SurfingTheMag.com: Now, you finished 6th place, which is pretty impressive. You made it through probably the heaviest heat that anybody could have drawn up in your first heat, can you describe what that heat was like?
Evan Slater: Well, going back to the opening ceremony for Maverick’s, in the first week of January, what we do is we all go do our paddle out ceremony, a paddle out circle, then we have a little party. At the party, what they do is have a bag with ping pong balls and you basically just draw your heat that way. So that night, every time a gnarly guy went up there they drew heat number two. It was Greg Long, Tyler Smith, Anthony Tashnick, and those were the top three from last year. I think they consecutively drew, then it was Peter [Mel], and I was the 5th guy up. I was like, “god, anything but heat 2.” Sure enough, I drew #2. So I’ve known for a month now who I was facing. So, I had my “final” in the first heat.
That heat could have stood as the final in any big wave contest easily.
Yeah, it was definitely like a final. There was [Josh] Loya too, who ended up winning the heat. Just going into it, for the past month, I just tried to be prepared for it. We saw a perfect opportunity with the forecast because it looked like Saturday and Sunday were going to be pretty big up there, or at least breaking, then the next swell would be on Tuesday. So I would have a chance to surf it over the weekend.
Now, I saw you here at the office on Monday, so you went up there the weekend before the contest, came back down, then went back up? Racking up the frequent flyer miles?
I flew with the family up on Saturday…but yeah, Monday was the last day to ship the magazine. So I knew I had to be back there on Monday. So I just shipped the family on Saturday, flew back on Sunday night, got most of the magazine out, and that cleared the path for Tuesday.
Well, actually all that stuff is helpful in a way because it keeps your mind off thinking about it too much. You don’t really have a chance to psyche yourself out, I guess. So I was just running, and not really stopping for like 4 days and never had the opportunity to get too nervous about it. I think that helped.
It seemed like you had a few of the more spectacular waves. While we were watching the web cast, everyone was screaming, “Oh, no Evan!”
Well yeah, I mean it was big, so you weren’t going to make it out of a heat if you didn’t get at least a few big waves. And you know the thing about the Mavericks contest that’s different from the traditional big wave contest, is that it’s actually like a heat, you know. Your not guaranteed to surf two heats, and you get your highest score, you have to actually strategize, not just in getting big waves, but also in what everyone else is doing and trying to make it through a heat.
It’s like your old NSSA days
Yeah, totally. It definitely helps, trying to make that reform on the inside. (laughs). I think one thing that was kind of true throughout the day was that a guy could get one really good wave, but if he didn’t have a decent back up wave to support it, he wouldn’t make it. So I kept that in mind. Like a couple guys had really good waves in their first heat but didn’t have anything to back it up.
We noticed Nathan Fletcher going left, is that something he’s been working up to?
Yeah, I had caught up with Nathan, just cause he had such a rad approach out there. On Sunday, he had paddled out, it was pretty solid day, the wind was blowing up the face and it was really dangerous, and he just paddled straight out when one of the biggest sets came in and just back-doored it from the other side and went left. So I was lack, “gosh, he’s due for something huge.” But, if you look at some of the names that went down in the first round, it just tells you that anything can happen in an hour at Mavericks, like Flea and Greg, and Nathan, and just a ton of great surfers were just out of rhythm or whatever it was.
Was there anyone that put on a performance yesterday that was exceptional, or unexpected?
Twiggy, for sure, I mean he was absolutely on fire. We’ve been up there quite a bit for the past month, surfing there and everyone been going, “This guy Twiggy is gnarly”, and I already knew he’s gnarly going into it. He was the first guy I saw Saturday night, when I got on a flight and we rushed down to Maverick’s for an evening session out there. I could tell he had a big wave sense about him. And then as the heats progressed, we were going, “this guy’s crazy.” Skindog, I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was like, “he could be Timbuktu for all I know…but who is this guy!”
He kind of came out of nowhere.
Yeah, totally but he has been killing it.
Well, I think he’s been in the Mavericks contest for a few years. The first year he wasn’t surfing as much, so he was just stoked to be there. Second year it was like, “whoa”. Each year it’s getting increasingly more competitive out there and he is definitely jockeying way more and trying to get the bombs. It was funny because there was a wave in our Semi that was basically un-ride able, like Josh Loya tried to take off on it but he just kind of blew out the back, it was just so big it was ridiculous. After that wave passed through we were all talking out the back like, “Could anyone have taken off on that?” Loya said, “Yeah, maybe Brock back in his glory days.” And that got Brock all fired up and he started charging even harder.
Like he needs any more motivation. So, how was the awards ceremony? Was everyone pretty sure “Twiggy” had won it?
Everyone said it was probably between “Twiggy” and Tyler Smith. Tyler is an incredible surfer out there, and one of the best goofy foots that charges the bowl, and for the final he paddled out with a red beanie on. I was like, “dude, the red beanie, you better get that off, your going to throw me off wearing that thing, get it off.” He ended up keeping it on the whole time, and he had a hood too, so I don’t know why he did that. The beanie never came off. He charged though, he had a great day. In final, there was one particular wave, that I was just a hair too far out, and I’ve been kicking myself for the last 24 hours that I should have just went anyways. But I just saw the video of the wave, and I don’t think I could have made it. So I feel better. I lost sleep over it last night.
Now your just recovering from the couple lumps that you took?
Well, I did something weird to my finger, I don’t know how that happened; it’s all purple. My ankle is like weird, and my shoulder, I can’t really move that well, but I think it’s just from 8 hours of wear and tear. So I was out there from 6:30 to 4 surfing some of the best big waves I’ve seen in a long time. It was funny too, while we were out there—it was a little bit slower in the final than in the semis—and at one point, like a third of the way into it, “Twiggy” proposed that we all split the prize money. I don’t know how many people heard him, but I definitely heard him, and I immediately wrote it off. They did that at Dungeons one year, and I’m like, “they only do that in South Africa.” And sure enough, he won and I got last, so that shows me for being greedy.
So he walked away with 30 grand? He’s a millionaire back at home in South Africa.
Well yeah, he’s a totally good guy and totally deserves it. His strategy was really basic, sit further than anyone else, and wait for the big ones. It’s weird because there’s always one guy that does that in a heat, but he just did it really consistently. Some guys do that, and can get caught inside without catching a wave, but it worked for him.