Pipe Masters

I will be posting a gallery of images soon. This was taken Saturday afternoon near Off the Wall. Traffic wasn't bad getting up there either!

Spent my birthday weekend watching the last event of the Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing–the famed, the dreaded Pipe Masters. The waves on Friday and Saturday were some of the best I have seen for this contest. It was fairly light winds with some beautiful 10-foot sets coming through. As always, the waves could be a bit shifty (as evidenced by many reef cuts, stitches and Josh Kerr’s grade one concussion) and many heats seemed to come down to just choosing the perfect one.

John John Florence’s Perfect 10

Nineteen-year-old John John Florence is one of my favorite surfers to watch. He, along with Jamie O’brien, grew up on the North Shore and definitely seemed to be crowd favorites. Wildcard entry Evan Valiere  also holds a special place in my heart as a fellow Kaua’i native. He made it to the quarter finals where he lost to Michel Bourez. Recently crowned 11-time world champion Kelly Slater seemed to have a bit of a rough start. (I think I saw him go over the falls on at least three of his waves?) He made up for it later in the day with a no grab rail backside barrel that the judges always seem to love.

Click here to watch John John catch Rockstar’s Wave of the day.

You can watch live streaming of the contest here. Today is the final day, with the contest probably ending around noon, so get on it!

Here is where the results will be posted: http://vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com/billabongpipemasters2011/results

 

**UPDATE** Congratulations to Australia’s Keiren Perrow on winning the 41st Billabong Pipeline Masters. Perrow’s win is sort of the Cinderella story of surfing. He had to get fifth in this event to even re-qualify to be on tour next year.

“There was so much pressure on me just to stay on the tour,” said Perrow during the live broadcast. “This could have been the last event of my life. I bought my wife, my brother, my daughter and son here in case it was goodbye to professional surfing.”

Watching the last 10 seconds of the heat brought tears to my eyes–seeing Perrow’s smile get wider and wider, then in the last five seconds Joel Parkinson paddled over and gave him a big hug. It was a beautiful moment and gives me goosebumps even reflecting on it now. It is in moments like those that I really love the sport of surfing and I’m glad it hasn’t lost that purity of spirit among all the money and sponsorships.

“I nearly cried out in the water when I reached the quarters so to be standing here now as the winner, to say it’s a dream would be an understatement.

“It’s been the greatest few days of my life. I know I’ve re-qualified for next year but I feel like retiring on the spot.”

 

Rabbits of the sea

Lobster season is open from September to April. The catching of lobsters using a speargun is prohibited.

Love these little guys (or gals, I suppose). My dive partner and I caught these four last winter on the West side of Oahu in about 60 feet of water. These slipper lobsters, like the spiney lobster, do not have large claws. Instead, they have cute little shovels for arms. They hide in under rocks and in crevices during the day and typically come come to eat at night. Ours were in a small cave-like recess in the reef.

It was my first time trying to catch lobsters and it was nothing like what I expected. For some reason, I thought they would just be sleeping in the reef, ho-hum minding their own business. I would calmly scoop them up and swim to the surface.

Quite the contrary. I am tempted to call the slipper lobster the rabbit of the sea. It uses its tail almost like the hind legs of a rabbit, bounding through the water much faster than my bumbling hands were expecting. It darted over the reef, but at the last second I was able to wrap my hand around the smooth and slightly bumpy exterior. I’m pretty sure I made the underwater equivalent of a squeal of delight.

Then came the second surprise. “How in the world am I going to hold this thing and swim with it wiggling about, let alone try to catch another one?” I wondered to myself.

I looked to my partner for direction. He was making some weird, downward pushing motion that made me regret for the hundredth time not diving with a message board. I scrunch my eyes in the international signal for “what?”.

He grabbed the lobster from me and with a swift movement, opened the neck of his wetsuit and shoved it in.

Well, that’s one way to do things.

Things I will never do

Reef Macintosh rides the "wave of the winter" at Off the Walls on Dec. 2, 2011.

There was a time in my life when I believed anything was possible if I tried hard enough. I have come to realize there must be a fault in that logic somewhere because there are some things I will never do. Can I learn a new language? Without a doubt. Have I gone 147 mph on a streetbike? Yes, unless you are a cop then no and please don’t take away my motorcycle license. I am 5-foot-5-inches of pride and stubbornness, which makes for a pretty interesting mix when I’m told I can’t do something. So you see, I have a fantastic relationship with my generally obedient brain.

Which brings me back to my original point: what I cannot ever even imagine myself doing is catching a wave like that. Maybe that little “fight-or-flight” switch is perpetually clicked on for me, even when the adrenaline is pumping. Maybe it has to do with almost drowning while surfing waves 1/6 this size. Who knows.

In any case, my hat off to you Mr. Macintosh and all you other crazy people around the world who can look down the face of a 3-story wave and ignore the instinct to pull back. I don’t know how you do it, but it is definitely one school-bus sized barrel of a reward. Click here to see the full video.

Happy Veterans Day!

I know it’s windy, but I hope you are all getting some sun! Click here for a map of directions from UH Manoa to China Walls.

China Walls is located in Portlock on the southeast side of Oahu. Supposedly its name comes from the large waves that break from the cliff out into the channel, resembling the Great Wall of China.

Slater wins his 11th world title….just not yet

Slater was prematurely announced the world champion of 2011 after his third round victory in the Rip Curl Pro Search on Wednesday. Kanaka Menehune/flickr

The surfing community was consumed with talk this week about Kelly Slater being crowned the 2011 ASP World Champion at the Rip Curl Pro Search event in San Francisco on the first anniversary of Andy Iron’s death.

However, on Friday (two days after awarding him the title), the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) announced that a calculation error meant that Slater actually needed to win one more heat in order to be world champion.

“We had a mistake on our rankings World Title scenarios calculations due to a programming fault,” said Renato Hickel the ASP World Tour Manager in an interview with Surfline (click to watch the interview). “Kelly hasn’t officially clinched his 11th world title.”

The chances for 21-year-old Aussie surfer Owen Wright to steal the title from Slater are pretty slim. Essentially, Slater just needs to win one more heat in San Francisco contest, which runs until Nov. 12.  Here’s a breakdown of what he would have to do in order to pull ahead in the rankings:

-If Kelly wins either Round 4 or 5 (one more heat win) in San Francisco, he will confirm his 2011 ASP World Title.
– If Kelly fails to win another heat in San Francisco, Owen must win this event to send the 2011 ASP World Title race to Hawaii.
– If the race goes to Hawaii, Kelly must advance out of one heat to confirm his 2011 ASP World Title. If Kelly fails to advance through a heat at Pipeline, Owen must also win this event to stay in the 2011 ASP World Title Race.
– If Kelly fails to advance out of another heat this season, and Owen wins in San Francisco and Pipeline, the two will tie at best of nine, eight, seven, etc. events, and the 2011 ASP World Title will be decided in a “Surf Off”. (Never heard of this happening, but hey that would be fun to watch)

Personally, I think we all know Slater is going to win….he just got the trophy a little prematurely. In any case, good luck to both Slater and Wright, I’ll be watching!

**UPDATE**

In cold, offshore, 4-6 ft. Oceanside Beach, Slater advanced out of his heat meaning he has officially won his 11th world title. Congratulations Ke11y.