Billabong Pipe Masters


Starting in November, on the north shore of Oahu a triple crown of surfing occurs.  The first part was at Haleiwa Ali’i Beach, the second at sunset beach and the last is at Ehukai Beach park. 

Yesterday marked the start of the Billabong Pipe Masters at Ehukai and the race for the triple crown of surfing.  When I say triple crown I think first of horse racing, but here in Hawaii it’s a totally different meaning.  These surfers come from all over the world to practice and compete in this tournament. 

Look closely and you can see a knot in the wood that looks like a guy on a surf board.

Today was a day off work for John and the kids had school so we headed to the beach right after we dropped them off.  We got there around 830 and the competition was in the first heat.  I had scoped this out the yesterday which is why we arrived early.

Yesterday when my friend and I went up to watch the traffic was backed up for miles.  Today it was not and there was street parking available, but not very close.  Because of my fibromyalgia I can’t really carry a lawn chair or anything heavy for too long.  So we elected to pay $5 for parking.  definitely worth it in my opinion.  It was a family that has a long driveway with grass on either side and I bet they were making a killing.

John wanted to bring chairs today even though I had told him that I didn’t see many people with them yesterday.  But luckily we were early enough that we were able to get a small piece of beach near where the grass meets the beach and our chairs sank when we sat in them so we were not blocking any of the many photographer’s shots.  In addition to being able to use our chairs we were also in the shade until almost noon. 

The board said the waves were 10-12ft but they looked huge to me.  I can’t even explain the power that these things pack.  So I’m going to post some pictures but they really don’t do them justice.  I have taken hundreds of pictures in the 11 months I have lived here and all the waves look the same size in pictures.  But let me tell you these waves are nothing like you have ever seen on the east coast.  I have seen them this large about 4 or 5 times and I am still in awe of it.  These surfers are daredevils to say the least. 

The announcers for the contest provide a constant dialog and they are also calling out scores to the surfers in the water.  They were saying how this particular location is “spectator friendly” because of the angle of the beach.  At 8 there were a lot of people.  By 10am there were hundreds, and when we left they were still coming and going.  

I was fortunate to strike up a conversation with a gentleman to my left who was from CA, so he knew a bit about the competition itself.  He explained to me what a back door wave is, it’s when they ride a wave in the opposite direction the surf is going.  He also enlightened my some on the whole scoring thing although that’s pretty straight forward.  Its scored 0-10 just like many other sports.  These guys were getting up in some huge waves that, in my opinion, far exceeded 10-12ft. 

As I sat and watched the competition I started to be able to pick up little things about the waves that were making some harder to ride than others.  Some were very steep, like dropping straight down to get in the pipe, others were flat, and still others were just too large and too powerful.  Where the water meets the sand and for about 30ft into the water it just looks like soap suds, nothing but white. 

The idea is you want to be just ahead of where the wave is breaking and ideally you would like to go into the “tube” or the white of the wave and come back out, up and over.  That would give you your best score.  But for every surfer that catches a wave and does that there are at least 6 or 7 that try and fail.  When these guys fail they fall off their boards and get swept under the water.  At that point they are just along for the ride.  It was explained that in this particular spot the water is only 3-4 ft deep before it becomes reef.  Imaging being tossed around by a 2o foot wave in only 3-4 ft of water.  A person could get seriously injured, and they do.  We saw 2 people break the leashes that hold the board to their ankle so they don’t lose it.  We saw a couple of people take some pretty bad falls too.  Luckily they had 2 wave runners in the water able to assist and make sure the surfers were alright after a fall. 

Also in the water with the surfers are camera people.  You wouldn’t catch me in the water with waves like that let alone taking pictures as these waves break right on my head.  These guys were wearing helmets at least.  The competitors are out their bare feet, board shorts and a rash guard.  That’s it! 

It was really cool to see some really talented and disciplined surfers in action.  They are true athletes in every sense of the word.  Unfortunately it’s hard to get pictures of them in the pipe because it’s just happening too fast.  John got a few good pictures but none of anyone completely in the tube.  None the less I will share a few. 

We stayed until about noon and then decided to take off and do some other things.  We weren’t bored, but we did forget the sunscreen so when the sun was on us it was time to bail. 

So in my opinion there are a few essentials that you must bring to a surf competition if you plan to make a day of it.  First you should get their early, and here is a list of items I would recommend bringing:

  • Camera
  • Folding chair
  • Sunscreen and lots of it
  • Money for food or t-shirts etc.
  • Binoculars -ours are 15×30 and they could have been a little better
  • Sunglasses
  • sweatshirt I wore mine all morning because there was a decent wind and we were in the shade)
  • A little patience and some common courtesy you would be surprised at the things people do at these things.   Leaving garbage walking on other people’s stuff etc. 

It was a really cool experience and I hope to take my kids some time too.  So Mahalo Nui Loa for reading and Aloha!

 

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle B.
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 00:15:37

    Wow! Those are some great pictures! Way better than the ones I got yesterday! Sounds like you had fun 🙂 my morning was full of poking and proding at the doctors.. Have a great weekend and see you Monday!

    Reply

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