Had to delay posting this until this morning. Enjoy.
I’m writing this from my gate at the Montreal airport where I’m waiting on a flight back to LA, delayed most likely due to weather. It’s cold here for a California girl – like, snow-blanketing-tree-branches cold. Like I-bought-snow-boots-for-the-first-time cold (and thank God I did!). My blood’s especially thin right since just last week, I was soaking up the sun on Oahu’s North Shore.
Perhaps I would feel differently if I lived there, but the beauty of the North Shore never gets old or any less breathtaking every time I visit: all damp sand and rolling waves in varying shades of turquoise, aquamarine and cerulean. It’s a place where wearing shoes feels both like a bore and a chore.
It’s also the home of the Vans Triple Crown, the final three-part showdown on the ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) where the best surfers from around the world spend six weeks riding the epic waves endemic to the sport’s birthplace. It’s been six long years since I’ve been to the Triple Crown – specifically, the contest at Sunset Beach – so I was super excited to spend the latter half of last week doing just that, ultimately witnessing Tahiti’s Michel Bourez take the coveted cup. The 28-year-old power surfer beat out Hawaiian watermen Dusty Payne, Sebastian Zietz and Ian Walsh, securing the so-called second jewel of the Crown with a killer 9.0 ride at the legendary big wave spot. The contest now moves down to Banzai Pipeline, the contest’s grand finale and the ASP world title showdown.
And if I may betray my California roots for a moment by saying this, there’s something intimate about watching contests in Hawaii as opposed to back at home where the massive crowds and bands and skate parks – the whole “scene” – tend to be overwhelming. They also tend to be unsafe, as demonstrated by the general horrorshow of the 2013 Vans US Open at Huntington Beach. It’s not a good look for surfing when members of the crowd start acting like Tusken Raiders. I attended the first day of the contest where I saw a group of marauding jerk teenagers harass a city janitor ostensibly for no other reason than to be marauding jerks, spewing hateful racist epithets at the guy. It was before Huntington descended into general mayhem, but the trouble was bubbling up underneath the surface early on.
Surf contests are never exclusively about the surfing, but Hawaii contests tend to be a touch less about the scene, more about the sport at least from a spectator’s POV. There’s comfort in the fact that I can watch some world-class wave-riding, grab a free hot dog and just chill out until sunset without fear that I will be harassed or have a Porta Potty fall on my head. You know, common decency type things. Plus, as my local friend noted, if anyone starts trouble, chances are someone will know someone who will set you straight; it’s an island, after all.
Of course, my trip wasn’t all play, poke bowls and impromptu visits to the Billabong house, although there was plenty of that. Actually, it was mostly work, as I profiled young, up-and-coming junior professional Mahina Maeda who, with her adorable Australian shepherd pup Hoku, welcomed me into her home and life for a day. At only 16, Maeda has already nabbed two International Surfing Association (ISA) gold medals and won the junior ASP world title in Portugal this past October. Oh, and she also did this while she was there.
Kind, intelligent and ambitious, the North Shore native is a rising star in the junior talent pool, and I’m stoked to see where her career takes her. A girl after my own heart (and stomach), she also had the best food recommendations, and now I know who to blame for my cravings for Ted’s chocolate haupia pie and Pupukea Grill’s coconut curry quinoa! Hashtag noms.
So, as I sit here in a parka, scarf and Ugg boots, battling a half-headache from anticipating my six-plus hour flight, I’m thinking about my next trip back to the islands – back to ocean breezes, taro pancakes and bare feet all day.