Stab Magazine | "White Rhino", Or When The South Pacific Roared

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“White Rhino”, Or When The South Pacific Roared

Bruce Irons, Nate Fletcher, the biggest Cloudbreak ever and the new film “White Rhino.”

news // Apr 28, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Fiji and Tahiti in 2011 and 2012, it was a run of giant perfection the sport of surfing hasn’t seen before or since. 

The bender kicked off on July 12, 2011, with a giant swell at Cloudbreak. A month later, on August 27, 2011, the “Code Red” swell blew up Teahupoo. And ten months after that, on June 8, 2012, the Volcom Pro swell at Cloudbreak bookended the action. What stands out most about that year-long span was how giant the surf was while being mesmerizingly perfect. 

The whole story of that 12-month period is now told in the documentary, “White Rhino.” Directed and produced by Brent Storm, the film will premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival in Orange County, California, this weekend. From there it will go on to be screened at the WSL Big Wave Awards/BeachLife Festival in Redondo Beach with another screening at the Surf Film Festival in San Diego.

The synopsis for the film reads: “A parallel story from the big wave surfers and photographers who witnessed the largest surf ever seen. This story is based on one photographer’s journey to capture the wave of a lifetime. In pursuit, three epic swells hit the South Pacific shorelines, providing conditions only madmen could dream of. Hear the story behind these historical days from the men themselves who dared to challenge the ‘White Rhino.'”

And as luck would have it, Stab had the mic rolling in the channel on July 12, 2011, when Bruce Irons had just survived his famous bomb on the Stretch-shaped 10’1” “Pink Pony” that he borrowed from his friend Nathan Fletcher (that he borrowed from Todd Morcom). Both were still shaking with adrenaline. Nate was probably smoking a grit. Here’s their conversation, for more of the same make it a point to see “White Rhino”: 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/HSQMf38Q6wQ

Here e offer the handicap view as not to spoil the real thing (Ryan Hipwood on wave 1, Bruce Irons on wave 2).

Nathan Fletcher: From the top, ladies and gentlemen, Bruce Irons. That was just incredible, I don’t even know what to say. He’s in tears, I’ll guarantee it. This has been the best, biggest dream session ever.

It was unbelievable. Mike and Kohl, those guys set it up and made it okay for Bruce and I to come. Then to see them get two of the waves of the session, it brings a tear to the fuckin’ eye. I can just say that me and Bruce, being friends forever, and seeing and understanding the reasons they surf, it’s brings it all into perspective. Bruce getting back to the real deal, back to why we surf, it’s just another level of pure joy, excitement and bliss. It’s been a lifetime achievement award. And really, in the contest of life, the reason we all do this, everybody that’s been a part of this has been rewarded.

Bruce Irons (paddling up to the boat, entering into the conversation halfway through Nathan’s rant): Kohl and Mike, they deserve all the respect in the world. We’re just following their lead.

NF: How’d that board go?

BI: The 10’1″ Pink Pony, now that I look at the pictures, that was the best backside tube picture I’ve ever got. I got super rag dolled and almost drowned, but you know what, I visualized that five minutes before I got it. Maybe not exactly like that, but something like that. Oh my god, it’s just something that will stick in my head for the rest of my life. It was the most beautiful vision — even though I almost drowned. I don’t know, I get chicken skin just thinking about it. It was Todd Morcom’s board. Nathan had caught his special wave on it, and then the next wave ridden on it was my wave, so yeah, thanks Todd for that. 

NF: I sent you out on that thing and I was still fucking speechless after my wave.

BI: My ears are still fucking ringing. I almost drowned. 

NF: You just made the cover of Longboard Magazine.

BI: I’ve never rode a board over 7’6″ on a left before. I was scared shitless in there. I should have stood up and no-grabbed it. I’ve never ridden a big fucking board on a left.

NF: But how’d it feel grabbing your rail on a 10’1″?

BI: Kinda good. When I was at the bottom I was just like, “Yaaarrrrr!!!”

NF: Fuck yeah.

BI: I knew I was getting my self into something special. It was just beautiful. You know how at Teahupoo you think you’re way back in there, but then when you look at the pictures it doesn’t look that deep. This was different. A 10-foot board in a barrel like that, that’s just dangerous. My brother was riding on my shoulder, for sure. 

NF: Kelly Slater said he ain’t never seen anything fuckin’ like that.

BI: What’d he say? His contest starts tomorrow in J-Bay. So funny. The guys are probably bummed he’s surfing somewhere warm and perfect like this, when it’s cold and flat in South Africa right now. Fuck, he’s smart. He can do whatever he wants. He told me I could go take his spot. Yeah right, flat fucking J-Bay? No thanks.

NF: Can I get a whoop-whoop. I can’t fucking believe it. You’re foaming at the mouth right now. 

BI: I should be, I’m more excited about surfing than I have been since I was a kid. I’m more psyched than I have been since I was a little. I have chicken skin talking about it. Like surfing for the love of just being in the water and going surfing. Surfing is what I did as a kid that brought me the most happiness, and it’s back in my life and I love it. Staying in the water brings me happiness, and now I know what doesn’t, so I know what I gotta do…keep surfing.

“White Rhino” is showing May 1st at Lido Theatre in Newport Beach. 

Then after the Big Wave Awards in Redondo early next week. Go check it out. 

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