Pe'ahi Finals Day: Rory Misses The Boat
"Big wave surfing is a close companion to attempted suicide".
My dreams are often very vivid and surreal. I'm no stranger to being startled awake by my own mind. Last night was no exception. My dog was missing his teeth. My wife left me for a television character (the hot fat chick from You're the Worst). I was a woman, but also myself. No one believed me. My elementary school was involved in a way I no longer remember.
I beat my alarm to consciousness by fifteen minutes. 4AM, rise and shine. Fired off some emails to my boss in Europe. Turned off the alarm so I wouldn't wake the rest of the hostel. Blinked.
I am not accustomed to waking in a raw panic. I felt a real "what's Uncle doing in my room?" fear when I noticed there was far too much light streaming through my window. I'd fallen back asleep. For hours. I'd missed the media boat. The WSL had already emailed me to say the contest was starting. Fuck me. Stupid, stupid, Rory.
If you're going to take on the stretch between Wailuku and Haiku like the biggest prick on Earth there's no ride better than a cherry red Mustang. "Out of my way! White man in a hurry!" My idiot mobile took corners like a spoiled teenage girl, the only stutter a hard brake stomp when I glimpsed a cop hiding in the California grass near Ho'okipa.
The very nice people manning the security booth by the gate informed me I'd have to walk from there. No way could my ride make the drive. With a two and a half mile walk being the alternative I'd've been willing to take my chances. After making fun of my rental they flagged down the next car and arranged a ride down the hill for me.
Note: Always be nice to security staff in Hawaii. They're always cool, once they flex a little and you don't push back.
The swell had increased over night, the water was glass. The first heat was on and the boys were charging. I could see the blue awning of the boat I was supposed to be on in the channel. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I should've gone straight to bed instead of going out for the crab-stuffed, herb-crusted, salmon with orange-miso beurre blanc and steamed vegetables. Which was, by the way, absolutely divine.
Luckily I'm no stranger to self-loathing. Move on, don't think about it. Plaster that smile on your stupid face. You're in public, time to play the game. Try not to let people know what you're thinking.
When attending a WSL event there are two things a person must do before anything else. First, find shade and stake out a spot in it. Standing in the sun all day is no fun. Second, locate a hidden corner in which to smoke cigarettes. The World Surf League does not allow smoking on event premises, but so long as you don't force security to notice you can get away with it.
The World Surf League does not allow smoking on event premises, but so long as you don't force security to notice you can get away with it.
I plopped my carcass down next to three friendly ladies. They turned out to be competitor Andrea Moller and the partners of big wave surfers Danilo Couto and Jamie Mitchell. Jamie's new born and two year old were also present. Displaying an astute grasp of character for such a young age Jamie's daughter made it clear that she did not like me one bit. Moller was acting remarkably nonchalant considering she'd be paddling out shortly.
Jamie's daughter made it clear that she did not like me one bit
Bill Sharp strolled over to say "hello" to me. I know who Bill is, of course, but we've never met. I'm not sure why he took an interest in me, but he is a very friendly person. We chatted about the comp, the presence of a single heat for women rather than last year's two.
I think the WSL made the right call. While I truly believe that women have the potential to surf large waves equally as well as men the talent pool is too small to support a larger event at Pe'ahi. The fact that multiple women surfed last year without a prior session is an admirable display of courage, but it's also the type of thing that gets people severely injured. There's enough risk of that at this level,no reason to pointlessly exacerbate the problem. That said, ground breaking big wave surfing is a close companion to attempted suicide. It may just take one lunatic lady chucking herself over the ledge with no regard for her well-being to kick start the movement.
That lady may be Paige Alms. No one else in their heat surfed with as much obvious knowledge and sheer commitment. Which isn't to say they all weren't charging. Keala was as gnarly as ever. Felicity Palmateer got caught inside and absolutely smoked. Pushed nearly to the beach underwater. Yeah, look, I know they're not at the same level as the men. Yet.
When Jamie Mitchell failed to make the finals his wife said, "Oh, well. He's already made two thousand dollars."
These things take time. We should be happy to give it to them. And, if you're reading this, I can guarantee that every single one of them is a better, more committed, and more courageous surfer than you.
I'm still bummed I didn't make the boat. The clifftop view is great, but after yesterday's excitement I felt like a meth addict making do with caffeine. However, the shift in perspective was interesting.
From the channel, staring head-on into the waves, it's easy to forget how much area Pe'ahi covers. Surfers approach at such high speed it almost seems like a short wave. Not much wall. A steep drop followed by a quick bowl.
But move up and out and you can see how far they travel. Pe'ahi is a long wave, it's just that the surfers are traveling at a million miles an hour. How they keep control, turn their massive boards at such high speed, is beyond me. I was especially curious about Kai Lenny, who is far from being a large man.
His boards feature a crazy deep single concave. More of a gutter than channel. I know absolutely fuck-all about gun design, but that may be why a guy his size can do turns in massive surf. Don't quote me on that. Unless you want someone to call you an idiot. Me, I'm used to it.
Another benefit to being landlocked, I paid closer attention to the contest. Ian Walsh's 10 was, of course, the day's highlight. I noticed Makua Rothman takes a very competitive approach to paddling and positioning. I'm sure every guy is out there to win, but he was the only one I noticed swing around inside of other surfers to cut them out and off. I'm all for it, competition is no time for a love fest.
The clifftop view is great, but after yesterday's excitement I felt like a meth addict making do with caffeine. However, the shift in perspective was interesting.
When Jamie Mitchell failed to make the finals his wife said, "Oh, well. He's already made two thousand dollars." Which led me to ask how he finances these trips. Who can afford last minute flights from Portugal to Maui?
Quiksilver picks up the tab. As for other people? "Some of them work to support it. Some of them have family money. Not many people make much."
Albee Layer didn't make the final, and that's too bad. As far as I'm concerned he's the best surfer out there. Riding his tiny 8'6, treating it like a big fun day instead of terror murder surf. Something about his style speaks to me.
I struck up a conversation with another writer, a nice young freelancer from a different outlet. We talked about boring writing stuff. The type of small talk two surf writers have, I think. I try to follow a script when I meet people. Otherwise I do weird stuff, like show topless pictures of my wife to editors. Eventually she took her leave, off to "get some quotes" from the athletes.
Shit, should I do that? Should I ask questions when I don't really care about the answers? I never have before, somehow things always work out. It made me feel self conscious, like a total sham.
Then I overheard Jamie Mitchell say, as he was watching video of Ian Walsh's wave, "Oh, wow. That's a one hundred thousand dollar wave, for sure. Twenty five thousand today, seventy five thousand for wave of the year."
Problem solved. Yay for eavesdropping!
I caught a ride up the hill to my ride from a pair of Brazilian filmers, battled traffic west for lunch at the Paia Fish Market, then headed back to Krispy Kreme in Kahului. It's the only spot with A/C and free wifi I could think of that wasn't Starbucks. I don't understand the appeal of the place. They're decent donuts, sure, but they're just fucking donuts. Why on earth someone would need to by five dozen and carry them home on the plane makes no sense at all.
I'll tell you one thing, if this fucking family doesn't make their fat pig of a child stop running back and forth through the place while screaming I'm going to kick it in the fucking face. Why the fuck is he so excited? He's obviously eaten a fucking donut before.