Throwback Thursday

I know “Throwback Thursday” is usually reserved for instagram but when I realised what the the date was I couldn’t resist using it as an excuse to post some pictures from my travels.

It’s almost 3years to the day that I was watching some of the worlds best bodyboarders in the Pipe Pro final in Hawaii. Sat on the sand, camera in hand it was almost impossible to get any closer to the action, and surfers were just passing through the crowd on their way to the waves, something that doesn’t happen in many other sports. Over the course of the contest I reckon I shot close to 500 frames, but probably close to 100 of those were rattled off in the final heat. 100 isn’t that many by professional standard, but I had more shots than I knew what to do with, but here are my pick of the last round:

 

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Jeff Hubbard.

 

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Mike Stewart Was Pushing Close To 50 During This Contest. Still Surfed Like He Was 21.

 

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Dave Winchester Hitting A Backflip. Solid Reef To Land On If He Messed Up.

 

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Jeff Hubbard Running To His Mates And Fans After Winning.

It was an awesome contest to watch, the waves were great and the surfers were going all out to win. Seeing guys who I had seen in magazines and videos up close and at one of the planets premier waves was a mind blowing experience. Then there were also some guys in the comp who I knew, the North Shore is quite small, and there’s only really one backpackers place and it was full of people who had flown in for the comp, so you get to know them which makes the earlier heats all the more interesting, hoping your new friends make it.

I shared a dorm with a guy from the Basque area of Spain called Alex, he was on the Pro tour and had recently won his first event in Australia. Unfortunately he didn’t advance through his heat in Hawaii, he still had some pretty great waves though:

Alex Uranga

Alex Uranga, Looking Comfortable At Pipeline.

 

Renzo

Renzo, 17 Years Old And Charging Pipeline At Size.

 

Eddie Read

Eddie Read, Flying The Flag For The UK. Big Waves Skills Probably Helped By Living In Oz Though.

 

Hawaii, and the North Shore in particular, was an amazing time for me. I was able to get in the sea almost everyday, in challenging waves and really push myself. Also getting to see the pro bodyboarders absolutely rip was no bad thing either!

 

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Hawaii Dreamin’

During my time travelling I spent a close to a month on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, particularly the North Shore area famed for it’s world class waves. It was a great time, I got to watch John John Florence tear apart the Pipeline Pro and Jeff Hubbard shred on his bodyboarding during the Pipeline Challenge. I saw pro-surfers at the supermarket, got shown around by a senior photographer for Surfer Magazine and picked up hitch-hiking by a big wave hellman.

So recently I’ve been missing the place a fair bit, causing me to watch films like Riding Giants and Bustin Down The Door, read old mags with North Shore coverage, and of course flick through the photos I took whilst over there.

I found a couple that I was unaware I had, and seeing them brought back some great memories of meeting new people and hanging out at the beach.

 

Keiki Shorey 2

 

A Shorey More Intense Than The Famed Waimea, Ke’Ike. 

Surviving The North Shore

For many surfers the North Shore of Oahu has a unique pull. It is the place where surfing experienced it’s coming of age and where every year pro surfers from around the globe come to compete in the Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing.

With the island experiencing a massive influx of surfers every year tensions have risen and often boiled over, resulting in dressing downs, abuse and on occasion violence. Not a pretty picture but one that is in the back of every travelling surfers mind. As well as the waves, some of those have the ability to switch from the stuff of dreams to the stuff of nightmares in a split second.

So with that in mind here are a few tips to survive your first North Shore trip:

  1. Don’t drop in on people. Goes without saying really but you’d be surprised how often it happens. Locals don’t take kindly to fresh of the plane tourists ruining their waves, especially when many of the heavier breaks have serious consequences if you stuff up.
  2. Respect the locals. Again goes without saying. Be polite and respectful and you won’t have a problem. I stuck by this rule and on a couple of occasions got shouted into waves by local guys, something I never expected.
  3. Know your limits. Don’t paddle out at 12ft Pipe when the craziest wave you’ve surfed was that rogue 4ft one at your local beachie. In fact if that’s the case don’t paddle out at Pipe at all.
  4. Don’t rent a car. The North Shore isn’t that big, you can walk from Waimea to Pipe in less than 20mins. By having a rental you miss out on an essential North Shore Experience, hitch-hiking, you never know who could stop, the hot surf chicks, local charger or even internationally renowned big wave hellman.
  5. Pipeline isn’t the only wave on the North Shore. Sunset Beach is a short bike ride away, as is Velzy’s and various other breaks, look around and you’ll find somewhere without the big crowd.
  6. Get a Foodland discount card. If you plan on staying for anything more than a few days these will save you a few dollars, beer becomes affordable and you pack your sandwiches more so it’s worth the minute or two to sign up.

 

If you follow these guidelines your time on the North Shore should be pretty easy going, leaving you with memories you won’t forget.

From L to R: Myself, Big Wave Hellman Garrett McNamara, Kyle.

 

Picture Perfect Pipe

Recently I’ve been working a lot, it’s kept me away from blogging, but worse it’s kept me out of the sea. I’ve missed some epic North East swells, with rumours of secret points working and the potential to find a nice slab was high. Unfortunately I missed all this, and now have my fingers crossed that on my next day off there will be some swell.

Until then I’ve been going through some of my pictures from my travels and came across a gem of a sequence from Hawaii which I’d somehow overlooked previously. It’s an unknown surfer, dropping into a perfect Pipeline pit, there’s literally not a drop of water out of place and the position of the wave and where I was sat gives the illusion that there was no-one else out.

The shots speak for themselves really, this guy will have been stoked with his ride.

World Wide Waves

I was fortunate to spend 5months travelling the world chasing waves and in the process experienced the best surf of my life. This post focuses on my favourite break in each country I surfed in.

Australia: Tea Tree Bay, Noosa

This break is a practically perfect right point break about 10minutes walk from the centre of Noosa. I made a bit of a mistake by paddling out from the beach, in hindsight it would of been much easier to jump in from the rocks. Once I made it to the take off spot I waited around a long time for my wave to come through as it’s a pretty competitive lineup. Once I paddled in it was a pretty special wave, peeling perfectly and giving me my longest ride to date.

Eric and myself after surfing the point.

Hawaii: Freddyland, North Shore

During my time in Hawaii I surfed at several different spots and pretty much loved them all. They all taught me different things but I think surfing Freddyland improved my surfing the most. It’s a pretty mellow break by North Shore standards but compared to waves back home it was still powerful. A big crowd wasn’t a massive factor here due to it’s distance from the spectacles that are Waimea Bay & Banzai Pipeline, meaning more waves for me.

My favourite experience at this spot was getting called into a wave by a local, something I really didn’t expect after hearing so many tales of fights in the lineup. This guy seemed genuinely stoked for me to get the wave making it all the more sweet.

Enjoying the benefits of a quiet lineup.

Costa Rica: Pavones

Costa Rica was my favourite country on this trip. It had tropical warm water, lots of sun, friendly locals and some pretty awesome surf spots. Oh and not to mention some great travellers who I met too.

I surfed a lot of different breaks down the west coast of the country, especially in the area around Tamarindo, which is a good place to base yourself to maximise surfing and party time.

However my favourite break was the glorious point break know as Pavones. On it’s day it offers rides of upto half a mile and it’s location keeps it fairly secluded, not many people make the drive down the dirt roads, especially in the rainy season.

Surfing as the sunsets, doesn’t get much better.

Panama: Wizard Beach, Bocas Del Toro

I headed into Panama for a couple of days and managed to snag a quick surf at a really secluded beach break. Me and a few friends organised a boat to take us there and scored some small, but empty surf. Warm water, sun out and just you and a friend in the lineup, can’t really beat that.

Enjoying empty waves in Panama.

I feel very privileged to have been able to travel and surf perfect waves, enjoying the tropical waters and in some cases empty lineups. Hopefully it won’t be long until my next adventure, as much as I love the waves in the UK I much prefer surfing in boardies than a wetsuit.

Waimea Bay

In surfing folklore Waimea Bay is the stuff of legends, it’s where the big wave movement first gathered momentum with pioneers like Greg Noll charging waves that were once deemed impossible. It’s a place where hero’s are made and lives are lost, boards are snapped and bones are broken. Out of season the sea is tranquil and almost as still as a lake, but when swell starts bombarding the North Shore of Oahu in the winter months the bay comes alive and the eyes of the surf media are never far away.

I was lucky enough to spend a month living on the North Shore of Oahu, about 5minutes walk away from Waimea Bay so it goes without saying that I spent a lot of time there.

My first visit to the bay was a memorable one, the biggest swell of the winter had hit and waves were breaking off the point at about 18ft, I just sat on the beach for a couple of hours snapping pics and just staring in amazement:

Unknown surfer, on one of the smaller waves of the day.

Some of the waves were pretty brutal, with surfers suffering some pretty nasty wipeouts in the process. Nevertheless fearless wave riders continued dropping into the waves and riding them with style:

Wave of the day.

As mentioned the waves at Waimea Bay can be quite powerful, offering long hold-downs and the potential for snapped boards and bodily injuries, risks that people are willing to take in search of the ride of their life:

What can happen when it goes wrong.

If the wipeout itself doesn’t snap the board its highly likely that the shorebreak will finish it off as it gets washed in. On the day I was there watching surfers take on big waves the shorebreak was going off too, with the waves varying between 5-10ft in height, breaking onto about 2ft of water, a very intense wave. A group of bodyboarders had a go and ended up getting smashed but caught some ridiculously heavy waves too:

About to get pounded.

After a few days the swell started to drop off and the shorebreak was a consistant 3ft with the odd 4-5ft wave coming through. I decided that I had to paddle out and try for a couple of waves, a couple of duck-dives later I was in the spot and waiting for my first wave at Waimea Bay. I was quite nervous sat there, but within a few minutes I saw a wave that looked perfect for me, it was about 3ft and I knew it’d be a good start so I paddled for it, dropped down the face,  hit the bottom turn and started to trim then BAM the entire wave closed out on me, pushing me down to the bottom and spinning me around. I came up after a few seconds, grabbed my board and paddled out for some more.

The wave breaks quite strangely here, instead of peeling it holds its shape for a few seconds, giving a short ride and possibility for tube time, then all comes crashing down on you, it’s like nothing I’d surfed before or since, can’t wait to go back for a few more!

Me on a small wave at Waimea.

During the time I spent on the North Shore I had many great sessions at Waimea, I took a lot of beatings, hit the bottom a lot and caught some of the best waves of my life. One of my favourite sessions there took place on an evening, just before sunset, a few of us grabbed our swim fins and heading down for a bodysurf. The waves were about 4ft but without a board it was much easier to get out and just sit waiting for a wave, it’s one of those sessions that’ll stick with me for a long time, new waves, new friends and awesome weather, hard to beat really.

When I saw this wave I ran back to ditch my camera and grab my fins and board.

 

Unfortunately my time in Hawaii had to end but I’d had some incredible surfs, surfed spots that I’d dreamed about after seeing them in movies and made good friends along the way.

Danger! Proceed With Caution

Travelling can have it’s fair share of dangerous moments, many of which come completely unexpectedly, whether it be a near miss when crossing the street or seeing a poisonous sea-snake while snorkelling. There’s not much you can do to avoid these situations except stay indoors and shun contact with the outside world.

Obviously that’s a stupid solution and events like that aren’t common at all. However on my travels I did find I’d been in one or two dangerous situations without fully realising it, on one occasion I spotted a sign for box jellyfish after I had got out of the sea. The majority of the time though I spotted the danger signs and decided to carry on with what I was doing anyway.

Here’s a sample of the signs I saw:

Surfer’s Paradise, Australia. Never even got to go in the sea here, conditions were horrendous.

 

Venice Beach, California. Fortunately I never had to run for high ground.

 

Sequoia National Park, California. Watch out for your pic-a-nic baskets!

 

Hollywood, California. Didn’t see a snake here, did in Fiji where there wasn’t any warning signs though.

 

Playa Grande, Costa Rica. Different language, same meaning.

 

If you let the signs dictate what is safe and what isn’t you’ll probably not do much, use them to heighten your awareness and you’ll be fine.

 

And here’s one that I found funny:

 

So I think the sign is supposed to read like “Slow, Children At Play” but to me it reads like “Slow Children At Play”, which is completely different, just goes to show how important punctuation can be.

*Side note, I appreciate that most road signs don’t contain punctuation, this one just made me laugh.