2001: Big Wave Hunting
The Bertish brothers are Cape Town surfing royalty. It’s hard to tell of any of them have limits in big surf. They’re regal legends of this small town’s big wave culture. Sir Fers, if you will. Best to start with the eldest, Greg is a loon who has charged every wave on the peninsula as well as complicated open-heart surgery. Conn was an alternate at the Red Bull BWA 2000 and 2001, and has subsequently jammed a bottom turn into corporate life. He is the creative director of Saatchi&Saatchi Cape Town and is known to dabble with retro surf boards in serious waves. With these two as older brothers, it’s no wonder that Chris has always pushed the boundaries of big wave surfing. The youngest of the Bertish siblings has always proven to be an absolute mullet in big waves. In 2001 he went on a self-financed ‘big wave odyssey’ to paddle into the biggest waves the planet has to offer. This saw him ride massive Todos Santos followed by Macking Mavericks. Soon after he went to Hawaii and hit Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. But Waimea has been surfed since forever, so he decided to break some new ground and attempt a paddle-in at Jaws, a wave that was dubbed unpaddle-able by the tow-in crew who dominate it…
After that Chris was heading for Teahupo’o in Tahiti, before his funds ran dry. That year he won the Swell XXL award for the biggest wave paddle into, and on return to SA, Chris scored his first invite to compete in the Red Bull BWA 2001. He went on that year to charge some of the biggest waves ridden at Dungeons & was honored with the Deep Throat award, for courage under fire. In 2003 the freakshow named Bertish was back in town and he was on a mission at the blue water prison, named Dungeons. He again,won that year’s Deep Throat award for pulling into a series of 20 foot close-out barrels. A few people have been barreled at Dungeons, but normally when people pull into the cathedral, and the roof’s falling down, they look for a quiet place to dive off and lessen the sickening impact to come. Not Chrispe, every wave he pulls into, no matter how ludicrously deep, he holds his line and his wild eyes look for a way out. Maybe this year, he’ll get that overgrown, barreling periscope from the Slab to the Inside Bowl of the Dungeon, and spat out onto the shoulder in front of the screaming flotilla. If anyone’s got the cajones to try it, it’s our man Chris Bertish.
He has been working as Surf Brand Manager for U.K. based Surf company, Gul International since the Red Bull BWA 2003, and has single handedly pioneered big wave surfing on the small, rainy island by charging big waves solo. He is the only one out surfing the, uh, ‘mackers’ at South West England’s big wave reef, ‘The Cribbar.’ While enjoying some solo, 15 foot bombs, there in late December 2004, sea rescue was called out to save a longboarder who attempted to join Chris. The Longboarder had got swatted in the impact zone. Chris paddled in to help the stricken surfer, and got a ride back out with the sea rescue crew and caught a few more. Bertish’s big wave antics in the UK have made front page news on a few occasions, claiming he’s ridden the biggest waves recorded in the U.K. We expect nothing less from this unique, laid back Cape Town boy’tjie.
It broke way out to sea a thick, foaming right-hander coming through at about forty foot. The domain of jetskies and tow-in surfers only pushing the limits of what Mark Foo used to refer to as ‘The Unridden Realm’. It was still early in the morning and there was no whining of engines breaking the sound of the massive waves crashing. There was no thin layer of two-stroke filming the water’s surface. There was no exhaust smoke blowing over the waves with the hard offshore. Just two guys calmly paddling out where they shouldn’t be.
The first set came through and they were out of position. They scratched around and got out of immediate danger. Then a fat set welled up on the reef, and Chris was in position. He paddled into what was very quickly jacking up into a massive, ledging beast of a wave. He caught it, cranked a bottom turn and jammed into a massive, warping barrel. He got clipped, swatted, taken out by a wave that was ultimately too big and too fast for his paddle-entry. Not discouraged, Chris got back out and had another go. His next attempt was less successful although he did manage to catch another one.
What did this prove? Well, as we move forward with leaps and bounds, as big wave surfing boundaries are broken down and reassessed every single year, there are still people out there who look through different eyes. A wave that was quite clearly deemed unpaddlable by those big wave legends, those gladiators, who feel they have the knowledge to make such calls, was quite clearly a wave that could be paddled. Although the wave was also proven to be superior to the paddle surfers and their approach the point made was that the wave, one of the few consistently massive waves on the planet, can be paddled. All it took was a Cape Town boy with a lack of conformity to do it.
CHRIS BERTISH went big wave hunting at the Big Four. He surfed huge Waimea, Todos Santos, Mavericks and Jaws. He was the first madman to ride big Jaws without being towed in by a jetski!
My name is Chris Bertish, a 26 year old surfer from Cape Town, South Africa. Since I started surfing 16 years ago, I was always attracted to the rush of surfing bigger waves. Helped by my two older brothers Conn and Greg, I grew up always trying to push my level of surfing to match their standards.
I surfed the Kom as much as I could at a pretty early age, from 13 or 14 onwards and grew fond of surfing the beasts that batter the Cape coast in winter. Always inspired by videos and photos of the infamous North Shore, I dreamed of the day I would surf the monsters my mentors rode, guys like Jeff Clark, Derrik Doener and Brock Little and others.
Three years ago, I set my sights on the North Shore and went over to the Caribbean to save enough money for the trip.
Surfing back home as regularly as possible, I surfed the gnarly Factory, pushing the limits with guys like my brothers, Paris Basson, Ian (Armstrong) and Cass (Collier).
After months of training and saving, I was ready for Hawaii … or so I thought! The North Shore was a wake-up call. It was pretty tough. Nevertheless, the proving ground became my home!
Getting great waves at Wiamea, Sunset and Backdoor, I realised that what I really loved was riding big, heavy waves.
Returning inspired and more knowledgeable about equiptment and how fit you really have to be, I set myself the goal of riding the four biggest, heaviest waves on the planet! With backing from great sponsors like Quiksilver, Nike, Grizzly, Reef, Xanadu and Sport n’ Surf, I left home again to train and save a little more for my quest, to hunt down the heaviest waves around the globe.
Now the time has come and I’m ready, anxious and prepared for whatever Neptune wants to throw my way! Arriving 14th January in San Francisco, I start by staying and waiting, at a place now world renowned for some of the biggest, heaviest waves on the plannet. Half Moon bay and Mavericks!
After surfing the beasts that batter the shores of Half Moon Bay, I intend on heading South into the top of Mexico, to go and challenge the monsters that come marching in to a small island, just off the top of the Baja Peninsula, Todos Santos.
After conquering these two, there’ll be no time to rest, because it’ll be over to the North Shore to catch the late season swell and wait for those few, scary, yet magical days at Wiamea Bay!
The last of the Big four, lies deeper into the Pacific, possibly the heaviest rideable wave known to man, Teahupoo in Tahiti. Only time and patience will tell if the mission becomes possible. But life is short to wait around and wonder.
“You never know, unless you go.”
Saturday, January 13, 2001
Miami International, main terminal, Saturday morning, busy as hell. A poor sod lugs a big backpack, carry bag and dragging a huge coffin bag weighing 70kg around. “Oops sorry about that, sorry, excuse me….” Ended up renting a Cherokee 4 x 4 to take all 5 boards. Hoping to catch the tail end of the swell that had been battering the North Shore of Hawaii for the last couple of days, I couldn’t sleep for hours, dreaming of the beasts lining the horizon at dawn…
Misty, chilly morning. Waxed up my 8′ Xanadu and headed down to Pillar Point and the infamous Mavericks. Suited up and ran down the path, without checking the waves… Sometimes you just get that feeling and you know! Thinking it was pretty normal, running down the path with my 8 and a 3:2mm wetsuit, no booties, gloves or hood, I got a couple of pretty confused looks. Started the almost-mile paddle. Smiling like an excited kid, waiting to open the first of Xmas present, I reached the line up. Every 10 minutes. A 10-12′ beast would stand up and unload, dark green and nasty. I waited about fifteen minutes, before stroking in deep, into one of the sets. The wave was meaty and jacked into a vertical drop. I dropped in as another surfer pulled out above me. The stage was set, my first wave at Mavericks. The Big Four had just begun!
The swell died a touch, but on the low tide, I suited up again and paddled out, through the keyhole on the side of the cliffs. The weather was gloomy and cold, very onshore and no one out that I could see. When I got to the back, I was surprised to find one of the local guys, patiently waiting for one of the lucky one’s that came an>through…We got a really bumpy one together, stepping down the staircase face. He took it in and I was left to surf the next hour on my lonesome. That’s one way to get use to Mavericks, I guess, surf it all conditions. Just before I came in, a nasty set caught me inside.
It’s only at times like these do you really, realise how alone you really are out there. A mile or so out, into the heaving ocean and no one in sight to hear any cries for help! We live and learn! After getting clobbered by the set, I came to my senses and went in. Wise decision.
Swell dropped to 6-8′, not big enough. Headed to San Francisco to sort out my rent-a-car. Hooked up with one of the photographers (Darrach Bourke) and some of his mates for swimming training, killer dinner, too many drinks, a slide show of the waves on the first day and some good laughs. They all seemed to be amused by the crazy South African, surfing Mavericks on a 8′, in a 3.2mm and no booties! “Who is that clown!” they said at first. “Look it’s the Freakin South African on that wave, look, no booties!” I had to laugh, so funny.
Caught some of the sights of San Fran – Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Fishermans Wharf (like Waterfront in Cape Town.). Picked up my repaired 9′ after usual airline disaster. With reports of a building swell, starting to get pumped. Went back to Hostel to get my boards organised and ready for the makkers I heard were marching our way! Calls for 20ft plus surf, is always almost impossible to get a decent nights sleep. But, I slept like a rock!
Knowing the swell was going to pick up, I got some serious sleep, even though I had to beat off some psycho-hobos who tried to steal my blankets in the night! Hostels have got to be the gathering spot for all the weirdos on the planet! It’s 12:30 and I’m sitting on a bench by the lighthouse, waiting and watching as the swell jacks as I type. Lines building from miles out. I can see a couple of the outer reefs starting to break so, what am I doing sitting here writing my diary. Cheeeeers, I’m out here, going surfing! Later!
Just got out of the water from some of the biggest heaviest, hollowest, ugliest looking waves, I have ever seen, or surfed. Mavericks truly is the beast, of all big waves, I’ve ever ridden! The swell jacked from 15ft solid, to 20-25ft in the sets. Enough said, well not really. Super cold, dark and grey, low tide and slightly onshore! This spot is truly insane! For the ballzy and stupid only! I think I fit into the latter of those two. Matt Ambrose was calling that, that’s pretty much, as big as you can surf it paddling inn…. Following that…is the tow-in realm…. Definitely not for the faint hearted, when the waves are 25- 30ft and only bigger. Is there a limit these days? I fear not! Got a couple of Monsters, one great wave with Jay Moriaty on my outside! Think he was a wee bit surprised!
I’m about an hour out of San Francisco heading South like a crazed man, possessed, to drive 800 km down to San Diego, to meet a friend, to cross the boarder, early tomora into Mexico, to get to the Coast of Ensenatta and catch a small boat out to the small, but world renowned, “Killers” Todos Santos.
Want to catch the same swell, I surfed this afternoon, maybe bigger. It’s more exposed than Mavericks. That alone is scary! With the scariest waves I’ve ever experienced today, Seeing at least 5 boards broken, horrendous hold downs, some guy bursting his eardrum, with, what must have been a clear almost 30ft freefall. I’m pretty excited and at the same time, worried what I will possibly encounter tomorrow, after driving right through the night, to catch Todos tomorrow!
Friday 19th and 20th January 2001
Drove 10 hours down from, Half Moon Bay (just South of San Francisco), the whole night, recharging almost hourly on Red Bull, Twix’s, and double Hazelnut coffees. Slept half an hour at a petrol station, after just making it to L.A. Used all the tricks…The head out the window trick…Slapping yourself in the face. Shaking your head, holding your eyelids open. So, had a 30min Power Nap and headed down to catch my friend Jeff (a seasoned Todos Rider) and his mad, Scottish friend Brian… as he arrived at Jeff’s house at 5:15am… We all hooted, hugged and they loaded me, almost passing out and my boards into the car…and were off. Tired but unbelievably amped, on the day to come!! Two hours down, through the border into Mexico…. down to Ensanada, with Scottish melodies, leading our trail… Driving down along the coast, was impossible to sleep, with the boys yelping and hooting with excitement, as these long, huge lines, unfolded, bigger and bigger, around every corner we turned. Singing along to Braveheart tunes, we amped each other more and more, as the size of the swell unfolded. We were going to need every ounce of courage we could muster! We pulled into an empty car park. Always a scary sign, when the waves are big! A couple of weathered old men jumped out at us, asking in broken English, if we wanted a ride out to the small, distant island in there boat. At a fair price of course! Not!
Within minutes, we were loading up all our big wave Guns (a term, for boards over 8ft) and heading out into the early, misty morning. The 30 minute boat ride out to the island was filled with an intense apprehension, of what Neptune had in store for us, as the boat heaved over the big swells coming in. Big, long and clean, from deep within the Pacific.
We rounded the corner, to unveil Killers and the waves that are so synonymous to its name. We were greeted with 8- 10ft waves sliding in onto the shelf and standing up crystal clean and arcing over into some deep, dark blue, thick, barrels.
A little disappointed in the size, I asked Jeff…”Do you think it’ll pick up, with the tide?” He looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, there’ll be waves, it’s still coming!” I decided to sleep a while, before suiting up, as I was drained…But it was only a matter of minutes before the boys, started hooting at a big set looming on the horizon…. The beast hit the ledge and stood straight up, lurching up and out as meaty and solid as any wave, I think I have ever seen.
I turned around to Jeff and Brian and said quickly,” Ok, I’m ready! Lets go surfing.” Sleep was not an option after seeing a wave like that unfold onto the reef. Within minutes, we were jumping off the boat and paddling across to where the take off spot was. Waiting for a couple of minutes, the first set came in fast and furious. I turned and stroked into the first one. It was really solid, 15ft+ of sheer Pacific power…The wave was a peach. Beautifully clean and crisp, but it stood up a little quicker than I anticipated. I managed to side slip down the face, just squeezing down on the fine line between, lucky and getting splattered all over the reef. Well, that wave set the tone for the day. Many big waves being ridden, lots smiles, laughs and really scary moments. I was lucky enough to escape any really heavy wipeouts, but my Scottish lad, wasn’t as fortunate.
Getting the longest hold down of his life.” I thought I was going to Black out.” he said, with one of his wetsuit arms, pushed up almost to his shoulder. ” I heard the boulders rolling around on the bottom.” Brian didn’t get too many waves after that.” Shaken, not stirred!” he said later. Jeff got a couple of good ones and also got caught inside and lost his favourite 9.6, for good… Claimed by the Todos rocks, at the bottom of the cliffs. Heavy place, you don’t go in to get your board, if you break your leash. You just have a moment of silence and kiss it goodbye!
This day was amazing, filled with all the ingredients that make a magic day. Good friends, the laughs and smiles of telling the heavy tales of the massive, heaving waves we had conquered that day and the long trip back to shore, smiling quietly to yourself, realising you made it back to shore, more knowledgeable, happy and stoked, alive and all your body parts intact!
So, the following morning, by 4:30 am we were back on the road, down to Mexico, for some more hell drops and waves of a lifetime! Thinking the swell would be much smaller than yesterday; I packed only my 8.6ft.I should have known better! Anytime you seem to restrict yourself by the boards you bring, when surfing Big waves, Neptune seems to teach you a valuable lesson, by throwing at you, what you least expected. And that’s exactly what we were greeted with; as we rounded the corner, back to our Big wave Wonderland. Still, solid 15-20 ft beasts, exploding onto the impact zone. Guess I’ll be packing all my boards, next time I go hunting! It’s like going hunting in the forest with wild animals and taking your pocketknife and leaving you rifle, cause you don’t think you’ll see anything nasty that day! Wrong! The waves were big, beautiful and majestic! By the time we got there, at 7:30ish, there were already two boats there, a couple of photographers and unreal surf. No, one was in the water, they were all just watching from the boats. I was tired as hell, but couldn’t resist watching these beauties, coming in unridden, for more than, hmmmm about a minute and a half. Back in we went, myself with my 8.6 and Jeff his 10.2 in hand and plenty of waves on offer. The first two waves I paddled into, were both pretty big sets. Air dropping into them and landing them both. Very luckily, as the consequences of falling on the second one, I don’t even want to imagine. It would have been horrific.
My fifth wave, getting a little cocky, I took off really deep, way behind the boil, it was big, a Jurassic beast, making it to the bottom and going into my turn, I could see down the line I wasn’t going to make it. I was going to get swatted by the lip, so I jumped forward off my board, to try and escape the worst of it. Well, it was a nice thought, but never worked. I got worked really badly, Getting thrown around underwater, like a rag-doll in the throws of a violent car accident.
Normally I climb up to my board, using my leash. The forces were to strong, to even get to my ankle, for the first 10 or so seconds, then I started climbing. When I finally got to the end of my leash and grasped my tail of my board, I realised my board was still underwater. That’s always heavy, as my leash is 15ft long, stretching to 20ft+ under waves like this. My board is another almost 9ft. So that means you’ve just been pushed over 30ft deep! Any more questions. Anyway, holding onto my board under water for a couple more, never ending seconds, I broke the surface.
Lacking energy I grabbed my board, headed for the shoulder, spitting out blood from my mouth, where it was coming from, I didn’t really care, until I could get to the shoulder and out of the impact zone.
I got caught by the following white water, of the next wave, but it wasn’t too bad. I coughed up a bit more blood, but made it to the channel. Lay on my board drained for a couple of seconds, then shook my head, collected myself and paddled back to the boat for a break from the madness.
Sometimes you have to know when to quit Later as the tide dropped the waves got difficult t paddle into and negotiate, but we still got a couple. One really nice barrel, but there was no exit. Just sanctity from the plummeting lip, which would have knocked me senseless. After getting caught inside by a really big set of 4 waves, one right over the falls and the rest, on the head. Jeff losing another board, we decided to call it a day and head back to land reality and the safety of earth beneath my feet.
Yip, it felt good being back on land, after the boat trip back to shore. Just having the earth beneath my feet again, was an amazing feeling. One that’s hard to appreciate, unless you ride waves like today. Yip, just another day at the office! We headed back this evening as the sun was setting. All the colours of a fairytale sky. Across the horizon…Beautiful raging reds and pinks, commemorating three, amazing days of memories, I will surely never forget. Thanx Jeff, couldn’t have done it without you…well, and Red Bull! haha… Knowing the swell was going to be dropping, we breathed a big sigh of relief, knowing I would have some time to recuperate, relax and do the slow journey back, up to Half Moon Bay.
Stay tuned for the next update and photo’s to boot. Life’s a journey, make it happen and enjoy the ride!
Wednesday January 24th
I just walked outside and shocked to see, these huge snow capped peaks, right outside the doorstep of the Motel. was laughing. Been driving all night and didn’t even know, I was up in the mountains. Went into some roadside Cafe, to grab a coffee and came outside to notice it was raining, well, wait was that rain, or .Oh my god! It was Snowwwwwwwing . Wooohoooo, that’s so damn cool. Ended up hoooting and jumping around in the middle of the street, like a little, excited kid. Life is so funny, got to love it. Well, made it to San Fran, in one piece. Arrived at a friend’s house, for another reckless party. Jeez do these guys ever quit!
Awoke to a very wintry morning, windy and rainy and freezing cold. Maybe the snow was a hint for me, to get something warmer than, the only one jersey I have! Ended up spending a couple hours at an internet Cafe sending pics and mail, went swimming training for half an hour, then drove the half hour through to Half Moon Bay, to try and hook up with Jay Moriarty, to get a little education, on Mavz before surfing it again! Ended up bumping into Jeff Clark, at his shop, Mavericks. What a super cool guy. Genuine, straight down the line type of person and the real, living legend.
Well, within an hour or so, Jeff was giving me the full rundown, on what I needed, to surf the beasts that were on their way! Crazy, speaking to the guy who pioneered this spot, only ten years back. The Phantom surfer, as he was known, to most of the locals. Well, it’s a couple of hours later and I’m back at Jeff’s house, eating dinner playing with the dog (called, Maverick of course!) and watching a slide show of the beasts, we’ll probably be surfing tomorrow! We checked the Net, for the buoy readings, which are showing big, size for tomorrow. The wind might be a bit funky, but hey, we’ve got 18ft plus. Can’t go wrong with that!
Woke up pretty early.6.30, to cruise down through the Air Force base, (restricted of course) with Jeff, to watch a couple of early birds, attempting to tow-inn, into some pretty hefty beasts. Cold windy and not very pleasant. And I guess 15ft plus. We decided to give it a couple hours. Well, within an hour and a half, I was paddling out. Even though Jeff didn’t seem to think, it was a great idea! Well, obviously he was right, but you only know, unless you go.
Got out to the back to an empty line up! That’s always a sign. Windy, sideshore, choppy and stormy. Hmmm need I explain further? Got my first one. Not too bad, second one, I got in perfectly and got pitched! Then five min. later, I got a set on the head. Yip, that was about what it took, for me to come to my senses and go inn. Every day we live and learn!
Some days more than others! Ended up being a funny day. Went early to meet friends, Derrick, and Ryan at the car park. Were the first boys out. Only a couple waves, but always worthwhile, if you get a couple. Took a break. Hoping to catch it late afternoon as the tide dropped! Tried to get a flight over to Hawaii for a friends wedding, was a proud attempt, but at $800 I realized I loved my friend. But, if I flew over, I wouldn’t be travelling for very much longer. Sorry Si, am thinking of you man! Went back out at Mavz at 3pm and paid the price. A couple of smallish ones and then. the only blithering fool, to get caught inside by the set of the day! Right on the head. An easy 20ft face of raw, pent up, Pacific power. Bam! Swam like a fish for the bottom.Got off lightly, being dragged a fair way, but no other waves behind.My board not so lucky. Hmmm Two pieces still connected and no fin. Bleak! Started the paddle in thaught I would paddle in-between Mushroom rock! Not clever, getting caught by a set of white water, my 2 pieces of board, being torn apart, and my tail of my board getting dragged behind me, getting caught on the rock. Bad, bad, news!
Now my board was wrapped around the rock and I was being pulled around the rock backwards by my leash, which was still attached to my board. Getting dragged under, as the current around the rock took me deeper. In the chaos of being smashed up against the rock under water, I somehow managed to just, reach down and find the little Velcro strap, to tear it away from my ankle and finally free myself. I gasped for breath, as I hit the surface. Now no pieces of board attached at all, I was just swimming. I found the tail and paddled 10 minutes, before I found the other half, floating on the inside.
Amazing, that even on reasonably small days, things can go wrong, very wrong and incredibly quickly and if you haven’t thought about how to get out of it, before you even go out. Well, I guess, I could still be, wrapped around that rock, about five feet under! Definitely a full day of heavy, learning experiences.
As the Dalai Lama says, “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson!” Very True. Hope, tomorrow, brings only good things and happy thoughts. Need a break, hope the swell is small and I can head snowboarding. Adios! Until next weeks update.
28th January 2001, Sunday
Got up this morning, talked big wave boards with Jeff and getting the thumbs up on my 8.8ft from Jeff. Not many big wave guns get the thumbs up from Jeff, as he’s the most knowledgeable Gun shaper, probably on the planet! So Anton Butler, it’s not me alone who thinks your boards are insanely good! Then headed up North, Lake Tahoe way, for an afternoon of snowboarding. Got to learn someday and this is my day. The waves are small and it’s a sunny. What more of a reason do I need. Four hours later I, was grabbing some rented gear at Boreal Resort and I was set, well, I set as I could be for knowing nothing! Headed straight to the biggest steepest lift saying’ No beginners on this lift. The Accelerator… Got to the top, looking pretty smooth, for someone whom hadn’t boarded before. Hit the drop off point at the end of the lift and that was it for looking cool. I fell on my ass… Well to some up my first run…. It went pretty good considering! Thank God, for knowing how to do laybacks in surfing. It cut down my face plants to only 3, on the first run! Pretty smooth! Well, by the third run I had got my confidence up, just wee to much, taking on a big table top jump, on the Black run! What can I say, Stupido…. I fell really hard, doing a couple of cartwheels, tweaking my knee a touch too far in the wrong direction. I lay there in pain curing my stupidity for a couple of minutes, before getting back on it… At the end of today, I feel happy, content, in pain, and drained to the bone…topped the evening off by watching the end of the Super bowl, American Football, with way too many drunken seppo’s…. What more can a guy asks for…The Americans and their football, got to laugh.
Weather: White n’ snowy! Conditions: Powdery, windy and Freezing! Comments: Realised finally, I was never meant to be an Eskimo! Freezing my ass off here! Laity then! Awoke, this morning to very white morning…. Heehaw! It’s been snowing all night! Yeah, a powder day on the mountain! Took me about 5 minutes to find my car, under the pile of snow, under which it was buried! Well, as far as snowboarding goes, I can now say I’m an official snowboarder! Ahoy! Hooking up with a pretty cool instructor, John, who seemed pretty shocked to see me at the bottom of a blue run at the same time he got there. Learnt heaps from those guys, as they were pulling 540 airs and beyond. I picked it up pretty quick, by the end of the day pulling grab rail airs and doing a couple of really sketchy rail slides. But, no matter how confident I got, every now and again I’d catch a rail and a face full of snow, would knock my cockiness back to ground level…. The day was great, learning something new, meeting cool people and realising how many muscles in my body I don’t normally use…Pretty sure, I’m gonna be in pain tomorrow.
I was right. This morning I got up, feeling like I had been in a bar fight. My body cursing my enthusiasm from the past two days boarding excursion. I rested up and caught up on way too much forgotten emails…
My body still aching and paining, I spent most of the day helping out Jeff Clark with his promotional work for the Trade show down south… It was a mellow day, helping run a contest for high school kids, down at Kelly’s beach break, for a friend…and topping off the day with an insanely beautiful sunset….
The first was a day packed solely with preparing promo goods for the Trade show down in San Diego. Sometimes everyone needs a helping hand. This was one of those days.
Friday, the wait was worth it, waiting for the low tide, just after 12:00 The waves started coming through…. Just big enough to make Mavericks, an inconsistent happening thing! As always, when it seems to be smallish…10-12ft. The odd, rogue set will come through and catch a couple of guys, off guard. I escaped the froth today, but a couple weren’t so lucky…2 broken leashes, 2 boards and Grant Washburn buckling his fairly new, 10.4 stick! You got to be careful of getting caught napping out there, cause if you do…there’s no doubt, and you will pay the price.
Saving Private Crisco. Today was a saving grace…. The swell died just enough for Mavz, not to break…So, I headed out to meet a good friend, I met in Hawaii last season (Mando), who said the conditions looked promising, for a secret spot, he had stumbled upon, by mistake only a coupla months before…. We loaded in a coupla boards, and headed North, from San Fran…with no expectations, but full of optimism! The hour or more drive, took us through some of the prettiest scenery, I have yet seen in the States…Rolling green little hillocks, weird and wild igneous protruding rock formations…and plenty of cows. Moooooooo! Arriving at the tiny, little fishing village, overlooking this beautifully big bay…. I could see a wave breaking pretty far out, yet it didn’t really look like anything special… Was wondering why Mando lent me his 6.6 and he claimed the 7.2 with a smile… Well wasn’t long before I worked out why! Anyone who has ever surfed Claptons, near J Bay, will understand what I mean by a long paddle out…This sand bar forms about a mile, possibly further out…and this perfect reeling lefthander, comes spinning down this bank, creating such unreal waves I can only compare it to the level of Claptons on a very good day…I was astonished this wave, with such insane perfection, could be so close to San Francisco and yet, we were surfing it with only 5 other smiling happy guys, just sharing wave after perfect long wave… The sun was low on the water. The evening glassed off, the light reflected, soft, pastel colours on the water in front of my board, off into the horizon… I smiled a little smile, then laughed quietly as I saw my friend, take off on a peach of a wave, crouch low as the cylindrical wave pitched out over him…It was another of those magic, memorable late afternoons, where just nothing else could possibly be sweeter…We smiled and laughed to each other, paddling together talking about past times, sharing waves and a unique camaraderie, that I think very few other sports could possibly share…being so immersed and in tune with nature and everything that is, the ocean. Just another special day, filled with more golden memories. Stopping en route home at a lookout point, looking over, the glowing Golden gate Bridge, was insanely pretty, guess it was just the icing on the Cake….
Mello day, with small sunny waves and an unreal sunset… Heading south tomorrow, to fetch a new Big Wave stick and take in some scenery. Stay tuned for some more serious waves, meant to be hitting on Wednesday and Thursday Rock Aan!
Sunday, 12th February
Well guys mission Alcatraz, became mission misty and solo! Couldn’t rope in my nutter friend, so headed out early, to go paddle it solo. Drove down to the jump off spot, in my wetsuit and new booties! I stood there with my new 9.2 Dev, looking for Alcatraz…Sorry guys. Gone… Mist covered the Bay and even I have my limits…. and don’t have a GPS (global positioning system) on my board. So a no go, well until tomorrow!
The weather cleared later, but by then the tides were in full swing and can run up to 8knts through the Bay. Not funny! So headed out for a surf in the bleakest 2-3ft freezing onshore surf at Pacifica…yip it was a solid 25 min workout, by then I felt no feet hands and before I lost feeling in the family jewels, I bailed.
Woke up to catch some super fun, 5ft barrels with a good friend, Dylan… We got lucky, got barrelled and got some of the best small surf I have seen since being in California! By chance, meeting up with Brian, my nutter, Scottish friend, who was all amped to head up to Tahoe for some serious powder, No, I said… Ain’t going anywhere till,” Mission, The Rock has been achieved.” No, you don’t wanna go now, do you? No! That’s nuts, the tide’s not going to be right, we won’t make it” said Brian, knowing me by now, knowing there was no way I was going anywhere until I had done it….No!! Comm’on Brian? Well 20 min. later we were suiting up at the Bay and running down the pier with our big boards and jumping off, with Alcatraz in the distance…. We laughed and sang Scottish songs pretty much the whole way there…. It took just under an hour to paddle around…Japanese tourists on the tour, clicking away from all sides, as they thought it was part of the tour….Yes, this is what bored surfers do, in their spare time! Haha…Nooo! Even the Warden came out to see us. “In all the time I’ve been working on Alcatraz, I’ve never seen anything so crazy” he said, offering us a free ride back, on one of the tour boats… No we added. Just thought we’d come for a free close up look at the Rock! The warden still was looking a bit puzzled as we paddled off into the distance. Even one of the Barges, on the Bay, stopped especially to ask if we wanted a ride! We were looking good, thinking it was a piece of cake, till we got just past half way back and the current started sucking pretty strong out of the Bay. We weren’t laughing and singing as much for the last half hour, as we battled to make ground…Eventually paddling into the harbour almost two hours later, with a guy shouting at us off the harbour wall” damn, – you some crazy assed white boys!” Just another day at the office… Afterwards we laughed some more, had a pint in good Scottish tradition and headed 4 hours East for Lake Tahoe and some powder.
Tuesday was another day full of powder, son and snow hanging off my eyelashes. And I thought snowboarding in powder was easy…. Wrong! I was horribly misled, when it took me almost 10 minutes to get up, once I had fallen. Buried’ would be a good term, I think! Anyway, by 1pm I was drained to the bone. Deep powder, I’ll leave to the experienced. I drove the rest of the day to get back to San Fran, that evening in time to change my ticket to fly out, to Hawaii, the tomorrow…Ahoy! Now, it was just a case of picking up all my stuff from all over San Francisco…
Just a morning of mapping out where all my stuff is, picking it up and saying goodbyes. I think I’ll take this days diary entry as a chance just to say a really big thanx to all the great people I met while in California, that made the first part of my trip an unreal success! A really special thanx to Jeff Clark, Catherine, Maverick and Dylan for the great friendship and hospitality. Grant Washburn, Matt Ambrose and J. for the pointers in the water at Mavz, needed it. Thanx guys. Doc, bootie advice! Bob, for that surprised left! Dave and Matt for good company. Darrach, Ryan and Mike, for good pics and good laughs… Guys in Southern Cali. Jeff Ladove, wouldn’t have done Todos without you… Brian, for all the heaps of crazy things, I couldn’t rope anyone else in for. Ross, Jason and Sam from Surfer Mag. for showing the farm boy around The Mag. Thanx guys, still stoked. and Evan Slater from Swell.com Really Evan, I came down more to meet you than do the story, but thanx it was insane, anyway! Thanx guys appreciate all the help, good waves, good laughs and good times. Just headed out, to Hawaii the next leg of “The Big 4” begins! Incoming! Forgot how much I missed the North Shore and the people there. Last night I flew in to Oahu, and my family was there to meet me. Unreal, the best group of guys around. Jeff Ladove, Stuart Nettle Simon ‘n Emma. Was pretty special, like being home away from home. It’s really great meeting up with old friends, specially ones you’ve shared the camaraderie of good big waves with. Those kinds of friends are hard to find!
Walked down to Waimea this morning.
Damn, the Bay is beautiful! You forget how amazingly beautiful places like this are sometimes, until you return…The swell is only 5ft today, so Waimea won’t even show a trickle of what lies dormant, until the swell hits the 12ft mark and the Bay, starts coming alive, with some of the biggest, scariest spitting, mountains of water known to man…. This has got to be one of the prettiest bays on the planet, but when the swell jumps, it metamorphosis’s into one the scariest spectacles known to man…. Glad to be home…See you guys, I’m going surfing. Surfed Laniakae, a really good reeling righthander we surf when the surf is smallish! Was pretty fun, coming in after the son went down…. and was still warm even though it was raining. Gotta luv Hawaii.Ended up at a friends house watching the Mavericks video, year of the Drag inn…. and Todos Santos footage, to top off a great day with old friends!
Woke up late with small swell. Ended up, going long boarding on my 9.2 with a coupla friends at a funny little righthander, synonymously known as Rubber Dukkies. Not the heaviest wave on the planet. But, the funniest surf session in a long time, all trading off waves and swopping boards, like it was a tag team session… Fun in the son and lotsa good laughs.
Sunday, 18th February
Small waves and sunny skies, meant back to training and listening to the whales in the Bay, whilst doing underwater training! Listening to Whales singing and communicating to each other is a special experience that anyone who hears, will remember forever. Had the funniest surf of my life at this small reef break out in front of where we stay … A good friend was leaving so we organised a big cooler of beer and about 15-20 guys paddled out in fancy dress, on all sorts shapes and sizes of boards…. Tandem, switch foot, drinking beers on waves and just laughing and sharing good times with good friends…. Can there be anything better!
Monday was swell day… With reports of the swell pushing to 15ft by the afternoon, a couple of us took the chance to catch Sunset before it got out of control with the predicted swell. Sunset is pretty fun at 10ft. A really good long hollow wave with a nasty inside section. We surfed for an hour or so and waited out for the Bay to start breaking! By 3pm, the swell was pushing 12ft and by later it was peaking at 15ft in the sets … The Bay, even at 12-15ft can give you a horrid beating, if you fall. Especially if you are one of only a few who take off on the inside of the boil! Time to charge and go balls to the wall! Was a great session with many sets, some heavy drops, couple of air drops and one to many times getting caught behind a mountain of white water because I was too deep!
Woke to another great morning of booming surf. The Bay again at 12-15ft. Really good waves, with only a few guys out. That’s the way it’s meant to be. Just you and a couple of friends! Later, the swell dropped a touch so it was back to Sunset for a fun 8-10ft afternoon session.
Sunny again, really sux being in Hawaii huh! Swell 12ft, but dropping to 8-10ft during the day. This was a full day of surfing. Surfed Pinballs in the morning. 8ft Pipe midday, with only 64 guys, I think I counted on the peak, while I was out and pinballs again for dinner! Only 3 guys out at Pinballs and We wonder why I enjoy surfing there so much!
Swell died to 4-5ft.still sunny! Sorry guys. This was purely a relaxing day, catching up on emails as the swell died. Trained at Waimea and surfed really fun 5ft pinballs till sunset.
Rumours of Jaws were getting me amped but keeping me very quiet and in deep thought! Was really amped, but a wee bit nervous at the same time … Had a couple of good friends who were really supportive though! Thanx guys. Snoop Ladove, Barney and Dev. of Dev Surf Shapes. Took it super easy, thinking there might be a possibility of surfing Jaws, the next morning! Had a late afternoon session with good friends Barney and Snoop on the building swell. The outside boil starting to break, we shared some good waves and watched another fairytale sunset in the company and camaraderie of friends and big, glistening barrels! Spoke to Rick Leeks, the photographer and he was as amped as anyone can be. Rick, a top photog. on Maui had been trying to get guys to do this and look for the right weather for over two years now and he was convinced, THIS was the day! What could I say to that! No! Sorry, I don’t think so… My response simply was…. I’ll phone you Rick, as soon as I get on flight to Maui! And that was it; my friends helped me load up my Old Faithful, 8.8 Xanadu and my new 9.2 Dev.
Ended up only flying in at 11pm. Meeting Rick, looking at some Very Serious pics. of Jaws, that made me very nervous! Slept a good 4 or 5 hours before the daunting sound of my Nike Typhoon, woke me, reminding me of the task which lay ahead. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, I thought. Mmmmm Naaaagh, this was a great idea. I was amped and ready to rock. Who’s to say something can’t be done, unless you try it yourself! Always say can, never, can’t! We drove down to Meet Matt Kinoshida, the only Maui, charger who was keen to paddle and Matt definitely showed that. He was keen and had been wanting surf it since he first saw it as a kid! Just couldn’t find anyone else who wanted any part in it! We strapped our boards, to the back of the ski and we were outta there! Took a while getting out to Jaws, about 3 miles from the Kaliki launch spot!
I could see the spray in the distance. Far in the distance and the barrel from almost a mile away! Scary being able to see that, I knew I was going to be in for something, pretty dam serious. Had to keep reminding myself. “Home in one piece, home in one piece” Goal no. 1, well, after getting one wave, at least! Matt and I unhooked our boards and jumped in. I think I took a good long study of the waves coming through for a good, mom almost a minute. ha haaa Couldn’t resist it, after seeing one of the big, heaving beasts unfold and explode onto the shelf! Just one big spitting cauldron! Now or never! We jumped in and paddled out to where we thought the line up could possibly be! We paddled around a bit cautiously for a minute or two, before a set came inn. It looked super clean and just peaking, just calling me ” Go Cristo, go!”
I swivelled my board and paddled… Was in the perfect position for it and just slid in like butter! Couldn’t have been more perfect, don’t think I will ever forget that wave. It was just beautiful! It was very solid, but not the biggest wave that had come through. It was just absolutely perfect! Stroked in and got to my feet. The wave started jacking as I started sliding down the face. Just getting over the ledge before it started learching. Just made it down, crouching low, and straight in to a long drawn out bottom turn as I saw the wave pitching 15-20ft above my head! Just sneaking up into the pocket and out of the danger of the heaving lip. I could hear all the guys on the jet ski erupt in a chorus of hooting. Just going beserk. I t was a moment I will never forget! I think I was as stoked as they were, probably even more. Pheeeew, made it! Stoked, adrenaline coursing through me like a river, I think I was shaking I was so pumped. It was a great feeling! The stage had been set and the myth shattered. Jaws can be paddled into. Ya mon! Paddled back out, Matt giving me a high five, before he snagged into one too!
I got a smaller one and paddled back out. Confidence slowly building! A set started peaking on the outside, with us having no idea where we were, we started scratching. Slow at first, till we both realised we might not make it, then there was a touch more effort! Like scratching. Matt, making it over the top, I was a bit behind, making it three quarters up the face, before diving through mid ace after trying to push my board over the top. It worked and luckily didn’t get sucked over. Pheeew, that woulda been nasty! Looking back there was just a huge, black, vast, bottomless pit!
Collected my board, pulling my leash as I saw Matt paddling for the next one! It was a peach; he was late, but really well positioned. He slid in as the wave went vertical, Matt on his backhand, dropped and reconnected at the bottom, jamming straight into big bottom turn. Damn, that was good take off I thought to myself. We paddled out again. Waited for a while, skipping sets and looking for a good one that would let us inn! A set pulled in, I was way deep and the first wave of the set. As I swivelled and started paddling I was thinking, ” you know this isn’t clever, paddling for the first wave of a set” especially at Jaws! As if you miss it, it sucks you right into the impact zone, perfectly placed to get the entire rest of the set, land right on your head. The worst possible place to be.” I started paddling supper hard, realising I was gonna have to get it, no matter what! As I started getting into the wave, I started realising how deep behind the peak I was and quickly came to a realization in my head you hope you can rationalize through, when are ever put in that position.
Either I could take straight off, probably get down most of the face before the bottom dropped away and it went horribly square! and get beaten by the white water, hopefully after the lip had expelled most of its power. OR. The big OR … or I could just pull into the biggest, sickest, hollows, barrel of my life! Well, didn’t have to think about that one very long. Got to my feet as early as I could and immediately started angling my board. The section was huge ahead of me and I was just focussing on holding my rail, to try get in, before the lip squared out and pitched me directly on my head … I hooked in just in time as this beast started folding over me.
As I started correcting, I realised I was leaning a touch to far forward, I hooked my front inside rail … and got sent flying forward, over my nose of my board. I knew right then I had escaped the worst part, but then quickly realised, the second worst was probably going to happen. And that’s exactly what did! I felt myself penetrate midface, but just not deep enough. Felt myself getting sucked up and over…. The worst sensation to any surfer and just a little more troubling, when you realize this is happening at, only, probably the heaviest wave on the planet! I hit again and got pretty deep, yeh, I remember pretty damn deep, just remembering what Rick said about watching out for the shallow ledging 12-15ft deep rock shelf … Great!
Got dragged around for a pretty good while, after I guess must have been about 12 secs, I started worrying about the next worst consequence. Hmm, yeah, not coming up before the next wave comes in. That got me a little worried, but I could feel I was slowly getting let up, so I looked up for an air pocket and swam up.
I broke the surface with just enough time to take one gasping breath, turn around to almost have enough time to see the next beast pitching almost directly over my head … Grabbed a breath and over again … I had been training for this … But, no matter how much you train, it doesn’t get too much worse than this! Got beaten by the next one pretty bad … but … it let me up a little easier than I expected. I think my old man was looking out for me this day! Thanx Keith! Came up and got another small one on my head, before one of the guys on the jet-ski’s came inn to help me out… I grabbed the back of the ski and was outta there. Not even realising or thinking about my Baby! Gone, my favourite 8.8 Xanadu. I loved that stick, but Damn! That was worth it… Matt got one more and slipped off his nose at the bottom. Wax would have been a good call Matt. Hats off to Matt, the guy charges! And that was it for me.
It was good timing cause the wind came up really quick! That was it. Call it quits and leave it to the Tow guys, who had been waiting patiently on the sidelines. Thanx guys! I was really waeinspiried watching these guys towing inn as the Swell continued to build. There were some outrageously scary waves out there and the guys were just tearing them apart. Really is amazing to watch … I still think some of the guys are nuts! We packed up and shipped out! Perrrfect! Jaws … conquered and still in one piece, even though, it really kicked my ass!
Flew back to Oahu, pretty stoked and got back in time to surf some 8-10ft onshore pinballs, which was just a great touch, to what I thought hen was the end of my surfing day! Well, I was wrong. Good friend Barney, was leaving the next day, so as a tribute, we got really hammered and ended up roping in Barney, Snoop, Een and Trent for a midnight, no moon, fancy dress 8-10ft Pinballs session! It was a good laugh and we all got fun waves, having to hoot out loud, so we knew where we all were! Was really funny and a good way out for our fair Aussie friend, we’ll miss, till next season. Cheers bud, good times, we’ll do again! Stay tuned for Jaws the sequal.3 days later.
Relaxed, slept, emailed and checked photos … Lots of rest and catching up!
Monday 26th February
I thought was going to mellow out, til I got a phone-call from Rick, the photog from Maui. As soon as I heard he’d called, I knew what he was phoning about … and it sent shivers down my spine …
Oh no, not Jaws again!
Well, as much as I didn’t want to go. I ended up heading out again, on my last $100 bucks, to tackle Jaws again for the final assault. This was it. If I survived this one, no more Jaws! I was running outta lives and I knew it wasn’t the brightest plan. But hey, sometimes even when you know it’s not the wisest idea, you do it anyway. Figure that one out!
Got on a plane and headed back. The following morning all the Maui guys were all waiting, amped at 6am. Then, one by one – “It’s too windy.” “It’s dropped off.” Excuses. Everyone bailed, leaving myself and only two other guys. Jarius and another guy.
The waves were a touch smaller, but plenty of 10-12 footers coming in. Jarius and I got a couple of good waves before I got one really good, late left that went on forever! Can’t do that when it’s big because the wave runs directly into the cliff. As the wind started building, I got one last right and dropped in fairly late and hit a bump at the bottom as I was going into my turn.
I fell really hard and felt my neck click as I hit the rock-hard surface of the water. I lost feeling in my head under the water and my neck was clicked to the side. Not a good feeling when you surface to see a set of four waves about to unload. Managed to get through in one piece holding my neck, feeling pins and needles moving through my head. I made it out of the impact zone and sat on my board, thinking to myself, “Ok, if that isn’t a sign to call it quits, I’ll never learn.”
I jumped on the Jetski and I was outta there. No more Jaws. It kicked my ass!
Since then, in the last 3 or 4 days, just relaxing and surfing fun Pinballs, small Backdoor and training for the next big swell.
FIXING THE PIPE: 7 March
We headed out for the first session at Pipeline. Derek Ho, Liam Mc Namara, Davey Miller are just a few of the boys out there that you’re jostling for position with.
On days like this, it’s really difficult getting good waves at Pipe, unless you’ve proven yourself over a couple of seasons! So, I focused on Backdoor … Not usually a problem getting waves as most of the waves were closing out, leaving not many takers … Well, except for a few nutters! If you want the waves, they’re there for the taking.
My first wave, I got pinched in the barrel, getting to deep. My board getting sucked over in front of me and hitting me, smack on the side of my head… Not a pleasant sound, never really sure if it’s just a scratch or stitches and a week or more out the water…I came up, paddled to the side and put my hand, to my head, yip, blood and lots of it!
Paddled up to one of the photogs … “Cut or stitches?'” was the direct question.
He got me to dunk my head to clean the blood, took a look and a picture and said. “Naah just a cut, not too deep.” I replied” Cool, thanx!” and paddled back out. That’s what surfing Pipe is all about. You got to pay your dues and keep going hard, to get waves and respect out there!
Got a couple of good Backdoor barrels and then called it quits. Went back in the afternoon, for a late session. It was even nastier.
Dead low tide and a strong offshore, mmm, no hesitation out there, otherwise you get pitched and those consequences you’d rather avoid. Believe me guys, I know! You had to be really picky out there, as almost all the Backdoor waves were closing out and suuuuuper shallow. Let me explain, every wave I, didn’t make, I hit the bottom and hard;
My last wave, I swivelled to paddle, really late. A medium sized 8fter. Always optimistic, I was convinced I was going to make it, even as the bottom dropped from below me and I started free falling, hmmm 2ft, 4ft, 6ft, maybe 8…ok, now that’s about where I started wondering when I was going to touch down…
Right there, I hit and tried reconnecting with my board, but it was to far and I hit the water, right as the plummeting lip, exploded directly on top of me, pushing me down, fast and hard with all it’s evil power and force. First hitting the bottom directly with my knee and elbow, yeah, pain there!
Before I could even register the pain, it sucked me down again, but strangely further down this time, as I thought I was at the bottom. I realized this wave wasn’t going to let me go unscathed!
I knew there was something wrong, when I tried to come up and my leash was pulling me really hard from a really strange direction. I tried to get to it but, it had stretched to a third of it’s original thickness. I reached up, above and around me, I felt rock! This was not good, as I have heard scary stories of people getting caught in caves out here before and some of them, there bodies having to be dived out! Not a pleasant thought right now.
Realizing there was too much pressure to get my leash off; I prayed it wasn’t hooked, opened my eyes, seeing only turbulence and blackness. My hands fumbled all around me frantically, feeling for an exit, as the air drained rapidly from my lungs … Yes, found a hole, I had it, pulled myself up, around and out. Hitting the surface, withal big gasp…. pheeeeeew, now that was a close call.
Listen I’m prepared for most things out there, but today, I lived and learnt a lot!
If my leash got snagged down there when I was surfacing and out of breath, I would have been in serious trouble. Today, I was lucky and so the learning curve continues. At some point you realise, at some of these spots, when it’s heavy and big, no matter how fit and knowledgeable you are and how many big and heavy waves and experiences you’ve had. The ocean is all-powerful and rules supreme!
As one of my buddies said recently in an email to me: “Every dog has it’s day”, but the ocean is f@#$$kin powerful and has claimed some of the best in the sport… I’ll remember that, as I realize, over the last, almost two months now. I’ve had some really heavy experiences, but most importantly of all … I have one really lucky dawg!
Stay tuned for the next update, on the 18ft hell swell due to hit the North Shore 9th March!
Thursday 8th March
Recovering and relaxing after the Backdoor experience was in order…
I gave the many holes and gouges in my body, head and feet, a few days to heal, then continued with the usual training and waiting for the swell.
With swell expected to push on Friday afternoon, we, (Jeff Ladove and I) rested up, like we always do before a big swell, just to make sure you’re in top form when it hits and you can give it your very best.
Well as you’ll learn about waiting for big swell, it’s a waiting game and is incredibly frustrating at times!
We ended up just surfing Pinballs, at 6′ in the late evening!
As you lying in bed you can hear the swell pushing … 6ft, 8ft, 10ft and bigger, as it comes thundering in from the deep, dark, blue and explodes as it reaches the shelf at Pinballs. I can almost tell, exactly what size the sets are, just by hearing the sound of them crashing in across the reef.
Saturday morning, we were on it early. By 7, we were out there, riding the first boil, out at Waimea. Not big, but just enough size to make it fun, but if you got cocky, it would swat you back into place and quickly.
12ft plus, First Boil, is a very fun, but very solid wave and packs more of a punch, than pretty much anywhere I know! We surfed all day, some heavy drops, a couple of wild and woolly air drops and one or two nasty mishaps! One really nasty one, going left! Yip, the left is super heavy and is not really, the right way to go!
But anyway, I dropped in just a little to late and was behind the boil, so hey, why not! Freefell in and reconnected, just catching my nose and down I went! The true, joyride experience, underwater. The wave grabbed my board and kept pulling me, as I am unfortunately attached to it, by my leash.
Well, it let me up, about 20meters in front of the rocks. First thing I did, was turn around to see if I was going to get smeared on the rocks by the next one…. Pheew, lucky for me, there wasn’t another one. That’s the most important aspect of ever going left! If you go left, you don’t fall, or expect to pay the price and it may not only be a heavy beating!
I paddled out meeting Clark out there! Just 3 of us, with the swell pushing 12ft, what more do you want? Glassy 10-12ft Bay, with yourself a Brazilian friend and one of the few true, Hawaiian legends, just laughing, sharing stories and perfect 12 ft, warm water beauties.
While we were out it drizzled a touch and thereafter blessed us with the most amazing rainbow, reaching from one side of the sky to the other. Truly a special day, sharing friendship, a unique understanding of the elements and the camaraderie that only comes with riding waves with friends!
Monday 12th March
Swell died a touch, but who cares anyway, it was still 10ft, sunny and warm water. Went out with other South African friends and chargers, Matt Westwood, Andy Marr and Bevan. Yip, the SA contingent are holding their own, over here.
I got one wave, just peaking on the outside boil and while waiting got tempted, as I looked across at Impossibles. This 8-10ft perfectly heaving beast. Squaring out and throwing almost as far, as it was tall. This wave is heavy, as heavy as anywhere. It wasn’t named, Impossibles for nothing. However, I still call it Possibles, up to 8ft.
This wave breaks in a small Rock Bay, just to the right of Waimea. Actually the left at Waimea breaks into the rock shelf, which Impossibles breaks into from the other side.
In the probably 6 times I’ve surfed out here, 5 of those times, I’ve been alone and have only ever come out of barrels at Impossibles, twice! I had been watching the sets for a while and noticed the sets only having 2-3 waves, which I could handle, even in that little rocky Bay!
Only thing was, I didn’t really expect, what was about to unfold in the next 15min.
Seeing a set coming, I started out. The first wave of the set, looking way too irresistible, at 8ft.I swivelled, knowing it was going to turn into a barrelling beauty! As I got in, I knew the bottom was going to drop out really quickly and that’s exactly what happened. Freefalling a good 5ft, I landed just catching my nose at the bottom, but as that happened, the lip squared out and landed directly on my head.
It beat me around pretty hard, but not too long. I came up surprised, but not too surprised, to see the next one behind explode in front of me and close out across the Bay. Sort of expected that, but I didn’t expect the following one to look the same. Nor the 3rd, 4th 5th, 6th and 7th.
Until now, I was just trying to focus on keeping myself in the centre of the impact zone, to stop myself from being smeared up on the rocks, or being sucked into the rock ledge, just to my left. After the 8th consecutive wave closing out the Bay and no signs of there going to be a break, I realised I was starting to run out of stamina and energy and I needed to get out of here!
I started thinking of my alternatives.
Well, that didn’t take long, only had one, if I wanted to get out of this in one piece. Try and get sucked between the rock shelf and the main group of rocks at the tip of Waimea, with the help of some 10 footers. Constantly giving you zero choice of where you were going to be taken.
I got sucked pretty quickly toward the shelf and then in all the white water and turbulence, it sucked me down. Thinking I was going to get stuck in the worst place, with my leash getting tangled. I reached down and ripped it off. Holding it still tight, just in case I got snagged.
But, I popped up, just bumping into the shelf underwater and getting sucked through the narrow galley as another 8ft white water pushed me down again.
It quickly pushed me in and around the main rocks on the Waimea point and battered me into the impact zone at Pinballs. “Just 2 more for good measure.” Neptune chanted from below.
By the time I got pushed into the channel, I was pretty exhausted and pretty drained. Today’s lesson; when you beat the odds, you have to retain respect for the ocean, as the cocky will be put back in there place, quick!
During the week the swell dropped to below 6ft, so I relaxed, tried to sort out visa nightmares and trained for the last swell, Clark rekonned, of the season, which was due to arrive Friday! Well, as expected, Clark was right. The swell started pushing late afternoon on friday. I went racing yachts, in Waikiki, just for something different, as I knew the big swell wouldn’t hit until late that night!
I woke to that wonderful sound of 12ft-14ft swell crashing outside my window. The son hadn’t even come up yet but as I peaked outside into the lineup at Waimea I could see Clark, already out there with one other guy! Within minutes, I was in my suit and paddling away my morning blues.
The day was super fun, jut a few of us who had been sharing waves over the last part of the season. Clark, Matt, Bevan and Andy, three of which are SA chargers. The day was filled with lots of hairily late drops … lots of sharing, smiles and commaradery all round. I had three sessions this day … But knew the morning would be the biggest and best of it. I was right. It faded gradually during the day … inch by inch … but that’s alright, when the sets are 12-14ft.
I pulled into a couple of decent barrels, right off the take off…and no guys! Sorry, didn’t make any! Just preparing for next season, when it’s 18-20ft plus…You have to practice this kind of stuff, when it’s this size.
Sit and take off as deep as you can…So, when it’s really big, your’e ready to charge and know you can handle, getting in late, or being a little deeper than you expected! So, when the time comes, there’s no hesitation … you’re in and you’re going to make it! But, as the day drew to a close after sharing many a memorable wave. I realised this was it, for the season, as fewer sets started coming through! But, it was all good, as Clark and I sneaked out of the water, just before sunset. I was fortunate and honoured enough to share, the first beer with Clark that he’s had in 8 months…..Now that’s dedication.
Thanx Clark, I couldn’t have pictured a better way to end a season, than sharing a couple of beers, over another priceless sunset, with one of Hawaii’s last, true, living surfing legends and the guy, who inspired me more last year, than anyone I have ever met in surfing. You really have to meet this guy to understand what I mean. Clark is Surfing’s Aloha in the flesh! Living proof that the Hawaiian legend still lives! The following day, the swell dropped and we surfed Sunset at 6-8ft.
Sunday evening was all about eating drinking everything, Iv’e had to abstrain myself from, during the Winter, because of Big Surf. Even though I really missed all those little things, I had to sacrifice. Damn, overindulging felt good. The past 6 months Iv’e had to sacrifice more than most will ever understand, but it was worth it, just for a few of the many special moments, I could never put a price tag on.
Dreams don’t come easy…and making them come true, is even harder ..Well for those that do, They realise, the true meaning of reward and it’s a truly heavenly feeling, achieving one’s dreams. Makes them all worth dreaming!
The one most important thing I’ve learnt from this trip, is that people don’t have enough faith and confidence in themselves and underestimate what they believe they can achieve. Have little faith in yourself and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. If you believe it enough, it can be done…Anything can be done. You just have to want it bad enough!
So, at the end of this journey, I wasn’t quite sure I was going to accomplish. My only simple message is this: Trust your heart, follow your dreams, have a little faith in yourself and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve!
A last message from Chris
Just a word of thanx, to everyone out there who has been a big part in making this a successful trip.
A big word of thanx to Steve, from Wavescape, who edited a whole lot more than anticipated! Couldn’t have all the readers and great responses if it wasn’t for you bud.
Jeff Ladove, for being my big wave partner, most of the season … Always there, always happy, amped and always charging hard.
Dev Gregory, of DEV surfboards for everything, not only the peachy shapes but all the help with everything. You are the Man!
Clark Abbey, for the same cameraderie, knowledge and genuine aloha spirit, I have always admired in you.
Rick Leeks, for the Jaws help and pics … and just good heart!
Catherine and Shaun, from the Freesurf Cyber Cafe, in Haleiwa. Thanx for the great smoothies, Net use, laughs and many burnt CD’s. Freesurf Cafe rocks!
All my friends, that have giving me support and kept me focussed, over the last 4 months. Thanx, especially, Nic, Rob n’ Paris.
Lastly, but most importantly, all you guys … Every one of you guys, reading, laughing and sharing my adventures, with all those great responses. Many of you I have never met, but really hope to in the future. A big thanx to all you guys and all the kind gestures, offers and support. I appreciate it all.
It’s truly been a memorable trip and realization of an amazing dream…
Hope you all enjoyed it as much, as I enjoyed sharing it with you…
Keep styling, smiling and living your dreams! Cause, life’s too short to waste on regrets. So, lets live our dreams and do it right!
Some say, if you miss the sunset tonight, there’ll always be tomorrow, but remember, for many, there’ll be no tomorrow!