I’m going to circle the last week of September on my 2011 calendar.
For the last two winters the final week of September has marked the arrival of the first significant North Shore swell. Most people are caught off guard when a winter swell hits Hawaii in September; I was one of those people this year.
I was heading home to Hawaii from Indonesia when I heard a rumor that the North Shore was waking up from hibernation. I heard that Sunset was all-time during the peak of the swell and local boys hoping to do well in the HIC Sunset Pro got some extra training in over the competition. I got back when the swell was calming, but I still managed to get some super fun, uncrowded sessions out at Rocky Point.
With the rest of the North Shore off to the races, Pipeline was still dragging its feet at the starting gate – masking its true identity under a thick blanket of summer sand. It would take a strong northwest groundswell to move the sand and unveil all the potential of the North Shore’s most desired wave.
That swell came the day after Halloween, and even though I chased it to Oregon for the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic, the North Shore saw 12-15 foot Sunset, and Waimea Bay was breaking.
On November 2nd, the surf world was rocked with the horrible news that Andy Irons had died. Rain fell from the sky like tears from heaven. Hawaii, and the world, mourned.
On November 14th, Andy received a king’s farewell in our hometown of Hanalei, Kauai. When his ashes hit the water something extraordinary happened. It was like a ripple effect sent waves streaming in towards the shore that doubled in size every hour. It was one of the fastest growing northwest swells I can remember, and by the next morning Pipeline was on fire.
They were calling it the best Pipeline in ten years: perfect second reef Pipe with offshore winds. That swell stuck around for about a week with light winds and sunny skies. I got a few really nice barrels at Pipe and Backdoor during that week, sharing the line-up with “the boys:” Kala Alexander, Sunny Garcia, Kaiborg, Danny Fuller, Aamion Goodwin, Rico, Reef Macintosh and many others who loved Andy. That was our therapy. That’s what got us through that difficult time.
We later called that perfect swell “The Andy Swell.”