GOING BALLISTIC DA HUI BACKDOOR SHOOTOUT + H AWA I I â€™ S TO P 10 WAV E S + TA L K S TO R Y: DAV E W A S S E L +
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F R E E
P A R K I N G
Before late December/ early January, the majority of the winter season on the North Shore had been defined by harsh, unfavorable conditions: North winds and North swell. When 6-10 foot WNW swell began filtering into the 7-mile miracle to kick off 2018, surfers including Imai DeVault greeted it with open arms. Photo: Keoki
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T A B L E
C O N T E N T S
06 Free Parking 14 Editorâ€™s Note 16 News & Events 22 Fit For Surf 44 Aperture 58 She Rips 60 Environment 64 Industry Notes
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66 Last Look
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F E A T U R E S
2018 Da Hui Backdoor Shootout
Recapping the glory, gore and high drama from the homegrown contest that ran in epic conditions
Hawaiiâ€™s Top 10 Waves
Breaking down the iconic waves spread throughout the Hawaiian Islands
Talk Story: Dave Wassel
Discussing the career of the Kailua native, including his big wave surfing exploits, why he chose to become a North Shore lifeguard and how he overcomes fear in both arenas
Publisher Mike Latronic Editor Cash Lambert Photo Editor Tony Heff
GOING BALLISTIC DA HUI BACKDOOR SHOOTOUT + H AWA I I ’ S TO P 10 WAV E S +
Art Director John Weaver Multimedia Director Tyler Rock
TA L K S TO R Y: DAV E W A S S E L +
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Nathan Florence Photo: Aaron Lynton
Ambassador-at-Large Chris Latronic
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Redefining Performance HIC Surfboards by Kerry Tokoro
Kerry Tokoro’s MOJO Model evolved through his working relation with Josh Moniz. It is a high-performance hybrid design that will keep you surfing fast and dynamic, even in smaller, low-power waves. The bottom rocker is relaxed with an accelerated tail kick, and the single to conc double concave is noticeably deep. The wide point of the outline is pushed back a bit, creating a narrower nose and a smooth tail curve with very little hip or bump. Ideal for waist to slightly overhead high waves, this board gets in and moving quickly. Unlike many hybrids, it drives vertically up the face, into the lip and beyond. Josh Moniz claims “The MOJO is my favorite high-performance board...it carries a lot of speed and is easy to maneuver.” This model is the perfect choice for intermediate to advanced level surfers who want to take their surfing to the next level. Available as a squash, round or swallow tail.
ADVANCED COMPOSITE MATRIX
HIC’s ADVANCED COMPOSITE MATRIX (ACM) combines the best qualities of three different fiberglass fabrics - E-Glass, S-Glass and Warp Glass - creating a surfboard that is lighter and more resistant to compression, buckling and breaking. All stock HIC boards are now glassed with the ACM system in combinations of 4 oz. and 6 oz. fiberglass, depending on the length of the board. Look for the ACM logo to be sure.
Josh Moniz Photo: Keoki/Freesurf
Mojo Model by Kerry Tokoro: 5’11” X 18.63” X 2.31” Ala Moana Center
Street Level, Mauka
By Cash Lambert For those in Hawaii on January 13th, panic and chaos because of an incoming ballistic missile alert began at 8am. My panic, however, began 3 hours prior. Living near Sunset Beach, it’s common to hear military activity - guns and explosions - at random hours of the day, especially at night time. At 5 am, what sounded like missiles falling and hitting the earth twice caused me to bolt upright in bed. Minutes later, I fell asleep, and was awoken 3 hours later to the alert: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Still half asleep, I immediately thought that the noises at 5 am possibly a military drill - and the missile alert were connected. My mind raced to the conclusion that we were already at war. My roommate, who had prepared for something like this, was already heading out the door with her emergency kit, which included enough food for her and her dog to survive the forecasted apocalypse. For some reason, I declined the invitation to get into her car, and minutes later, I was in my own car, driving to the Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau heiau that overlooks Waimea Bay and much of the North Shore. Why the heiau? With so little time remaining before impending doom, and no preparations to survive, I figured the best thing I could do is go out while staring at the incredible view.
This morbid tone sounds ridiculous now. It’s easy for some to say that it was obviously a false alarm, but when the government/state alerts the public of anything - a tsunami, hurricane or a ballistic missile - it has to be taken seriously. Or so I thought. On top of the heiau, standing alongside a handful of others doing exactly what I was doing: gazing over the gorgeous 7-mile stretch of the North Shore and waiting for the missile, I reflected on how amazing it is to live in Hawaii. Yeah, we deal with traffic, soaring rent prices and other frustrations, but we have so much more as well, all things we decided to showcase in this Going Ballistic issue: Hawaii boasts the best waves in the world (we break down Hawaii’s Top 10 waves on page 30), we have a colorful and unique cast of characters in our community (for our Talk Story with big wave surfer Dave Wassel, flip over to page 52), Hawaii consists of a population rooted in healthy lifestyles (we interview yoga guru Gerry Lopez on page 22) and people groups are focused on keeping our oceans healthy (we explain why the plastic bomb is not a false alarm on page 60). As we all know, it turned out to be a false alarm. That false alarm and its world-ending thoughts taught many of us something, whether it’s a newfound appreciation for how lucky we are to live in Hawaii, perhaps a realization that a change in priorities is needed, or that a deferred goal should now be chased. Whatever that lesson was for you, I encourage you to take it to heart throughout 2018 and, in the process, make it a priority to catch more waves. That’s what I’ll be doing.
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JAMIE O’BRIEN WINS THE 2018 DA HUI BACKDOOR SHOOTOUT IN “THE BEST CONDITIONS SEEN ALL WINTER” By Cash Lambert
A winner of the Volcom Pipe Pro and the Pipe Masters in previous years, Jamie O’Brien added to his string of Pipeline accomplishments by winning the 2018 Da Hui Backdoor Shootout on Wednesday, January 16, a decade after winning his first Shootout. “It feels amazing, and I’m stoked,” O’Brien said. “I didn’t know if I had won, and I’m stoked to get two Da Hui Shootouts under my belt.” O’Brien two highest heat scores - a 9.5 and a 10.5 - gave him not only his best waves of the winter, but also a swanky $40,000 first place check. “My 10.5 was a left that I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it or not,” he said. “The wave looked walled up, so I took off in the pocket right away and I knew I had to get moving. I did a couple of pumps and just came out. Watching the video clip afterwards, the foam ball was right on my tail the whole time. That was the best wave I got all winter.” Only at the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout are waves like O’Brien’s 10.5 score possible. A homegrown North Shore contest that began in 1996, the annual contest exhibits a unique format: athletes surf an equal amount of times in a non elimination format. The best scores are tallied in each round, and the number of rounds completed dictates how many waves are counted. There are no contest jerseys, and the scoring range, instead of a 10 point ceiling, is raised to 12 points. What makes the Shootout also unique is that while surfing is based on individuality, this contest creates teams -- Hui O He'e Nalu, Da Hui Wax 1 & 2, Volcom 1 & 2, Weedmaps, Quiksilver and Da Hui Japan.
“It’s not like competing,” said Ola Eleogram when asked about the contest’s format. “It kind of feels like going on a surf trip and you and your friends are scoring perfect waves.” “It’s almost like a freesurf,” said Torrey Meister. “It’s the best format ever. You’re really not competing against anyone else; you’re competing against yourself.” “I usually don’t like contests, but this one feels pretty good for anyone who’s a part of it,” said Noa Deane. “There’s no pressure. Everyone’s sharing and there’s no priority. You’re just trying to get good waves.” When the Da Hui ohana gathered on December 30 for the 2018 Backdoor Shootout opening ceremony, native Hawaiians performed ceremonial chants to the Hawaiian wave god Kanaloa praying for swell. If the event was going to be anything like the year prior - the 2017 Shootout saw the best waves the event window had ever seen, according to contest organizers and surfers - this prayer would have to be answered, because the majority of the winter season on the North Shore had been defined by harsh, unfavorable conditions: north winds and north swell. The prayer, it seems, didn’t fall on deaf ears. In the words of Da Hui patriarch Eddie Rothman, who, along with the help of a few others created the Backdoor Shootout, “I guess the Hawaiian gods smiled on our members who are Hawaiian people and gave us a break.” The holding period for the Shootout - Jan 4-16 - saw the best winter
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With the points ceiling raised from 10 points to 12, surfers like Kaimana Henry sought to get as deep as possible to earn a score above 10.
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“Some of the best waves I’ve seen all winter happened to be in the contest, which happened to be in my heat and happened to be some of the best waves of my life,” said New York City native Balaram Stack.
season conditions thus far in 2017/2018 - 6-10 foot WNW swell creating an arena of adrenaline-fueled barrels and heavy wipeouts. Seth Moniz pulled into one of those adrenaline fueled barrels: “a big Backdoor right, probably my best wave out there yet,” he said, and was awarded with a 10. After high backup scores, Seth’s final standing, impressively, was second overall. When asked how second place ranks compared to his other accomplishments, he said it was “my biggest one, it’s a big accomplishment for me to get second. Last year I got 4th, so I’m getting closer to my goal and that’s winning.” Japan’s Keito Matsuoka airdropped into the highest scoring ride of the event - an 11 point barrel that landed him third place overall. “The wave was, no words,” Matsuoka said with a grin. “I just wanted to make it. Everything happened so fast.” Rounding out the top four was Balaram Stack. “Some of the best waves I’ve seen all winter happened to be in the contest, happened to be in my heat and happened to be some of the best waves of my life,” he said. “To be out there with a couple of my buddies with the Volcom 18
Seth Moniz, who scored 4th place in last year’s Shootout, finished runner up and was awarded with a Hard Charger award.
crew is priceless enough and now they're telling me I’m getting a check for it? I couldn't imagine much more in a place like this that has given me so much in my life and career. I’m still smiling, and I don't think that'll change for a while.” With such heavy swell on tap throughout the contest period, the awards also included a hard chargers division, handing $2,500 and the prestige of the name to four surfers: Torrey Meister, Seth Moniz, Ola Eleogram and Tyler Newton. Newton, with his arm in a sling, had visual proof of his hard charging, suffering a shoulder dislocation during the contest. Thanks to O’Brien’s 10.5 and other high scoring rides from members of Team Da Hui Wax 1, including Makai McNamara, Koa Smith and Nathan Florence, the band of brothers won the team award. “It’s cool to be out there with 3 of your friends and at the same time you're building scores to win the team event,” O’Brien said. “All these guys got insane waves so that helped us win.”
After the conclusion of the awards ceremony, as surfers trickled back into team houses, Eddie Rothman summed the event up best: “Everybody charging, having a good time, the smile on everybody’s face, the judging that was right on. Local people got to shine. I think it’s the best thing in the world for the surfers in Hawaii.”
Results 1st place Jamie O’Brien $40,000 2nd place Seth Moniz $25,000 3rd place Keito Matsuoka $15,000 4th place Balaram Stack $10,000 5th place Mason Ho $5,000 Hard Chargers - $2500 each Torrey Meister Seth Moniz Ola Eleogram Tyler Newton Da Hui Wax Team 1 Jamie O’Brien Makai McNamara Koa Smith
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Gerry Lopez on Yoga, Meditation and Wanderlust By Cash Lambert
Gerry Lopez is a man who needs no introduction, yet deserves one anyway. The Honolulu native spent the 1970s surfing the most dangerous wave - Pipeline - with casual and fearless grace, earning the iconic nickname Mr. Pipeline. Lopez, who also pioneered surf locales like Uluwatu and G-Land in Indonesia, is also known as a yoga guru, having spent much of his life dedicated to practicing and teaching yoga. We sat down with the 69-year-old to trace his yoga roots, discuss his yoga regimen, and why a journey to Wanderlust - a 4 day yoga festival taking place March 1st - 4th at the North Shore’s Turtle Bay Resort - “will further anyone's yoga practice.” Freesurf: When did you begin practicing yoga, Gerry? Gerry Lopez: Yoga began for me in early 1968. I was going to the University of Hawaii and saw some girls gathered around a bulletin board. They were looking at a notice of a yoga class that night in the empty lot across from Varsity theater. I went to the class hoping to see the girls again but instead, I found a path that I’ve been on ever since.
How has your practice evolved throughout the years? Yoga comes in phases or degrees, and it has been a lifetime process for me. Each phase leads into the next and I’m always advancing my practice and understanding. What does your daily practice look like? My personal daily practice these days, depending on how my day ahead looks, runs from 2 to 4 hours starting at 5am. I find myself instructing more Yin style yoga simply because Yang yoga seems to be what most people are looking for. Balance in life, health and harmony are when Yin and Yang are in balance, but today’s world seems to lean towards the Yang. Yoga is all about bringing balance to one’s body and mind but there has been an affectation in this latest Westernization of yoga to fitting it into our fast paced, modern society. There is nothing wrong, it’s still yoga, except many yoga practices become less balanced than they are supposed to be.
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How has your yoga practice had an effect on your surfing? I thought it would be something that would make my surfing improve and I’m pretty sure it did.
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In what ways has yoga benefited your health? Yoga comes to a person when it is the right time in their lives. Sometimes that takes a few go-arounds. At some point, when it’s supposed to, yoga will be right. Understand that it is ultimately a spiritual path, but embrace yoga however it comes to you. Physical and mental health are not to be taken for granted. Like a car, the body and mind don’t run well for the long term unless proper maintenance is performed along the way: proper exercise, proper breathing, proper diet, proper relaxation and proper thinking and meditation. Surfing is a similar path and when practiced together with yoga, it can bring great, long term benefits. Keep paddling, breathing through your nose and living with the Aloha spirit. What makes Wanderlust - taking place March 1st-4th at Turtle Bay Resort - special to you? Wanderlust is a modern day Woodstock of yoga. It's a soulful gathering of yoga instructors and music. A journey to Wanderlust will further anyone's yoga practice. This is a good thing for us, for humanity. We need to save ourselves before we can be truly effective in saving anything else. For more information and tickets for this year’s Wanderlust, visit Wanderlust.com.
Has yoga itself changed since you began practicing it? When I began to practice, yoga was presented as a complete lifestyle directed towards a realization of our God self. Today, yoga is most often practiced as a form of exercise separated from its traditional spiritual roots. So I find my own practice to actually leaning towards more Yin, which is about gently holding the asanas/poses for a long time, finding stillness and focusing on the breathing.
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FINN MCGILL WINS 2017 JEEP WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP By winning the 2017 Jeep World Junior Championship in early January, Finn McGill joined the list of 2017 World Champions who call Hawaii home - John John Florence (2017 and 2016 World Champion), Honolua Blomfield (2017 World Longboard Champion) and Paige Alms (2016/17 Big Wave Champion). Despite suffering an ankle injury months prior, along with incoming flight errors prior to the start of the Jeep World Junior Championship, in Kiama, NSW Australia, McGill managed to rise above to claim the coveted 2017 title. In the Final, the North Shore native linked together a chain of giant backside turns in the final heat, comboing Japan’s young gun Joh Azuchi. “I can barely talk right now. It hasn’t really sunk in just yet,” McGill said after the heat. “After coming off an injury, I wasn’t expecting too much of a result at this event. I was never feeling in much of a rhythm and seemed to just be sneaking through heats. It all changed in my Quarterfinal and all of a sudden I began to build and feel the flow. Then once I was in the Final, I knew I had just one more heat to surf, so I knew I just had to wait for the good ones and surf them well.” McGill, also the winner of the 2016 Pipe Masters Trials, continued: “Thanks to all my family and friends for helping me out to make this happen! Big thanks to Rainos Hayes for coaching me through my injury all the way to here and being down at the beach from 5:30 am to 8pm!”
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10 H AWA I I ’ S
B E S T
There’s no region as wave-rich as Hawaii. Go ahead, put our claim to the test: where else can you find the world’s most challenging yet consistent waves in varying degrees? Hawaii has career defining waves (Pipeline, Haleiwa and Sunset), big waves (Pe’ahi, Waimea), waves for weekend surfers (Honolua Bay, Laniakea) and longboard, mellow waves (Queen’s) and more. Read further as we break down the top 10 waves throughout our beloved island chain.
PIPELINE The most famous wave in the world, the Banzai Pipeline sits roughly 30 yards off shore on Oahu’s fabled North Shore. When west or northwest winter swells meet the three reefs at Pipeline - first reef, second reef and third reef - a perfect, hollow barrel is formed, giving surfers the rides of their lives while going left (Pipeline) or right (Backdoor). While much glory goes down at Pipeline, including world champions crowned at the Billabong Pipe Masters and legendary rides etched in surfing lore at contests like the Backdoor Shootout and Volcom Pipe Pro, there is also a significant amount of gore. Wiping out and falling into the razor sharp reef just a couple feet below the surface has caused drownings, near drownings, broken bones and bruises. Even with this inherent danger, the world’s best surfers make the annual pilgrimage to the North Shore every winter to test their talents at Pipeline, a wave also known as the Proving Grounds. – Cash Lambert Ola Eleogram and Eli Olson Photo: Tony Heff
HONOLUA On Oahu, Waimea is often simply called “The Bay” — hear the same term on Maui, and people are talking about Honolua. The Valley Isle’s most popular surf spot can give you the best ride of your life or the scariest hold-down ever, but the risk is well worth the reward. Honolua is best known today as the annual home of the final contest of the women’s World Championship Tour, and local standouts Carissa Moore and Coco Ho have shown a particular prowess here over the years. This wave gets crowded on good days and you’ll have to fight for a ride, but don’t get pushy — Maui locals know how lucky they are to have this wave and can be territorial. Maui is home to an exceptionally talented crop of young guns heading for the Championship Tour when they come of age, so don’t be surprised if half the people in the lineup are around or under age 14 and still smoking you. – Kyveli Diener Dirk Brace Photo: Erik Aeder
SUNSET This deep-water gem is one of the most revered waves on North Shore Oahu. A placid swimming locale in the summer, Sunset Beach shows her true colors in the winter, when the waves are big and heavy. This two-mile stretch of sand has hosted various surf contests over the years, and plays an important role in the annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing as the site of both the HIC Pro and the Vans World Cup every year. Sunset Beach has been the ideal site for multitudes of surf contests for decades, including being the original home of the Eddie Aikau Invitational in 1984. Sunset’s Hawaiian name, Paumalu, means “taken by surprise” and references the surreptitious west swells that can sometimes catch surfers inside if they are less familiar with the break. The consistent waves curling in over the northwest facing reef can hover in the manageable 4-6 ft range or leap up over 12-15 feet with a solid north swell, even reaching over 30 feet in XL conditions. Sunset offers a mixed bag of waves that are perfect for everything from wrapping turns to vicious hacks to deep barrels. – Kyveli Diener
H A L E I WA
Known as the Gateway to the North Shore, Haleiwa and its crown jewel - Ali’i Beach Park - is one of the first stops for tourists and visiting surfers alike. Primarily a powerful right hand wave, the venue is the site for contests including the first event of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the Hawaiian Pro, as well as homegrown contests like the Menehune Surfing Championship. On small days, the inside sees parents pushing their keiki on their first waves with locals out the back picking off fun-sized set waves. On bigger days, the area turns into a power surfing arena, showcasing open walls ripe for carving. Whether you’re experienced or not, the wave at Ali’i is dangerous, with the bottom terrain consisting of shallow, razor sharp reef. On the inside of the right-breaking wave sits dangerous Toilet Bowl, a circle that flushes exactly like a toilet bowl in an extremely shallow slab of reef. Don’t fall on this section, be respectful in the lineup and enjoy surfing the famed break. – Sara Aguilar
P E ’A H I ( J AW S ) Pe’ahi, better known to many as Jaws, is the most perfect big wave in the world. Standing on the cliffs above Pe’ahi Gulch and looking at the pulse in the water, you can feel the wave’s energy even in its sleepy moments when it breaks at just 7 feet. Though he wasn’t the very first, surfing at Jaws was truly pioneered by Laird Hamilton in the 1980s, and he served as godfather to the younger men and women who began towing and paddling in to Pe’ahi as young as 12 years old. The wave has been featured in multiple movies, been the subject of countless books and articles, and now annually hosts the Pe’ahi Challenge on WSL’s Big Wave Tour. With the right swell and offshore winds, the wave can rise up between 30-60 feet, and offers a cavernous barrel on the west inside section. The unwavering crew of Jaws regulars — Albee Layer, Dege O’Connell, Billy Kemper, Paige Alms, Kai Lenny, the Walsh brothers, Shane Dorian, Torrey Meister, and their friends visiting from as far as South Africa and Australia — will always be out when it’s big, and they will always have the waves of the day. – Kyveli Diener Aaron Gold Photo: Keoki
SANDY BEACH Sandy Beach, better known as Sandy’s, is one of the top hangout hubs for locals and tourists. Located on the southeast shore of Oahu, the beautiful secluded stretch of sand is known for its powerful shorebreak, which attracts bodyboarders and bodysurfers seeking deep barrels and high aerials. Sandy’s is also known for its danger: red warning flags and signs about strong currents, hazardous shorebreak and sharp coral dot the beach. The break mostly responsible for drama and action goes by the name Middles, the area with the biggest shorebreak. A variety of other breaks at Sandy’s includes Full-Point, Half-Point (which feathers into Pipe Littles), Cobbles, Chambers, and Last Man’s. Visit Sandy’s on any given weekend and you may catch a Hawaii Bodyboarding Pro Tour contest, with Hawaii’s best bodyboards battling in waves of consequence. – Sara Aguilar Jamie O’Brien Photo: Chris Monroe
MAKAHA Located on Oahu’s west side, Makaha is a fierce and powerful wave with a rich history. Home to the Makaha International Surfing Championship, a contest founded in 1954, the break is also regarded as the birthplace of big wave surfing, where surfers such as Buzzy Trent, George Downing, Greg Noll and more pushed the limits of what could be ridden from the 1940s to the 1960s. The reef at Makaha is a collection of interconnected breaks, with the most popular takeoff zone at the Bowl, featuring a steep drop that leads to what’s known as the inside reef, a tube that funnels into powerful shore break. Showcasing a colorful surf culture, surfers at Makaha on smaller days can be seen catching waves on tandem boards, outrigger canoes, bodyboards, longboards and shortboards, all crafts that are ridden in a contest format at the Buffalo Big Board Classic, a homegrown contest that began in 1977 and continues this year. With its unique culture and consistent winter swell, Makaha is a wave like no other and will give you an experience like no other. – Cash Lambert Brian Keaulana Photo: Allen Mozo
QUEENS Known for its slow, playful rolling waves, Queen’s is the beach for beginners as well as any surfers looking for a mellow yet rippable sessions. Located in Waikiki on the South Shore of Oahu, Queen’s was once the heroic playground for Hawaiian royalty and received its name from Queen Liliuokalani, who lived in a beach house near the surf break. It’s the iconic break where beginners are pushed on their first waves by beach boys and lifelong surfers expertly noseride towards shore. Paddle out on Queen’s on any given day, and you’ll find yourself in a lineup of surfers on a spectrum of boards, like longboards, SUPs, soft tops and shortboards. Because the break is so accessible, user friendly and fun, the lineup is usually heavily crowded. During big summertime south swells, when waves range from shoulder to head high, the inside ramp section is prime for progressive surfing. – Sara Aguilar Kai Sallas Photo: Tony Heff
ALA MOANA BOWLS One of Town’s most iconic waves is a man-made left-hand reef break known as Ala Moana Bowls. Bowls was formed in the 1950s when two harbors, Kewalo Basin and the Ala Wai Small Boat Yacht Harbor joined together. During the construction, coral and dirt were extracted from the area, creating the “Bowl”. Credit can be given to legends like Gerry Lopez, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, and Larry Bertlemann for proving Bowls to be the core of progressive surfing and tuberiding in the 1970s. Primarily a left, Bowls is classified as a world-class mouth-watering wave. When a solid south swell graciously comes face to face with the reef, experienced surfers will be gliding through stand up barrels all day, while sharing the lineup with the South Shore’s best crop of talent. – Sara Aguilar Alex Pendleton Photo: Tony Heff
B A N YA N S Whether youâ€™re a young grom all the way up to the weathered Uncle, Banyans is the go to spot in Kailua Kona on the west side of the Big Island. Picking up west swells during the winter months and south swells during the summer, Banyans is a sure bet for waves year round. In the 1-3 foot range, Banyans is a playful wave but with a shallow reef main take-off, the initial paddle in can be daunting. Once you figure out the dynamics, small barrels and power pockets can turn into really fun sections going both right and left. Once the swell starts hitting the 4 foot and bigger, the takeoff moves out from the shallow reef shelf and the rides on the main right-hander can extend longer into the adjacent bay with plenty of open face and steep sections of blue water. While the wave can be a playground for almost any surfer, it is the main and most popular break in Kailua Kona and respect of the locals is a must. On any given day you can find the 'Banyan's Crew' posted up, including local pro rippers like Shane Dorian and CJ Kanuha along with a long list of up and coming groms and stalwart Uncles. Banyans also plays host to a number of amateur contests in the area, including Shane Dorian's annual Keiki Classic. â€“ Tyler Rock CJ Kanuha Photo: Kirk Lee Aeder
Ulu Napeahi at Pipe, Unknown at Backdoor Photo: Tyler Rock
Balaram Stack Photo: Tony Heff
Cliff Kapono Photo: Keoki
Keito Matsuoka Photo: John Weaver
S T O R Y Brent Bielmann
T A L K
Dave Wassel By Cash Lambert
Big wave surfer, North Shore lifeguard, Volcom team member, WSL commentator: Dave Wassel, who has pioneered his own surfing path, wears many hats.
Standing on the second floor balcony of the Volcom house on a January morning, Dave Wassel watches a lineup of surfers take turns paddling into consistent 6-10 foot glassy Pipeline and Backdoor bombs, detonating into mountains of whitewash. The size of the winter season swell seems miniscule compared to the waves that Dave, a Kailua native, has ridden throughout this big wave career, a career founded on an element of fearlessness. From Oahu’s outer reefs to Waimea Bay and other big wave breaks around the globe, Dave has been seen in the barrel during the biggest, heaviest and scariest days. Also a North Shore lifeguard, Dave finds himself in potentially life threatening surf situations on a consistent basis. “I’m never going to say that I’m not afraid,” Dave tells me, pausing as a surfer explodes out of a Pipeline barrel and the Volcom house roars. “It just happens that preparation is going to help you get through the worst possible situation. That fear is always there. But knowing that I’ve done the preparation for the worst possible situation, that’s what
helps me 9 out of 10 times come over that hump of being too scared to go for a big wave.” What follows is our full sit down with Dave, where we discussed his humble beginnings in the Kailua shorebreak, his heaviest big wave surf sessions, how he’s chartered his own path in surfing by big wave charging and working as a North Shore lifeguard and how he’s used fear to his advantage throughout his career. Freesurf: Dave! Let’s save those death-defying, adrenalinefueled big wave stories you have for later in the interview. Instead, let’s start with where it all started. What’s your first surfing memory? Dave Wassel: My first surfing memory was 4 years old in the Kailua shorebreak. I caught a wave and was hooked. I didn’t know what to do with my hands so I started throwing them up in the air and shadowboxing. I’ve been chasing that high my entire life.
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TALK STORY / DAVE WASSEL outer reefs. It’s all been a natural progression. It took me a good 20 years to get to the outer reefs; it’s not something I did over night. It was something I wanted in myself. Like I said, it wasn’t crowded out there. Everyone knows Pipeline is crowded, but if you just go a couple hundred yards outside it’s a lot less crowded. Go even further and there’s nobody. I was able to run away from the cameras and the scene and get personal satisfaction. Throughout this evolution, who did you look up to?
How did surfing evolve for you after that? Surfing is very personal. I caught these waves and would say ‘Mom, you have to come down and see this’ and she would say great, but inside it’s this natural high that you can’t get enough of. Growing up in Kailua, I was right next to the water. My father, on the other hand, couldn’t swim. He says Hawaii is only an island if you go to the beach. My father almost drowned as a kid, so because of that, he made me wear a lifejacket until I was 15 years old any time I was near the water. My friends would take me on their boats and say ‘hey does
that life jacket work’ and they would throw me off the boat. They would do circles around me and throw bait at me. At that point, in my head I said you know what I don’t need you as friends, I’m just going to swim into shore, and they’d be long swims. At that young age, I realized that I could take adverse conditions on my head and make it to the beach on my own accord. Nowadays, decades later, every time we go surfing we’re wearing these lifejackets. I don’t know what the world has in store for us, but it’s funny it comes full circle for me. So chasing that natural high took me from the Kailua shorebreak to the Marine base to North Shore to Pipeline to Sunset to the
Roger Erickson. For people who don’t know Roger, he was one of the first guys that put high performance big wave surfing on the map. He would lance boils on the biggest waves at Waimea with no fear...a place that on the biggest days strikes the fear of God in everyone else and he’s going I got this. To me, to see somebody ride those size waves with reckless abandon the same someone would ride a 4 foot wave... that was appealing to me. He looked like the Marlboro man, and I had his pictures all over my wall. It took me 2 decades to get enough courage to talk to him and ask him why he did things that he did on giant waves with archaic equipment. He told me ‘I just came back from Vietnam and I knew a bullet wasn’t going to kill me, so I knew a wave wasn’t going to either’. Because of him, I learned at a young age that it is all right to be an older surfer. You can still push the limits. It may not be at Kailua shorebreak
or Ehukai, but if you start going to the outer reefs, there’s very few people and you can also get away from the crowd. When the big waves come around, the crowd thins out real fast. I owe a lot to guys like Roger Erickson for keeping that dream alive in my head. What are some of the heaviest big wave sessions you’ve been a part of? The heaviest session I’ve ever seen was when Sion Milosky won what was the biggest wave ever attempted, sometime around 2008. I was in the lineup with Sion and Shane Dorian, and a wave came in so big that it defied the laws of physics. It had a boat wake on it, too. I didn’t go, Dorian didn’t go and Sion turned and went. He made it over the first boat wake, not the second, which is why it wasn’t scored as a complete ride, but that was the heaviest thing I’ve seen. I looked at Dorian and he said ‘wow that’s how it’s going to be nowadays.’ Another session is the first time I paddled at Pe’ahi in 2012. The only reason I caught a wave was because I wanted to get out of the lineup. I was so uncomfortable. Fear can be a good thing. It can keep you alive or make you want to get out of there. Talk to us about fear. You’ve made a career based on what seems to be either a lack of fear or overcoming fear, charging massive and deadly waves. I’m never going to say that I’m not afraid. It just happens that preparation is going to help you get through the worst possible situation. I’ve come over one wave and been so scared I didn’t even look at the next one. That fear is always there. But knowing that I’ve done the preparation for the worst possible situation, that’s what helps me 9 out of 10
times come over that hump of being too scared to go for a big wave. It’s all about finding your comfort zone. Bad situations will arise, but you need to find your comfort zone and be able to perform. Fear can definitely be in your benefit, because your mind is the strongest tool you have. If you panic, that’s because of fear. It will drown you. Fear can be the mind killer but it can also save you from putting yourself in the worst possible situation.
that I planned on catching surf 2 feet bigger every year. I’ve stuck to that scale. When I became 30, I said I’m going to make a transition, knowing I’d lose my
surf before during and after work’. They said ok, here’s a multi-year contract and that as long as I stayed doing what I was doing, they would back it.
Along with that, you also commentate for the WSL. How did that begin and grow to what it is today?
Let’s shift gears and talk about how you’ve pioneered your own career in surfing, working with Volcom as well as a North Shore lifeguard. My relationship with Volcom started in 1991 when the company started. I met them randomly at a Pyramid Rock Pro Am contest and they said ‘David if you win this contest, we’ll get you sponsored’. They asked me what my plan was over the next 5 years and I said
also got a Todd Chesser Award and an Eddie Aikau award. I think looking at surfing not just for fun but also for something I needed to support a family, a paycheck here and there, it actually worked out pretty good.
sponsorship, and that I better do something to get paid on the beach so I became a lifeguard. Volcom asked me if I was still going to surf, and I said ‘yeah, I have lunch breaks, and I can
At 38, I got married, had a kid and the funny thing was that the birth of my child was the most successful year for me as far as my accolades. Somebody said I rode the biggest wave that year, it happened to be at Pe’ahi. I
I started commentating through Volcom. In 2011, Volcom offered me the position of commenting for the Volcom Fiji Pro. It just so happened that year the swell got so big and so exciting and not only was I there to commentate it. I got to surf it as well. I’m not here to impress everybody with what comes out of my mouth. I guess some people liked it, so it turned into a bit of a career and I get to ride a few waves, so double bonus. Because big wave surfing takes such a toll on the body, do you
TALK STORY / DAVE WASSEL
have any thoughts as to how long you’ll continue charging big waves? People always ask how long can you do this and how long is your body going to withstand this abuse. Now, I understand there is an end to this and I’m glad to say it is near for Dave Wassel. I recently looked my collection of boards - 9’6 to 11’2 - and I thought to myself what is wrong with me? It’s not normal. I know what my body has been through, and I know what it’s capable of. What I want to do with this information I have is pass it on. I’m looking to hand that off. It’s not my duty, but I feel like I have some knowledge in waves of consequence that I can hand off to people. Just minor do’s and don’ts to keep yourself breathing. We know you want to get in the water, so let’s end with this: what’s your advice to those looking to fearlessly
pave their own way in the surf industry? Let’s start off with saying Dave Wassel is a lifeguard and not a life coach. I’m not here to tell people how to live their lives. But, it’s not about a 6 month plan. How about a 3 year plan? Look beyond tomorrow. Whether it’s in sports, commentating, or just being a lifeguarding, I don’t know your path - you do - but make sure it’s not something you’re hastily to jump into. Set yourself a goal and try and achieve it.
What’s the most gratifying aspect about working as a North Shore lifeguard for Wassel? “Working with great people,” he said. “I have the best partners in the world. When there’s someone in the worst possible situation, I’ll be running to it and someone will be right next to me backing me up.”
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I am never competing with my opponents, I am competing with myself. I constantly push myself to do better. So in heats, I try to tune out everything else and focus on bettering myself which really helps me in maintaining my nerves and composure. The WSL Longboard Tour is every longboarders dream! That has definitely been my goal since I was a little girl. I honestly never thought it would happen, so I’m over the moon that I will be competing on Tour.
Kirra Seale By Shannon Reporting Photos Keoki
Describe your quiver.
Surfer Kirra Seale finds freedom by gliding off Oahu’s shores. Ranked second on the Hawaiian Longboard Team just behind her friend, WSL Longboard World Champion Honolua Bloomfield, Kirra is in good company. Influenced by a long legacy of Hawaiian wave riders, this cross-stepping bombshell surfs with her heart on her sleeve. By finding her flow and tuning into the ocean’s many moods and rhythms, Kirra is able to tune out the sometimes unpleasant nature of aggressive competition and rather zone into what she loves so much about the sport: personal growth.
Freesurf: Tell us a bit about growing up on Oahu. How did you learn to surf? Kirra Seale: Growing up on Oahu was like a dream, something I will never take for granted. That is, having 7 miles of perfect waves all at your disposal. I don’t think life could get any better. I learned to surf as soon as I could stand! My parents started me 58
off on their short boards letting the wind push me down the Pipe tide pools. Then I got some floaties thrown on me and was positioned on the front of their longboards.
water on my longboard, all my clumsiness washes away. With longboarding I feel like you can’t force anything. You read the wave and the wave tells you what to do. That’s probably my favorite part.
Ahhh the quiver, my favorite part! My quiver ranges from a 5’4 twin fin, to a 9’8 Log. I’ve got a fun 6’0 single fin. My shortboard is a 5’10. I’ve got quads, thrusters, single fins, twin fins. You name it, I’ll ride it. Now, my longboards are more my secret weapons. So I’ll keep those hush-hush. Kyle Bernhardt and I have been working together and his boards are amazing! I finally feel like I am surfing to my potential. I never enjoyed riding a Hi performance longboard until I got on a Black Pearl surfboard. The ones I compete on are anywhere between a 9’0 and a 9’5. How does surfing empower you? Any advice to fellow wahine that dream of surfing professionally?
Why does longboarding call you? What’s your favorite part about it?
How did you get involved with the WSL Longboard Tour? Any highlights?
I honestly love surfing any type of board that best suits the conditions, but longboarding definitely speaks to my heart. Longboarding is beautiful, smooth, and radiates gracefulness. I trip over my own two feet on land. But, in the
Growing up I competed on a shortboard. I stopped because I felt like contests took the fun out of surfing because everybody was so aggressive. However, with longboarding I thrive off competing. The reason being
Surfing is everything to me. My life revolves around the surf, and surfing makes me feel whole. It washes away all the anxiety and worries of the day. So it empowers, because it refreshes me and grounds me, as well as humbles me when I get a set on the head! My advice to fellow wahine would be to just do you! Surf with the style and grace of you. Don’t ever give up and always do it for fun. Because when it’s truly enjoyable, everything else falls into place.
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THE PLASTIC BOMB IS NOT A FALSE ALARM By Kahi Pacarro
Landing in the dark morning at a cold airport on the top of Molokai in Ho’olehua brought an excitement for our adventure. The aloha experienced on the island permeates into your own existence and reignites upon your return. As we drove down the long road to Mo’omomi Beach in a truck that was left at the airport for me to borrow, I felt the aloha in a big way. I was there to give back. Mo’omomi had been invaded by plastic and looked as though a jumbo jet filled with trash had jettisoned its payload onto the sand, and then an explosion of plastic confetti rained down across the entire beach. Sustainable Coastlines was there to deal with this invasion. The dirt kicked up into a reddish smoke as the caravan of trucks rambled down the long dirt road. Everyone was smiles ear to ear until the radio warning and cell phone sirens alerted us of an impending ballistic missile strike with only minutes to spare. We were 25 minutes already down the road with no suitable shelter topside. We were forced to contemplate death while on our way to preserve life. It seemed so ironic! We spent a few minutes calling loved ones and then continued down the hill to the beach...at least we’d be going out doing what we love with like minded and aloha filled people surrounding us. False alarm. The odd weight of our impending death being removed from our shoulders brought on Herculean strength: 103 people forged on to take what looked like the dirtiest beach you have ever seen and
turned it into the prestigious gem it should be. Our plastic pollution problem is similar to the missile we were expecting: it was a situation that will change us forever, but differing is the fact that instead of an immediate obliteration, the plastic bomb will slowly kill us. Like the false alarm, we still have the chance to learn from this mistake and stop this madness. How can we stop this plastic pollution madness? The path would look something like this, so imagine with if me if the following were to take place. The frontlines are our coastlines and clean ups will help maintain the beauty while also helping to recruit new soldiers. With a solid frontline of willing and able soldiers, we march into the battle armed with bags, muscles, sand sifters and hand sanitizer. The cleanup serves as a reactive solution to an ongoing problem but also serves as a proactive approach to waking up the masses. It also fuels the initiated to continue inspiring others. With the frontline temporarily conquered, we forge on. Upon breaching the frontlines, the movement enters the oceans and start seeing what’s happening to the trash while in the ocean as well as where some of the trash is coming from. We witness tiny micro plastics being eaten by fish, the violent sea churning up our trash and blending it into a confetti-like state, and boats discarding debris and
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old gear overboard. We decide to no longer use single use plastics and to support our small scale local fishermen and women. Some soldiers even decide to give up seafood altogether. We forge on. As we enter deeper international waters, we see huge commercial purse seine fishing vessels with nets longer than a mile catching entire schools of tuna and utilizing techniques most people would consider cheating. We see commercial fishermen throwing old gear and fish aggregating devices (F.A.D.s) overboard. We disavow buying foreign carbon monoxide pumped ahi and forge on. Beginning our incursion inland, we see rivers of trash entering the harbors, emptying societies detritus into the sea, a few dumps on the riverbanks, residents tossing their trash onto the ground and storm drains clogged with plastic packaging. Locals seem to be on our side in our fight against this plastic invasion. They point towards the building in the center of town, the Capital, as the root of the problem. Surrounding the Capital are lobbyists blocking our entrance and politicians turning a blind eye. Weâ€™re currently at that line, looking for weaknesses, figuring out how we can regain control of the mess we all created. The root of the problem is that plastic is made from oil. The richest corporations in the world are oil companies and actions to limit corporations revenue will be fought tooth and nail. They have the ability to control the government via political contributions and corruption. You want the plastic invasion to stop? Here in the most stark solution. Remove corporate influence from government. Kahi Pacarro is the Executive Director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.
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48th Annual Haleiwa International Open Ran in “Epic Haleiwa” Conditions With a 12-day waiting period from December 22 – January 3, the 48th Annual Haleiwa International Open – regarded as the longest running event in Hawaii, according to event organizer Joel Centeio – crowned champions including Ulu Napeahi (Men’s Shortboard) Diego Ferri (Boys), Eric Tema (Senior Shortboard), Doug Deal (Grandmasters Shortboard) and more in divisions ranging from 13 and under to the Grand Masters, 60 and over. Originally started by world surfing champion Rell Sunn and Earl Dahlin as a goodwill event for visiting Japanese surfers, the Haleiwa International Open grew over the years with more international as well as local surfers entering the event. “It’s a really solid community event, and a lot of local guys look forward to it because you get a chance to surf Haleiwa with only three other guys out, and you can’t beat that,” said Centeio. “The Masters division is super competitive, with guys like Ross Williams, Matty Liu, Sean Yano, guys that used to surf professionally. In the Grand Masters, you have guys like Uncle Jock Sutherland, so it’s exciting to see the generations coming back to the event and doing it.” “I remember surfing in this event when I was young, 10, 11 or 12,” said North Shore native Ross Williams. “Now, we’re middle age and it's a great excuse to put a jersey back on. As far as it bringing the community together, it’s rad. It fires up the community, especially the older guys, and the event has that history and respect, especially with Joel Centeio and the boys running it. It's good vibes and everyone gets to surf Haleiwa with just a few guys out.” For a full list of results, visit FreesurfMagazine.com.
Vans’ Original Style 36 Gets the Dane Reynolds Treatment Celebrating the legacy of Vans’ most popular silhouette with a new artistic vision Costa Mesa, CALIF. (January 10, 2018) – Inspired by Vans’ original footwear silhouette known today as the Old Skool, Vans partners with pro surfer Dane Reynolds to introduce the Style 36 Decon SF. As an homage to the ubiquitous Sidestripe model’s legacy of more than 40 years, the new Style 36 Decon SF presents Dane Reynold’s imaginative vision and original artwork on a timeless canvas footwear form. Reynolds’ custom-designed colorway brings his original sketches to life while offering a tailored, lightweight construction. The Style 36 Decon SF features a newly refined shape, emphasizing deconstructed canvas uppers, molded UltraCush sockliners, and reduced rubber toe caps. Showcasing Reynolds’ yin and yang-esque illustrations across the outsoles and footbeds, the Style 36 Decon SF is crafted with black and red canvas and suede uppers and classic waffle rubber outsoles wrapped in a retro marshmallow color foxing tape. In addition to the Style 36 Decon SF, Vans complements Reynolds’ signature assortment with a coordinating Sk8-Hi 138 Decon SF and a comfy pair of Vans Slide-Ons to match. Raw, powerful and progressive, Dane Reynolds’ technical style was honed at the internationally-revered point breaks that surround his hometown of Ventura, CA. An artist on and off his surfboard, Reynolds’ improvisational style can also be found in his artwork, illustrations, personalized boards and homemade surf videos. Reynolds continues to push the boundaries of the sport through his experimental surf persona, naturally making him one of the greatest free surfing talents to date. The Style 36 Decon SF is available now. Visit Vans.com/surf for more information.
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â€œIt feels bigger when I use this hand.â€? - Mason Ho Photo: Tony Heff