Pipeline Masters Day 1 // Same as it ever Woz (And that's fine by us)
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
"And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
"And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed."
Now, much as Ding Alley would like to take credit for the above load of total bollocks, sadly we can’t. A retired Wisconsin schoolteacher by the name of Kitty O’Meara is the author / culprit.
If you’re the Facebook type, there’s every chance you’ve already come across this in the form of a viral post sometime this year, perhaps shared by an aunt or old school-friend of your sisters.
And for all the syrupy sentiment that makes Ding Alley want to yell “AS IF!” while flicking Ms O’Meara with a wet tea towel as hard as we can – it’s nonetheless hard to resist the idea of at least SOME positive resets kicking in across the globe as semblances of normality potentially return to our lives. You know, we’ve all had time to reflect, make sourdough, etc.
All of which brings us – in typically laboured style – to the Woz’s 2021 season launch on the blessed islands of Maui and Oahu.
It’s unlikely Luvvy O’Meara tuned in to watch Pipe today, but if she had, it would have confirmed the fallacy of her notion, because of course nothing fucking changes. The Woz content crew might have cooked up a few promising editorial sidebars ('Getting Heated' with Shane Dorian and Mick Fanning, '50 Heavy Pipe Moments' etc) but really, the Woz is same as it ever Woz, and Ding Alley, for one, has absolutely no complaints about this, because few things are finer than pro surfing when it pumps and surfers do great things.
Actually, we’ve got complaints – complaining is Ding Alley’s whole schtick – but, really, if there’s any ‘healing’ or ‘growth’ on show here it might simply be a bit less knee-jerk judgement on our part about Woz’s shortcomings, so let’s make the most of this charitable mindset while it lasts and be stoked.
Nice curtain-raiser at Honolua yesterday, hey. It’s unreal that the gals have perhaps the most perfect, destroyable wave on the planet all to themselves. In typical Honolua fashion there were lengthy lulls, but when the sets came through at four to six foot, there’s no better raceway for the world’s best shielas to draw their subtle top turn variations through the chicanes.
Best newcomer on show had to be Isabella Nicholls’ well-rounded act with a readiness to put her rail legitimately on edge. Perhaps the slight disappointment might have been Macy Callaghan who didn’t get out of third gear, not the go, really, for the Honolua F1 track. The established guard (Sal, Riss, Steph etc) turned in decent work, with Tati Weston-Webb looking particularly focussed and sharp.
And though it was a fun day from beginning to end, it may have been premature of genial commentator Chris Coté to claim – while the seeding round was still underway no less – “Safe to say this will be the best year ever for pro surfing”.
Hold that thought Chris. This being 2020 and all, who among us was really surprised when a shark took a life-threatening chunk out of someone out at Honolua this morning and slammed the brakes on day two of the gal’s best year ever?
We learnt of the shark attack via Elo on the Woz’s Instagram earlier today, old mate riffing concerned consoler corpo speak – incidents and authorities, thoughts and prayers etc – like the pro he is.
And I know we said we’d be kind and charitable, but that was like six whole paragraphs ago, so if you watched Pipe today, you’d have seen the latest iteration in Billabong’s long line of head-scratching collabs that have more than a whiff of the Hail-Mary about them. From Metallica to Andy Warhol to … Dr Seuss. Which is fine, (at least with Dr Suess, Billabong have attached themselves to something universally loved) but it’ll be interesting to see how we feel about the Grinch animations towards the back end of the comp.
There’s no way, however, Elo and The Grinch can appear on screen within a few minutes of each other without Ding Alley taking mean-spirited advantage. So there’s your ’toon.
Right then, to today’s Pipe Invitational. Backwash-bumped morning-sickness scrapping in a steroid-Straddie-esque jumble sale (where the first five heats have only one two-wave total in double figures) morph into something special, and then spectacular, as the sun comes out and the easterly trades groom the surface texture into something resembling a putting-green. Still tricky and shifty, but six to eight and glorious nonetheless.
Nice to see Anthony Walsh – surfing under the Hawaiian flag – put it together in heat six, and music to this viewer’s ears to hear insights into the conditions and clarity of thought in the post-heat presser with a well-tanned Barton Lynch. God bless BL. He’s the fun uncle who’ll take you to Legoland and get you cool pressies for Christmas, hey.
There’s not a lot of judging controversy in these four man heats. It’s pretty clear what it takes to get through and easy to see who executes accordingly. Thirty-two assorted Kalanis and Elis and Ealas all charge without hesitation and, despite last week’s big west swell sweeping half the sand off the beach, there’s still enough backwash and reverb to make very few waves a sure thing at take-off.
Early standouts: Ivan Florence’s mercurial, laconic tube threading; Koa Smith – he of ‘Unboxing Things’ infamy – destroying himself on the rights and being surprisingly mellow in interview; Ian Gentil taking a beachbreak-busy approach with great effect all the way through to the final; Josh Moniz and Angry Zeke ruling as per.
The first heat of the Mike Wright / Leo Fioravanti three-heat-dancing-bear-surf-off-for-a-spot-on-tour is a bit of a dud, despite Joe Turpel scarcely believing his eyes at what he’s beholding. As far as Dancing Bear exhibitions go though, Bogan v Euro clothes-horse is a compelling one. And much as we all love MW, Leo’s been through a pretty wretched wringer, injury-wise, so whoever gets up, that’s cool. Heat one goes to mulletboy by a carefully ungroomed whisker. Heat two sees a convenient reversal of fortunes which sets up a handy Dancing Bear decider between the Quik stablemates tomorrow.
As the quarters unfold, and the various Kalanis and Elis and Ealas reduce themselves to eight, Huey lobs a fresh swell from the north over the top of the existing WNW energy, and with the sun retreating behind scudding low clouds, that groomed putting surface takes on a gun-metal menace. Mase Ho gets his arse handed to him in a way that temporarily knocks both the happy AND the lucky from his happy-go-luckiness.
Fark, shame to see Ivan Florence bow out in the semis. No other wave in the world – Chopes excluded perhaps – makes a surfer rush so much, so it’s a rare and special thing to see someone appear to have all the time in the world, as the younger Florence demonstrates repeatedly.
By the final, a lovely equilibrium seems to have been reached. Pipe’s deadset glorious, with that arvo backlight turning gun-metal into green. There’s two goofies: Peru’s Miguel Tudela (the only non-local) and Eala Stewart, balanced by two natural footers: Ian Gentil and Josh Moniz. Back in the booth, Barton’s substantial commentary brings out the best in dear Joe Turpel. Rather than having to spoon-feed Pottz with sycophantic prompts, he’s able to riff, pressure-free, alongside BL, to reasonable effect. (In fact, for all the Woz’s Wozness, there’s nothing contrived about the sincere stoke that all the commentary team on both Oahu and Maui display.)
The final PUMPS! Ian Gentil runs out of puff from hussling the inside all day. Eala Stewart falls one short of a spot in the main event. One wave of his in the final would have been a centerspread and poster had it occurred back in the mag era. Such a bomb, so smooth.
Miggy Tudela sneaks into the Masters with a second place. His threat level will moderate with the swell, and it’ll be a hard ask to top Italo, who’s he’s matched with first up.
Josh Moniz wins by a mile. Smashes it. Social distancing measures be damned, he deserves that chair up the beach, and basking in the win as Strider throws questions his way, displays the kind of quiet aloha that will make you barrack for him when he takes on Gabby, most likely tomorrow. He’s a chance.
There’s always talk about the Pipe Invitational being a showcase for the ‘Pipe Specialist’, and occasionally, for whatever reason, it doesn’t quite deliver on that promise, but today did justice to the crew. Hawaiian Huey delivered a great first act and the Woz kept its end of the bargain.
Here’s hoping tomorrow’s another such day, and here’s hoping that fella from Maui pulls through.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is illustrator David @maccatoons McArthur and writer Gra Murdoch