Stab Magazine | On The Road With The WSL Band

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On The Road With The WSL Band

Jake Howard’s Almost (not) Famous moment sharing a world tour flight to Tahiti.  

// Aug 12, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Excuse me, but is this flight full of surfers?” asked the sweet old lady on the Air Tahiti Nui flight from L.A. to Papeete last night. 

“I guess, but they’re not all competing in the contest” I politely explained. “A lot of the people on this flight are the worker bees that make the world tour happen.”

She had just spent the eight-hour flight nestled between a photographer and judge. Two rows back from Dave Prodan trying to sleep. Two rows up from Kanoa Igarashi and Zeke Lau sat comfortably with their noise cancelling headphones on. “The U.S. Open ended on Sunday and now the whole circus is going to Tahiti,” I continued.

“My grandson really wanted to go the U.S. Open but we weren’t able to make it,” said the perfumed grandmother, completely oblivious to the fact that she easily could have extended an arm and patted Kanoa, the newly crowned Open champ on the back.

What’s often overlooked when talking about “tour life” is how small and how tight the scene is. Waiting to board the flight, the airport lounge was a who’s who of the WSL. In the crowded terminal, Jordy Smith stood a head taller than most. Rosy Hodge waltzed by. They chirped back and forth in their cute South African drawl. Filipe Toledo, his father, his filmer and photog Bruno Lemos quietly huddled in a corner, Filipe weighted down with a big bag of camera gear strapped to his back. No prima donna here.

Judge Jack Shipley lightly joked with a consortium of other career critics. Tour doc Warren Kramer and his son fiddled with their bags. A bearded Jake Patterson showed up wearing his coach’s hat. Strider Wasilewski was adorned in a red sweatshirt and red shorts, adding credence to this nickname: “Raspberry.” WSL filmers and camera operators shuffled about. Conner Coffin’s parents sat quietly waiting to board.

In the air, Josh Kerr occupied some of the time by pacing about the cabin. “Gotta keep the legs moving”, he grinned. But the real action came when the flight finally landed. “There are 17 board bags that didn’t make the flight”, announced an otherwise reserved Stephen “Belly” Bell. Kerr, Toledo, Igarashi and a whole slew of others quickly transitioned from happily groggy after the trans-Pac flight, to a sense of nervous urgency. Considering the recent interference scandal at the Open between Igarashi and Toledo, it was a curious thing seeing them standing shoulder to shoulder in the oversized baggage area. Gab’s Medina’s step-dad, Charlie Rodrigues, lurked, waiting for two overstuffed coffins. He chatted with Toledo’s pops to kill some time. One of the customs agents asked Kerr for some stickers, “I’m stickerless at the moment,” he answered, referring to both his lack of board bags and lack of sponsorship.

All the boards showed up on the next flight 30 minutes later, but given the current surf forecast for the Billabong Pro Tahiti, the anxiety was palpable. It’s looking like there’s a shot of overhead swell that fills in on Friday and holds through the weekend with another reinforcing southwest swell expected to fill in on Sunday and Monday. Not great, but should be plenty to work with. There’s not much lining up after that and winds could be problematic. Don’t be surprised if this thing is over in the first four days of the waiting period…with everyone piling back on the plane next week.

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