Justin Jay’s North Shore Spam
Concerned with ers, not ing.
The seven miles between Haleiwa and Sunset Beach is the most photographed stretch of coastline in the world. The waves are clearly the draw, but they’re not what makes the strip interesting. What really captivates is the strange collage of people and pastimes of the North Shore. Documenting this transient surf ecosystem and its interactions has become the love labour of New York photographer Justin Jay. Justin’s interest in the rock runs deep, but he’s concerned with ‘surfers,’ not ‘surfing.’ After making the choice to take photos over “waiting tables and serving pasta to assholes,” Justin briefly flirted with New York’s fashion world. However, he soon realised: “I don’t live and die for clothes, I’m not gay, and I don’t go out every night.” So fashion got the flick. Then, as happens when you populate the right circles, Justin ended up as the personal photographer to Sean John Combs (formerly Puff Daddy, then P Diddy). This is where Justin learned the skills necessary to capture intimate moments: “Personality, trust, getting people to let you into their world, and then have them forget about you.” Over the past eight years or so, Justin’s made it easier for those of us who’ve visited the North Shore to explain what it is that makes the stretch so damn intriguing. What’s interesting about Gabriel Medina grocery shopping? Nothing, really, but try walking around Foodland without peering into his basket. Similarly, try flicking through the following pages without reading the captions. In a time where everything’s on show, intimacy’s harder to come by, and infinitely more valuable.
Danny Fuller and Kala Alexander: “The North Shore is a battleground. The Boys in the lineup can be treacherous, but the wave’s the ultimate equaliser. After every session, there’s usually a postmortem wrap-up of the conditions and the waves surfed. On some days, it’s all smiles and laughs on the lawn. Not today. When two seasoned surfers like these guys stand and look out at the lineup with the harrowed expression of combat veterans, it’s not too hard to imagine the degree of carnage that went down. This is not a playground.”
Coco Ho: “When you roll up to the North Shore, be sure to pack some humility along with your sunscreen. Rocky Point is Coco’s backyard – paddle out there, and you just might get your feelings hurt. The boys might burn you with an entitled scowl, but you can look forward to a clinic in local knowledge from Coco with a radiant smile on her face. Competition for a Woman’s Surfer Poll award is always fierce. Snagging a trophy takes talent, class and charisma. Check, check, check, Coco.”
Dane and Sammy Reynolds: “Lap dogs are so 2014 – the accessory de rigour this season on the North Shore was a child. Competition for the title of coolest toddler was fierce, with Ace Buchan, Joel Parkinson, Yadin Nicol, Danny Fuller and Nathan Fletcher all in the running for top seed in the Walking and Talking division. Meanwhile, Kai Otton and Dane Reynolds battled it out in a two-way-tie for Rad Dad / 10 Pounds and Under category. But ultimately, it was a runaway victory for Axel Irons, snagging Top Grom for the fourth year in a row.”
Axel Irons and Filipe Toledo: “The Surfer Poll is supposed to be the Oscars of surfing, but in reality it’s more like the Golden Globes (a little sloppy in production, and really just a sideshow for the candid moments of drinking in the Turtle Bay lobby.) But where else can you find all of the top surfers in the world wearing button up shirts? After every award the winner is escorted Goodfellas-style through an industrial kitchen hallway into a banquet room for press and photos. This linoleum-floor stroll is the backstage version of the front-of-the-house red carpet. Axel was the unofficial mascot of the night, racing up and down the hall and greeting all the trophy winners.”
Owen and Mikey Wright: “What are the chances that right after you snag the Pipe barrel of your life that your kid brother happens to be waiting on the sand to high-five you? You can’t dream moments like that, and you can’t fake laughter and exuberance of this caliber. Owen had no shortage of odd-defying performances in 2015. Who can forget Cloudbreak? Fans were devastated and a few WSL competitors were surely relieved when Owen was unable to compete in the Pipe Masters due to a vicious injury just days after this photo was taken.”
Zeke Lau and Leo Fioravanti: “When Pipe’s on surfers that aren’t actually in the lineup are spectating and commentating from the lawns and porches of every team house on the strip. You can stand with your back to the ocean and easily tell when somebody got a massive barrel or a beating by watching the expressions on people’s faces. There are often long lulls in the action when you watch a contest at Pipe; wave choice and strategy can eat into the pace during actual heats. But when Pipe is firing for a freesurf, very few waves goes unridden. It’s a constant barrage of activity in the lineup. Sometimes it’s at the expense of a poor soul that was a little too eager to paddle into a wave that they probably should’ve left alone. The heroics, and the mistakes are widescreen and HD for all to see.”
Evan Geiselman: “Evan died twice in one day this season. The video of his limp body being dragged out of the water has been seen by all, and it’s utterly chilling. After being revived on the beach, the ambulance had to pull over again on the way to the hospital to bring Evan back to life. His near drowning cast a shadow over the North Shore season. Even after the news spread that he had survived, it was still unclear if he would ever fully recover. His injury is a cautionary tale for every surfer paddling out into the Pipe lineup. Just days later, I caught up with Evan at the Reef team house. He was still visibly shaken, but in stellar spirits. It simply wasn’t his time to go.”
Dustin Barca and Axel Irons: “The North Shore is a unique place for many reasons besides the surf. Try throwing a birthday bash on the beach. If you build a 75 foot slip and slide anywhere on the mainland it’s 100% going to get shut down. North Shore permits? We don’t need no stinking permits. A bonfire at dusk? Open containers and music? Not an issue. After several hours of tropical sweat and labor, JOB and his skilled engineering team built the best gift that Axel Irons could ever wish for. Dozens of kids waited in line for their chance to jump on a bodyboard and slide the custom attraction. Limits were eventually tested and a few tears materialised, but ultimately everyone left exhilarated and intact. The North Shore has gradually become more kid friendly (see also: less violent and dangerous) than it was several years ago. I asked regulator Kai Garcia why the change in tone: ‘Several factors I guess: Real estate prices, gentrification, and the camera phone. It’s too expensive for a lot of the locals to live here anymore, and now every little slap gets recorded on an iPhone. Plus, gorillas just don’t surf anymore – I’m the last generation.'”
Danny, Ryan and Tori Fuller: “My knowledge of biology is quite rusty to say the least – I have a faint high school memory about X and Y chromosomes and DNA determining something or other… That said, the one thing that I do know is that it was genetically impossible for the offspring of these two humans not to be an absolutely stunning and charismatic child – that’s just science.”
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