and looked for my connection.

The WSL offered me a spot on the media boat, something I’m not about to turn down. Clifftop is rad, but from the channel? Of course that’s better. Who the fuck wouldn’t want a true front row seat? The chance to watch a premier big wave event from a close a possible, without possessing the ability to compete in it. Who wouldn’t feel a cold fear when they arrived with only minutes to spare.

“You’re late. They left.”

“No, no, no. I’m on time. When did they leave?”

“A while ago.”

In the past I’ve suspected that someone within the WSL likes to screw with me at events. It’s probably projection. It’s the type of thing I’d do. Give the wrong time and laugh.  But that wasn’t the case, at least this time. A simple miscommunication with the Captain had him shoving off early. A ride out was arranged, we arrived hours before the swell and I hopped on my intended vessel. (A big thanks goes out to Jason and Russell on the Heavy Metal for the ride.)

IMG 6334

Matt Meola and a quick fishing break. Photo: Rory’s wife’s Samsung Galaxy Note 7

I don’t know what those of you who watched the webcast experienced today. I know that video has a tendency to flatten waves, to make things seem smaller.  It doesn’t truly capture the roar of the surf, or the taste of salt in the air. Only rarely does it communicate the second-hand adrenaline dump felt when someone else puts their body on the line.

Especially if you’ve never truly experienced the act.  Some of us enjoy surfing bigger waves, but not many face truly large surf. A double overhead set at your favorite beach break is not the same as a deep water Hawaiian swell.  Bigger days at marquee Hawaiian breaks only approach a legit deep water spot.

Small Pe’ahi is still scary as hell. It’s a heaving, wedging peak. Not much wall to speak of, but plenty of water moving around. More than enough to occupy someone who’s only responsibility is to take in the scene. Scribble in my little notebook—Johnny Boy Gomes is looking fit as a fiddle, caddying for the Rothman Brothers, still overly intense, keeps his fists clenched nearly all the time—only to discover that writing on a rocking boat makes me sick to my stomach.

The first real sets started arriving around 10am, the same time as the first rental boat. Our captain informed me this happens all the time. Apparently any idiot with a credit card can rent a floating deathwish and motor out to his demise. Or attempt to.  The boat hammered inside of the pack, blithely unaware that there was a reason his far-more-knowledgeable fellow sailors remained where they were, until whistles and shouts and he retreated to safety.  Probably for the best.  Carnage is fun to wish for but terrible to behold.

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Deep inside the pits of the HEAVY METAL. Photo: Rory’s Wife’s Motorola Razr 

I realized that I’d forgotten my sandals on the Heavy Metal.  I asked our captain permission, then dove overboard and swam to retrieve them.  

The only reason I mention this is to establish that I’ve been in the water at fairly large Pe’ahi. Fuck you, I’m counting it.  I don’t care what anyone says.

At 10:26 the first ski went down, running in for a rescue. The driver got caught in the foam, steamrolled by the next wave, pushed into the rocks. No one was hurt and it was impressive watching the other skis pull it out to sea.  These guys know what they’re doing.  Of course they do.  You’ve gotta have a pretty hefty set of skills to fuck around out here.

Which brings us to Captain Keith Baxter. The man behind our wheel (or whatever the nautical equivalent is), Keith kept us in the pit all day long. The beauty of being on the only WSL sanctioned media boat, we got the best seat in the house. Another boat blocks our view?  The ski just chases them off.  Giant set swinging out of the west? Keith keeps us close enough to taste the spit.

I think I did a good job pretending I wasn’t scared. But I was. I harbor a terror of boats in the safest of circumstances. I feel far more comfortable in the water than on it. But it’s best to play brave, trust in someone else. Remember that it’s a reef and the captain’s been here a million times before. Remind yourself that you can hold your breath a fairly long time. Embrace the fear until you cackle and hoot and scream.  

We were on the water nearly four hours before the comp was called on. Watching the swell build, ogling Kai Lenny’s girlfriend. Peppering Captain Keith with questions of depth and wind and swell direction. More or less useless knowledge in my hands.

I got to watch Billy Kemper wear a set on the head from one hundred feet away. Mark Healey cartwheeled through a barrel so close I could see the expression on his face. Makua Rothman took a heavy beating. Ian Walsh and Albee Layer toy with this place. Kai Lenny is a freak. I cannot understand the mechanics of how someone his size can turn a big board so well. Hippo took beatings and Lucas Chianca made me learn his name.

I had no idea who was winning. Or, rather, I was overly excited and easily confused. It all blended together. Everyone’s a winner. Bravado, courage, fear, ego, arrogance… 

As the day wore on the lulls grew longer, the wind picked up. Someone flew a drone out from the beach. The WSL does not like that. Is it illegal? Probably not. Is the drone dangerous for the chopper pilot doing high-speed stunt flying while filming? I’m told so.

It’s also very funny to watch the water safety team attempt to knock it from the sky with swim fins and water bottles. Terrible aim, every one of them. Eventually, the chopper pilot took matters into his own hands, playing cat and mouse with the drone. Sneaking up from behind, outside the thing’s camera view, using down force to push it into the water. Someone told me that particular model starts at $1000. Ouch.

Showcasing big wave surfing, truly, is a damned difficult endeavor. The majesty is predicated on the scale. You can’t shrink it down, fit it on a screen, and not lose what makes it special. 

I used to think I knew how the WSL could make the BWWT better.  I don’t think that anymore. Maybe they could tweak stuff to make it more popular, but that wouldn’t truly improve the package.

I spent eight straight hours watching a big wave contest today and I enjoyed every moment. I’ve never said that before. I sure do appreciate them letting me on their boat. I still think they should pay the surfers more.

2017/18 BWT Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge Round 1 Results:

Heat 1: Billy Kemper 21.51, Cristian Merello 19.94, Mark Healey 18.83, Koa Rothman 17.84, Francisco Porcella 11.37, Jimel Corzo 0.20
Heat 2: Makuakai Rothman 17.27, Danilo Couto 14.84, Greg Long 13.94, Will Skudin 10.71, Tom Lowe 7.54, Aaron Gold 3.20 
Heat 3: Ian Walsh 26.13,  Kai Lenny 19.37, Ryan Hipwood 15.03, Pedro Calado 14.71, Trevor Carlson 13.57, Nic Lamb 0.20
Heat 4: Lucas Chianca 20.50, Jamie Mitchell 17.87, Albee Layer 12.41, Joao De Macedo 11.64, Nathan Florence 9.34, Shaun Walsh 3.54 

2017/18 BWT Men’s Pe’ahi Challenge Semifinal Match-Ups:
SF 1: Billy Kemper, Cristian Merello, Mark Healey, Makuakai Rothman, Danilo Couto, Greg Long
SF 2: Ian Walsh, Kai Lenny, Ryan Hipwood, Lucas Chianca, Jamie Mitchell, Albee Layer

2017/18 BWT Women’s Pe’ahi Challenge Final Match-Up:
Final: Paige Alms, Justine Dupont, Andrea Moeller, Keala Kennelly, Felicity Palmateer, Bianca Valenti 

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