I have not hung out at the Pipe Masters for the last couple years. Channel 250 is the call; you sit right on your nice soft couch and watch all the angles, slo mo and replays. This year, we got the bug however because the world championship was coming down to the wire with two guys who have been around for all long time; Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson. So Sean and I went down to the beach, I dropped him off to go shoot and after about thirty minutes of driving around I found parking. The Shane vs. Kelly heat was in the water when I got there and it was by far the most exciting heat of the final rounds. The waves were hideous, super gusty trades and shifty sections, but those guys still made it exciting. Everyone on the beach was hoping for a Kelly-Parko final, but that did not happen. Kelly lost to Josh Kerr in the semi-final, and Joel Parkinson was crowned world champion on one of the most crowded days Pipeline has ever seen. Once the world title was decided, the hype diminished. It was a pretty exciting contest day though, even in such poor conditions. Parko gave a heartfelt acceptance speech after a well-deserved win he has been so close to grabbing for several years now.
I always try to surf before the contest and each year it gets harder and harder to do so. Of course you expect the surf to be crowded, but when you turn up 45 minutes before sunrise and the majority of parking on the street is nearly filled up, you start to wonder if its worth it. Sure, you can just not surf Pipe on contest days, but then you wonʻt surf it much since contests will be off and on every 10 days from now through March when the Pipe season is over. The set-up gets more extensive every year. The first day of the event, I was overwhelmed by the huge billboard sitting on the beach which was so bright that it practically blinded me when I walked past it and paddled out into the surf. I remember thinking, this sure ainʻt the homegrown surfing event it used to be.
I find that most Northshore residents and Hawai‘i surfers in general are conflicted about the whole shibangabang. I mean, we want to be happy about the growth of surfing and know for the most part we all contributed to it, but I am not sure we are so stoaked about what it has all become. It used to be such an intimate little group of us who for the most part wanted to live a different way of life. Surfing was a lifestyle, but now it is for the most part a business. While it is not my place to say one way of living or surfing is better than the other, the fact is the two lifestyles contrast with each other, therefore leaving us conflicted. The lifestyle we tried to run away from has now completely imposed itself on us in this place we call "the country" which at times can have worse traffic than Honolulu.
At least this round of contests is over early so maybe it will clear up in time for some fun Christmas swells before the next round of events in January.