Unlikely Heroes Of The Volcom Pipe Pro: Alvaro Marpartida
Part 2 in our underdog series.
Author’s note: Click here for part 1 of our ‘Unlikely Heroes of the Volcom Pipe Pro’ series.
Although I didn’t expect Cam Richards to perform as well as he did at this year’s Volcom Pipe Pro, I was at least aware of his existence before the contest took place. One of our Unlikely Heroes, however, was completely and utterly unbeknownst to me no more than five days ago.
Alvaro Malpartida, part of the Peruvian Pipeline Posse that made a serious dent in this year’s event, is a stylish goofyfoot who very clearly knows his way around a tube. Watching Alvaro glide into Pipeline pit after Pipeline pit, I found myself once again startled by the amount of nameless, faceless talent that inhabits our small blue orb.
After his semifinal finish, I thought it was only right we speak with Alvaro to learn a bit of his story.
Alvaro and his gorgeous gal. Photo: @malpafish
Stab: Alvaro, nice to meet you! I hope you won’t be offended when I say that I’d never heard of you before this event, but I’m enamored with your ability to thread a tube. So tell me, how old are you and where are you from?
[Laughs] No problem. I’m 35 and come from Punta Hermosa, Peru. It’s a little town that’s commonly known as the birthplace of Peruvian surfing. The waves are really good there — we have Pico Alto and lots of other powerful spots. Most of them could be compared to Sunset or something.
Do you guys have a wave similar to Pipeline?
Yeah, that wave is in north. We have really solid barrels, and Chile is close so we oftent visit the big reef breaks down there. I also spent a lot of time studying in Australia when I was younger. I was based out of the Gold Coast at Griffith University, but I got to travel to Western Australia and surf a lot of heavy reef breaks around there.
No way! I did a semester at Griffith as well… wild place, that. So how long were you in Australia, and what did you study?
I was there for five years, and I was studying graphic design. I also spent a lot of time in Indonesia when I was over there — like full seasons. I really love waves like Deserts and all the other great ones in Indo, but now that I’m back in Peru Indo is pretty far, so I stick to places like Puerto Escondido and Chile.
Oh how he played with Mother Pipeline!
So all of that travel made you comfortable over shallow reef waves?
Yeah, that’s where all of my passion comes from, because I just love surfing those types of waves. I’ve also been working my way toward the Big Wave Tour by surfing waves like Pico Alto and Jaws. I just love big barrels. It’s so easy to fall in love with surfing if you’re getting barreled all the time.
But how are you able to do all of this? Is graphic design your main form of income?
Honestly no. I do that on the side, and it definitely helps, but I spend most of my time training for surfing. I put a lot of effort into performing better, getting my equipment right, and working with all the best people that I can.
So are you trying to qualify for the CT?
That’s not my main priority, no. Mostly I’m trying to get onto the Big Wave Tour. I would really love that. I also try to do all the QS events where I think the waves will be good. So events like Pipeline and Chile are great, both because it’s so much fun to get barreled, but also because it’s good practice for competing. I also do a few other QS events just to keep the points up.
Was this your first time surfing in the Pipe event?
It was the second actually. The first was a long time ago, maybe 11 years. I had kind of a good run in that first event too. I got two eights on a couple of Backdoor barrels, and it was just a cool thing because it was the first time I got to surf out there in a heat. I think my dad also played a big role in that. He was one of the first Peruvian guys to come to Hawaii and make with all of the locals. So I had a little bit of support from all these Hawaiian legends.
It’s easy to be a good sport when you’re getting spit out of tubes all day.
Do you typically get good waves when you’re freesurfing at Pipeline, or did the Volcom comp provide your only real opportunity to thrive out there?
Well yeah, it’s a hard thing being in a haole — you know, an outsider in Hawaii — especially when you’re trying to surf Pipeline, but I do get lucky every now and then. That said, this contest was very special for me. I’m very stoked with how it all played out.
What does it mean to you to perform on such a massive stage?
It’s huge. There are so many people watching because its Pipeline, but you just have to focus on yourself and on making the wave. I wasn’t able to make it past the semifinals — I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but I definitely had the opportunity to make those waves I fell on. But losing also allowed me to experience one of the best moments of my life, where I was able to surf Pipeline for 20 minutes with just me and Mitch Parkinson. It was bombing, just continual sets, and I think we each got three waves. It was just 20 minutes in heaven. All the freesurfers wanted to come into the lineup, but KaiBorg wouldn’t let them, so it was just us. There was no competition vibe, it was just calling each other into waves, like “Oh, you go!”
So in some ways it was almost a blessing that you didn’t make the final.
In some ways, yes. It was a huge present. That was a very special moment.
And did you expect to perform this well in the contest, or did you surprise even yourself?
With all the big names in this event, I could never expect to do as well as I did. That said, I typically perform best in barreling situations, probably because I’m not thinking about making the heat, but rather I’m just enjoying the moment. Pipeline is tricky though, because it’s such a dangerous wave, but you’re also doing everything you can to make the heat. It’s a little scary, but so much fun.
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