“I PRAY TO GOD EACH NIGHT THAT WE DON’T GO TO HAWAII EVERY YEAR.”
A few months back an (obviously) anonymous professional surfer uttered this statement inside the walls of SURFING Magazine. He was young, at an age when boyhood bravery and stoke are at their peak — his career just blooming and his skills world-class. But for some reason — perhaps for the same reason a lot of us find ourselves doused with anxiety at the mention of the North Shore winter (big waves, big egos and big expectations) — he wants no part of it. And as you’ll see this month in Stuart Cornuelle’s essay, “Hawaii: This is a (Love) Letter” (pg. 64), he’s not alone.
It would be easy to cast this surfer off as a pussy, and put a cul-de-sac on his career with the age-old cliché: “If you can’t make it in Hawaii, you can’t make it.” But maybe it’s not that simple. Perhaps there’s something to the idea that — as Dustin Barca notes in Under the Influence (pg. 44) — we’re oversaturating Hawaii’s dearest resources: waves and space. An abomination of what first made the North Shore the North Shore, a place where things were simple: man vs. wave amid palm trees and sunshine. It’s true those days are long gone. But as Nick Carroll explains in his coverage of the Vans Triple Crown and world title races, “The Real Deal” (pg. 78), explains, the significance hasn’t been lost. In fact, this place — where the world title was determined, the Eddie ran, Mike Pietsch paddled into our cover, and several “swells of the decade” detonated in 2009 alone — is becoming more firmly mythological with each passing year.
And as shocking as it is to my friends and family, I can actually relate to the aforementioned grom’s fear of this place.
For the past six years in a row I’ve gone to the North Shore of Oahu. A dream come true, right? I bring boards. I have incredible accommodations (this year I stayed at the actual Log Cabin that gives the surf spot its name) and a sweet corporate card to run amok at Foodland and Lei Leis. But as the season approaches, year after year, I too — like the grom — fill with anxiety. And it’s not as though my career hangs in the trough of the west bowl at Sunset, or that if Second Reef breaks I have to be out there. It has more to do with the downpour of obligations that follows me over there. The scene that I throw myself into. The sand has become as sardined as the lineup. There are more to-do’s for me in Hawaii than on my MacBook on a Monday morning. It’s a danger zone on land and sea, a lion’s den of industry predators, obligatory meet and greets, interviews and bro-shakes, instead of an island escape. My perception of Hawaii no longer bears any resemblance to the place where I saw men ride mountains as a kid.
But no matter how my belly fills with butterflies each November, the moment my shitty rental car touches rubber to pavement on Kam Highway, I feel none of it. It’s just a race to the sea. I get an inexplicable buzz. The world is all right, the sky is blue and graced with big, puppy-dog clouds, and everything smells like flowers. And each time I take the curve around Waimea, I pray to God that I get to come back to Hawaii every year for the rest of my life. —Travis Ferré