Never, Under Any Circumstances, Turn Down A Free Trip
Scattered recollections of a pathetic dance in Costa Rica with Bruce Irons.
It started fast, and in a haze. The Fourth of July fell on Monday, and after a hard night of booze and fireworks, I left my Playa del Rey condo pre-dawn to replace a lost passport in San Diego at nine. The next morning, at eight, I was to fly to Costa Rica.
Weeks before, I’d been talking to Logan ‘Chucky’ Dulien (who pieced the trip together) at Bear Flag, in Newport Beach. They had this trip planned and wanted Stab to tag along; there was a contest involved and Chuck was hoping to log some clips for his upcoming film, Snapt3. I was intrigued; all expenses paid, and it sounded weird and likely disastrous. Perfect. It’s also sacrilege to turn down a free trip, so…
Hawaiian style in South America!
They were going because at the Backyard Bar in Playa Hermosa, a man named Jeff Crego was throwing a contest. He called it the “Huck and Hack” – Bruce and Chuck called it the “Huck and Fuck” – a low-level air and carve competition presented by Airborn Surf, a company whose logo is (almost) literally the Air Jordan sign. But instead of MJ skying towards an assumed basketball rim, it’s a silhouetted surfer Christ Airing. Make of that what you will. “It’s more of a vacation with a contest attached,” said Bruce.
I’d met some of the guys before, but was mostly an outsider, observing. I knew there’d be two separate houses, and I’d have no place to sleep but couches, floors or anywhere inescapable from the unfolding chaotics. During a layover, Dylan Goodale, who was also attending, texted me: “You scared?”
“It’s gonna be interesting,” was my response.
The team consisted of Bruce, Chucky and Dylan, as well as Christian Fletcher, Simon Rex (aka Dirt Nasty – the “I’m on cocaine like it was 1980” guy, who also starred in Scary Movie 3, along with a few solo masturbation pornos, which I later learned through Wikipedia), a Canadian Weed Farmer, Betet ‘Da Guy’ Merta, Carlos Munoz, Tyler Newton, Ohtman Choufani (a big wave charger from Morocco), photog Mike Townsend, and grommet Parker Cohn.
The next day, we woke to lightning, rain and windblown surf. It was hot, humid and the concerns about Zika were peaking (especially in Zika capital aka Costa Rica, where we currently were). Every wall of the Backyard Bar was covered with event posters. It was clear that they were thrilled by our presence, but mostly Bruce’s. Hell, they even flew me out with hopes I’d “cover” it, though I’d mostly come to watch things unravel. I joked to Bruce about him being the event’s poster child. “It’s cool man,” he said. “Crego hooked it up. He put everyone up in hotels and threw me some money… it’s all good.” But, nobody stayed in the hotels. Why would we? We had houses on the beach a mile down the way… in retrospect, a bed would’ve been nice, as opposed to sleeping side by side on a pull out couch with Betet, or wherever I happened to shut down.
Sure isn’t Backdoor, but sure could be worse.
The mood before the event was buzzing. Word of Christian Fletcher’s presence echoed from the sand to the pool and bar. “I hear he’s on his way,” I told everyone who asked me. What’s a 90s-vibe airshow without Christian Fletcher? But although Crego booked him a flight, Christian never got on the plane.
In the house, midday, I’m sitting with Simon “Dirty Nasty” Rex. He has us all in stitches. We’re drinking Imperials, and he’s telling stories. “I once (almost) did cocaine with OJ Simpson,” he smiles, the diamond on his canine tooth glistening in the kitchen light. “Well, almost did.
“We were at a club in Hollywood, one of my buddies was friends with him (this is pre-the-glove-don’t-fit). We went downstairs; there was a guy cutting lines. It was me, my friend, and OJ between us. The guy cutting lines looked up at OJ and said, ‘anyone got a knife?’ OJ didn’t skip a beat: ‘You’re gonna ask a nigga for a knife?’ I do a bump, my buddy follows, and it comes around to OJ. He looks at the knife, looks at my buddy, looks at me and gets up and leaves the room. He didn’t know me; it was too risky.”
A few nights went by in this fashion. The morning of the event we woke up dusty. Heats were to start at nine and Tyler, Dylan and Parker went down early to warm up and wash off. After all, there was a $10k purse. Bruce was in his room with his charming girlfriend, Alisha, and around 2pm, made his way downstairs. “You guys ready to go?” he asked. The comp was to end at four, but it was Bruce’s event – he knew that – and like Kenny Powers, he made them wait. We arrived around three. The boys who showed up early were pushed directly into round two (which kicked off the next day) and wondered why they didn’t sleep off their hangovers.
During the contest, Crego chased his drone up and down the black sand beaches, pores leaking beneath the tropical sun. At one point, it stopped dead in the sky, and plummeted. I asked him about it later. Between his explanation of spending $8k to patent his Air Jordan logo based off an idea he had by glancing down at his sneakers, and sharing hopes that the WSL will buy out his event, and he told me this is his second busted drone in two months. And he doesn’t buy the cheap kind.
After all these years, and all this air traffic, Bruce Irons still owns the finest-looking, and most distinct, frontside aerial in the game.
Crego stuck Bruce in the final heat of the day, a half hour before the final buzzer. “Bruce Irons is in the water,” crackled from the scaffolding. “Hawaiian surfing herooo!” The high tide was swollen to nine feet. It was the slowest heat of the day. Their heat was fat, and Betet, who has the frame of a 14-year-old boy dominated. Bruce was eliminated. He came in from his heat, lit a cigarette and deserted his hotel room. The rest of us stayed and partied. Crego ran up to our room, which he’d paid for, and said “Fuck it! It’s my contest. Tell Bruce I’m putting him back in the event!” We all looked at each other, baffled at his attempt to kill any of the Huck and Hack’s remaining integrity. “Fuck that,” said Bruce to the proposition.
After the event there was a bikini contest, filled with Costa Rica locals and some of the Floridian expats’ lady friends. They stuck Bruce, Simon, Alisha and a local Costa Rican “surfing hero” at the judging table. Outdated electro echoed through blown speakers, and the gals stomped. It was delightfully uncomfortable and weird. The night humidity was harsher than the day’s, each breath was a hot sip, everyone was soaked in sweat, and booze wreaked through salty skin. I had the nerve to ask the winner what she was doing later, and through her braces – in broken English – she said she had to “work.”
“Yeah, it was a bit of a different contest,” said Bruce. “There was no pressure, all good vibes. The whole thing was just… funny. But Betet beat me in my heat, that little fucker – there was nothing there! It doesn’t matter though; we just came to have a good time.”
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