“I may have seen a Gudaskis brother or it just may have been Koa Smith.”
It’s so good to be back!
Granted, getting back is a project in and of itself. Fortunately my wife had the patience to manage the project and despite an unclear testing status before leaving LAX and a misreading on our entry papers we were ohana-adjacent enough to get through.
Waikiki is almost completely devoid of Japanese tourists which is bad for local businesses and also bad for my wife as “spotting” Japanese brides is one of her favorite past times.
But we’re here to talk about Sunday and Monday at Pipe.
Dubbed the Valentine’s Swell™️ by Surfline it was going to be big and clean on Sunday and smaller but still clean on Monday.
When we walked up the path between the Volcom houses we were greeted by Billy Kemper and Michael Ho discussing the conditions.
Billy, in case you were wondering, gets preferred parking on the path. I don’t even park on Ke Nui Road because I’m afraid of getting slapped.
But one look at the lineup and I knew it was on.
The best day, by far, that I’ve ever seen at Pipe was Saturday, December 21st 2013.
It was almost a week after Kelly had won the Pipe Masters and the day he won the Wave of the Winter.
I didn’t see him that morning because he was supposedly trying to get to a neighbor island but I did watch JOB break three boards in 20 minutes and then watch John John get Pipe bomb after Pipe bomb. There were drop ins that day and I even saw one slap!
Back to Sunday.
There were already 100 bodies in the water and I quickly picked out Jamie and Balaram Stack.
The first person I noticed catching waves was Zeke Lau. He looked good going left or right.
The conditions were challenging so going Backdoor was a commitment. Even if you made it you could expect a lengthy paddle to get back outside.
What I didn’t notice was the normal whistling and cat calling from the Gerry House when the second reef sets rolled in. Face masks and social distancing aren’t really a thing on the North Shore but I guess Volcom is doing their part to spread Aloha and not Covid.
The wave of the morning that I saw was Mark Healy. There are a few good clips floating around but he got nice and deep and was blown out. He came right out of the water and walked past us so I was able to congratulate him.
Mason Ho walked past a few minutes later. Mason, I believe, is trying to Make Short John’s Great Again because both he and Michael sported the same surfing kit. But Mason is VERY handsome so he pulls it off effortlessly.
And yes, Michael paddled out into second reef, wild and crazy Pipe. I remarked to my wife that he’s 60+ and still surfing a wave of consequence and she replied that Kelly will probably be doing that until he’s 80.
Not only does she plan Covid testing she also knows her legends!
I was very surprised to see Brother Kolohe enter the lineup mid-morning. I guess he’s putting in the time in Hawaii and he was active catching a few Pipe waves. But he still got dropped in on by a sponger so he is still fighting to gain that respect!
Roman Noses were also represented with Leo Fioravanti smiling up and down the beach. By Italian-ish American heritage was damn proud!
Shortly thereafter a solitary figure appeared in front of the beach park and your reigning Pipe Master entered the water.
I have usually seen John paddle in with his crew so I was a bit surprised to see him go in alone. Both Ivan and Nate were already in the lineup so maybe he had some Marine X boardshort designs to review? Maybe there were sustainability issues? Mogul problems, I guess.
Meanwhile Nate was catching his fair share of waves and surfing them pretty well.
I may have seen a Gudaskis brother or it just may have been Koa Smith. They certainly do resemble each other.
We took a lunch break at Ted’s and that’s when Mike O’Shaunessey almost drown. Sitting at V-Land eating our fish sandwiches and chocolate haupia pie (so Ono!) we heard the ambulance zip by. Seeing the conditions and knowing how hard guys were charging it wasnt a surprise to hear that someone got hurt.
And yes, the lineup is still 95% male. I did see a few young ladies paddle out but didn’t see them catch any waves.
I won’t even paddle out so they certainly have my respect.
Dave Wassell paddled in just in front of us during the late morning and then two hours later was saving a life while doing his “day job.” Crazy stuff.
The good news is that helmets at Pipeline are just as ubiquitous as RVCA stickers so surfers are eschewing the aesthetic and opting for safety. Who said surfers were dumb???
The lineup cleared after that and we went back to Waikiki content in knowing that Monday would be good as well.
The waves were down on Monday but the lineup was just as crowded.
There were a lot of spongers in the water and drop-ins were frequent. Even King Kelly was not immune to being dropped in by a body boarder!
I couldn’t tell if it was the same guy who dropped in on Brother but with no slaps exchanged the waves continued unabated.
JOB caught a bomb on his soft top and proceeded to paddle right in claiming exhaustion.
Jamie is an affable guy and will stop to take pictures with kids and also accept accolades from middle aged spectators like myself.
Kalani Chapman (helmeted) was very noticeable as were Zeke and Billy yet again. Billy seemed to be on every third Backdoor wave.He paid the price with at least one broken board but seemed unfazed. I guess that’s why he needs to park so close…quick access to fresh boards!
A quick chat with my fellow barrier Island resident Balaram Stack revealed his intention to stay in Hawaii until they kicked him out. I remarked that was a solid strategy gives the current winter weather in New York. I also noticed Bal going to/from the Gerry House so maybe he’s been promoted? If so, good for him!
His fellow Volcom teammate Jackie Robo was seen smiling and shaking hands both days. What’s funny though is that I didn’t notice him in the water. Wonder why?
Michael Ho made another appearance and caught a bomb that has been making the rounds. There was definitely a buzz on the beach after that.
Joel Jitsu himself, long board in tow, emerged from the lineup and right into the Gerry House. He and Slater sharing the same lineup with no slaps, cracks or choke holds? Boring!
Anastasia Ashley sat down behind us to discuss her travel plans and her recent ski trip. No mention, though, of real estate transactions (sorry, Derek!).
Then another legend made his way down the beach with his swim fins in hand. Mark Cunningham is probably the only non-European 70 year-old who can confidentially wear a banana hammock.
All three Florence brothers were very active and apparently I missed a Backdoor party wave with John and Kelly.
Despite the conditions being better on that December day seven years the lineup for these two days had a lot more talent.
Billy Kemper seems like a man possessed and once again, we have proof that legends never die!
Oh what beautiful, glorious, chaos!