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Thu, 14 November 2019

There's a softer, more clean-cut, watered-down world on show on the North Shore these days, one with little of the wild-eyed fear and fist-flying antics of yore, writes Craig Jarvis.


I used to live for the winter season on the North Shore. Whether I was there, or watching the feeds, or picking up bits and pieces from magazines and websites. The North Shore breathed gnarly, hardcore surfing and living.

There were the fights between the Wolf Pack and visitors, Da Hui and visitors, Johnny Boy and innocent people, Koby Abberton and anyone else who wanted to swing. Buttons was around, wild-eyed and high as a kite, Marvin had guns, and everyone just charged.

Briley would surf third reef Pipe and come blowing in over the inside reef to death or glory, Tim Fretz would drop into giant Pipe on a twinnie, Kong would chop outside Sunset waves to pieces with his wild hand-jives, and a hundred other people, all larger than life, made the place breathe something strong, something heavy.

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TATTOO PAYOFF LINE: Surf gangsters have the brand of the brotherhood tatt. Photo Bra Boys


Andy Irons would rule, in his excitable way, and Bruce and Kaiborg and Sunny and Kala would be there, in the mix, terrifying people with a scowl. Then they would all charge; and surf ridiculously dangerous waves seemingly without a care in the world. Now its all so ... clean-cut. The waves stayed scary, but the surfers didn't (er ... mostly). Many of the colourful characters are gone now.

A fear of Sunset is normal, required, and levied in tons of white waterAndy has gone, Marvin has gone, Buttons has gone, Tim Fretz has gone, Brock has gone and Sunny is making a slow, painstaking recovery. It is a different world on the North Shore today. Sunset does not form a part of the Championship Tour even though it was probably the most vital event on the tour back in the day. Sunset was the final test, the ultimate leveller, and it left you with nothing but an empty hole in your soul if you were found to be wanting. A fear of Sunset is normal, required, and levied in tons of white water, and most championship tour surfers not from Hawaii have had to undertake different coping mechanisms over the years to deal with the fear and the angst of angry Sunset Reef.

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RELAXED NEW WORLD: The waves are heavy but people are more chilled. Photo WSL / Cestari


While we still get big waves that rock the North Shore, and the Vans Triple Crown is an excellently run production for the surfers, there’s a slight difference in excitement levels these days compared to the days of yore.

At least there’s a contest or two at Waimea this season, the single surf venue where half the Hawaiian story comes from. The drama and the excitement of the Eddie was one of the craziest vibes in the world of surfing, from the Opening Ceremony at the beach at Waimea, to the Hawaiian culture and the traditional proceedings that took place at the opening ceremony with the Aikau family, to the wild surfing that took place over the years at Waimea.

There were so many incredible rides, so many fearless campaigns, feel-good stories, incredible wipeouts and the making and breaking of some many reputations. People made and make lifelong careers at Waimea in a single heat. It’s the one surfing event that is arguably the most important event in the world - but it doesn't always run. Eddie would go, if he got more of a chance. We need more of those gut-churning thrills and hell rides to pump life into the flagging beast.

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THE KELLY AND JAMIE SHOW: JOB's idea of heavy is a few pranks on mates. Photo WSL / Heff


We also have the Red Bull Queen Of The Bay big wave event for girls at Waimea, which is the real deal.

It’s great to see an event for the best female big wave surfers in the world, and its also encouraging that Red Bull managed to obtain a permit for this event. There are no South Africans in the event, despite one or two who are more than competent.

Tammy-Lee smith was invited to the Jaws event two years ago, and it’s a pity she is not included in the Queen Of The Bay lineup. She knows what to do when a big set approaches.

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AIR DROP: Billy Kemper begins a freefall takeoff in giant Jaws. Photo WSL / Morris


Over the years, as places like Jaws and Nazaré stole much of the big wave media, and the Cortes Bank revealed some of the biggest waves on the planet, the small area that is the Waimea take off DMZ lost a little of its shine, lost some of its glitter, as Nazaré lineups and Jaws drone footage just blew minds in the way of media output.

Seeing Waimea in all her glory right there on the point is one helluva thing however, and seeing a black set start lurching through from the horizon is terrifying, even from the safety of the land. Waimea Bay closes out somewhere between 30 and 40 foot, depending on the tide and depending on the wave period. Lets hope it doesn't do that for the girls, but it’s ok if it does that for the Eddie.

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