What does it mean to devote your entire life to a surf break? Most surfers do this to some degree. We spend years studying tides, tracking sandbars and dialling in the subtle secrets that differentiate local from yokel.
But then a small percentage integrate those calculations into their very DNA, elevating the hunt for waves to something closer to a religious devotion.
We’re talking about guys like Albee Layer and his dedication to Jaws. Did you know Albee’s dad used to run safety for Laird Hamilton and the original “Strapped" crew? “It’s a humbling relationship I have with Jaws,” says Albee. "Because I know she’s the centre of my universe and occupies most of my thoughts and feeling -- yet I’m fully aware I mean nothing to her.”
Or how about North Carolina’s Brett Barley and his uncanny connection to those Outer Banks sandbars, studying their shifting moods the way investors study stocks? “It’s not like other places where you can see swells a week out,” says Barley. “Epic days can happen quietly, off the surf forecasting radar, and being here and on it is crucial. Then there’s a lot of driving around scouting sandbars between swells because they’re always changing. Getting good waves here takes a lot of effort.”
Koa Rothman is another one. Born and raised into a family of North Shore surfers, Koa's no-holds-barred approach to Pipeline earned him last year's "Wave of the Winter." While Koa continues to expand his repertoire to waves like Jaws and Mavericks, when Pipe is pumping he's always posted at the top of the line-up.
Then there’s Portugal’s Nic Von Rupp, who always seems to pop up in the perfect place at the perfect time for just about every European swell. That’s no coincidence -- it's his his full time occupation. But Nic’s first target is always local. “The city of Lisbon is virtually surrounded by world-class waves, from XXL stuff at Nazare to the reefs of Ericiera, and then Supertubes in Peniche,” he says. “I can get almost anywhere in Europe pretty fast -- but when the season is on my focus is at home.”
So this is Team ON IT -- a regularly updated, ongoing magicseaweed series where we deconstruct the inner workings of surfing’s most dialled-in devotees. How do they do it? What have they learned? What's the deeper reward? How much tube time can one clock in a year?
But it’s not just surfers we’ll be putting on our couch. To complete the conversation, we’ll also be focusing in on Pipeline water photographer Zak Noyle, learning how he worked his way into one of the heaviest lineups on earth. From the video side, Los Angeles-based cinematographer Travis Kuhlman rounds out of our crew, who gets sent out on some calculated hunch just about every month.
Finally, our own team of expert forecasters will be participating in this experiment, sharing how they collaborate closely with guys like Albee, Brett, Nic and Zak to make sure they’re in the right place at the right time. It’s a two-way exchange of information since buoy-n-satellite data and barrel-n-stoke data can often differ greatly.
And that’s another thing. You don’t know what you have until you take it away. That’s why we’re sending this team of committed homebodies on the road. Do the lessons of home still apply on the road? Does being “the guy” at home translate meeting to “the guy” at some faraway break?
In this series, we’ll also be breaking down the anatomy of a surgical strike mission – because when you’re this devoted to your home break, you don’t just post up on the other side of the world and wait for waves. These missions take form the night before, and end up blurry-eyed, over-frothed and (inshallah) barreled out of our minds.
But where to go? When to leave? How to hit it?
So many questions -- which is exactly how these things start.
Stay tuned to this channel, ‘cause we’re bringing you along for the ride.
Are you On It?
Cover pic: Koa Rothman by Zak Noyle/A-Frame