This issue begins at Lei Lei’s with Chas Smith. Mai tais and Kona lagers. Poke, salmon and rib racks. We sit in the Turtle Bay restaurant rehashing our North Shore days. I had a fun surf at Off the Wall, interviewed Evan Valiere and watched the Gudangs jam with guitars, salad bowls and spoons at the Vans house. Chas, our editor-at-living-large, surfed Kammies in the morning and spent the afternoon at a family barbecue with Eddie and Makuakai Rothman. Chas is in Hawaii gathering material not only for this issue’s story on Eddie and Makuakai [page 88], but also for a book he’s writing about the North Shore. In an effort to become fluent in the subtleties and characters of the area he’s hanging out with the Rothmans and Kai Garcia. At team houses. On the sand. In the water. And now at Lei Lei’s. He’s got a book (and this magazine) to fill. We share our North Shore theories.
The North Shore is diversity. Every November surfers from six continents board planes and converge on this geographically perfect coastline and for six weeks North Shore lineups turn into the PC group photographs you see on any college brochure. White, brown, black, yellow. Aamion and Scooby. Budgeting grom and Bob McKnight. Everyone funneled by the mountains and the ocean onto a thin strip of sand, living shoulder-to-shoulder to compete for waves, money, mates, exposure, photos and points. And respect.
What a clusterf–k, Chas and I agree, halfway through our meal. I order a beer, he a mai tai. How does this whole North Shore engine function? So many people, so many egos.
The North Shore is (its own) Country. We call it “Hawaii” and we call Hawaii the 50th United State, but my God, is that a technicality. The laws that govern the North Shore are not the same ones that govern the mainland. Ride in the back of the truck if you want. Settle an argument with your fists. Have a ball. You will not be hearing from lawyers. The North Shore has its own laws to help maintain its purity, to avoid another Waikiki and to manage the millions of people and dollars that annually pass through (mostly without receipts). The structure and rules, based largely on respect, are understood and apply to everyone. Break the rules and you’ll get punished. But you probably won’t go to jail.
The North Shore is the Wild West. It is Boardwalk Empire. It is North Shore. “When the wave breaks here, don’t be there, or you’re gonna get drilled.” Respect on land, respect in the water. As Hawaiian writer Daniel Ikaika-Ito says during his conversation with Chas [page 72], “the extreme danger of the surf mirrors the repercussions of stepping out of line [on land].”
The North Shore is the ocean. It is Pipeline and Sunset Beach. And it’s around the ocean and these fortuitous reefs that the North Shore bases its culture, economy and judicial system. It all comes down to the ocean, Chas and I decide, finishing our drinks and signing the check. Because if you stripped away the people, team houses, contests, parties, unwritten rules and egos, the waves would still be here and we’d still abide by a set of rules based largely on respect. —Taylor Paul