It was the shore that never slept. Hawaii experienced its busiest season in recent memory, swell after swell, set after set assaulted Pipeline, providing an unprecedented amount of quality images for the 2014 Steep And Deep Pipeline Photo Challenge. The contest, which awards the photographer and surfer that link up for the best image of the season (according to a panel of Pipe and photography experts), is held in memory of Pipeline great Sion Milosky and is swiftly becoming one of the highest honors in surfing. This year it was Zak Noyle and Tyler Newton that walked away with the victory. They’ll each take home $2,500 from VANS, bragging rights and the chance to defend their title in what we hope will be an equally fruitful 2014/15 season. This is their story of the wave that took the winter.
Photographer Zak Noyle’s take:
The waves were big that morning, but far below average. I didn’t even think it was worth it to shoot but jumped in the water anyway, just for exercise. I swam out with a medium size lens of 16-35mm rather than a fisheye to get a different perspective. I sat for 40 minutes with bad wind and wave direction when, suddenly, everything came together. It went from a 4 to a perfect 10, the best Pipeline I had seen in years.
I kept getting caught inside as giant sets would roll through, leaving me with nowhere to go but tumbling over the reef for 50 yards. Somehow, when Tyler’s wave came in I was in the perfect spot with no photographers in front of me. I remember Tyler was the deepest guy paddling for it. I didn’t even know that it was him at first because I was blinded by the sun. All I knew was that it was a massive wave and that the guy must be crazy to take off that deep on a wave walling up so hard. I fired away, still unsure of the surfer as I ducked under. I was so stoked to learn that it was Tyler — he charges and is such a humble guy. That image quickly became one of my favorites for how deep and committed he is.
This is my second time winning the Steep And Deep Photo Challenge in memory of Sion Milosky and I’m still in shock. It’s really special to me because Sion was a good friend and someone I looked up to. It’s not about the camera, the lens or surfer or photographer. It’s about the brotherhood and the love for Pipeline and Sion. I’m so honored to participate in the event, let alone win it. It’s truly a top honor in photography and in the surf industry. Thank you Suzi [Milosky] for your continued support and amazing spirit.
Surfer Tyler Newton’s take:
It was the first time in the past two winter seasons that I was on Oahu for a good Pipe swell. I had been struggling with funds and motivation to keep my surfing career alive, but I knew that I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t give it another shot. So I committed to getting over there to watch the end of Pipe Masters and surf for a few days. When I think about it now, it seems like a blessing from Sion because that swell popped up as soon as I booked my flight.
I hadn’t surfed proper Pipe in a while, so I was really timid and uncomfortable at times. I didn’t get a single wave bigger than 4-feet after spending five hours in the water my first day. When day two came, I tried to clear my mind and remember what it felt like to snag a bomb and get spit out into the channel. I paddled out mid-morning and got recycled from 2nd reef sets 3 different times without even standing up on a single wave. It was frustrating. I even buckled my brand new 6’10 quad. I thought about punching my board, freaking out and calling it day, but I stayed calm. I went in and took a nap, then stickered up a new J. Kashiwai 7’2 thruster.
I paddled back out and sat for over an hour, still with nothing under my belt. Then that set came. I remember looking at Aamion Goodwin and him yelling for me to go. The drop was really late — I almost thought about doing the leap of faith — but I held on and stuck the bottom turn. I can still picture the view looked like from inside that wave. I remember thinking holy shit, this barrel is huge! Then I got vaporized. The explosion lifted me straight up into the lip and I probably did five flips under water but never hit the reef. My stomach hurt really bad after that and it hurt to urinate for a few days. I called it a trip. My flight home was the next morning. One wave in two days, and I didn’t even make it, but I was so happy and thankful that Pipeline welcomed me back like that. It was such a blessing.
I’ve never won any type of award before. To have nearly given up on professional surfing and go on to win such a prestigious award with the best surfers in the world at the best wave in the world is surreal. I’m over the moon and couldn’t be any happier. It’s a great stepping stone and confidence booster for me. Sion is someone I looked up too and admired as a grom surfing on Kauai and Oahu. I miss seeing him get shacked and smile. He was humble and a hard worker. He let his surfing do the talking and was a great role model. Everybody should try to live like him. I know he’s up there with AI watching down on all the boys surfing Pipe.