Wave warriors who ride mountains

Gary Kewley
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Friday - January 16, 2009
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This WAVE WATCH 3 model shows the storm that brought the giant surf this week - all forecasts use this to predict when a contest will go

Aloha, surfers and beachgoers! How’s this for HUGE waves? Hawaii has received the biggest surf in the world this week - five days in a row! Take out the lousy SW Konas and “west to NW” winds and we’d have some epic stories. But that’s the way our world turns - the wind whirls and the wave breaks. It’s always Mother Nature’s call.

Speaking of “making the call,” it’s not easy to forecast when the Quiksilver “Eddie Would Go” or the BankOH/Atlas Sales North Shore Tow-In Championships will run. It’s one of the most difficult things to do. And there are a lot more than surfers riding on it.

All the competitors don’t have the North Shore as their back yard, so many have to travel thousands of miles to get here for just one day of competition. The contest site takes at least one full day to set up all the scaffolding, Internet connection, sponsor banners, etc. All personnel must prepare, too. Then there’s the all-important security and water safety - if ever there was a time they’d be needed, it’s during these rare, BIG events.


Our men who ride mountains are, after all, just men. They may be the bravest wave warriors among us, but they know more than anyone, the ocean must be respected. They must be prepared for battle. They know that on this one day they’ll be pushing their limits. For most of us, just paddling out would be beyond our limit. But the guys trying to win must not just survive, but go for broke - and lay everything on the line. To quote the late, great Mark Foo, who died doing what he loved at Mavericks in December 1994, you must be “willing to pay the ultimate price.”

This doesn’t mean surfers want or expect to pay the ultimate price. I believe Mark meant that the fear of death would not stand in his way. Most of these guys will admit they’re adrenaline junkies ... and fear is why they do it (Laird Hamilton). It truly is the ultimate high. I remember one of my miracle days in the 1980s surviving one 35-foot, closed-out set at Waimea Bay - without catching a single 20-footer. That session kept me above the ground and in the clouds for three days. The initial shot of palpable pump lasted more than five hours. But, alas, now my days getting caught inside 12-footers can nearly drown me. Either prepare or stop.

Such experiences have given me great appreciation for what the boys are doing these days - it’s crazy, really. Big-wave riding is at an all-time high - literally and figuratively. I promise you, just 20 years ago few, if any, would even have imagined the limits blown out of the water the last decade alone.

Sure, the tow-in evolution has lots to do with breaking new ground, but traditional paddle-in is evolving, too. Just this season the biggest waves at Mavericks ever paddled into occurred. And, if I bet my guess, I’ll win when “The Eddie” reveals unsurpassed skill and bravery at the bay.

Stayed tuned to SURFNEWS-NETWORK.COM or 596-SURF, 638-RUSH or 596-WAVE for on or off status this year. There’s still plenty of time left for Mother Nature to make the call ... and the men who ride mountains to answer her.

I’ll see you here next week in MidWeek!

Aloha, GQ ... dropping in 4 U!

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