The Bigger Picture

Get cleaned up, sent in, cane your credit card… Enjoy surfing more.

This time last year I’d never been to Hawaii and was kind of
proud of it. I mean, why would an average punter like myself
want to? Crowds, hype, gnarly locals, a zillion frothing pros,
photogs, TV crews, helicopters, jetskis, not to mention of
course life-threatening surf conditions. I figured I’d chosen
wisely to have done numerous trips to Indo, the Philippines,
Oz, New Zealand, Africa, Central America and so on. I’d been
around for a little while; I knew the score. Maximize your
wave count and quality for money spent. Get the most out
from what you can. For these very reasons the North Shore
sat pretty low down my list of places to surf.

Then one day I got to thinking about my next-door
neighbour, who had recently earned himself the right to be
called Hadj, an honorific title reserved for Muslims who have
made the pilgrimage to Mecca. A good Muslim is expected to
make the trip at least once in their lifetime. I got to thinking
about that, and then the opportunity came up to do some
work at the Rip Curl Pipemasters, so instead of flying to
Saudi Arabia, I undertook my quasi-religious mission with a
return ticket to Honolulu, the North Shore’s sacred grounds
awaited. On arrival, I discovered the famous landmarks I
recognized without having ever set foot there. Those photos
you’ve stared at all your life are suddenly reframed in normal
size… Haleiwa’s white bridge, the church at Waimea Bay, the
Kam Highway. Before the most frightening one, with tense
stomach, beyond this last line of palm trees, Pipeline. The
lifeguard tower seems ridiculously small on the steep little
beach. The wave density hits you as well, on both sides of
Pipe it’s a myriad of spots left, right and centre.

I loved that trip, because I discovered an island I didn’t really
know or understand despite the thousands of photos that
came past the lightbox in seven years working at a surf mag.
I loved it because there is more to the North Shore than Pipe
and more to Oahu than the North Shore. I didn’t get as many
waves as I have one other trips, didn’t get as barrelled, I
snapped my boards, I got cleaned up, humbled, but loved it. I
loved the sense of heritage and history, and the
understanding that comes with it of surfing being more than
just about the waves that come to you and what you do on
them. Something like a broader understanding of it all, a
feeling that the ocean is so much more powerful than you,
potentially dangerous, and yet also such a beautiful and fun
place to be. And wasn’t that the whole attraction of surfing in
the first place? Long live pilgrimages.

Words: Archi


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