Page 1



A N O F F - S E A S O N I N D O O D Y S S E Y. B E H I N D G R E E N L I N E S I N I R E L A N D . R E T U R N T O S A N T O S H A . H O T E L G H A N A . R Y A N B U R C H ' S A S Y M M E T R I C A L T R I P. APRIL 2013


LOCAL CUSTOMS "No dawn surfing. No dusk surfing, no murky water surfing. I don't want you to be 'et' ". It's not often that a customs officer delivers you a lecture about sharks as he rubber-stamps your passport. "We've had 13 shark attacks here in the last year and I don't want another one on my conscience." Was this some kind of bad sign I wondered as I was ushered into Hawaii, and what happened to the Elvismovie welcome that included a lei around the neck, ukulele-playing locals and a kiss from a pretty local girl? Ill-omened entries were soon forgotten as I hit the Kam highway. A solid north swell was running and the famed road, which runs the length of the North Shore, has a couple of spots which permit a clear view of the waves. Fortunately the unwritten rule on the Kam is 'drive slow haole', so providing you can steer on the wrong side of the road and simultaneously check the surf, it's possible to get a fair idea of what's going on just from your first Kam highway drive-by. Lani's (Laniekea) was firing as I cruised past and by the time I rounded the bends at Waimea, where a dreamy blue wall hugged the inside section known as Pinballs, my system was flush with adrenalin. Half an hour later I was paddling out at five to six foot Lani's alongside fellow Tracks correspondent Kirk Owers. When the swell runs from the North,

Mason Ho taking casual to new extremes at Pipe.||

050 // TRACKSMAG.COM // ISSUE Nº 523


Lani's becomes a kind of warm-water J-Bay; long, slinky walls that deliver light-speed propulsion, occasional tubes and big chunks of canvas that let you draw whatever lines you want. There were no signs of sharks at Lani's [although it has a rep for being a tiger shark breeding zone] but there were certainly plenty of turtles in the lineup. The friendly, shell-backed reptiles have a way of mellowing the attitude of even the most hostile surf crowds – everyone's always happy to see a turtle even if they do emanate a powerful stench. You just don't want to bottom turn into one because they will take your fins clean off. In Hawaiian tradition the turtle is a symbol of 'Mana'. In a recent article for the Surfers Journal Gerry Lopez had the following to say about the notion of Mana. "The old Hawaiians believed that Mana was a cosmic energy that flowed through everything in the universe, including the wind, waves, rocks and animals. Mana, in humans, manifested as great skill, talent, strength, intelligence and character." I'd been interested in this concept of Mana for a while and wondered if seeking the mythical life force might not be a worthy purpose for my time on the North Shore – who and what had Mana and perhaps who didn't?

ISSUE Nยบ 523 // TRACKSMAG.COM // 051

"WOA BRA, YOU DON'T BRING ANY HATS FOR THE BOYS AND THEN YOU GO IN THE HOUSE WITH YOUR SHOES ON. WHAT THE …?" Out at Lani's a melting pot crowd jostled for the shifting walls – girls on longboards, groms on the shoulder, shralpers going deep and a committed contingent of older guys waiting out the back on their nine-plus shooters. One of the veteran Hawaiian surfers was particularly animated. As he paddled into a wave he'd start hooting – laughing at the prospect of highlining his 10-foot spear through multiple Lani's sections. At the end of each ride he'd give a final victory cry and throw his hands above his head. The gesture never seemed like an egotistical claim – just a celebration of the ride. Almost as if he was paying homage to the fact the wave's energy had been transferred to him and he wanted to perpetuate the stoke. This guy's financial position or the importance of his job were not evident in the surf and nor were they relevant. The ocean is a great equaliser and a man or woman is what they make of themselves in the water – particularly in Hawaii. For someone around 60, he looked fit, healthy and strong and radiated a strong presence. From where I sat it seemed his 'Mana' was powerful and that one could only

hope to be as high on surfing at that stage of life. From Lani's we dashed to Pipe to check out the evening action. As the sun melted below Kaena Point in the distance our team sat on the beach with beers in hand and watched the curtains close on the daily Pipe show. Even if it was a patchy 4-5 foot Pipe, it was way better than staring at the six o'clock news. While we clutched our Pacificos and wondered if we were worthy of five foot Pipe, five-year-old Steve Roberson came flying through on a left and hit the lip on a shallow inside section. Like a rogues gallery judging panel we raised our beers and cheered, at once in awe of the grommet's ride and embarrassed by our own absence from the lineup. No perfect Hawaii day is complete without a fresh story from the local coconut wireless. Right on dark a sun-weary photographer shuffled through the sand and paused to drop a little golden nugget of information about a Go Pro rep's experience at the Volcom House. Apparently the rep from the camera company that Forbes magazine recently valued at $2.25 billion, was trying to give celebrity presenter and occasional World Tour commentator,

Sal Masekala, a Go Pro hat. Sal was in the front yard of the Volcom Pipe House, flanked by the kind of guys who generally command a little respect in these parts. As the rep lunged clumsily past the heavyset frames and the inked shoulder blades, desperate to reach his celebrity target, several sets of eyes began to stare daggers. Not only had he failed to bring the crew any offerings, he eventually barged inside and violated the house's most sacred law – No Shoes or Sand Inside the Volcom House! Eventually rhinoceros-built Kai Garcia, a man who definitely resonates a powerful presence, felt compelled to call out the interloper. "Woa bra, you don't bring any hats for the boys and then you go in the house with your shoes on. What the …?" Embarrassed and intimidated, the Go Pro rep slunk off sheepishly and informed his boss of what had transpired. Needless to say, a new Go Pro camera was delivered directly in to the hands of Kai-Borg Garcia within the day. No matter how big you or your company's bank balance is, there are rules in place in Hawaii to keep your character in check. A lot of the time, it's still the balance of Mana that matters most.

Above Right: Five-year-old Steve Roberson tackling Backdoor with is GoPro.|| Above Left: Anyone for a slice of Laniakea?||

052 // TRACKSMAG.COM // ISSUE Nº 523



Kai Garcia aka 'Kaiborg' has a commanding presence.||


ISSUE Nยบ 523 // TRACKSMAG.COM // 053

Classic backside bottom tweak at Rocky Point.|| Joli

Alex Knost enjoying the single life at Rocky Point.||

054 // TRACKSMAG.COM // ISSUE Nยบ 523


Unknown surfer slashing through the blue velvet at Rocky Rights. ||


ROCKY POINT RIFFS Rocky Point is the North Shore's high performance epicentre. Punt and throw the tail on the left that sits up just right for surfing's high altitude aficionados or pull in on the right, which provides the perfect training ground for backdoor Pipe. Flynn Novak lives just down from Rockies and has used the punchy left ramps to perfect his signature frontside backflip. Mikala Jones is also in the front row and as you wander past you'll likely see his brave, five-year-old daughter swinging on the front-yard tree rope that almost takes her out over the water. Photogs post up at the point to fill their cards with the kind of hi-fi gear they won't get at other North Shore breaks while chicks in dental-floss G-strings hang there to tan their behinds and watch the boys boost. With topless bathing ruled out in Hawaii, the butt plays a much bigger role as a sexual marketing tool. No bikini is too small and showin' off your buns seems as much a part of the Hawaiian way of life as Mai Tais and monster trucks. The same posterior sparsity applies to the bikinis worn by the girls in the surf, which can prove very distracting when you are trying to dodge closeouts and make late take offs. That said, the native Hawaiian girls did surf naked before the missionaries ruled it out in the

early 1800s, so riding waves without much on is really nothing new in Hawaii. The most dangerous girl in the lineup this year was a gum-chewing goddess on a Lightning Bolt board. The leggy blonde would paddle out with her heavily built, well-connected boyfriend who asserted his local status with 'North' and 'Shore' tattooed on separate shoulders. When Blondie wanted a wave her beau would grab the tail of the Lightning Bolt board and hurl her over the ledge. There was something almost sweet about it, even when she wiped out horribly on the shallow inside section at Rockies. No matter how out of position she was, you certainly didn't dare go near Blondie's wave, and if she sat up on her board all perky and smiley while 'North Shore' caught a wave, you made damn sure you looked the other way. One afternoon Rocky's was four-to-five foot and firing. With the swell more from the North, Rocky Rights was hurling punchy barrels and running well past the one definitive boulder that threatens to crush skulls and eat boards. While there was a sprinkling of Bgrade pros out, the session somehow belonged to the retro-beatniks who had taken up residence at Rockies for the season. Alex Knost and Ellis Ericson boast-

ed their own dedicated filmer and photographer, a quiver of single fins and styles that served as a dramatic recreation of surfing history. Out in the water it was Knost who made his presence most prominently felt, hooting like an endangered Amazonian parrot to call off potential drop-ins and drawing irregular lines with trademark epileptic jerks. When the wave of the evening jacked violently on the rights, Knost sideslipped down the face like a fallen cat looking for a ledge to catch. Somehow at the wave's base he got the rail to set and the fin to hold, before the barrel engulfed his rakish frame. Alex might be on 70s-inspired craft but he surfs with a new millennium concept on how deep to ride the barrel. After several seconds inside, the wave spat the hipster pin-up boy onto the shoulder and a punter who was obviously unaware of Alex's identity got a little overwhelmed. "Did you see that? That guy just got so pitted!" he blurted out in classic California drawl. Knost's unorthodox, yesteryear style and curious on-land eccentricities might not be everyone's thing but there's no denying his ability, and in the couple of weeks he'd spent surfing Rocky's this season, it seemed he'd also found his Hawaiian Mana.

ISSUE Nº 523 // TRACKSMAG.COM // 055

056 // TRACKSMAG.COM // ISSUE Nยบ 523

Gettin' High at Rocky Lefts. || Bosko

ISSUE Nยบ 523 // TRACKSMAG.COM // 057

FOODLAND AND THE FLETCHERS Last year in Hawaii Christian Fletcher made a $50 bet with Tracks that Kelly would win the world title against Parko. When Joel triumphed, Christian went walkabout and never paid up; leading one to conclude that while Christian may have helped pioneer surfing's punt he wasn't a good guy to punt with. To give Master Fletcher a good-natured reminder that squibbing on a bet was a distinctly unAustralian practice I ran a story titled "Christian Fletcher Owes Me Fifty" in last year's Hawaii issue. Lo and behold on my first trip to Foodland [The North Shore's Grocery Mecca] this year who should I run into but Christian Fletcher. As he made his way up the trolley ramp, flanked by a cute Eurasian girlfriend, he was readily identifiable by the skull tattoo which crinkled on the skin folds on the back of his neck. "Hey Fletcher where's my fifty?" I shouted out, in a good-natured tone. "Oh hey dude, how you been?" Christian had the debtor's art for deflection of the most pressing subject. We chatted briefly as we made our way down the beer aisle. Christian was complaining that another magazine had trashed him and published a story without his approval of the transcript. Obviously in a mood to rail against the surf media, he eventually got around to justifying his failure to pay up on the Parko bet. "The way I see it dude, you already wrote a bunch of stuff about me in your magazine, so you got your money's worth anyway." I wasn't too concerned about the cash but found Fletcher's explanation for failing to pay pretty entertaining. We continued to talk; this time about the world title that was to be decided between Mick and Kelly. "I'm a Mick fan, I love the way Mick surfs – real fast – but I think Kelly will win again," he insisted. Christian didn't propose another bet and based on his payment history I couldn't really see the point in making one either. Somewhere near the Haagen Daaz fridge we split up. It's easy to get distracted in front of the Hagen Daaz fridge because flavours like Bourbon Pecan and Crème Brulee lure you in like an empty

A-frame barrel. You have to remember that this is the brand of ice cream that once caused an injured Gary "Kong" Elkerton to eat himself into a state of semi-obesity. Amidst the Hagen Daaz haze I'd pretty much forgotten about the debt-dodging Christian Fletcher. However, as I emerged through the exit doors of Foodland, burdened with bags of groceries, there he was; like some wild-west gunslinger waiting outside the swinging tavern doors for a shootout. He hit me with the hustle right away. "Hey man, the way I see it you're probably going to write some more shit about me based on our conversation in there so why don't you just give me $50 now and we'll call it even." I laughed out loud at the suggestion and kept walking. Somehow Fletcher had construed it so that instead of him owing me $50, I now owed him fifty. You had to marvel at the gall of the guy. But I guess he was right; I did write some more shit about him, so maybe we'll call it square. A few days later I ran into Christian's younger brother Nathan. While Christian was the fluoro-clad frontman for the aerial generation in his early '90s hey day, in recent years it's Nathan who has maintained respect as a stylish, small wave shredder and a big wave contender. When I bumped into Nathan he had just finished charging Pipe and was clutching a giant, round nose gun that featured an elaborate art piece on the underside. "Did you do that?" I enquired in relation to the artwork. "No, it's by Julian Schnabel. It's probably a $200,000 board," he replied proudly. Turns out Julian Schnabel is an acclaimed artist and filmmaker who has fallen in love with the surfing world. It seemed an interesting fraternal parallel to note that while Christian was outside Foodland hustling magazine hacks for a fifty, his brother Nathan was chasing giant Pipe pits on a $200,000 board that featured a piece by an acclaimed artist. Although Christian had help engineer a beyond the lip revolution it seemed the Mana was now definitely with brother Nathan.

Main: Nathan Fletcher crusing through a Pipe pit on his $200 000 Julian Schnabel gun.|| Inset: Christian Fletcher.||



Nathan Fletcher with the Julian Schnabel board under his arm.|| Renowned artist and filmmaker, Julian Schnabel.||



ISSUE Nº 523 // TRACKSMAG.COM // 059

060 // TRACKSMAG.COM // ISSUE Nยบ 523

Familiar Warnings It's the day before the Pipe Master's final and with a new swell forecast to hit, a friend who lives locally, issues one of those all too familiar warnings. "If you go out today be careful. It's one of those days where you paddle out on your six-footer and find that you need an eight-footer within the hour. By mid-morning a group of surfers are staring forlornly at the Pipe lineup, where it's barely big enough for a few groms to entertain their Pipe dreams in the one-foot shorey. A few hours later I pull in at Jocko's, a left-hander at the less sexy end of the North Shore, which may be one of the best rip bowls you'll ever surf. The swell has just begun to show it's baby teeth and four footers are bending into the bay, which also plays host to a longboard friendly right-hander. In the car park I get chatting to a balding, portly-framed Australian. When he tells me he's getting out because it's starting to get bigger, I naively assume he's an ageing first-timer fulfilling a life-long dream to come to Hawaii. However, when he spots my Tracks hat he informs me that a long time ago he was on the cover of Tracks. "What's your name?" I proffer. "Larry Blair," he replies without any boastfulness in the tone. I knew that Larry had won consecutive Pipe Masters in '78 and '79 and immediately apologised for my failure to recognise the goofy foot legend from Maroubra. I'd also heard another story about Larry that I was eager to confirm. According to Pipe folklore some of the locals hadn't been happy about the outspoken Australian interloper's double victory on their turf and had sabotaged his quiver when he returned to Hawaii the year after his consecutive victories. When I ask Larry whether or not the story was true, his eyes glaze over painfully and he simply states "Ooohh yeah". When I press him to elaborate on the incident he is reluctant to go into detail and suggests that he'd have to think about it. It's five foot at Jocko's when I paddle out and a long-haired local assures me that we will get flushed out. Sure enough an hour later I'm scrambling for shore as eight footers close out the channel behind

me. By mid afternoon the rising swell has transformed Pipe into a curling, hissing beast. No matter how many photos or how much footage you've seen nothing quite prepares you for the visual spectacle of maxing Pipe. When it's 10 to 12 feet your internal dialogue screams 'That's not possible!' Not possible that a wave could break like that and even less likely that someone could entertain the thought of taking it on. Cory Lopez is already towelling off by the time I arrive. "For an hour there it was fucking amazing," insists Corey. "I was on the phone watching and it was six foot and by the time I put the phone down and got out there it was eight." Corey explains that the swell is now extremely difficult to deal with because while the best waves are breaking on the first reef, to get access to them you need to run the gauntlet and risk getting a second reef roll-through on the head. Pipe specialist Jesse Merley Jones will later tell me that he refuses to surf Pipe in a rising swell because of the inherent risks involved. As if the wave isn't enough to contend with the crowd is a mutinous mass – as more than a hundred wave-lusting humans clamber over one another for a taste of Pipe glory the pack takes on the physical properties of a bee swarm. It's comprised of individuals but moves as a singular mass under a group psychology spell. Somehow, an unwritten order establishes itself and Pipe, the wave with arguably more Mana than any other, finds a way to deliver those immaculate moments. When a goofy footer rolls into a second reef wave on a bright pink board, fades deeply against the afternoon hues of gold and green and stands nonchalantly tall in a cavernous barrel, it's difficult to imagine a more beautiful spectacle. By the time I leave the beach on dark, frightened and in awe of what I've witnessed, it seems at least one thing is true. There will always be two kinds of surfers – those willing and able to take on genuine Pipe and those who are better off watching from the beach.

Main: Jamie Sterling adding a dash of pink to Pipe. || Joli.

ISSUE Nº 523 // TRACKSMAG.COM // 061

THE GOOD HAWAIIAN Many of the locals are happy when Mick Fanning wins the world title because they know he will throw a bigger party than Kelly. Mick doesn't disappoint and commandeers an entire bar of the Turtle Bay Hilton. The antiquated hotel with the Miami kitsch vibe provides a necessary role on the North Shore but most of the locals are opposed to any further major developments on a stretch where 'Keep the Country Country' is the bumper sticker mantra. The Mai Tais are flowing like tap water before the world champ even shows up for his party and the free drink wristbands are soon the most sought after items on the North Shore. The title party doubles as an end-of-year bash for the pros and soon the likes of Parko, Nat Young and Gabriel Medina are amongst the crowd of industry moguls, ex-champions and local identities who have come to acknowledge the snowy-haired Australian who that day had claimed victory in the most dramatic fashion. Rather than sit at home and suck on sour grapes, Slater shows up smiling, the Pipe Master happy to pose for photos and embrace the party atmosphere despite the sense of loss that was undoubtedly gnawing away at his ultracompetitive brain. Even 'Turtle' from the cult classic movie 'The North Shore' is in the crowd, inspiring many to quote perhaps the most famous line in surf movie history – "If the wave breaks here don't be there." It was also the end of an era. An uncertain future lay ahead for ASP surfing as it made the leap from not-for-profit organisation to a private enterprise under ZoSea media. Details about what ZoSea had in mind for the sport were murky but for now at least it was time for the top 34 to take the legropes off and enjoy the night. Adjacent to the world title party a long queue stretches out of the Surfer Bar, which serves as the North Shore's major club venue. It's Saturday night

and the regular North Shore folk are eager to have a little fun of their own. At some point after my sixth Mai Tai, my night segues in the direction of the Surfer Bar and I find myself chatting to two girls I'd met a couple of days earlier. They were Canadians, escaping to Hawaii for a little reinvention after past lives had collapsed. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe there are not that many girls on the North Shore. The shortage of women can be a problem in what is already a testosterone-fuelled environment. Needless to say after returning from a trip to the bathroom, I find my two friends have been joined by a local pro surfer, who I struggle to recognise beneath his black cap. "What's your name?" I ask, extending a hand in greeting. "You're looking at it bra!" comes the aggressive, alcohol-loaded response as he gestures towards a shirt which says "North Shore". By now I've pegged the guy and realise it's a surfer I've run on the cover of Tracks. However, he's obviously pissed off I'm talking to the girls and is in no mood to discuss the finer points of magazine publishing. Instead the pro surfer (who'll remain nameless) is obviously ready to start throwing punches or pulling Jiu Jitsu moves. Almost everyone on the North Shore is into Jiu Jitsu it seems and you will often hear people refer to so and so as a good 'roller', meaning Jiu Jitsu expert. I have no idea what kind of roller or brawler the pro is but he's a head taller than me and the last thing I want is to be choked out or knocked out on the night of Mick Fanning's world title victory. When his friend suggests I simply walk away, I take my cue and get out of there – fast – glad my winter has not been brought to an abrupt and bloody end. It's time to leave, the world title party is wrapping up and the Surfer Bar has definitely lost its appeal. The major problem with the Turtle Bay, besides a good male to female ratio, is scoring a lift home. There isn't a taxi or shuttle service so you just kind

Kamalei Alexander – see slotted in the Macquarie Surfing Dictionary. || JOLI.

062 // TRACKSMAG.COM // ISSUE Nº 523

of hope to hitch with someone who isn't too drunk. Fortunately I run into Volcom team manager, Matt Bemrose, who offers me a ride with two local Hawaiian guys. The driver is an injured lifeguard and I'm happy about the fact that he hasn't been drinking. Still a little rattled by my recent close encounter, I'm a little concerned that the other guy in the car is Kamalei Alexander, brother of notorious North Shore enforcer Kala Alexander. But a lift is a lift and I jump in right alongside Kamalei. The ride home proves interesting. Kamalei, a reputed charger who is fighting for his place in the surfing world, is interested in questioning the validity of surfers who have embraced the hipster image. Kamalei grew up in Kauai where certain fashion and stylistic affectations were probably not encouraged. "There is a thing called truth," he states in reference to the way someone should live their life. Kamalei doesn't seem convinced that everyone with a paid surfing contract is living their lives in accordance with this truth. Despite his scepticism about surfing's hipster movement Kamalei admits to being an Alex Knost fan. "Alex rips," insists Kamalei, obviously eager to make a balanced argument about his hipster hang-ups. As we drive past Sunset, Kamalei talks about the significance of the wave – its Mana. I indicate that I once took a wave on the head there to avoid getting in his way. Here he simply nods as though I really had no alternative. Finally, as he leaves the car he turns and asks. "Was I a good Hawaiian?" The comment changes my perspective on the entire night. Sure Kamalei had his opinions but they were articulated in a measured fashion and his final statement suggested that he was sincerely interested in being a good ambassador for Hawaii. I'd almost become the bitter victim of an unprovoked fight but instead an unexpected source had restored my faith in Hawaii and the existence of Mana as a positive force.

ISSUE Nยบ 523 // TRACKSMAG.COM // 063

IN A MANA OF SPEAKING On the last day of my trip, I wander into an arts and crafts store right across the road from Foodland. Hawaiian iconography and carvings spill forth from the cluttered shelves. A couple of incomplete necklaces are strewn across the floor, waiting for the addition of some final trinket, and in comparison to the neon-bright aisles of Foodland this feels more like a cave. The store is run by a finely built Hawaiian called Maui who soon makes it clear that he is a political activist focused on preserving the traditions and lands of the Hawaiian people. Although his shop may be of humble stature, Maui speaks with authority about the history of native Hawaiians and their struggle to gain recognition as an Indigenous people. As Hawaii was only officially made a state of the USA in 1959, there has been very little acknowledgement of native Hawaiians on a formal level by the US government. By contrast the Ameri-

can Indians, who boast a tumultuous but far more elaborate history of involvement with the US government, have had more success obtaining official status and corresponding privileges. Maui informs me that he has met personally with Obama and has invested endless time and money in the cause. Although intrigued by Maui's politicised commentary I can't help but wonder if the sage-like Hawaiian with a 1000-yard stare might be able to give me a definitive take on the meaning of Mana. "Mana is something we all have," he insists. "The origin of the word relates to the mountain and the mother. The mountain created Hawaii and the mother is a symbol of creativity. If you meditate near a fizzing volcano then you will know the feeling of Mana and if you agree that we are all from the earth then we all have Mana – the good energy."

As Maui spoke it occurred to me that I'd spent three weeks looking for signs of Mana in other people, places and things but had failed to see that the real reason you go to Hawaii is to develop your own Mana. Heavy waves, volatile characters and unexpected challenges will all be thrown in your path on the islands. But if you can channel the powerful volcanic forces which still resonate on the planet's youngest land mass and pass the tests laid before you then your sense of personal power will undoubtedly grow. Perhaps this all sounds a little too esoteric for you – trumped up hippy gibberish. But as Lopez suggested, Mana is a concept concerned primarily with 'cosmic energy'. And who's going to say Gerry hadn't tapped into some kind of magic to ride Pipe with such poise and grace. Wouldn't you like just a little of that kinda Mana? Maybe you'll have to go to Hawaii to find it.

Mountains meet the sea on the east coast of Ohau. || DAVEY

064 // TRACKSMAG.COM // ISSUE Nº 523

Back Tracks April  

From the April issue of Tracks. Show Me The Mana: What Matters Most In Hawaii

Back Tracks April  

From the April issue of Tracks. Show Me The Mana: What Matters Most In Hawaii