It wasn’t too long ago that this wave was the darling of the surf media. A decade ago it was on the cover of virtually every magazine in circulation, and even a short five years ago there were pros flying in for every swell.
But as tends to happen to waves that are en vogue, it has sort of been forgotten over the past couple of years—partly due to market saturation, partly due to other new, exciting discoveries, and partly because people are beginning to realize that as perfect as the wave is, it is also somewhat fickle.
It’s still a perfect wave, there’s no arguing that. In fact, it may be the easiest square barrel on the planet, complete with a user-friendly roll-in to casual west-bowl backdoor section.
Some people liken it to Honolua Bay, except on steroids, and I don’t know many regularfoots who wouldn’t want to surf that. But maybe the fact that it is so easy is why it has sort of fallen out of favour with the pros.
Guys will still chase the swell of the year to the island, that one that turns the normally perfect reef pass into a twisted, mutant slab that you can fit a bus inside of. But the normal swells—those ones where the pass reels for days with double-overhead perfection—rarely ever see sponsor stickers anymore.
In fact, John John Florence is rumored to have said that he won’t come back until it’s 15 foot. Without an element of challenge, it’s sort of hard for the best in the world to score jaw-dropping clips here. Lots of really good barrels? Yes. Life-changers? Probably not.
But the average surfer? That’s another story altogether. I’ve heard it said that this wave makes everyone feel like an all-star barrel rider—which is to say that everyone who goes there gets kegged off their heads.
And for the average guy who doesn’t get barreled every day, that sounds pretty damned good. John John might want 15 foot barrels, but most people are pretty damned happy with an overhead nugget—and during the first two weeks of 2018, there was no shortage of them.
A motley crew of barrel riders was on island for the season’s first solid run of swell—some grizzled veterans, some relative newbies who had never seen the inside of a Micronesian tube. The one thing they all had in common? Everyone got shacked. That and the fact that they will all be coming back.