It was my second time in Hawaii, and it was way before the advent of social media and the prolific rise of personal litigation. What happened in Hawaii stayed in Hawaii back then, with most of the magazines at the time (remember magazines?) still wary of publishing anything that would make their presence in Hawaii uncomfortable in the future.
It wasn't quite Mad Max out there, but there were checks in place, and while The Wolfpack and Da Hui probably had barbeques and laughed over beers at the hyped and aggressive presence they had engineered through media, it was a serious game on the ground. The whistle used to blow at the Volcom House, and blows used to rained down on transgressors.
Spot guide: Hawaii
We were staying around the corner, looking out over a reef, to the left was Backyards and Velzyland across to the right. It was idyllic, but the problem was that the only wave that consistently looked good and inviting was V-Land and it always came with a crowd. We had been warned about the situation there, and despite the waves absolutely cooking, local families controlled them, and it was going to be hard to get anything out there.
One late morning it looked excellent and empty, and we quickly scuttled down the beach to get a few before the locals arrived. The tide was a bit low, but still we paddled out. As we approached backline we just saw the whole shoreline light up with people, as about 10 families of around five people each along with friends, umbrellas and cooler boxes arrived. It looked like a club contest.
My first wave was a bomb and I went for a lip line floater on the inside and fell. My second wave was a little barrel and I tucked in and popped out, in front of a crew of very big, scowling lads who were paddling out. By the time I got back out it was all over.
Eventually one of the boys pointed across to Freddyland, and said, in a friendly manner bless him. ‘Best you go there brah,’. I went straight there
I went across and surfed a few lefts off the peak before getting caught inside once, and thus discovering why no one really surfs the lefts. It’s one piece of reef you don't really want to get caught inside on.
Eventually one of the boys pointed across to Freddyland, and said, in a friendly manner bless him. ‘Best you go there brah,’. I went straight there.
WATCH: January at Pipeline
The light breeze ruffling the peak at V-land seemed to really mess up the doubleups at Freddies into shitland, and I decided to get one or two and leave.
I was riding a pro friend’s borrowed board, lumo pink and black checks. It was probably one of the most noticeable boards in the world. He was surfing with me and had chosen a nondescript plain board to surf this zone. In hindsight, a good call. While getting a few close-outs and having some fun, I noticed none other than legendary goofy-footer Luke Egan from Australia paddled out to join us on a few of the close out lefts.
In 2008 or whenever it was, Luke was still a hero. I was there when he won the Billabong pro Mundaka in 2004 and I had witnessed him killing it in JBay numerous times, including during the Derek Hynd invented dream sequence.
Luke seemed lost in his own world, and chose to paddle deeper into the shitness of the crumbly closeout world that was Freddyland. There is no real inside in the shifting peaks, it’s more take-what-you-can, but it was time to go anyway.
Unfortunately, it wasn't as simple as that. A great set came through, and a long wave, with these wedgy pockets appeared. I was sitting close to the channel, and wanted one more left that didn't close out immediately. I paddled for the wedge, and in the corner of my eye I could see Luke paddling for the same wave. He was way down the line, and there were about three lumps between us. There was no way he was ever going to get near me, nor was he going to be able to get around all the sections. I continued paddling.
Luke disappeared, but I couldn’t catch my wave anyway. Hung up at the top, I kicked and paddled furiously. I wanted to go in. I suddenly felt that dreaded feeling, that split second feeling of doom when you feel the wave has done something strange, and there is absolutely nothing you could do to prevent yourself going over the falls with no chance of getting to your feet.
That split second thought gave me no chance to redeem any manner of self-esteem, as I started my rapid downward trajectory lying down on my board and hurtling over the falls on a viciously collapsing double up.
I continued downward, way faster than this story can let me explain, and landed on his head
In a shorter split second than the previous one, I saw Luke to my right and beneath me, stalling for a cover up. I continued downward, way faster than this story can let me explain, and landed on his head. We went down together in a mess of surprised confusion of leashes, fins and rails.
By the time I surfaced, he was a few metres away from me, floating next to his board in confusion. Looking at me wide-eyed, more with surprise than anything else. I lay down and caught a whitewater in. I didn't expect him to follow me in. He’s actually cool like that, but I did feel like a total idiot and needed to escape the scene.
As I got to the beach it felt as if there were a million eyes on me, and heads shaken in disbelief, as the whole local contingent had witnessed the entire shameful episode.
All I had left was the walk of shame back to the house at Backyards, along the beach, with a luminous pink and black checked surfboard beaming out to Luke my path of ignominy, as he stared long and hard from the water.
Cover shot of Pipeline by Grant Myrdal