Competing for waves during the Pipeline Masters requires a certain amount of ferocity not all that acceptable in normal corners of society. In pursuit of surfing’s most prestigious title, competitors want to string each other out, get in each other’s heads, take one another way, way out of their respective games. And it can be a joy for us armchair types to watch. Especially at a venue like Pipe, where the wave itself could easily chew up a surfer’s most important bodily assets. There doesn’t always seem to be a whole lot of aloha being shared in the depths of competition.
I’m absolutely positive that mindset is exhausting for athletes. I guess that’s why it was nice to sit in a room with some of the most iconic Pipe Master’s champions since the contest’s inception in 1971, and actually watch them enjoy one another’s company. And a few drinks.
I slipped into (call it crashed) the Salute to Pipeline event organized by California Surf Museum’s Jim Kempton (via Billabong) with several of my fellow Inertia mates, strolling down the long hallway at Turtle Bay decorated with coral rock and illuminated by lighting that made it feel like an aquarium, into a cozy back bar at the resort most often reserved for society’s A-plus crowd.
And this was definitely an A-plus collective of surfing royalty. Former Triple Crown Executive Director Randy Rarick gave his analysis of every winner over the past 40-odd years and poked fun at fellow event overlord and WSL commissioner Kieren Perrow, a Pipe Master himself. Mark Occhilupo did his best Occy: “I was 17 when I won and I didn’t really know what I was doing.” And the always-classy Fred Hemmings pointed out what everyone was thinking: “At what other event do you actually celebrate a wave?”
Aside from listening to people who’d staked their lives and careers on a 100-yard stretch of ocean there were the boards they rode. Several iconic sticks decorated the venue: Tom Carroll’s broken gun from the snap heard round the world, Andy Irons’ ride from one of his two titles, still waxed in ghostly fashion (I swear I could make out a footprint). And of course the famous red board with the lightning bolt insignia, ridden beautifully by Pipeline’s favorite son who plied it as only he could.
Gerry Lopez closed out the evening with one of his signature talks, one that emphasized Aloha. Love. Something we need more than ever in this weird, effed up world. And for one night anyway, with a bunch of people who usually want to chew on each other’s proverbial lunch, that’s what it was about.