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READER POLL 2017
We promise this won’t (really) hurt.

Wanna win a new surfboard? We have a custom Chilli ‘Black Vulture’ to gift (plus all the trim you’d expect from a premium dealer). To be in the running, just answer a few questions for us. It won’t take long.

Close
Close READER POLL 2017
We promise this won't (really) hurt.

Wanna win a new surfboard? We have a custom Chilli ‘Black Vulture’ to gift (plus all the trim you’d expect from a premium dealer). To be in the running, just answer a few questions for us. It won’t take long.

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The Stab High Hangover

It's been four days in Waco. I'm frazzle-fried, struggling to form thoughts, drifting off mid-sentence, and absolutely packed with Texas BBQ. It's been fun, it's been real. It's nearly time to go home and collapse into my own bed for a blissful 24 hours.

Younger men seem to fair better. Morgan's toast, Mike's okay. I ran into Matt Meola while devouring smoked meats at Rudy's and he seems to be doing fine. Off to California for a bit, then back home to Maui. Last night he and Nate Florence were off their rockers throwing firecrackers at people. Most amusingly the deep in conversation and oblivious to their presence pair of Mike Ciaramella and Albee Layer. Now he's lucid and cruising. I am not.

Watching the Acid Drop from the scaffolding was a special moment. Makes or not, it's terrifying up there. Harry Bryant's first attempt from the top rope was the type of poorly considered mayhem from which gold clips are made. Noa Deane snatching a board from the hands of Dylan Graves, only to follow up with an intentional butt bottom to the flats, was too. I took it as a signal to begin a different acid drop, distributed to various attendees, its come-up scheduled to coincide with the rescheduled finals.

But it's hard to time that sort of thing, so we watched Chippa take the win through relatively clear minds. Things only began to turn strange when the announcer's booth rang out across the water.

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Crane by Ian Crane.

Photography Conrad Taylor
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Kevin Shulz won the Freak Peak challenge – an event that due to the storm we had to call off on the day of the event. But, we'd ran BSR's mutant during the warmups and Kevin launched the loftiest, and craziest flip ever done in Waco.

Photography Conrad Taylor

“Everyone clear the water immediately! There is a lightning storm on the way.”

A few attendees pointed out that it was no big deal. Summer thunderstorms are a common occurrence in this part of Texas. “If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes,” was an aphorism I've heard repeatedly over the last few days.

The crowd came to the same conclusion concurrently... lightning storms may be normal, no big deal, easy to wait out. But the best place to do so is far from a large metal scaffolding that sits higher than the surrounding land. Observers beat a hasty retreat towards cover as the skies unleashed their fury.

I felt bad for the general admission attendees forced to scurry for the safety of their cars through torrential rain and sucking mud. But the VIP section was full. No room in the inn. The party was about to get started and they weren't invited.

The wind picked up and heaved a Monster logo emblazoned canopy into the pool. A lone maniac dove in to retrieve it. Crackling bolts lit up the sky and we wondered what in the fuck he hoped to achieve. Leave it for later. Focus on upstairs. Sheets of rain were killing expensive broadcast equipment, the DJ booth was bearing the brunt of the onslaught, and the roof was pouring water from a crack directly above the bar.

Sam McIntosh was cackling maniacally. If you're trying to create a spectacle there's no better end and beginning. Nature's fury put an end to the event, signaled the beginning of revelry, and once the DJ was moved to safety the music began thumping and the sodden guests went wild.

Legally purchased explosives entertained some at the after party and startled more than a few.

Photography Eric Tomlinson

Cam Richards won the Monster Air of the event, $20k and a yellow phone.

Photography Eric Tomlinson

It was damp, but it was warm. We'd been drinking all day long. Aussies began asking me for packets I could not deliver but it seems they eventually found. Wet women writhed on the dance floor, military grade psychedelics came on strong, lightning continued to set the sky on fire. Wind poured rain in over the balcony and turned the floor to swamp. Dancers slid and skidded and kicked up water turned filthy by dirty bare feet. It was pure blissful anarchy. Worth paying whatever bill came due when the sun next rose.

I never figured out who brought the massive pile of fireworks to the after-party. My prime suspect is the chubby local kid, my only evidence his control of the massive mortars he was firing off the waterfront. It's a safe assumption he also handed out the roman candles and various strength firecrackers. But it's hard to say for sure. This is Texas and you can get away with some weird shit. Drink and smoke and toss bombs at all and sundry. But you shouldn't swear. And you definitely shouldn't start shit with strangers. Everyone is armed.

Security first made its presence felt while the top deck was awash in acrid gunpowder smoke and hammered surfers delighted in tossing incendiary devices at each others' feet. Into the pool. Firing roman candles into the air and at unsuspecting pedestrians down below. I dove for cover when a blasted young woman obliviously pointed her own roman candle directly at my face, fuse fizzing, from five feet away.

But the friendly Latino guard, who I'd get to know better later that night, was totally unconcerned about any potential fire hazards. Someone had tossed a bottle off the deck, and that shit had to stop.

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This image and the below image say just about all we need to about this competition.

Photography Jimmy Wilson
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See above caption ^

Photography Jimmy Wilson

We were, maybe, two hours past the end of the event. The night had barely begun.

I watched a staff member, a trim and attractive young girl in a mid-riff shirt and bikini bottom, disappear into a nefariously darkened and crowded room. My wife noticed and said, “Good for her.”

She exited not long after and moved to the room next door. When her concerned coworkers came looking for her I considered pleading ignorance, then decided it would be funnier to point them in her direction. They both followed her in. Only one, a gawky young man, came back out.

I'd brought with me a decent supply of mind-altering substances and a carton of cigarettes. One thing I know well about professional surfers and the members of the media that surround them- they all smoke like fiends while wasted but never bring their own. It's easier to come well supplied and hand them out like candy. 

My little brother met me in Waco for this trip. He's an insurance salesman, father of two, and I figured he could use the fun.

“Pace yourself,” I'd told him that morning. “This is gonna be an all day and all night affair. Drink water, don't forget to eat. It's easy to be blacked out by sundown. Don't be an amateur.”

I lost track of him for a couple hours while I dealt with my own peaking reality. As I leveled off I began to wonder where he'd gone. I found him on the dance floor. He'd lost his shirt, his wedding ring, and was having the time of his life. “Should I dial him back?” I wondered. “Nah, he's not hurting anyone. He's a weird kid, but he's my brother. He's likeable. Everyone seems to be enjoying him.”

Shaun Manners and Noa Deane had purchased full-on cowboy kits the day before. Noa picked up spurs, he owns a horse. I've learned a lot about it. Shaun took a shine to my wife and paid her the worst compliment possible.

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Jett Schilling and his future ex-wife.

Photography Eric Tomlinson
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Nathan Florence, Mahina Garcia and a couple cold cans of Union Wine ;)

Photography Conrad Taylor

“You're so cool,” he said. “You remind me of my mom.”

That's not something you should ever tell a woman. Of any age. In any situation. She pointed that out and he attempted to backpedal. “No, that's not what I meant,” he said, before making it even worse. She laughed, they became fast friends. They made an interesting pair – a twenty one year old ripper and a thirty five year old attorney.

They were getting to know each other better when I received word that security had my brother. Details were murky, but the rent-a-cops were upset and my presence was urgently needed.

Fearing the worst I pushed towards the crowd toward the dance floor where the friendly Latino security guard from earlier, and his morbidly obese boss, had him in custody.

“What's wrong? What happened?”

“He has to go,” the hefty middle aged woman replied.

“Okay. But what happened?”

“He was sleeping. He has to go.”

Fair enough. He was hardly the first person to pass out, but everyone else had the sense to find a dark corner before their lights went out. When discovered they were rolled into the recovery position and left to slumber.

As for my brother, it was time to pop him in an Uber back to our rental. Problem solved. Except not exactly.

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Somebody's gotta do the bizness! (Pictured Noah Waggy)

Photography Eric Tomlinson

If you take a person who isn't bright enough to become a cop, hand them a gun and a false sense of authority, it drives some of them slightly mad. They feel their orders should be followed without question, even though they know that isn't actually the case. It was time for my brother to go, on that point I agreed. But as to her furious insistence that I magic him off the property immediately... that wasn't going to happen. Possessions needed to be collected. A car needed to be summoned. It would take a moment and she would have to wait. If she didn't like it, that was her problem.

“You need to go with him,” she told me.

“No, I don't. I'm going back inside.”

“The party is over. We're closing it down.”

“Good luck with that.”

Frustrated by the fact that she'd achieved her wishes without the satisfaction of dominance she turned her wrath on the party at large. The flabby tin god stormed upstairs and informed everyone gathered that we had to leave. Immediately. The party was over.

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Photography Conrad Taylor

It was an amusing notion considering Stab had rented out the premises and hired her company to keep order during the event. Wrangling post-party was not within her purview. She engaged in a tug-of-war over a laptop that was playing music, claimed there'd been “over ten noise complaints.”

When that didn't work she stated we were criminally trespassing. Scary words, albeit utterly meaningless and delivered by a power-tripping idiot. Repeatedly met with mockery she finally snapped, “I'm done with this. You can deal with the sheriffs when they get here.”

The sheriffs never arrived. The party continued. A bottle of tequila was passed around. Groups formed and splintered and everyone laughed and hugged and loved each other.

By 3am, the storm had tapered off, and a group of surfers were downstairs having the type of deep conversation you don't remember the next day. Two men asked if I had any more. I did, two tabs. I was happy to give them away.

One was packed away for later. A wise choice at that early hour. The other was immediately ingested, a decision I found a bit rash. No sleep for him, not that night. As sleep, or torpor, overtook most present, he likely had a lonely, introspective, trip ahead.

Or maybe not. Maybe the party kept going.

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Last year's highest air winner, Eithan Osborne and Chippa Wilson

Photography Eric Tomlinson

Big thanks to Union Wine (for providing the wine) and Saint Archer (for providing the brew), however, somewhere between the pool and afterparty we polished off all the Saint Archer. Oh, also thanks to Just Water for the occasional hydration spacer. 

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