The Last Time

posted by / Magazine / February 9, 2013

What would happen if we all went home?

pipeline
Bruno Santos, one last wave. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

And what if nobody returned to the North Shore? What if, after this season, Vans decided that 30 years of the Triple Crown was enough? What if the brands felt their money could be better spent in California, Australia or Brazil and did not rent Pipe-front homes for 2013? What if the surfers thought, “Enough. No more North Shore”? What then?

An intriguing prospect. Let us explore.

The North Shore would experience an initial economic collapse. The businesses that derive three-quarters of their yearly income from six wild weeks would constrict, declare bankruptcy and put plywood on their windows. The locals who work in those businesses would lose their jobs and head, begrudgingly, back to Town. Weeds would grow even higher than they currently do. The houses that front the best breaks would be sold for much less than their current value to wealthy Midwesterners that are unaware of the North Shore’s peculiar hierarchy. They would build large fences and buy large dogs. They would not surf, but rather sunbathe. And the surfing locals would be happy for a moment. They would surf Pipe, Off The Wall, Rocky Rights and Lefts, surrounded by other surfing locals. It would be exhilarating for a moment. It would feel clean and free.

Vans, the other brands, the surfers from California, Australia and Brazil would breathe sighs of relief for the first November and December without the North Shore. They would think, “This year I will not get crushed by surf and I will not get choked out and I will not have to enter a strange social economy with laws I never fully grasped.” They would feel clean and free as they booked trips to Europe or Micronesia or Baja California. And when they arrived they would surf any wave they wanted without being pointed toward the beach, without bloody noses, without their boards going missing from their rented rooms. It would be exhilarating for a moment.

Back on the North Shore, a new normalcy would settle. The stretch between Haleiwa and the late Turtle Bay would feel like Havana, Cuba. The skeleton of what made it so appealing, the waves and natural beauty, would physically remain but the heady, crazy wildness would remain only as faded memory. Surfing locals would tell stories to their children of days when the world came to them, and how punishing the world, but also laughing with the world, was a good time. They would sigh a sad sigh, longing for the days when people feared them. When people owed them.

And the surfers, safe from waves and fists in Europe, Micronesia and Baja California, would share that same longing. After a few fearless weeks of watching Homeland reruns and sipping whiskey and being not scared, they would realize that this life was completely bland. Not looking over a shoulder at night is boring.

What if nobody returned to the North Shore? Surfing would become a completely redacted version of itself. The North Shore needs to scare and we need to be scared. May it forever be this way. May we forever return. —Chas Smith

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