Since the kids have had their fun, and we’re done with small waves and wetties for a while, it’s time for the big boys to play. Though we have seen the overcast 4-6ft Resto’s, it looks like we will get at least good weather to get it started. With a larger swell forecast for later in the waiting period, be prepared to sit, hopefully with a better payoff than in Brazil. Ideal contest conditions would be solid 6-8ft Resturant’s, with bright sunshine and light offshore wind. Last year’s smasher at Cloudbreak was gnarly, but competitors got hurt and the webcast went dodgy. I’d like to see solid 10ft, sunny Cloudbreak, in even conditions.
Big wave Progression
With what we saw last year, Cloudbreak and the Fiji stop are continuing to push the barriers of Big Wave surfing. We can only hope to see more of that this year. With a look back to the past and an understanding of the present I try to read what the future has in store…
From it’s earliest beginnings with guys like Woody Brown, George Downing, Wally Froiseth, Buzzy Trent, and later Pat Curren and “Duh Bull”, big wave surfing has always had that allure. The ultimate test of a surfer’s might and will. It went on in popularity and lore, cementing names like Jose Angel, and Mr. “…will go” himself Eddie Aikau, in our minds for eternity. More recently with the advent of I-MAX and “extreme”culture, big wave surfing went the way of X-Games. Motorized tow-in, straps, helmets, helicopters and most importantly Laird. Though the soul may have seemed to leave this discipline, big wave surfing, like anything else, is taking a swing backward, and for the better. The “innovations” in board technology we are seeing are a mix of the past meets the future. Combining the narrower longer hulls of the early days, with the advancements in foil design and placement, an adaptation we should still be thanking Simon Anderson for.
Shane Dorian is one who exemplifies the “true” big wave charger in my mind. While not always my favorite “Momenteer”, Dorian has grown into the premiere paddle in pilot, recently winning the XXL Wave of the Year ’13, for a massive Jaws bomb. Similar to guys like Healy and Greg Long, Shane likes a little more foam up front. His boards, however, are all specific to the waves he’s riding. The XXL wave at Jaws was ridden on his 11′ quad fin, boards he says do well in conditions where speed is crucial, different from a place like Maverick’s, where a critical take off (and therefore a thruster) is paramount.
Sometimes $ can be a good driver. With the XXL competition comparing all the best waves from one year, then handing out checks the size of those waves, we will be seeing people pushing the limits for years to come. Considering the advancements in foil design, and the constant changes in volume and outline, we’ve yet to see where big, and now “giant” wave surfing will take us.
Volcom first dropped into the scene in 1991 when “Wooly” and “T-Dawg” (Richard Woolcott and Tucker Hall respectively) founded the company. Drawing off their own experiences as southern California surfers, the Costa Mesa pair set out to produce their own brand of surf, skate, and snow products and accessories. Using this expertise the Volcom brand has grown into a well respected participant in our selected disciplines.
Almost in direct contrast to Bong, Volcom went public in 2005 shortly after taking it’s current name Volcom Inc. Being underwritten by Wachovia Securities, D. A. Davidson, Piper Jaffray, Volcom Inc.’s initial NASDAC offering went at 4.69 million shares selling at $19.00, raised a total of $89 million. Continuing their smart business acumen Volcom purchased Electric Visual Evolution LLC in ’08 for $25.3 mil. Later, in 2011 French based retail-to-luxury group PPR SA initiated a friendly takeover, offering $24.50 a share and [placing a $608 million dollar value on the company. A unanimous decision by the board recommended shareholders tender their shares to PPR.
Kai "Borg" Garcia - 1997 World Jiu-Jitsu Champion and the Volcom Team house leader, Kai has a lot to do with Volcom's Hawaiian program. Kai's recent struggle with addiction and the heat he took for his involvement in Andy's life put him underground for a while. Over the past year he has been more public, running the ski and water patrol at some of the world's heaviest breaks, as well as releasing a video describing his struggle. Kai's ordeal mirrors that of any other addict's, he doesn't need to answer the questions of how, and when, but has to live with what happened to a friend and how his example may have affected that outcome.
Perhaps the questions regarding ethics should be answered by Volcom? Or the ASP? Or maybe we should open the door for those who need help? Making recovery, or help for mental illness as "cool" or necessary as physical training, could usher in a whole new tour.
Tavarua, Nomotu, and Jon Roseman
I've heard all the things you can imagine about the magical islands in the Western Pacific; A wonderland of surf, sun and paradise, enchanting wildlife, epic hospitality etc... but also; If you're not rich or don't have a name don't bother, reserved access to breaks, and large crowds at the unrestricted spots. This is mostly beer talk and hear-say, so instead of writing it down as fact I went to the man himself, one of the founders of Tavarua, Mr. Jon Roseman:
"Jon Roseman might seem like a nobody to most of the world, hell, even in the surfing world. But he's not. He's the spokesman for the heart and soul of what it could have meant to be a surfer if the surf media hadn't sucked corporate cock for 30 years." - @Rottmouth
- Tell me about first finding Tavarua and what the process of setting up was like. Were there other surf camps in the area?
JR - Dave Clark originally found Tavarua back in 1982. There were no other surf camps in the area; in fact, no one had ever surfed or named Cloudbreak. I first went to Tavarua in 1989, and it was a primitive surf camp. We spent the last two decades transforming it into the resort it is now.
- What political power does the Chief have? Has the same family been running the tribe since Tavarua's start?
JR - Druku, who comes from the Chiefly family Na Kalevu, has been on the island since conception. His uncle is the Paramount Chief of the Western half of Fiji, and they own the island and have run the traditional side of things since the beginning.
- Besides surfing what do you think are the core goals and values of the island?
JR - The philosophy has always been to share the business with the locals and to give back, creating a sustainable model in perpetuity. We have completed numerous projects in the villages- housing, community halls, churches, schools, etc. and have put an emphasis on increasing the quality of life of the Fijians through medical treatment and education as well as various scholarship programs.
- Tavarua owns the rights to the waves? Can you explain the tribal reef rights?
JR - Complicated. Fijians have always had the rights to their reefs for subsistence. The recent political changes have opened up the reefs to everyone.
- I've heard people complain about not being able to surf some of Tav's waves when staying elsewhere, can you talk about that? Tell us what the crowd is like. Do you have security?
JR - See above answer.
- With the first competition coming in '99, why so long after founding it?
JR - The first competition was actually the Ocean Pacific Pro in 1987. There was political instability for several years following, which made it difficult to host events.
- I've heard that there are other camps (areas) on the island, can you talk about them?
JR - Just the staff quarters- which is called "Fiji Camp."
- What do you do when the surf's flat?
JR - Spearfish and Kite- no better way to cross-train! The fishing is obviously great too.
- Who kills the mini ramp the hardest? Any chance of a pool to skate in the future?
JR - Tony Hawk of course. You never know about a future pool- although I do get nervous when we have to drain the resort pool!
- Parko kinda made the "Jurassic Park" spot famous this year, are there other world class fishing spots? What are the target species?
JR - Jurassic Park was a spot we used to free dive a lot- so named because it has a huge drop-off into the abyss and is miles and miles away from the nearest island. The fish are bigger there proportionately - even the small reef fish- hence the name. There are several other good dive/fish spots in the area where you can nail good-sized Ono, Walu and Trevally.
- Tavarua vs Nomotu, we know the trophy score, but what are some of the other things you compete in? Why did the Aussies pick Nomotu?
JR - Fishing and drinking are two other categories- definitely a friendly rivalry. I think the Aussies like to stay there because Scotty and Mandy, who run the island, are Australian.
- Why red boards? Who shapes 'em? Any quads?
JR - I originally switched all my boards to red way back as I had lost several clear boards at Cloudbreak when my leash broke. That was before skis and multiple boats that could rescue both you and the board. Sometimes, depending on the wind, tide and swell, you would have to hike the reef for a couple miles to get your board back or swim it. Tim Bessell and Rusty shape my boards, and though I respect people that ride them, I've never been into quads except for fishes.
- Whats up with the board graveyard? Do those boards get recycled? What happens to them?
JR - We use a lot of old boards for on-island ding repair. Occasionally we'll send them to the main island to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
"Thanks Jon! Bula Vinaka!!"
- Adriano De Souza - 18,500
- Jordy Smith - 18,250
- Mick Fanning - 18,200
- King Kelly - 16,950
- Taj Burrow - 15,700
- Nat Young - 13,750
- Filipe Toledo - 12,150
- Joel Parkinson - 11,500
- Michel Bourez - 11,000
- Gabby Medina - 10,000
- Ace Buchanan - 9,700
[Don't forget the Ace and Gabby controversy, so look for a match up there. There's also a four-way tie for 12th between Julian, Bede, Sebass, and Kai Otton, each with 8,700pts, get ready for hard charging and the tour's cream to rise to the top]
Volcom Fiji Pro
The Fiji Pro has been running since 1999, but has been canceled for 9/11 and then not run in ’07, ’09, ’10, and ’11, until being picked up by Volcom last year in 2012, kicking it off with that epic scene we all bore witness to. Past winners include Occy, Luke Egan, Michael Lowe, and Andy Irons, after that it’s been Kelly Slater and Damian Hobgood. Kelly has 3, and Damo has 2.
Round 1 – The day started in great weather, oil glass conditions at 4-6ft Cloudbreak, but conditions changed during the day and they only ended up getting in 10 heats. Freddie P took advantage of the perfect early heats, putting himself directly into round three by beating Sebass and Jordy, and then giving his ankle some rest. Logie took out Taj and Yadin who got nothing. In Joel’s absence Wilko had a blast getting comboed by Heitor Alves. Mitch Colburn got a perfect 10 on his first wave of the heat going on to get a 19.33 against Alejo and Adriano who couldn’t even get 6s. Mick took a hard fought heat against Damo and a seemingly non-existant Alex Grey. I guess if it’s not 10+ and pumping it just doesn’t melt that turkey sandwich? Kelly’s absence made for an interesting heat between Miguel Pupo and Local Tribal Chief Druku’s son Aca, the great-great grandson of ill fated Ka Levu, Chief Kini Vosailagi. Kai Otton was hyped, and got a rare round one win. Kerrzy took out Holy Toledo and Adam Melling with a broken toe, and in the last heat of the day, CJ would not be out down by his Bro, sending Micro and Michel Bourez to the first loser’s round. With conditions badly worsening the day was called. Plenty of waiting period left…
Day five started off with the end of round 1 in choppy Resto’s – Jeremy Flores advanced to round three over Nat and Kolohe, and Brett Simpson beat JohnJohn and Ace.
Round 2 – After spending as much time with little bro Stephen as he could, Kelly was on the island and ready for his heat against the chief’s son Aca. Normally Kelly is as close as it comes to family, but for the locals this time it was different. There were massive cheers and even bigger smiles, though in the end Kelly came out in top. Not to be out done, Aca pulled a flawless Reverse Atrise Lamumba, the rarely seen, west African pull-out, but sadly, was not rewarded for his efforts. White lightning flashed and a Turkey Melt dematerialized. Yadin Nichol battled deteriorating conditions and eliminated World #1 Adriano De Souza. After making his own call round 1, and deciding to go fish a spot any self respecting fisherman wouldn’t miss, Parko took out Dusty Payne to keep his campaign alive. Taj just barely squeaked out a win over Adam Melling. Now on top of the CT, Jordy goes into his next heat as the new world #1, and showed it, surfing amazingly against Micro, who put up a big fight but ended up getting blasted by the reef. Glenn had an awesome flight home, but couldn’t have enjoyed that much with three broken vertebrae. Get well soon Micro! In a heat of super groms, Merica’s own Kolohe Andino, used smart wave selection and heavy shredding to defeat Brazil’s Gabby Medina, who, to his credit, did NOT cry. Julian did well to deal with the conditions, getting only mediocre scores but enough to beat Alejo Muniz. Wilko had more fun this time winning a heat and taking out Michel Bourez. Sebass kept the roll going early over Ace, while JohnJohn would have had a perfect heat against Bede had he not come off whilst playing around. Bede was reef casualty #2. I don’t know if Nat was pissed from his last heat performance but he showed the difference in his maturity level and absolutely SMASHED Felipe.
Round 3 – Day 5 ended with the first three heats of round 3. With the improved conditions Taj was in form and proved too much for Freddie P’s busted ankle. After his earlier performance the crowd was hyped, but the Ocean wasn’t havin’ it, and JJ just eeked out a win over Damo by just 4/10%. Jordy continued his amazing surfing, getting massive tubes and classic turns, in his end if the day heat against Kieran Perrow.
Round 3 continued four days later in 4 – 6ft Cloudbreak, though lots of sick free surfing on the lay days made me question the contest directors. Who wouldn’t want to chill extra days on Tavarua? Jeremy Flores and Miguel Pupo were up first in average surf. J.Flor. looked in form but Miguel seemed to be forcing it, not getting good wave selection and scoring poorly. Sebass got a nice opening wave and held priority for most of the heat, but Kai was holding him off. With a smart wave choice, Kai got a 6.33 under Sebass’ priority. Showing he can not be out done Sebass got Kai back, getting a 6.93 under his priority in the final seconds of the heat for the win. Sebass shaka’d his way through another post -heat interview, but hiding in there was some great heads-up knowledge. Kelly started his heat off with some Slater magic, but Mitch Colborn (Volcom’s wild card for the second year) answered right back with flawless frontside barging, getting a 7.43 to Kelly’s 7.17. Kelly got fired up off the opening exchanges and started going nuts on his tiny 5’9″. He looked like he was skating a pool rather than surfing head-high Cloudbreak. Both guys kept getting so pitted they kept both the crowd and camera men on their toes. Though the pits were deep, the boys were not coming out, making their back-up scores count more than anticipated, a situation where Kelly does not lose. Varying conditions and Mick’s intelligent heat command, made the excitement level dramatically different in this heat. Heitor can never be counted out, but was not getting the waves he needed. With just a minute left Heitor needs an 8.5 to take the lead, but once again would not get his wave. Mick’s smart surfing pays off again.
The conditions left some with and others with out, so on a day like today, experience and wave selection were a must. Contest directors made the call to run today because of less than favorable wind conditions later in the week. So, in a mediocre heat with CJ Hobgood, Travis Logie bounced his noggin off the reef. Belly checked his head and he decided to continue, with 5min left CJ still had the upper hand. In the end CJ’s experience paid off and he advanced. Josh Kerr and Brett Simpson paid no attention to Trav Logie and just went for it. Kerrzy even got pinched off inside at shish-kabob’s! Brett would not be put down with out a fight , slashing away at some massive lips, bot josh was just too much for him. Kerr brought his family and an Irie vibe that was working for him.
Present, and not far past, super groms Kolohe and Julian, match up for a potentially awesome heat. While Cote and Wassel were threatening to get naked in the booth, aggressive surfing from Kolohe continued to up his scores, putting him in position to take the heat. Despite it’s high potential for awesomeness, in the end the heat was incredibly one sided. Wilko came out charging, putting that fancy asymmetrical hair-do to work early on. Though he was Wassel’s pick for Nomotu MVP, Nat Young was on fire, and with way better waves this heat. Nat’s hard charging put up quality scores and was enough to take out Wilko who could not get a second wave. In the final heat of round 3, Joel came out in form. Further putting to rest any claims he might not be taking this seriously, Parko showed us why he’s current world champ, posting an 8.17 with textbook tube riding. God was clearly on the Champ’s side, as he backed up that 8 with a near perfect 9.73, but you can’t say Yadin isn’t trying, pulling in deep and making the most of the waves coming his way. Having a 7 and a 6 may have worked in earlier heats, but won’t fly now, he’s comboed, needing a 18.21. Parko never let off, going all Tommy Carrol, snapping the shit out of a massive 15ft lip, not getting a barrel made it a throw away, but impressive none the less.
Round 4 – In a packed heat, full of names with J’s, they all started off like one might expect, but then Double J went nutty, getting the epitome of a perfect 10. John’s surfing almost makes you forget who he’s surfing against, having both Jordy and Taj comboed at 16.94 with 10 min to go. Jordy fought his way back but Taj couldn’t get it together, though it wouldn’t have mattered how hard he fought or who was in that heat, JohnJohn was like a fat kid at a pinata party, he was takin that shit. Clearly hyped on his North Shore neighbor’s heat, Kelly came out firing! Jeremy got a super deep tube and Sebass seemed to answer back before getting blasted. Flores answered Kelly’s 9.3 with a 9.6, so Kelly got a perfect 10, then had to avoid getting washed across the reef. No worries. Sebass and Jeremy never had a chance, the King’s on a mission. Once again the expectation for a great heat appeared with Mick, CJ and Josh Kerr, but it wasn’t to be. Conditions turned on later in the heat giving the boys something to go at, but it was nothing spectacular with mid-range scores all around. not surprisingly a Hobgood came out on top, with CJ taking a boring Cloudbreak heat (Can I even say that?) with a 12.07. Up next it was Parko and the “twins” Kolohe and Nat. Kolohe’s smart wave choices and aggressive surfing put him out front early, but Joel wouldn’t be shown up by some kid, putting up another 18pt heat. Kolohe did his best and Nat just couldn’t get waves. Sorry boys, it’s on to the loser round for ya.
Round 5 – Getting on into the afternoon round 5 starts off with a gnarly wind for Jordy and Jeremy. The back hand snap attack by both Jordy, and Mr. Flores, would have made even The Occ proud. Jordy continued his total domination, and Jeremy could not get the waves he need to defend against the South African’s attack, submission was inevitable. Taj and Sebass battled it out. both posting high scores right off, so it was going to be a tale of the back -up. Late in the heat, Taj let Sebass get a massive bomb, with a deep barrel and calculated turns. Hard barging and deep tubes right to the end made for tough judging. Taj got a clean buzzer beater right after Sebass’ ender, but after the scores drop, Sebass takes the heat at 15.93 to Taj’s 15.23 with some heads up charging! Nat didn’t get the waves he needed against Brother and Parko, so now he’s got to try and get them against Kerr. Josh showed his experience, getting a beautiful tube ride and starting the heat off right with an 8.93. After Kerr’s big opening ride the waves were inconsistent producing only low scores. At 6min left kerr’s lucky to have a 6.5 back-up, with Nat having only a 3.6 and a 1.93. Mother Earth is clearly on Kerrzy’s side giving him a gorgeous 9.83, and though Nat has surfed amazingly and should be very proud, he won’t be making it out of this heat. Brother gets another chance, but it’s up against Mick Fanning (his idol) in an elimination heat. Good luck Bro. After some good opening blows, Kolohe got a nice 7.17 keeper, but that just seemed to anger the beast and Mick put on a backside barrel clinic, getting a 9.7 then 9.83 respectively. Kolohe answered back with massive hacks on a well surfed bomb, getting an identical 7.17, but being comboed at 19.54 is going to be a hard place to work back from. Mick made sure there was no way out, and moved on.
Quarters – At the beginning of day 11, and without a wait to surf this time, it was business as usual and conditions were on. Up first the J’s were back, and a JohnJohn/Jordy heat was going to be a bomber! Maybe? As Mother Nature has been proving to do, the waves sort of turned off, but Jordy never backed down, making the best of the very average waves coming his way. Eventually JohnJohn was given the chance to perform, and of course he did, getting a 9.13 then a 9.93 at the end of the heat. This was to be it for the big man, but Jordy should be proud of himself, he’s been killing it. Sebass’ run is now going to come up against the King, and seeing them joking around before the heat is never good. Then it came, the touch of death. We all knew it, didn’t Sebass? You just DON’T do that. First wave – Kelly; It’s a 10. See bro? Sebass is bumming. After a valiant fight, Slater magic is so strong he has himself a perfect heat. A 20. Out of all the record breaking things Kelly has done MANY times, he has only four of these, an amazing feat for anyone to be sure. After a heat like that nothing is going to compare, but CJ and Kerrzy are surfing what feels like the most boring heat ever now. I must not be the only one that feels that way because the judges are scoring them very low. King Kelly has affected the judging once again. Will Kelly’s heat now be the precedence for the rest of the day? In this heat I’m blaming the conditions for the massively low scores, and Cj eventually comes out with the win. Mick and Parko’s heat was barely better than the one before, with mundane average waves again, but it’s hard to say a duel between Aussie champs would be boring, however, Mother Earth has been pretty trippy today. With a smart priority pick, Mick took that lame ass heat.
Semi-finals – The kick off to the semis saw Kelly get the best wave seen in an hour, complete with a “butt turn set up” for a simple 7.0 and then…. nothing. JuanJuan finally took, or was sold, a wave that looked promising but turned out to be a bummer 2.9. Kelly seems to be able to just force scores and pulled a 9.4 like a rabbit out of a hat. Double J finally showed up and ripped an 8.17, but Kelly answers back with an 8.77, asking John need a 10. The final moments were what we had been hoping for the entire heat; back, to back, to back charging and the waves to match. Kelly bested JohnJohn at Cloudbreak with an 18.17, not a surprising result (at this point), but great fun to watch!
With better conditions and waves, this was evenly matched/surfed heat. CJ is a goofy footer and has the best record at Cloudbreak, while Mick is fierce competitor at any break and on a tear this year, this was sure to be another heat worth watching. At the midway point after some gnarly battles over the razor sharp reef they both had an 8, but CJ was out front with a 2.73 for a back-up score over Mick’s 2.17, and then CJ actually made it out of another one for an 8.7. CJ was making an all Florida final (and Fantasy Surfer Gold for me) seem like a reality, but just for a 9.2in the last moments Ol’ White Lightnin greased another one, weaving it from the top with multiple barrels for a 9.2 and a very spectacular finish!
Finals – Mick vs Kelly – Mick’s pre-heat warm up ritual is far different from what you saw with Seabass and Kelly, the classic stoic stretching and conditioning, but what did we see before entering the water?? That’s right… The touch. I effing screamed! I tried explaining it to my chick as such: Australians take the surfing as sport thing far more serious than we (Yanks) do, therefore, taking the sportsmanship more serious as well. Call me superstitious, but the most I’d give Kelly pre-heat is a smile and thumbs up, no disrespect, just to protect my mojo. If I had the talent Mick does maybe I’d feel different too?
Kelly is roaming the line up, while Mick sits seriously and patiently making smart choices, which has him sitting on a 9.2 with 20min left to go. Slater having only a mediocre 5.67, answers Mick’s 9+ with an 8.83. Mick went for a random board change mid-round under Kelly’s priority, who, upon Mick arriving back in the line up, got a 9.8. Mick’s not out though, still having that 9.2 with 15min left to go. The King has priority and a beautiful Cloudbreak set graces the reef, Kelly sets up deep and pulls a 10, maybe? It was an amazing wave, better than the 9.8 in my opinion, but possibly not a 10? We’re arguing over 2/10ths of a % here, either way, at this point Mick is fucked, there’s 7min left and he’d need a 19.82. So, Kelly gives another one to Tavarua, and there’ll be a snorkel party on Namotu! Slater owns Cloudbreak, ’nuff said. At 19.8 – 15.87 it was a hard fought commendable battle that gave Kelly his 53rd win. A feat that will NEVER be seen again (I like to say never, because then I’m sure to be wrong).